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  • Writer's pictureharry levine

Philippines Backpacking Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Philippines Backpacking Guide

Welcome to the enchanting archipelago of the Philippines, where vibrant cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality converge to create an unforgettable travel experience. Join me and my two adventurous friends as we embarked on a journey to unravel the mysteries of this tropical paradise. In this comprehensive travel guide, we aim to provide you with everything you need to know to make your Philippines adventure as seamless and magical as ours. From hidden gems and cultural insights to practical tips and must-visit destinations, this blog is your passport to an extraordinary exploration of the Philippines.






Getting There


Embarking on a journey to the captivating Philippines is a thrilling adventure in itself, and getting there is the first exciting chapter in your travel tale. Let's dive into the essentials of reaching this tropical haven, where crystal-clear waters and vibrant landscapes await.



International Airports and Major Entry Points:


Your Philippine odyssey typically begins at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila, the bustling capital city. This major international gateway is well-connected to various parts of the globe, making it a convenient starting point for most travelers.


However, if your exploration leads you to the stunning beaches of Cebu or the cultural wonders of Davao, keep an eye out for Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) and Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO), respectively. These airports serve as vital entry points, ensuring easy access to distinct regions of the archipelago.



Visa Requirements and Travel Restrictions:


Now, let's talk paperwork. Fortunately, many nationalities enjoy visa-free entry to the Philippines for stays up to 30 days. If your adventure extends beyond a month, securing a tourist visa beforehand is advisable. The process is relatively straightforward, but it's always wise to check the latest updates and requirements from the official website of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.


Keep in mind that travel regulations are subject to change, and it's essential to stay informed about any COVID-19 related restrictions. As of my last journey, negative RT-PCR test results and quarantine protocols may be part of the entry process. Always check with official channels or your trusted travel advisor for the latest guidelines to ensure a smooth and hassle-free entry.


So, fellow wanderers, as you prepare for your flight to the Philippines, embrace the excitement of the unknown. The adventure begins the moment you step foot into the vibrant tapestry of this archipelagic paradise.





Best Time To Visit


Ah, the timing of your Philippine escapade – a crucial element that can elevate your experience from great to absolutely phenomenal! Let's dive into the rhythm of the archipelago's climate, seasons, and the prime months to indulge in specific activities or revel in captivating events


The Philippines boasts a tropical climate, offering warm temperatures and inviting weather throughout the year. However, savvy travelers often consider the interplay of the country's two primary seasons – the dry season and the wet season – when planning their visit.


Overview of the Climate and Seasons:


  • Dry Season (November to April): This period is hailed as the peak travel season, and for good reason. Expect clear skies, abundant sunshine, and blissfully warm temperatures. Whether you're lounging on the powdery beaches or exploring the lush landscapes, the dry season ensures optimal conditions for your adventures.

  • Wet Season (May to October): While the wet season ushers in occasional rain showers and tropical storms, it also brings forth a lush, green landscape. If you don't mind a refreshing drizzle and desire a quieter, more serene experience, the wet season can be surprisingly enchanting.


Recommended Months for Specific Activities or Events:


  • December to February (Dry Season): Bask in the festive spirit of Christmas and New Year's celebrations amidst the lively atmosphere of the Philippines. The cooler temperatures during these months make it an ideal time for exploring cultural sites and indulging in outdoor activities.

  • March to May (Dry Season): Dive into the underwater wonders as the seas boast excellent visibility during these months, making it an optimal time for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The coral reefs beckon with vibrant marine life and unparalleled beauty.

  • June to September (Wet Season): Adventure seekers, rejoice! The wet season is fantastic for chasing waterfalls and witnessing the verdant landscapes at their peak. Embrace the rainforest's embrace as you embark on treks and nature excursions.


As a seasoned wanderer, my advice is to align your visit with the activities that stir your soul. Whether it's basking in the sun-drenched beaches or dancing in the rain-soaked jungles, the Philippines offers a year-round canvas for unforgettable experiences.





Top Destinations


1. Boracay - The Pearl of Western Visayas: Nestled in the heart of the Visayan Sea, Boracay is a dreamy island renowned for its powdery white sand beaches and vibrant nightlife. From the famous White Beach sunsets to thrilling water activities like parasailing and cliff diving, Boracay is an all-encompassing haven for beach lovers and thrill-seekers alike.


