Best known for being home to 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is an archipelago in Southeast Asia. Ideal for those who worship the sun and love the feel of the sand between their toes, the Philippines will provide you with endless adventures and entertainment.
While the country is known for its tropical climate, you’ll still find a touch of Asia with its vibrant green rice terraces. Other breathtaking sights include fiery volcanoes, secluded lagoons, and luscious mountains. Travelers can hop from island to island or explore the grand cities and excite their tongues with traditional Filipino dishes.
Maligayang Pagdating – Welcome to the Philippines!
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. The capital is on the island of Luzon and rests where the Pasig River meets Manila Bay. For the Philippines, Manila is important because it’s the central hub for the country’s economy, politics, culture, and customs.
Similar to many other Asian capitals, the city has its fair share of dark history, though, through every struggle, the city has thrived to become a thriving megapolis. While modernity has dotted the city with skyscrapers, you can still step back from the chaos and enjoy the artisan markets, hidden bars, and indie music.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
After Malaysian people made their way before the Chinese and Spanish. In 1521, Spain conquered the Philippines and would rule for the next 300 years. By 1898, the Philippines were declared independent.
Once the Spanish were defeated, the US tried to take control and started a war in the 1800s. While the United States didn’t want permanent control, they did want to establish a government and a new educational system. The US had an issue with its rule, and the country headed toward complete independence.
World War II ruined that plan and saw the Philippines invaded by Japan. With the end of the war, the country became the Republic of the Philippines and started working towards a better future. While some presidents were better than others, the Philippines has come a long way and has secured its status as a developing country.
Even with a troubled history, the Filipino people are carefree, happy, and inviting. Tourists will be welcomed with a smile and encouraged to share in Filipino culture. While resilience has led the country on, the Filipino people uphold the family – as is customary in Asian culture. Family always comes first and is often a person’s source of pride.
Alongside family, religion rules the household, and many people will often treasure their religious symbols. Respect also goes a long way, and by learning to value another culture, you will always be welcomed to the party.
The Philippines has two official languages – Filipino and English. While many other regional dialects are spoken throughout the country, a variation of the Tagalog language is the most widely spoken throughout the country. Sometimes referred to as Tagalog, Filipino is spoken by about 45 million people.
However, many of the country’s 111 million citizens (as of 2021) will also have some experience or speak English to some degree. While not all are fluent in English, it’s still a common language, and tourists will likely encounter it on the streets.
It’s important that you take the time to budget your trip before you arrive in the country. The Philippines is a country that can be traveled with an affordable budget, or you can go all out and lavish yourself in luxury. The most important parts of your budget will be airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
A large portion of your budget will also go towards the airfare because the Philippines are far away, and it costs a pretty price to be able to fly to the islands. Most people will choose to have a layover to reduce costs and travel time, which can be crucial if you do not live close to an airport with direct flights. Don’t expect a huge break in price because flying to Asia is expensive.
Most flights to the Philippines will cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. A direct flight from the US to the Philippines will take about 17 hours, and there are a few different popular airlines that service the route.
Delta, China Airlines, and Etihad Airways all offer direct flights to the country. For budget travelers, it takes a little searching to find affordable flights, and other factors like when you travel to the country and how far in advance you book your ticket can raise or lower the cost too.
The dry season is the most popular time to visit the Philippines, and it runs from November to April. This is the tourist high season, and you will find that airline tickets are the priciest during these months.
March and April are usually the most affordable months to travel to the Philippines, though be aware that airfare may only be affordable because most people avoid the high heat during those months. The further ahead you book your ticket, the less likely it will cost too. So, don’t lag on making a reservation if you have your heart set on exploring these lush islands.
Similar to many Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is affordable, and you can find many accommodation options for a few dollars per night. Hostels are the most affordable and, on some islands, they can be ridiculously cheap. However, not all islands will have hostels, and instead, there may be a private room.
Nicer accommodations will be more expensive, and a hotel can easily cost the same price as the US. If you are wanting to stay in a western-style hotel, you should expect to spend exceedingly more. Resorts in the country will cost the most and can easily have you spending upwards of thousands per night.
Again, where you are staying can affect the price, and more touristy areas equal more money. Airbnb is another option for nice overnight options in the Philippines. Offering places that range from apartments and private residences to villas, the price will reflect what you book.
Once you’ve settled on booking your flight and accommodation, the next most important parts of your budget are food and drink. Many people will find that Filipino food is delicious, and the country’s cuisine is headed towards being the next big star of culinary crafts.
While Filipino dishes may not be as elaborate as other countries’ cuisines, they do have a variety of tasty dishes that people love. Adobo is the most famous dish both inside and outside the country, which is stewed meat with soy sauce and vinegar.
Kare-kare is another dish that uses beef cuts like oxtail and serves them with peanut sauce. Lechon is another famous dish, especially for parties, and consists of a full-roasted pig. Seafood is also central to the country’s cuisine due to its geographical location, and dishes like sinigang are often enjoyed.
Travelers will notice that while chicken, pork, and seafood are common in a variety of dishes, the most dominant form of meat throughout the country is beef. Beef is often cooked into delicious dishes like bistek tagalog or bulalo, which is a slow-cooked soup.
For many locations throughout the country, you can easily eat street food dishes for a few dollars. Restaurants will cost a bit more, though most local eateries are rather inexpensive. Touristy locations will be the most costly dining options, and there are many establishments that will rival US prices.
Other travelers will find that drinking is an important part of their trip, and they’ll need to factor the price of alcohol into their budget. Most local drinks can be purchased for a few dollars, depending on where you are.
