— travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams —

travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

Alright, I get that secondhand clothing is not for everyone. Some people cringe at the thought of wearing clothes previously owned by strangers, while others simply think it’s beneath them. (That’s okay; I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.) For me, though, living in a country where temperatures rarely go below 20°C, “pre-loved” clothing was a no-brainer — there was just no way I was spending a fortune on clothing I would never be able to wear at home. (Also, come to think of it, after blowing my travel fund on two KLM tickets, I didn’t have a fortune to spend on winter clothing.)

If you’ve got a fall/winter trip on the horizon, here’s why you should consider a side trip or two (or ten) to your local ukay-ukay.

1. The quality can be pretty good.

UK_01My favorite thrift store find is probably the BCBG Max Azria trench coat I spotted in the PHP 50 (USD 1.15) rack. Honestly, it was a size 0 and a little too tight for comfort around the shoulders but I wore it anyway because my niece said it made me look like a detective. (Hah!)

Not all thrift stores are created equal, so you’ll have to look around, but where I shop, each batch of clothes — there are new arrivals every 2 weeks or so — usually has a generous sprinkling of decent brands like Zara, Mango, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Forever 21 and Uniqlo. And it’s not even about the brands themselves; you can tell the clothes are well-made by the fabric, the cut, and the stitching.


2. Ukay-ukay clothes are really cheap.

This is stating the obvious, of course, but sometimes it isn’t obvious just how cheap. My go-to coat on my last trip was a versatile, double-breasted trench that I got for only PHP 20 (USD 0.46). Considering it was water-repellent, well-made, and roomy enough to accommodate any number of layers underneath yet still figure-flattering (as far as my figure could be flattered, anyhow), it was a downright steal at that price.


As for footwear, my Uggs admittedly look worn to death, but they stood between my feet and frostbite for only PHP 100 (USD 2.30) a pair.



3. The variety is great.

It isn't obvious but I actually have about 5 layers going on here.
It isn’t obvious but I actually have about 5 layers going on here.

Puffer, quilted, trench, chic, sporty, preppy, edgy, black, white, neon, wool, faux leather, faux fur — whatever floats your boat and keeps you warm, you’re likely to find it at the ukay-ukay.

Moreover, dressing for the cold is all about layering. You can get your base, middle, and outer layers from one shop, and because they’re cheap, you can buy more. (Several thin layers can keep you warm better than 1 really thick layer.)


4. You can leave them behind without a second thought.

This white skirt -- actually the bottom half of a knit dress -- is still in Rome for all I know.
This white skirt — actually the bottom half of a knit dress — is still in Rome for all I know.

Winter clothing tend to be bulky (duh) and heavy, and it’s no fun carrying bulky, heavy things around. Solution? Wear ’em and leave ’em. I left stuff I wouldn’t need again at the hotel/hostel/B&B/train/airport, and because they were all cheap things I got from a thrift store, it didn’t feel like throwing money away. Plus: I got to free up space in my suitcase for souvenirs. (I did feel a little sad leaving my ubiquitous white puffer at Schiphol — we’d been through so much together, after all — but sometimes you just gotta do a Queen Elsa and let it go.)


Here’s what you should get at the ukay-ukay


Snug tops that can make a great base or second layer (over thermals). These don’t have to be in mint condition, but do keep in mind you might have to strip down to this layer when you go into temperature-controlled places like museums, so make sure they’re not too worn out either.

Slightly looser clothes that can be worn over a base layer but can still fit under a coat if necessary. These can be cardigans, pullovers, shirts, even dresses. If it’s warm(ish) outside, you’ll want to take off your coat, so pick some nice-looking pieces.

Coats that can protect you from both cold and condensation (i.e. rain). I got a white puffer coat and a black fleece-lined quilted coat for my trip. One is enough, really, but you might want to get two, too, just to have variety in your photos. (Instead of looking like you wore the same thing over and over again, you’ll at least look like you wore the same two things over and over again. World. Of. Difference.) (Not really but hey…)

Some thrift shops also sell scarves — go for colorful ones if the rest of your wardrobe has more classic leanings — and shoes. Boots are worth buying new, but if you spot a pretty good pre-owned pair, make sure they are wide enough to accommodate several layers of tights, leggings, pants, and/or socks.

Last two tips:

  1. A lot of ukay-ukay shops nowadays send out SMS alerts when they have a new crop of clothes coming in, so don’t forget to sign up before leaving the store.
  2. Don’t give up if you don’t find anything right away. Patience is the key to finding great stuff (in the ukay-ukay as in life). Good luck and happy travels!

28 Responses

    1. Thank you! I think depende din sa ukay-ukay shop. Yung mga new arrivals sa shop na malapit sa amin, medyo relatively mahal, P200 per piece, pero maganda din talaga yung quality usually. Tapos may discounts na yung old stock, until nagiging P20. Swerte lang talaga yung isang coat ko na P20, siguro wala lang talagang nakapansin. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  1. I can’t believe you got your jackets at such a great bargain. Nothing can beat those prices.

