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El Nido Budget Guide: How Much Does It Cost? – Be My Travel Muse


by Sena Kinney



Welcome to El Nido, a tropical paradise in the Philippines known for its stunning limestone cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and pristine white sand beaches. If you’re dreaming of a budget-friendly trip to this idyllic destination, you’re in luck! El Nido offers plenty of opportunities for budget travel, allowing you to experience its natural beauty without breaking the bank.


When it comes to budget travel, it’s all about finding the right balance between cost-saving measures and making the most of your experience. In this budget guide, we’ll walk you through the various aspects of travel in El Nido, including accommodation, transportation, food and drinks, activities and tours, and other expenses. With these insights, you’ll be well-prepared to plan your budget-friendly adventure in El Nido.


One of the key considerations for budget travelers is accommodation. El Nido offers a range of options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to more upscale resorts. If you’re looking to save money, consider staying in a dormitory-style hostel, which offers affordable rates without compromising on comfort. Alternatively, check out local guesthouses or homestays, which provide a more authentic experience while keeping costs down.


When it comes to getting around in El Nido, transportation options include tricycles, which are the main mode of transport within the town. They are inexpensive and convenient for short distances. For longer journeys, you can also opt for shared vans or buses, which offer a more budget-friendly option compared to private transfers.


Food and drinks can be another significant expense during your trip. To save money, explore the local street food scene, where you can indulge in flavorful dishes at affordable prices. Look out for small eatery stalls or local markets where you can sample traditional Filipino cuisine without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to try the fresh seafood, a specialty in El Nido!


A trip to El Nido would not be complete without experiencing the breathtaking beauty of its islands and beaches. Luckily, there are budget-friendly activities and tours available. You can join group tours to popular destinations like the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon, which offer a great way to explore these natural wonders at a lower cost. Alternatively, you can opt for DIY island hopping by renting a kayak or paddleboard and venturing out on your own.


In addition to accommodation, transportation, food and drinks, and activities, it’s essential to consider other expenses such as souvenir shopping, entrance fees to attractions, and any necessary permits. Keep track of these costs to stay within your budget while still enjoying all that El Nido has to offer.


With these tips for budget travel in El Nido, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip without breaking the bank. Remember to plan ahead, research your options, and prioritize your spending to ensure a memorable and affordable adventure in this tropical paradise.



When it comes to finding budget-friendly accommodation in El Nido, you have several options to choose from. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect place to stay without overspending:


1. Hostels: El Nido has a range of budget-friendly hostels that offer dormitory-style accommodation. Staying in a hostel is not only cost-effective but also a great way to meet fellow travelers. Look for hostels that provide comfortable beds, clean facilities, and social common areas.


2. Guesthouses or Homestays: Another affordable option is to stay at local guesthouses or homestays. These accommodations offer a more authentic experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture. They usually provide basic amenities and a cozy atmosphere at a reasonable price.


3. Budget Hotels: El Nido also has a variety of budget hotels that offer comfortable rooms at affordable rates. These hotels may not have all the amenities of luxury resorts, but they can provide a cozy and convenient place to rest after a day of exploring the islands.


4. Camping: For adventurous travelers on a tight budget, camping can be a great option. There are designated camping areas in El Nido where you can pitch a tent and enjoy the natural surroundings. Just make sure to check the rules and regulations and bring your own camping gear.


When choosing your accommodation, consider its proximity to the main attractions, as well as the amenities and services provided. Look for accommodations that offer free Wi-Fi, hot water showers, and secure lockers for your valuables. Reading reviews from fellow travelers can also give you a better idea of what to expect.


To save even more on accommodation, consider traveling during the off-peak season when prices are generally lower. Booking in advance can also help you secure better deals. Additionally, keep an eye out for special promotions or discounts offered by hotels and booking platforms.


Remember, your choice of accommodation will greatly impact your overall budget. By being flexible and considering these budget-friendly options, you can find comfortable and affordable accommodation that allows you to save money for other experiences in El Nido.



