Here are my top Philippines travel tips to help you plan and make the most of your holiday. It’s an amazing country, but be prepared!
If you’re looking for travel tips for the Philippines, then boil up a brew and let me share my knowledge, with you.
I’ve been to the Philippines twice now, and I’ve spent almost six weeks in total exploring the beautiful islands of Palawan, Cebu, Siargao, Bohol and Boracay. And I’m still totally up for going back again one day – it’s that good!
– First Philippines travel tip: go to Siargao!
The Philippines are made up of over 7000 islands, meaning that the only way to travel between them is to either fly or travel by water. Not too much of a problem – in fact, all part of the journey – but it does mean you need to consider the fact that weather changes quickly, affecting transport and so you can’t really expect, or plan for, anything in the Philippines to be on time. Don’t book your travel plans too close together for that very reason.
Oh and there’s your first travel tip for the Philippines dropped already. Read on for more juicy nuggets of knowledge, gained from my 5 weeks of exploration.
52 Travel Tips for the Philippines
If you’re looking for Philippines travel tips and advice, you’ve come to the right place. This is my essential travel guide to the Philippines. Well, along with the other 10+ Philippines articles I’ve written.
1. English is an official language in the Philippines
Great for any backpackers coming from Asia and craving a taste of home. This means you can find out a lot about the local culture, and gain more from your experience.
Take the time to chat to locals as it’s a rare luxury to be able to speak the same language as so many people in Asia.
2. You’ll eat lots of fish and rice
Food in the Philippines is basic, unless you go high end. Expect lots of fish and rice. They do like their fast food though so you’ll never be too far from a McDonalds, especially in the popular spots.
3. Try the Don Papa rum
The Philippines produces its own Don Papa rum, and it’s pretty cheap for anyone coming from the West. Make sure you get your hands on some to drink there, and bring some back for the alcohol cupboard too.
4. Know where NOT to go
There’s a big change going on right now in the Philippines, under the current government. This has led to some definite no go areas in the Philippines. Make sure you ask if there are any around when you arrive in your destination.
Remember, safety first.
5. Filipinos are lovely
In general Filipino people are lovely and there’s a chilled out vibe in most of the tourist areas. Say hello, be friendly and interact, as you would anywhere.
6. The currency is ‘Filipino Peso’
There are around 75 Filipino Pesos to the British Pound.
7. Don’t try to fit in too many places
There are many beautiful places to go in the Philippines. Try visiting Palawan for starters, then Bohol, Siargao and Cebu. My number one tip for the Philippines though, is don’t try to fit in too many places to a short amount of time.
You need at least 5 days in each location to have enough time to get there, enjoy and relax, and get out again without stressing about flight and ferry connections. If you do too much island hopping you’ll be worrying too much about connections to be able to enjoy a place.
READ MORE ON THE PHILIPPINES
The best of Boracay on a budget
Exploring Kawasan Falls in Cebu
The top tourist hotspots in Palawan
8. The Philippines beaches are some of the best in the world
Take your camera and prepare to be amazed. My number one travel tip for the Philippines would be to explore as many of the beaches as possible in wherever you’re staying. There are definitely some hidden gems to be found!
9. Do a sailing trip to see the best of the islands
Board a sailing trip from Coron to El Nido in Palawan, you won’t be disappointed. The Tao Experience is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
10. Taxis are easy to hail
They’re also plentiful in the cities in the Philippines. They’re also crazy cheap, but my top Philippines tip is to just make sure the meter is turned on. Not accusing anyone but it just makes things easier!
11. Cock fighting is normal
Don’t be surprised if you see cock fighting in the smaller villages and cities. It’s a way of life here and locals will spend a lot of time preparing their cock for the brawl. It’s normal to see them stood or sat outside their houses holding their roosters tight.
My Philippines travel tip for this? Just ignore it. Or join in! It’s all part of the Philippines culture. Check out this mad story about cock fighting gone wrong in the Philippines though.
12. Dispose of your rubbish responsibly
The Philippines is growing crazily fast as a tourist destination which means the sanitation and infrastructure is struggling. Follow instructions when it comes to rubbish disposal and in how to dispose of toilet roll. I’ve seen what happens when tourists don’t – it’s grim.
Boracay has been shut down for six months thanks to the sanitation there. From visiting in February though, I could see that the extreme measures were needed.
13. The poverty line is low in the Philippines
Some islands and areas – like Siargao – have suffered greatly from recent freak weather incidents. As such you’ll witness some extreme poverty travelling in the Philippines, so be generous with your pesos.
Interested in visiting Siargao?
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Philippines Travel Tips
READ MORE: What to Do in Siargao in the Philippines
14. Take a moped ride as a taxi
Do your research and ask around to know how much you should be spending on taxi rides. Prices can vary greatly. Oh, and don’t shy away from taking a ride on the back of a moped or motorbike – it’s more fun, and cheaper!
