The Philippines Travel Guide
Capital city – Manila
Official Language(s) – Filipino and English
Local currency – Philippine Pesos (₱)
An archipelago situated in South-East Asia, The Philippines has been the hottest destinations for tourists and travelers alike in the past few years as most discover the gem it has to offer to its visitors. Boasting with over seven thousand islands and impeccable flora and fauna, the number of things to do in The Philippines is indeed rich and worth the visit.
With the country’s vast influence from neighboring country and its more than three decades of Spanish influence, you’ll certainly see the mixture of cultures and the Filipinos unique rendition of each one that wraps around the local’s daily lives. For instance, Catholic religion plays a big part in every Filipino’s daily since the Spaniards introduced the religion. You’ll also see tons of buildings with European inspired facades which will baffle you to see how different the Philippines is from the rest of South East Asia.
WHAT IS THE PHILIPPINES WELL-KNOWN FOR?
- The Philippines flora and fauna is phenomenal as the island is blessed with beautiful rainforests and extensive coastlines which serve as home to a diverse range of animals.
- With over seven thousand islands scattered around, you’ll certainly find some of the unique beaches you’ll ever stumble in your life. Also, the majestic beauty that lies beneath the Philippine sea is worth exploring, as well.
- You must probably know about Manny Pacquaio? He is a famous light-weight boxer that swept the boxing ring to his glory until his recent defeat that made the boxer settle back in the Philippines to be part of the local government.
When is the best time to visit? Learn about the weather in the Philippines by season
Located just beneath the equator, the climate in the Philippines is tropical meaning the weather can be humid, hot, and rainy.
HOT AND DRY SEASONS (SUMMER)
If you visit around March to May, you’ll experience over 40°C dry heat weather in the Philippines as this is the country’s hottest time of the year.
MONSOON SEASON (RAINY)
The Philippines do experience an extensive amount of rain around June, and it extends through October. Around this period of the year is the rainy season thus the country might also experience several strong typhoons. It is highly recommended not to visit the Philippines around this time of the year as you’ll most likely see your hotel room the country itself.
COLD SEASON (DRY/HIGH SEASON)
Don’t be fooled by the cold season as the weather in the Philippines will still be hot especially for western visitors! The temperature can drop to 25°C and can rise to 35°C, this is considered cold for the locals but just the perfect weather for those who want to explore the country without burning. That said, cold season in the Philippines starts from November and lasts until February.
Best ways to travel to The Philippines
Since The Philippines is a composition of many islands, plane and boats are your only option to get to the main islands. That said, there are many airlines that fly to and from the main international airports from North and Southern islands. Flying domestically is also a good option if you want to see different places but there are many areas in the Philippines you can only access via boat and local public transports. Also, booking an all-in Philippine travel package is another idea if you want to save yourself some hassle of figuring out how to get around on your own.
TRAVELING BY PLANE
There are mainly airlines that travel to the Philippines. The main airport of entry, if you’re landing in the capital, is Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Air China, Qatar Airlines, KLM, and much more. Most international and domestic flights leave from this airport. However, some other flights also leave from Clark International Airport which is located outside Pampanga.
TRAVELING BY BOAT OR FERRIES
If you’re traveling from neighboring country’s islands, there’s also an option to travel by boat or ferries. These are mostly luxury cruise ships but if you’re hoping to, let’s say, travel to the Philippines from Malaysia or Indonesia, there’s always the option of taking local cruises that can take you to some areas at the southern most part of the country. Nevertheless, flying is not expensive between South East Asian countries so if you have a time schedule, it is always advisable to fly instead of taking the boat from other countries.
Best ways to travel around The Philippines Islands
Traveling around the Philippines using the public transport can be a pain in the bum for travelers who are used to an efficient transportation system. The main reason for this is that the roads in some of the rural areas of the country are not developed just yet but if you’re traveling around Manila, and main big cities such as Davao and Cebu, the public transport might be a little easier to get by.
However, the main culprit is the amount of traffic, so you’ll likely to spend most of your time in the vehicle for the most part of the day. That said, planning your route to each destination you wish to visit is essential! Plus, starting your day early is a good plus as most traffic starts around 8 AM when most workers flock their way to their offices, you must start your day before the busy time.
Needless to say, in most big cities jeepneys, buses and taxis are the main way of transport while in villages and rural areas, these are the main way to get around:
If you’re courageous enough to venture an epic adventure, then you must brave the Philippines traffic as the roads can vary in quality from one village to another. Mots express and motor ways have good quality roads but in some rural areas, you’ll likey to stumble upon dirt roads or poorly paved asphalt roads. It is often common to just use the public transport as it is deemed easier and faster and the locals can help you to get around.
However, the opportunity to drive around is also a possibility but you must be sure of the roads you take and bring a map with you (if that even helps) as the dwindling roads around the Philippines can either be straight forward or an absolute chaos and you’ll get your ass lost within minutes of driving just because of a wrong turn.
Don’t fret though, Filipinos are nice folks and they’ll likely to show you the right way. Just make sure that they don’t like to point with their fingers, so you have to ask them to tell you clearly if you need to go straight or turn left and right.
