by Drifter Planet | Sep 5, 2017 | Philippines, Guest Post
For us backpacker and budget travelers, the Philippines is not the cheapest country in Southeast Asia. Manila is the stepping stone to many travelers of the great adventures waiting ahead in this country. For most tourists it’s a necessary stop on the way. Also, the living costs in the city are higher, and temptations (for spending money that is) are many.
Something we noticed about a lot of tourists we met in the Philippines, is that they almost always said they hated Manila. Sure, it’s a chaotic place, overcrowded, noisy, polluted, ugly some will say, but it can be a lot of fun. The prices of Manila were a major issue for many people too, so we wanted to create a guide for future budget travelers, on how to enjoy this crazy city without spending much money (because you’re most likely to spend some time there anyway).
Manila on a Budget:
Save Money on Accommodation in Manila
Finding a cheap hostel in Manila is not the problem, but finding a decent one to sleep in is going to be difficult, and the same goes for cheap hotels. When we travel it’s safe to say that around 50% of the usual daily budget (exclude special activities: diving, bungee, etc.) goes for accommodation. Well, even if you’re staying in a cheap place, it’s still your home away from home.
In Manila, most have the worst experiences when it comes to budget accommodation. It’s just that the backpacker scene has only recently started to develop in the country. Up until recently it was harder to find decent cheap accommodation and only now that it’s getting better. Check these places out for your nights in the city.
Our Private Room at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila
What else can we say about Tambayan – the Tagalog word for “hanging out”? This is the place we stayed in Manila, and we loved every second of it. Moreover, we had some of the best meals we had in the Philippines. This place is also closer to Intramuros if you plan to spend some time there, and to the mall if you need some break from the heat. Go to our full review for more details about the hostel we fell in love with.
This super modern hostel is among the best you’ll stay in the Philippines. It’s very clean, spacious, comfortable, and most of all FUN! The owners know how to make young people enjoy their stay. Beside of the café that sells great local food, there is the roof deck, where every night there is a party: house, techno, hip hop. Each night is different, but there is always a good crowd.
Z has mixed dorms, female dorms and private rooms. The prices start at 17 USD, and goes up to 52 USD for the private room. This hostel is not the cheapest, but for Manila it’s still cheap. Plus, even the dormitory beds are very big, with lights and electrical outlets. There is a small kitchen, but you probably won’t use it as the area around the hostel is abundant with restaurants and street food.
5660 Don Pedro St. Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City, Philippines 1210
This one is located in Malate, the original backpacker area of Metro Manila. The beds may not be as spacious as the beds in Z Hostel, but this a very cool place none the less with its own pluses. Well if you like pink that is (we loved it, everything is painted pink, the bedsheets are pink, the lights are pink). Pink Manila Hostel is located in a safe residential neighborhood 20 minute walk from both the historical district of Manila (Intramuros) and Green Belt in Makati, a nightlife district with many clubs and bars.
It is very cheap too! Only 9-12 USD and 32 USD for a twin room (bunk beds). For that price you also get a large common area, a rooftop swimming pool, and free breakfast. On top of that, most of the nights there is something going on, like pool parties and movie night. That’s quite a deal for the price, and the pool is a big bonus, as you will find it very relieving on the hot humid evenings of Manila.
2551 Don Pedro St. Cor. Bautista St. Malate, Manila 1004
Try to strike a good deal on a hotel or look for an Airbnb
You can travel on a budget and still care a great deal about you privacy. Also, in some parts of town that are not used to budget travelers it becomes difficult to find a proper place to sleep. All of the cheap hostels you’ll find are going to be of very low level, dirty, boring, etc. In those case you better find a good deal on a hotel in Manila.
Airbnb is also on the rise in Manila, in all parts of the Metro. Staying in Taguig on a budget for instance can become difficult if you’re looking for a cheap hostel (part of Metro Manila that is rapidly becoming very popular). Nonetheless, many residents of Manila purchased apartments for investment in many of the new high-rises which are constantly being built in the city. With no one to occupy them, the owners started to rent them in Airbnb. The prices are usually cheaper than hotels, and you get to stay in a nice new apartment.
Where to eat great food in Manila on a budget?
Pork Adobo – (Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot at Tambayan Gastrobar)
We already posted about delicious Filipino food, so you can get an idea of what does the local food looks like. Here we will tell you about a few places where you can find great food – filipino and international, for a very good price.
