Palawan is the world’s best island. That’s what posh travel magazines such as Travel and Leisure said.
It’s great that I didn’t need to travel that far to see this beautiful place because it is located in my country, Philippines. Actually it’s not just an island, Palawan is a province in the Philippines and it’s really got beautiful dotted islands that you should see if you’re into island hopping.
I swear I can spend a lower budget than $23/day, but since I was good this year, I splurge a bit so I can give a gift to myself. Besides, despite expensive activities, I still manage to spend an average of P1000 or $23 a day, so I’m patting myself at the back because I was able to have a little bit of luxury yet still be on budget.
Yes, it’s possible. Paradise need not be expensive and I’m gonna show you what to do, where to stay, where to go in Palawan without ruining much of your budget.
**Please note that I stated the average expenses, there were days that I spent more than 1 thou but there were days where I spent way less.
Ok, enough blah. If I was able to do it, you can do it too… Here’s how to have a luxury on a budget trip in Palawan:
Budget tip 1: Save on accommodation.
There are lots of posh hotels in Palawan, but if you’re on a budget, skip high end luxury hotels. Exercise your social skills, be a little friendly and try out couchsurfing, or rent dorms or hostels. You can share rooms with other travellers too if you want.
I spent 9 days in Palawan this time, and I stayed 4 nights for free courtesy of local friends whom I just met there. Check out Casa Nieves, the place is lovely I tell you ^_^.. It’s actually more than an accommodation, it’s an art space as well. Thank you Direk Dante Nico Garcia for temporarily adopting me. Credit of the photo below goes to him.
In Taytay, El Nido, and Coron, I stayed in a very basic guest house that is not worth promoting yet ;D… I’ll update this as soon as those places fix themselves up! :))
Budget tip 2: Make friends with locals.
This saved me a lot! And you get to discover new places too. This pretty kid showed me around her village while I got a glimpsed of a cruise ship docked in her village. Thanks to her mom Janis for trusting me to be with the kid. Apparently, instead of me baby sitting the kid, I was the one being toured around :D
Budget tip 3: Haggle for discounts.
In El Nido, the original price for island tours are around P1000 – P1300, but if you haggle right, you can bring down the fee at a lower price. And if you make friends with boatmen, it is possible to pay for only the boat fuel.. but please don’t be a thick face freeloader, treat them back with either food or something for goodness sake! And once you’re on the tour, I hope the islands will give you this priceless experience that no amount of money can buy.
Budget tip 4: Pick where you eat.
If you are a girlscout, you can eat in small carinderias, or pig out vietnamese chao long noodles for P60. Bona’s chao long in Puerto Princesa is popular among locals and tourists but the last time I went, the serving take too long, and the place is not very hygienic too. There are other alternatives like Lou Chaolong Hauz, I think this is near the airport.
Budget tip 5: Choose your ride.
Non aircon bus are cheaper than air con ones. You can rent a bicycle to tour around the island instead of always riding tricycles. Another best option is to have a local friend travel with you around and then you can split the cost of the fuel instead.. this way, you’ll see other hidden places that are not easily discovered when you just take public transportation.
When we were in Taytay, a rather non touristy place compare to El Nido, we discovered a beautiful natural pool, a small chapel, hidden lake called Danao, and snake along the road :D.. thanks to Ruth for being our driver/tourist guide/foster mother while we were in Taytay.. And thanks to Maria, my Columbian travel buddy, who introduced me to this lovely lady.
For those who would like to contact Ruth as a personal tour guide, you may do so at 09216119887.. nope, I’m not getting a referral fee here. ^_^
The ride from El Nido to Coron is a bit of a challenge as you will have to brave the waves on a small boat… unless you’re posh (or actually wise) enough to take the plane.. Small boat fee is 1400 pesos with free lunch but you can haggle it down too. Good luck on the waves, advise your intestines to be strong.
1. Instead of renting island tours in El Nido that will cost around 1 thousand pesos or more, try to rent paddle boats for 500 pesos a day, but you have to do all the paddling yourself.. great if you’re the sporty type.
2. Avoid coffee mocha :D
3. Avoid souvenir shopping
4. Stay in a place longer, landlords usually give discounts to those who are staying longer than those who are only staying for a few days.
Some expenses that you’d like to know:
El Nido Island tours – P1100 – P1400
Small Boat from El Nido to Coron – P1400
Small Boat from Coron to Mindoro – P600
Rooms for rent – P500 and above
Dorms – P350
Mocha coffee – P80 and above
So that’s it.. hope this is useful.. feel free to add more tips so we can help others to travel more and travel further. I just hope that despite the flock of visitors, the island will remain the same aura of pura vida.. please let it not be another Boracay..
My travel quote for this journey: When you leave your comfort zones, you begin to realize what is beautiful about life.
Till then, have fun in the Philippines. ^_^