Tips for Traveling to the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7000 islands and is located in South East Asia. It brings together the East and the West into a fusion of Christianity (the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia), amazing food, and quirky methods of transportation. The scenery on the islands is spectacular – I swam in the warmest and clearest water that I have ever had the privilege to step foot in. To top it off, the prices in the Philippines are extremely cheap, making it a top destination for backpackers. It’s slightly less explored by tourists than Thailand and Cambodia. Here are my top tips for traveling to the Philippines.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: Manila
Your journey will undoubtedly start off in the mega metropolis of Manila, where you should be aware the dirty roads and chaotic traffic may hamper your first impression. Look beyond this, the people are amazingly friendly and helpful. During my initial week there I stumbled upon some great surprises including Zumba in the park and a Zombie Race!
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 1. Start your Journey in Manila
Don’t miss Intramuros (the walled city) which is the old town and historic center of Manila. At the time when the city was a Spanish colony, Intramuros was the city of Manila itself.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 2. Plan a day to visit Intramuros
The main reason why people travel via Manila is because of the cheap inbound international flights. I flew from London Heathrow to Manila for just £285, although I think that was a website glitch or something, but I’m not complaining! Once you are in Manila, you can use this as a hub and it’s cheap and easy to navigate from there.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 3. Stay at Z Hostel
When you arrive in Manila, I highly recommend Z Hostel as a base. It’s got a rooftop terrace and I met some great people there. They offer tours and help with onward travel. This is one of the top tips for traveling to the Philippines.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 4. Eat at Jollibee!
Although the Philippines is in Asia, there are elements of Western culture. You will experience the joys of Jollibee, which is the Filipino version of Mcdonald’s or KFC with a sweet twist to some of the dishes (gotta love that chicken Joy!) You can also stop by at 7/11 to grab a coke and charge your smartphone!
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: Getting out of Manila
Ultimately, to make the most out of the Philippines you need to get out of Manila, and the only real way of fully exploring the Philippines is by taking internal flights. They are easy to book online just a few days in advance. I recommend using Air Asia and Cebu Pacific for your internal flights around the Philippines. They are cheap and reliable – I paid around $70 for my flight to Palawan just 2 days in advance.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 5. Book your internal flights a few days to a week in advance
From Manila, there are a few key places that you should explore. I recommend taking an internal flight to Puerta Princesa to explore Palawan. Boracay is a popular tourist destination, but it is becoming overcrowded and polluted. I also recommend internal flights to Iloilo to explore Panay and Negros, and the ever-popular island of Cebu. Book your flights with time!
Check your government website for advice in advance. At the time I traveled, the UK foreign office was advising against travel to Mindanao.
Did you know that you can also do a liveaboard in Philippines? Discover some amazing Philippino liveaboards.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: Public Transport of Manila
One of the things that I most enjoyed was the variety of public transport. You have to ride a Jeepney in the Philippines. They are old WW2 Jeeps converted into mini buses with seats facing each other. Make sure that you have some change (which other customers will pass to the driver for you!) and tap on the roof when you want to get off. There is a great app that you can download called Sakay, and it will plan your routes for the Jeepneys.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 6. Embrace Filipino Public Transport
I also really loved the Tricycles – they are very reasonably priced (make sure that you pre-agree and negotiate the price) and easy to use. They are different on every island, and I absolutely loved the ones on Palawan! This is one of the top tips for traveling to the Philippines
How Long Should I Spend in the Philippines?
Overall, there are amazing sites to see in the Philippines. As it is such an extensive group of islands I recommend at least 3-6 weeks there, although you can see quite a lot in a fortnight with internal flights.
Tips for traveling to the Philippines: 7. Spend at least 3 weeks in the Philippines
If you can, time your visit with one of the festivals. The street festivals in the Philippines offer amazing entertainment and costumes, with less of security issues than the Rio Carnival. I had an amazing time at the Maskara festival in Bacolod!
So remember, it’s more fun in the Philippines!