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Philippines Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Philippines in 2023

Philippines Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Philippines in 2023

Welcome to Philippines

A steady stream of foreign nationals has long been attracted to the Philippines due to its wonderful beaches, year-round sunshine, endless diving, island-hopping, and surfing opportunities. Here’s all you need to know before you go. There are 7,100 islands in the Philippines archipelago. The country offers a pleasant, moderate climate making it an ideal beach vacation destination. In this ultimate Philippines travel guide you'll find everything you should know about visas, currency, and more, to help you prepare for the ultimate trip.

Document checklist for the Philippines

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • Valid passport (valid for at least six months beyond the length of stay and with at least one blank page for entry and exit stamps

  • Sufficient funds

  • Return airline ticket

  • Proof of Yellow Fever vaccination (if coming from a country with risk of yellow fever)

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Essential Philippines travel information

  • Currency - Peso (₱). $1 is equivalent to approx. ₱59.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of ₱2,946 ($50).

  • Languages - Tagalog and Cebuano are the two most commonly spoken native languages in the Philippines, making up about half of the population. The language of business, science, technology, government, education, and international communication is English, which is widely spoken.

  • Socket type - Types A, B, and C, 220V supply voltage and 60Hz.

  • Time zone - Philippine Standard Time: GMT +8.

  • Top 3 cities to visit - Manila, Cebu, and Puerto Princesa.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - The Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers, and Banaue Rice Terraces.

Visa information for the Philippines

Foreign nationals wanting to travel to the Philippines can apply for a visa through the nearest embassy or consulate in their country of origin.

Additionally, one of the travel documents required is the Philippine eArrival Card before you travel. The Philippines government has recently issued a mandatory requirement that all domestic and international travelers must present upon arrival in the country. This health pass registration helps the Philippine government and local authorities track and locate COVID-19 infection hotspots. You will be asked simple things about yourself, including vaccination status.

Please note that the eArrival Card is not a valid visa. If you need a visa, make sure to obtain this before you go.

Typical costs and budget for the Philippines

A basic guide to what you'll spend on a daily basis traveling through the Philippines on an average budget. Daily spending - Around ₱2,946 ($50)/per person/per day on a budget vacation. This includes:

  • Meals - ₱150-500 ($3-10)

  • Transport - ₱10-60 for a one-way ticket on a bus ($0.20-1)

  • Hotel - ₱1,500-2,700 ($25-45), for two people.

A trip for one week will cost an average of ₱20,000 ($340) per person, depending on your budget and standard of travel.

Transport and best ways to travel around the Philippines

Traffic jams, bad roads, and bad driving all contribute to the challenges of traveling around this beautiful country. Here are a few tips.

The rail system in Manila

Manila has three elevated rail lines: LRT1, LRT2, and MRT3. This is an efficient, inexpensive way to get around the city and to reach most of the tourist attractions. The ‘Beep Card’ allows visitors to make contactless payments, and to use all three services.

Bus network for regional travel

The quality of buses varies greatly but are the main mode of transport for many tourists and locals. Buses with premium seating are available on the busiest routes, particularly between popular tourist destinations. There is usually an onboard toilet and free Wi-Fi aboard these modern vehicles.

Jeepneys: The Philippines' answer to tuk-tuks

Urban areas in the Philippines are littered with jeepneys, converted US-military jeeps. These brightly decorated vehicles are a unique and memorable experience, but the novelty soon wears off. The Jeepney is one of the cheapest modes of transportation, but it's also crowded and hot, and its windows are permanently open, letting exhaust fumes in.

Different types of taxis

The Philippines has a variety of taxi services, mainly in the larger cities and towns. Motorbike taxis can be quick, but dangerous, while tricycle taxis are a little safer. However, it is recommended to just get a regular taxi, as they are cool, safe, and cheap. Just make sure to negotiate a price upfront with taxi drivers or make sure they turn the meter on.

Domestic air travel

In spite of its small land area, the Philippines has more than 60 airports, including 13 international airports. In addition to being convenient, domestic flights in the Philippines are very affordable. Some budget airlines include Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and CebGo.

Boats and ferries

With more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines, ferry travel is a necessity. From the major coastal areas, ferries depart every hour or so for journeys that range between under an hour and over 50 minutes. In the Philippines, routes connect Manila, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao to practically every island, sometimes indirectly.

Safety in the Philippines

While being a popular tourist destination, it is recommended to exercise a lot of caution in the Philippines, especially in non-touristy areas. Scams, theft, reckless driving, mugging, and natural disasters can occur during your trip. Recently more terrorist groups have been active in the country.

