Five Things First Time Travellers To The Philippines Should Know
- Tipping isn't expected in the Philippines, although it is appreciated. If you want to leave your waiter a tip, leave some change behind after paying your bill. Just make sure the restaurant hasn't already added a service charge.
- The currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Peso. While there are money exchange services at the airport, you'll get a better rate by withdrawing cash at one of the many ATMs around the country.
- English is spoken across the country. It's estimated that 52 million Filipinos speak it, making it the fifth largest English speaking nation in the World. This means that the language barrier is low and makes travelling around the country much easier.
- Grab some toilet paper before entering the loo. In the Philippines, it's not uncommon for the toilet paper to be kept outside the stalls, while some of the less touristy areas don't stock up on any at all. To avoid this, it's a good idea to keep some in your bag.
- Look after your health. The Philippines tropical climate comes with certain health risks you need to be aware of. Make sure you take precautions against dengue fever, malaria, heat stroke and sunburn.
Best Time To Visit the Philippines
The best time to visit the Philippines is during its dry season. From November to April, the weather is at its best, humidity is low, and there is little chance of rain ruining your holiday.
The only downside is that it's also high season. Expect crowds at all the top tourist destinations as well as more expensive flights and hotel rates.
The wet season from May to October is the least popular time of year to visit the Philippines. The weather is at its worst with heavy rains, turning roads into muddy bogs and ruining the country's famous beach parties.
But it's the low season, and the best time of year to visit if you want the country's popular diving sites all to yourself. It's also the cheapest period with low prices for accommodation and flights. Just be sure to pack rainwear and lightweight cotton clothing to stay cool in the high humidity.
If you're visiting during the holidays, you'll need to plan your trip well in advance. During Easter, Christmas and New Year, a great number of people is on the move, and internal flights quickly fill up. It's also not the cheapest time of year, with many hotels tripling their prices.
Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and one of its largest cities. Home to the country's busiest international airport, it's a gateway for exploring the region.
But before you leave, make sure you check out some of its top highlights such as the Malacanang Palace, Manila Cathedral, Fort Santiago and Manila Ocean Park.
Dubbed the "Queen City of the South", Cebu is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines.
Over 200 years old, the city is home to a wealth of historical landmarks. Visit Magellan's Cross, the Lapu Lapu Monument and Casa Gorodo before exploring its more modern attractions like the Crown Regency's Sky Experience Adventure.
Located only an hour away from Manila, Tagaytay's unique landscape attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Perched on top of a plateau, the city overlooks the Taal volcano and Taal Lake. With much cooler temperatures than other parts of the country, it's the perfect destination for exploring Philippines' natural beauty.
Vigan is the only UNESCO World Heritage city in the Philippines. It's a paradise for history buffs and culture vultures who want to explore its colonial past and intriguing culture.
Meander past the Spanish-styled mansions, visit the 17th-century Augustinian cathedral and learn about the city's history at the national museum.
Top Attractions in the Philippines
The Mayon Volcano is one the most popular natural attractions in the Philippines. Standing at 8000 feet above sea level, it's one of the most active volcanoes in the country, erupting 49 times over the past 400 years. You can still see the ruins of a belfry and baroque church from its deadliest eruption in 1814.
Mayon is famous for its symmetrical cone shape, beautiful hiking trails and rich biodiversity. If you want the best views of this natural wonder, visit in the early morning. You'll be able to get uninterrupted views of the summit before the thick daily set of clouds settle in.
Located in the province of Sorsogon, the village of Donsol is the best place to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines. Once a remote fishing village, it sprung to fame in 1998 after a diver shot a video swimming with these gentle giants.
Today, tourists from all over the world flock here to do the same. The best time to see the whale sharks is between November and June, with their numbers at the highest during February and May.
Once you're done exploring Donsol's underwater treasures, spend some time taking in its natural beauty. The village is nearby beautiful waterfalls, hidden caves and pristine sandy-white beaches.
The Chocolate Hills are an unusual geological formation found on the island of Bohol. More than 1,268 giant mole-like hills are scattered across the landscape ranging from 30 to 50 metres high.
While no one is sure how these rock formations came to be, they've become one of the most iconic sights in the Philippines. One theory suggests the hills are remnants of volcanic activity covered with limestone.
Visit the Chocolate Hills by yourself or with an organised tour at sunrise or sunset. The mounds are covered with soft pink or blue light, offering up fantastic photo opportunities.
Boracay is one of the smallest islands in the Philippines, but it attracts thousands of visitors each year. Home to award-winning beaches, luxurious resorts and a plethora of adventure activities, it's the ultimate tropical holiday destination.
Spend your days cliff diving, snorkelling or kite surfing along the coast. Explore its remote volcanic caves and climb its mountains for panoramic views of the island below.
During the evening, Boracay's nightlife doesn't disappoint. It's full of bars, clubs and restaurants that will have you dancing on the beach until the sun comes up.
With such an array of things to do and see, it's little wonder that Boracay tops lists as the best island in the world.
Banaue Rice Terraces
Considered an "8th Wonder of the World", the Banaue Rice Terraces deserve a spot on any Philippines itinerary.
For over 2,000 years, the Ifugao tribes that inhabit the mountain range have been farming rice and vegetables here. Standing at 5,000 feet above sea level, the terraces were carved out of the landscape by hand.
Besides its natural beauty, Banaue is also a fascinating cultural destination with the knowledge on how to maintain the fields past on down to each generation.
And with the younger generations migrating to the cities, this human-made wonder might not be around for another millennium.
Major International Airports in The Philippines
- Ninoy Aquino International Airport
- Mactan-Cebu International Airport
- Francisco Bangoy International Airport
- Kalibo International Airport
- Iloilo International Airport