Philippines Backpacking Guide

2. Palawan - The Last Frontier: Palawan, often referred to as the "Last Frontier," is a pristine paradise boasting limestone cliffs, turquoise lagoons, and diverse marine life. El Nido and Coron offer breathtaking island-hopping adventures, where hidden lagoons and Japanese shipwrecks await exploration. Palawan's Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mesmerizing journey through a subterranean wonderland.


Philippines Backpacking Guide

3. Cebu - Queen City of the South: Cebu seamlessly blends historical charm with natural wonders. The bustling metropolis of Cebu City boasts the Magellan's Cross and Basilica del Santo Niño, while the surrounding islands beckon with coral gardens and azure waters. Don't miss the adrenaline rush of swimming with the majestic whale sharks in Oslob or hiking to the summit of Osmena Peak for panoramic views.


Philippines Backpacking Guide

4. Manila - The Capital's Cultural Tapestry: Manila, the pulsating heart of the Philippines, is a fascinating mix of history and modernity. Intramuros, the historic walled city, invites you to stroll through cobblestone streets and visit Spanish-era churches. For a taste of the contemporary, explore the vibrant districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City, where skyscrapers, shopping, and a burgeoning culinary scene await.


Philippines Backpacking Guide

5. Sagada - Mountain Province's Mystique: Escape to the serene mountains of Sagada for a taste of Filipino culture amidst stunning landscapes. The Hanging Coffins and the picturesque Bomod-Ok Falls are must-visit sites, while the Echo Valley and Sumaguing Cave offer spelunking adventures. Sagada's cool climate and unique traditions make it a captivating destination for those seeking tranquility and exploration.





Transportation


Flights: Soar Like an Island-Hopping Bird


With a vast archipelago spanning over 7,000 islands, flying is often the quickest and most convenient way to traverse the Philippines. Major international airports like Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) and Cebu's Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) serve as gateways to the country.


For domestic flights, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia Philippines are your trusty winged companions. Be prepared for breathtaking aerial views as you hop from one island to another. Prices vary depending on the distance, but a domestic flight can range from $30 to $150, offering both economy and business class options.


Buses: Rollin' Through Scenic Landscapes


For the budget-savvy traveler, buses are the backbone of overland transportation. Plying both short and long-haul routes, bus journeys offer a unique window into the picturesque landscapes of the Philippines. In major cities like Manila and Cebu, modern bus terminals like the Araneta City Bus Port and the South Bus Terminal make hopping on a bus a breeze.

Local buses are incredibly affordable, with prices starting at around $2 for shorter distances and reaching up to $20 for longer inter-island trips. Prepare for some winding roads, but rest assured, the scenic beauty outside your window will make every twist and turn worthwhile.


Ferries: Sailing the Turquoise Highways


Given its archipelagic nature, ferries are an integral part of Philippine transportation. Whether you're island-hopping or embarking on an inter-island journey, ferries connect the dots in this maritime mosaic. Providers like 2GO Travel and Montenegro Lines operate both standard and high-speed ferries.


Ferry prices vary depending on the distance and the class of accommodation. Expect to pay between $5 and $50 for a ferry ride, depending on your chosen route and amenities. With turquoise waters stretching as far as the eye can see, ferry rides in the Philippines are not just a means of transportation but a scenic experience in their own right.


Getting Around in Major Cities: Navigating the Urban Jungle


Once you've arrived in the bustling urban hubs of Manila, Cebu, or Davao, mastering local transportation is essential. Jeepneys, tricycles, and Grab rides are the go-to options. Jeepneys, colorful and iconic, dominate the streets and offer a wallet-friendly way to navigate the city grid. Tricycles, on the other hand, are perfect for shorter distances and provide a more personalized ride.


For a touch of modern convenience, Grab – the Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant – is your ticket to hassle-free urban exploration. Expect to pay around $1 to $5 for short trips within the city, depending on your chosen mode of transport.


As you embark on your Philippines adventure, remember that the journey is just as important as the destination.





Sheltering in Paradise: Unveiling Accommodations in the Philippines


It's time to unfurl the map of accommodations and find the perfect haven for your tropical sojourn. From budget bunkers to luxury lairs, let's delve into the diverse realm of lodgings that await you across the archipelago.


