How to Exchange your Philippine Peso to Foreign Currency?

Thai Baht taken from Wikipedia

Thai Baht taken from Wikipedia

My friend, when will you go out of the country?  I’m sure you’re excited and prepared for your trip.  Do you have the pocket money you need with the currency of the country you’re going to?  Though you can do that at the airport before your flight, it is best that you have everything you need as sometimes, the currencies may no longer available or not enough.  Admit it, the rates inside our airport in the Philippines does not have the best rate.  To ensure that you have the currencies, here are some of the suggestions for you.

  1. If you have savings account in any commercial bank, reserve the currencies you need.  Call the branch where you open your account at least a week before your departure so they can reserve the notes for you.  If this is not available, move to number 2.
  1. Secure a Cash Card with Visa or MasterCard sign.  This is available in any established commercial banks.  If you have it, it means you can use your card to swipe and/or withdraw overseas if you need cash.  But do note that if you use your card in any machine overseas, corresponding charge will be deducted to your account.  Sometimes, aside from the usual overseas usage charge, additional charge will be paid by you.  Example of this is if you use your card in Thailand which they called ATM Fee worth THB 150.

HOW TO AVOID THE THB 150 ATM FEE IN THAILAND?  ANSWER: Look for any Citibank ATM and withdraw your money there.  I got this tip from this blog.  Unfortunately, Citibank do not have any ATM machines inside Suvarnabhumi Airport so you really need to roam around the city to look for one.  Look for Don’t Worry Just Travel blogsite to give you the list of Citibank ATM branches in Bangkok, Thailand.

Side note: I do not recommend to use your Credit Card or even your Cash Card to pay overseas.  Aside from additional fees you may incur (depending on your bank), sometimes they will charge you more.  It happened to me more than once in different countries!  That’s why I opt to transact in cash abroad either I have them before my trip or withdraw instead from any ATM Machines using my Cash Card.

  1. Buy currencies at your most trusted money changer.  Money is their business.  Definitely they have most of the currencies available.  But make sure that you call them at least a week in advance to reserve the notes you need.  Two of the establishments I trust are Czarina’s and Sanry’s.  They have branches at some popular malls in the Philippines, specifically at Ayala Malls.  For Czarina’s, you can fill out their form online by clicking here.  As for Sanry’s, you may check their locations here.  Unfortunately, I do not have any contact number for any of their branches.

WHAT IF THEY DON’T HAVE THE FOREIGN CURRENCY YOU NEED?  ANSWER: Buy Dollars or Euros instead.  This is because they are the ones that can be exchanged anywhere in the world.  Example is if you will go to Vietnam.  Their Vietnamese Dong (VND) is not widely circulated.  So before you go to Vietnam, make sure you convert your Philippine Pesos to US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Euro or UK Pound and then exchange it to Dong once you arrive in Vietnam.

So my friend, prepare your money.  And don’t forget: Enjoying your hard-earned money does not mean you have to spend it all.  Save for the future, too.  To close this, let me inspire you with a quote which also describes my current goal:

“The thing I should wish to obtain from money would be leisure with security.”

– Bertrand Russell

SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET: Food and Shopping

The best Hainanese Chicken Rice with Milo Dinosaur - two must-try popular food in Singapore

The best Hainanese Chicken Rice with Milo Dinosaur – two must-try popular food in Singapore

My friend, we are not only travellers.  We are also shopaholics and a hungry bunch, too.  In Singapore, we can also have our food and shopping adventure without damaging our pockets.  Here are my experiences on my recent Singapore getaway.

FOOD: Hawkers!!!

Maxwell Food Center at Chinatown.  It's just right across the Pagoda

Maxwell Food Center at Chinatown. It’s just right across the Pagoda

Singapore is also a place to fulfill your gastronomical adventures and hawker centers offer the best and cheapest option to taste the different flavors the country has to offer.  Depending on the food you will eat, you will spend around SGD 3 to 10 a meal per person.  For drinks, it ranges from SGD 0.90 to 3.  That is cheaper compared to eating at fast food joints or restaurants which may cost SGD 20 or more.

Long line at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Center.  Home of the best chicken rice for SGD 5 only!

Long line at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Center. Home of the best chicken rice for SGD 5 only!

As for desserts, walk on any street and look for any cart that sells ice cream sandwiched in wafer for only SGD 1.20.

The popular ice cream wafer at the streets of Singapore

The popular ice cream wafer at the streets of Singapore

To know more about the location of different hawker centers in SG, go to this website.

