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Save Money On Travel. Hotels and Airline Fares when Traveling in the Philippines

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the secrets of those travel experts who manage get the best deals and are always able to go to some exotic vacation spots?  Learn some of their tricks below when traveling to and in the Philippines and use less of your hard-earned cash.  We have compiled some of our best kept methods for saving maximum coin while enjoying the Filipino people and their country.

Saving money when you travel in the Philippines

  • Buying Airline Tickets
    – The trick here is to have lots of advanced planning and make sure to visit the big travel websites to such as to compare deals.  It’s no secret that the earlier you book the better the price.  If your travel schedule is flexible, search multiple dates. Many times a weekday or weekend departure date will make a significant difference in your final ticket price. 
  • Select Connecting Flights – Long layovers and multiple connecting flight trips will almost always be less than direct flights to your Philippine destination.  If you are willing to spend a little time in airports you may save lots of cash. Many of today’s Asian airports are very modern and typically have lodges where you can sleep and even take a shower. While this is typically a service you pay for, if you save enough on your airline ticket you can afford to splurge a little on yourself.  Check out this guide for sleeping in airports: Sleeping in Airports.
  • Never Book One Way Tickets – Most one-way tickets are super expensive.  It may seem strange but airline ticketing nowadays is based on full round trip travel.  If you are traveling one-way, it can be cheaper to purchase a round trip ticket and not use the return trip portion of the ticket
  • Budget Airlines – The Philippines and Southeast Asia have witnessed amazing growth in the budget airline industry over the last decade or so.  These offer Filipino locals and those foreigners savvy enough to know about them some incredible rates on inter island travel and even international travel to other close-by Southeast Asian destinations.   These airlines include but are not limited to Cebu Pacific Air (Philippines based), Tigerair (Singapore based), Jetstar (Australian based), Air Asia (Malaysian based)
  • Return to the Same Airport – Never return to a different airport from the one your flight originated from. It typically is always going to be more expensive to do so. 
Driving in the Philippines and renting a car

Driving in the Philippines
– If you plan on driving in the Philippines, be sure to obtain your international driver’s license prior to leaving your home country. These are typically available at automotive clubs and department of motor vehicle offices.   Driving in the Philippines is an experience that defies description; this is particularly true in large metropolitan areas like Manila.  The rules of the road are out the window in many places.  Driving in this country is more akin to whoever is the bravest goes first. It’s also beneficial when driving in the Philippines to have the ability to read the other driver’s minds rather than depend on right of way rules.  If you are unfamiliar with driving in this country and its driving habits, it will probably be best to take a taxi, jeepney or tricycle or hire a driver. 

Rental Cars –If you are renting a vehicle in the Philippines, the price of returning that vehicle to a different location will almost always be more than returning it to the original rental shop. There are plenty of small local budget rental car agencies that offer significantly lower prices than the worldwide recognized rental companies.  Make sure you read the fine print on their contracts though.  You can search the internet for an off-brand and car rental agencies in the Philippines that rent older vehicles and offer rates you can live with if you are on a budget.  If you are using a mainstream rental agency, always check the internet for coupons or special deals.  You can generally get better deals is you book your car online prior to arrival from a mainstream agency.

Rental Car Insurance Savings – Many credit cards and U.S. based insurance companies cover you when you rent a car from a rental agency.  You may not need to purchase the rental agency’s additional insurance coverage if you use your insurance company’s coverage or use a credit card with this protection to book your vehicle rental.  Be sure to call and confirm if your insurance or credit card company offer rental car insurance when renting in a foreign country like the Philippines.  Also be sure you know the extent of their insurance coverage as applied to rental vehicles so there are no surprises.

