Exotic, beautiful, and vivid, The Philippines is one of the most popular emerging tourist spots in Asia. Also known as the “Pearl of the Orient Sea”, it is such a preferred tourist destination because it has a number of things to offer to the people visiting it – food, entertainment, shopping experiences, diverse culture and most importantly – stunning natural beauty.
Below is a guide to all of those who’ll be visiting the Philippines for the first time. The country is rapidly developing, but it can still be a bit overwhelming to try and plan a trip over there, especially if you try and do it on your own. This guide will contain all the basic info and tip you need to know in order to have a safe and enjoyable vacation at one of the world’s most exotic countries.
20 Things You Should Know About Philippines
One of the main appeals of the country is its people. Always positive, smiling and helpful, their approach really supplements that lost paradise feeling you are looking for when choosing such a destination.
It brings an atmosphere of naivety and simplicity to the table, but it’s still important to know how to deal with them with proper respect and understanding.
Quality and standards of service
Filipinos are known to be extremely polite. Rather than gaining instant familiarity and addressing you by your first name, they tend to speak in soft, melodious voices that sound soothing while being excessively polite.
While the native language of the Philippines is Tagalog, you will have absolutely no trouble because English is a very prevalent language there. Almost everybody knows English, most of them very well. This is one of the major upsides to visiting the country, as it makes it so much easier to find your way and get the kind of services you are looking for wherever you are.
Unlike most Western countries though, in the Philippines, it is generally not acceptable to be direct with your wishes and express your feelings and thoughts freely. That is unless you want to express positive feelings only of course. You will need to adopt a more subtle and tactful approach or risk insulting your hosts. Things here also move at their own pace, so be prepared to wait patiently for service, even in prestigious 5-star resorts.
How to get to the Philippines
Getting to the Philippines is fairly simple since PAL, the national airline company, operates flights from almost any major airport in the world. Prices vary based on where you are coming from but generally speaking, you can expect to spend around $1000 per person for a roundtrip ticket.
If your country doesn’t have a direct flight on offer, or you are looking to cut down on expenses, another option is taking a connecting flight. The most popular choices are stopping at either Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, or Singapore. All of these are 3 hours away from Manila and offer multiple, cheap flights each day.
If you want to dive even deeper into this, consider flying directly to Cebu City instead of Manila. There are no direct flights from Europe or the U.S, only from other Asian countries. The total flight time and price is very similar to landing in Manila – but it can help you smoothen out your itinerary since you’ll be landing in the islands immediately and able to skip the busy capital altogether.
Getting around the Philippines
Like with most countries, it is cheaper and more immersive to travel using the local means of transport. Here, that means using tricycles, a local version of the famous Tuk-Tuk from Thailand. It’s not impossible to find cabs, but it’s easier to travel using public transport.
Unlike several countries, Uber doesn’t have much of a presence in the Philippines because they already have their own cab-hailing services known as “Grab”. You can book your ride on their app and travel in the car of your choice if you wish to skip local transportation modes.
App booked cars are quite common in metros while jeepneys and multicabs, along with tricycles, rule the roads in most local areas. One probable reason for this is because of the terrain – you won’t find smooth, wide, six-lane roads everywhere.
Rules and Laws
The Philippines is especially tough on people who wish to buy or deal in drugs. They severely punish those found guilty of anything to do with drugs, as they continue to wage wars on their internal drug gangs. Even if you were planning to spice up your travel with some drugs which are considered harmless or even legal elsewhere, it’s safest to stay away from it all.
Tourists from several countries can arrive without a visa. Once you do get one, it’s not at all difficult to get your visa validity extended by 24 to 36 months easily. Generally, their tourist visas last for about a month.
Planning your trip and hopping between islands
Being a nation made out of not hundreds but THOUSANDs of islands means there’s always something unique to try. You can enjoy the whole range of island experiences depending on what you prefer – secluded or crowded, sunny or shaded, pristine or messy, busy or romantic – you name it and you can get an island to match your needs.
Most people mark Palawan and Boracay as their main priorities, especially while planning shorter vacations in the Philippines. Boracay has one of the best beaches in the world (but not much other than that), while Palawan is one of the best all-around spots, while also offering the most iconic islands and lagoons.
No matter where you choose to go, water-based activities will always be the focus. Sure, there are stunning waterfalls and exciting volcanoes everywhere, but these pale in comparison to the plethora of riches the ocean has to offer. The most popular activity pretty much everywhere is island hopping tours, which you can book private or join a group, and as the name suggests take you between several islands and secluded beaches during a single day.
Being an island nation, moving between different islands is not always an easy task. This is where proper planning in advance really comes into play. Making sure you build a smooth and sensible itinerary can be the difference between a once in a lifetime trip and a logistical nightmare.
Ferries are the most common means of transport between locations. However, in many cases that doesn’t make much sense – you’ll be wasting a lot of money just to save an insignificant sum. For example, the “fast” ferry between El Nido to Coron costs 35$ per person and takes 4 hours to reach its destination. The flight between these two islands cost 20$ or so extra and only takes 20 minutes!
Is the Philippines safe?
Although it has some safe and happening spots, the recent crackdown on drugs has led to dangerous, life-threatening conditions in certain parts of the country. Most of them are located in the South. So be sure to plan your explorations of the country accordingly and follow state office advisories. And don’t be surprised to see a good number of various security personnel in tourist spots – there’s no need to be alarmed.
General Useful Tips
- The national currency of the nation is pesos. 1 peso is equal to roughly $55 USD, although this number fluctuates regularly as all other currencies’ value does.
- Fresh fruits, coconuts, juices are available aplenty even on the remotest parts of the country. The Philippines is the largest exporter of coconuts to the world and their fruit and water help a person remain hydrated, so it’s easy to see why they are so popular all over the country.
- Toilet Paper – Most public toilets make it a point to place the toilet rolls outside the actual stall. So you may enter one expecting a roll to be there but instead were supposed to carry it from the outside with you.
- The Philippines were ruled by Spanish kings for several centuries. So even today, there is a heavy Spanish influence on their language, culture, cuisines, and even architecture. Some people may even mistake it for Spain in certain regions!
- Make it a point to carry loose change so you can buy single items instead of large lots at the local stores in the country. And shopping can be really fun here because almost everything costs very cheap without comprising the quality of the products.