SHOPPING: go to street markets or grocery stores

Shopping for souvenirs at Chinatown

Shopping for souvenirs at Chinatown

Singapore is a mall rats wonderland!  There so many malls in this country full of shops catering to your different liking but may cost you an arm and a leg, or even your kidney or liver.  But if you want to save money, go to street markets instead.  I highly recommend that you go to Chinatown with 3 streets full of sellers of knick knacks of everything.

For SGD 10, you can buy either of the following:

  • 3 to 4 pieces of souvenir t-shirts
  • 4 to 6 pieces of ref magnets (depending on its size and material)
  • 6 pieces of key chains
  • 3 pieces of accordion fan
  • 3 to 6 pieces of wallets for ladies (depending on its size and material)
  • 3 to 4 pieces of table display (depending on its size and material, again)
  • 3 to 4 pieces of paper weights
  • 3 to 6 pieces of lucky charms (depending on its size)

But if you want to bring along some flavors of Singapore with you, go to any grocery stores for a more budget-friendly option.  A bottle of their popular Kaya spread costs SGD 2 to 5 dollars depending on its size and brand.  Buy chocolates, cup noodles or chips that are not available in the Philippines for SGD 0.50 – 8 depending on its brand and size.

Hope I help you save on your upcoming Singapore adventure.  So my friend, enjoy your vacation and don’t forget to buy me a pack of flavored Yakult (priced at SGD 3.10).  Hihihi!

A pack of Yakult with Green Apple, Orange and Grape flavors.  Available only in Singapore for SGD 3.10

A pack of Yakult with two original flavors, one Grape, Orange & Green Apple flavors.  Available only in Singapore for SGD 3.10

 

*Tinakits*

 

SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET: Transportation

Singapore has one of the most efficient train station

Singapore has one of the most efficient train stations

My friend, now you have an idea where to go, it’s now time to plan on the mode of transportation to visit all the places on your list.  Since you will be in a foreign land, here’s my tip on how you can save in roaming around Singapore.

Avail of the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP)

Two different kinds of Singapore Tourist Pass (STP).  We availed of the red one. Image taken from Singapore Tourist Pass website.

Two different kinds of Singapore Tourist Pass (STP). We availed of the red one. Image taken from Singapore Tourist Pass website.

Once you arrive at Changi Airport, look for the ticketing booth where you can purchase their tourist transportation card known as Singapore Tourist Pass.  The great thing about this is you can avail of unlimited MRT ride, no deposit required, reloadable, good for 5 years (nice one if you are a frequent SG visitor), and with freebies!!!

Since we stayed in Singapore for a total of 4 days, we availed of the STP+ with unlimited ride for 3 consecutive days which was priced at SGD 30 that we fully maximized.  That saved us the hassle of getting in line just to purchase cards every time we travel.  The best thing about availing the card is you will also have free FunVee Open Top Bus Tour and one-day bubble jet ride that you can avail depending on the duration of the card you chose which is great to roam and see the exciting city of Singapore.  That’s another saving again!

On our fourth day, we just reloaded SGD 10 on our card which is more than enough so we can ride the MRT going to other attractions and back to Changi Airport.

REMINDER: Most of the MRT Station opens at 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM and bus operates from 5:30 AM till midnight only.  Make sure you will plan your tours within the period mentioned.  If in case MRT or buses are no longer available, your only option is to hire a cab which is very expensive.

For more information about Singapore Tourist Pass, click on here.  To know more about their very efficient MRT, click on here.

Tip on how to save money going to Universal Studio

Inside RWS8 bus going Resorts World Sentosa where Universal Studios is located

Inside RWS8 bus going Resorts World Sentosa where Universal Studios is located

I am sure that one of the reasons why you want to go to Singapore is to visit the Universal Studios Singapore (USS) Theme Park.  Since I gave you an idea on how to save money in purchasing tickets going there, I can also give you a tip how you can save going to USS.

The nearest MRT Station going there is MRT Harbour Front.  Once you go down at that station, you will arrive at the ground floor of Vivo City Mall.  Instead of taking the Sentosa Express going USS which is SGD 4, go out of the mall and board on bus with the sign RWS8 that will take you to Resorts World Sentosa where USS is located.  This is only for SGD 2.  As for going back to your hotel, you can now avail of the Sentosa Express for free that will take you back to Vivo City and to the MRT station.  Hehehe!

This is the third part of my “Singapore On A Budget” blog series.  Wait for my last post on how to save more on your upcoming Singapore trip.

