Manila!, Traveling on a Budget

Z Hostel: Stay here so you don’t have to rough it in Manila 

 I am currently spending the night here at Z Hostel, comfortably tucked inside Makati’s Poblacion district, a stones throw away from the Central Business District. 

   
I am staying in my capacity as a blogger, but as a budget traveler, this hostel has been in my radar since the first time I heard of it from blogger friends. The top marks in TripAdvisor and rave reviews doesn’t hurt either. 

I’ll be posting a more detailed post on my stay but already I am blown away by the chill laid back atmosphere – in fact, I am blogging this using my iPhone sprawled on the lobby couch along with other travelers. 

Laid back and chill = Z Hostel

This post will be all about the photos. I will be chilling in a while before I go back with the full post. 

 Meantime, here are some highlights: 

 
When you check in, you will be issued a key card (the flat, square thing) and an RFID card (the one lopped on the wrist). You can preload your RFID and use it to pay for your food at the cafe or your drinks at the rooftop bar. 

   
Paying what you eat is easy. You just place your RFID bracelet on the device. You can eat yo heart’s content without worrying on cash. 

Yum Tapa

 
  
After a hearty dinner, go up the rooftop bar and enjoy the clear Manila skies and the twinkling lights of Makati 

 

Or if you are a home girl like me who loves to chill while bundled in bed, you can always go to bed early – relax and melt the stress of going around by just laying on the thick bed, equipped with individual night lights and your own socket. 

    
  
 More on my Z Hostel adventure tomorrow. Right now, am gonna enjoy my bed. 

  
 

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Travel Tips, Traveling on a Budget

(Must Do) Fare Alerts is the Cheapo Traveler’s Best Friend

If you’re the type to religiously monitor the ebb and cost of plane tickets for your choice destinations, how do you do it?

For those who swear by budget airlines, I am sure you follow your favorite budget carrier on social media: be it Facebook, Twitter or their Instagram pages. In fact, it was through my Facebook feed which allowed me to travel to Tokyo, Japan on a PHP6,000 (USD134) plane fare. Yes, it also meant that I woke up at three in the morning just to check my FB wall, almost stepped on the Hubs on my way out of bed to get my passport and credit card and losing sleep until 6AM just because I was too hella excited.

The bottom line is this: following your favorite airlines on social media works and has its benefits. Here are some of the social media pages of our leading budget carriers:

Cebu Pacific

a reliable airline with affordable rates (picture not mine)

a reliable airline with affordable rates
(picture not mine)

A lot of Filipinos have a love and hate relationship with their airline company. While there were a lot of grumblings about how their customer service needed improvement and that some of their flights are always delayed, we can’t discount the fact that this airline company changed the way Filipinos view traveling and tourism. Whereas before many believed that traveling overseas is just for the moneyed, the launch of Cebu Pacific’s crazy plane fares and its aggressive promo campaigns gave Filipinos the opportunity to travel and discover other countries on the cheap. It allowed the middle class to realize that with conscientious saving and proper planning, you can see your dream destination without winning the lottery. I am one of those people. I used to believe that traveling is for the rich only, but Cebu Pacific changed that.

Of course, in a perfect world — Cebu Pacific SHOULD improve how it provides service to its customers. But meantime, the best dealing mechanism is to prepare and overprepare for unexpected travel delays, lots of patience and good manners. And most of all, do not expect too much — especially if your plane fare cost less than your phone.

Stalk Cebu Pacific’s plane fares here: Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AirAsia
My second time in South Korea last November was my first time to use AirAsia. The plane fare for the return trip was PHP8,000 — a steal considering that plane tickets to SK usually cost about PHP19K on regular rates. The trip was uneventful, the flight staff was very efficient and courteous that I have nothing but good memories of my flight with AirAsia.

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

Stalk AirAsia on: their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. AirAsia also has an app which you can download on your mobile phone which allows you to book, ugrade and even check in your AirAsia flights.

