Philippines – pristine beaches, gorgeous nature, and amazing people – it’s difficult not to love this place! Here are my best Philippines travel tips & things to know before you visit this heaven on Earth.
The Philippines was my first stop on my first SE Asia trip. I spend 4 weeks in the Philippines chasing waterfalls, exploring islands on a motorbike, and having a fabulous time in the meantime. I meet awesome people and fell in love with the locals. The landscapes are gorgeous. I left a piece of my heart there.
The fact that the Philippines are more remote from the other countries in SE Asia, keeps them away from many travelers lists. However, those who come to explore are blown away by what the Philippines has to offer.
It’s so easy to fall in love with the Philippines – the picture-perfect beaches and the stunning landscapes are hard to beat, but as well, there’s nothing like the relaxed lifestyle in the Philippines and the Filipino people themselves, one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet! Their positivity and smiley faces are hard to forget once you’ve been there.
If you’re not planning a trip to the Philippines soon, then you should change that right away! Philippines is one of the most amazing places I’ve been to so far and it’s sure that you’re going to have a great time. As with any other place, there are some things that you should better know about before visiting the Philippines. This is a mix of my best Philippines travel tips & things to know before you go:
It’s more fun in The Philippines!
”It’s more fun in the Philippines” they say and this is the reality. Everyone who has been there will tell you how amazing it is and how much fun everyone is having while being there. Okay, I’m sure that there are some expectations, but generally, everyone adores the Philippines!
I fell in love with the Philippines in the very beginning of my trip in the country, and now the Philippines are my new favorite place in the world. It’s needless to say that I would go back there at any time! And with so many things to do in the Philippines, you can’t get bored. The fun is guaranteed.
Filipinos are the friendliest people ever!
Seriously, Filipinos are the warmest, friendliest, and most adorable people! Filipinos are happy people and their smiles are always reaching their ears. Sometimes it might be even difficult for you to believe how nice they are. Coming from Western countries, where the majority of people live in stress, in the Philippines, you’ll feel surrounded by positive energy and happiness.
You’ll feel like a rock star
You’ll probably find this hilarious at first. Filipinos love other people, foreigners, travelers that are visiting their country, especially those who look different. They are just so cute and adorable when they first meet you.
Every day, maybe at least 5 times a day, I was being stopped by locals who wanted to let me know how beautiful I am and to take photos with me. And that doesn’t happen only to me, most of the foreigners have the same experience.
You won’t want to leave
Being surrounded by such wonderful local people and like-minded travelers in such a heavenly place, how would you want to leave at all?!?! When I was at the airport waiting for my flight to Kuala Lumpur, on my way to spend 2 weeks in Malaysia, I was feeling excited about my new trip, but at the same time sad to be leaving the Philippines. A part of me wasn’t ready to leave yet, but the other wanted to go on a new adventure.
Philippines, I’ll be back!!
You’ll leave a piece of your heart there
”You will never be completely home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney
There’s nothing more that I can add to this. It’s a beautiful quote, which I can easily use in many of my posts about the beautiful places I’ve been to. Now let’s move on.
There is so much to choose from
The Philippines is an archipelago in SE Asia of more than 7 000 islands. More than 7 000 islands! A lifetime won’t be enough to visit all of them. Or maybe it will? A study shows that it takes about 20 years to spend a day on every island in the Philippines.
The Philippines have one of the world’s longest coastlines.
With this in mind, of course, I’ll say that one month is not enough time in the Philippines. It’s a good start, but with so many places worth visiting in the Philippines, you need a lot more time. I managed to visit some of the most known islands, but there is so much more to be seen.
The most beautiful sunsets!
Have you ever heard that the Philippines are home to one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world? I haven’t seen the sunset from everywhere in the world (yet!), but the sunsets in the Philippines are surely some of the best ones that I have ever seen so far in my life. If you like sunsets *who doesn’t?!*, you can try to enjoy every single sunset in the Philippines while you’re there.
You’ll meet tons of cool people
The locals are such nice and sweet people. You’ll love to spend some time with them. This will be one of the best things you can do in the Philippines.
Travelers in the Philippines, on the other side, are really cool as well. I believe that the majority of travelers in the Philippines are very like-minded and so even if you’re traveling there alone, you will easily meet other travelers and find a cool company. In the Philippines, you’ll always be able to make friends.
Everyone speaks English
The official language in the Philippines is Tagalog aka Filipino. Originally, for many centuries until the early half of the 20th century, Spanish was the official language. Then, in 1935, under the US occupation, English was introduced in schools and it was added to the Philippines constitution as a national language, along with Spanish.