Philippines Backpacking Guide


Hotels: Where Luxury Meets the Tropics


For those seeking the lap of luxury, the Philippines has a plethora of hotels that promise not just a stay but an experience. In the heart of Manila, the Shangri-La at the Fort and the Peninsula Manila beckon with opulent rooms and stunning city views. Prices for these high-end abodes can range from $150 to $500 per night. Heading to the beach haven of Boracay? Consider the Discovery Shores Boracay or the Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa, where turquoise waters and pristine sands are just a stone's throw away. Prices on this tropical island range from $200 to $700 per night for a taste of paradise.



Hostels: Budget Bunkers for Backpackers


For the intrepid backpacker, fear not – the Philippines has a vibrant hostel scene that caters to every budget. In Manila, Z Hostel in Makati and Lub d Philippines Makati offer a comfortable and social atmosphere without burning a hole in your pocket. Prices for hostel beds range from $10 to $30 per night, depending on the location and amenities.

On the island of Palawan, where limestone cliffs meet crystal-clear waters, Spin Designer Hostel in El Nido and Mad Monkey Hostel in Coron provide budget-friendly options for those craving a touch of adventure. Expect to pay between $15 and $40 per night for a bed in these tropical retreats.



Diverse Budget Ranges: From Cozy Inns to Boutique Bliss


For those with a mid-range budget, the Philippines has an array of charming inns, boutique hotels, and beachfront cottages that offer both comfort and character. In Baguio, the Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay and The Manor at Camp John Hay provide a cozy retreat amidst the pine-clad mountains, with prices ranging from $70 to $150 per night.


Exploring the historical charm of Vigan? Consider the Hotel Luna and Ciudad Fernandina Hotel, where colonial architecture meets modern comforts. Prices for these cultural gems range from $60 to $120 per night.


Philippines Backpacking Guide

Whether you're a budget-conscious backpacker or a luxury-seeking traveler, the Philippines unfolds a tapestry of accommodations to suit every taste and preference. So, fellow wanderers, as you embark on your Philippine escapade, let your choice of lodging become an integral part of the adventure – a chapter in the story you'll tell for years to come.





Dive into the Adventure Playground: Unleashing Activities in the Philippines


The Philippines is a haven for adventure enthusiasts, it invites you to explore its diverse landscapes and partake in adrenaline-pumping escapades. From underwater wonders to mountainous marvels...



1.Island Hopping in Coron, Palawan: A Symphony of Lagoons and Limestone Karsts


Embark on a maritime odyssey as you delve into the island-hopping extravaganza in Coron, Palawan. Picture this: crystal-clear turquoise waters, limestone karsts standing like sentinels, and hidden lagoons waiting to be discovered. Island-hopping in Coron is not just an activity; it's a journey into nature's pristine beauty.


Hop aboard a traditional Bangka boat and set sail to enchanting destinations like Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, and Twin Lagoon. Snorkel among vibrant coral gardens, swim in emerald lakes, and bask in the surreal beauty of the Kayangan Bay. Don't forget to explore the hauntingly beautiful Japanese shipwrecks from World War II that lie beneath the surface, offering a unique underwater adventure.


Prices for island-hopping tours in Coron typically range from $20 to $50, depending on the destinations included and the duration of the tour. Embrace the allure of Coron, where every island unveils a new chapter of natural wonders.


Philippines Backpacking Guide


2. Canyoneering in Kawasan Falls, Cebu: A Descent into Nature's Waterslide


Prepare for an adrenaline surge as you venture into the heart of Cebu for an exhilarating canyoneering experience in the legendary Kawasan Falls. Nestled amidst lush tropical jungles, Kawasan Falls is not just a picturesque oasis; it's a playground for thrill-seekers eager to conquer nature's waterslide.


Your journey kicks off with a trek through verdant canyons, leading to the top of the falls. Strap on your safety gear, take a deep breath, and prepare for a series of heart-pounding cliff jumps and natural water slides. The highlight? A daring plunge into the cerulean pools beneath the cascading waters of Kawasan Falls.


