Asia, Traveling on a Budget

Hong Kong for less than PHP15,000? Let the challenge begin!

Will be leaving for Hong Kong on Thursday for our first ever family trip.
After careful planning, checking and re-checking of itinerary, I managed to whittle down the budget (per pax!) for just PHP7,000.00 (roughly USD169). The budget already includes entrance to Disneyland, The Peak, Ngong Ping 360, food for 4 days, and payment for transportation via the Octopus card.

If we are to include contribution per person for the guesthouse and the unfortunate Philippine Travel Tax and terminal fee, I think we can make it. Of course, this does not include the plane fare which was purchased four months in advance from Cebu Pacific for only PH3,500 (return) per person (inclusive of fuel surcharge,etc)!

The ingredients for a successful budget trip usually include:


a reliable airline with affordable rates
(picture not mine)

I always ride JetStar or Cebu Pacific wherever I go, maybe because I always travel using heavily discounted tickets. So far, I had good experiences on both airlines. JetStar has efficient but slightly snobbish airline stewardess while CebPac has one of the nicest flight crews around yet their planes are a bit delayed. In spite these observations, I will gladly travel with both airlines any opportunity I get. Honestly, it is through budget fares that I manage to see countries I used to only dream about when I was young. Before, air travel gave a certain vibe that it was only for the managed class, but thanks to the rise of budget airlines, even ordinary people like me get to see new places and experience new culture. The rise of the budget airlines, I must say, also gave birth to the seasoned budget traveler.


a clean and safe place to sleep – double room from City Econo Guesthouse
(picture from City Econo Guesthouse website)

I love staying in boutique hotels, hostels and guesthouses.

In Singapore, I had very fond memories of South East Asia Hotel located in Bugis. The room is clean and comfortable and the free breakfast is filling. The aunties and uncles manning the counter are friendly and not aloof (as mentioned by some in TripAdvisor). And most of all, the room is dirt cheap. Of course, the hotel is old and has seen better days, but it is well maintained as much as a family-owned establishment can muster.

In Seoul, Zaza Backpackers is a good place to stay, especially when you want something that is in the middle of the action (Myeongdong) but is strategically located away from the noise. Affordable, safe and clean, Zaza Backapackers is located in a good neighborhood not far from Namsan Tower.

For this HK-trip, I am booked rooms at City Econo Guesthouse, located in Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. The guesthouse earned rave reviews on Filipino travel sites and well-recommended by Pinoy budget travelers. One of its owners, Ms. Jenny, is lauded for her kindness and efficiency. In a place like HK where finding an affordable place to sleep in is like finding a needle in a haystack, guesthouses like City Econo is heaven-sent for budget travelers like me.


The efficient Hong Kong MTR (photo not my property)

The best way to know the city is to memorize its public transportation system. This is how we survived in HK, Singapore and Seoul. Always get a saved transportation card where you can always top-up the value. Learn how to read signs and navigate your way around the labyrinth beneath the city streets. It’s fun and an experience in itself.


cheap eats in HK (photo not my property)

“Dai pai dongs”, “hawker centers” and cheap restaurants — look for the places where locals converge. My brother, on his first trip to the Lion City last year, simply couldn’t get enough of the 2SGD set meal which he finished in one sitting. He loved the explosion of flavors and the fact that it didn’t burn holes in his pocket.

Lastly, I really think that you should bring along a good sense of humor and a certain knack for adventure. It also helps when your companions are not kill-joy or too high maintenance, who preferred five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

I’ll give you a report once I get back if I am successful on this challenge. Will also upload my breakdown of expenses for the four-day trip.

Wish us luck!

..and oh, if you have tips on how I can stretch this budget (and the cheap places to eat in the TST-Nathan Road area), do drop me a note! Would love to try out your suggestions!

Traveling on a Budget

Cebu Pacific’s “Me and New” Sale!

Say all you want about Philippine budget carrier, Cebu Pacific and its delayed and over-booked flights but no one can deny that this thriving budget airline company made flying accessible to many Filipinos, this writer included.
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When I was younger, I had the impression that one must be filthy rich in order to ride a plane. For an average Filipino that earned just enough for an honest living, flying off to a distant land (domestic or international) is out of the question. That was then. Where families bear 18 to 24 hour ship travel from Manila to Iloilo or Cagayan de Oro for that once-a-year trip to see loved-ones. Flying off to international destinations is even more unlikely. Again, riding a plane back then was for the moneyed class.

And then came Cebu Pacific. The sixteen-year old airline company ushered the possibility of flying for ordinary Filipinos by offering cheap rates both for domestic or international flights. Yes, Cebu Pacific is not perfect — there are delayed flights, overbooked jaunts and even missing luggages (remember the infamous Thrilla in NAIA last May?)

Still, no one can deny that by offering cheap flights, many of my kababayans were able to realize their dreams of seeing foreign lands. Personally, Cebu Pacific and its famous “PHP88 Sale” gave me the chance to see South Korea last March. I also flew Cebu Pacific to both of my HK trips in 2008 and 2010 (for Singapore, I usually fly JetStar). This year, the cheap airline rates purchased last June is giving my mom and dad their opportunity to see Hong Kong for the first time.

Well, if you’re like me (someone who wants to bring the family abroad but doesn’t have much cash), you might reconsider your travel plans:

Seat Sale

Cebu Pacific Seat Sale! – Book Now!

Cebu Pacific is offering its “Me and New Sale” until August 21, 2012; travel period is from October 18 to 31, 2012.

For more infomation, go to