Then, in 1937, it was decided to be developed as a national language, which would be based on the native languages, and Tagalog was chosen. It became the joint official language along with English. Tagalog is spoken as a first language by nearly one-third of the population and as a second one for the rest.
English, however, is more important in schools and the government also operates using mostly English. With this in mind, you shouldn’t worry about any language barrier. Even if you, like me, are not coming from an English speaking country, I believe you know basic English, too.
Everyone in the Philippines speaks at least basic English if not decent and many people even speak English fluently.
It is absolutely safe to travel around the Philippines tourist areas. Most of the Philippines is friendly and there’s no need for you to worry about your safety.
Although the Philippines are generally safe, there are some areas that are better to be avoided. The South of the Philippines is a no-go – the Sulu Archipelago, the Zamboanga Peninsula, etc. Travelers are being advised to stay away from these areas. Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is known for scams targeting tourists as well, and you probably won’t want to end up in Manila Downtown in the middle of the night, especially alone.
Some countries such as the USA, UK, and Australia issued travel warnings about traveling to the Philippines. When I was in Vietnam, I even meet two guys, one from the States and the other from the UK who were hesitating about traveling to the Philippines and worrying about their safety.
I assured them that they don’t need to worry about anything and that the places that they would go to, are completely safe. I never felt unsafe in the Philippines, not even once.
In all places that you will go to, which are places where tourists are going, people are warm and lovely!
There are still many parts of the Philippines that remain undeveloped. You need to know that there are places that you will go to that might not be developed too. You can expect electricity going off if there’s any, no hot water, etc. However, I wouldn’t advise you to stay away from more undeveloped areas, they are the more rural Philippines and they are great!
Should you visit Boracay?
My first island stop on my 4 week trip to the Philippines was Boracay. Boracay is famous worldwide for its natural beauty and it’s one of the most visited islands in the Philippines.
I have been asked a lot if Boracay is worth it. Yes, it is very touristy, it’s crowded and it’s more expensive than other places in the Philippines. However, if you want to party, Boracay is the place to go to. Boracay is also famous for its nightlife.
If you don’t want to party, no worries, you can still visit Boracay. You can still enjoy your time on the island if you’re staying away from the main tourist area. Station 3 is the quietest area on the island.
Boracay has wonderful white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters.
So, it’s a matter of choice. If you’re looking for a calmer place where to relax, then I can say that you can skip it. I had fun in Boracay and enjoyed my time there.
You can check this post by the fellow blogger, Adventure Dragon, on things to do in Boracay.
UPDATE 2nd November 2018: Boracay is reopened.
On 4th of April, president Rodrigo Dutere announced that Boracay is to close for six months. He visited the island in the previous month and called it a ”cesspool”.
It is no secret to anybody that Boracay is under threat because of the mass constructions on the island. The environment ministry claimed that more than 4 000 properties are not connected to the sewer system. All of that is ruing Boracay.
I do support the government in adopting responsible and sustainable tourism, but closing the island would also lead to more than 30 000 job losses and billions lost in revenue.
At this point, since 26th April 2018, Boracay is closed for rehabilitation. Visitors won’t be allowed until further notice.
If you get the chance to visit Boracay, will you?
READ NEXT: My first trip to SE Asia (overview)
Motorbike is your best friend
The best way to explore the Philippines is on a motorbike. That’s the best way to get around each island and explore the best of each place. Motorbikes for rent are widely available.
I probably wouldn’t rent a motorbike in Manila or Cebu, due to the heavy traffic. In the big cities, you can easily get around by using Grab or Uber.
No plan is the best plan
Plans don’t work out in the Philippines. And generally, it’s always funnier if you don’t have many plans in advance and you’re free to go with the flow at any time. That’s why having no plan is the best plan for the Philippines.
There are so many things to do in the Philippines, so even if you don’t have a schedule, you’ll always find yourself busy chasing waterfalls, snorkeling, or just relaxing by the incredible beaches with a Red Horse in hand. Or, you can just get on your motorbike and explore what you haven’t already.
Diving is very popular in the Philippines as well. So if you’re a diver, you can always go for a dive. Those of you who dive probably know how important the dive watch is. Here’s a list of some of the best dive watches on the market.
Booking or not booking accommodation in advance?
Well, that depends. Nowadays, I rarely book any accommodation in advance, no matter where I go and that’s mostly because I usually don’t know how long will I stay, will I stay there at all, etc. I usually book something on the previous day, or I just find something when I get to my final destination.