Despite the friendly and welcoming nature of the Philippine people, remember that this is a low-income country, particularly in major cities. Be careful not to flash your valuables, especially expensive technology, in public places. It is also wise to take out travel insurance that covers overseas medical costs, in case of a medical emergency.

Weather in the Philippines

There's no better time to visit the Philippines than during the dry season between November and April. It's also nice to go in May and November when it's less crowded but still good weather.

As the dry season progresses, temperatures rise. From December to February, temperatures range from 23°C/75°F to 31°C/88°F, while in March and April, temperatures range from 26°C/79°F to 34°C/93°F.

The Philippines' wet season lasts from May to October, but the weather is still hot and sunny. It doesn't rain all the time, but it can be unpredictable. August to January is typhoon season.

Popular cities and towns in the Philippines

Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao represent the three main island groups in the Philippines, so it’s no wonder that most of this list consists of islands, rather than cities or towns.

  • Boracay - There are more than 12 beaches on Boracay Island, which is considered the beach capital of the Philippines. A favorite is White Beach on the west side.

  • Bohol - Located in the Philippines' central Visayas region, Bohol is a destination known for its natural beauty. Chocolate Hills in Carmen is one of the island's most unique natural wonders. During the dry season, this UNESCO-protected site turns brown, resembling a landscape of chocolate truffles.

  • Cebu - This island is known for having some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Philippines. Cebu is a great place for underwater enthusiasts to see whale sharks, coral reefs, and sea turtles up close.

  • Banaue - Some of the striking emerald-green terraces in Banaue were hand-carved into the mountainside more than 2,000 years ago.

  • Coron - A tropical paradise with electric blue and green water, Coron Island is one of the top diving destinations in the world. The mountainous island is located on the westernmost point of the Palawan island region.

  • Puerto Princesa - Known as the hidden paradise of the Philippines, Palawan Island is home to rock islands, caves, and natural parks. Puerto Princesa is the best place to base yourself for exploring some of the country's natural wonders.

Must do and see in the Philippines

Here are some of the best things to see and do in the Philippines, in addition to the spots listed above:

1. Check out the living Mayon Volcano.

2. Visit the subterranean river national park near Puerto Princesa.

3. Watch an open air concert at Rizal Park in Manila.

4. Get your dive on at the exclusive Tubbataha Reef.

5. See the country’s famous Pagsanjan Falls.

6. Swim in a millennia-old marine lake filled with millions of golden stingless jellyfish in Palau.

Typical Philippine food to try

Kinilaw - Kinilaw consists of slices of raw fish marinated in vinegar along with other ingredients like chili peppers. It is similar to ceviche, except it is cooked in vinegar rather than in lime juice. The name literally means “eaten raw”, very similar to ceviche.

Kare kare - This thick stew is made from oxtail, vegetables, and peanut sauce. The best kare-kare comes from Pampanga, north of Manila, but it is served all over the country.

Adobo - Adobo is the most famous of all Philippine dishes, and is often named the national dish of the country. Garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, and soy sauce, create the flavor, and it is mostly made with chicken or pork.

Sisig - A popular street food in the Philippines is Sisig. Originally, the dish is composed of pig cheeks and head (snout included) with a generous amount of chicken liver, all fried up to perfection and accompanied by a cold beer.

Balut - Not everyone will enjoy this cheap street food! Balut is a fertilized duck egg that is incubated for 2-3 weeks before being steamed and eaten. Despite Westerners' aversion, partially developed duck is a popular delicacy in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines.

Vaccine information for the Philippines

The CDC recommends that all visitors to the Philippines are up-to-date with general vaccinations before departure. These include vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and influenza. It must also be noted that several diseases can be contracted through contaminated food or water in the Philippines, including hepatitis A and typhoid.

Island hopping in the Philippines

The Philippines should be right at the top of your travel bucket list if you love diving with turtles, discovering hidden lagoons and island hopping between white sandy beaches. The only challenge is to choose from the country's more than 7,000 islands (!), including El Nido and Coron in Palawan.

Flying is definitely the easiest option when wanting to see the best islands, as numerous local airlines fly to almost all popular islands. Most small islands will have ferry terminals with regular boat trips, for a more exclusive and unique experience.

Fun facts about the Philippines

1. The Philippine flag indicates whether the country is at war by its position, when it is hung upside down.

2. There are between 120-187 languages spoken in the Philippines.

3. The Philippines boasts the world’s second-longest underground river, the Puerto Princesa subterranean river.

4. About 25% of all these overseas Filipino workers serve in the medical field, producing the most nurses in the US and around the world.

5. Boxing is one of the most popular sports in the Philippines.

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