There is a great Chinese food scene in the Philippines, but the best Chinese food in the country is found in Binondo, the oldest China town in the world. It is close to Malate and it makes perfect sense to go there after a visit in the historical district. Keep in mind that it’s a hectic part of town, so listen to our advice on where you should eat.
Masuki Mami House
This small restaurant still make egg noodles in house. They serve the noodles in hot broth, for almost 100 years already. Side dishes are siopao and siomai, steamed Chinese buns and dumplings. Altogether you’ll end up paying around 4 USD for a meal there.
931 Benavidez St, Binondo, Manila
Dong Bei Dumplings
This small shop sells a variety of steamed and fried dumplings, and fried Chinese pancake. It all comes with chili oil, soy sauce and spicy vinegar on the side. The servings which are good for one are 2.5 USD each. But you can easily eat two servings just by yourself.
642 Yuchengo Street, Binondo, Manila
New Po Heng
Lumpia is a perfect snack if you don’t feel full yet. It is a fresh Chinese style spring roll (not fried), filled with cabbage, carrot, seaweed, tofu, lettuce coriander and peanuts wrapped in a spring roll wrapper, and served with a sweet sauce on the side. It will only cost you 1 USD. Just be sure you won’t miss this small canteen as it is tiny small.
531 Quintin Paredes St, Binondo, Manila
Sincerity Café & Restaurant
Their Chinese style fried chicken has made a name for itself, and yet remained very cheap too, 3 USD for half, and 4USD for a whole chicken. The other hose specialties are Kikiam with brown sauce (pork and shrimp sausage, 1 USD), and oyster pancake (4-5 USD).
497 Yuchengco street, Binondo, Manila
Don’t worry, because once you’ll get out of Manila you get so many options to eat Filipino food, as it is the staple of the islands and provinces, and for certain is the cheaper option. That being said, some of the best Filipino restaurants are in Manila, and some of them are really cheap too.
The Aristocrat Restaurant
This place has been operating since 1936, when Lola Asiang converted her ground floor into a restaurant. They grew ever since and now the huge main branch is in Roxas Boulevard, feeding people proudly 24/7. They sell many of the Filipino classics like sisig, adobo, kare-kare and more. This is one of the best Filipino meals you’ll have, and though the average price for a dish is 7 USD for a dish, the size is really good for two, or two dishes can easily feed three people. They have many locations in town, so check out the Aristocrat website for more information.
Dampa – fresh seafood in the wet markets
Seaside Dampa Macapagal is a fresh sea food market in Pasay city, sandwiched between Malate, Taguig, and Makati. It is a bit far off, but you should only go there in a group of 4 or more anyways, so a taxi/Grab/Uber is not going to cost so much each (only if you care about the budget, read on in order to understand). The system is like so: you buy the seafood, which is very cheap, in the stalls of the market; after that you take it to one of the restaurants around the market and they cook it for you the way you want for a fee.
Because most of the time you’ll buy more than you can actually eat, and that the cooking fee (“paluto” in Tagalog) is about the same for a small and large quantity, it makes sense to come with a small group. In any case you will not find seafood fresher than that. All of the restaurants are good and charge about the same price, but Hong Kong Master Cook Restaurant is supposed to be the best. Most of the restaurants are of Chinese or Filipino style. And another tip, haggle down the price!
Expect to pay 9-11 USD per person in a group of four (including cooking, sides and drinks).
Diosdado Macapagal Blvd, Pasay, Metro Manila
Quan Yin Chay
The name and location (Binondo) indicates that this is a Chinese restaurant. Quan Yin Chay actually offers both Chinese and Filipino dishes, but with one twist. The Taoist owner cook all vegetarian food (also without onion and garlic btw). It is a small cafeteria style eatery with delicious, fresh and healthy food, which is also very cheap. This is one of the few restaurant to serve vegetarian Filipino food, so if you are vegetarian (or just feel like it) give this place a try.
739 Ongpin St (at Salazar St), Binondo, Manila
This is the local name for grilled chicken that the Philippines is very proud of. Well it’s really delicious, and can be found almost everywhere in Manila, and even more so in the provinces. The famous ones are: Andoks, Baliwag, Sr. Pedro, Mang Inasal, and Chooks to Go. It cost less than 5 USD for a whole chicken, which is divine (both pricewise and taste wise).