Getting around in El Nido is relatively easy, with various transportation options available to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are some tips to help you navigate the transportation system while keeping costs in check:


1. Tricycles: Tricycles are the main mode of transport within El Nido town. These motorized three-wheeled vehicles can take you to different parts of the town quickly and affordably. Negotiate the fare before hopping on, and keep in mind that prices may vary depending on the distance traveled.


2. Shared Vans or Buses: If you plan to explore areas outside of El Nido town, consider taking shared vans or buses. These options are more budget-friendly compared to private transfers and allow you to reach destinations like Nacpan Beach, Las Cabanas Beach, or the airport at a lower cost. Look for designated pick-up points and inquire about the schedule and fares from reliable sources.


3. Motorbike Rental: For those comfortable with riding a motorbike, renting one can be a cost-effective way to explore El Nido and its surroundings. Scooters can be rented from various shops in town, and prices are usually affordable on a daily or hourly basis. Make sure to wear a helmet, follow local traffic rules, and exercise caution while on the road.


4. Walking or Bicycles: If you prefer a slower-paced and eco-friendly option, consider exploring El Nido on foot or renting a bicycle. Many of the attractions, restaurants, and accommodations are within walking distance of each other, making it convenient to explore on foot. Bicycles can be rented from several shops in town, enabling you to cover more ground while enjoying the fresh air and scenic views.


When planning your transportation, it’s important to consider the travel time and distances between different destinations in El Nido. Factor in any waiting times for buses or vans and make sure to give yourself ample time to reach your desired locations.


Lastly, be prepared for occasional road conditions and traffic congestion, especially during peak tourist seasons. Adjust your schedule accordingly and factor in some extra time for travel to avoid any potential stress or delays.


By utilizing the various transportation options available in El Nido, you can explore the town and its surrounding areas while keeping your budget in check. Choose the mode of transport that best suits your needs and enjoy the convenience and affordability it offers.


Food and Drinks

Exploring the local food scene is an essential part of any travel experience, and El Nido offers a variety of options to satisfy your taste buds without breaking the bank. Here are some tips for enjoying delicious meals and refreshing drinks on a budget:


1. Street Food: One of the best ways to enjoy affordable and flavorful meals in El Nido is by sampling the local street food. Wander through the streets and seek out food stalls or small eateries that offer a variety of dishes. Indulge in popular Filipino snacks like barbecue skewers, grilled seafood, or local delicacies. Not only will you get to experience authentic flavors, but you’ll also save money in the process.


2. Local Markets: Visit the local markets in El Nido to discover fresh produce, meat, and seafood. You can find a range of ingredients to whip up your own meals if you have access to a kitchen or to buy inexpensive prepared dishes. Interact with the locals and gather insights into traditional Filipino ingredients and cooking techniques.


3. Sari-Sari Stores: Look for sari-sari stores, small convenience stores found throughout the Philippines. These stores often sell snacks, drinks, and even cooked meals at affordable prices. They are a convenient option for grabbing a quick bite or buying essentials like water, snacks, or toiletries.


4. Eat Like a Local: Venture beyond tourist areas and dine at local eateries and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Not only will you find more affordable prices, but you’ll also have the chance to indulge in authentic Filipino cuisine. Try dishes like adobo (a marinated meat dish), sinigang (a sour soup), or the famous halo-halo (a mixed dessert).


5. Happy Hour and Promotions: Keep an eye out for happy hours and promotions offered by bars and restaurants in El Nido. Many establishments offer discounted prices on drinks or set menus during specific times of the day. Take advantage of these offers to enjoy a refreshing cocktail or a delicious meal without straining your budget.


Remember, it’s also essential to stay hydrated during your adventures in El Nido. Opt for bottled water or bring a reusable water bottle and refill it at filtered water stations available in some accommodations or restaurants to save money and reduce plastic waste.


By embracing the local food culture and seeking out affordable options, you can savor the flavors of El Nido without overspending. Immerse yourself in the culinary delights of the Philippines and create lasting memories of delicious meals and refreshing drinks.


