Depending on what you’re doing and where you’re from Baguio may seem more or less expensive. For visitors coming from province in the Philippines prices will not seem like a bargain other than maybe the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables at the local market (Palengke). By comparison to Manila or other major cities most prices will likely seem to be similar or less. For foreigners coming from wealthier countries the everything may seem like it’s a bargain and from less wealthy countries prices will likely seem similar with some things costing less and other more.
Baguio has plenty lots of ATMs throughout the city center area and at all major malls. Like the rest of the Philippines the maximum individual withdrawal is 10,000php. You should be able to make multiple withdrawals though from the same ATM. Allowing you to withdraw up to around 50,000php per day.
For local cards ATM fees should typically cost less than 20php, and hopefully they will be free if you can use your own bank.
Most ATM cards issued outside of the Philippines will work at most Bank ATMs. The fee for using a foreign ATM card at an ATM machine is 250php per withdrawal. So unless there is a good reason not to, it’s best to withdraw the 10,000php maximum each time you do a withdrawal. Keep in mind that your own bank may also charge you a fee, and that the exchange rate may not be particularly as good.
Exchanging foreign currency in Baguio is easy and so far the rates have been fair. At one time there were three different places run by SM Baguio that you could make you exchanges. The Global Pinoy Center shut down recently though. The exchange in front of the SM Grocery Store is still open and you should be able to exchange in the SM Department Store also.
There is an exchange at the Save More grocery store that’s in the basement of the Cedar Peak condominium.
Banks and money transfer offices will often also be able to exchange more commonly used foreign currencies.
If you’re exchanging a large amount and can spare the time, then it may be worth checking a number of places to determine where has the best exchange rate.
At most place you will need to write down the the serial number of each bill you’re exchanging. So, it’s generally more convenient and easier to exchange larger bills. Plus some smaller bill might not even be excepted for exchange.
Something to keep in mind it that certain currencies like USD may be given preferential treatment in terms of how good the exchange rate is.
Be aware that older bills that have been replaced by a newer version may be rejected for exchanging or you may be offered a lower exchange rate for them.
There are numerous money transfer establishments that are common around the Philippines and internationally in Baguio. If the transfer is coming from an international source expect that the party sending will pay a fee, you will have a fee deducted and you will be given a poor exchange rate. So it’s better to avoid this option unless it’s really necessary.
Using Credit Cards and Debit Cards for Purchases
Many of the larger business establishments except debit and credit cards.
The cost to use cards issued in the Philippines should be free to the buyer, though some merchants may charge less if you pay in cash.
Foreign issued cards will almost for sure have a poorer exchange rate and possibly fees. Depending on your card it may or may not be better to withdraw the maximum at an ATM. Withdrawing small amounts from and ATM with a foreign card will almost for sure be worse than just using the card for a purchase. Because at the maximum withdrawal amount of 10,000php you already give up 2.5 %, but if you withdraw 1000php that jumps to effectively being a 25% fee. Sometime you will be give a choice of whether to pay in Philippine pesos, or in your local currency. You will need to decide which is the best choice for you own card and situation. Unfortunately the best choice isn’t always clear. So, it may be worth contacting you card issuer to find out how they handle the transaction before your trip.
- Free – You can stay at a place you own, or at a friend or relatives place. Couchsurfing is another option for free accommodations. Keep in mind that free isn’t always free. You may end up spending some amount of money on things you might not if you’re just paying for you accommodations. This may take the form of buying food, taking them along with you to places you visit and covering their costs, or getting them a gift as a way of thanking your host. None of which are necessarily required, but you may want to, feel obligated to or even possibly be expected to do one of more of those at your expense.
- Low Cost – There are a number of hostels, and transient houses that can be quite affordable. Even some AirBnB’s are in the lower price range. Camping isn’t common in Baguio although during big events people do often camp in Burnham park, and there is are public restroom with showers at Burnham. Check with the Baguio City government before you set up a tent intending to camp though. Cost will vary depending where you stay and whether you’re paying for an individual or for a room for more than one person. Expect to pay 250php to 1000php for low cost accommodations.Midrange – Most AirBnBs and many hotels will fall into a midrange price of 1000php to 3500php. The number of options at this level makes it important to spend more time comparing. The quality of accommodation can also vary widely for the same price. For midrange accommodations the location for most visitors will be important. If location matters to you, then make sure to look at where the places you are considering are on a map.