Pedi-cabs are man powered tricycles.
Also known as the horse carriage, some parts of Manila and Vigan still uses kalesa as transport, but this is mainly for attractions rather than a way to get around.
Perhaps the most iconic thing about the Philippines is this way of transport around the main lands. It is also a popular transportation choice for most commuters are there are tons of Jeepneys in motor ways which you can just wave and jump in. Plus, they are deemed “cool” by some foreigners as they are usually covered in different sorts of religious or pop-culture photographs to appeal to commuters. The only downside about riding a jeepney is the fact that sometimes it can be overcrowded and hot. But for short distance trips, it is fine.
a roofed side car bolted to a motorcycle hence making it “three wheeled” is the most popular option for commuters who want to get deeper into villages and small towns.
BY MINI BUS/VAN
Popular in Manila, mini buses are not exactly a bus. It is an air-conditioned van or FX that can take passengers from certain destination depots that are located in different areas of the country. Also, make sure you say “Para po” meaning, please stop or knock on the roof to signal the driver that your stop is nearing.
Travel cost breakdown: How expensive or cheap is The Philippines?
There are varieties of accommodation in the Philippines from hotels to apartments, and tourists don’t have to worry where to stay. There are also guest houses and home stays for those who would like to know more about the local citizen’s cultures and traditions!
Hotels in the Philippines with beautiful views, accessible to the city and luxurious amenities would probably cost around 20USD to 10USD per night for deluxe and twin room for single person or a couple. However, prices may increase every peak season.
Hostels are way cheaper than hotels. For those who are travelling on a budget or for a group of tourist from 15 and above. Prices would probably cost around 10USD to 50USD per person per night.
The average cost of food for one day in the Philippines is 13USD per person. Most meals you’ll find in most big cities compromises of one serving of rice, a serving of protein, dipping sauce, a clear broth soup and some stir fried veggies such as “ginisang kangkong” (stir fried morning glory) or “chapsuey” (stir fried mixed veggies). It is a custom to eat rice for each meal but for those who are hoping to get westernized food, there are tons of restaurants in the Philippines that serves meals such as pizza, pasta, and steaks but you’ll have to pay a little bit more in comparison to eating local delicacies.
The easiest way to travel the Philippines is by bus, taxi, and metro and it is the fastest way to travel and explore the beauty of the place. The estimated cost for a ticket on a bus starts from 12USD depending on the distance of every destination. Be aware that the transportation cost varies between each destination and the bus, jeepney, and tricycle fare absolutely depends on the gas prices. Also, note that the transaction is often per ride and round trip ticket is not available.
TOURS IN THE PHILIPPINES
Day tours in the Philippines would probably cost around 20USD to 100USD depending on the type of tour that a tourist would avail. Sightseeing tours are the cheapest since it is most likely traveling with no activities and it’s just for taking pictures. A 20USD to 100USD budget on a tour would already include hiking, diving, swimming, and sailing.
Activities you can do in The Philippines
If you happen to visit the Philippines around the annual hot air balloon festival in Angeles, Pampanga (Luzon Island), there are tons of aerial sports activities happening in the area such as sky diving, hot air balloon ride, and many others! The festival is held around January and February so keep an on that because not only you get to see such beautiful display hot air balloons, but you get to participate in some of them, as well.
Since this marvelous country has tons of bodies of water surrounding it, it is almost a shame not to visit any good beaches while you visit the Philippines. If you do visit, however, you’ll be surprised by a number of water activities you can do and one of it is board sailing! You can participate in such activities in islands such as Boracay, Subic Bay, and in Anilao, Batangas.
There are many reasons to visit the Philippines and especially the emerging infamous city of Davao, it is located in the south of the country and they pride themselves as the capital for water rafting in Mindanao (South Island) and if not, the Philippines.
As mentioned many times already, the Philippines have over seven thousand islands thus you can almost make sure that you’ll find an island to suit your needs. If not, you can even visit hundreds if it via a speed boat and hop around till you find your perfect island! Normally, depending on which destination you end up with, there are tons of tours around that will take you to the destinations neighboring islands so just ask around and get the best price you can get!
The natural terrain of the Philippines consists of mountains after mountains so if you’re into hiking and trekking, there are specific mountains in the country which you can climb with a guide. Some of the popular ones within the locals are the Mt. Pulag, Taal Volcano, Mount Makiling, and Mt. Kanlaon are the few trekking spots you can visit.
The Philippines points of interest: What to see and where to go
BANAUE RICE TERRACES
A UNESCO World Site Heritage, Banaue rice terraces is indeed a work of wonders. 2000 years of tradition that is kept until this very day, a magnificent work by the indigenous people (Ifugao) of the area who tirelessly carved the beautiful, but indeed labor intensive, steps of terraces to produce a healthy crop that can feed their striving community. The carefully engineered carved steps serve as the place of production and harvest of rice grains that the indigenous locals sell to the neighboring towns and villages.
Garnering tons of praise from visitors and locals alike, Palawan is now considered one of the most majestic destinations in the Philippines as it continuously attracts and wow its visitors because of its natural crystal clear lagoons and impeccable flora and fauna. The beaches in Palawan are also considered one of the best in the world thus tourists flock their way to the islands!
