Embark on a tropical adventure with our Philippines travel tips, designed to enhance your exploration of its idyllic islands and rich cultural tapestry. These tips will be your compass to the hidden gems and celebrated wonders of this Southeast Asian paradise.
Philippines Travel Overview
- Money: You’ll use the Philippine Peso.
- Plugs: They mainly use the same plugs as America (type A and B), but it’s smart to bring a universal adaptor.
- Visa: People from 151 countries can come visa-free for 30 days if their passport is valid for six more months and they have a ticket to leave. Brazilians and Israelis can stay for 59 days. If you’re from somewhere else or want to stay longer, check the government website or get a visa waiver for an extra 29 days.
- Safety: The Philippines is generally safe, but keep an eye on your stuff to avoid theft. Join Facebook groups like Backpacking Southeast Asia or Philippines Backpacker Travel if you’ve got safety questions.
- Insurance: For travel insurance, Safety Wing is recommended.
- Language: Lots of people speak English, even though the national language is Tagalog.
- Festivals: There’s always a party or festival. You might get invited to join – it’s all about street dancing and enjoying local rum!
- Traveling Around: Getting from one island to another can take time. If you’re short on it, flying is best. Check 12Go or Bookaway for travel schedules and to book trips within the country, like buses from Manila to various destinations.
Keep this info handy to make your trip smooth and fun!
1. Transportation Timing
Traveling in the Philippines is easy on the wallet and offers various options. In big cities like Manila, Cebu, or Davao, you can hop on taxis, jeepneys, or buses to get around, and ride-hailing apps are also handy.
For longer distances, flying is the way to go, with plenty of low-cost flights linking cities and islands. In smaller towns or the countryside, expect to ride in tricycles or motorcycle taxis for a local experience. The roads can be rough and journeys might take longer, so give yourself extra time when traveling, especially if you’re catching a flight.
In the Philippines, taxis are everywhere in cities, easy to spot in white or yellow with clear “Taxi” signs. To catch one, just wave your hand at the curb. Make sure the driver agrees to use the meter before you get in, as this ensures a fair price. If a driver won’t use the meter, it’s okay to find another taxi.
Once you’re on your way, double-check that the meter is on. While some drivers might suggest a set price, using the meter is usually best. You can also book rides through apps like Grab for a smooth process. For safety, doors are often locked during the ride—no need to worry, it’s a standard precaution. Taxis are a handy way to travel around Philippine cities.
3. Public Transport: Jeepneys
Jeepneys are a colorful and important part of getting around in the Philippines. They’re easy to find in cities and fun to ride for both locals and visitors. These decorated buses have their routes written on the front. You just wave them down, hop in, and pay a cheap fare to the driver or helper on board.
They’re usually packed and don’t have air conditioning, but they’re a cheap way to travel and let you see the local way of life. Keep your stuff close and carry coins for the fare. When you ride a jeepney, you’re not just moving from place to place, you’re getting a slice of Filipino culture, too.
4. Renting a Motorbike
Renting motorbikes is a common choice on many Philippine islands, even for beginners. If you want to rent one, remember to carry the right papers, like an International Driving Permit or your local driver’s license, plus your passport. And check that your travel insurance covers motorbike rides!
Always wear a helmet for safety—it’s the law. Know the traffic rules, as driving here can be tough, especially when it’s busy. Start practicing on quieter roads before heading into the city. Keep your eyes open for other vehicles, people, and street sellers when you’re on the move.
Use navigation tools to help you find your way around new places. Rent your bike from trustworthy places and check it over well before you take off. And if you don’t want to drive yourself, local motorbike rides are an option—they’re cheaper than taxis and might be your only choice on some islands.
ATMs are easy to find in big cities in the Philippines, but not on all islands or in small towns. You might have to travel for hours to find one. Before you go to less populated places, it’s smart to bring enough cash. Check if your hotel takes credit cards because many local spots like restaurants and buses won’t.
On well-known islands like Boracay, ATMs aren’t hard to find. In the cities, look for ATMs in banks, malls, shops, and busy spots. Big banks like BDO, BPI, and Metrobank have lots of ATMs.
