Traveling on a Budget

Little things that add up to the travel budget

It always happens to the best of us. We pride ourselves of traveling on the cheap, only to encounter a little boo-boo, a little snag on the well-laid travel plans resulting in little expenses that will undeniably put a dent to your well-curated and well-appropriated travel budget.

Whenever we travel, I always end up preparing an spreadsheet, indicating our itinerary, our expenses and the appropriate budget that will go in each item. This includes the airport and travel tax (which we *joyously* pay for here in the Philippines), the cab fare to and from the airport, entrance to attractions and the food. These are the basics. But more than that, I also included the expenses for basic grocery like mineral water and the usual late-night snacks that my family enjoy. They are usually in the areas of $5 to $10 but they can add up pretty quick. We also allocate shopping money (per person) and include it in the total budget to give each person an idea of how much he or she will spend per day.

Little expenses that can put a dent in the wallet include:

* Forgetting your camera charger while using rechargeable AA batteries – Before we switched to our current digital camera with built-in batteries, we used to own a clunky Canon camera that worked really good but was still operating through rechargeable AA batteries. Imagine forgetting the charger and having to buy AA batteries the whole time.

* Staying in a hostel and having to rent a towel because you forgot to bring your own. The same goes for a adapter. Invest in a universal adapter that you can lug with your any country you would go. Also, bring your own padlock if the hostel has lockers on site, but no padlock. Renting a padlock will also incur you additional expenses.

* Mineral water – there are also countries, like Singapore, where the water is so safe there’s no point buying expensive bottles of mineral water. If you visit theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios, you can refill your empty water bottles instead of buying one from the concessionaire. While we are in the subject of theme parks, you can bring in light snacks which can stave off hunger while you are in the park: candies, small bags of chips or dried nuts or fruits are some good choices. This way, you can focus on splurging on an in-park lunch instead of spending small change on juices, popcorn and candy bars which are usually more expensive when bought inside the park.

* Don’t forget to print your tickets before you go to the airport – this is obvious, but you won’t believe how there’s still some who would forget obvious details such as these. Renting a PC in the airport and having your eTicket printed is very expensive.

* Snacks – it will be very impossible to forego snacking in a foreign country, especially if there’s just too many delightful little things that you don’t usually see in your country. Like me for example, I go crazy whenever I am inside Lawson or Family Mart because the things they sell don’t exist in the Philippines. Next thing I know, I’ll be carrying Japanese fashion magazines aside from the snacks I intend to originally buy. If you plan on buying chips and other snacks, opt for the groceries instead of the convenience stores which has a higher mark-up.

* Overpriced souvenirs – personally, I am not a big souvenir shopper. I tend to skip souvenir shopping and focus instead on buying things I’ll use for a long time or unique items that represent the country that I am. I tend to remember my vacations not from the tons of stuff I bought but on the memories I accumulated while traveling. One of the best “travel souvenirs” I had are some stamps in my travel journal from a store in Shilin Night Market. The stamps featured images of Taipei 101, Teresa Teng and even a bubble tea. They added a unique visual element in my travel blog, something not give by a key chain which I will likely misplace in a few months’ time.

Being a perpetually-broke travel addict has taught me to prioritize attractions based on my family’s hobbies and interests. We are not really the type who would enjoy paying SGD20 each just to go up the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park in order to see the Singapore skyline. We’d rather see the money go to a adventure at Night Safari or spend a day lounging beach side in Siloso.

At the end of the day, it’s really not about how much money you have spent, it’s all about the memories you keep in your heart.

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Taiwan

Discover Taipei for PHP16,000!

After a very long wait, I finally came around to posting the final tally of our Taipei expenses. We stayed in Taipei from March 10, arriving at 1:00 in the morning and departed Taipei March 12 on a 9PM flight back to Manila.

While our stay was brief, the impressions we had of the city and its people were truly precious. We had a great time discovering its city streets, which was safe and quiet in the evenings — well, even in Ximending where the happening usually trickles down when the clock strikes 11PM.

