Financial Adviser: 5 Money-Saving Travel Hacks Everyone Can Learn from Dr. Jose Rizal

Our national hero was a seasoned traveler who knew how to manage his finances.

Jose Rizal is one of the most documented national heroes we have, due to the vast collection of letters and diaries he wrote during his lifetime.

An interesting theme that Rizal always talked about, aside from religion and politics, was his travel experiences.

In May 1882, at the young age of 21 years old, Rizal took an overseas trip to Barcelona, Spain without the knowledge of his parents to pursue further his medical studies.

Armed with a limited budget of P356, roughly about P100,000 in today’s money, courtesy of his brother Paciano, Rizal embarked on a 43-day journey via the Spanish steamer Salvadora.

During this long trip, on a series of stopovers along the way, Rizal visited several countries the first of which was Singapore. Afterwards, he then made stops in Colombo in Sri Lanka, Aden in Yemen, the Suez Canal, Naples in Italy and Marseille in France.

After Barcelona, he also traveled to Madrid, Paris, Austria, Italy and other places in Germany such as Heidelberg, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Berlin to do research and meet fellow Filipino reformers.

After three years, Rizal returned to Manila in 1887. By this time, his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, was already widely circulating in the Philippines.

Due to the threats on his safety by the friars in Calamba, Rizal was advised by his father, Francisco Mercado, to leave the country again.

In 1888, Rizal traveled to Hong Kong and Japan where he stayed for several weeks before he proceeded to the United States and England. It was during this time when Rizal began writing his second novel, El Filibusterismo, which he eventually published in Ghent, Belgium in 1891.


Rizal was a seasoned traveler who knew not only about the cultural differences of many countries but also the logistics of making traveling cost-efficient and effective.

How did Rizal manage his finances during his travels? How did he explore new places without spending too much? Here are the five traveling lessons everyone can learn from Dr Jose Rizal:

1. Know how to travel on your own

Traveling independently simply means that you don’t need to rely on anybody to get the most out of your trips. You can plan where you want to go at your own pacing and time.

Joining a group tour may not be necessarily cheap. Sometimes it may be more cost-efficient if you make your own travel arrangement because it is flexible and commission-free from operators.

When Rizal had a two-day stopover in Singapore in 1882, he wasted no time in exploring the town by himself. He took a horse-drawn carriage to bring him around where he hopped-off and on whenever there was an interesting place to see.

In his diary, Rizal wrote, “I made the carriage stop in front of a Chinese building decorated with dragons and paintings. I entered. Numerous beautiful plants and variety of flowers were planted with symmetry and order. I came out and got into the carriage to continue my tour.

“My driver pointed out to me an English building, then a French church. There I stopped and went down. Afterward, I saw a magnificent house of an American consul with the flag aloft.

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“My carriage crossed a beautiful hanging bridge and we reached a lively place. Beautiful European buildings, shops, show-windows. It is the Escolta of the town.”

2. Know how to budget your finances

Planning without a budget is like travelling without a roadmap.

A travel budget is a guide that helps you research and prioritize the places you plan to visit. Your choice of transportation, hotel accommodation and even food can affect your budget, not to mention the gifts and the pasalubong.

Rizal was a budget-conscious traveler who kept a daily record of all his expenses. In one of his stopovers to Point Galle in Sri Lanka, Rizal wrote in his diary that he spent $6 for Boat, $7 for Inn, $1 for postage and $1 for coach for total of $15.

While in Madrid, where he enrolled in the Colegio De San Carlos of Universidad Central, he also kept a book of his expenses where he detailed every single cent he spent.

Rizal also regularly reviewed his expenses. In his diary, he wrote, “I have spent much. Of the seventy-six pesos which I had brought from the Philippines, only twenty-eight or twenty nine pesos are left. Now, I have to buy a first-class ticket, which cost 12 pesos and pay for my luggage.”

3. Know how to reduce your accommodation costs

Accommodation can easily be one of your biggest travel expenses. One way to lower your lodging cost is to look for non-hotel alternatives where you can rent a place in someone else’s house.

When you look for accommodation, you must remember that the farther you stay away from the city, the cheaper it becomes, but you also need to consider that you may spend more on transport costs and the longer time you will need to commute.


Jose Rizal always chose to stay near the city center where he could easily access a train station without spending too much.

In 1889 when Rizal arrived in Paris, he stayed in a small apartment at No. 24 Rue Saulnier, which was just a few minutes away by foot from the Gare La Est train station.

A few weeks after, Rizal moved again, presumably to a cheaper place at Hotel Dela Pensee, which is five minutes away from his previous apartment.

And within two months, Rizal again transferred to two more nearby hotels until his friend Valentin Ventura offered him to stay in his apartment at No. 45 Rue de Maubeuge for free, which is in the same district.

Rizal was always looking for opportunities to save on accommodation. He once told his parents when he was staying in Heidelberg:

“I am living in a boarding house. The cost of living is not cheap as I expected, for room, food, service and light cost me something like 28 pesos per month. Undoubtedly, it is very much cheaper than Paris. I intend to change house if I can find a cheaper one.”

4. Know how to pay for value and convenience

There is a difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Being frugal is simply being less wasteful and more conscious with spending while being cheap is being stingy with money who prefers to buy anything at the lowest price possible regardless of quality.

Jose Rizal may have been a conscious spender, but he knew how to enjoy and pay for convenience.


In 1882 when Rizal stayed in Marseille, he checked into a 5-star hotel and wrote: “I went to Grand Hotel Noailles located on Rue Cannabiere. This is one of the best hotels, if not the best, in Marseille, with all the comforts, carpeted marble staircase, hydraulic elevators for going up and down all the floors without having to lift one foot.

“The servants are attired in dress coat with white necktie, clean and elegant, carpeted rooms with dressing-tables, velvet chairs with spring, electric bells, imperial bedsteads, in short, excellent service. I had one of these rooms for four francs a day.” Rizal added.

Again in 1886, when Rizal arrived in Berlin, he also checked into a high class hotel and wrote in his diary, “I stopped at the Central Hotel where for three marks I had a room on the third floor with light, heat, service and admission to the Wintergarten, which is really not expensive, considering that the service is good and the hotel is beautiful and first class.”

5. Know how to learn and experience life

Traveling is more than sightseeing. It is about learning and discovering new perspectives about life.

When you travel, you get to understand the culture and history of different people. You can learn to speak different languages, taste different cuisine and live a different lifestyle.

Jose Rizal visited museums, old buildings and historical parks to learn about the culture and heritage of every country he traveled to.

In 1883 when Rizal visited the museum of painting and sculpture of living artists in Luxembourg Palace, he wrote to his parents, “I believe that to study this museum well, one year, going there every day, would not suffice; in the superficial way I do it, three or four days are enough. It is open to the public and admission is free.”


Rizal also visited Museum of Artillery where he saw the armours and guns of famous kings and generals of France. He told his parents, “It seems incredible but the costumes and weapons of the savages of the small islands of Borneo are found there but those of the Philippines are not even remembered.”

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