Impressions of the Philippines
Whether you’ve travelled there before or not, what is your impression of the Philippines???
Whether you’ve travelled there before or not, what is your impression of the Philippines?
During my travels I’ve met quite a number of travellers around Southeast Asia who don’t have any plans of travelling to the Philippines. They are happy with mainland SE Asia.
I was baffled because, in my opinion, the Philippines has a lot to offer when it comes to travel. There are so many islands waiting to be explored, festivals waiting to be enjoyed, as well as what remains of its colonial history to be investigated.
To try and understand this more, I reached out to the travel blogger community and asked them to share their impressions of the Philippines whether they have been to the country or not.
Some of their answers surprised me. After you read through the article, let us know what your Impressions of the Philippines are in the comment section below.
Mayon Volcano viewed from Guinobatan, Albay, Bicol
I lived in Thailand for many years and travelled extensively around SE Asia but never made it to the Philippines. Why? It certainly wasn’t the cost of the flights – plenty of low-cost flights from Bangkok.
I think the thought of having to transit via Manila just didn’t appeal. I had heard too many negative reports about crime, and stores and offices needing armed security guards outside. I just didn’t feel comfortable about being a solo female traveller in the Philippines.
I had been told that there are plenty of beautiful beaches and islands, but then again, I’m not really a beach person, nor a diver.
The weather was also a factor. At that time, I was teaching English in Thailand and the school holidays coincided with the monsoon season.
But now I live in Europe, the thought of visiting the Philippines does appeal. What changed my mind?
I’m a more experienced and confident solo traveller these days.
There seems to be more information online about what to do in the Philippines. Apparently, it’s not all bad in Manila or having to island-hop from one beach to another.
So what’s on my Philippines bucket list?
So far – The Banaue Rice Terraces, Mayon Volcano, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Chocolate Hills (although a little disappointed not really made of chocolate), the lakes at Coron Island, the historical island of Corregidor, Mines View Park, Mount Pinatubo on Luzon, Pagsanjan Falls and the list keeps growing. Thinking 2023 for a visit!
Photo of Saint Augustine Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines
I’ve never been to the Philippines, although it has always been at the top of my list.
My first impression of the Philippines (without visiting) is that it’s just like Thailand, but cheaper and more off-the-beaten island destinations.
The reason I haven’t been to the Philippines is because it’s hard to find information about inter-island travel.
I’ve been able to find cheap airfare into Manila, but it’s hard to find transportation info for getting to more off-the-beaten path island destinations. Taking public buses for 8+ hours before hopping on another flight seems a bit too much for me.
I’d love to travel to the Babuyan islands, as well as Bohol.
Photo – Diving Apo Reef, Dumaguete, Negros, Philippines
Helena from Helena Bradbury
The Philippines was a dream destination of mine for many years so I was thrilled to finally be able to visit in 2017. I flew into the Philippines with Cebu Pacific into Manila, then took a smaller prop plane to Palawan where I spent two weeks.
My goal was to see the famous marine life, beautiful turquoise water and paradise islands in the Philippines so I decided to get my PADI Open Water Diving qualification while in the Philippines in El Nido. The experience was amazing, while the course itself was not much cheaper than I would have paid in Europe, I got many more open water dives included in the price as the owner of the dive school was so enthusiastic about taking all of his dive students out to experience as much as possible.
I lived the island life for two weeks, staying in a hostel on the beach and meeting other travelers there. The hostel itself was incredibly cheap, as was food and transport around the island by Tricycle. I would suggest having plenty of currency before you visit, ATMs and card payments were limited.
As a solo female traveler I felt very safe for most of my trip, the only time I felt unsafe was at Manila airport on my overnight layover. I also got a 4-day bout of food poisoning from contaminated water so my biggest bit of advice for traveling to the Philippines is to make sure you stick to bottled water!
Malapascua Sunset, Cebu. Photo courtesy of Rachel, at Children of Wanderlust
Rachel, from Children of Wanderlust
We visited the Philippines almost 15 years ago when backpacking around Asia (so some of our observations may seem a little outdated). We travelled around a variety of islands and locations in the country, to get a feel for the cities and mountains as well as just the tropical beaches that first spring to mind.
Having flown into Manilla, we then journeyed using bus, boat and local tuk-tuk to reach our chosen locations, staying mostly in low budget backpacker accommodation.
For the most part we found the local people to be welcoming and friendly, despite the obvious poverty that was clearly visible all around. Manilla, in particular, was a bit of a horror show of dirty streets, homelessness and child labour, and rats the size of small dogs!
It was honestly right up there as one of the worst places we’ve ever visited in the world, complete with armed guards with shotguns even on the door of a Pizza Hut! Sadly one legacy of historic American involvement in the country has been high rates of gun ownership – something that can feel a bit unsettling at times.