I won’t point you to any specific restaurants here. I will just say that Manila boasts with many international cuisines. To most parts those tend to be a little pricier, but you will also find any American fast food chain you can think of, as well as some higher quality ones (Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Outback Steakhouse…). You can also find Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Italian and many other cuisines easily.
The only thing we are going to recommend on comes from a need that we found in many people including ourselves (mainly San). The craving for meet when traveling in Southeast Asia is something that many people feel after a while. Well in many of the restaurants described in this paragraph you will find a decent steak or burger, but If you want a cheap 100% beef quality burger, go to Brothers Burger. They sell good quality burgers for 5-8 USD, and have many restaurants scattered around Metro Manila. This is your go to burger joint if you need you fix of red meat.
Things to do in Manila on a Budget
Now that we got your accommodation and food covered, you will want to do some stuff beside sleeping and eating, in order to make you time in Manila enjoyable. Manila can also be a playground for the rich, but there are so many free and budget thing to do that are lots of fun. In this section we will tell you about some of our favorites.
Visit Rizal Park and Intramuros – the historical district of Manila
This part of town is a walled city the Spanish built upon arrival to the Philippines. They built it in methods they brought with them from Spain. It has a citadel inside called Fort Santiago and Manila Cathedral one of the oldest in Asia. Walking around Intramuros is FREE! After spending the time there (and there is much to see) you can go to Rizal Park (also free), and/or to Binondo for lunch.
Rizal Park, also called Luneta, was the execution ground of the national hero Jose Rizal, killed by the Spanish in 1896, that brought to the outbreak of the Philippines Revolution. It was name after him, and now it’s a very picturesque park with monuments for national heroes, that stretches all the way to Manila Bay. It’s an excellent spot for a stroll.
Art in Island 3D Museum
10 USD will take you all the way into a world of dreams and illusions (8 USD if you have a student card. This place is where that 3D painting are drawn directly on the floor and walls, and it will challenge your perception of depth and balance so be warned. The place is quite recent and all the picture were drawn by 18 Korean master artists.
Escape the heat in MOA (Mall of Asia)
Mall of Asia is the 4th largest in the Philippines and the 11th largest in the world, but it’s probably the nicest one in the country. It will be a good chance for you to buy some goods and souvenirs, or just go window shopping. You can watch a movie or believe it or not, ice skating! In a tropical country.
Drinking out and Nightlife in Manila
Going out in Manila is not so expensive, and a part of being a good backpacker is going out to drink every once in a while. Alcohol is dirt cheap in the Philippines, also in the majority of the bars. A beer in a normal bar will cost you around 1-1.5 USD, so little money can take you a long way. Going to clubs and parties more expensive than that, but also affordable (15 USD will get you in most places with a complimentary drink or two usually). Best areas to go out to are BGC in Taguig, and Green belt in Makati. Eastwood in Quezon City is a bit far off but has numerous bars and restaurants open 24/7.
Now, do you want to get out of Manila ASAP?
It isn’t the nicest city, we can say that for certain, but there is some kind of magic in its controlled chaos. There is really a lot for you do see and do, and it doesn’t even have to cost you that much, and as we said before, you are most likely to spend some time in Manila whether you like it or not. In that case, make the most out of it and ENJOY!
by Drifter Planet | Feb 16, 2017 | Guest Post
This is a guest post by Eva Green
Budapest will simply leave you spellbound, especially if it’s your first visit. Even if you are going to the favorite city on the European continent for the nth time, you will always come across a new adventure and new things to see and do in Budapest. The famous place offers one the choice and freedom of enjoying their vacation the way they want.
There are island parks, funky shops to explore or dig at the delicious local cuisine as well as countless other ways to spend some memorable time. You can hang out with the local Hungarians in the afternoon sipping coffee to save your energy for the nightlife. Many people visit Budapest for just a day or two, but we highly recommend you spend at least 4 days here. Here’s how to spend 4 days in Budapest.
Budapest is perfect for all kinds of travelers – party goers, couples, backpackers and families. Check out this itinerary for exploring Budapest with a kid.
What do your fancy? Well, if you are still confused, here are some of the top and awesome things to do while in Budapest:
01 | Cruise on the Danube River
Budapest simply looks stunning by night as you stand on the banks of the Danube and watch the city lights reflect on the dark waters. Do not miss the chance to take a sightseeing cruise at night. Enjoy the long ride made even more special with the buffet-style dinner.
