Here is the ultimate guide to visiting the Philippines, from my favourite places to visit and activities/tours to do, to what to expect from the accommodation, food, transport and nightlife!
The Philippines offers the most picturesque scenery I have ever witnessed, with captivating white beaches, aligned with rows and rows of palm trees, which are surrounded by crystal clear waters and limestone cliffs.
Luckily, it is only just becoming popular among tourists, therefore it is a place you can still visit that hasn’t become completely Westernised!
The Philippines is like nothing I have seen before. The beautiful views are present across every island you visit, and it never fails to disappoint. There is so much to do there, but it is predominately a beachy place. If you don’t enjoy the beach (who are you!?) then you probably won’t appreciate the Philippines as much as you should.
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Philippines
Two must sees: Coron and Palawan Island
My favourite two spots are the island of Palawan (recently voted Number 1 as the most beautiful place in the world 2017) and Coron. These two places are incredibly beautiful.
In Coron, you can visit the natural hot springs, climb the mountain to see the sunset and take a night tour to see the glowing plankton. The best part however is the day tours, specifically tour A and C that take you to nearby hidden lagoons and beaches, and they are among the most spectacular things we have ever seen.
The tours are otherwise known as the Island Escape Tour; visiting 3 iconic (and most instagrammable) beaches known as Malcapuya, Banana, and Bulog Dos islands. The second tour we recommend is 7 Highlights tour, visiting the main attractions in Coron.
The island of Palawan offers many different attractions. El Nido is located at the top of the island, just a 4 hour ferry ride from Coron. El Nido is the most expensive place in the Philippines as it has become the most populated with visiting tourists. However, it is still a place worth visiting and once again, tours A and C are the best things to do when you are here.
Further south, you will find the Underground River, located in Puerto Princesa. The river is the longest underground river in the world, and it has been declared a UNESCO heritage site.
More recently it has been voted as one of the Seven World Wanders of Nature 2017 and for good reason. The tour throughout the caves is very surreal as you sit back and enjoy a slow boat ride, motored by a local Filipino and his oars.
You are given a headset to listen to the history of the cave which adds to the whole experience.
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Philippines
Other things to do in the Philippines include:
- Swimming with a school of sardines in Moalboal, swimming with something slightly bigger in Oslob – Whale Sharks!
- If you love beaches, you should take a quick boat ride from Oslob to Sumillion Island for the day; an extremely secluded beach on a private island.
- Diving in the Philippines is out of this world; the water is crystal clear and the reefs are among the most colourful in the world.
- South of Oslob is Apo island, a place known for swimming with gigantic turtles and Siquijor Island boasts beautiful waterfalls.
- The Chocolate Hills in Bohol are a unique attraction. Most of the time they are in fact green, but if you go in the dry season you will understand where they get their name from.
Check out my blog post: The Best Things to Do in the Philippines – Our Highlights for more info or carry on reading below to find out about accommodation, food, transport and nightlife in the Philippines!
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Philippines – Accommodation, Food, Transport and Nightlife
The accommodation seems to be either very cheap and run down, or extremely luxurious and expensive. We really struggled to find nice places to stay that were in our budget. In most other places in Asia you can pay $20 a night for a 4* private hotel room.
In the Philippines, that price would get you a very basic private room in an Aparthotel ← This isn’t too big of an issue because you will spend 90% of your time outside exploring. Just be aware that it isn’t as cheap as the rest of Asia when looking for somewhere to stay.
Search online on www.booking.com, www.expedia.com or www.agoda.com to find your accommodation.
TIP! If you find a place online that you like and find out where it is, you can drive to the property and book a room in person. It will save you some money as the hotel don’t have to pay a commission to any of the above companies.
Food in the Philippines isn’t great. There are very few signature dishes to try and there is a serious lack of flavour in the local meals. In fact, the only meals we enjoyed were those in Western restaurants, which is not something you want! This was our only let down about travelling through the Philippines! Here I have written 2 blog posts; Food in the Philippines – What to Expect & The Best Western Restaurants in the Philippines.
The food on the day tours in both Coron and El Nido is really delicious. Lunch usually consists of fresh fish with rice and fried vegetables, and a selection of fruit.
TIP! Eating a fish eye in the Philippines is considered a delicacy.
Transport in the Philippines is very diverse and there is something to suit all budgets. The main form of transportation include local buses, private cars and tricycles. Tricycles are the cheapest form of transport, however they can become uncomfortable so you can’t go too far in one! They are great for getting around town, or going to a nearby attraction.
Unfortunately, the transport in the Philippines is not the most reliable. If a bus journey is advertised as 3 hours, it is most probably going to take you at least 5. If a bus is supposed to leave at 2pm, it will more likely leave at 2.30/3pm. If there is bad weather and you have a ferry booked, expect to be told to get off and come back 24 hours later.
Due to the unreliability of the public transport, I highly recommend that you don’t book your accommodation too far in advance. I was delayed a total of 4 times throughout my trip; 3 times were 24+ hour delays, and once was a 6 hour flight delay.
Read this blog post to find out How to Plan Your Route Around the Philippines!
Nightlife in the Philippines is quite tame. I don’t particularly think this is a bad thing, as it can ruin a country’s reputation. Boracay Island was a big party scene, but the Government closed it to tourists to avoid just that – ruining its reputation. There are plenty of bars to have a drink in, and hostels can also be fun – but don’t expect anything too crazy!
Safety in the Philippines
I know a lot of people like to discuss safety when choosing a location to visit. However, every country you visit has its dangerous areas but it’s knowing which places to avoid that will ultimately keep you safe.
No matter whether you’re male or female, you shouldn’t wander around alone at night, and don’t carry large amounts of cash on you. If you feel like you are being followed, enter a nearby bar, or mix in with a crowd of people.
The Philippines is a relatively poor country, therefore you need to be aware of your surroundings when there. Wear your bag across your body to avoid motorcyclists stealing your belongings, and just be street smart.
If you want to know more about the most important things about travelling through the Philippines, check out my blog posts here: