Philippines, Travel Budget

Travel Budget: Calaguas Island

I’ve been coming across blogs about Calaguas Island, but truth be told, as much as I am interested to go there, I couldn’t be bothered to plan going there because it seemed so hard. I prefer going to destinations where you just hop on a plane, ride a trike, taxi or van and you’re at the town already. As the saying go, nothing worth having comes easy. All that effort to go to the Calaguas is certainly worth it.

Calaguas Island
Calaguas’ pristine white beach

What finally got me to go there was when one of the bloggers I follow announced that Calaguas is one of her destinations this year. One comment and a seat sale later, I am booked for a flight to Naga. Naga is the closest airport served by most domestic airlines. The closest is Daet, which is served by Seair, though only seasonal. From Naga, you have to ride a van to Daet, then transfer to another van to Paracale. In Paracale, you have to find a willing boatman (and an available boat) to take you out to Calaguas, and buy supplies for your stay there, since there are no stores, no electricity and no water.

Save for the boat rental, the airfare and the van rides, this is a fairly inexpensive trip. It can be made cheaper if you take the bus instead of the plane, and just stay overnight. I think the bus schedule works well for a quick weekend getaway to a gorgeous deserted beach.
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Malaysia, Travel Budget

Travel Budget: Kota Kinabalu

One of the reasons why I was having second thoughts about going to Sabah was money. I had some unexpected expenses last January and I have several trips lined up in the coming weeks, so I figured it’d be better to cut my losses at Php 1,289 (my airfare) instead of spending so much more on the trip. However, in the end I threw caution to the wind and went to have an awesome trip.

Kota Kinabalu is pretty cheap compared to other Malaysian cities. Sure, the taxi drivers are averse to using the meter, but KK is so small you can just walk anywhere (except to the Mount Kinabalu Park and other attractions because it’s FAR). I’ve had a couple of expensive meals over the weekend, and I was surprised that my end total is just Php 1,337. Shopping in Kota Kinabalu is not too exciting, except if there are sales I suppose. Some of the items sold in Peninsular Malaysia is also available in Sabah, but there are also a number of brands and products that are locally produced like teas and cigarettes.

There are a number of souvenir shops in the shopping centers, but if you’re looking to buy Sabah tea, it’s best to check the supermarket, as the prices are much cheaper. There’s also the handicraft market, or the former Pasar Filipino (Filipino market), where local souvenirs are sold (batik, wood carvings, anything and everything made with sea shells).

A final note on Sabah: if you’re bringing US dollars, make sure that they are series 2006 or more recent. Money changers do not accept dollars from earlier years, which is a real pain. There are plenty of ATMs that accept VISA and Mastercards, so you can make a cash advance if needed (some hostels, like the Lavender Lodge does not accept credit card payments).
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Cambodia, Travel Budget

Travel Expenses: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Traveling solo is really more expensive than traveling with a group. Unless you find other travelers to share the cost, you’ll be paying big money for the guide and transportation. When I was doing a rough draft of my travel budget, I knew Cambodia would be the most expensive destination, that’s why I made it my first country to visit.

I managed to keep my expenses lower than my estimate, but it’s still quite high, in my opinion. But in the end it’s a pretty good investment, as the Angkor Wat is really worth the visit.

All the costs listed in here are those that I inccured within Cambodian borders, including the plane fare.
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Hong Kong, Travel Budget

Travel Expenses: Hong Kong

I’m back from my trip to Hong Kong over the weekend. Since I always keep track of my expenses for every trip, the budget is always the first entry to be finished.

This Hong Kong trip was certainly one of the cheapest trip I’ve had lately, specially since it was an international trip (coming close to Batanes and Boracay in terms of value). I’m quite proud that I was able to stay below my budget. I even have extra money! I guess the perk about being so exhausted is that I’m not in the mood to buy anything.

I was so used to seeing prices in US, Australian and Singapore dollars that when I see the prices in Hong Kong, it all seemed expensive to me. The average rate for US$1 is Php 48, AU$1 is Php 30.84, and SG$1 is Php 31.42, while HK$1 is only Php 6.3.

Another thing about this trip was that we avoided the usual tourist hotspots. We did go to the Temple Street night market, but that’s about it. Our major activity was watching the local festival, and hiking on the Wilson Trail in eastern Hong Kong.
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Palawan, Philippines, Travel Budget

Travel Expenses: Coron 2008

This trip to Coron was certainly one of the cheapest trips I’ve ever had. Of course, it helps that we got to fly for free with Seair, but living in the island is surprisingly cheap. The expensive part of the trip are the island hopping expenses. Apart from the cost of the boat rental for the day (which is actually quite a bargain, since the boatman also acts as your guide and they can even cook your lunch for you), you also have to pay for each of the places in your itinerary.

The cheapest part about this Coron trip was the food. Coron town is pretty small, and there’s plenty of cheap dining options. If you’re not to picky, there’s plenty of carinderia near the market that serves pretty good food at affordable prices. If you love fresh seafood, head on to the market to buy shrimp for as low as Php 180 for a kilo, and a huge lapu-lapu for Php 140. We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at La Sirenetta after a long day of island hopping. While the food was great, the service was disappointingly slow. This dinner was our most expensive at Php 380 per person.

All in all, Coron was worth every peso. If you’re in a tight budget, it’s best that you travel with a group who can share your expenses. There are places in the island hopping circuit that doesn’t charge for admission: I hear the CYC island is free, and the Twin Lagoons is included in the Kayangan Lake entrance (there are probably more, but I’m too tired to Google. Go research in Owen’s Coron site). My personal favorites among the places we visited were Banol Beach and Kayangan Lake. To further lessen your costs, pitch a tent instead of staying at hotels and resorts.

For the most amazing three days with such a fabulous group of people (not to mention the most spectacular photos), Php 4,593.00 is a bargain.
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Australia, Gold Coast, Travel Budget

Travel Expenses: Gold Coast 2007

Yay, I’m (very) slowly working through my backlog of entries!

Here’s the expenses breakdown of my Gold Coast 4-day weekend trip last March. I flew via Jetstar, and lucky for me, their Gold Coast segment flies from Tullamarine and not from Avalon airport (which is about one and a half hour from Melbourne).

I stayed the the overpopulated-by-tourists Surfer’s Paradise. Why? Because there are times when I *do* want to be mainstream.

When I was researching for this trip, I was really frustrated that there’s hardly anything online or in travelbooks about the Gold Coast. Usually it’d just be a mention of the beach, the theme parks and the hinterlands. One day in Gold Coast and I see why that is.
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Australia, Sydney, Travel Budget

Travel Expenses: Sydney 2007

Ah, Sydney. How I loved thee.

I’ve fallen inlove with Sydney, mainly because of the harbour and the ferries. I don’t know why, but I just love riding commuter ferries. It’s one of the reasons why I loved the Chao Phraya in Bangkok.

I only spent 3 days in Sydney, though I wish I could have stayed longer. Sydney has so much to offer to travelers, and admittedly, a weekend in Sydney isn’t too expensive. I was surprised when I saw the total myself.

Here’s my 3-day Sydney expense breakdown to give you an idea when you plan your own trip to this lovely city.

[EDIT March 5, 2009] I am an idiot. I made a HUGE mistake in summing up all the expenses, hence the ultra cheap total *facepalm* From Php 13K for a weekend trip, the real total finally came out (after TWO FRICKING YEARS): Php 23K!
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