Activities and Tours

One of the highlights of visiting El Nido is exploring its stunning islands, lagoons, and beaches. Thankfully, there are plenty of budget-friendly activities and tours that allow you to make the most of your time while keeping your expenses in check. Here are some options to consider:


1. Island Hopping Tours: Island hopping is a must-do activity in El Nido, and there are several tour packages available to suit different budgets. Look for group tours that visit popular destinations like the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and Seven Commandos Beach. Sharing the tour with other travelers helps reduce the cost compared to a private tour. Be sure to inquire about the inclusions of the tour, such as lunch and snorkeling equipment.


2. DIY Island Hopping: For those who prefer a more independent and budget-friendly option, consider doing a DIY island hopping tour. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard from a local shop and explore the nearby islands and lagoons at your own pace. It allows you to have more flexibility, choose the destinations you want to visit, and potentially save money by avoiding tour fees.


3. Beach Hopping: El Nido is home to numerous breathtaking beaches, and many of them are easily accessible and free to visit. Spend your days beach hopping and relaxing at places like Nacpan Beach, Las Cabanas Beach, or Marimegmeg Beach. Pack a picnic or sample the local food from beachfront eateries for a budget-friendly day out in the sun.


4. Hiking and Exploration: El Nido offers spectacular landscapes, and some areas can be explored on foot. Take a hike to Taraw Cliff, a limestone karst formation that provides remarkable views of the town and its surroundings. You can also explore the nearby waterfalls, such as Nagkalit-Kalit Falls and Bulalacao Falls, which offer a refreshing break from the beach and are often accessible by tricycle.


5. Cultural Tours: Immerse yourself in the local culture by joining cultural tours that allow you to interact with the indigenous people of El Nido. Learn about their traditions, crafts, and way of life. These tours not only provide a unique insight into the local community but also support sustainable and responsible tourism practices.


When booking tours or activities, it’s important to compare prices, read reviews, and choose reputable operators. Look for deals and discounts, especially during the off-peak season, and ask fellow travelers for recommendations. Remember to bring essentials like sunscreen, hats, and reusable water bottles to stay protected and hydrated during your adventures.


By choosing the right activities and tours, you can experience the natural wonders of El Nido while staying within your budget. Whether you opt for organized island hopping tours or explore on your own, the beauty and adventure await you in this tropical paradise.


Other Expenses

While accommodation, transportation, food, and activities may form the bulk of your expenses in El Nido, there are additional costs to be mindful of to ensure a well-budgeted trip. Here are some other expenses to consider when planning your budget:


1. Entrance Fees: Many attractions in El Nido, such as the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and some beaches, require an entrance fee. These fees contribute to the maintenance and preservation of the natural wonders. Make sure to include these costs when calculating your budget for activities and tours.


2. Permits and Environmental Fees: To visit certain protected areas or engage in specific activities, you may need to obtain permits or pay environmental fees. For instance, if you plan to explore the Bacuit Bay or go scuba diving, there may be additional fees associated with permits or marine park conservation efforts. Research in advance to determine if these fees apply to your desired activities.


3. Snorkeling Gear Rental: While some tours may include snorkeling gear rental, others may charge separately. If you plan on snorkeling during your island hopping adventures or exploring reefs on your own, factor in the cost of renting or bringing your own snorkeling gear.


4. Souvenirs and Shopping: It’s hard to resist bringing back a little piece of El Nido with you, so budget for souvenirs and shopping. Explore the local markets and beachside stalls for unique handicrafts, clothing, artwork, and other mementos. Bargain with the vendors to get the best prices, and remember to allocate a portion of your budget for these keepsakes.


5. Tips and Gratuities: Showing appreciation to tour guides, drivers, and other service providers is customary in the Philippines. Budget for tips and gratuities for exceptional service, especially on guided tours or in hotels and restaurants. It’s a nice gesture to reward those who have made your experience more enjoyable.


6. Miscellaneous Expenses: Allow some buffer in your budget for unexpected or miscellaneous expenses. This could include things like laundry services, medical expenses, or any other unforeseen costs that may arise during your trip.


Keep track of these additional expenses and include them in your overall budget to avoid any last-minute surprises. It’s always better to overestimate and have some extra money set aside rather than exceeding your planned spending.


By factoring in these miscellaneous expenses, you can ensure a more accurate and well-rounded budget for your trip to El Nido. Plan ahead, make conscious choices, and allocate funds accordingly to make the most of your adventure while staying within your financial means.


