What can I say about the Philippines? I absolutely love the Philippines and it is one of my favorite countries to travel to by far. However, traveling in the Philippines can be a daunting task for a beginner traveler. Even though traveling to and in the Philippines, can be scary, these helpful tips will help you gain confidence and a chance of having a smooth trip. Here’s my Beginners Guide to the Philippines!
Beginner’s Guide to the Philippines
In the Philippines, a lot of Filipinos speak English so communication with locals is easy. The main language for the Philippines is Tagalog, however, in the central to southern areas Visayan is typically spoken (but typically everyone knows Tagalog and English.
Tagalog words to know
Like I said most people in the Philippines know English, but sometimes you want to show your appreciation or that you want to learn about their culture, so here are a few basic Tagalog words that may be important.
- Salamat – Thank you
- Sarap – Tastes good
- Wala – No
- oO (prounounced OH OH) – Yes
The form of currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Piso (pronounced Peso). When you decide to get money at the Bank or Currency Exchange, be sure to specify that you need the Philippine Piso not just peso or they will assume you want the Mexican Peso.
The Philippines is typically warm all year long with a lot of humidity, however what you need to consider in your travel plans are the weather regarding Monsoon season which include high winds and heavy rain which can lead to landslides, ferry cancellations, typhoon warnings, and flooding in the Philippines. The best times to travel to the Philippines are January – June to avoid the monsoon season.
How to get around
There are plenty of options on how to get around including taking the bus, a taxi, a jeepney, ferry boat, trike/tricycle or by plane. It just depends on the location you are trying to get to. It may be hard to get around with a lot of cancellations and delays.
I highly suggest you get travel insurance, the Philippines is not always guaranteed to get you where and when you need to get there. With weather issues and what not, taking a ferry may be cancelled and you won’t be able to get to your destination on time. Travel insurance will be helpful for that. Also, with so many things to do in the Philippines, it’s important to consider insurance because of all the high profile activities you may be doing such as scuba diving, ziplining, swimming, boating, jetskiing, parasailing, etc.
Most Popular Areas
- The Island of Cebu
- Tarsier Santuary
- Manmade Forrest
- Chocolate Hills
- Puero Princessa
- El Nido
- Known for it’s night life
- The Capital of the City
- Rice Fields
Most of the foods in the Philippines are very affordable and easy to come by. Getting alcohol is very cheap and better to buy the bottle at a local store and as affordable as $2 for a 750ml. bottle. Some of the basics include: Adobo, Pancit, Lechon Manok (Chicken), Lechon Baboy (Pork), Lumpia and more. Now when it comes to eating food with cheese products, don’t expect the cheese to be what you are typically used to seeing since most cheese in the Philippines are processed and placed on a shelf like Velveeta as an example. Many foods can be greasier than you may be accustomed to, so be aware of that. If you’re not sure where to start, read my guide on Must Try Filipino food.
Some tips to get you by
Don’t be scared!
There is a lot of hype that the Philippines is a dangerous country due to many Muslims that reside in the Southern Islands, however, with that being said travel in the Philippines has the same risk of traveling in any other country in Southeast Asia. You need to be alert when traveling. Just like traveling in Europe, many kids can also pick pocket, so keep your items close to you. You can always use one of my traveling favorites a PacSafe Messenger Bag to keep your items safe by getting it here. If you still feel unsafe and want to feel more secure when traveling in the Philippines, be sure to book your stay in areas that are more travel friendly such as Cebu, Boracay, Bohol, and Manila of course.
Be Open Minded
The Philippines is a beautiful country, but do keep in mind that it is a third world country. There are tons to explore with beautiful waterfalls, beaches, swimming, and can be a complete tropical paradise, however, there are some downsides to traveling in the Philippines such as seeing small huts used for homes and children begging for money from tourists.
Don’t stick to a travel agenda
The Philippines has a slow-paced lifestyle with siestas in the afternoon. With that being said, a lot of the time Filipinos run late, as we call it “Filipino time”, meaning that ferry you purchased tickets to board may not show up on time and you may just want to go with the flow. The weather can be very unpredictable during some seasons which may lead to cancellations of ferry boats.
Karaoke is a very popular past time in the Philippines. If you attend any party they will often have a karaoke machine to sing at all hours of the night. Be sure to practice your singing voice and do not insult anyone who may be singing. Most lounging areas and bars outside will have Karaoke machines and you may hear the same songs over and over again. You may be surprised on how well Filipinos can sing.
Getting to the Philippines can be expensive, however, hotel accommodations and things to do can be very affordable. There is so much to do and you can easily do this on a budget. However, if you expect to eat luxuriously in the Philippines in the major cities, then be sure to pay a little more for those foods. Chicken and rice is a typical meal in the Philippines, so if you aren’t a fan of chicken and rice, there are other options but some may be more expensive if they aren’t the local foods. A normal hotel price in the US is comparable to a villa or suite in the Philippines so getting that dream hotel on the beach can be more affordable than you think.
Ride in a Jeepney and a Trike like a Local!
This is be the real experience of being in the Philippines. Riding a jeepney or a trike will be the best way to know what travel is actually like in the Philippines. These little rides are exciting and very affordable way to get around the island. If you are doing a longer distance ride, you may want to request an empty jeepney with a driver. Some locations do have taxis like Manila, but do not expect that all locations have taxis.
Be sure to make sure your water is clean. You may want to bring a steripen with you just in case, but a lot of the time when you drink the water there, you may have to worry about stomach issues. So soda might be a good option for you if you do not have a steripen or you are in a restaurant, the soda can be safer than the water, but the water is drinkable.
What are some of your tips for new travelers to the Philippines? Leave them in the comments below!Originally Posted on October 7, 2015Updated on February 2, 2018