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Discover the Philippines
The archipelagic Philippines consists of over 7, 600 islands with over 36, 000 kilometers of coastline. Located in Southeast Asia, it offers some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
While it may not be the easiest country to travel due to the distances between the many islands and the four distinct climate zones, the stunning nature makes more than up for that! Traveling the Philippines will likely include several domestic flights from island to island, as well as many boats and ferries. However, the beaches, sights, culture, landscape and so much more will have you in awe of this stunning country.
Due to the different climate zones, you should be aware that this area is at high risk for typhoons and extreme storms. We suggest taking some extra time to plan your travels through the Philippines so that you can make the most of your trip. We also recommend doing a little research into the islands you are planning to visit to ensure you get the best weather possible in each location.
A pro tip for travelling to the Philippines is to remain flexible while planning your trip. The weather can change quickly and you may need to change your travel plans on short notice. The benefit of this is that you may end up somewhere new and enjoy exploring this unexpected destination. As they say with travelling, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” so remain calm and enjoy the ride, you never know where you may end up!
Fortunately, English is widely spoken throughout the Philippines, making travel and communication much easier than in many other countries. Also, the Filipino people are known to be extremely friendly and caring. Many of the locals will go out of their way to assist you when possible without expecting anything in return. Do not be surprised if you end up eating, drinking and singing karaoke with a group of locals throughout your travels.
On the downside, the country is not widely known to have the best food. Local dinners are often limited to meat and rice, without many veggies. Can’t live the day without healthy veggies? Locals tend to eat vegetables during lunch, while the meat is the most important part of the evening dinner. And last of all, if you travel to the more popular destinations like El Nido, Siargao and Cebu, you can easily find a wide range of delicious food from upcoming (foreign) restaurants.
To provide some extra help with planning your trip, I have written about my top three favourite destinations in the Philippines: Palawan, Siargao and Banaue. Below, I will explain why I’ve chosen these three destinations as my top 3 in the Philippines:
1. Palawan is known for its island-hopping adventures and is often referred to as one of the world’s best islands. Once you see the stunning beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs, you will understand why. El Nido is the island-hopping capital of Palawan. But if you’re looking for less explored islands, you can also visit the beach town Port Barton and experience the relaxing vibes. Check the route of Manila to El Nido to find your best travel options.
2. Siargao became popular as the surfer paradise of the Philippines and quickly rose in popularity among all sorts of travellers. Expect an Island covered with palm trees, lagoons, waterfalls, a wakeboard park and, of course, tons of surf breaks! See our route on Manila to Siargao to view the best travel options.
3. The rice terraces of Banaue are often overlooked, but probably one of the best you’ll find in Southeast Asia. Some of the rice terraces date back over 2,000 years and offer stunning mountain views. The local villages are charming and welcoming, and they’re a great escape from crowded travel spots. If you’re interested in trekking, this area offers some amazing trails that will take you from village to village through lush greenery, hot springs and the famous terraced rice fields. Read our page Manila to Banaue to find your best travel options.
Another great destination in the Philippines is Siquijor. This majestic island is absolutely beautiful. From cliff jumping to swimming in the numerous fresh waterfalls, this island has much to offer. Spend your days soaking up the sun and sights on the beautiful white sand beaches and your evenings eating local foods and dancing to the local music. To travel here, read our post on How to travel from Cebu to Siquijor to find your best options.
Destinations Luzon (North-Philippines)
Destinations Cebu & Around
More destinations in the Philippines
When to travel to the Philippines
The Philippines has four distinct climate zones that can be vastly different depending on your location. While it may be hot and sunny on one island, another island may be experiencing torrential rains.
In general, the best time to visit the Philippines is from January to April. These months fall within the dry season and will offer you the best weather throughout the country. From February to March, you can expect the best temperatures and weather for travelling here. While you can still travel in May and June, be aware that the temperatures will be extremely warm.
The months of July to November are considered the wet season and while you can still travel during these months, don’t be surprised to see some torrential rains. The weather can be extremely unpredictable and the area is prone to typhoons. The typhoon season in the Philippines starts around August and lasts until November, but this doesn’t mean the other months are typhoon free. Every year, this country gets hit by 20-30 typhoons, so stay up-to-date on the weather forecasts when planning your trip here.
Lastly, remember that these typhoons typically only hit certain parts of the country which means you can avoid them to a certain degree when you remain flexible in your planning. Is there a typhoon on its way to the place you were going to fly? Check out the official weather forecast website of the Philippines to see which islands are safe to travel to.
And while some typhoons can be really severe, dangerous and damaging to the environment, most typhoons will likely feel like a heavy storm passing by in one or two days. As long as you stay safe inside, you will be fine with the majority of typhoons.
How to get around the Philippines
Due to the size and the number of islands, the majority of your long-distance travel will be on domestic flights and boats or ferries.
While on the islands, you have plenty of options to choose from for travelling from place to place such as; jeepneys, taxis, vans, motorbike taxis (habal-habal) and tricycles.
Jeepneys are a cross between a truck and a jeep and are an icon in the Philippines. They are often decorated in bright, vibrant colours and packed with riders, some even riding on the rooftop. They are the main form of transportation in most major cities such as Manila and Cebu. We suggest taking a jeepney ride at least once while you are in the Philippines, simply for the experience.
On the smaller islands and towns, you may not be able to find as many transport options but taxis, tricycles and motorbike taxis will likely be available everywhere. Many of the smaller islands are perfect to explore on foot or by renting a motorbike. If you choose to rent a motorbike, be sure you are aware of the local laws and always drive with caution and wear a helmet.
Visa in the Philippines
Most nationalities do not require a visa to enter the Philippines for a 30-day stay. You might, however, be asked to show proof of an onward ticket departing the country before you will be allowed to board a flight to the Philippines.
While most nationals are only permitted a 30-day stay, nationals from Brazil and Israel are permitted to stay for 3 months in the Philippines. However, you also have the option of extending your stay for an additional 30 days for a small fee. Be sure your passport has at least 6 months validity, you have a passport photo, and proof of financial means to cover your stay while in the country.
Chinese and Indian nationals are permitted to stay for 7-14 days, depending on where they have applied for their visa from. Be sure to research this topic further if you are from either of these countries.
If you are not on the list of countries permitted to enter the Philippines without a visa, you will need to apply at your local Philippine Consulate or Embassy.
For more information on visas for the Philippines, view the Republic of the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website or the Department of Foreign Affairs website.
Packing list for the Philippines
How to make sure you packed everything you will need for your trip? Short answer: Impossible. There is no such thing as a perfect packing list.
Luckily there are two little steps that we can share with you to become an awesome packer:
Step 1: Put all the clothes you want to take with you on your bed.
Step 2: Pack half of them.
If you follow the steps above, you will be one of the top 1% packers in the world. Packing around heavy bags is not enjoyable when travelling, so we suggest packing a lot less than you think you will need.
Often, after a few days of travel, you will realize you have too much stuff and begin to throw things away that you are not using daily. Also, keep in mind that shopping is cheap in the Philippines, and almost all amenities can be bought as needed.
I do suggest packing sunblock because it can be quite expensive in the Philippines.
To see the complete packing list, visit our page in which we share our ideal packing list.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.