The Philippines is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to. This country is full of tropical islands and lush greenery. There are limestone cliffs, sandy white beaches and water so clear it sparkles! There are over 7,000 islands that make up the archipelago of the Philippines and so many places to explore that it can be hard to decide where to go first. This Philippines travel guide will tell you everything you need to know to help you decide where to go in the Philippines.
AT A GLANCE:
Language: Filipino and English
Currency: The Philippine Peso
Weather: Tropical, hot, sometimes rainy
Population: 106 million
How to Get There:
As you might imagine, it is a bit out of the way to travel to. It’s located just southeast of China and north of Indonesia. Since I was living in China at the time, I was able to fly easily from China into the capital city of Manila.
If you’re flying from any western country, be prepared to connect in several places. But you will most likely be flying into Manila first and then connecting to elsewhere in the Philippines. Even going from island to island, I found it hard to find any flights that did not take you back in to Manila first before connecting you to the other island. I think I flew into Manila about 3 times.
Flights are fairly cheap once you arrive in the Philippines. I booked flights to the islands for around $60 or less.
In Manila, it’s easy to get a taxi to get where you need to go. Once you leave the capital city however, you’ll see many more local options.
Jeepney – AJeepney is very popular and is kind of like a brightly colored mini bus. They are pretty interesting to look at (a bit cartoon-like) and you’ll likely ride in one at some point on your trip. The interior of the jeepney is more like the back of a truck. You hop on and sit on a bench along the sides of the jeepney. Some have a rack on top and will throw your luggage on top. They can hold quite a few people.
Tricycle – On the islands, you’ll see jeepneys as well, but you’ll also see smaller modes of transportation like a tricycle–a covered sidecar on a motorcycle. (Think Hagrid’s getup in Harry Potter except covered). These are fun to take but you’ll need to brush up on your negotiating skills for the price.
Motorbike – You can also opt to rent a motorbike for the day. This is a cheap option to get around and a fun way to explore the islands. We rented motorbikes one day to find a beach that was further away on the island.
READ MORE: 12 Photos of the Philippines That Will Make You Want to Go
When to Go:
The Philippines really has two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. Rainy season is between July and November so you’re most likely to have the best weather between December and May. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t go throughout the rest of the year.
I went to the Philippines right smack in the middle of rainy season in August. I spent a week in Boracay and had perfect weather (for me haha) which was hot and sunny! I had decent weather in El Nido for my second week, though it did rain occasionally. I still was able to do an awesome boat tour and have some beach time in El Nido.
Plus, rainy season is when everything is at its most vibrant. Everything was incredibly green and the countryside was so beautiful. But, you obviously want good weather for the beach as that’s when the water will be at its clearest.
How Long Do You Need
The Philippines has many different islands to consider visiting. You could spend a lot of time here island hopping and exploring the different areas. I spent two weeks in the Philippines which was a great amount of time but I could have spend a lot longer. Three weeks in the Philippines would be a great trip and you’d get to see quite a bit.
Where to Go in the Philippines:
Most importantly in this Philippines travel guide (and the most fun!) is deciding where to go in the Philippines. These are some of the more popular places to go as a tourist and have arguably some of the best attractions to see. I’d suggest figuring out what kind of things you want to do and how you want to spend your time before adding a place to your itinerary.
As the capital city and main city to fly into, you’ll most likely have some time here. There are some high rises in the city and nicer areas but there are also a lot of run down areas. It does have some beautiful Spanish colonial buildings and historic forts. There are parks and museums to explore as well.
I opted to fly straight to the islands and didn’t explore here, but if you’re interested in museums and want to see some beautiful historic buildings, you may want to give yourself a few days here.
Philippines Travel Guide: Top Attractions
The Philippines is one of those places that should not be rushed. There are not a ton of landmarks you need to rush and see. This is more of a place that deserves time to just take in the scenery and enjoy your surroundings. Here are some of the top things to see to add to your itinerary when deciding where to go in the Philippines.