JetStar Philippines

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

JetStar always holds a special place in my heart because this is the plane I took when I went on my first ever trip out of the country back in 2007. yes–the seats are cramped that sometimes it felt like riding in a bus; the flight stewardess rarely smiled and can be on the snooty side but all my experiences with JetStar are always pleasant and they always reminded of the quality of its pilots.

One of my most memorable JetStar rides was in 2013 on a flight to Singapore with my whole family. It was the middle of July and Manila is in the middle of the storm. We met the worst possible turbulence during take-off where the plane was shaking so badly. I looked to where my mom and pop was sitting and I could see my mom clutching her rosary while my dad sat grim-faced (it was his first out of the country trip). For a bit, I was convinced that we will all die. But no, the gentlemen at the helm steered the plane efficiently and gracefully amidst Manila’s raging storm. By the time we reached cruising altitude, the plane was so steady and was gliding so peacefully that it felt like you were sitting at home in your living room, instead of being 30,000 feet in the air.

To this day, JetStar remains our top choice whenever we go travel to Singapore.

Stalk them here: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Philippine Airlines (PAL)
PAL is not a budget airline — but is considered one of the best when it comes to personalized service. You might find this funny, but one of my goals is to go on an out-of-the-country trip using PAL, just because I haven’t tried it yet. I wanted to experience and see the difference on traveling using a budget airline and a non-budget airline.

(credit to owner)

(credit to owner)

Because I haven’t tried PAL yet for an international flight, I cannot give you a more in-depth description of the experience. Though I have flown with them before for business trips domestically, I don’t know if there’s a difference in service and experience for international flights.

Follow PAL here: website,Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But if you are the type who prefer having someone else look for cheap plane fares for you — then why don’t you subscribe for a fare scanning site?

Right now, I am a heavily depending on SkyScanner to find me cheap fares for Osaka for February 2015. You can also use SkyScanner to look for cheap hotels, airport transfers and car hires.

My current search

My current search

Other Fare Alert sites include:

* Trip Advisor Cheap Flights
* FareCompare
* Kayak

The bottomline in finding cheap plane fares is to be patient and continuously search. If you are not comfortable with the amount you found and is convinced that there are better fares out there — keep searching.

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South Korea, Traveling on a Budget

Seoul on Budget: DMZ + Final Expense Tally at 20,000plus!

I was able to check one of the items off my bucket list during my last Seoul trip: be in two places at the same time by having one feet in North Korea and the other at the South — thanks to the wonderful DMZ Panmunjeom (JSA) Tour I booked online.

This is when I was standing and looking at the boundary of the two countries:
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DSCN6445

For our final day, we didn’t schedule anything anymore since we are certain that the whole day will be spent at the DMZ. The itinerary given to us also indicated that we will be returning to Seoul around 4PM, due to the hour and half drive from the border.

DSCN6451

I’ve written a more detailed description of our fourth day here.

For souvenir items, our guide told us about North Korean wines, BB and CC Creams, North Korean won, mugs and shirts being sold at the Panmunjeom Visitors Center. The waivers we signed prior to the tour was also handed back to us, with our guides noting that it would make a good souvenir for the visit — personally, I think it’s because the signed waivers really didn’t have any use at all at that point. After all, we emerged unscathed from the experience. So, aside from the DMZ shirt (for KRW10,000) which I bought my dad (who loves to collect shirts from the places we visit), the DMZ magnet currently in the fridge (KRW5,000) and a pair of Korean wooden wedding dolls (KRW5,000) I also bought a DPRK 100 won for KRW5,000. Both items I intend to frame one of the these days, but right now — still currently stuck somewhere on the top drawer in my room.


