Every month I get heaps of emails asking me how I travel while paying off my college debt. Just recently my boyfriend and I traveled to the Philippines for two weeks and spent less than $1300 including our hostel, food, drinks, over 20 coral and shipwreck dives and my PADI open water diving certificate. It’s seems outrageous to some people for me to travel when I have such a huge bill (and sometimes I believe it myself), but they also don’t know how inexpensive travel can be if you do it the right way.
Today I’m going to breakdown my trip in the Philippines, step-by-step, and brief you on how you can travel to a beautiful island on a budget.
A lot of backpackers say they can’t book in advance because they don’t have wifi. However, I like to plan my trips as much in advance as I can and have found that doing your research and booking early can save you a lot of money. Also, finding a hostel that lets you and a friend, boyfriend or whoever stay in one bed for a fixed price is such a good deal. Caleb and I stayed at Coron Backpackers for 6 nights and paid $500 pesos (~$10USD) a night. This included our own room, queen bed, fan and small desk to put your stuff on.
We got away with eating the majority of our lunches on the boats when diving. And let me tell you – these were the best meals we had during our trip. Not only did we pay ~$1,000 pesos a dive, but we also got free coffee, water, lunch and snacks and if you were lucky, a luxurious boat to lay on after diving to enjoy the sunset. Besides that, eating fruits in the morning with some oatmeal always did our stomachs well. If we were looking for something a little more we could go to a café down the street and get a huge plate of canton noodles, egg and chicken for $120 pesos. The trick is that we tried to eat as much as we could on the boats so all we really paid for in the end was dinner and occasionally some snacks.
We never bought drinks – really. And you’re probably thinking, how is that possible? Well, along with food on the boats I also stated that you got free coffee, water and tea. Also, our hostel provided free drinking water and coffee as well. At some restaurants they’ll charge you for water out of a bottle, but if you ask for drinking water they will give it to you for free. Another factor was we rarely drank alcohol. I think the whole time we were in Coron we had maybe 4 San Miguels each (~$50 pesos). If you’re a heavy drinker or look at a vacation as an excuse to drink a lot, then your budget will sky rocket tremendously.
If you’re traveling slow you can really cut down on your costs of transportation. For example, a roundtrip flight to Coron from Manila costs about $150USD each. We found a boat (ATN Shipping) for only $50 USD roundtrip. You may not think that’s a lot, but while traveling in an underdeveloped country, $100 can go a long way – that’s how much our round-trip plane ticket from Taiwan cost. Not only that, tricycles and jeep taxis are less expensive than yellow taxis and big tour buses. My advice would be save the taxis and tour buses for areas where you don’t feel safe and take advantage of the Filipino culture while you can. Hop in a tricycle or the back of a motorcycle/tricycle and enjoy the ride. It’s well worth it.
During our two week vacation in the Philippines we stayed with a friend who offered to be our guide for 5 days. During that time we went hiking up Pico de Loro (was better than some Taiwan’s hikes), stayed in a resort in Batangas and got to explore the markets in Cavite. We helped pay for gas and food, but that was about it. We got free stay, sometimes free food and got to hang out with a beautiful Filipino family. We are truly grateful for them.
Another way we cut down on costs with our activities was by doing some scouting right when we got to Coron. We literally went to all the dive shops on the main street in Coron Town and asked what their rates were for a full day of diving (3 dives). I also found that this fantastic dive shop that looked completely out of my price range was offering the PADI open water diving course for only $16,000 pesos ($1,000 pesos more than Coron Divers SSI course). PADI courses are known for their quality dive training so when I saw it was only a small bit more, I had to take it.
Also, Coron is known for their island hopping. We didn’t get to do this but we’re told that the more people you get on a boat the cheaper it is. Island hopping can range anywhere from $650-$1500 pesos if you go with a tour service. If you can find people to rent a boat with you, the price of a boat is about $1500 pesos and then you can divide that by how many people you organize for the tour.
There are many ways to travel the world. For us, we like to do it on a budget. We don’t stay in hotels or eat fancy foods – we live simply by the light from our bonfires and courtesy of the earth. This is how we travel and how we learn to do so on a budget.
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