Local guides, well-versed in the terrain, ensure a safe and thrilling experience. Canyoneering packages typically cost around $30 to $50, covering the guides, equipment rental, and entrance fees. Kawasan Falls' enchanting turquoise waters and the rush of canyoneering make this adventure a must for those seeking the perfect blend of excitement and natural beauty.


Philippines Backpacking Guide
Philippines Backpacking Guide



3. Snorkeling and Diving: Discover the rich marine life and vibrant coral reefs in the Philippines. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Apo Reef are renowned diving spots.


4. Beach Bumming: Relax on the pristine white sand beaches of Boracay, Palawan, and Panglao, among others.


5. Whale Shark Watching: Experience the thrill of swimming with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu. It's a unique and unforgettable adventure.


6. Chocolate Hills Adventure Park: Located in Bohol, this park offers activities like ziplining, bike ziplining, and treetop rope courses amidst the iconic Chocolate Hills.


7. Mayon Volcano ATV Adventure: Ride an all-terrain vehicle and explore the stunning landscapes around Mayon Volcano in Albay.


8. Hiking and Trekking: The Philippines has many hiking trails suitable for various skill levels. Mount Pulag, Mount Apo, and Taal Volcano are popular choices.


9. Cultural Festivals: Participate in or witness colorful and vibrant festivals like Sinulog in Cebu, Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, and Dinagyang in Iloilo.


10. Underground River Tour: Explore the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and navigate its underground river.


11. Kawa Hot Bath in Tibiao: Relax in a large kawa (wok) filled with hot water and therapeutic herbs in Tibiao, Antique.


12. Street Food Adventure: Try local delicacies and street food in places like Manila's Mercato Centrale or any local food market.


13. Spelunking in Sagada: Explore the fascinating caves of Sagada, such as Sumaguing Cave, known for its impressive rock formations.


14. Surfing in Siargao: If you love surfing, Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines, offering excellent waves and a laid-back atmosphere.


15. Taal Volcano Trek and Taal Lake Cruise: Trek to the crater of Taal Volcano and enjoy a boat ride on Taal Lake.


16. Zip-lining at Dahilayan Adventure Park: Located in Bukidnon, this park offers one of the longest dual ziplines in Asia.





Navigating Wellness: A Health And Safety Guide For The Philippines


Greetings, fellow wanderers! As you embark on your odyssey through the Philippines, ensuring your well-being is as important as exploring its enchanting landscapes. Let's delve into the realm of health and safety, arming you with tips to keep your adventures worry-free and your well-being in check.



Travel Health Tips: Shielding Your Adventure Spirit


  1. Stay Hydrated: With a tropical climate that can be both enchanting and challenging, hydration is key. Carry a reusable water bottle and sip your way through the day, especially when indulging in outdoor activities.

  2. Sun Protection: The Philippine sun can be quite intense. Arm yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield against those tropical rays, especially when island-hopping or trekking.

  3. Mosquito Protection: While exploring lush jungles or coastal areas, guard against mosquito bites. Apply insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and consider staying in accommodations with screened windows.

  4. Local Cuisine Caution: Dive into the rich tapestry of Filipino cuisine, but be mindful of street food hygiene. Opt for well-cooked dishes and bottled water to avoid any unwarranted tummy troubles.

  5. Vaccinations: Prioritize your health with the right vaccinations. Ensure routine vaccinations are up to date and consider additional shots like Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis based on your travel plans.



Safety Guidelines: Navigating with Caution


  1. Traffic Awareness: In bustling cities like Manila, exercise caution when crossing streets, and use pedestrian crossings. Traffic can be a bit of a dance, so stay vigilant.

  2. Adventure with Guides: Engaging in outdoor adventures? Opt for accredited guides, especially for activities like canyoneering or trekking. Their local expertise ensures a safer and more enjoyable experience.

  3. Water Safety: Whether island-hopping or diving, adhere to safety guidelines. Wear life vests, listen to boat crew instructions, and ensure you're equipped with the necessary snorkeling or diving gear.

  4. Emergency Contacts: Save local emergency numbers and embassy contacts in your phone. It's a small precaution that can make a significant difference in unforeseen circumstances.



Travel Insurance: Your Safety Net


Investing in travel insurance is a wise move before setting foot on Philippine soil. Here are some popular options:


  1. World Nomads: Renowned among globetrotters, World Nomads offers comprehensive coverage, including medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and gear protection.

