Travelling to the Philippines isn’t as expensive as doing so in other countries. That fact alone would be good enough, but there are even cheaper places in the country where you don’t have to spend a fortune. Start off at these affordable places to visit in Luzon, the largest of the three main island groups in the Philippines.
The prices used below are in United States Dollar (USD).
Where to go in the National Capital Region
1. City of Manila
You might be wondering where to go in Luzon first? When you come to the Philippines, you’ll most likely land in Manila, the country’s capital. To truly immerse in the local culture, head straight to downtown Manila. But let me warn you, it’s crowded, noisy, and fast-paced. You can get cheap hotels and ride a jeepney (public transport) to anywhere. Areas of interest are Intramuros, Rizal Park, Chinatown, and Divisoria. Many places also sell all kinds of food, from specialty restaurants to cheaper joints and street food. The area is rich in history and there are museums and attractions worth visiting. You’ll probably shell out anywhere from $1 to $2 for the entrance tickets. For those who want to enjoy some nightlife, the Malate and Roxas Boulevard areas come alive at night. If you’re already low on cash, take a stroll on the baywalk and enjoy the famous Manila Bay sunset for free. Hotels are plenty and you can take your pick starting at $16/night.
Also read: 12 Places for Cheap Shopping in Manila
Places to visit in North Luzon
2. Vigan, Ilocos Sur
If you want to see how the Philippines looked like during the Spanish Colonial Era, pay a visit to this city north of Manila. The main attraction here is Calle Crisologo where the old houses and cobblestone streets remind you of what things looked like a hundred years ago. You can then head off to other sites of the city which include a visit to Baluarte Resort and Zoo, the Bantay Bell Tower, and the Pagburnayan (jar factory), to name a few. Most sites are free and there are plenty of good and inexpensive restaurants all over the city. Of course, you should try their local dishes particularly the Vigan longganisa (sausage) and empanada (pork pie), both selling for a little over $1. You can search for a range of hotels and inns to fit your needs with nightly rates that start at around $16.
3. Baguio City
When you can’t stand the Philippine summer heat, you can take a bus from Manila to Baguio for $10. This is one of the popular places to visit in North Luzon as it offers a range of cheap (or even free) attractions. The usual stopovers are the Mines View Park, The Baguio Cathedral, Burnham Park, The Philippine Military Academy, and Camp John Hay. Getting around the city is by jeep or local taxis. A wide variety of food choices is available all around and you can always find one that will suit your budget. Peak periods are the Christmas season, summer months, and February when the city gets really crowded and a bit expensive. If you time your visit during the off season, you can find lodging for as low as $15/night.
4. La Union
Surfing, anyone? This is what La Union is famous for, especially from the months of October to March when the waves are perfect for surfing particularly in Urbiztondo Beach. But the province offers more than its beaches. There are churches and temples, waterfalls, and good food. There’s also the chance that some beach party will be going on somewhere when you visit. Some resorts charge a minimal fee for surfers and they rent surfboards for around $4/hour. Visitors often choose San Fernando or San Juan as their base and just take public transport to where they want to go. From Manila, bus fare costs about $12 one way on a 4-5 hour trip. An overnight stay is good enough and you can find all sorts of accommodations – from the spartan beach tent at $14 or a hotel room at $19.
5. Bolinao, Pangasinan
They call this town the Jewel of the North because of its beautiful beaches and other natural wonders. Although the Province of Pangasinan has a lot of coastal towns, Bolinao is one of the few that have white sand beaches. Visitors can also visit several waterfalls and cave formations. Other attractions include the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse and the Balingasay River. If you want to take a 1.5-hour river cruise, the fee is about $30 with meals included. The town is known for its milkfish dishes so try one, specifically the charbroiled kind. If you want to stay overnight, there are some very reasonable accommodations available starting at $20/night. Bus fare from Manila to Bolinao is about $9.
Places to visit in Central Luzon
6. Clark Freeport Zone
Clark in Pampanga is one of the popular places to visit in Central Luzon. This used to be a U.S. Military Base but has now become a traveller’s destination. The good news is, there’s an international airport right inside it so you can fly direct. Places of interest include Aqua Planet, a water theme park with $18 entrance fee; Nayong Pilipino, a site that features replicas of famous Philippine landmarks and sites which charges a $3 admission fee; Clark Museum; Paradise Ranch; and Air Force City. Clark also draws shoppers because of the many duty-free shops scattered all over the complex. Some guests also come in just to play golf or have fun in several casinos situated around the area. There are also a lot of weekend events happening in the place and one could be going on during your visit. You can get a hotel in the nearby Angeles City for as low as $14 and take public transport to get around Clark.
7. Subic Freeport Zone
This is another former American military installation that is now a popular tourist spot. Aside from its beaches and water activities, the rich flora and fauna also draw visitors. You can try to go on a mountain trail to check out the huge, old mangrove trees or cliff dive at El Kabayo Waterfalls for $1. Take a dip in one of the beaches and watch the beautiful sunset. At night, you can catch an event that usually takes place near the beach area. It is also home to dozens of duty-free shops where you can buy bargain goodies and hundreds of restaurants to grab a bite or a drink. It’s okay to stay in Olongapo City proper, outside the Freeport Zone where you can get a hotel room for as low as $10/night then take a jeepney to the Freeport Zone. Bus fare from Manila is just around $6.
