It's Only A Dollar

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There is a common mistake many foreigners all too often make, upon arriving in the Philippines. I know some of you are going to think of this as me being cheap, but I am not. Others, hopefully anyway, will realize what I'm about to say here. That is, you aren't in your country anymore. Once you are in Cebu, or elsewhere in the Philippines, do your best to get out of the western mindset of thinking in terms of USD, or your local currency. If you do, you will save yourself tons of money over the course of your trip.

 

Once you get off the plane, do your best to think only in terms of Philippine Pesos. I know it is very difficult at first. However, in time, it becomes much easier to do. Having been here for over four years now, I have to convert back when someone starts talking in terms of USD, rather than Php. But, as far as conversions go, to make it easier for visitors, roughly estimate Php 430 for every $10.00 USD. The Piso to USD changes often, but this is close enough.

 

Now, no matter how much money you bring with you, if you have that "it's only a dollar" attitude, you are going to spend a lot more money than you should after arriving here. Just because you are here on vacation doesn't mean you should not care about the value you get for your dollar, or in this case Piso. Too many foreigners go on vacation with the thought that, "We're on vacation honey! Let's live it up!"

 

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend more money on a vacation, especially after working a year (or several), to save to fly here. However, instead of being taken advantage of by paying far too much for a product or service, why not get the best value for your hard earned money? Besides, when buying something from Filipinos, especially in the market or from other 'older' businesses, vendors expect you to negotiate with them. It's the Filipino way to do business. In fact, they will look at you as though you are a fool if you don't at least try to negotiate with them.

 

Many things here are typically cheaper than in the states, especially with the exchange rate being what it is presently (Php 40 / $1 USD). But, upon flying in to Cebu (and it being a good chance that it's your first trip here), you may see something for Php 40. You then may say, "Well, that's only a dollar, I'll take it!" Of course, after purchasing it and walking away, you aren't the only one smiling. Why? Because that vendor just sold you something which would normally have been sold to a Filipino for Php 10 - 15, not Php 40. So, do enjoy your smile. I have a tube of K-Y jelly to go along with it. They sell K-Y for about Php 370 at Mercury Drugstores, locally.

 

My primary concern here, is that you have an enjoyable trip while visiting this wonderful country. However, at the same time you can have a lot more to go back home with (goods, gifts, or extra cash), if you do spend wisely.

 

You know, I remember when I came here on my first trip in January, 1992. Back then, I flew over with a Fil-Am couple who lived in the US. Although we did not see each other during the whole trip here, we did end up, ironically, booked on the same flight back to the US. While waiting in the airport on Mactan, we started comparing notes on what we spent while here for three weeks. During the time this guy was here with his wife, they had spent well over $5,000 USD.

 

During that same time frame, I spent a total of $1200. But, I purchased a camera for $400 prior to flying back to the US. So, the actual total I spent was $1600 USD over the course of three weeks. I had only come with $2000, but took $400 back with me, something I never dreamed I would have done. Of course, I wasn't thrifty either. I was just spending wisely, as I had been told it was "very expensive" to be in the Philippines. Boy, was that inaccurate information! To help keep things in perspective, the exchange rate of the day was Php 26 / $1 USD.

 

You see, there is another reason for not just paying whatever price is asked of you, at the time of making a purchase. If you pay Php 50 for a product or service that is only worth Php 25, for example, you will ultimately screw others who live here, other visitors, and ultimately yourself (upon your next return to the Philippines). What I'm saying here is, once you allow yourself to be screwed, the vendor or merchant sees this and will start doing the same thing to everyone who comes here, who is obviously a foreigner anyway. (Of course, don't think giving someone a bad deal is limited to only foreigners, as it's not. Filipinos from other areas who visit here are can be taken advantage of as well. They are still 'out-of-towners'.) Either way, in time this hurts us all, foreigners who live here, and others who visit here, long after you have gone.

 

So, while visiting the Philippines, please do your best to make sure you get a good deal on the service or goods that you buy. If you have a Filipino you can trust, you will be well looked after. However, if you have one that you only 'think' you can trust... well, that tube of K-Y is still available.

 

Check "Learn The Ropes", for more information.

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Revised: 09/16/13 13:38:55 +0700