Our total expenses for the DMZ visit (day 4) include:
Payment for the tour (pre-paid): KRW95,000 per pax (PHP3,800.00) NOTE: This includes free lunch
Breakfast from convenience store: KRW10,000 per pax (PHP408)
Souvenir items: KRW25,000 (PHP996)
TOTAL KRW130,000 (PHP5,177.00)

After we were dropped off along the vicinity of City Hall, we just decided to pass time at Dukseogong Palace which is just right across the street and have an early dinner at the nearby Dunkin Donuts (KRW5,000). Then, we decided to hang out at Insadong, the artsy district in Jongno-Gu, with the intention to walk home and retire to bed early in time for our 12NN flight back to Manila the next day.

A famous hang-out place in Insadong is the Ssamzie-gil Mall Complex, composed of rows and rows of shops selling artisal crafts and products, organic cosmetics and food materials as well as artworks. I read somewhere that it’s one of the cool places to hang out in Seoul — where you can indulge in a bit of shopping (if you are the artistic type) or hang out in one of its many cafes. Maybe I’ve had too many coffees already while in Seoul or maybe I just found the items on the pricey side so I didn’t enjoy window shopping at Ssamzie-gil. What I did enjoy though was people watching and taking photos of the art works displayed.

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DSCN6606

The next day, we checked out of Stay-In-GAM at 8AM in the midst of pouring rain. Kevin, ever the gentleman, gave me one of the umbrellas at the stand amidst our protestations and declarations of “we’ll be fine”. We walked to the opposite side of the road to catch the same bus (6011) heading to the airport.

We arrived at the airport by 1030AM, just in time to go through the whole check in process and grab a quick bite to eat at the Dunkin Donuts nearest the waiting lounge for the Air Asia flight back to Manila. I also made sure to drop by Starbucks to buy the requisite Seoul City mug.

Expenses (Day 5):
Bus fare – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Dunkin Donuts – KRW5,000 (PHP204)
Starbucks mug – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Total Expense – KRW25,000 (PHP996)

Here’s the final tally of all my expenses during the five day, four night trip:

final expense tally SK 2014

As you can see, we really didn’t pass up on the souvenir shopping and the endless eating. We know that we are on a strict budget but we also managed to maximize our expenses during the trip. Minus the air fare, the trip cost me only about PHP20,000 — quite a bargain already considering I went to a lot of places, had fun shopping and even fulfilled my long-time dream of seeing the DMZ. If you want to follow this itinerary, feel free to use the itinerary and information for booking the Nami Island tour bus as well as the DMZ Tour agency. Who know? You might be able to spend less than I did! I look forward to reading your itinerary.

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Japan, Traveling on a Budget

How I survived Tokyo with PHP25K in my pocket

(Long post — so please bear with me)

“So, your dream is to visit Japan — you do know that it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world, right?”

Friends and well-meaning strangers would often tell me this when I mention that one of my fondest dreams is to visit Japan. And then, I will hang my head in disappointment due to my already-deflated bank account (mostly because of shoes and travel), and wonder when it is finally time for me to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.

Until one day, I finally said to myself, “eff it — if you really want to go, then just go”booked myself tickets, got myself a visa, then worked like mad for three months, moved heaven and earth just to get enough savings for the Japan trip.

Plotting to see more of Japan already?

Plotting to see more of Japan already?

In the end, I managed to have around PHP25,000 as my pocket money, enough for the hotel stay, tour and food expenses. Another 10K was safely stashed in my BPI International Card, which didn’t work at all in any of Tokyo’s numerous ATMs (more on this later). With 25K, that translates to about Y50,000.00++ Out of which, Y16,000 went directly to paying for my share of the four night stay in K’s House Oasis Tokyo Hotel in Asakusa.

That leaves me about Y34,000 to spend for the next five days, with plans to go to Tokyo DisneySea and a full schedule wandering around Tokyo. At first I was worried that it might come up short — with a lot of plans and things to see and discover crammed into the 5 days, 4 night stay. It kinda worked for me in the end, thanks to the little gems that allowed me to stretch the yen further, little gems that I am now gladly sharing with you.