Still considered one of the best for the longest time one can remember, Boracay is located in the South of the Philippines and has become a trademark for holiday and vacation seekers for its epic white sand beaches and numerous party places to beat the city stress out of you. A rather developed island which now have malls, good chains of restaurants, and amazing luxury hotels, Boracay is not backing down when it comes to offering its visitors the time of their lives.
MANILA AND INTRAMUROS
Manila might not be on top your list when it comes to the places to visit in the Philippines and you’re not to be blamed as the city is mostly for business and not for pleasure. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in visiting having epic night outs, countless of amazing fusion restaurants and check out the country’s history through Intramuros then spending a few days in Manila won’t hurt much (except for the unforgivable traffic). That said, Intramuros is still quite worth a visit as it serves as a fortress during the reign of the Spaniards and you’ll certainly see and learn a lot about the capital city’s basic history.
Just about one hour away and a day trip from Manila, you’ll get the chance to beat a little hit as you go further up north to a higher altitude and set foot in Tagaytay, the nesting home of Taal Volcano – the tiniest volcano in the world. Technically it is not that tiny at all if you would calculate its entirety from the feet (submerged in water) to the tip or snout (the one you’ll see from a view) but it is still considered the smallest and active volcano thus making it quite an attractions not just for the locals but also to foreign visitors. Not to mention, Tagaytay is also a really nice chill place to visit for those who want to see a bit of nature outside the capital.
Overview: Things to do in THE PHILIPPINES
Are you interested in exploring the world under the sea? Well, you’re in luck because you can certainly do just that! There many scuba diving spots in the Philippines that might interest you and these places are famous for its gorgeous coral reef displays and gorgeous marine animals. Also, there’s also a possibility to get a scuba diving certificate while in one of these places:
- Barracuda Lake in Coron Island in Palawan
- Ticao in Masbate
- Tubbataha Reef National Park in Sulu, Palawan
- Purto Princessa, Palawan
- Blue Hole in Romblon Island, Romblon
- Anilao, Batangas
- Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental
There tons of caves in the Philippines and some of them are underwater or undiscovered. If you’re interested in spelunking and caving, you’ll certainly find a great deal of adventure in some of the caves in the Philippines. Just make sure that you go with a local guide who knows and the ins and outs of the caves before you enter yourself!
TEST THE EXOTIC LOCAL DELICACIES
Have you ever heard of the “aborted duck”? Yes? No? If not, this is not your day as I explain to you that it is basically an 18 day old fertilized egg which is boiled in salty water and served with a pinch of salt. Sounds delicious? I’ll let you decided.
The Philippines is a prosperous country when it comes to producing natural products such grains, vegetables and fruits so if you’re visiting, you must not miss on eating some of its finest fresh produce! The local delicacies are often not a foreigner’s favorite but they are still worth a try. For instance, Adobo, Sinigang, Pinakbet, and Palabok are few local delicacies you should try. They are often eaten with rice and with hands if you wish but Filipinos often with cutlaries but eating with your hands should bother them at all!
Since the country has loads of bodies of water for you to play around, there are also rivers and lakes you can go kayaking or do a lot of water sports activities. Just ask around or plan ahead before your visit!
Since the country have tons of beautiful mountains, it is only natural for the locals to make routes to tip for some of it. There are tons of tours you can partake and climb some the country’s most majestic mountains.
Foods you must try when you visit The Philippines
A hearty soup made out of a rich and flavorful stock from pork. Top with pork slices, scallions, pork cracklings and fresh noodles. Pancit Batchoy originated from Iloilo City and has since gained popularity around the country.
The famous and most popular home cooked meal every Filipino grandmother have their own rendition, Adobo is the Philippines national dish made out of pork or chicken (or both) cooked in soya sauce, vinegar, pepper corns, and laurel leaves simmered to perfection. This dish is often eaten with rice.
A stew often made out of ox tail and animal intestine cooked in savory peanut sauce is a festival dish in the Philippines often served with fermented shrimp paste and calamasi juice condiment.
Yet another popular home-cooked meal you’ll often see in a traditional Filipino home, Sinigang is a tamarind based soup with meat (it can be pork, beef or sea food) vegetables such as taro, morning glory, okra, and eggplant. This dish is often served with steam rice and fish sauce with chili as a condiment.
FRESH SEA FOODS
You can’t leave the Philippines without testing its delicious fresh sea foods! One good place to get fresh sea food is from the wet market but if you want to get it from restaurants, there are many places around Manila (for example) where you can order their fresh catch of the day. Other than this, a place called “Dampa” is very close from Ninoy Aquino Internation Airport from which you can buy the goods yourself and ask one of the restaurants around to cook it for you!
If you’re traveling around the Northern Island then you better ask around where you can get the best Bulalo soup or bone marrow soup around the area! Bulalo is one of the local’s favorite main dishes as it is often rich and filling and the soup is so flavorful you can eat it on its own with a cup of rice. You can find this dish around Tagaytay or Batangas area as this is their specialty.