Tips for Budget Traveling in El Nido

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean compromising on the quality of your experience. With careful planning and smart choices, you can enjoy all that El Nido has to offer while keeping your expenses in check. Here are some tips for budget travel in El Nido:


1. Plan and Research in Advance: Before your trip, thoroughly research the accommodation options, transportation, activities, and tours available in El Nido. Compare prices, read reviews, and look for deals or promotions to get the best value for your money.


2. Travel During the Off-Peak Season: Consider visiting El Nido during the off-peak season, typically from June to November, to take advantage of lower prices on accommodation, tours, and flights. You’ll also experience fewer crowds, allowing for a more peaceful and enjoyable experience.


3. Eat Local and Explore Street Food: Embrace the local food scene and indulge in affordable and delicious street food. Try traditional Filipino dishes from local eateries, street food vendors, and markets. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get an authentic taste of the local culture.


4. Choose Budget-Friendly Accommodation: Look for budget-friendly accommodation options such as hostels, guesthouses, or homestays. Compare prices and read reviews to find accommodations that are clean, comfortable, and within your budget. Consider sharing a dormitory room or opting for a private room with shared facilities.


5. Utilize Public Transportation or Shared Transfers: Take advantage of tricycles, vans, buses, or even walking to get around El Nido and its nearby attractions. Public transportation and shared transfers are generally more affordable compared to private transfers or hiring a personal vehicle.


6. Engage in Free or Low-Cost Activities: El Nido is blessed with stunning natural beauty, and there are many activities that won’t cost you anything or only require a minimal fee. Enjoy the beaches, go hiking, or have a picnic by the shore. Take advantage of the natural wonders that surround you without splurging on expensive tours or activities.


7. Set a Daily Spending Limit: To stay on track with your budget, consider setting a daily spending limit. This will help you keep track of your expenses and make conscious choices about where and how you spend your money.


8. Bargain and Negotiate: Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices, whether it’s for shopping, souvenir purchases, or transportation fares. Bargaining is often expected in the local markets, and you may end up getting a better deal or saving some money in the process.


9. Stay Hydrated and Bring Snacks: Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your explorations in El Nido. Fill it up with filtered water from your accommodation or look for water refill stations. Additionally, bring snacks with you during tours or beach visits to avoid expensive food stalls.


10. Practice Responsible and Sustainable Tourism: While on your budget trip, remember to be mindful of the environment and local communities. Follow the principles of responsible and sustainable tourism by practicing proper waste disposal, respecting the natural surroundings, and supporting local businesses. Sustainable tourism benefits everyone in the long run.


By incorporating these budget travel tips into your El Nido adventure, you can have a memorable experience without putting a strain on your wallet. Embrace the beauty of the destination, engage with the local culture, and create lasting memories, all while staying within your budget constraints.



El Nido is a dream destination for budget travelers, offering breathtaking natural beauty without requiring exorbitant expenditures. By following the tips outlined in this budget guide, you can experience all that El Nido has to offer while staying within your financial means.


From affordable accommodation options like hostels and guesthouses to exploring the local food scene through street food and markets, there are plenty of opportunities to save money without compromising on your experience. Utilizing public transportation, joining group tours, or even embarking on DIY adventures can help you navigate the island and enjoy its attractions without breaking the bank.


Remember to plan and research in advance, taking advantage of off-peak season discounts and promotions. Be mindful of your expenses by setting a daily spending limit and bargaining when necessary. Opt for free or low-cost activities like beach hopping, hiking, and immersing yourself in the local culture.


Throughout your budget travel journey, it’s essential to practice responsible and sustainable tourism. Show respect for the environment and local communities, and contribute positively to the destinations you visit. By doing so, you not only keep costs low but also leave a positive impact for future travelers to enjoy.


El Nido has something to offer every traveler, and with the right mindset and planning, you can create lifelong memories without breaking the bank. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders, stunning beaches, and warm hospitality of El Nido, knowing that you’ve made savvy choices to make the most of your budget. So pack your bags, embark on your budget adventure, and let the beauty of El Nido captivate you.