Everything You Need To Know About Backpacking In The Philippines
Rated as one of the most beautiful countries in the world The Philippines has turned into a country you need to visit. The only problem is that, unlike other countries in South-East Asia, like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, The Philippines hardly gets the attention she deserves.
Maybe it’s because it’s more expensive than other countries in the area, and maybe that is why the budget-friendly backpacker chooses to go to other destinations. Maybe it’s because hardly anyone ever hears something about the Philippines, and hasn’t had the chance to fall in love yet. Maybe it’s because it’s known to be a slightly unsafe destination. Maybe we’re just scared.
The Philippines got everything the backpackers wants and needs. The Philippines has beaches that give a view over the hundreds of islands that are surrounding each other. The mountains are packed with nature that is shaped into dense jungles. The cities are alive and the people are friendly. White sand touches your toes while you walk down the beach. Clear, blue water is everything you can see in front of you. Colorful fish swim around the coral, the sun burns on your skin and the wind rushes through the palmtrees behind you.
It’s a perfect little paradise, that still seems to be very quiet.
A backpacker or not, The Philippines needs to be added to your bucket list. And that is why today I am going to tell you everything you need to know, when visiting the islands.
The Practical Information
THE COUNTRY The Philippines is an island group in South-East Asia. Located North from Indonesia, East from Vietnam. Just some practical information to know about the country? The Philippines exists out of more than 7000 islands, of which about 1000 of them have inhabitants. In total The Philippines has about 101 million inhabitants.
THE LANGUAGE The Philippines has a couple of languages and a lot of dialects, but the main language they speak is Filipino. However, they also speak a bit of Spanish, and most people you’ll meet speak really good English.
FLYING INTO THE PHILIPPINES When flying into The Philippines you are most likely to land in Manilla, the capital of the country. There are some airlines that land in Cebu, a popular backpacking island that most travelers won’t skip during their visit.
VISA If you are from Europe, Australia or North America you will get a visa upon arrival, which will give you entry to the country for 30 days. If you want to travel longer you will need a visa. Always make sure you can ‘prove’ that you are leaving the country again.
MEDICINE You need vaccinations when traveling to The Philippines. Visit your docter a couple of weeks before leaving to make sure you get the correct ones on time. Depending to which areas you will travel to, your docter may prescribe malaria tablets.
When is the best time to travel?
The Philippines is hot all year round, but be sure to avoid June till September. During those months it is rainy season as well as typhoon season. During Oktober and November there is also a high chance of typhoons. High season, starts in December. I traveled during the first weeks of December, the prices were still relatively low – compared to one month later – but the weather was still a bit unpredictable – it was still raining, and very cloudy. The best time to travel is between January and May.
Costs and Budget
The Philippines is slightly more expensive than other countries in the South-East of Asia. Compared to those countries you will be more like to spend more money on transportation (considering you’ll have to take a couple of domestic flights), accommodation, food and tours.
I tried to keep track of my expenses, and including accommodation, food and tours I spent about €37,00 a day (including accommodation). There were some days I spent a lot of money, doing a lot of tours, but there were also days I hardly spent anything and just layed at the beach all day with a bag of crisps. So this is just the average I spent on a daily basis.
Tours like island hopping, whale shark watching and canyoning mostly cost around 1000 to 1500 peso which is about €20,00 to €30,00. Accommodation in touristic places like El Nido and Oslob can be more expensive than in other cities. If you stay in a cheap hostel you will spend about €10,00 a night and about €20,00 for a simple private room. A meal will cost you about 200 to 450 peso (around 5 euros) and a drink will cost you 60 to 120 peso (around 2 euros).
The Philippines has a reputation of being a very unsafe country to travel through. After hearing this my first thought was: well, Europe isn’t safe, the USA isn’t safe, and Africa isn’t safe either. So what in fact, is safe?
As long as you use your common sense you will be fine. So please don’t let fear stop you from traveling to The Philippines. During my trip I didn’t feel unsafe for a moment. Locals are very friendly and always try to be helpful.
However, as The Philippines isn’t the richest country in the world, just be aware of petty crime like theft. So don’t wear a lot of jewelry, don’t flash your money around and be aware of your bag.
As for extremism in The Philippines: right now that definitely is a problem in the most southern islands. Be sure to check your governments’ travel advice before leaving to make sure you aren’t traveling to dangerous area’s. As long as you avoid those ‘dangerous’ islands, you’ll be totally fine.
Getting from island to island is easiest by plane. The domestic flight connections are pretty good and if you plan a bit strategic you won’t have to be in the air for longer than one hour. You can travel from island to island with a boat as well, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as it takes quite long. However, getting to Bohol from Cebu or getting to Coron from out Palawan is easiest by boat.
If you want to travel around the islands you can travel best by bus or by motorbike. Rent a motorbike if you want to have the best (and easiest) experience. Most islands have one highway so it isn’t hard to get around with a bike. Busses take the same routes, but they can get quite crowded and they can take up a lot of your time. However The Philippines has quite good bus connections, and they are by far the cheapest option. And if you take an air conditioned bus, it can be quite comfortable.