Travelling to the Philippines is something that everybody should put on their bucket list. I have written down my 6 top tips for travelling the Philippines that I personally believe will help improve your experience.
My best tips include ways to avoid spending unnecessary money, how to plan for Philippine transport, and other helpful things I picked up along the way.
So here it is, my 6 top tips for travelling the Philippines.
Number 1: Leave Yourself an Entire Day to Travel to Each Destination.
We used all types of public transport in the Philippines and a number of factors can affect their punctuality. The main reason for delays is down to the typhoons. We boarded 2 ferries throughout our trip, both of which were cancelled for up to 24 hours, and our flight to Boracay was delayed by 6 hours. Buses that are supposed to take 3 hours actually take 6… the list goes on.
Just bare in mind that things go wrong!
If they don’t, then hey! you’ve gained yourself a couple of hours – Bonus.
Number 2: Don’t Book Your Accommodation More Than a Day in Advance!
Okay, so if you are looking into a place and everything is booking up, you might make an exception. Booking accommodation in Boracay beforehand is recommended as it is usually really busy with tourists, but hear me out. In general, I would advise that you don’t book anything in advance.
The main reason for this is based on Number 1, things go wrong. If your transport is delayed, you will need to make new arrangements and find a new place to stay on the spot. This also means that the accommodation you have already booked is going to go to waste.
The amount of money that we would have lost if we would have booked our accommodation beforehand is insane! Our plan changed a total of 3 times throughout our trip due to delays and cancellations. We actually re-routed the whole thing at one stage.
The delays didn’t just affect the one day, but they pushed back the whole trip. Don’t book too far in advance!
6 Top Tips for Travelling the Philippines
Number 3: Note That Domestic Flights Aren’t as Cheap as You Would Think
When we planned our trip, we estimated a total cost and tried our hardest to stick to it. The domestic flight prices changed and we paid more than what we had hoped. Booking the flights in advance does save you money, however, the issue is of course that things change!
It is a tricky one to get around because if you book your flight in advance, other plans may fall through and you could end up missing out on an amazing place. If you wait, you could end up paying double.
My honest advice would be to wait and go with the flow. Overall, we did save money by travelling the way we did.
Another issue for anyone travelling with luggage… Philippine Airlines will only accept 10kg checked luggage and there is no option to pay for an upgrade. This means that you have to fly with more expensive airlines.
Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are your two main contenders – although be warned, Air Asia get delayed, A LOT!
If you can travel with a limited amount of luggage, I would highly recommend that you do, you will save even more money and hassle!
Number 4: Choose Your Tours and Make a Deal
The recommended amount of tours to do in both Coron and El Nido is 2 in each. Buy the tours at the same time, with the same company and save yourself some pennies! It’s like anywhere you go, the more you buy, the cheaper they are.
You can also try make a deal such as getting a snorkel and mask thrown in for free. In Coron, you have to pay 100php extra for the snorkels (unless you get a discount) but in El Nido they are already included in the tour.
Make sure you don’t negotiate a deal that is already included (like we managed to do haha!). Once we were on the boat, we realised that EVERYBODY was being handed a mask and snorkel and that we had been mugged off.
6 Top Tips for Travelling the Philippines
Number 5: Tricycles Are Your Main Form of Transport Within the Small Towns and Prices Vary Depending on Where You Are
The cheapest places were in both Puerto Princesa and Coron at only 10 php a head (0.25AUD/0.14p). The locals will try and charge you up to 150 php in some places, especially when arriving in to a port or an airport.
Let them know that you are aware it should only be 10 php and keep walking. They’ll either run after you and take you for the correct price, or you’ll make your way to the main roads and find a tricycle there.
In El Nido they were a little bit more expensive and charged 50 php from the ferry port to our hotel. Just be smart and settle for a fair price – the locals are just there to make a living.
TIP! Be aware that tricycles to attractions (such as the hot springs in Coron, or Nacpan beach in el Nido) are a lot more expensive and cost around 150 php. You’ll understand why once you get on the dirt roads in one of them things!
Number 6: Buy Aqua Shoes for El Nido and Coron Tours
It may seem a bit strange to you that I have included this in my 6 top tips for the Philippines. However, I wish I had bought aqua shoes for the tours and I advise you to do it!
In Coron, it was OK without them. I would have been much more comfortable if I would have bought a pair and it would have been way safer with them on. In El Nido however, we did actually need them.
Of course, nobody on our tour bought aqua shoes as you get the impression that you’re just been ambushed by locals to buy loads of rubbish. We were all very stubborn and ended up having to wear our flipflops in the water. I don’t know if you have ever tried to swim in flipflops but it isn’t very easy.
Luckily flipflops float so you don’t lose them.
At some points in the tour, it was actually quite dangerous to get to the attractions – such as entering the caves. The waves were really rough and people were being knocked into the rocks. We struggled to get into the cave, and getting back to the boat was even worse. There are lots of sharp rocks and the water is shallow enough for you to hit them. With the aqua shoes you could walk over them with much more ease.
There are also millions of sea urchins, lurking about in the rocks and it is difficult to avoid them when the waves are pushing you all over the place.
One of our tour guides also spotted a stone fish, which for those of you who don’t know, can be fatal to humans.
I am not trying to scare you. Coron and El Nido are the 2 most beautiful places to visit in the Philippines and you HAVE to go on these tours. The beaches, lagoons and caves are among the most stunning things I have ever seen. Just be careful and if you can pre-prepare with a simple action of buying aqua shoes, it will make your experience much more enjoyable!
If you are in the Philippines or planning to visit, check out my other available posts here:
How to plan your route around the Philippines
Food in the Philippines – What to expect
The best things to do in the Philippines