Taxis in the Philippines – Typically taxis are more reasonable in the Philippines than in western countries.  If you are used to New York or Los Angeles rates you will be pleasantly surprised by taxis rates in the Philippines.  Metro Manila is very large and there are tons of taxis, so it is a very competitive business.  Unfortunately, if you are a tourist you tend to stand-out and may be subject to a common scam where the driver tells you the time meter is not working.  When this is the case, you be charged a larger fare than the meter would typically show.  Taxi tourist scams are fairly common in most Southeast Asian countries.  If you have a Filipino friend or family member, it is generally better to take them along to avoid falling into these traps.  There are many types and colors of taxis in big cities such as Manila. In general, the yellow ones are designated for airport transportation and legally charge higher metered run and drop rates due to airport transit taxes and fees.  They are generally 50% more than the white taxis.   Look for the newer taxis as they are in better condition, safer and the drivers are more professional. According to the rules, an old, beat-up white taxi with ragged seats is supposed to charge the same meter rate as one that is new and shiny.  To avoid scamming, you want the taxi driver to start the meter right away to make sure that the meter works and that he won’t charge you some unscrupulous and arbitrary price due to a claim that his meter inoperable.   If you open the passenger door and ask the driver to start his meter and he refuses, shut the door and wait for another taxi.  One last note, although this is rather uncommon, some people have experienced another form of taxi scam from a few drivers who don’t have your best interest at heart. They have been known to leave with a passenger’s luggage in the trunk. To avoid this always leave the passenger door open until you have removed all of your luggage from the trunki.

Take Local Transportation – The Philippines and most Southeast Asian counties have extensive local transportation means available for their citizens. One of the most popular is the Jeepney.  This vehicle was inspired by post WW2 left over Jeeps that the locals put to use for mass transportation purposes. They were originally transformed by the locals from an army vehicle to a full-fledged commuter vehicle.  Today there is an entire industry that makes these vehicles from the ground up.  Jeepneys are open air vehicles where you sit on benches that are facing each other along the sides in the rear of the vehicle.  This form of transportation is generally very crowded with locals going to and from work. You can ride these to just about any location within a metro area and at very reasonably rates.  They typically are on designated routes, so you will need to talk with the locals and drivers to make sure you are going to the right destination. Many times you will pay less than a dollar or two to go just about anywhere within a local area.  These are much less expensive than taxis in the Philippines.  Another popular method of transportation in the Philippines is the sidecar tricycle. These are small motorcycles with a side passenger attachment that go to more specific and remote locations that the Jeepney routes don’t cover.  

See more of the World, Make Layovers Count – If you are traveling to the Philippines and you have a few hour layover in Hong Kong, Seoul South Korea, Taiwan or another major Asian hub, why not maximize your worldwide experience.  Try booking your flight with a few day layover instead of a few hours. Many airlines allow this and the price may be the same.  The plus side is that now you just got to fly to and see two Southeast Asian countries rather than one. Since you are 5 to 8 thousand miles from home, you may as well maximize your experience. 

Book Hotels and Resorts on Large Accommodation Websites – Some of the best deals for accommodations are found on the large hotel websites.  One of the most popular hotel booking portals in the Philippines is  Agoda has its own specialty portals for the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Use a Local Version of a Large Travel Portal Website -- Many times travel portals with have local versions of their website that caters to travelers in the country you are in.  These typically will use the local country currency for booking and paying for rooms.  There may be price advantages and other deals you won’t see on the international version of the site.

Hotels in More Remote Areas – Just like in the U.S., hotels and accommodations in large cities and metro areas typically are much more expensive than the smaller surrounding areas. Since transportation is more reasonable in the Philippines, try staying a hotel or resort that is more off the beaten path. 

Bid Your Price for Hotels - Some travel websites such as allow you to “Name Your Own Price” or offer special express deals on hotels that are far and above better than you can find elsewhere. 

Accommodations for Large Parties – If you are traveling with a large party, rather than booking multiple rooms in a hotel, consider booking a suite, villa or other multi-room accommodation. It is generally always cheaper to group up together under the same roof.

Group Discounts– Don’t forget to consider going with a group to be able to take advantage of group discounts on travel packages, airlines and hotels.  You and your wife may want to consider going with another couple in order to share expenses. 