*Tinakits*

SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET: Discounted Rates & Free Sights

B looking at the Singapore Opera House.  One of the free sights you can view in Singapore

B looking at the Singapore Opera House beside Helix Bridge. One of the free sights you can enjoy in Singapore

My friend, what are the places you want to visit in Singapore?  I’m sure you have a lot on your mind but you’re very concern how you can spend less on your tours.  Here are some of tips I can give you based on my experience during my recent trip.

Save on tickets to different attractions in Singapore

Enjoying my discounted entrance fee to Universal Studios Singapore :)

Enjoying my discounted entrance fee to Universal Studios Singapore 🙂

How?  Go to Cebu Air Travel and Tours!  From their name, you will know that it is own and operated by Filipinos.  It is located at Lucky Plaza Mall in Orchard Road, a popular hangout place of Filipinos living and working in Singapore.  This travel agency offers discounted rates and packages to all Singapore attractions and more.  We availed of our tickets to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) for only SGD 69 which includes SGD 5 meal voucher and SGD 5 shopping credits to any of the stores inside USS.  The original price of Universal Studio ticket online is SGD 79 without any freebie.  So that gave us a saving of SGD 10!

Since they don’t accept ticket reservations, you need to go to their office which you can do on your first day in Singapore to purchase them.  They are open from 10:00 AM till 7:00 PM daily.

Cebu Air Travel & Tours calling card

Cebu Air Travel & Tours calling card

For more information of their long list of promotions, visit their Facebook page by clicking here.  (P.S.  I was not paid by Cebu Air Travel and Tour to promote them.  My blog is purely out of experience and research – Tinakits)

Visit free sights in Singapore

There’s so many shows and attractions you can visit in Singapore but with charge.  But if you really want to visit popular places and know more about the country, you can visit these areas for free.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Merlion Statue
DSC_1617

Tourist shot at the Merlion

  • Helix Bridge
Passing thourgh Helix Bridge, you will also have a great view of the Singapore Flyer Opera House and Marina Bay Sands

Passing thourgh Helix Bridge, you will also have a great view of the Singapore Flyer, Opera House and Marina Bay Sands

  • Fullerton Hotel and Raffles Hotel (just look around the area, okay)
Fullerton Hotel - a member of the Historic Hotels Worldwide

Fullerton Hotel – a member of the Historic Hotels Worldwide

  • Cavenagh Bridge
Cavanagh Bridge - just infront of the Fullertn Hotel

Cavenagh Bridge – just infront of the Fullerton Hotel

  • Stamford Raffles statue
Crossing Cavanagh Bridge, you will see the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore

Crossing Cavenagh Bridge, you will see the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore

  • Sri Mariamman Temple
Sri Mariamman Temple at Chinatown - SIngapore's oldest Hindu Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple at Chinatown – Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple

  • Blue Tooth Relic
B outside of the Pagoda Temple at Chinatown where the Blue Tooth Relic is located.

B outside of the Pagoda Temple at Chinatown where the Blue Tooth Relic is located.

  • Esplanade (the Durian-like building)
Can be seen near the Merlion Statue

Can be seen near the Merlion Statue (CTO)

  • Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City Mall
Fountain

CTO

  • Gardens by the Bay (sightseeing)
Catch the lazer and light show here during weekends at 8:00 PM

Catch the lazer and light show here during weekends at 8:00 PM

  • Ion Orchard Mall
Colorful statues along Ion Orchard Mall

Colorful statues along Ion Orchard Mall

This is the second part of my “Singapore On A Budget” blog post.  Wait for my other posts about my tips to save on your SG trip!

*Tinakits*

SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET: Accomodation

Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Merlion - two iconic landmarks in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Merlion – two iconic landmarks in Singapore

My friend, what was the most expensive vacation you have ever had? Though we allot more than enough money for vacation, we still want to save since we still need to spend for the upcoming holidays and have enough fund for any emergencies.  Spending for vacation SHOULD ONLY BE just a portion of our savings.

Among the countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore is one of the most expensive countries/cities to be in.  But in my recent trip there, I was surprised that I spent less compared to what I planned for.

Is it possible to at least minimize spendings if you go to Singapore and still have a fun and memorable trip?  ABSOLUTELY!  Again, I did it DIY-style.  Aside from waiting for airline ticket sale, here are some of the tips I can give you so you can save on your future Singapore getaway:

ACCOMODATION – stay in dormitories, hostels or inns

Hotels in Singapore are notorious to be very expensive especially those located at the city center.  So once you book your flight, immediately scout for a place to stay in.  Establishments provide discounts especially if you book with them months ahead of your planned vacation.  Discounts can also be availed even if you opt to book via booking websites like Agoda, Hotels.com or booking.com for as long as you book with them in advance.  Choose a place that is not in the center of the city but rather those that are still accessible to transportations and near key areas.