15. Accommodation is cheap
You can get private accommodation from around £10 per night, but it’ll be very basic. If you and your mates group together you can get some incredible places for a few quid more.
16. Filipinos like to sing
Even moreso than what you might be used to at home. Expect to hear whistling and (tuneless) singing wherever you go.
17. Pack for the Philippines wisely
Think about what you’re going to pack for the Philippines. It can be hard to find things on the islands, and, if you’re a larger Westerner, might be hard to find clothes to fit. This Philippines packing list from Project Untethered can help.
18. Eating is cheap
You can eat super cheap in the Philippines, but splash out now and again to really experience the new food revolution of the country – especially in Boracay.
Philippines Travel Tips
READ MORE: Where to Find the Best Breakfast in Boracay
19. Filipino service is slow
Service is generally slower than in the UK, but it will almost always be done with a smile. Don’t order if you’re in any kind of rush, which you definitely shouldn’t be here.
20. Do a food tour in Manila
Food tours on your first day are a great way to learn more about Filipino cuisine and what you can expect. This is the best way to learn about the food options in the Philippines as quickly as possible.
21. You can get a 30-day visa on arrival
Brits are granted a 30-day visa for the Philippines on arrival. You can get a 59-day one if you apply in advance.
22. Research your ferry prices
Whatever route you want to do compare the ferry prices and the flight against each other – you could end up saving quite a bit if you have some time on your hands and don’t mind hanging around.
23. Be prepared for the rains
Study the weather and make sure you’re going at a good time of year if you want those postcard perfect beach shots. February 2018 was not a good time to be in the Philippines, yet, February 2015 was an absolute dream.
24. Go snorkelling
Snorkelling in the Philippines is some of the best I’ve ever done anywhere. Do it! Or go one better, and use the opportunity to learn to scuba dive. If you’re serious about scuba diving, there are some great liveaboard experiences to try out. Check out this guide to finding the best liveaboard experiences in the Philippines, from divein.com.
25. Dare to hire a motorbike
Rent a motorbike on the smaller islands. Having my own wheels to get round Siargao was absolutely brilliant, and you get to see so much more.
26. Refill your bottles
Don’t drink the water in the Philippines. On Siargao there was a big drive for tourists to refill their bottles, rather than to keep buying the 500ml size – I thought this was great. Helps you to avoid adding to the world’s plastic problem and to make the most of the cheaper refill charge.
27. The Philippines are changing fast
I’ve been to the Philippines twice, three years apart. It seemed so, so different the second time. Tourism in the Philippines has exploded in recent years and the country is changing fast. Enjoy the ride!
28. Philippines and COVID
As of January 12th 2021, the Philipines had had around 500k cases of COVID and 10k deaths. The country was put on lockdown, like in England, and people weren’t allowed to leave their homes. This will obviously have affected the country hugely, so expect there to be closures, delays, and a new attitude.
For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, this has been an incredibly difficult year. Check the current gov.uk Philippines travel advice before you leave.
29. Take American plug adaptors
One of the most important tips for the Philippines is to take a universal plug adaptor if you’re coming from England – you’ll need the American attachment.
30. Use the Jeepneys
If you want the cheapest transport possible then use the local jeepney buses. Everyone piles in, pretty much on top of each other, and they stop every minute or so to let people in and out. It takes ages to get anywhere but it’s cheap and it’s what the locals do!
This is one of the top Philippines travel tips if you want to save some money on your trip.
31. Travel around
You need to spend a good chunk of time in the Philippines. Each island is quite different to another, and known for different Philippines activities. In Boracay it’s all about the nightlife, in Palawan the beaches, in Bohol it’s the Chocolate Hills, and out in the ocean it’s all about the scuba.
32. Make sure to try the lechon
Lechon is what Filipinos call a hog roast. It’s delicious and the go to meal for any kind of celebration there. Make sure you try it while you’re there, to really say that you’ve experienced the Philippines.
33. Have a ‘boodle fight’
Honestly, one of my top 5 meals of all time. When I was on the Tao Experience sailing trip one of our meals was a ‘boodle fight‘. This is when they lay all the food out on the table, often served in banana leaves, and diners will go for it with their bare hands.
Obviously it depends how hungry your ‘opponents’ are as to how much you get to eat – but that’s all part of the fun!
Philippines travel tip: get in there first!
34. Know what you’re ordering
This one time, I thought I’d be all footloose and fancy free and order something random off the menu for my lunch in Siargao. It took AGES to come (see point 19 above) and then when it was put in front of me, I baulked.
It was pig skin, with the hair still on it, with half cooked egg in it.
I tried a spoonful as I was the only person in the restaurant. This memory is making my face scrunch up and me feel a bit sick. I swallowed.
I managed one more and then left the money and a tip on the table and just got up and left it. I couldn’t.
35. Beware the Philippines weather
The weather can change very quickly in the Philippines, given that the country is made up of loads of tiny islands.
In Bohol I experienced a typhoon while out on my moped. Halfway home, barely able to see, I got a text alert saying to get inside ASAP.