In nicer hotels and well-established tourist hotspots, drinks will be pricier, though they may cost more if you are in a very touristy location or resort.
How to Get Around
The Philippines is one of those countries where you are eager to explore, however, exploration can be difficult because there are so many islands to visit. While it’s unattainable to visit over 7,000 islands in less than 21 days, that doesn’t mean that you won’t want to partake in a little island hopping.
Getting around can be difficult, and it’s important that you budget the cost of traveling in the Philippines.
If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, but you want to explore more islands in the Philippines, the best way for you to travel would be to book a domestic flight. While flights are affordable, they can still consume a large portion of your budget.
Well-priced, domestic flights by quality companies, like Philippines Airlines, can easily get you from island to island without spending too much time.
With an abundance of water provided by the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is often traveled by boat or ferry. Most boats and ferries will be more affordable than taking a domestic flight, however, if you are going longer distances, it will take you longer to reach your destination.
A RoRo Ferry is a larger option and is well-priced when traveling long distances, while a Banca Ferry is more popular for short distances.
In Manila, there is a public train system that can be used throughout the city and is affordable. Be aware that weekday rush hours from 7-9 am and 5-9 pm are the most frustrating times to travel. Any other time, the trains can be of great assistance for your travel plans.
Other ways to travel the country include buses, jeepneys, and motorbikes. Buses are a great way to explore a specific city and are very cheap if you use the point-to-point system.
Jeepneys are a more colorful travel option, and they have the most eccentric look out of all transportation vehicles. While they may seem odd, traveling by jeepney is incredibly affordable.
Taxis and Car Rentals
Taxis are another option; however, they have a rather negative reputation amongst tourists. Many taxis are notorious for overcharging, not returning the correct amount of change, or simply lying about fares. While most taxis should cost minimal for a short ride, you shouldn’t take them unless you’re willing to spend a lot more.
Finally, another transportation option would be to rent a car yourself. In big cities, it may not be worth the stress, or you may feel up to the challenge.
Top Cities to Visit
While Manila is the most popular city in the Philippines, there are a lot of other places to explore. Boasting skyscrapers, white sand beaches, and roads with both Spanish and Chinese architecture, there is plenty to see while visiting. Here is a brief overview of the top city destinations in the country.
A non-stop energy makes Manila a popular tourist destination, where you can experience the local life and take a ride in the country’s famous jeepneys. While Manila is also the capital of the country, you will find that it offers a unique spread of local cuisine, markets, and celebrations.
The San Augustin Church is a focal point for many worshipers and is an amazing site to visit as it was built in the 16th century.
With 12 beaches, Borocay is a small island in the Visayas region that is famous for its pristine white sand and clear water. White Beach is the most popular destination on the west side, but other popular beaches include Puka Shell, Cagban, and Diniwid.
You can also take a day trip to Mount Luho from Boracay, which will provide you with a panoramic view.
Located on the island of Cebu, this is the top diving destination in the Philippines. There are sea caves in the area that you can explore and a wide variety of aquatic wildlife.
While Cebu City has a metropolitan feel with museums, shopping, and dining, you can escape into the beauty of nature just outside the city at the Sudlon National Park. The park is just an hour from Cebu City and offers many unique snorkeling and diving locations.
A blend of Chinese and Spanish influences makes Vigan one of the most visually stunning locations in the country due to colonial architecture. An old-world feel fills the city, and you can take a horse-drawn carriage through its streets.
The Calle Crisologo is a walking district, while the Bantay Bell Tower and St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral are popular tourist attractions.
Davao City is located in the Mindanao region, and it is a metropolitan hub for shopping, dining, and sightseeing. The Museums of History and Ethnography is a popular location, while the Abreeze Mall draws in tourists looking for some souvenirs.
Nature is incorporated into this urban landscape, too, and you can visit Eden Nature Park or Philippine Eagle Center to see its beauty.
Sagada is a tribal region in the Philippines, which is known for being the site of the world-famous Hanging Coffins. The coffins are located in the Cordillera Mountains and are best experienced with a guide. The coffins are not an official tourist site and have become popular with dark tourism.
Points of Interest
While cities are often a magnet for tourists, you may also find that there’s a specific point of interest that you want to visit. Consisting of outdoor attractions and world heritage sites, the Philippines is ideal for those who want to explore the great outdoors. Here are some of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Discover the best of the Philippines’ thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
Located on Coron Island, the Coral Garden is a dive site where you can experience sunken shipwrecks, colorful coral, vibrant fish, and other aquatic wildlife. The area is very popular for snorkelers and divers, with many tours offered daily.
For the more athletic and extreme travelers, you can take a hike up the Mayon Volcano, which is located on Luzon island. The volcano is active, and it is strenuous to climb with steep trails and gases at the top. It is still a unique sight to behold and is home to stunning scenery.
The Chocolate Hills are a World Heritage Site, which is filled with hills that cover a large area. The hills emerged over time in an area that was once covered by the ocean and is now a big tourist attraction where they change color from green to brown in the dry season.
Batad Rice Terraces
Located in Banaue, the Batad Rice Terraces are stunning paddies that have been carved and stacked into the local mountains. Rice and vegetables are grown throughout the terraces, and they remain a vibrant green color. Their unique beauty makes them one of the most photographed locations in the country.
“Pearl of the Orient”
Whether you’re ready to be a beach bum or want to island-hop for days, the Philippines will entrance you with its beauty. This country is unique not only in its landscape but also in its people. With a happy and carefree vibe, travelers fall in love with these tropical islands, and the Philippines will surely be an unforgettable vacation.
Visit the Philippines’ official tourism website.