You can use international debit or credit cards on most ATMs, especially if they’re Visa or Mastercard. Remember to tell your bank you’re going to the Philippines and check that your card will work there. This is just one thing to do before you travel to another country.
6. Cost of the Philippines
Traveling in the Philippines is generally affordable, especially when compared to costs in the United States. It’s friendly for various budgets, and you can often negotiate prices down. But keep in mind, even if saving a few pesos doesn’t mean much to you, it can be significant for the locals.
So, if you’re not tight on money, consider not haggling for the lowest possible price. This approach supports the local economy and still lets you enjoy the Philippines’ value for money.
7. Price Negotiation
In the Philippines, you typically don’t haggle in places like supermarkets, restaurants, or malls where prices are set and shown. Here, you’re expected to pay what’s on the price tag, whether you’re buying daily necessities or paying for services. But, if you’re shopping at local markets, dealing with street sellers, or in smaller shops, bargaining is quite common, especially for items like crafts or souvenirs. This is even more usual in tourist spots, where sellers often start with higher prices, knowing that haggling is part of the deal.
When negotiating in the Philippines, remember to keep it courteous and friendly. Suggest a fair price and be ready to discuss it until you and the seller agree. It’s important to be fair and respect that this is how the vendor makes a living. For services like tours or rides, agree on the price beforehand to prevent any unexpected costs. Also, it’s wise to pay only part of the fee first and the rest when the service is done.
To enjoy your time in the Philippines without breaking the bank, start by setting a realistic budget that covers your stay, travel, meals, activities, and shopping. Research prices beforehand to know what to expect cost-wise in various places. Opt for guesthouses or hostels to save on accommodation, and for dining, try local food stalls for tasty yet economical meals.
Furthermore, get around like the locals by taking buses or jeepneys, cheaper than taxis or private cars. However, plan your sightseeing around what you can afford, including free or inexpensive attractions like public parks, markets, or scenic outdoor spots.
Moreover, keep an eye on your spending, adjusting to avoid overspending. By being savvy with your budget, you can create unforgettable memories in the Philippines without financial stress. For a practical reference, you might look at a detailed breakdown of my 13-day Philippines trip budget for further insights.
General Tips for Visiting the Philippines
9. City Life vs. Island Life
City life in the Philippines, found in bustling hubs like Manila, Cebu, and Davao, moves rapidly with its modern comforts, entertainment diversity, and exciting nightlife. These cities offer easy access to various amenities and plentiful job options. However, they can sometimes be burdened with pollution and safety concerns.
Conversely, island life, experienced in beautiful locales like Palawan, Boracay, or Siargao, is much more tranquil. These islands are havens of natural splendor, featuring clear waters and leisurely days. Here, you can enjoy snorkeling, diving, and soaking up the serene environment. Island communities are often close-knit and committed to preserving their stunning surroundings.
Furthermore, as someone who’s visited the Philippines, lean towards the islands for a less crowded and more authentic experience compared to more frequented destinations like Thailand. The beaches are exceptional and the diving experiences are unmatched. It’s truly worth experiencing for yourself.
10. Safety in Manila
In Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines, it’s wise to be cautious as some areas are less safe and the walkways can be in poor condition. It’s important to be mindful when exploring unfamiliar places.
Always stay alert and guard your possessions carefully, avoiding showing off expensive items. For transportation, choose trusted options like official taxis or app-based rides, particularly at night. Furthermore, it’s best to stay in well-lit, populated areas and not walk alone in quiet or strange areas.
By using your common sense and staying aware of your environment, you can enjoy Manila safely. To illustrate, a traveler I met was there for only four days but encountered theft and pickpocketing. So, taking these precautions is crucial for a pleasant visit.
11. Tap Water
The safety of tap water in the Philippines depends on where you are. In big cities like Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City, it’s usually safe to drink tap water because they have good water treatment systems.
However, in smaller towns or rural areas, the tap water might need to be cleaner, so it’s safer to drink bottled water or boil the tap water first. Furthermore, even if the local water is safe, your body might not be used to it, so to avoid any stomach problems, you might still want to stick with bottled water. It’s also important to remember that water quality can change, so it’s wise to ask locals or check with authorities for the latest information on tap water safety wherever you are in the Philippines.
