With over 7,000 islands in the Philippines the travel possibilities are endless, so at first glance the choice is not easy; that’s why I propose a very complete and varied 30-day travel guide that will give you a good overview of the country so you can travel on your own. Also, to help you organize your trip, I have put together this Philippines travel guide with a tour that contains 4 distinct areas of the Philippine archipelago: Palawan, the Visayas, Mindanao, and Luzon.
In Palawan, you will discover the Bacuit archipelago: Coron, El Nido and Port Barton among others; then in the Visayas we will tour some of the most representative islands such as Bohol, where the smallest primates in the world have their home: the tarsiers; in Camiguin (belonging to Mindanao) you will find nature in its purest form, volcanoes, waterfalls and more. Finally, in Luzon, we will go deep into the island to explore its rice terraces in Banaue and Batad. We will reach Vigan, the most important colonial city in the Philippines, and we will also have the opportunity to see the “hanging tombs” in Sagada. And finally, we’re not leaving the Philippines without a glimpse of the vibrant metropolis of Manila, the national capital of the Philippines.
Along this tour, the sea and the activities associated with it are predominant. It is certainly a vibrant and fascinating journey.
We start in this 30-day travel guide with the essential facts you need to know before you go, to prepare your trip on your own.
Guide to travel on your own to the Philippines
Passport and Visas
All you need to travel is your valid passport in order, valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry to the country.
As for visas: for stays of less than 30 days it is not necessary, upon arrival, they will stamp your passport so that you can stay 30 days and this for free.
For stays longer than 30 days you need a visa extension. You can apply for it in Spain or directly from the Immigration offices during your trip. In this case it is faster if you avoid requesting it in Manila and you process it on one of the minor islands since the procedure is much more agile.
In order to find cheap flights, I recommend using the Skyscanner meta-search engine, especially the tools “Full Month” and “Most Economical Month”. If you are flexible on dates, it will make it easier to find fairly inexpensive flights.
From Madrid, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines offer good deals.
Low-cost airlines Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines operate once in the Philippines.
The Philippines Climate
First of all, the climate in the Philippines is tropical, hence the weather cannot be predicted accurately. As a general rule, in most of the country the dry season is from December to May and the rainy season from June to November.
In the rainy season you can expect showers and typhoons at any time, but also sunshine and heat.
On the other hand, the average temperature is 30ºC, although in Luzon due to the altitude, the temperature is lower.
We traveled from mid-July to August and did not have to cancel any excursion because of the weather, but we planned the route as we went along, following the pleasant weather. To do this, we relied on the Philippine Pagasa website where we checked daily about the weather. I admit we were still very lucky…
The currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (php). As a rough reference, 1 euro = 60 pesos.
Here you can see the current exchange rate.
The best option when traveling to the Philippines is to bring cash and exchange it there because in many villages you won’t have any ATMs. It is also possible to use credit or debit cards to withdraw pesos at ATMs.
1. Take advantage to change money at the airport as the exchange rate offered there is surprisingly good.
2. HSBC ATMs do not charge fees for their services, keep that in mind when touring the islands.
3. As a general rule, it is advisable to always carry cash, on some islands there isn’t any ATMs.
The Filipino population comprises many ethnic groups spread throughout its islands and islets. About 170 languages are spoken in the archipelago, but only 2 are the official languages, Filipino (originating from Tagalog) and English.
However, English is widespread on the islands, so you can expect to understand yourself without problems with people.
The electric current in the Philippines is 220 V. The plugs can be of American type (two flat terminals) or European type (two round terminals). However, it is advisable to bring a universal power adapter.
By the way, keep in mind that power outages are quite frequent on all islands.
In general, there is Wi-Fi in the Philippines, although occasionally in small towns it may not work.
It is best to buy a Philippine prepaid SIM card to connect to the internet and make calls. You can buy it at the airport.
Regarding vaccines, there are no mandatory ones for traveling the Philippines, although it is true that in a few specific areas of the country there are malaria, so it is advisable to be informed. Check out at the International Vaccination Centers, where they will recommend the necessary vaccines depending on the area you are visiting.
However, there are some recommended vaccines such as Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid Fever.
It is also very important to take care of the water you drink, as well as raw fruits and vegetables. Always drink bottled water, although many hotels have purified water and you can refill your bottle.
And above all, try to eat in restaurants that look hygienic.
In the first place the islands do not all have hospitals and specialized medical centers, therefore it is advisable to get a medical insurance that includes transfers and covers any eventuality. In addition, consider that medical assistance is very expensive, for this reason that I think it’s essential to book a medical insurance from origin;
World Nomads has excellent travel insurance products and is backed by loads of great reviews.Book your cover with World Nomads here.
What to pack for the Philippines
Keep in mind that the trip through the Philippine archipelago is diverse, so that to get around the different islands you will use different means of transport: bus, boat, plane… for this reason it’s crucial to pack light and comfortable, and forgetting nothing essential.
Below you find the list of things you need for the trip:
Clothing: lightweight, mostly cotton or linen, and a sweater or fleece for trekking days. Also, bring a raincoat in the rainy season.
Footwear: comfortable sneakers for hiking, and booties or sandals for the beaches because they are sometimes rocky or coral-rich.
