Visiting the Philippines is awesome! Beautiful beaches. Amazing nature. Delicious food. Friendly locals. Besides that it is also a cheap country to visit.
When I was in Taiwan we made a last-minute decision with two other people to visit the Philippines around Christmas. And seriously, this place blew my mind.
I always encourage travelers to visit this beautiful country. However they normally stick to the traditional Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam-Thailand route. Also a lot of people are afraid of this country; they think it is dangerous in terms of typhoons and crimes.
However don’t let this miss you such an amazing country. Let me explain you why you shouldn’t miss this place and why it is maybe even better than the traditional Asia backpack route.
1. Not Touristy
Why be bothered to go to Thailand and travel with all those backpackers around you? Be more adventurous instead. There will be not that many tourists, locals are really eager to speak with you and they are much more friendly in a non touristy country than in a touristy country.
2. The People
This is maybe the easiest country in South East Asia to connect with locals. Filipinos are so friendly and respectful. They are also always so cheerful and like to dance on every occasion.
I just remembered that the bus journeys I had in the Philippines where never boring. There was always a Filipino around who wanted to share some stories and I always ended up in some interesting conversations. Besides that they had some amazing tips on what to do at my destination.
3. Paradise Beaches and Islands
Zanzibar was beautiful with beaches but nothing tips the beaches here. Especially the islands around El Nido. You can go to Palawan or Borocay if you want to go to the easier to reach a little bit more famous touristy spot. But if you want to do something adventurous go to El Nido.
The end result will definitely not disappoint you. El Nido is an amazing fishing village where you can explore amazing islands and can also go out for wonderful diving trips.
So if you are into white sandy beaches and turquois crystal waters you are in the right country. With 7,107 islands to explore it is not that difficult to find your dream beach.
The nature is so diverse. Of course you have the 7,107 island to explore. But this doesn’t only exist of beautiful white sandy beaches. If you go to Banaue you will find some beautiful rice terraces. Besides the standard tours with the amazing colourful jeepies you should also just walk around through the rice fields and get lost. In the end you can ask locals how to go back.
Besides that you can discover one of the 37 volcanoes, caves, lakes and waterfalls. Also in animal perspective there is enough for nature lovers with 600 species of birds, 300 species of reptiles and amphibians and at least 400 coral species. And if you are in the Philippines also don’t forget to discover the Chocolate hills, or the rainforest with a beautiful underground river at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
5. Hikes with volcanoes
There are a lot of beautiful places to go for hiking. Not all of them are that easy to reach but they are all worth it. The Philippines has 37 volcanoes, but definitely go and visit Mount Taal. The Taal volcano is one of the most dangerous volcanoes of South East Asia. Besides that it is also the smallest active volcano in the world.
The landscape around Mount Taal is dramatic. When you arrive at this place, you will take a boat to the island. On this island you can or walk to the volcano itself, or rent a horse and go for horse riding. The final view on Mount Taal is amazing.
6. The Food
What?! The food! You might ask…
I must admit Filipinos aren’t famous around the world for their food. I also have never seen a Filipino restaurant in another country. However that doesn’t mean they have bad food, instead it tastes really good!
Of course there is some weird food. But there is also some nice interesting food. The food in the Philippines is a bit of a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and American. When you are in the Philippines definitely check the following:
- Halo-Halo, a delicious dessert! A mixture of milk, kidney beans, ice-cream and fruit.
- There is a lot of food in the Philippines and even more bananas. So that is why they invented their own banana-ketchup.
- Talking about bananas, don’t forget to try banana que. Delicious fried bananas with caramelized sugar.
- Barbeque sticks of chicken / pork intestines.
- Calamansi juice, made of citrus juice.
- Pancit, noodles with veggie and meat.
- Balut, try this when you are brave. Taste isn’t that special. An underdeveloped duck embryo inside a boiled egg.
- In this same category, one day old chick, deep fried and on a stick.
- Adobo, a dish with chicken, beef, lamb, pork or seafood with vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and other spices.
7. No Language Barrier
Forget Vietnam where they speak Vietnamese, or India where you are struggling to explain people what you are trying to tell them. The national language is English. So before you know it you are exchanging your stories with different locals and you will end up in a bar with them.
I don’t like shopping, and maybe the biggest mistake was to go for shopping in Manila. Don’t get me wrong, there are great local markets that are amazing to explore. Those local places are even for me enjoyable to explore.
But we also went to the Mall of Asia. This is the largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the world’s 7th largest shopping mall. The mall is located by the Manila bay, which is perfect to watch the sunset but for me this is just a big area with a lot of shops. Too intimidating for me. However if you are into shopping, this is a must to visit.
Basically everything in the Philippines is cheap, but even more important for some travellers; it is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy beer. Also good to know is that most of the time the rum is cheaper than the juice, so you will get a good mix for it.
At the time I was there you paid for a bottle of beer (0,5L) around 20 pesos which equals half USD. These are also quite normal prices for your street food.
10. Best diving spots
I couldn’t be happier that I just got my diving license before I went to El Nido. This place is wonderful for diving. I have swum with sea turtles, hammer sharks, through beautiful coral areas and much more. And of course with everything else in the Philippines even diving is cheap to do.
11. Karaoke everywhere
South East Asia in general is famous in Karaoke and the Filipinos prove that they follow that tradition. Wherever you go you will find people singing karaoke.
When I stayed in Puerto Princessa just after I visited El Nido I discovered a random place just outside the city in the evening where a family was having a birthday party. They invited us to join the party, and in the end I ended up singing karaoke in this rural place. With my knowledge of Filipino songs this was a huge success of course.
12. The colourful jeepney
This country is about colour and there is nothing more cheerful then there colourful jeepneys. They look pretty and will bring you everywhere. In the way the seating is inside you will always end up talking to someone else.
The US left those jeepneys at the end of WWII. The Filipinos opened the back, added two benches, gave them a colorful and unique design, decorative ornaments, flashy paintings, stars, dots and sometimes even extra lights. And just like that, the Philippine jeepney became a cultural sign of the country.
It is amazing how many people those jeepneys can carry. Normally there is place for around 16-20 passengers. And with the open windows it is nice and windy inside so no reason to feel boiled.