Outside of the large cities, things are much nicer however, with the country boasting some beautiful countryside, wildlife and island beaches. Highlights were swimming with whale sharks near Legazpi (incredible), the chocolate hills on Bohol, and the largely unspoilt white sand beaches of Malapascua.
Unfortunately though, another American legacy, the practice of dynamite fishing, has left the underwater landscape there scarred and low on marine life.
The standard of accommodation we stayed in varied but was generally cheap and cheerful. The food though, was pretty forgettable (especially for a vegetarian 15 years ago!). Overall, we had an interesting stay but I don’t think I’d rush back to the Philippines. It has a lot to offer visitors but, sadly for us at least, the complete package just wasn’t as appealing as that found at some of the neighbouring countries in the region.
Photo of Igpasungaw Falls, Sebaste, Antique
Adam from As Adam Goes
The Philippines is a tropical paradise that I haven’t visited, but it has been long on my bucketlist.
When I think of the Philippines, I immediately see images in my head of sandy beaches, blue waters, densely populated cities, and some of the friendliest faces on the planet. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to live with many Filipinos on a 6-month work trip to the United States.
They told me so many great stories about the country. and fed me with some of the finest cuisine I’ve ever had. One thing I learned from living with Filipinos is that they love to give. If you ever needed any help whatsoever, they were there by your side.
Due to its location, I haven’t visited the Philippines yet. I’m from Ireland, so the flight is pretty long. Next year, I hope to visit once the COVID situation calms down.
If I were to visit the Philippines, I would love to see Manilla, Palawan, Cebu, El Nido, and many other places.
Since the explosion of travel blogs, I’ve found that there is a decent amount of information online about the Philippines. It’s great to see because a lot of people who wouldn’t be into traveling actually don’t know that much about the country. Now, they have it after a few taps on an iPhone.
El Nido Island Hopping, Philippines. Photo courtesy Exit45 Travels
Peta and Jonas of Exit45 Travels
We have travelled the world extensively over many years, but the Philippines is one of our favourite countries in the world to visit. It is beautiful, has lots of amazing things to see and do, it is very reasonably priced, the locals are extremely friendly, English is widely spoken and it is relatively easy to get around. All the above combined make for an easy and truly enjoyable holiday!
We both love beach holidays and snorkelling, and there is no better place to experience these than the Philippines. In particular, island hopping in El Nido on Palawan Island is a bucket list experience for most travelling to the Philippines. You will have the opportunity to explore white sand beaches, limestone surrounded hidden lagoons and unbeatable snorkelling experiences.
Moalboal on Cebu Island is also another of our favourites for a relaxing holiday with amazing snorkelling opportunities directly off the beach. While visiting Cebu, there are also lots of additional activities you can experience including swimming with whale sharks, hiking to beautiful waterfalls or visiting the chocolate hills of Bohol.
Travelling around the Philippines is easy and well-priced (including taxis and private drivers) and we either fly between islands or catch ferries. Once in your destination, hiring a motorbike is the best way to really explore the area. Accommodation is plentiful and there is something to suit all budgets. From hotels, to guesthouses, to Airbnb’s, we have always easily found somewhere in a great location within walking distance of the town centre for under AUD$30 per day.
Would we visit the Philippines again? Absolutely!!!
We are patiently waiting for the country to reopen to tourists, and we will be booking our 3 month stay.
Photo – Plaza Salcedo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Linda from Muy Linda Travels
I’ve thought about visiting the Philippines but, so far, I’ve never been. Through my work, I’ve met some delightful Filipino people who were very warm, friendly and deeply religious. I enjoyed very much meeting a Filipino Christian rock star singer called Ding Dong. He wore cool dark sunglasses and had several pretty girls in tow. Other Filipino characters like the infamous politician Imelda Marcos, with her 3,000 pairs of designer shoes, have also caught my interest.
If I was to visit the Philippines, El Nido, Palawan, would be high on my list. And the dramatic landscapes of Batanes are also very appealing. I love the idea of island hopping, relaxing on beautiful tropical beaches and exploring secret lagoons and hidden waterfalls. The historic city of Vigan and the coastal town of Pagudpud also sound like places I would enjoy visiting.
Unfortunately, my impression of the Philippines is that safety would be a concern for me as a solo female traveller. While the islands of the Philippines are incredibly beautiful, some places are extremely unsafe. The Australian Governments travel advice is “do not travel to… Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago…due to the very high threat of terrorism and kidnapping”. And “reconsider your need to travel to the Philippines overall”.
I hope the situation improves but for now, travel to the Philippines is off the agenda for me.
Photo – Batad rice terraces, Ifugao, Philippines
De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander
After more than 15 fantastic trips to Southeast Asia, we never made it to the Philippines. It simply never made it to our wishlist (perhaps due to poor advertising and promotion), so when we finally decided to go, we were excited to see what the country had to offer.
