Budget Travel El Nido Series

El Nido Budget Guide: How Much Did I Spend in El Nido?

Sunday, February 24, 2013Ryan Mach

By now, through a series of posts and photos, I think I have established the fact that I absolutely love El Nido and that it's a beautiful place with dramatic limestone cliffs and pristine beaches. If I were given a chance to spend a paid month-long vacation in a local destination, I'd definitely go for El Nido. It's my kind of town - laid-back, quiet and gorgeous beyond words. Two days in El Nido was too short of a stay but it's been a wonderful experience. I'm sure this lovely town has more to offer than island hopping tours. And I can't wait to be back in paradise (Yes, my friends and I are traveling to El Nido this coming summer, first week of May to be exact.)

The influx of tourists, both foreigners and locals alike, means one thing - El Nido is fast becoming one of the top destinations and that could very well translate, quite sooner than we think, to hoards of tourists flocking the town. Roads to El Nido have been paved, paving the way to more bus and van trips in and out, making traveling much more convenient than it was once. Before it becomes another Boracay (God forbid), you may want to book a flight to Puerto Princesa and get on a bus bound for El Nido.

Cash-strapped? No worries, you can still experience El Nido on a budget by going the cheap way. Still on the fence? Let me show you my do-it-yourself itinerary with budget breakdown so you can see for yourself that it's indeed possible to enjoy El Nido even if you don't have a lot of money. This isn't the most budget-friendly itinerary because I still went overboard by having expensive breakfast at one of the cozy restaurants that line the Bacuit Bay. But all in all, I could say that I've done a great job budgeting considering I was alone.
[El Nido, I'm in love with you]

I've also listed down some alternatives and tips in case you find my options not so budget-friendly. Please note that I didn't include the airfare because this trip was sponsored (well, kind of).


Cab | Ayala Ave to NAIA Terminal 3: Php140.00
Cheaper alternative way is to take a public jeepney from EDSA-Taft and get off in Nichols then walk to the terminal.

Breakfast | Jollibee @ the airport: Php85.00
Home-made sandwich or fruits make for a good, healthy and cheap breakfast option

Tricycle | from Puerto Princesa Airport to San Jose Bus Terminal: Php90.00
Don't take the trikes inside the airport as they charge higher fees. Walk towards the highway where you can get a trike that charges normal rates. Try to haggle. 

Air-conditioned bus | San Jose to El Nido: Php480.00
For a cheaper bus, you can opt for a regular one (non-airconditioned) which only charges Php350.00 for a one-way trip.

Lunch | Eatery at a stopover in Roxas: Php60.00 (for a single serving of beef stew)
Various cheaper food options are available at the terminal - noodles, vegetables and bread. You can perhaps bring your own instant noodle and ask for hot water at one of the stores there.

Tricycle | El Nido Terminal to the hostel: Php20.00
I've heard some tricycle drivers scam tourists by charging Php100 per person. The trick is to act like a local, don't negotiate for the fare, hand the fee after getting off without asking how much. Php50.00 is the standard rate.

Hostel | La Banane for two days - Dormitory Room: Php700.00
There are various, and much cheaper inns and lodges scattered around town. Flipnomad has listed accommodation options in El Nido which you'll find helpful.

Dinner | Squido's: Php130 (grilled prawns, a cup of rice and a bottle of water)
Karinderya or cheap eateries are a plenty in El Nido so you won't run out of food option if you want to go cheap on food. It's just a matter of finding out where these karinderyas are.

Dove | Random store along Calle Hama: Php50.00
Unfortunately for me, I forgot to bring a soap so I had to buy one in El Nido. It goes without saying that you should bring your toiletries. 

Hot porridge | IBR Fastfood: Php40.00
This cheap and local fastfood joint is open 24/7. They serve meals and snack items at an affordable price.

Breakfast | The Alternative Bar & Restaurant: Php260.00 (Ham, toast, shake, eggs)
Definitely not the cheapest option, but the experience of having breakfast at their bird's nest was awesome. 

Environmental fee: Php200.00
[Tourists paying for the environmental fee]

This is only applicable if you go on an island hopping tour. Don't forget the receipt as it may be asked at the islands included on the tour, and if you have nothing to show, you'll be required to pay again. This fee is valid for 10 days.

Tour C | Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, etc: Php800.00
The standard rate for this tour is Php900 but I was able to ask for a discount. It's not much but it was still a discount. Contact person for the tour - Ate Neriza (09399022216). They also have a resort and they can also give you a discount.

While lunch and life vest are included in the tour, please note that snorkeling masks, gears, flippers and water are not. Best to bring your own.
[My Sandugo sandals can be used as aqua shoes]

Dinner: Php0.00
Luckily for me, I didn't spend a single dime for dinner because the good gentlemen I met at the island hopping tour were generous enough to treat me. We ate at SeaSlugs, one of the famous restaurants along Bacuit Bay. Most of the meals in their menu start at Php200. Great food though, and they have live band to serenade you while you drink or eat.


Tricycle | Hostel to El Nido Terminal: Php20.00
Same affair. 

Air-Conditioned Bus | El Nido to Puerto Princesa: Php500.00
The extra Php20 was for the reservation fee. Most bus trips require reservations but you can go to the terminal an hour before the trip to make sure you can get back to Puerto Princesa on schedule. La Banane offers bus reservations and I didn't think twenty pesos was very expensive.

Tricycle | San Jose Terminal to Robinsons Place: Php30.00 
Robinsons Mall is relatively close to the terminal so you shouldn't pay more than Php50 for the ride. The first driver I asked tried to charge me Php100.00. I declined of course and looked for another one.

Breakfast | Taytay Terminal: Php50.00 (fish stew and rice)
[One of the eateries at Roxas]

It was much cheaper compared to meat meals. Besides, since it was morning, I expected their fish to be fresh, and it was. 

Dinner | Teriyaki Boy: Php0.00
I had some GC with me (birthday present) so I didn't spend anything for lunch.

Tricycle | Robinsons Place to Puerto Princesa Airport: Php90.00
Cheaper option would be to take a jeepney, get off at Junction then take a trike to the airport. It will not cost you more than Php50.00

Terminal Fee: Php40.00

If my math is right, my total expenses would be Php3,785.00 and that's already for three days! Add the airfare, which is between Php1,500 to Php2,000 (seat sale), but minus the non-practical expenses, it should amount to no more than Php5,000. It will still depend on how well you manage your budget. For what its worth, El Nido is definitely worth spending for.

Didn't I mention that I'm coming back soon? :-)

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