  2. SafetyWing: Tailored for digital nomads and long-term travelers, SafetyWing provides affordable health coverage with worldwide assistance.

  3. Allianz Global Assistance: With a global network, Allianz offers various plans catering to different travel needs, from basic coverage to more extensive options.


Remember, your health and safety are paramount, and a little preparation goes a long way. So, arm yourself with knowledge, pack those essentials, and set forth on your Philippine adventure with confidence.





A Budgeter's Blueprint For The Philippines


let's dive into the world of budgeting, where every peso spent unlocks a treasure trove of experiences. Whether you're a frugal explorer or a mid-range maven, here's a short guide to navigating the Philippines on a budget without compromising on the magic.


Philippines Backpacking Guide


Estimated Daily Expenses: Unveiling the Cost of Paradise


  1. Budget Traveler: For the frugal adventurer, you can get by on a budget of approximately $30 to $50 per day. Stay in budget hostels or guesthouses, indulge in street food, opt for public transportation, and engage in free or low-cost activities like hiking or exploring local markets.

  2. Mid-Range Explorer: If you're looking for a bit more comfort without breaking the bank, plan for a daily budget ranging from $50 to $100. Enjoy mid-range accommodations, savor a mix of street and restaurant dining, and partake in guided tours or activities with moderate costs.

  3. Luxury Seeker: For those with a taste for luxury, the Philippines offers opulent experiences at a fraction of the cost compared to many Western destinations. Allocate a daily budget of $100 and above, allowing for upscale accommodations, fine dining, and indulging in premium activities such as spa treatments or private island excursions.


Budgeting Tips for Every Traveler Type:


  1. Accommodations:

  • Budget: Opt for hostels, guesthouses, or budget hotels in local neighborhoods.

  • Mid-Range: Explore boutique hotels, beachfront resorts, or mid-range chains for a comfortable yet affordable stay.

  • Luxury: Treat yourself to the elegance of luxury resorts, beach villas, or heritage hotels for a lavish experience.

  1. Dining:

  • Budget: Embrace local street food and eateries for authentic, wallet-friendly meals.

  • Mid-Range: Mix street food with dining at local restaurants to savor a variety of flavors without straining your budget.

  • Luxury: Delight your taste buds with fine dining establishments, seafood feasts, and international cuisines at upscale venues.

  1. Transportation:

  • Budget: Utilize public transportation such as jeepneys and tricycles, or opt for budget airlines and buses for inter-city travel.

  • Mid-Range: Combine public transportation with occasional private transfers for added convenience.

  • Luxury: Enjoy the comfort of private transfers, domestic flights, and island-hopping charters for a seamless travel experience.

  1. Activities:

  • Budget: Explore free attractions, hike scenic trails, and engage in low-cost water activities like snorkeling.

  • Mid-Range: Invest in guided tours, island-hopping excursions, and cultural experiences to enhance your journey.

  • Luxury: Indulge in premium diving experiences, private tours, and exclusive cultural events to elevate your adventure.


Additional Budgeting Tips:


  • Haggle Smartly: Bargaining is part of the culture in local markets, so don't hesitate to negotiate for a fair price.

  • BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle): Save money and reduce plastic waste by carrying a reusable water bottle.

  • Local Markets Over Malls: Experience authentic Filipino culture by shopping at local markets for souvenirs and necessities.





Conclusion


Remember, the Philippines is a treasure trove that caters to all budgets. Whether you're counting every peso or ready to splurge, this archipelago welcomes you with open arms. So, plan wisely, spend consciously, and let your budget be the compass guiding you through the wonders of the Philippines.


As you plan your visit, immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, savor the flavors of Filipino cuisine, and explore the natural wonders that define this tropical paradise. Whether you seek relaxation on the powdery white sands, adrenaline-pumping adventures in turquoise waters, or a cultural journey through centuries-old traditions, the Philippines has something for everyone.


But beyond the picture-perfect scenery and exciting activities, let's travel responsibly. Respect the local customs, contribute to sustainable tourism, and leave only footprints behind. Connect with the warmth of the Filipino people, and you'll discover that the true beauty of the Philippines lies not just in its landscapes but in the hearts of its hospitable inhabitants.


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