My mum will kill me if she reads this. At that point I was wearing flipflops, in a torrential downpour, by myself, riding a motorbike back from the Chocolate Hills, still with half an hour to go and not knowing my route.
Essential Philippines travel tip: check the weather!
Also, make sure to travel out of typhoon season.
Both times I’ve been to the Philippines it was in February. One year it was glorious sun for the entire time, and the next, rain 50% of the time.
My brother went for his honeymoon in December and it chucked it down for the two weeks too.
36. There’s not much to do when it rains
Thought I needed a new point.
Philippines travel tip: when it rains in the Philippines, there’s not much to do. The Philippines are all about the beaches, the sea, and eating outside. There’s really not much to do in the rain.
If rain is forecast for your trip I’d recommend booking into a nice spa hotel to make the most of your trip.
37. Flights over ferries
If you can, take a flight. They take a lot less time than ferries, given the delays and check in times, and are generally more trustworthy too.
38. You need 750 pesos departure fee
Don’t be all happy with yourself for managing to spend all your pesos just before you leave, you need to save 750 pesos to depart the airport.
Keep this in cash to one side so you can pay easily when you leave. It has to be in cash and there’s no getting round it.
39. Split big money bills ASAP
If you just want a little taste of lechon from a street vendor, you’re not going to be able to pay with those big fresh bills of yours. I’d recommend spending them in the airport as soon as you get them, just so you can break them down.
40. Take your own toilet roll
Trust me, it’s hard to come by.
Keep a stash of tissues or toilet roll in your bag for emergencies.
41. And hand sanitiser
I would’ve carried this before, but especially now. Keep some sanitiser in your day bag and use regularly.
42. Don’t leave without going on a tricycle
There are lots of different modes of transport in the Philippines, for all different occasions. I found a tricycle was often used on the way to and from the airport.
A tricyle is a motorbike with a carriage attached – great for transporting your luggage.
If you’re looking for money-saving Philippines travel tips, then know that these are often a lot cheaper than cars.
43. Bring your own moisturiser & sunscreen
Many of the sunscreens and moisturisers in Asia contain some sort of whitening treatment, and they’re mega expensive. Bring a sun cream brand you know and can trust from home.
44. Know the Philippines travel restrictions
When I was in the Philippines there were travel restrictions thanks to the weather. Keep up to date with the latest Philippines travel restrictions because of COVID before you leave. Whole islands can be shut down which can throw your plans all out of whack.
It pays to be one step ahead.
45. You don’t need a Philippines travel guide book
I didn’t bother with a Philippines travel guide book when I was there, just use my blog!
46. Hire local drivers and do local tours
As soon as you start doing tours and taxi rides with companies with huge marketing budgets, you start paying more for the experience.
Support local entrepreneurialism and book tours and taxis locally so you can save money, and make sure the money goes to the right place too. You can always do TripAdvisor checks when you’re there, if you’re worried about safety at all.
Here’s one of my Philippines travel tips to help you make friends – ask other travellers in the hostel.
47. Don’t give money to child beggars
This goes for the world over, but I’ll just add it into these Philippines travel tips too. It’s so tempting, I know, I used to do it, but if you give money to child beggars you’re encouraging a whole system of them not going to school, which will only affect them negatively in the long run.
Earning money by begging on the streets only serves to make begging seem a more attractive option to actually learning. For both the children, and their parents – don’t fund these thoughts.
48. WiFi is generally rubbish
Do NOT expect to be able to download programmes, talk clearly on video chat or any other high bandwidth internet activity. WiFi in the Philippines has probably got better since I was there, but by all accounts it’s still pretty shoddy.
Get out there and enjoy the great Philippines outdoors instead!
49. Power outages are common
Don’t be surprised if you wake up and your stuff hasn’t charged, power outages are common in the Philippines.
Top Philippines travel tip? Get yourself a good external charger for battery emergencies.
50. Take a dry bag
Well, seeing as you asked…
I’d say one of the most important Philippines travel tips is to take a dry bag, or buy one when you’re there. Chances are that at some point you’ll be on a boat, and you’ll be with your phone. Don’t be like me and let the water splashes destroy the mechanism.
Take or buy a dry bag and use it to keep your tech safe.
51. Religion is strong here
Most Filipinos are Catholic, and strongly catholic at that. Don’t make ‘jokes’ about religion, or say anything negative. Not that you would, of course, but in this list of Philippines travel tips I just wanted to give you a warning.
52. Do an eco check on all activities
I’m all for sustainable tourism and am always looking for ways to make my travel more eco friendly, this generally includes doing your own research on activities and destinations.
I strongly recommend looking into all the activities you want to do in the Philippines and doing your own research into how eco friendly they really are – especially when they concern animals.
Philippines travel tips and advice
And those are all my travel tips for the Philippines, for now. I hope you have a fabulous time, and make sure to check out all my Philippines travel advice on my blog for more insider info!
Have fun and let us know if you have any questions below!
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