1. How to leave Narita International Airport
If your plane is landing at Narita, you do know that it’s an entirely different city from Tokyo and thus requires travel either by bus (said to be the cheapest but with longer travel time), train (a bit affordable, depending on the bus you will take) or for the moneyed class, cab, limo or hotel service. For budget travelers, the usual choice is any of the trains connecting Narita to Tokyo Station or any of the surrounding stops. I was prepared for this option, until I discovered this bus service in one of my researches in various travel threads:

access narita

Presenting — Access Narita the cheapest option going to Tokyo, but with only 2 stops: Tokyo Station and Ginza Station. Riding the bus costs only Y1,000 (about PHP500) one way and will afford you great sights of the city while en route to Tokyo. Buses always leave on time and is ably helmed by a friendly and efficient driver. Take note, the buses leave on the dot.We were able to catch the 12:30PM bus at the Terminal 2 Bus Station 2 and was promptly at Ginza Station before 2PM. Bus has strong aircon and is very comfortable. Since we are raring to leave Narita, we opted to buy take-out from one of the convenience stores inside the airport and just eat it inside the bus.

I took this picture, by the way, while we are passing through the elevated highway leading to Tokyo. This is also the exact moment that I realized that I was indeed in Japan and that I wasn’t dreaming anymore.

This View.

This View.

You might say I am being melodramatic, but as a kid who dreamt of nothing but seeing Japan or at least, Tokyo in the flesh, seeing this made me really tear up. Good thing my sister was fast asleep beside me so she wasn’t able to see me on this otherwise, embarrassing moment 🙂

By taking the Narita Access Bus, we only spent Y2,000 for our round trip transportation to-and-from the airport. Definitely cheap, compared to taking the trip. You can consider this if you don’t mind a longish travel going to the city.

Check out the Narita Access website here.

2. Consider staying in hostels in the Taito area (Asakusa, etc.)

not mine!

not mine!

A very comfortable and very safe triple ensuite room at K’s House Oasis Tokyo in Asakusa costs us only PHP2,000 per night per person. If you think about it: we were in one of the most expensive cities in the world and getting a neat, safe and comfortable room for PHP2K is not exactly a possibility. But luckily, we were able to get a room in this top-ranked hostel in Asakusa.

Read my complete reviews here.

3. Eat wisely

Japan or Tokyo has one of the best cuisines in the world. In my mind, it will be insulting to spend all my time inside fastfood restaurants and not eat like the locals do. I know that I have limited budget, but my limited pocket money didn’t hinder me to enjoy what Tokyo has to offer. I ate wherever I want to eat but balanced it between steals and splurges. I took advantage of the Life Supermarket down the street to buy fresh produce for breakfast like still-warm rice meals, bottles of milk, cheese, salads, breads and even pastries.

Here’s a typical breakfast for us:

life supermarket brekkie

Clockwise: Orange fruit cups for me and my sister, coffee from the Family Mart next door, pancake with whipped cream, a cube of cheese with almond bits, Tonkatsu rice, a serving of fresh salad with corn and egg bits and a loaf of bread with strawberry cream inside. Usually breakfast bill is more or less Y1,000 split between me and the sister.

For lunch, we eat wherever our feet takes us, but mostly we are too full in the morning that we end up having late lunch. We ate ramen, chicken meals, we tried the Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant in Takeshita Dori where there was an abundance of really cute waiters. The same goes for dinner. My sister and I tried the buffet meal at Tokyo DisneySea and spent about Y5,000 for the experience. At the other end of the spectrum is a very enjoyable and hearty dinner at Genki Sushi in Shibuya.

I came across this top-rated sushi resto at TokyoCheapo (which served as one of my guides for the trip) and was immediately curious on the dining experience at Genki Sushi. Dubbed as a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) experience with the most bang for your buck, I relentlessly searched for this restaurant while we were in Shibuya. We almost gave up but after taking a right turn in one of the little side streets, I finally managed to find it and it was worth it!

Don't forget this sign!

Don’t forget this sign!

Peruse. Order. Tally.

Peruse. Order. Tally.

