Mabuhay! Are you thinking of traveling to the Philippines and don’t know where to start?
In this blog post, I will try to collect the most important things you need to know to plan your trip for free to the Philippines, a country that today, has become one of my favorites throughout Southeast Asia!
MacroTraveller starts with the tips and travel preparations to the Philippines!
Passport and Visa – You do not need a visa to enter the Philippines as long as your stay does not exceed 30 days. What you do have to have is the passport with at least six months of validity.
Medicines and Vaccines – It is very important to prepare a first aid kit that we will take to the trip. These are the medicines that we usually carry and always distributed in backpacks in such a way that if we lose our luggage, we do not run out of medications. It is essential to prepare a list so that you do not forget any medicines because once there it is difficult to find them.
When to travel to the Philippines?
The Philippines has three stations: The hot dry season (from March to May, its summer), the rainy season (from June to November) and the dry temperate season (from December to February).
When it comes to organizing a trip to the Philippines, it is essential that you take into account the best time to travel to this country, since unlike other Southeast Asian nations, the torrential rains caused by typhoons or cyclones during the season of rain can bother you the trip and a lot!
It is frequent during this time of year that ports closed, and all activities in the area are canceled, in addition to suffering heavy flooding on the roads. This does not mean that you cannot travel to the Philippines in the rainy season, but you run the risk of bad luck over time.
The Philippines is divided into three regions:
Luzon, where the capital, Manila, is located, is the area most exposed to the rains during the wet season. From December to February is when the rice terraces look intense green.
The Visayas, which cover the central zone of the Philippines, are somewhat less exposed in the rainy season and although typhoons do not pass very close, they can affect the state of the sea, and there may be cancellations in the ports for several days in a row. The same is not true of the Palawan region, which although it belongs to the Western Visayas region, is much more exposed to typhoons and cyclones in the rainy season.
Mindanao is the southernmost region of the Philippines and, unlike the other regions, here the summer months (June, July, August and September) coincides with the dry season, seeing this area little affected by the rains during this time of year. In this region, you can find the beautiful islands of Camiguin and Siargao.
I have visited the country on two occasions, always coinciding with the rainy season and my experience recommends choosing better months than summer to travel the country.
How to get to the Philippines?
The best way to get to the Philippines is to buy a flight from India/Bengaluru to Manila, the capital. There are no direct flights from here so you will inevitably have to make a minimum stopover.
Another cheaper option is to look for a flight to any other city in Southeast Asia such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and from there fly with other low-cost companies to the Philippines (Manila, Cebu or any other city in the country). Several inexpensive companies such as Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offer much cheaper tickets.
Moving around the Philippines!
Before designing your trip to the Philippines, it is vital that you keep in mind that the journeys to move around the country are usually quite long and take practically a whole day to get from one island to another. It is best to organize the days of the trip, always with a day to get from one area to another in the country. Bear in mind also that the infrastructure there has nothing to do with what we are used to here so do not despair if you have to wait for several hours to take a ferry or catch a plane.
Here below I detail what the most common means of transportation that you will find throughout the country are:
“Jeepneys” is the official vehicle of the Philippines, both in towns and cities. The first Jeepneys were military jeeps that the US military, left after World War II. They have been personalized with Filipino details like colored lighthouses, religious paintings (let’s not forget that the Philippines is a very Catholic country) and very extravagant drawings.
Tricycles – The tricycle, which you will see in almost every city and town, is the Filipino rickshaw, a small sidecar with a roof attached to a motorcycle. In it, you can make any short trip as long as you negotiate the price beforehand. Being such a Catholic population, most tricycles are decorated with quotes from the Bible and religious symbols.
Habal-Habal also known as “moto-taxi” works the same as tricycles but is somewhat cheaper. They are taxis on motorcycles with longer seats (their name translates as “pigs copulating” due to the low level of privacy there is when sharing the trip with four people). You will see them especially in the Visayas and in the north of Mindanao.
