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Philippines, Travel
That Cheap Backpacking Trips in Luzon for 2 Weeks

I spent ten days backpacking around five different destinations in Luzon, Philippines on a tight budget. It’s cheap. Really, really, cheap! And each trip gave me a new, exciting feel. Fueled by a few wonderful secret stories kept in my jar of travel memories, my wanderlust definitely doesn’t stop here.

Normally, I spend around 15,000 to 30,000 Philippines pesos (US$300-$600) good for three to five days only on domestic trips. You may think that’s fairly reasonable. Maybe if in other countries, but here in the Philippines you can spend less and save more money. Why do you think some famous Instagram/YouTube travellers like Jeremy Jauncey (Beautiful Destinations) and Christian LeBlanc (Lost LeBlanc) love this country and keep coming back?

There’s no doubt that Philippines is one of the beautiful countries in the world. It offers plenty of places to visit. If you are a nature lover like me, crystal clear beaches, jaw-dropping waterfalls, volcanoes and lush mountains await you anytime. But this is also a great destination for men and women who are into cheap backpacking trips.

The last time I went on holiday didn’t involve flying, which is one main reason why I was able to spend a good amount of money. Just hopping from one bus to another, hiring tricycles and enjoying pumpboat rides. You gotta love backpacking in the Philippines as transportation isn’t that of a big deal.

A few days before I headed out to meet my friend, who was the mastermind of everything from choosing routes to eateries and someone to blame for my broken toenails (just kidding), a budget of $200 had been already set on my mind (and pocket LOL). I wanted to see how many places I could explore with that amount. And did I mention I never planned anything? I had no idea where to go. I was like a puppy just following along and nodding everytime. Besides, spontaneous trip is fun after all!

Okay, let me cut the suspense. In more than five different places in Luzon, the biggest main island of the country, I spent less than $1000 $200 only. For almost two weeks (ten days), that’s remarkably a 1,000 ($20) a day budget! Now, take that as your next travel challenge.

You don’t believe me? One thing you should know about me is that I hate math but I can actually applaud myself right now of successfully adding, rounding off to the nearest tenth or hundredth and converting from peso to dollar just to come out with this list of expenses so I could share to you. Those bus tickets and entrance fee receipts were a big help!

As I’ve said, I was aiming a limit of $200. Did I do it? Here’s the breakdown.

Destinations
1. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte – Days 1, 2, 3
2. Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan – Day 4
3. Bolinao, Pangasinan – Day 5
4. Mount Pinatubo in Botolan, Zambales – Day 6
5. San Antonio, Zambales – Days 8, 9, 10
*Day 7 – rest day at a cousin’s house in Capas, Tarlac (which means free food & accommodation 🙂 )
*Will share my cheap backpacking experiences of each place in the next coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Target Budget
PhP 10000 (US$200)

Expenses
1. Saud Beach, Blue Lagoon, Kabigan Falls, and Patapat Viaduct Bridge (Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte)

cheap backpacking 1

cheap backpacking 2

Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Accommodation: 500 (250/night)
Tour: 390 (250 tricycle + 20 Blue Lagoon entrance fee + 120 Kabigan falls entrance fee + tour guide)
Transportation: 705 (330 LU-Laoag bus + 140 Laoag-Pagudpod bus + 185 Laoag-Vigan + 50 tricycle)
Food: 500 (approximately)
TOTAL: PhP 2095 ($41.90)

2. Hundred Islands (Alaminos, Pangasinan)

cheap backpacking 3

cheap backpacking 4

Duration: 1 day
Accommodation: 0
Tour: 430 (350, although it’s 1400 but divided by 4 for small boat + 40 environmental fee + 30 environmental fee + 10 insurance fee)
Transportation: 499 (380 Laoag-Urdaneta bus + 119 Urdaneta-Dagupan-Alaminos bus)
Food: 150 (approximately)
TOTAL: PhP 1079 ($21.58)

3. Patar Beach and Wonderful Cave (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

cheap backpacking 5

Duration: overnight
Accommodation: 300
Tour: 100 (Wonderful cave entrance fee)
Transportation: 774 (87 Alaminos-Bolinao bus + 400 tricycle + 287 Bolinao-Capas, Tarlac bus)
Food: 250 (approximately)
Others: 450 (shoes & socks)
TOTAL: 1874 ($37.48)

4. Mount Pinatubo (Botolan, Zambales or Zambales Mountains)

cheap backpacking 6

Duration: 1 day
Accommodation: 0
Tour: 2250 (lunch and water included)
Transportation: 190 (200 tricycle or 100/pax + 60 tricycle + 30 jeep)
Food: 0
Other: 50 (shower)
TOTAL: 2490 ($49.80)

5. Pundaquit Beach, Mount Pundaquit, Anawangin Cove, Capones Island and Camara Island (San Antonio, Zambales)

cheap backpacking 7

cheap backpacking 8

Duration: 4 days, 3 nights
Accommodation: 750 (250/night)
Tour: 200 (400 for 2)
Transportation: 343 (140 Capas-Dau bus + 58 Dau-San Antonio bus + 100 boat + 45 tricycle)
Food: 700 (approximately)
TOTAL: 1993 ($39.86)

GRAND TOTAL: 9531 ($191)

Achieved!!! Talk about some cheap backpacking goal!