We knew that with the short time that we had, it can’t be possible for us to see everything. So, we chose areas that appealed to us and which piqued our interests. Most of the times, we were just travelers walking down the city streets noting how different Taipei was from Manila: orderly traffic, motorcycles parked in the street and just about everywhere, clean and wide roads where buses stop on well-marked areas, friendly people and the amazing mix of old (the temples and Old Chinese architecture) and the new (gleaming skyscrapers! The Taipei 101!) We enjoyed seeing bikes-for-loan parked on ramdom city streets and we had a blast walking the long drive way leading inside National Taiwan University. We satiated our hunger in Taipei’s back alleys or at the famous Shilin Night Market or bit the hype and tried Modern Toilet (we didn’t enjoyed it). We also relived our Meteor Garden fandom and went all the way to the middle of nowhere to eat at PS Bubu. And yes, we get to have the car table, mainly because there wasn’t anyone there but us.

You can read more about our first day adventures here.

Day II: The Yehliu Geo National Park Adventure

We woke up really late, no thanks to the fact that we had to make up for the sleepless first day, courtesy of the rock-hard beds at Keyman’s (A stay in this hotel is best summarized as: nice service, centrally-located, beds that are bad for your spine). So, after getting a very late breakfast at the nearest McDonald’s, we rushed to catch the Yehliu bound bus at the Taipei Main Bus Station near Keyman’s. We paid NTS180 (PHP270) for the fare going to Yehliu which is a county very far from the city.

We had to check our map and a print out of “Directions going to Yehliu” which I found in a blog. Will post a separate account on the beauty of Yehliu — but in a hindsight, it’s like discovering a new planet and being amazed by the surreal kind of art, created no less by Mother Nature.

travel beans

travel beans

While the famous Queen’s Head is the main attraction in the expansive geo park, a lot of other rock formations will surely tickle your imagination. And the view of the ocean is just amazing. Entrance to the Geo park is just NTS 50 (PHP75), very cheap considering how nice the place is. We left Yehliu shortly after lunch, a bit famished — good thing we have brought snacks with us like jelly bread, sushi and our water bottles, so we had something to tide us until we were finally back in the city. We made a quick detour to Beitou Hot Springs and then finished the day at Shilin Night Market where we bought souvenirs for the family and had our fill of the famous fried chicken!

Day III: Reliving our Meteor Garden fandom
It’s my sister’s birthday — we started the celebration at what may be the most overhyped restaurant in Taipei – Modern Toilet. Then, we gave in to our fandom tendencies and went to National Taiwan University, said to be one of the shoot locations for the now-Taiwanese drama classic, Meteor Garden. Disappointed with our lunch, we decided to go to PS Bubu after and check if we can have our early dinner at the convertible turned dining area situated in the middle of the restaurant.

In the Meteor Garden lore, it is also the location where Dao Ming Xi brought Shan Cai on their first date. For Meteor Garden fans, you could say that it’s a bit of a “mecca” — a “must-visit” if you are in Taipei. I now knew what it meant because apparently, PS Bubu is located at the middle of nowhere. You had to take the MRT then take the bus in order to find it. Well, the field trip was worth it because PS Bubu served really good food! We ended the day by getting our luggage at the hotel and taking the bus going to Taipei TaoYuan International Airport.

Here’s our expenses for the three-day trip:

Plane fare via Cebu Pacific, bought 3 months ahead – PHP4,000.00
Airport Travel Tax and Terminal Fee – PHP2,200.00
Airport transfer upon arrival (arranged thru City Inn) – PHP900.00 each (total fee is PHP1,800)
1 night stay at Keymans “Succint Room” w/ breakfast – PHP1,350.00 each (total room rate: PHP2,700)
2 nights stay at City Inn Ximending – PHP3,270 each (total stay is PHP6,540)
Easy Card for transpo and basic groceries – PHP750.00
Entrance to Taipei 101 and Yehliu Geo Park – PHP1,020.00
Food budget for 3 days – PHP2,000.00
Souvenir budget for the family – PHP1,000.00

TOTAL Expenses: PHP16,490.00

Some things to consider:
Expenses BEFORE the trip: PHP7,100.00 (plane fare + travel tax + terminal fee + airport transfers)
Expenses WHILE in Taipei: PHP9,390 (lodging + food + transpo + attractions + souvenirs)

*Entrance to Chiang Kai Shek, Sun Yat Sen, Beitou Hot Springs, Taipei Expo Park, National Taiwan University are all for free.
* Payment for Taiwan Tourist Visa (Single Entry) is not included. Visa fee is PHP2,100.00. Get directions here.
* Entrance to Taipei 101 is PHP675 (NTD450), while entrance to Yehliu is PHP75 (NTD50), plus bus fare going to Yehliu is PHP270 (NTD180).

