The Complete Guide to the Philippines
All You Need to Know Before Go
This is your complete Philippines travel guide. And being a local (born and raised) in the country I love, I dedicated a ton of time and effort to showcase what the Philippines has to offer. All the things you need to know before booking you flights to and around the country. What to expect if it's your first time in the Philippines. And the best route for people who have limited time to spare in the country. Below are well thought lists of things to experience the real Pilipinas.
Do you dream of an endless summer with coconut trees, long stretches of pristine white beaches and crystal clear waters? Are you on holiday and are searching for insta worthy tourist spots in the Philippines, good food and fun people? Perhaps maybe you’re the kind that puts on your backpack and chases epic adventures, unique experience, not knowing where to go and for how long you will stay?
If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug and been itching to travel longer, sustainably and extensively around the Philippines, then this blog is made for you by the same people of your tribe.
Me and Josh throw in all our personal recommendations from our own backpacking journey. We are your best guides that scour every inch of this island paradise.You will find the best things to do, where to stay and eat in each region for you to get the ultimate experience around this beautiful country. So let's go, “Pinas muna tayo”, let’s travel the Philippines first.
For our foreign friends, this is the best time to travel the Philippines while most of our islands are not yet urbanized. Indulge yourselves with pure, raw natural wonders all over the country. For local Filipinos, I can’t be more proud of our world class beaches and dive sites, epic adventures, natural wonders, and amazing culture waiting to be marbled upon.
Are you ready? Gear up and pack your bags and we’ll take you by the hand to the paradise that is still quiet and open for adventures without the usual tourist traps unlike its neighboring southeast asian countries. In fact, if I say Southeast Asia to foreign travellers who’ve never stepped foot in the region, there’s a high chance that they’ve never heard of the Philippines. It is one of the underrated countries in Southeast Asia and often skipped since it is not connected by land to the rest of the Asian countries. You see, we might not be a part of the regular banana pancake trail (Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-Thailand). But we have 7,641+ reasons why you should come visit.
Below are the things that you need to know to begin your journey.
Beyond the Philippines' breathtaking beaches, you can discover a wide range of exhilarating adventures, relaxing getaways, and diverse cultures that can sate the wanderlust you must be feeling right now.
Important Info About the Philippines
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Tourism in the Philippines
The tourists are drowned to the country's rich biodiversity. Awesome pristine beaches, islands, diving spots, mountains and rainforests are truly world class. The cost of living is very cheap and Filipinos understand and can speak better English compared to other Southeast Asian countries. Tourists who’ve been to the Philippines fall in love with the Filipino hospitality and optimism. One of the reasons why Koreans, Japanese and Chinese, amongst the few, come to the Philippines is to study English because it's cheap and we have good exchange student programs plus to be beautiful places to wander around while studying is a winner. Here are the top visitors of the country.
Philippines Travel Map
Interactive map, just hover over the island where you are eyeing to go to and check out below which province, region or group of islands it falls under.
The Philippines is divided into three major island groups:
Luzon (the largest, northernmost island, which includes the main metro, Manila);
Visayas (a group of islands in the middle of the country including the major islands Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, and Masbate); and
Mindanao (the second-largest island in the Philippines, found at the southern end of the archipelago)
The Philippines is made up of 81 provinces, which fall under 17 administrative and one autonomous region divisions.
81 Provinces of the Philippines
It is composed of 16 cities below
- Quezon City
- San Juan
- Las Piñas
- Ilocos Norte
- Ilocos Sur
- La Union
- Nueva Vizcaya
- Nueva Ecija
- Occidental Mindoro
- Oriental Mindoro
- Camarines Norte
- Camarines Sur
- Zamboanga del Norte
- Zamboanga del Sur
- Zamboanga Sibugay
- Lanao del Norte
- Misamis Occidental
- Misamis Oriental
- Davao de Oro
- Davao del Norte
- Davao del Sur
- Davao Occidental
- Davao Oriental
- South Cotabato
- Sultan Kudarat
- Agusan del Norte
- Agusan del Sur
- Dinagat Islands
- Surigao del Norte
- Surigao del Sur
- Lanao del Sur
Best Time to Go to the Philippines
Peak season for tourists is usually from March to May during the summer time. This is usually the most expensive time to visit.