These screens are what makes Genki Sushi unique. You peruse your menu, place your order, check your balance and signal for payment all on the screen. The prices at Genki Sushi are extraordinarily affordable: a pair of maki usually goes for Y180. After eating 2 pairs of chicken wings, a soup, a pair of maki plus softdrinks, my total bill only came up to Y700 (about PHP350) or about the entirety of my spare coins after a day of going around Shibuya.

This is what I meant with “eat wisely” — know when and where to splurge. Save on some of your meals then splurge when you feel like it. The convenience stores anywhere will feed you sufficiently, if are really on a tight budget. They are also our go-to places when it’s 2:30 in the morning and we just want something to nibble on.

4. Take advantage of the free attractions.

Here’s what’s free in Tokyo: going inside the Imperial Palace East Gardens, taking a picture with Hachiko in Shibuya, visiting Senso-ji Temple and enjoying the sights and sounds of Nakamise Dori (unless you are buying your souvenirs already), enjoying Odaiba (visiting the life-sized Gundam or going around the different malls), going inside Meiji Temple, soaking up the vibe of Takeshita Dori and Harajuku environs, ogling on cos-players and the alternative fashion culture hanging out on the bridge leading to Meiji, crossing the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, walking around Ginza, seeing Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower in the flesh (free, unless you decide to go up their respective observation decks), enjoy the Tokyo Skyline atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, among others.

In my case, I decided early on the I will spend money and experience Tokyo DisneySea. Why? Because it’s the only one of its kind anywhere in the world and it’s worth seeing. For a Disney fan, this is an experience like no other. I planned on going to Mt. Fuji but we were pressed for time so I am saving the visit to Fuji-san for another trip. That, and a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum which needed reservations prior to visit.

When my sister asked us if we can go to Cat Cafe, I also did not mind paying Y1,000 for 30 minutes of nibbling on small cookies while waiting for a cat to take notice of me. Again, it’s an experience that is very uniquely-Japan — never mind if the cats snubbed us the whole time of our stay and that my sister ended up trying to get their attention (to no avail).

My sister, with the not-so-happy nekos of HapiNeko Cat Cafe in Shibuya (maybe they are not in the mood to play with us :( )

My sister, with the not-so-happy nekos of HapiNeko Cat Cafe in Shibuya (maybe they are not in the mood to play with us 😦 )

Bottom line: decide on your what you would like to experience and customize your itinerary based on your interests and preference. Learn when to splurge on attractions.

5. Omiyage shopping at Don Quijote aka “Donki”

Don Quijote or Donki is a discount chain store that has massive presence in Japan. You can almost find anything in Donki — from food to cosmetics to big bags of noodles and delicacies at very cheap prices. Fortunately, there is a newly-opened Donki near our place in Asakusa so, the night before our return trip (yes! it is open 24/7), my sister and I loaded up on Green Tea KitKat, chocolates, flavored nuts, body wash and Japanese biscuits to give away as souvenirs. This was aside from the magnets we bought at Nakamise-Dori which we gave out to our closest friends.

I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t able to use my BPI International ATM card in any of the ATMs in Tokyo. I didn’t know if it was because of the fact that it’s a MasterCard (my sister’s Philippine ATM with VISA affiliation worked just fine) or maybe because I failed to call BPI and have it activated for international travel. I almost came up short, but I managed to borrow Y5,000 from my sister while I transferred online the peso equivalent to her bank account. Lesson learned, always tell your bank that you are going abroad, especially if you are withdrawing money from international ATMs.

I guess, with proper planning and research — you can survive Japan even while on a budget. It’s always up to you to design your own travel experience. True, it is kinda expensive in Japan–expensive, yes but livable and still enjoyable even for someone who is on a tight budget.