We were sad leaving Taipei because we knew we missed a lot of really nice attractions. We wanted to go hiking up Elephant Mountain and maybe see the Fisherman’s Wharf as well as the Rainbow bridge. But we were consoled by the fact that we can easily go back to Taipei, as soon as we find the opportunity. Taipei will always be in our hearts — remembering it as a very good city, gifted with amazing attractions and wonderful people. We can’t wait to go back again.

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Travel News

A new and improved NAIA I airport in this lifetime?

Note: Re-posted from the KamikazeeGirl WordPress site

Please send some good vibes for the Philippines. It seems, after years and years of neglect, our aging airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is now finally getting a much-needed face lift. If the hype is to be believed, the airport should be good and ready by 2015. Gods be good, we are getting a new airport in this lifetime!

From Yahoo Philippines:

Finally, NAIA Terminal I getting much-needed facelift

Manila’s oldest airport terminal is getting a much-needed facelift. This, through the help of renowned Filipino interior designer Kenneth Cobonpue and architectural firm Leandro V. Locsin and Associates, who will lead the makeover of “the world’s worst airport.”

In a press conference, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda confirmed the rehabilitation of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 will soon proceed. “The Cobonpue Group will be allowed to do the interiors of NAIA 1 building with Architect (Andy) Locson handling the architectural services,” Lacierda said.

“For the greeter’s area, it will still be Architect Locsin doing the conceptual design and the architect of record. The Cobonpue Group will help out in the interiors,” he clarified. The best thing about this? Well, Cobonpue, designer Budji Layug, and architect Royal Pineda are doing this for free, following their submission of the pro-bono concept on NAIA Terminal rehabilitation after several Cabinet secretaries asked for their help in 2011.

“The Cobonpue Group has offered their services pro bono and we thank them for that,” Lacierda noted.
Cobonpue is an internationally-renowned designer and has clients such as Angelina Jolie, among others.
Locsin is meanwhile the son of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, whose masterpieces include the Cultural Center of the Philippines and several notable buildings at the University of the Philippines campuses.

In 2011, the government awarded the contract of rehabilitation program to Leandro V. Locsin and Associates, which originally designed NAIA Terminal 1. The design of Cobonpue’s group, which included an overhaul of interiors to enable faster flow of travelers between security and departure, was however shelved.

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya announced they will focus on the renovation of NAIA Terminal 1’s greeters’ area. Cobonpue doubts the P2.8 billion-rehabilitation project will be done in time for the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which will be held in Manila in 2015. The summit is expected to gather about 24,000 participants from over 21 APEC-member economies.

Let’s hope things will go according to plan because God knows we need a new airport. We’ve been voted the worst airport in the world – a feat that we think we truly deserved considering how awful the airport was. I have previously written before the unspeakable horrors we’ve experienced stuck there at the NAIA I Greeters area and truth be told, it was one of the rare moments where we wanted to kill ourselves rather than remain stuck in that God-forsaken area.

Along with the changes in the airport, we really wish that the management will also be improved. Because sad as this may sound, eve if we have the nicest airport in the world, if it is run by incompetent people then the changes will only be temporary. A world-class airport needs world class management. Rather than hiring typical career government officials, we think that a person with F&B and hotel experience is the best person suited for the job.To put it bluntly, we need someone who thinks how travelers think — someone who can anticipate travelers’ needs and offer long-term solutions, not just band aid solutions.

For now, I wait with bated breath (and lots of positive vibes) how this story will progress. Hopefully, our leaders will finally walk the talk. The Filipino people deserved a good airport, the same way that our guests from foreign countries deserved a safe and comfortable transit to and from the Philippines.

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