They don’t call Palawan the world’s best island for nothing. Famous for its pristine beaches, towering cliffs, and gorgeous emerald waters, “the last frontier of the Philippines” is indeed the epitome of a tropical paradise. What’s more, it boasts of world-class dive sites, tasty food, and unique attractions, making it a must-see destination for Singaporeans.
However, a trip to Palawan can cost you a serious amount of money, especially if you didn’t do your research beforehand. Let’s face it; Palawan, as with other globally renowned destinations, can make a big dent to your budget.
On the brighter side, there are plenty of tricks and local tips that can help you save cash, as you travel and explore Palawan and its islands. Here are some tips that will let you explore the islands of Palawan like a real budget-conscious local.
1. Go beyond the typical tourist trails
Don’t get us wrong – El Nido, Puerto Princesa, and Coron, with their wondrous attractions and extraordinary beauty, are all great. But, there’s more to Palawan than these coveted destinations. If you want to travel cheap, and see Palawan from a local’s perspective, hit underrated destinations like Calauit Safari Park, Port Barton, Cuyo, Cuilon, Taytay, and San Vicente. Better yet, head to the extreme south of Palawan, and experience the untouched island paradise known as Onuk Island.
Not only are these places free from the swarms of tourists, they are incredibly cheap as well, as compared to the quintessential tourist destinations in Palawan.
2. Eat in Carinderias (cheap local eateries)
One of the biggest challenges that most local budget travellers face in any popular destination is how to save money on food. As great as the dishes and treats are in Palawan, they can be quite expensive. Thankfully, there are carinderias all over Palawan for Singaporeans travelling on a tight budget.
For the most part, dishes in these types of types of eateries cost PHP 30 to 40 each (S$0.84 to S$1.12). Pair it up with a cup of rice for PHP 7 to 10 (S$0.20 to S$0.28), and you get a complete meal that can feed your grumbling stomach!
3. Skip the fancy hotels
From posh island resorts like Huma Island to 5-star international chain hotels, Palawan is truly a haven of luxurious accommodations. Of course, you need to shell around PHP 12,000 to 50,000 (S$334 to S$1,394) a night for a room to indulge on these ritzy stays. But, if you want to save money on accommodations, skip the high-end hotels in Palawan. Instead, exercise your social skills, be friendly, and try Couchsurfing.
Not comfortable sleeping in someone else’s couch? Luckily, there are tons of other affordable alternatives, for those who aren’t fond of Couchsurfing, including hostels, dorms, inns, and homestays. On average, these types of accommodations cost PHP 500 to 1,500 a night (S$14 to S$42). Quite a bargain, right? To make things even better, staying in any of these places will give you a chance to delve into their culture as well as meet a bunch of local travellers.
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4. Travel during the wet season
Travelling during the peak season, or as Filipinos would say summer, is a great option, but it does come with a few drawbacks. For instance, all the celebrated islands and top destinations in Palawan, like Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron, will be densely populated, dotted with tourists from all corners of the world.
Secondly, rates for everything, including airfare, food, hotels, and local services, will skyrocket. In fact, rates for accommodations in Palawan may even double during this season. Moreover, did we mention that it’s also the jellyfish season in the Philippines?
On the other hand, traveling during the off-season or wet season (from June to September) means you’ll have all the islands to yourself. Not to mention, prices for services and hotels will take a plunge during these months. A survey conducted by Lonely Planet suggested that booking a hotel room during this season will save you around 20 to 40% on accommodations. Trust us; a smart local traveller normally travels to Palawan during the off-season.
Except for the standard environmental fees, everything is almost negotiable in Palawan, from island hopping tours to kayaking. You can even ask for discounts in local eateries and market stalls. Just use your charm a bit, and ask the person-in-charge, to increase your chances of landing a bargain.
6. Travel with a group
Travelling alone is an enriching and empowering experience that will give you a plethora of life lessons. Unfortunately, it’s not a great option when you’re travelling in Palawan. Quite frankly, the tourist infrastructure in the Philippines is built towards those traveling in groups. Whether you’re taking an island hopping tour or a boat trip to Calauit, you’ll need a few people to split the costs of your adventures and activities.
But, if you really insist on flying solo, we suggest that you befriend local travellers, so you can save some cash for your activities. And besides, Filipinos are naturally friendly, and would feel honoured to travel with a Singaporean or any foreigner.
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