In the end, the Philippines have been one of the most expensive countries I visited. Of course, I also had one of the best times but that for a price. This comes down to two facts, some things like food and accommodation are just more expensive than in other SEA countries and my stupidity to not book in advance.
I should have listened to my friends
Everyone warned me before that I should book more in advance then in Thailand or Vietnam for example – but I didn’t. In the end, I ended up spending 340 euros for only two flights, and often the excellent accommodations were gone already.
Different than most of Southeast Asia
In most SEA countries you can book yourself a bus for the other day or even trains are never fully booked (Except for around NYE in Bangkok for example). My hostels I often only booked on the bus or just before leaving the city and usually only for one night and then extended. That’s the beauty of traveling in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. In the Philippines, it’s a different story, ferries, flights, hotels, and hostels are often entirely booked or expensive if you book them only a short time in advance. Whole cities are often completely booked out and extending your stay is not guaranteed. The tourism in the Philippines exploded in the last years, but the tourism industry can cope up with building the necessary infrastructure.
Planes instead of buses
The other problem in the Philippines is that you are mostly forced to take a flight or at least a ferry, and of course, these are more expensive than buses or trains. Depending on where you want to go boats take forever, so you are forced to take planes. And these planes usually are fully booked, not booking in advance results in really high prices. From Siargao to Coron I paid 170 euros because I booked only three days in advance and there was no other possibility. Booking the flight, a month in advance would have saved me more than 100 euros.
Booking flights in advance maybe make your travels a little less spontaneously, but at the same time, you save a lot of money. And if you got a fixed schedule due to your pre-booked flights you can also start booking your accommodations, on that you might not save much money, but at least you get the best places to stay and don’t have to take the last ones available.
Tours are different
The only thing that stays the same as in other countries is tours and activities. Never book any tours in advance online as it is much more expensive and not necessary. Organizing a boat for the day is often possible on the same morning or ask the evening before around the port, and you’ll get something for sure. Also, other tours like Canyoneering or diving can be booked directly at the hotel, hostel or even better directly at the tour operators office.
- Total countries I visited until now: 35
- Planes: 14
- Busses: 41
- Trains: 18
- Boats: 23
- Km driving: 7000
- Km running: 2138