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Japan, Traveling on a Budget

The Madness of Airline Seat Sales

Consider this madness:

You wake up in the middle of the night, in cold sweat — full of anticipation. Without turning on your bedroom light, you reach for the iPhone tucked behind your pillow and surreptitiously check the Facebook feeds for some bit of good news. And then you see it. You flip out, almost step on your snoring husband in your haste to get to the bedside stand and get your passport and credit card. You sweat in agony over a few clicks, consider dates and times, check the final cost reflected in the screen then pray to the Gods of Travel that may your card have enough funds to consider the purchase.

That–my friends–is pure madness. And also the exact description of how crazy I must have looked like two days ago when I woke up unreasonably at the unGodly hour of 3 in the morning–as per habit, I reached for my iPhone, scrolled to the Feed and saw that my constant means of budget travel has just announced a new airline seat sale covering ALL destinations, including Tokyo.

My poor husband — I must have looked like a woman deranged when I shot up of our bed and grabbed the laptop to check the airline’s website.

99 (USD2.50) bucks for tickets to your dream destination!

99 (USD2.50) bucks for tickets to your dream destination!

In my head, I had but one goal: book that damned ticket already!

I don’t know in your part of the world on how seat sale works, but in my country — scoring a cheap ticket is akin to finding the Holy Grail — not impossible but at the risk of your sanity. Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest air carrier, is known for its price drops and PHP0 fare seat sales. Literally, the Queen My Sister and I were able to go to different Asian countries (Seoul and Taipei, in particular) due to the cheap rates that this company offers. Cebu Pacific is also instrumental in changing the mindset of Filipinos about flying. Whereas before when Filipinos view air travel as something that only the rich folks do, Cebu Pacific made air travel accessible to every Filipino due to its low rates. That’s why Pinoy travel buffs like me monitor this carrier’s news feeds like as if we were monitoring the birth of our future children: intensively and seriously.

But the low rates also has a trade off. Again, it’s like going on a quest to find the Holy Grain. Price drops are usually announced at midnight when every body is supposed to be sleeping. Seats are of course, limited so unless you start your booking at a very ungodly hour, do not expect for get a truly cheap fare to wherever you are going. Because usually what happens is that your outbound flight might be available for a low fare (for example) but your inbound flight for the date that you prefer might cost you your arm and your big toe on your left foot. It would take a lot of magic, praying and tenacity for you to find a Return flight that is just okay — inbound AND outbound.

The PHP99 ticket fares are of course, exclusive of tax and all the other additional costs. In the end, my final cost was at PHP6,000 for a return trip bound for Tokyo. Yes, that’s PHP5,101 worth of taxes! The rate also does not contain your payment for travel insurance, seat selection, meals and additional baggage fees. Basically, everything to make flying in a highly pressurized tube more comfortable for us mere mortals with tiny wallets and humongous wanton for traveling.

However, the PHP6,000 return trip is still eons away from the normal cost of a return trip ticket to Tokyo, pegged from PHP25,000 to PHP30,000. For budget travelers, this is still heaven sent.

Bottom line: I finally had my tickets. I can finally move on with my life and start my novena for successful visa issuance.

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Japan, Traveling on a Budget

Road to JAPAN 2014: Preparing my budget

I determined more than ever to spend my 35th birthday in the country I loved most. There’s no time that I am not thinking about looking for cheap tickets and finally booking a flight to my dream destination. Call me crazy, but I have conditioned myself into thinking that I am going to Japan — no matter what.

I guess the only thing that will stop me is if I have life threatening injuries or pregnant and about to pop. Otherwise, I will make sure to spend my milestone birthday on the observation deck of the Tokyo Sky Tree or Tokyo Tower.

As you all know, it’s not easy to go to Japan for us Filipinos due to the need to have a visa prior to entry. I really couldn’t blame Japan and its government. In the 80s and early 90s, a lot of Filipinas went to Japan to try their lukc. Some of them have no working visas and have resorted to hiding.

Part of getting a visa is proving my finances — that I will be able to sustain myself while traveling and will be able (and willing!) to go back to Manila after the trip. Oh, if I could only convince them that I have no intention of flouting Japanese rules and laws. Well, even if getting a busy is a bummer — it’s something that we all have to follow and respect. Hence, this early, I am already preparing for the trip as if it was barely a month away. The most taxing and draining is building a nest egg that will serve as your travel fund and reference during visa application.