12. Beach Safety
Philippines beaches are generally safe, yet it’s key to be careful to enjoy your visit fully:
- Swim Smart: Always swim in areas with lifeguards and within marked zones for your safety.
- Mind the Currents: Heed any local warnings since some beaches have strong currents; stay out of risky spots.
- Stay Sensible: Use your common sense — don’t swim alone on remote beaches, especially at night, and watch your belongings closely to avoid theft.
- Heed Warnings: Follow any instructions from lifeguards or beach officials; they’re there to keep everyone safe.
- Sun Safety: The tropical sun is strong, so lather on sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink plenty of water to prevent burns and dehydration.
- Water Sport Wisdom: If you’re diving or snorkeling, pick trustworthy companies with professional gear and certified guides.
In the Philippines, you’ll encounter a rich tapestry of languages, with Filipino and English being the official ones. Filipino, rooted in Tagalog, is the national tongue understood across the islands. English is also widespread and is the main language for business, governance, and education sectors.
In cities and tourist spots, English is frequently spoken, making it easy for you to get around and communicate. However, step outside these urban centers, and you’ll hear a variety of regional languages and dialects.
Although you don’t need to master all these local languages, learning some simple Filipino phrases and showing interest in the local ways can significantly enrich your travels and help you connect more deeply with the people you meet.
14. The Filipino People
The Filipino people are famously hospitable and friendly, ready to welcome visitors with open arms. They’re keen to interact, share their rich culture, and lend a helping hand whenever necessary.
There’s a strong sense of togetherness in the Philippines, known as “Bayanihan,” where everyone is eager to help each other. When you’re with locals, a simple smile and a kind word can do wonders for making a good impression. Furthermore, embracing their culture, tasting their food, and joining in on local celebrations can significantly enhance your appreciation for this vibrant country and its residents.
However, just like anywhere else, stay alert for scammers, especially in busier cities. Being cautious while still enjoying the local hospitality is the way to go.
For an enriching trip to the Philippines, follow these essential travel tips: carry a universal adaptor, understand visa regulations, protect your belongings, and immerse yourself in the local culture and celebrations. These travel Philippines tips are your key to a hassle-free and memorable Philippine adventure.
Philippines Travel Tips: FAQs
1. What is the best time of year to visit the Philippines?
The best time to visit the Philippines is during the dry season, from December to February, when the weather is cooler and less humid. This period avoids the typhoon season and the intense heat of the summer months.
2. Do I need a visa to travel to the Philippines?
For stays less than 30 days, citizens from 157 countries, including the US, Canada, and Australia, do not require a visa for the Philippines. However, it’s essential to have a passport valid for at least six months beyond your stay and a return ticket.
3. What are the must-visit places in the Philippines?
The Philippines is home to numerous must-visit destinations, including the rice terraces of Banaue, the stunning beaches of Palawan, the historical sites of Manila, the chocolate hills and tarsiers in Bohol, and the diving spots of Cebu.
4. Is it safe to travel to the Philippines?
Generally, the Philippines is safe for tourists, but it’s advisable to stay informed about the current political situation, avoid areas with travel advisories, and exercise the same caution you would in any other destination in terms of personal safety and health.
5. What vaccinations do I need for the Philippines?
It’s recommended to be up-to-date on routine vaccinations before traveling to any destination. For the Philippines, vaccines for Hepatitis A and Typhoid are commonly recommended due to the risk of contaminated food and water. Check with a travel clinic well in advance of your trip.
6. What is the currency in the Philippines, and are credit cards widely accepted?
The currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). While credit cards are accepted in major cities and tourist areas, cash is king in rural areas. It’s a good idea to carry cash and notify your bank of your travel plans to prevent your card from being blocked for suspicious activity.
7. What is the language situation in the Philippines? Do I need to speak Filipino?
The Philippines has two official languages: Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English. English is widely spoken and understood, especially in urban areas and by those involved in the tourism industry, so travelers will not need to speak Filipino to get by.