    When I was still living in Manila, I used to buy my winter wear at SM. I don’t know if they still sell those there, but the prices were not too bad for new stuff. I ended up donating the jackets to the clothing recycling drop at my destination when I was about to leave.

  2. Great post! I am a big fan of second hand too, you can find awesome gem there! which ones would you recommend? would love to be as lucky as you were 😉 Enjoy my country (and Netherlands!)

    1. Hi Stephanie. Oh I loved France! I feel kind of guilty saying that because I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, but I truly adored Paris and Nice and Marseille and I would love to go back and explore other areas in France.

      Do you know Piazza Elesia on the Talamban road? It’s right before Silver Hills on the opposite side of the road. There’s a secondhand clothing store there, on the second floor, above Rose Pharmacy — that’s where I usually shop. They have a sister store near BTC, in the RCBC building near the flyover. I haven’t been there yet but you could try to look there if the location is more convenient for you.

  3. thanks so much, will definitely explore…
    And next time you pass by Paris, try to save a day to visit my hometown, Fontainebleau, hardly 40mn by train: forest, golf,castel.. and one of my fav resto 😉 Let me know 🙂

  4. I love your trench coat and I can’t believe you got that for 20 pesos. I really don’t have a specific ukay-ukay that I can visit so do you have any recommended ukay-ukay that I can visit here in Metro Manila? I’m hunting for a trench coat 🙂

  5. hello! your blog is a big help for me. do you know some other ukay ukay stores in cebu city? with affordable prices like what you got? thanks.

    1. Hi Regina! I’m only familiar with the ukay ukay shops near Talamban. There’s one across Gaisano Country Mall and another one in the RCBC Building near BTC. There’s also one sa intersection sa Mandaue highway and AS Fortuna, right across Jollibee. Then naay another ukay-ukay across Gaisano Capital sa Casuntingan. And then there’s the ukay-ukay shop above Rose Pharmacy in Piazza Elesia, on the Talamban Road after sa eskina Cabancalan, just before Silver Hills. Mao ra nah akong nailhan pero I’m sure naa pa’y daghan. 🙂

  6. Going to China this January. Would you be willing to sell me some of your winter coats? Hehe. I got some of my winter coats from ukay too when I went to HK/Macau earlier this year and it was too cold there despite the absence of snow. PM me some photos at 09063039336 if you’d be willing to sell some. 🙂

    1. Hi Cat! Sorry I don’t have coats for sale…usually the ones that I don’t love so much, I leave in the country where I used them, to make space in my luggage, and the ones that I do love, I try to keep for next time hehe. But ukay shops tend to have a good enough selection, you just kind of need to have patience and make several visits, especially when they have new arrivals. Sometimes I go home empty-handed but sometimes I get lucky with nice stuff when I go to ukay shops. Good luck and have a great trip to China! 🙂

  7. Hello. Great tips. May i know what month you went to Netherlands and France? I’m going on end Nov to first week December. Not sure how cold is cold during that time of the year. Its my first time. Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi J!

      Wheee, first time! Exciting!! 🙂 I was in Amsterdam on a January, and France I’ve tried October and January. In October, it’s not yet too cold during daytime but it can get chilly in the evening. In January, it can get REALLY cold, especially when it’s raining, and you even have to make sure that your feet are properly insulated. So I guess November to December will be in between, but probably leaning more towards cold.

      Invest in thermals. And then dress in layers so you can take off and add on as necessary. The thermals in Uniqlo are nice. Also, try to get a good idea of the material they use in thermals, because sometimes you can get lucky and find one in an ukay-ukay. 🙂

      Good luck!

  8. asa na ukay ukayan sa cebu ka nakapalit? i will be assigned in romania for a year and mahal jud kau ang mga winter clothes sa mall….tabang…huhuhu

    1. Hi Fritzie! Sa Piazza Elesia ko usually mangukay. It’s in Talamban — if you’re going to Talamban, sa right side sya sa road, after sa eskina Cabancalan, just before sa Silver Hills, kanang naay Rose Pharmacy. Sa ibabaw sa Rose ang ukay-ukay. Di na kaayo nindot ilang stuff lately and mahal if New Arrival (around P200) but still cheaper than if you buy cold weather gear sa malls and if magtyaga ka ug browse kay naa ra pod ka’y makit-an na nice stuff.

  9. Hi. Would you know where exactly an ukay-ukay across Country Mall? Unsa ang name sa store? 😀 Thanks a lot sa imong blog, you helped a lot! Going to Korea 2 weeks from now and hoping to find really cheap winter clothing.

    1. Hi! I haven’t been there recently and bisa’g unsaon nako try, di jud nako ma-remember ang name (haha!) but IIRC ka-linya ra sya sa Rose Pharmacy, duol ra jud sa stairs sa skywalk. Good luck! 🙂

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