Times to avoid traveling in Philippines is during typhoon season. The Philippines is within the typhoon belt so the country experiences around nineteen typhoons every year. It is best to avoid traveling in the Philippines from July to October when torrential rains and thunderstorms are commonly experienced.
Sinulog - Cebu
The Sto Niño or Sinulog Festival is an annual religious and cultural festival, and is the center of the Santo Niño Catholic celebrations in the Philippines. This is the most well-known Philippine festival.
Dinagyang - Iloilo
It is a religious and cultural festival held right after the Sinulog in Cebu and the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan.
Masskara - Bacolod City
It is coined from the words “mass” meaning “many” and “kara” meaning “face”. It is a giant masquerade party like in Rio carnival, celebrated in the country's “City of Smiles”.
Ati-atihan - Kalibo, Aklan
An annual religious festival that involves colorful parades of costumes and dancing. It is one of the Philippines' largest festivals and lasts for an entire week in January.
Panagbenga - Baguio City
It is a month-long annual flower occasion from the Kankanaey origin, meaning "season of blooming". It was created as a tribute to the city's flowers and as a way to rise up from the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
Kadayawan - Davao
Its name is coined from the friendly greeting "Madayaw". This is a Dabawenyo word meaning good, valuable, superior or beautiful.
Moriones - Marinduque
It's an annual lenten rites of the men and women in costumes and masks replicating the garb of biblical Roman soldiers as interpreted by local folks, "Moriones".
Pahiyas - Lucban
Pahiyas also means "decor". The festival is when fronts of houses are are decorated with brightly colored rice wafer, called kiping, a type of rice dough made from a traditional reciipe. This is to give thanks to San Isidro Labrador for a good harvest.
Philippine International Hot Air Balloon - Clark, Pampanga
One of the unique festival celebrations because it is not based on the Catholic Calendar. It’s a 3-day festivity that includes activities like helicopter flying, skydiving, formation flying, paragliding, aerobatic displays, and of course the main highlights are the hot air balloons.
Giant Lantern Festival - San Fernando, Pampanga
Known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines thus the famous giant Christmas making lanterns festival held on every weekend before Christmas Eve. It showcases the gigantic and brightest lanterns made from locally sourced materials.
Festival Dates for 2020
What to Pack for the Philippines
As the Philippines is a warm tropical country, make sure you pack accordingly.
If you decide to head up North to the rice terraces, the weather can get cooler so a light-weight waterproof jacket is highly recommended and can be very useful in cold buses too. If you plan to spend most of your time in the Philippine islands, make sure you bring sun protection. If you plan on taking on some camping or hiking trips, a good pair of trekking sandals should be enough.
Below are the general things to pack for your Philippines travel. For a full list of what to bring, check out our Philippines Packing List which has all our top recommendations on what to bring.
Know WHAT, WHEN and HOW to Pack, Click below
- Use refillable containers or look for packaging-free alternatives, like shampoo bars instead of travel-sized toiletries in plastic bottles.. You can also find multi-use products, like Castile soaps, that can be used for washing your hair, body, and even clothing.
- Bring along an eco-bag when you visit the small shops to reduce the need for a plastic bag.
- Choose the eco friendly options whenever you can. You can find the list on our packing guide below
What to Eat When in the Philippines
What do Filipinos Eat? Click the button below!
Adventures Around the Philippines
Out of 7641 islands of the Philippines, from the beautiful tourist spots, to the vast mountain ranges, to the UNESCO world heritage sites, to long empty coastlines, and remote islands that are yet to be discovered by tourists. It not only offers tropical islands but also rice terraces, hiking, surfing, and diving.
Places in the Philippines are the playground for different kinds of adventures. I know it must be very overwhelming to plan your perfect Philippine holiday. We’ll make everything simpler for you. Discover the best of the country in this mini Philippines Travel Bucket Lists.
Philippine Best Activities Based on Location
The places listed below are our best bets. These places offers you different kinds of experiences that makes you feel alive and appreciate world (in this case, the Philippines) wonders.
6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The places made it to UNESCO’s lists of world wonders. This goes to show how Philippines beauty is world-class.
Philippines Best Ordoors
Feeling adventurous like us? Checkout this outdoor bucket-lists. I have a confession to make, me and Josh are not the athlete type of people. We just so love nature and we are very curious to try new things out of our comfortzone.