In the Philippines is relatively easy to go somewhere and find a place. However, that means that sometimes, you might have very limited options to choose from. If you’re traveling in the Philippines in the high season, maybe it would be better to book your stay a few days in advance.
I had a bad experience in Cebu because I arrived there and I didn’t have anything booked. The problem was that it was the night before the Sinulog Festival. Because of the festival, most of the places in Cebu were fully booked and the prices were higher as well. It took me literally the whole day to get from Boracay to Cebu – first, my flight was delayed, then it turned out that we were flying for two hours to land on the other side of the island because we didn’t have permission to land in Cebu, and then after we waited again, we finally flew to Cebu –and when I arrived there late in the evening, my options were even more limited. I ended up staying in the cheapest place available, but I paid for one night as much as I paid in Boracay for 4 or 5 nights.
Filipinos LOVE karaoke
There’s nothing more than that I can say about it, they just do. Filipinos love singing and having fun and you’ll surely get involved in a karaoke party or similar. You’ll also find them doing karaoke everywhere at any time. It’s so cute!
Everything is far away
One of the most important things that you need to know before going to the Philippines is that it will take you from half a day to a full day to get from one place to another. When you’re hopping from one island to another, or going from Cebu city to the South of the Island, for example. To get from one place to another, in most cases, you’ll need to get a boat, then a bus, or a tricycle, or you need to get only one bus, but it takes a long time to arrive at your final destination.
So when you’re planning your trip to the Philippines have this in mind and plan the places that you’ll visit wisely. That should also be planned accordingly to the time you plan to spend in the Philippines.
The food is….
I’m really sorry to say that, but I need to! The food is the only thing that I didn’t like in the Philippines. I had only a few good meals in my 4 weeks’ stay in the country. I don’t want to offend any Filipinos but in my opinion, the food is just bad. Most of the time, my food was tasteless. Also, if you have any meat, most of the meat would be the fat off the meat and no one likes that. At least not me.
Please note that I was eating mostly in small local family-owned restaurants to support the families. A few times I tried more western dishes, but they were not good as well. In some places, you can have oatmeal with fruits, for example, and that’s good enough.
Although numerous other people that I talked about this with said that they didn’t like the food in the Philippines too, I want to believe that I just haven’t found good places to eat at. As I mentioned, in the beginning, there were a few places that I liked and they are:
Natura Vista – this is probably my favorite place that I stayed at in the Philippines, on Panglao Island, and the food there was great!
On the El Nido Island hopping tour that I did, the lunch was great and there’s also another restaurant in El Nido that I liked. I dined there a few times. The lunch on the Loboc River cruise, Bohol, was good, too.
In Siquijor there was also one good place which was very cheap. For more info on the places from Siquijor and El Nido read my articles that are dedicated to those places.
Talking about food… Do you know what balut is? Balut is known not only in the Philippines but in Cambodia and Vietnam as well. The Philippines, however, is the country where it originates from.
Balut is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. The embryo is usually from a duck. Filipinos eat it with a little bit of salt and vinegar, and of course beer.
I knew about the Balut before going to the Philippines, but I wasn’t even considering trying it. It was one of my last evenings in Manila when a Filipino guy brought a bag of Balut eggs in the hostel where I was staying. Other travelers from the hostel and I were chatting in the common area when he came and invited us to try.
Some people tried it and said that it’s not bad and it tastes like chicken. Me and another Israeli guy, we just couldn’t do it.
Most of the people I know that have tried it say that it’s not bad, but they wouldn’t do it again. It’s up to you if you would like to give it a chance and try something new and different.
Money in The Philippines
The official currency of the Philippines is the Philippine peso (PHP). The peso is divided into 100 centavos. At some point, you’ll end up with coins. They come in handy for small tips or paying tricycle drivers.
ATM’s are available in big cities such as Manila in Cebu, in other places, however, they might be difficult to find. Even in popular places like El Nido, withdrawing money can be a real pain in the ass. Credit cards are also not being accepted in many places.
When traveling in the Philippines, I think it’s best to have most of your money in cash. Before I went on my trip, I exchanged 1 000 Lev/500 EUR to PHP to last me as long as they can. They ended up being completely enough for my 4-week stay and I even got a little bit left to exchange to RM for my next destination, Malaysia.
How much does it cost to travel to The Philippines?