Dormitories are the cheapest option for your place to stay in.  But if you want to have privacy, choose a hostel or inn instead.  Just don’t expect too much on them.  Some do not have any windows on their rooms, some have no free breakfast, may offer free hot and cold drinks instead and may only offer shared toilet and bath.  The most important thing is, the place is near any MRT station or bus stop for accessibility and the rooms are clean for hygienic purposes.  As for safety, Singapore is one of the safest country with low crime rate.

My experience at Superb Hostel in Bugis

Facade of Superb Hostel in the evening

Facade of Superb Hostel in the evening

I got to know about this place via booking.com but I did not book there.  Instead, I looked for their website and exchange emails with them.  Even if I sent a message during wee hours of the morning, they will immediately reply to you.  As in just a few minutes after you sent it!

During check-in, their officer named Ronnie always have a welcoming smile and even make suggestions on the best places to go to.  In providing directions on how to go to different attractions, Ronnie will also provide you a map to show you how to go to those places.

The room we have was very basic and small.  Not bad for a discounted rate of SGD 70 per night.  It has a small TV with only local channels in it, a double deck bed with pillows, bed sheet and blanket, air conditioner and smoke detector.  It does not even have a window!  Anyway, we don’t even mind since we spent most of our time outside.

Superb Hostel is just a 3-minute walk from Bugis MRT station and Victoria Street Bus terminal, near hospital, convenience store, malls, Mosque (if you’re a Muslim), Catholic Church (if you’re a Catholic), and bus going Johor Bahru in Malaysia.  Very ideal if you also plan to go to Legoland in Malaysia like I do.

Helpful map provided by Ronnie to get to Superb Hostel

Helpful map provided by Ronnie to get to Superb Hostel

This is part one of my Singapore On A Budget blog post.  For more information about Superb Hostel, please visit their website at http://superbhostel.com/.

 

*Tinakits*

PHILIPPINES’ OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS FOR 2015

My friend, are you planning a year before your trip? I do!  Why?  Because airfares are usually the cheapest if you book it months before your trip.  That is why even if we just ended the first half of 2014, I already have official trips in 2015!  Yes, that early.

Though I was surprised, I was more excited when the Philippine Government announces the official holidays for next year (2015).  This is not only to plan our trips early, but also for business projection and planning especially we will have eight (8) long weekends.

So my friends, here’s our holidays for 2015 as posted on our Government’s Official Gazette:

As usual, Muslim Holidays will still be determined which are Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha.

 

So my friend, let’s plan our trips together for next year! 🙂

 

 

 

*Tinakits*

 

 

DAKAK PARK AND BEACH RESORT: A Surprise at Dapitan City

Dakak Park and Beach Resort

Dakak Park and Beach Resort

My friend, when you were a kid, where do you wish to go?  We both want to go to Disney and any other fun theme parks overseas.   But sometimes, we were influenced with what we usually see on TV on the things we want to have or the places we want to go to.  Yup! Television is powerful.  That is why I also want to go to Dakak Beach Resort because of its commercial I always saw on the noontime show my family watched before. That is one of the reasons why B and I chose to go to Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao for our annual summer getaway.

When I booked a discounted flight with Philippine Airlines going Dipolog City, the gateway to Dapitan City & Dakak.  We stayed at Dapitan City for a day and stayed at Dakak Park and Beach Resort for 2 nights.

Based on their website and Facebook page, their package already includes hotel pick-up and drop off and one-day pass to their sister park named Gloria Fantasyland.  Since we stayed at Home Sweet Home by the Bay, we arranged that they pick us up there.

The Php 5,500 per day Dakak ‘Ta Bay package given to us was expensive compared to the resorts we availed in most of our trips.  We were somewhat forced to avail of that package for our contact said it was their cheapest, only to find out that they have a cheaper room.  Anyway, we got we have paid for and more because it includes free buffet breakfast daily, can use their swimming pools and Jacuzzi, free one-day pass to Gloria Fantasyland, and the surrounding area of our private villa was quiet but near their restaurants and pool area:

Our room from the outside.

Our room from the outside.

We got our own cable TV.  We only have 2 channels available, ABS-CBN and HBO Asia.

We got our own cable TV. We only have 2 channels available, ABS-CBN and HBO Asia.  We’re not complaining though.

Separate beds - one single and one king-size.