8. Malolos, Bulacan
Malolos is probably one of the relatively undiscovered places in Luzon. By travelling just some 35 kilometres north of Manila, visitors can ‘go back in time’ to the Spanish era in Malolos, Bulacan. This historic town is rich in architecture, culture, and Philippine history. Its most famous landmark, Barasoain Church, is notable not just because of its religious significance but also because it is the site where the First Philippine Congress convened and where several Philippine Presidents took their oaths of office. A museum near the church provides visitors with relics and mementoes that link them to Philippine history. A walk along the streets, particularly in Pariancillo District, would give travellers a glimpse of the heritage houses that serve as a reminder of the affluence of the residents of this town during the Spanish period. Like any other memorable towns in the Philippines, Malolos also boasts of their own delicacies and cuisines but local tourists also come to try the many prawn and crab buffet restaurants here. Bus fare from Manila to this town is just under $2.
9. Puerto Galera
Are you more of a beach buff? Then you can head off to Puerto Galera, a resort island south of Manila. Food is not a problem because there are many places where you can eat or get a take-out. Of course, if want to enjoy some other activities like diving, boat rides, snorkelling, etc – they would cost extra. But if you just want to soak in the water or bask in the sun, they won’t cost you anything. The place also comes alive at night if you want to have a nightcap or two. The summer season is peak season here so if you want to come during those months, make your arrangements in advance. You’ll need to shell out around $10 for bus and ferry (one way) and a minimum of $15 for lodging
Places to visit in South Luzon
10. Tagaytay City
Tagaytay is definitely one of the go-to places to visit in South Luzon. It’s just around 65 kilometres from Manila, and is famous for its cool weather, food, and view of Taal Volcano. Locals come here to escape the hot weather of Metro Manila and grab some great bites while marvelling at the volcano that nestles serenely in the middle of the Taal Lake. The main highway bustles with all kinds of restaurants that offer everything from fine dining, fast food, specialty dishes, and street food. Try the burgers made out of mushrooms and the famous bulalo (beef marrow stew) while you’re there. The good thing about it is you can go in the morning, explore the city then go back to Manila in the evening. You can take a bus from Pasay City that will let you off in the centre of Tagaytay. From there, you can ride an electric tricycle or jeepney to wherever you want to go. If you want to stay overnight, you can find some cheap lodging for under $30.
11. Nasugbu, Batangas
After your Tagaytay City adventure, you can visit the next town which is Nasugbu. The place is famous for its beaches but you can also take a side trip to check out some scenic churches. If you’re up for it, you can take a guided mountain hike up Mt. Batulao to get a good view of the province and take some nice photographs. The hike would cost you around $33. Then, you can head off to the town proper by bus or jeep and enjoy the beach. A nice resort room would cost you around $29.
12. Corregidor Island
Do you want to see the spot where General Douglas MacArthur made his escape from the Japanese during World War II? This and other historically significant sites are in Corregidor Island. You can visit the war batteries all over the island that served as the last defense of the Americans against the Japanese during WW II and learn about the accounts before the fall of Bataan. Take a walk inside the Malinta Tunnel, a military installation soldiers built beneath a mountain that withstood thousands of pounds of Japanese bombs during the war. You can get a pre-packaged day tour for around $72 that would include ferry transfers from Manila, a guided tour around the island, entrance fees, buffet lunch, and souvenirs. After that, all you need to do is enjoy the island.
13. Antipolo City, Rizal
Located east of Manila, Antipolo is popular among local travellers because of its high terrain that offers a view of Metro Manila, its attractions, and the local delicacies that abound in the area. You can allocate a full day for this city to visit the many offerings it has. Places of interest are the Hinulugang Taktak waterfalls, the Antipolo Cathedral, the Pinto Art Museum, and Mount Purro Nature Reserve. Antipolo is now home to several malls and hundreds of restaurants so you can take your pick where to eat but be sure to look for those specialty restaurants. Antipolo City is very accessible by public transport from many parts of Metro Manila. Fares in public vans range from $1 to $2 one way.
14. Calamba, Laguna
Calamba City is one of the many historical places in the country that is very near Metro Manila. Bus fare from Manila to Calamba would just be around $2 to $4, depending on the type of bus you choose. Once in the city, you can take the jeepney or tricycle to go around and explore the place. Visit the Rizal Shrine and learn about the country’s national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Take a tour around the old churches, parks and Mt. Makiling. Stay in Pansol area and enjoy the natural hot springs that come from Mt. Makiling for relaxation and for the water’s healing properties. Of course, one should also try the variety of food that the place offers, especially their famous Buko (coconut) Pie and other sweet delicacies. If you come during summer, you will also find many vendors selling local fruits in season such as mangoes and watermelons. For lodging, you can find a place to stay for as low as $20/night.
These are just some of the many affordable places to visit in Luzon. If you don’t mind sacrificing a few comforts here and there once in a while, a small budget can get you places and give you many beautiful memories of the Philippines’ largest island group.
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