Wondering whether you should go to the Philippines or not? Well here’s the easy answer, you absolutely have to! This beautiful country is so diverse there really is something for everyone. At the moment I feel that it’s quite on every backpackers radar but that isn’t to say it shouldn’t be! It boasts amazing beaches, loads of food and even some natural wonders of the world! And I can’t not mention how unbelievably welcoming the people are.
So, if you have decided to go and you’re trying to plough through your planning, here are my tips for things you should know before you go to The Philippines!
1) YOU MIGHT WANT TO HAVE A LOOK BEFORE YOU GO…
Sorry to start off with a serious one, but it’s pretty bloody important. If you have a look at the government website it shows that they advise against all travel to pretty much the South of the Philippines. Although this might sound dramatic and a bit over the top, it is actually pretty dangerous. There’s conflict over military presence, terrorism threats and an increasing number of kidnapping and attacks where tourists are particularly being targeted.
Put simply, there are some places that are just a straight out no-go. But that doesn’t mean that everywhere is dangerous! Most places I went to I felt pretty safe. Many of the tourist areas have extra security and tourist Police around to help and advise on safety as well. Don’t let the media and warnings scare you off completely, t’s just a case of making sure you do your homework about where you want to go and just be a bit careful.
2) THERE ARE A LOT OF ISLANDS
7,107 in fact, and obviously no 2 are the same. Luzon is the largest island and home to the capital city, Manila but some are so small they disappear under a high tide.
3) IT’S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL
By that I mean it’s pretty much paradise. I visited Boracay, Palawan, Dumaguete and Bohol and each are stunning in their own way. From the powder soft sand on Boracay to the forests on Bohol, there’s so much to do and see and it really is like being in a real life tropical postcard.
4) THE PESO IS THE LOCAL CURRENCY
Sound’s fancy eh? The Philippine Peso roughly converts to £1=P62 so not gonna lie, I felt pretty damn minted here.
5) IT’S CHEAP
Food, drink and getting around are all very easy on the purse strings. Accommodation is also incredibly good value for money; you can stay at some seriously amazing hotels for no where near as much as you would think, so it’s a great place to get bargain hunting!
6) ENGLISH IS WIDELY SPOKEN
The official Filipino language in Manila is Tagalog but there are actually well over 100 different languages spoken throughout this archipelago. However, English is also widely spoken so it’s easy to get around.
7) THE PEOPLE ARE INCREDIBLY FRIENDLY
No matter where I went and who I met I always felt incredibly welcome. There is quite an influence of Spanish and American culture here also, but ultimately it’s such a friendly place to visit and everyone’s pretty chilled out. You don’t get heckled by people trying to sell you stuff like in Thailand for example, just a polite ‘no thank you’ is accepted and it’s then done.
I would also like to take a moment to say a huge thank you to one of my best friend’s family for allowing Jess and I to be based in their home for an entire month. Their unbelievable kindness made for a fantastic start to our round the world trip!
8) THERE ARE 2 MAIN WAYS TO GET AROUND
I dare say you will have heard of a Tuk Tuk but in the Philippines they are known as Tricycles. They are brightly coloured, very affordable and absolutely everywhere. You can flag one down in the street or ask you hotel to help you get one. I LOVE using this kind of transport, it’s just good fun! The other main method of transport you will see are the brightly coloured buses called Jeepneys. They are also dirt cheap and equally as crazy as the tricycles.
9) WATCH YOUR STUFF
When you’re driving through Manila you will see that there is a massive divide. There are literally skyscrapers on one side of the road, and shanty towns on the other. It’s still a developing country so poverty is high here. Along with this, as is the case nearly everywhere, comes a lot of pickpocketing. Don’t make the mistake of having too much stuff on you and be careful where you walk, especially in the evenings.
10) THE FOOD IS DELICIOUS
Ok, so we’re in Asia here, so it’s hardly surprising that rice is a staple part of the food here. It is eaten with any meal of the day, including breakfast, and is cooked a tonne of different ways. One of my favourite meals out there was Pork Sisig which is made from various parts of the pig and is served on a sizzling hot plate with egg. Divine!
11) THEY ONLY HAVE 2 SEASONS
Don’t get me wrong, travelling off season can be great in a lot of places, but as the Philippines only has a dry season and a wet season, you might want to do your research to make sure you can actually do everything you want to. The dry season runs November-May and the wet season is June – October. Bear in mind that the wet season can be monsoons, and I’ve seen that there has very sadly been some awful flooding in parts of the country. The dry season is obviously the best time to go but it’s still pretty humid.
12) THE TRAFFIC IS INSANE
There is a LOT of traffic in Manila. The city is completely flooded with vehicles and you really can’t get anywhere fast. We actually nearly missed one of our flights while we were there because we just couldn’t move. On the islands I visited it was just as crazy but more form the tricycles whizzing all over the place. Be prepared to leave for anything in with plenty of time to spare!
13) USE THE BUDGET AIRLINES
As my friend and I were based in Manila and travelled out to the different islands, I used the local budget airlines a fair amount. Cebu Pacific are great for short flights to hop round the islands quickly, and work the same as the European budget airlines where they allow a certain weight for hand luggage at no extra cost.
14) TARSIERS LIVE HERE
Yep, you can see these absolute cuties here! They are one of the smallest primates, but they have absolutely massive eyes. They are even pictured on the Philippine Peso bills! The Philippines is also a fantastic place for scuba diving (which is something I regret not doing) and even spotting Whale Sharks!