Now you may want to do the same on your next adventure. Check these general tips on how to save money while travelling around the Philippines (but these may be also applied to other countries).

1. Set a budget and stick to it.
As much as possible, do not spend on things you don’t need during your travel unless it’s for emergency. Research beforehand to find out if the places or activities are worth seeing/doing for.

2. Opt for cheaper accommodation,
“Homestay” rooms and transient houses (check Airbnb) are quite common in the Philippines. Many”homestays” are half the price of most hotel room rates. Couchsurfing is a great option too.

3. Do not overspend on foods.
Try to stay away from hotel restaurants and other places that offer overpriced menus.



4. Say no to tour guides.
I only realised that tours offered in the Philippines are overrated. In addition to entrance and environmental fees, you have to pay for tour guides. For instance, the Mount Pinatubo trek doesn’t need to have a guide since there’s a trail to follow and if you ask me the degree of difficulty is a beginner’s level.

One mistake we did was paying for a local tour guide for the Kabigan waterfall, which is very accessible within 20 minutes. No mountains to climb, no rivers to cross, just flat field surrounded by many trees and rice plantations. Paid for 120 pesos just for that, sigh.

It does help financially for most of my fellow citizens, especially boatmen and locals. I also understand that it’s for your own safety and security. But if the route is super easy to take (no hazard) and you’ve done trekking or hiking several times, skip having one. Unless it is required by the Department of Tourism (DOT) or the place is only accessible by boat, then you have no choice. Make sure to get a receipt (no receipt means not local government issued).

5. Travel with someone or a group of friends.
This is the best way to reduce your travel expenses. You share a room or boat with 4 or 5 people, you get to save about 50% to 75%. I do need more travel buddies who have that same wanderlust desire – more manageable when it comes to budget.

6. Negotiate
I was never comfortable trying to make deals with people just to get discounts or reduced price over things. But I learned it’s a good tactic if you want to spend less. From tricycles to rooms, we negotiate by simply asking a much cheaper price. Don’t quickly say yes to a rate they offer. Sometimes, your tenacity can pay off. After all, as a Filipino, we are known to make “tawad” moves haha.

P.S. Thanks to my friend ES for allowing me to use some of the photos above. Most importantly, for the amazing memories we made from this series of epic cheap backpacking trips!

xo,

anna

 
 

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What do you think of my cheap backpacking experiences? Do you think it’s a good idea to try cutting down expenses while on vacation? Were you able to have a fun, epic trip without spending too much money?

39 Comments

  • Kinga K.

    04/30/2017

    Great post and phenomenal photos ✌

    Reply
  • rika9

    04/30/2017

    That is SO cheap! Pictures make it look awesome too.

    Reply
  • ohmummymia

    04/29/2017

    I hate tour guides so plus for me:) Love your pictures:) need to try one day backpacking trip but I don’t know if it will work with baby:D

    Reply
    • Anna ❥ Life

      04/29/2017

      Thanks 🙂 Spontaneous backpacking is fun…with a baby, depends on how old, but if it’s just beaches and anywhere where you can easily bring them (unlike mountain!), why not? I’ve stumbled on some Instagram account (or maybe 2) where they travel with young kids, but they can already walk – maybe wait a little hehe. Regardless, have fun on your future trips!

      Reply
  • Perla

    04/29/2017

    I have never been to Philippines or in any other countries from that part of the world (I’m from Europe) but I saw many pictures and many nice entries about it on several blogs (including this one) that make me want to take seriously into consideration a trip to this beautiful country.

    Reply
  • viveka

    04/29/2017

    What a wonderful blog you have … and I wish I could do holidays on a budget like yours .. neither have I been able to travel light. Beautiful. I was Philippines 1978 … when I worked on a small cruise liner and was able to visit very interesting places. It’s beautiful .. on the island, but I hated the cities.

    Reply
    • Anna ❥ Life

      04/29/2017

      Thanks! Yes there are many beautiful destinations here, you really have to explore. Haha I can understand the “cities” part, especially Manila. But hey, it’s been awhile since the last time you’re here, come back 🙂

      Reply
      • viveka

        04/29/2017

        I have a friend that moved back to Philippines 2 years ago .. have been thinking of visiting her. She lived in Chicago before. One day maybe!

        Reply
  • Andrew Seal

    04/28/2017

    Great post Anna. Makes me want to catch the next flight out 🙂

    Reply
  • Kim

    04/28/2017

    What you said about the PH tours are so true -.- I hate it when they try to fool tourists lol but I think all tours does that so.. lol anyway, loved your post Anna! I agree that the Philippines is one of the best countries to visit, especially for nature lovers <3

    Reply
  • AdashofJhaee

    04/28/2017

    Amazing 😉

    Reply
  • neeliev

    04/28/2017

    Great post! Makes me want to go to the Phillippines. Good tips as well, like the one about the tour guides, wouldn’t know that if it weren’t for you, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Anna ❥ Life

      04/28/2017

      Thanks and you’re welcome! Yeah, you should visit the Philippines…You have a nice blog 🙂 maybe you’re interested to participate on my Photo Challenge? Click here for more info http://bit.ly/2oDlLsT

      Reply
  • anjage

    04/28/2017

    This is such a great trip and I wouldn’t expect it is so cheap! <3
    Thanks for sharing:)

    Reply

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