Motorcycles – Small islands such as Camiguin, Siargao, and Bohol are ideal for motorcycling. The feeling of freedom when traveling the islands by motorcycle is incredible, and we recommend it without a doubt! The average rental price is usually around 7-8 € per day. Most hotels provide rental bikes, but it will be much cheaper if you rent them in the same town. You have to ask for helmets since they are not always included.
Ferry – The islands of the Philippines are linked by an incredible network of ferries, with reasonably affordable prices. Almost all ferry terminals charge a small commission although it is usually an insignificant amount.
The companies Ocean Jet and Super Shuttle Ferry offer a multitude of routes between the islands and are usually quite fast. You can buy tickets when you arrive at the port since there are usually no problems with the seats.
Bangkas – They are wooden boats of small size with two Batangas of wood or bamboo. They are used primarily to move between the islands and to make the famous “island hopping.” The engines they carry are extremely noisy so do not panic.
Internal Airlines – The fastest option to move is, without doubt, the plane. There are a lot of national airlines that make flights between the islands, leaving or entering through Cebu or Manila mainly. AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Tiger Air and Philippine Airlines are the internal companies that operate mainly throughout the Philippines.
Air Swift is one of the companies that have direct flights to the Nido from Manila and Cebu, in case you prefer to go direct instead of flying to Puerto Princesa and then having to take a van for 6-7 hours. Flights are more expensive than other companies but honestly compensates if you do not want to waste a lot of time traveling.
MacroTravellerTips: If you miss any of the internal flights and you have to sleep in NAIA, the international airport of the Philippines, you will find in the same airport, in the upper floor next to the Mc. Donalds, a kind of hotel for hours. The rooms are spotless and have shared bathrooms for showering, and they are also great. It will always be better than lying around for hours on the airport chairs!
What route do you make in the Philippines?
When it comes to organizing your itinerary through the Philippines, you have to take into account the days you have as well as the type of trip you want to do (cultural, trekking, diving, beaches).
The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands to choose from, so the first thing you have to decide is what you most want to do. Pretending to cover everything is sincerely impossible since there it gets dark quite early and most of the time you will spend an almost whole day to get from one island to another. It is better to see 4 or 5 islands than to see everything quickly and running without having time to enjoy.
Here below we leave the route we chose ourselves although as I say there are more than 7,000 islands to choose from depending on your preferences. When traveling during the rainy season, we decided to discard the Luzon region, so we left the Banaue trek pending for our next visit to the country.
Is it safe to travel to the Philippines?
The Philippines is a very safe country in general, except the western zone of Mindanao where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs discourages travel due to frequent attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners. However, avoiding this area, the rest of Mindanao is completely safe, and you can visit without problems islands like Camiguin or Siargao.
Interesting Facts about the Philippines!
- The name “Filipinas” derives from the name of King Felipe II.
- The Philippines was a Spania colony from 1521 to 1898, more than three centuries. Then it passed into the hands of the United States, reaching its independence on July 4, 1946.
- Filipinos have a unique joy of life; they are always smiling!
- The official language is Tagalog, although it has different variants according to the island where you are.
- In the Bisaya language, many of his words come from Spanish, such as numbers, days of the week or other words such as party, glass, fork, table, chair, handsome. However, they are written in a different way.
- Filipinos are very religious. More than 80% of the population is Catholic.
- In the Filipino kitchen, there is no knife. If you have to cut something, it is done with the spoon.
- Your favorite dessert is the “Halo-Halo,” a mixture of evaporated milk, ice, fruit and ice cream. The more colorful, the better!
- Favorite sport is basketball. No matter how small the town is, you will always find a court where you can play at any time!
- Filipinos love karaoke. Many sites offer this equipment and, besides, you can hear them singing at any time of the day.
- Cock fights are still very frequent in the country, to the point of caring for the roosters as if they were real kings!
I could continue writing a hundred more interesting facts, but the best thing is that you discover for yourselves this incredible country that has stolen my heart on more than one occasion!
I hope this post will help you and if you like it you can always share it on your social networks!