Our family of 5 went on a tour of the Philippine Islands and it was one of our most memorable trips EVER, if not the most memorable one. We’ve seen so many breathtaking and unforgettable places and met so many of the happiest people on earth, and there’s so much more to explore and discover. The Philippines archipelago is comprised of over 7,000 islands, and we only experienced a minuscule fraction at 10+ islands. Needless to say, we cannot wait to come back again to uncover even more, and are planning another trip already.
If you’re into aesthetically stunning white-sand beaches, exotic turquoise waters, seafood, and experiencing adventure, then the Philippines is a MUST for your bucket list. Here are some top reasons to visit:
1) See the top beaches & islands in the world
You have to see it in real life to truly know just how stunning the landscapes are. According to Conde Nast Traveler, El Nido was voted #1 as the most beautiful beach IN THE WORLD for several years now (http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-02-24/top-10-most-beautiful-island-beaches-hawaii-australia). Travel & Leisure Magazine also lists 3 of the world’s 10 best islands in the Philippines (http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#intro).
2) It’s unbelievably inexpensive
It’s almost like shopping at the dollar store: Beer for $1 , Bottle of Rum for $1, Haircut $1, straight-edge shave $1, Full meal with drinks $2, $3 Pedicures, Full body 1 hour massage for $4, Fresh oysters and scallops for $6. And for you long-term travelers there is “done-for-you/perfectly folded laundry” for $3 per load (usually charged by kilogram).
3) Most everyone speaks English, so it’s easy to communicate and get around
4) Underwater Sealife – snorkeling and diving are pristine and spectacular, with an abundance of exotic animals and lush plant-life
5) Delectable Food – you can get the freshest seafood straight out of the ocean and the sweetest fruits, many you’ve probably never even heard of. There’s even mango-pizza in Guimaras, which is fantastic! If you’re tastes are flavored for American food, then rest assured that many well-known American restaurants are available in all major metro areas.
6) The People. Filipinos are happy, always smiling, and love to make friends. We were even invited to a pig roast when we befriended some locals in Siquijor
Here’s some useful info to make your trip more enjoyable and to limit the stress of traveling to a minimum.
Navigating around the Philippines:
Air: Manila, Clark, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Tagbilaran – strict luggage allowances for both carry-on and check-ins, pay for meals/drinks
Land: Bus, Jeepney (usually only 7 Pesos/person, Tricycle (usually around $1 per ride), Scooters, Taxi (Uber and/or Grab is available in Manila and Cebu), Hire a Van & Driver for the entire day (usually for about $70, includes gas)
Lodging: Hotels, Pension houses (hostels), AirBnB, VRBO (Home Away), Citi Prestige Credit Card was very helpful with the (4th Night Free benefit).
The Philippine Peso (PHP) is the national currency, and at the time of this blog post the exchange rate is about 1USD to 49.73 PHP. Credit cards are not widely accepted, except for major metro areas. International ATM fees rack up very quickly, so talk with your bank for your most convenient access to cash. There are many currency exchange places, especially in the big cities and malls, but are hard to find on the remote islands, so plan ahead. In El Nido, for example, be prepared to pay for everything in cash.
Helpful things to pack/have:
– water shoes (some beaches have coarse rocks and coral you’ll be walking on)
– mosquito repellent
– portable battery chargers (for cell phones and cameras – your camera will be working extra hard!)
– electrical adapters (two pronged and three pronged converters). Most electrical outlets are 220V with two prongs.
– Uber on your mobile phone (for Manila and Cebu). Grab app (similar to Uber)
– Cash, ATM Cards (activated for overseas use), Credit Cards (with no international fees)
Mobile phone use:
T-mobile users have free international roaming texts and data (4G LTE in Manila and Cebu, 3G and wi-fi in most major metro areas) – check with your provider (click here for T-mobile Roaming info (T-Mobile Roaming). You can also rent pocket wi-fi devices for extra connectivity. The remote islands have VERY slow cellular & internet connections, if any. You can also get a local cell phone where you’ll have to load minutes and data with SMART & GLOBE providers.
If you have any questions, want to know more, or are familiar with the Philippines, please leave a comment below; we would love to hear from you! Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts with details on our favorite spots in the Philippines. Cheers to tan-lines and sandy bottoms!