I tried to narrow it down, but Boracay island is sort of a stand alone place. It’s got great beaches and is so easy to explore and really relax.
Puka Beach is a place I had gone to at sunset and I wasn’t too impressed at the time. Mostly it was because the sun had already gone down and the water wasn’t very clear. Luckily I ended up taking a boat trip around the island and one of the stops was to Puka Beach. It was SO pretty during the day. It definitely gave White Beach a run for its money.
El Nido/Coron boat tours
The boat tours in El Nido and Coron are really what put them on the map. The island of Palawan is large and I didn’t quite explore it well enough to judge it but to see the beautiful areas, you need to hop on a boat. There are several tours to choose from and they take you to different areas of the surrounding islands.
One of my favorite spots was this lagoon. The water was so green and pretty. We were surrounded by rock formations and it was a fun place to get out and snorkel too. Each spot on the boat tour was gorgeous.
The Chocolate Hills in Bohol look like a really interesting place to see. The hills seem to go on for miles and are either bright green or brown, depending on the season. They are a strange phenomenon because there are so many. There’s an adventure park in the area and a bamboo hanging bridge to find.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Swimming with whale sharks in Cebu looks absolutely insane. I really, really wanted to do this but was a little limited on time. I met people in the Philippines who had done it and their pictures were incredible. It’s something that you can’t do everywhere and will definitely make your trip special.
Banaue Rice Terraces
You can see rice terraces anywhere in southeast Asia really, but the Banaue rice terraces are quite impressive. Apparently they are sometimes referred to as the ‘8th Wonder of the World’. The hillsides are fairly steep and the color a bright green. Of course, you’ll want to go at a certain time of year because they won’t always look lush and green.
One of the popular waterfalls in the Philippines is Kawasan Falls. You might have seen it on Instagram before because it’s a popular spot for photos. The water is a milky blue and in the center is a bamboo raft to stand on. The greenery and waterfalls around you make the perfect photo op.
Foods to Try:
But what is travel without food? Some popular dishes to try in the Philippines are:
Chicken Adobo: Chicken cooked in vinegar and soy sauce
Kare-kare: a type of stew with a peanut sauce
Kinilaw: a Filipino ceviche
Sinigang: a sour soup with meat and vegetable.
Halo-Halo: a dessert with a variety of things including rice, ice cream, flan, fruit, etc.
Things to Know:
The cardinal rule of traveling is to always have your passport in a safe place and to never give it to anyone. Then you get to Asia and that rule is THROWN out the window. Asia is one of those places that just operates a little differently. Motorbikes or scooters are popular to rent in Asian countries but they will want your passport as collateral.
I can’t remember if that was specifically the case in the Philippines, but don’t be surprised if they want to hold on to your passport while you hold on to their scooter. This ensures that 1. you bring it back and 2. that you pay for any damage incurred while in your possession. It goes against all travel rules to do this but that’s just how it’s done in a lot of SE Asia countries.
For the most part, The Philippines is a great place to visit but there are some areas you should avoid. Some of those places are the Sulu Archipelago and Marawi City.
For a solo female traveler, I had also read that El Nido should be approached with extra caution at night. There are several beach bars on the beach and I had heard stories of assault and women being taken advantage of after leaving the bar drunk. Exercise caution by staying in a group at night and staying aware of your surroundings. Check out some more safety info here!
I traveled The Philippines as a solo female traveler and never had any issues. I felt completely safe in Boracay and made sure to be in a group at night in El Nido. Even though El Nido is on my ‘safety’ list, it just means to exercise a bit more caution there. The Filipino people are very nice and I had an amazing time exploring. I was lucky enough to meet other solo travelers, so I was never alone.
The Philippines is at the top of my list of favorite countries. The beauty that is in this country is endless and it’s a great place to relax on the beach or have an adventure. I hope this Philippines travel guide inspired you to want to visit because this is a place I will definitely return to!