The Philippines is a very affordable travel destination and can fit anyone’s budget from broken backpackers to luxury travelers. Getting there is not so inexpensive as well. You can find cheap flights from nearby countries such as Malaysia.
Approximate prices in the Philippines as per January/February 2018:
SIM Card (Globe) – 1 000 PHP
Breakfast –30 PHP to 150 PHP
Lunch – 50 PHP to 200+ PHP
Dinner – 150 PHP to 500 PHP
Beer – 40+ PHP
Accommodation – hostels start at 100+ PHP and the prices can get very high for luxury resorts
Loboc River Cruise – 500 PHP
Island Hopping Tour – 1 000+ PHP
Motorbike rent – 300+ PHP / per day
Price for ferries, buses, taxi, etc., vary a lot from the distance.
SIM Card and connections (Wi-Fi)
Nowadays, everyone uses the Internet. Everyone also searches for it wherever it goes even when traveling. You might just want to scroll your Facebook feed, double-tap pretty pictures on Instagram, get your online work done, or just text your family and friends back home. The internet connection in the Philippines is not very good. In the big cities such as Manila and Cebu, you won’t have any problem with it, but on the islands, you’ll most likely will.
In places such as Dumaguete and Puerto Princesa, you can also find some relatively good Internet connection. Wi-Fi throughout the Philippines most of the time is terrible. Some places don’t even offer Wi-Fi or they do, but it’s just not working. I was working from the Philippines but sometimes it was just so difficult. In some places, the connection was so bad that I couldn’t even reply to an email.
Getting a local SIM Card is a good way to stay connected. You should know that even if you do get a SIM Card, there would be moments when you’ll lose it coverage. In El Nido, for example, my coverage was okay in the town, but a bit further away it wasn’t working at all, and that was in the area where I was actually staying. I was having some coverage on the beach, but not on the road.
Getting around The Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelago and the best way to get from island to another is by air. Sometimes plane tickets are even cheaper than other means of transportation. The cheapest local airline companies are Cebu Pacific and Air Asia.
The other most common way to get from island to another is by ferry. They have slow and fast ferries and even sleeping ones for longer trips.
Another thing that you should be prepared for is the delayed flights. Flights can often be delayed and sometimes even canceled. Flights are being canceled mainly due to the weather conditions, see next.
Weather in The Philippines
The Philippines is a tropical country and it has two seasons: dry and wet. The weather, just like everywhere in the world, has changed recently, but usually, the dry season stretches from November to May and the rainy season from June to October.
With this being said, it can be sunny in one part of the Philippines while another is experiencing thunderstorms -that’s the reason why sometimes both flights and boats can be canceled while it could be the perfect weather where you are located, but it might not be the same picture at the place where you’re going.
Visa for The Philippines
Travelers from all English speaking countries, all European Union Citizens + travelers from many other countries can get a FREE VISA on arrival for 30 Days. Travelers from Brazil and Israel can get their FREE VISA on arrival for 59 days.
If you took one of the tips above not to have a plan and if you, like me, fell in love with the Philippines, but you want to stay more than 30 days, you can easily extend your visa.
If you want to extend your stay in the Philippines, you need to go to the nearest Immigration Office to get the extension for another 29 days. The cost for the first extension is around 3 100 PHP. You can then extend your visa up to many times and months. For the most accurate information, ask at any Immigration Offices in the Philippines.
To be let fly to and entering the Philippines, you’ll need an exit ticket.
Before I got on the plane to the Philippines, I spend a few days in Dubai. When I got to the airport and passed by the check-in desk, I was asked where am I going next. I didn’t know where I would go next, but I had Hong Kong on my mind and replied that I would probably head there. The lady asked me to show her my ticket to Hong Kong, but I didn’t have any. I was then told that I need to get an exit ticket so I can get on the plane. I booked a ticket to Hong Kong that I never used.
The thing is that I heard about that before going, but didn’t take it seriously. I also know that not everybody is being asked for their exit ticket, but you’ll never know if you will or you will not be asked for an exit ticket.
You can use some travel hacking and book a ”fake” ticket to represent without paying. How can you do that? I’m not an expert on it, but you can Google search it and you’ll find plenty of information.
In the Philippines, the power sockets are of type A, B, and C. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. Type A is the one used in North America and type C is the standard European plug.
Every traveler, however, should have a universal travel adapter.
With so many things to do in the Philippines such as windsurfing, canyoning,or motorbiking, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance for your trip. You can use the Travel Insurance widget below to get a quote.
Philippines, I’ll be back! <3
Thanks for reading,
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