Comprised of 7,107 islands, it's no surprise that the Philippines are famous for their beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The Philippines are the ultimate beach destination, offering opportunities to dive, snorkel, surf, swim, or simply swing in a hammock with a cocktail in hand. There is, however, more to the Philippines than the beaches.
There are vivid green rice terraces to admire, volcanoes to scale, rustic villages to visit, and jungles to trek through. Filipinos are some of the friendliest and most welcoming folk in Southeast Asia and love to enjoy life. Whether it's karaoke or a festival, Filipinos know how to party -- and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Considering that the islands of the Philippines are so spread out, all-inclusive tours take the hassle of arranging transportation and accommodation out of the equation, making for a more relaxed vacation. It's also the best way to experience the highlights of the country within a limited amount of time.
For adventure junkies, the Philippines are the perfect place to get away from it all and hike, bike, and kayak in remote areas. Adventure tours also include such activities as cliff jumping, white water rafting, spelunking, waterfall climbing, and snorkeling. The Philippines are a natural playground for adventure seekers of all types and there are tours to suit everyone.
With 600 species of coral and 2,400 species of fish, the Philippines is home to the most diverse marine ecosystem on the planet. For beginners, there is an abundance of easy beach entries, and for advanced divers, Palawan is one of the best locations in the world for wreck-diving. There's a great range of dive tours and if you don't already have a PADI certificate, the Philippines is the perfect place to get qualified.
With so many beautiful islands, it would be a shame to settle for just one. Unsurprisingly, island hopping tours are a popular choice for many visitors to the Philippines. There is a wide choice of tours available, many of them focusing on the islands around Palawan or Boracay. Most of them arrange excursions on the islands with local tour guides.
The teardrop-shaped island of Siargao is famous amongst surfers for Cloud 9, one of the top breaks in the world. For beginners, the mellow reef break of Dacu is an ideal place to practice. One of the advantages of booking a surf tour is that you don't have to take any of your own gear with you as it is all provided. Surfers are transported to the most suitable breaks for their level by guides.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit the Philippines
The best time to visit the Philippines is during the dry months between November and April, with the highest temperatures occurring during March and April. The wet season is between May and October, although the rain isn't constant. There are also fewer crowds and the scenery is incredibly lush and green.
What to Look for in a Tour to the Philippines
Make sure you look into such factors as accommodation style, group size, and cost. Determine clearly what is included in the price and what you will have to pay extra for. Have a close look at the itinerary -- there is no point in booking a trip with an emphasis on the beach if you are more into city sightseeing.
You may also want to establish the credentials of the tour company. Do they promote responsible travel? Are reviews from previous customers good? If you have particular interests, you may want to book a specialist tour.
Typical Tour Cost
Tours of the Philippines generally cost between $1,200 and $3,500 depending on the number of days, the standard of accommodation and transport, and destinations included. A $1,200, 10-day tour covers some of the most popular islands and includes basic accommodation such as hostels or simple hotels. A three-week guided tour staying in luxury hotels or resorts would come in at approximately $3,500.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Traveling light is easy when you are heading for a tropical destination such as the Philippines. Pack light and breathable materials that can be washed and then dried overnight. Sarongs are not only useful on the beach but are great for covering up when visiting temples.
Protection from the sun in the form of a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen is important to remember. Pack a voltage converter -- the Philippines use 220 voltage in comparison to 110 in the U.S. A headlamp is also handy as the Philippines are prone to frequent power cuts. It is likely that some of the activities you partake in will be on the water, in which case a wet bag could be really useful.
If you are planning to do a substantial amount of snorkeling, it may be worth taking your own gear if your tour provider doesn't include it up front. Although equipment can be hired, the costs can add up if you are snorkeling every day. Surfboards can be hired for around $7 a day.
Other Tips for Travel in The Philippines
- Although English is widely spoken, it always goes well to learn a few local phrases. Hello is a simple 'Hi,' Goodbye is 'Paalam,' and How are you? is 'Kumusta ka?'
- Casual attire is fine in most situations, but it's wise to dress more conservatively in more rural areas or in places where there are fewer tourists.
- The currency used is the Philippine peso. Keep a stash of P20 and P50 bills for tips, taxis, and minor purchases.
- U.S. citizens can obtain a visa for 21 days on arrival. If you need longer, apply to the embassy in advance. Onward tickets are often requested on arrival.
- Alcohol is pleasingly cheap in the Philippines. A beer costs about $1 and a basic meal is around $4. You may want to sample the potent Red Horse beer or the local coconut rum!
Health & Safety
There are several mosquito-borne illnesses, including dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and the chikungunya virus, which are a threat year-round in the Phillippines. Try to avoid being bitten by covering up and using bug spray with DEET. You may need to take malaria prophylaxis depending on when and where you are traveling.
Make sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A and typhoid immunizations are recommended, as is rabies if you are planning on staying in-country for more than a month. A yellow fever certificate is only required if you are coming from an area where the disease is present.
Hospitals in the major cities offer a good standard of medical care, although this is not always the case in more rural areas.
Avoid the far south of the country, which is a no-go area due to terrorist activity.
Unfortunately, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides are all common occurrences in the Philippines. Keep an eye on the news and if you have to, alter your plans.
Use common sense, especially in the cities. Don't carry large amounts of cash and avoid wearing expensive jewelry. ATM fraud is common in the Philippines, so use them with caution, and if an ATM looks as if it has any attachments on it, go elsewhere.
Don't get involved with drugs as penalties are severe.