Frequent Flyer and Reward Points – Don’t forget to sign up for the frequent flyer rewards points when you book your flight or accommodations. Even though your trip to the Philippines may only be a once in a lifetime adventure, you may get hooked on the country and hopefully find ways to travel inexpensively enough to be able to afford another adventure to the Philippines or somewhere else in the world.

Eating in the Philippines and how to save money on food.

Minimize Meal Expenses – Eating is one of the biggest expenses encountered while traveling.  Attempt to book hotel facilities with a kitchen complete with pots and pans.  Some Filipino hostels, suites and villas have kitchens fully equipped.  You can prepare and eat some of your meals yourself using very inexpensive local Philippine ingredients.  Typically public markets or wet markets are in the downtown areas and have the best price on fresh fish, chicken and vegetables you can cook in your kitchen-equipped room for a fraction of the price of eating out. Going to these wet markets is a great cultural encounter that will enhance your travel experience.  There are many exotic tropical fruits and vegetables you may want to try while at the wet market.  Be careful with possible allergies you didn’t know you had to certain tropical fruits and be sure you wash everything real well.  We recommend keeping a bottle of white vinegar with you for a good wash. 

Eating Local – If you would rather not prepare your own food, the food outlets close to the central wet market usually have vendors the locals typically eat at for lunch or on the go. Some good and simple deals can be had at these vendors with Filipino names such as budbud, empanadas, pancit, lugaw and fish bowl.  These are quick and easy meals that are kind on your pocketbook.  Watch the sanitary practices of the vendors and always drink bottled water. Once again, we like to bring a small bottle of apple cider vinegar with us to mix in our bottled water to help kill any possible bacteria our American digestive systems are not used to…just in case.    

Focus on Lunch rather than Dinner – As with other countries, lunch in the Philippines tends to be less expensive than dinner.  If you make your main meal lunch rather than dinner, you can generally save a substantial amount of money.  Health should be a major consideration for anybody traveling as we tend to eat less healthy when we are traveling. Minimizing fried foods and surgery treats will help to keep your immune system in check.  Eating less in the later evening hours is also healthier. 

Exchanging Money in the Philippines – If you are looking to save on exchange rates, don’t make the mistake of exchanging your currency at an airport exchange center. Typically the rates are better at local banks and even better at one of the numerous money exchange businesses located just about everywhere in the Philippines.  The larger cities typically will have many dozens or even hundreds of money exchangers.  Most post their competitive exchange rates on signs in front of their businesses so you can shop for the best rate.  Always be careful that you don’t use an illegal street person or black market money exchange, and watch for possible scams when exchanging large sums of money at some locations in bad neighborhoods.

Find the Tourism Office – The local tourism offices in the Philippines may offer many suggestions for the most affordable accommodations and restaurants.  Seek them out for great ideas. You can find a list of Philippine regional tourism offices at this link: Philippine Tourism Offices.

Find a Local Friend – Always use caution in meeting anybody new in a country you are not familiar with.   If you really want to be in touch with the most affordable places to stay, eat and drink, the locals are always the most informed.  In general, Filipinos are extremely helpful and friendly people.  If you are an outgoing individual a smile is always a good way to help strike up a conversation. While it is rare, you should be careful and cautious of those who may want to take advantage of a foreigner and his/her money. 

Volunteering in the Philippines – This country has experienced some terrible natural disasters mainly due to typhoons.  The one that went through the Tacloban region in November 2013 was called Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and ravaged the area. The locals are still in recovery and trying to rebuild their lives.  There are volunteer opportunities listed on a various global volunteer websites for becoming a volunteer to help in a number of areas.  This may include but is not limited to teaching English to rural schools, and a multitude of public health opportunities.  You pay a reasonable weekly fee for your food and lodging and typically live with a Filipino family.  There is an application and vetting process for these positions but if you are the right type of individual, they may be a good way to make help make a difference while you see the Philippines. 


Disclaimer: Information presented on this website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be mistaken as financial advice or as expert advice for travel or any other purpose.  While all attempts are made to present accurate information, certain suggestions may be out of date, inaccurate or NOT appropriate for your specific circumstances.
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