Top Mountain Treks Bucket List
World-class Diving Spots
Adventurous Things to do in the Philippines
Philippines Adventure Guide? Click below!
The choices of accommodations in the Philippines is sufficient. From homestays in basic nipa-huts to modern boutique hotels in busy cities, to luxury hotels, resorts, and villas in islands, there’s a vareity of options perfect for every type of traveller.
The basic ones can only have the things that you only needed like shower (cold water), bed (thin foam to none), lightweight walls without either fan or air-con and sometimes are windowless. The top end includes metropolitan Shangri-Las to high-end private island resorts where sometimes guests arrive by helicopter or float plane or private boats. And the rest of accommodation options falls somewhere under mid range.
Read mor of our Philippine accommodation guide as we talk about what to expect on the type of accommodation you’ll book, the prices, how to get discounts, what booking applications we use, some few booking tips and we also shared our personal recommendations of the best places to stay around the Philippines.
Booking accommodations? Click below!
Getting Around the Philippines
Travelling in the Philippines is not for fast travelers. It takes more time because there are islands divided by water, roads are often in a poor condition and expect that most of the flights are delayed so don’t make a very tight schedule on your flight connections. Experiencing the entire archipelago in 3 weeks is not doable. However, you can find a good 3 week itinerary that takes you along some of the Philippines’ highlights.
- Boat / Ship (small outrigger for island hopping trips and big ships for crossing between Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao)
- Rail (South Luzon to Legazpi via Calamba and Naga)
- Motorcycle rent
- Calesa (horse-drawn carriages) you can find these around Intramuros Manila and Vigan
What You Need to Know
- Airport Taxi
- Grab Cars/Taxi
FAQ's About Philippine Travel
Communicate with people, get your information from the locals and be safe but just be street smart at night etc. The great thing about the Philippines is there are lots of backpackers there so you will easily meet lots of people through hostels, island hopping tours and other activities.
- MANILA: Most people have a love-hate relationship with this city and spend one or two nights here. Skip if you can and head directly to the provinces.
- The small fishing village Coron is all about hopping from one stunning island to the other.
The Philippines has the most delicious mangos. It is in Guimaras!
- Taking plastic bottles on the El Nido island hopping tours is not allowed.
- Due to a new environmental policy all combination and party boat tours are banned.
- Smoking on the El Nido island hopping tours is prohibited.
- Since the new regulations in 2019, there is a limited amount of people per day that may enter Bacuit Bay.
- We recommend you to book at least two days ahead to be sure you have a spot.
- Don’t go for the lowest price. The lowest priced tours will mix you with another group, so they get a full boat. The quality of these tours can’t be guaranteed.
- Make sure drinking water is included because you are not allowed to take plastic bottles.
- Check if the tour includes the environmental tax. (200PHP) – Feb 2019
- Check if snorkeling gear & kayak is included.
- Try checking the company’s reviews on TripAdvisor.
With more than 7100+ islands to choose from, the Philippines is justifiably a beach island paradise. There’s an island to suit everyone style, from world-class white powder beach of Boracay, volcanic stones of Anawangin, nature-scapes concealing hidden lagoons, to massive islands good for long drives such as Luzon and Mindanao.
Beach bums and divers should head straight to the Visayas, where island-hopping are abundant and the picture-perfect beach takes many forms.
More adventurous travellers can get adrenaline rush on most activities in Cebu, or pitch a tent on the highest peak in Davao, perhaps wander for days in a long stretch of coastline in Palawan just don’t get stung by little monster jellyfish’ while you swim in the crystal blue waters.
Chance upon this paradise in a long deserted stretch of white sand beaches. Hugging a cove of turquoise blue water.
The Philippines is undoubtedly well-known for its beaches, but adventure junkies don’t need to feel left out.
While surfers are just catching on to the fickle waves that form on both coasts, divers have long been captivated by the country’s underwater glamour.
Northern Palawan is perfect for sea kayakers, you can also find SUP’s becoming popular in some areas of the country.
Boracay and Pagudpud (North Luzon) are world-class kiteboarding destinations.
Trekking can be done just about anywhere, while canyoneering and mountain-biking are gaining popularity. And the Philippines is also, unofficially, the zipline capital of the world.
Hop along, your adventures awaits.
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