- Luxury – Most luxury accommodations will be in a hotel and will typically cost 3500php to 6000php per night plus tax. Some meals and other things may be included or not. So, make sure to read the information well or ask before booking. There are luxury accommodations available through private owners, with many on AirBnB. Be sure to pay attention to extra fees like cleaning before you commit to booking. A high cleaning fee may not make much difference in the daily rate if you are staying for more days, but could make a lot of difference if you’re staying fewer days.
There are no trikes in Baguio. Jeepneys will be the lowest cost form transportation unless you are going short distances with 3 or more people. Then a taxi might actually cost less. Pretty much all Jeepney fares will cost less than 20php per person. A short ride in a taxi can be as low as 40php. Even most of the longer taxi rides around town will typically cost less than 150php. The taxis drivers in Baguio are nice and helpful. They have a reputation of being honest and will not ask for more than the meter rate, and will give you proper change. Try and be considerate though, and do your best to not to give them a large bill for an inexpensive ride. In Baguio you can use a mobile phone app called Grab to call a taxi and pay a small fee over the meter of about 25php for this service.
Filipino; students, elderly and people with disabilities will can ride in taxis and jeepneys at a discounted fare. Saving approximately 20%. Identification as proof of age or status may be required.
Self driving in Baguio will be comfortable for most experienced drivers. Traffic varies widely though depending on the time of day and time of year and can somethings get heavy. Baguio has a license plate number coding scheme which restricts access during the daytime to the center part of Baguio. So, cars with plates ending with the following numbers cannot be in the restricted areas on these associated days; 1 & 2 – Mondays, 3 & 4 – Tuesdays, 5 & 6 – Wednesdays, 7 & 8 – Thursdays, 9 & 0 – Fridays. Parking might be difficult in some places, but most place will not charge for parking. SM being the exception. Charging about 40php to use their parking garage, even for scooters and motorcycles.
Car and van rentals are available in Baguio. This may be a good option if you are traveling around as a group or are trying to go to a lot of different place in one day. Renting a car or van may also be good if you are using Baguio as a base or stopover to travel to places that are outside of Baguio. Places like Northern Blossom Flower Farm in Atok, Sagada, Banaue Rice Terraces.
Hiring a driver with a car or van is another option that is worth considering. Services based in Baguio typically cost less than ones in Manila or other places. So if you are hiring a driver to take you to or from Baguio keep this in mind. Having a driver will make it quicker and easier to tour around because you won’t need to worry about parking. They will let you off and handle the parking then wait for you to return or call them to be picked back up. It is customary to buy your driver meriendas (light meals). Tipping is completely optional, and appropriate if you driver does a good job and takes really good care of you. Even a small tip is generally well appreciated.
- Low Cost – In the barangays (neighborhoods) finding Filipino rice and ulam meals for 50php or less is common.
- Midrange – There are many dining establishments all around Baguio that offer different cuisines with lots of menu choices in the 80php to 200php range.
- Fine Dining – Most of the menu will be in the 200php to 400php range. Many still have some menu items under 200php so it’s possible enjoy even the finest establishments with a midrange budget. The most expensive entrees and fanciest buffets rarely exceed 1500php.
- Free – Most parks are free, and a good number of popular spots are also free to visit and enjoy, only costing money if you buy things or pay for certain activities. The wood carving village and mines view for example only cost if you decide to pay for something. There are also numerous hiking trails in Baguio that are very nice and completely free to enjoy.
- Low Cost – There are tons of things to do in Baguio that don’t cost much that fall in the 50php to 100php range. Like bicycle rental, bumper cars and other activities at Burnham Park.
- Midrange – Many things fall in a 100pho to 250php range. With some being more or less expensive per head, depending on how many are participating together. Midrange activities include boat rental, hot springs, rollerblading, escape and mystery adventures.
- Expensive – Some things will tend to cost 250php or more per person. Some examples; zipline and high adventure activities, paintball, horseback riding, mountain climbing tours, pool access, golf.
For some travelers even the luxury and most expensive prices will be a deal, but even a traveller on a budget can usually have a wonderful time in Baguio at a reasonable cost.