Because I am the mother of OCness, I made an excel file of the money I need to raise to go to Japan. Here is it so far:

Japan Budget

Yuuup, still had a long way to go. But I never doubted, not even for a second, that taking this trip is not impossible.

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Singapore, Traveling on a Budget

Challenge: Singapore on a shoe-string budget

credit belongs to owner

credit belongs to owner

I know – Singapore and shoe-string budget are two words that doesn’t usually appear next to each other.

But what can I do? I was given marching orders by the family to prepare a family trip to Singapore with just a budget of PHP10,000 per person, exclusive of plane tickets and lodging.

The plane tickets and lodging — my sister and I paid for. We were able to get round trip tickets to Singapore via JetStar for PHP5,000 per pax all inclusive (minus the usual airport fees 😦 ) For lodging, we were able to book a family room on a guesthouse located in Perak Road at the boundary of Little India and Bugis. The guesthouse, Footprints Hostel enjoys nice reviews at Trip Advisor and we were able to score a family room for SGD120 per night (PHP4,200 on a SGD1=PHP35 exchange rate) or roughly PHP700 per person per night. Our four day night stay came to less than PHP18,000 — a feat, considering that hotels in Singapore are not exactly known for low fees.

So, the PHP10,000 or roughly SGD285 roughly accounts for the per person budget, I have to make sure that my mom and dad’s first trip to the beautiful Red Dot will be worth it. Mum is celebrating her 59th birthday while we are in Singapore so I am already looking for simple yet enjoyable activities that will make my beloved Senior Citizens happy. Non-negotiables of course is the trip to Universal Studios and Sentosa, along with a visit to the Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion at Marina Bay. Other than that, I do not exactly plan on spending on attractions that my parents will not fully appreciate.

Let me share something with you, my parents are simple people. The mere fact that they were able to go to a foreign country (something they didn’t even thought to be wildly possible) is enough cause of happiness for them. This early, they already requested to see the Merlion, Sentosa and Universal Studios — those were the non-negotiables. My mum and dad are both kids at heart and would revel on seeings sights they used to see on TV will be conversation-fodder that would last weeks.

The first time we told them that we bought tickets for the whole family going to Singapore, they–especially my mum–were ecstatic. I don’t know if it’s right to share this with you, but the week after – they started saving money for it. My dad already has 80% of his personal budget in my safekeeping and my mum already filled two piggy banks with her savings. Last I heard, she even managed to top the personal budget and she kept on saving because she wanted to buy souvenirs for her friends.

Unlike our Hong Kong Family Trip last year where I was confident that we will be able to survive HK with a measly budget of about PHP8,000 per person, I am more wary with the Singapore trip. In order to limit the expenses to SGD 285 or SGD300 at most, I have already came up with the following ground rules:

1. We are not paying premium Singapore dollars for attractions that will easily bore the men in the family who all had short attention spans (i.e. dad, the hubby and the baby brother) – i.e. entrance to the Gardens by the Bay Conservation areas. We’d rather take pictures outside with the gigantic Supertrees in the background.

2. We will spend our budget on attractions that everyone will enjoy – For example, everyone will have fun swimming and trying out the water attractions of the Water Adventure Park but not everyone will enjoy Night Safari. This is actually a dilemma — between Night Safari and gallivanting around Sentosa, which is more enjoyable?

3. Spend money discovering the food. Let the parents discover hawker center and ice cream sandwiches!

4. Enjoy public transpo especially Singapore’s efficient MRT system.

5. Don’t be afraid to look for attractions or activities that are fun but cost less or are even FREE.

I will definitely let you know if I will be successful with this new challenge. But you know me, I thrive on making trips happen in spite impossibly restricting budgets. Wish me luck though, and feel free to drop me a note if you have suggestions!

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