Sunscreen and a sun hat: A good sunscreen with a minimum of 50 SPF is essential.
Cotton or silk sleeping bag: I carry it on every trip because it’s lightweight and depending on the quality of the accommodation I appreciate getting into my own sleeping bag.
Mosquito repellent spray: Ben’s repellent and citronella bracelets.
Snorkeling gear: Although you can rent it right there, sometimes it’s defective. Therefore, it’s a good idea to bring your own (tube and mask).
Miscellaneous: sunglasses, reusable water bottle, microfiber towels (which you can use on the beach and hotel) and waterproof bag very useful to protect your belongings from the water during boat trips (Hopping Island). You can also buy these bags at destination, for example in El Nido or Coron.
Getting around the Philippines
Fortunately, getting around and within the islands is relatively inexpensive, although if you can plan ahead you’ll avoid availability issues, especially in the shoulder season. The most common transportation options on the islands are:
Several airlines operate in the Philippines, the main ones operating domestic and international flights are Philippine Airlines, Air Asia and Cebu Pacific. Flights are surprisingly inexpensive, especially if you book in advance.
In case the flight is not direct, don’t forget to leave plenty of time for traveling between islands because flights are almost always delayed or even canceled.
Also, be aware of the airlines’ weight policy, as they are very strict. They always weigh all bags and charge an additional fee for overweight.
With this in mind, in general you cannot check in over 15 kg, and they allow you a carry-on bag of 5 kg maximum. But at El Nido Airport they are even stricter, and you can only check in 10 kg, while carry-on baggage cannot exceed 7 kg.
Other airlines operating on the islands:
AirSwift: Only domestic flights between El Nido – Cebu and Manila.
SkyJet Airlines: another small local airline for routes from Manila to Coron, Batanes and Siargao.
Since we are in an archipelago, it certainly could not be otherwise. In general, it is enough to book online one or two days before. Or you can also buy the tickets directly at the port and save the agency’s commission. However, in the high season it is best to book in advance.
On the other hand, if you want to take an overnight ferry trip, do not hesitate, as they are well-equipped, comfortable and air-conditioned.
Another excellent option to move within the islands are the buses, as they are cheap and of high quality. All of them are air-conditioned and quite comfortable, you can sleep well on them. In addition, you don’t need to book well in advance, in case you make your plans on the go
With the same function as a cab, coupled with they have fixed fares for each rides.
They are old American buses with modifications to carry passengers and as a result; the vehicle is a unique combination between bus and jeep. If this is the first time you see them, their decoration will strike you, because of their colorful artistic images, some of them very original.
The vehicle goes on when it is overcrowded.
Rent a Scooter
If you are confident with your driving, renting a scooter is the easiest way to get around on your own. They usually cost 350 pesos per day.
To get around the city, I recommend downloading the Grab app which works great and saves you the hassle of negotiating with the taxi drivers. I like this app because it gives you the cost of the ride at the time you book it. In addition, with Grab you can also arrange for motorcycle, taxi or car drivers.
Filipino cuisine (Pinoy) is amongst the most diverse in the world as it mixes various culinary influences, such as Asian, indigenous, American, and Spanish among others. Cooked rice is the basis of all dishes, and with it they make dishes using all kinds of tropical fruits, meats, and fish.
As a seasoning they use calamansi juice (small local lime) mixed with soy sauce to accompany the dishes, as well as flavoring the black tea.
Way of Cooking
As far as the Filipino cuisine is concerned, the names usually indicate how they are prepared. Thus, for example, adobo, means, dressing in vinegar and garlic; sinigáng, sour soup; kilawin or kinilaw, raw fish or seafood in vinegar; ginataán, made of coconut milk; inahaw, grilled fish meat.
Dishes are usually served with rice, cooked with ingredients such as meats, fish, soups, noodles, and vegetables.
Below you will find some of its traditional dishes, although there are many more, try them!
There are several types, it base one of them on pork waste (small pieces of head, snout, brains, ear) seasoned with soy sauce, bay leaf, pepper, lime, garlic, ginger, and chili. And a fried egg on top. It is a very hearty dish, but very tasty.
Other lighter sisig are those made from chicken, seafood, and fish.
Dish of Spanish origin. It consists of stewed meat with vegetables and accompanied by rice.
You’ll find them everywhere. The typical one has a mixture of egg, minced meat and cabbage. They’re always fried.
Grilled skewers with intestines, liver and kidney.
Stir-fried noodles with vegetables or stews. There are rice (bihon) or egg (canton) noodles. Each region has its specialty in pansit.
When it’s time for dessert, Halo-halo is the traditional one that you have to try. It consists of a glass full of canned fruit, sweet corn, tender coconut and assorted tropical delicacies with crushed ice on top, a little custard and a scoop of ice cream. As you can see, quite a filling dessert, no shortage of anything…
The Philippines Travel Guide Wrap up
I hope this general guide to travel on your own to the Philippines has helped inspire you to plan your itinerary to the islands. I have put together a series of posts providing detailed information about Palawan, the Visayas, Mindanao (Camiguin) and Luzon so that you can design your own itinerary according to the time you can spend there.