There are one hour sightseeing cruises available for just the evening and those are highly recommended. As you cruise along the river, you come across lush vineyards and ancient castles. Embark on fascinating journeys through sleepy river towns and cities. Look for convenience, comfort and exquisite cuisine on your cruise.
02 | Thermal bath
Budapest has made a reputation of sorts as the “City of Spas” and for some good reasons. Get the quintessential Budapest experience at those baths, which are known as “fürdok” and are warmed by natural springs. Ask for the steam rooms and massage services. Different baths around the city supply to different preferences and one can look forward to complete relaxation or look for cures for illness. Széchenyi Baths in City Park and Gellért Baths are amongst the most popular baths.
Most of the thermal baths remain open at night during the weekend but there are fewer baths for male- and female-only days. The temperatures can range from warm to hot and carry steam rooms and saunas as well as and rooms for massage.
03 | Dohány Street Synagogue
This is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Referred to as Dohány Street Synagogue, the synagogue opened in 1859 and carries historical significance. The place of worship features Moorish Revival architecture and has a connection to the Holocaust. A pro-Nazi party between 1944 and 1945 bombed it.
Do not forget to visit the connecting Hungarian Jewish Museum to learn more about the Hungarian Judaism as well as pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial Temple in the courtyard.
04 | Wine Tasting in Hungary
Tourists and travelers never get tired of exploring the 22 wine regions of Hungary. Just beneath Buda Castle is the Faust Wine Cellar, which is part of the extensive labyrinth system. The cellar supplies only the very best wines in the region.
Moreover, the very romantic setting of the cellar will leave you relaxed, and this is the right way to understand and sour the rich Hungarian wine.
05 | Hungarian State Opera House
Miklós Ybl designed the Location of Hungarian State Opera House in 1884, and this historic building is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest.
Decorated with statues of muses and adorned with opera greats such as Mozart, Liszt, Puccini and Verdi, the interiors will leave you dazzled with marble columns, chandeliers, and gilded vaulted ceilings. The near-perfect acoustics make for an astounding performance and make you keep coming back for more.
06 | Fisherman’s Bastion
Located on the Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion offers a panoramic views of the city. You are sure to get blown away by those views as you explore the fairytale-like structure and the seven ornate turrets.
The seven turrents represent the tents of the seven Magyar tribe leaders and their settlement on the Carpathian Basin, which ultimately led to the development of modern-day Hungary.
07 | Parliament Building
Hungarian Parliament Building was completed in 1904, and it remains one of the most famous landmarks in Budapest. The building’s architecture reminds one of the Gothic Revival styles and carries a national significance. Travelers come mainly to have a look at the beautiful statues and paintings. This is a prominent symbol of independence and democracy of the nation.
08 | Shopping at the Central Market Hall
The Central Market Hall is the biggest indoor market in Budapest. It was constructed in the 19th century and its focus is chiefly on Hungarian products. You will find the popular Hungarian sausages and Hungarian paprika selling on the first floor along with fresh vegetables and fruits. If you are looking forward to enjoy some inexpensive and traditional Hungarian lunch, than you are sure to find it here at Central Market Hall. Look for traditional Hungarian embroidery and souvenirs on the second floor.
09 | Matthias Church
Matthias Church has been around for centuries and portrays the Romanesque-style architecture. The Church was built in the 13th century and is the first parish church. However, during the 1541 occupation by the Turkish rulers, it was changed into a mosque and remained an Islamic place of worship for the following 150 years, until Turkish expulsion. Tourists admire its imposing architecture and marvel at the historical symbolism as well as the impressive artwork.
10 | Caving under Budapest
The rushing and soothing thermal waters of the famous baths of Budapest have created a huge cave system that is believed to be more than100 kilometers long. Get ready to go under and dirty and don on your overalls, helmets, and headlamps to worm your way through tight crevices as you cross some of the longest cave of Hungary. Mátyás-hegyi cave tour can easily last for about three hours. Do enjoy the adventurous activity through natural parts of the cave.
The above-listed sites and locations are a must-see for any visitor’s first trip to Budapest. Have you visited Budapest already and have some of your own tips to share? Let us know in the comments.
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