Separate beds – one single and one king-size, plus an extra mattress.  I think 4 people can sleep here.

We got our own rack, separate lavatory and personal fridge inside the bathroom.   Shower area and toilet were separated with curtains.

We got our own rack, separate lavatory and personal fridge inside the bathroom. Shower area and toilet were separated with curtains.

The pools evoke fun that we maximized it and swam there for 2 days:

Slides!  Watch your kids here for the water is 7 feet deep in this pool.

Slides! Watch your kids closely here for the water is 7 feet deep in this pool.

This is fun!!!

This is fun!!!

With fountains at the center and surrounding areas of the pool.  This has a separate section for kids.

With fountains at the center and surrounding areas of the pool. This has a separate section for kids.

Third pool with man-made falls, only 5-foot deep.

Third pool with man-made falls, only 5-foot deep.

B enjoyed dipping at one the pools after swimming on the beach.

B enjoyed dipping at one the pools after swimming on the beach.

The area was serene since the resort was far from the city center:

Pagoda in the middle of the resort which serves as their Function Room.

Pagodas in the middle of the resort which serve as their Function Rooms.

Serenity at the beach.

Serenity at the beach.

And the beach was heavenly! The sand was fine, water was calm and clear and the atmosphere was serene!  Perfect area to unwind and forget the busy work life we have back in Manila:

DSC_0355

Peaceful afternoon

Peaceful afternoon

Relaxing at the beach underneath a tree.

Relaxing at the beach underneath a tree.

We noticed that the waters were always calm.  Maybe because the beach is surrounded by cliffs and mountains which breaks the waves.  It is ideal if you want to swim at calm waters.  There is no stones at the beach nor at sea which means you can walk barefoot here.  The sand is cold to the feet, which is similar to the sands in Boracay, even if the sun is beaming hot .

Fine sands of Dakak.

Fine sands of Dakak.

Beach activities like kayaking, banana boat ride, jetski, and other activities were available for an additional fee which we did not asked nor availed since we want to relax and not do any strenuous activity.  But we did availed of their zipline adventure for Php 500 which includes a free 30-minute horseback ride going to the starting point. They claimed that they have the longest zipline in the country, and I guess they were right.  I think it took us more than a minute for us to land on the other end.  It was scary at first for our starting area was very high.  But once you’re released, you will enjoy the fresh breeze and the scenery of the mountains, its forest and the sea.

Our ride going to the Zipline area.

Our ride going to the Zipline area.

Almost ready :|

Almost ready 😐

Success! Here's my certificate :)

Success! Here’s my certificate 🙂

If you’re hungry, they have the Bamboo Restaurant that serves Filipino and international cuisines.  This is also the venue for their buffet breakfast and is facing the beach.

B at the juice and bread area of Bamboo Restaurant's Breakfast Buffet.

B at the juice and bread area of Bamboo Restaurant’s Breakfast Buffet.

 

So many food to choose from! yum :p

So many food to choose from! Yum :p

Us enjoying our hearty meal overlooking at the beach.

Us enjoying our hearty meal overlooking the beach.

But if you have enough money, try their Italian Restaurant named Il Patio.

Il Patio Ristorante Italiano

Il Patio Ristorante Italiano

Il Patio Ristorante Italiano is their fine dining restaurant.  It is surprising to know that there’s a semi-fine dining Italian Restaurant at the beach cause I was used to seeing crowded bars.  The price was quite heavy on the pocket but it was so worth it!  Their pizzas were cooked the traditional Italian way.  The pizza crust of our Margherita Pizza was soft and chewy.  We never ate any other pizza like that in Manila.  Their ravioli was al dente and full of cheese and basil inside.  The entire meal was so simple yet so full of fresh flavor of its ingredients!  So far, Il Patio is the best Italian Restaurant I have ever been!

Our Ravioli stuffed with cream cheese and basil, sauteed in butter, topped with tomato sauce.  Delicious!

Our Ravioli stuffed with cream cheese and basil, sauteed in butter, topped with simple tomato sauce. Delicious!

Pizza margherita - so simple but so delicious, too!

Pizza margherita – so simple but so delicious, too!

The resort was a surprise for me.  You can’t imagine that a quiet and laidback province like Zamboanga del Norte will have a world-class eco-resort hiding at the back of its mountains will full of modern amenities. Again, the fee we paid was super worth it!

Cheers to our successful summer getaway added in our list!

Cheers to our successful summer getaway added on our list!

This is my second part of our Dapitan Tour. Wait for my last post about availing of our free tickets to Gloria’s Fantasyland.

 

-Tinakits-