10 Tips for Traveling on a Budget

Traveling on limited funds? Follow these tips to make the most of your budget.

Would you love to travel more, but think you just don't have the funds? Don't let a tight budget get in the way of your wanderlust. With some smart planning, you can explore new places as often as you want. Read on for ten creative ways to keep your costs down on the road.

1. Go domestic: Local travel is cheaper, patriotic, and yes, more fun

When your feet feel that familiar itch, go ahead and scratch-but do it locally. Domestic travel is not only much more affordable than traveling abroad, it also supports local economies and lets you learn more about your own country. You don't have to worry about getting the best exchange rates, talking to the locals, or bargaining for the best deals--in general, you'll find it easier to communicate (even across different dialects) and come to an agreement regarding costs when you're dealing with your kababayans.

2. Book early: Airfare and rooms are cheaper you book in advance

Here's a strong incentive to plan ahead: transportation and accommodation costs are cheaper the earlier you make your booking. Companies like Cebu Pacific and Go Hotels have pioneered seat and room sales that give deeply discounted rates for specific travel periods. If you plan your trip around six months in advance, you can wait for piso fares or under-five-hundred room rates.

3. Go lean: Schedule your trips during the off season

Rates drop by as much as half during the lean season. However, in the Philippines, this usually means you'll be traveling in the rain, so prepare to be flexible-you may not be able to enjoy the beach if it's pouring. Choose destinations like Baguio and Tagaytay, and plan alternative activities indoors, like spa services or museum trips, to fall back on if the weather doesn't cooperate. Rainy days are also perfect for staycations--hotels give special discounts and really great deals around this time.

4. Travel light: Avoid additional fees and move around quickly with less luggage

Airlines may charge extra for check-in luggage, so you can shave off a few hundred pesos by packing a single carry-on backpack. Less luggage also means you're more mobile, with more options-you can fit inside a crowded jeep or hop on the back of a tricycle, much cheaper alternatives than hiring a cab. Better yet, with a light load, you can walk.

5. Go by land: Consider going by train or bus instead of by plane

Photo by Abet Lagula

It's not always possible, or desirable (in terms of time), to travel by land in an archipelago. Regions like Bicol and Ilocos, however, are accessible through land transport. Compare the costs in terms of actual fares and lost time before deciding what to ride. An overland trip may take much longer, but if you get an overnight schedule, you can sleep on the way-and save the cost of a night's accommodation, too.

6. Ride public: Mass public transit is always a cheaper alternative

Wherever possible, opt for mass public transit-ferries, buses, and jeepneys-instead of more expensive taxis, tricycles, and rentals. "Special" trips where you are the only passenger are naturally more expensive and can leave you at the mercy of the driver when there are no fixed or metered rates. If you must go outside regular routes, consider motorcycles. You can be the passenger on a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) or rent a bike to self-drive for as low as a few hundred pesos per day.

7. Go with a friend (or two, or three): Quad sharing drives individual accommodation expenses down

Many resorts offer quad sharing packages, which are pegged at a given price per person. The rates are cheaper than getting two separate rooms, and you get to bond more with your friends. Getting an extra bed is another inexpensive alternative. If you're traveling solo, rather than shoulder the cost of an entire room, look for hostels that offer single beds in dorm type rooms instead. Or book an inexpensive room at a value hotel like Go Hotels, which has a number of branches in different locations around the country.

8. Customize it: Make your own itinerary for a fully maximized and personalized tour

Don't feel compelled to visit all the tourist spots in the locale. Not all of the stops in the standard tours are worth visiting. Choose the ones majority of your group want to visit and skip the rest. You'll save on time and entrance fees and max out the experience and enjoyment. You can rely on your guidebook (or the internet) for insights on each stop, or you get a local guide. It's well worth it to get an experienced guide-he can share local anecdotes, show you the most photogenic spots, and take you to the best places to eat. Some provinces are well-organized and have lists of accredited guides. For those that don't, ask the hotel staff, business owners, tricycle drivers, or local friends for referrals.

9. Eat local: Restaurants and carinderias frequented by natives are often good and cheap

Photo by Abet Lagula

When you're traveling, skip the Jollibees and Chowkings and seek out local carinderias and turo-turos instead. The restos that locals frequent are usually inexpensive, tasty, and totally authentic. Try native delicacies and regional specialties, and even classic Filipino dishes, like adobo, that have variations across different provinces. Some must-try local restaurants are tourist attractions in themselves, so their prices may be a little higher-but often still much lower than Manila rates.

10. Haggle: Always ask for a discount, and you just may get it

Part of the fun (and challenge) of traveling is to see how well you can negotiate. Try to get a bargain whenever you can-on transportation, food, accommodations, and souvenirs-but remember to ask nicely. Many local merchants will be willing to give you a discount, or maybe a freebie. Don't overdo it, though. You are, after all, getting a product or service in return-as long as the cost seems reasonable to you, don't begrudge the vendors their profit. Tourism is all about stimulating the economy, and giving the locals a little extra income certainly can't hurt. Think of it as money well spent.


Traveling on a budget? Try value-for-money accommodations like Go Hotels. Learn more about Go Hotels here.