We spent a week over Christmas visiting Cebu, Oslob and Bohol island, travelling around on public transportation and staying at luxury resorts and hotels. We looked forward to dazzling beaches, delicious food, interesting cultural experiences, and simply relaxing.
While the beaches, especially on Bohol, were stunning and the Chocolate Hills very beautiful, we were quite disappointed with the Philippines.
The biggest disappointment was the food. Food in Southeast Asia is usually the highlight of the region, yet we were looking for western food after a few days in the Philippines. The only saving grace was the crispy lechon that Cebu is famous for. Other than that, we found the food rather unimaginative or simply gross.
We did not feel as safe in the Philippines compared to anywhere else we’ve been to in Asia. Having your taxi searched every time you enter the resort or hotel and opening your bag every time you go into the mall does not make one feel safe.
The Philippines lack the fascinating cultural aspects that Southeast Asia is known for. If you’re looking for temples, pagodas, ruins or the like, you’ll be disappointed.
Yes, the Philippines is cheap and offers excellent value for money, but the lack of culture, feeling unsafe, and the food are all reasons never to return. Sorry.
Photo of Street Food BBQ in Sagay, Negros, Philippines
Denise of Chef Denise
In cooking school, my Chef instructor was Filipino. She introduced us to the food of the Philippines and I quickly fell in love with it. Of course, the Philippines was then added to my travel bucket list in order to try those traditional foods on their home turf. Unfortunately, years later, I still haven’t made it to visit.
I especially have an interest in Filipino street food, so Manila and Cebu are definitely on my list of places to visit. However, I know there are incredible waterfalls and, I couldn’t travel all the way there without visiting Iligan City, known as the City of Majestic Falls. I’d also love to do some island hopping to see the amazing beaches like Kayangan Lake on Coron, and the white beach on Boracay Island. There is a lot of information online about tourist destinations in the country, so I feel it will be easy to plan a trip when the time is right.
I just don’t know when that might be. For years it felt unsafe with threats of terrorism and civil unrest. Whether these were exaggerated or real, they did cause the Philippines to fall to a lower priority for me. Now with COVID vaccination rates being so low in the Philippines, I am fearful it will be years before I am comfortable visiting.hef Denise
Photo – Paragliding in Saraggani, Mindanao
Luke from Wild about BC
I travelled to the Philippines in 2019 and it was one of the best countries that I have ever been to. I went for 2 months to explore as much as possible, including beaches, mountains and waterfalls. I was travelling on a relatively small budget so I was staying in hostels and low-cost guest houses.
I did find that the accommodation was slightly more expensive than many other countries I had visited in Asia. Compared with the likes of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand etc, the nightly rates were more expensive and the accommodation was not as good as in these other countries. They weren’t bad, but it is not as cheap and the rooms are not as nice in general.
While here I travelled on local airlines and I mostly used a mixture of local busses (known as Jeepneys), ferries and taxis. Transportation around the Philippines was generally quite easy and not too expensive, especially on local busses. I felt totally safe the entire time I was here, whether it was in remote beach towns or larger tourist towns like El Nido.
The only downside I found was that the local cuisine wasn’t great. Good western food is widely available but it is more expensive. I usually love eating the local food but I didn’t eat it too much in the Philippines as I didn’t find it very good.
I absolutely love the Philippines and there are so many different places to choose from. I would love to go back and hope to go back many more times. It is spectacularly beautiful, with a wide array of landscapes to choose from and the local people were incredibly friendly everywhere I went.
Photo – Romblon Islands Inter island Banka in Carabao Island
Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
My experience of backpacking in the Philippines was amazing. Mostly, I traveled by bus or boat. With the exception of a couple of flights to shave off significant travel time. A couple of times, I traveled by Bangka across the open sea to get more off the beaten path in the Philippines. These were probably some of the best experiences, floating on a small wooden raft with a couple of local fishermen not really knowing where I was headed.
The locals were all so incredibly friendly and helpful and it’s one of the few countries I’ve traveled to where I felt completely safe all the time. The trip was a good blend of island hopping, beach, hiking, scuba diving with thresher sharks, chasing hidden waterfalls, and other adventures.
Usually, I would find super affordable bungalows away from the crowded areas. They were simple without hot water, and usually only had a fan (that didn’t always work.) Sometimes electricity would only be on at times. But what more do you need when you’re on a paradise island? Not only did this support local families, but it also created great connections with locals and inside tips on hidden gems and local eateries that served the most amazing food!
Like many travelers have said before me, the Philippines reminds of Thailand before tourism exploded. In some places you won’t find a ticket booth to get from one island to another, you just have to talk to the people you meet, and they will look for a person with a Bangka that’s willing to take you. The Philippines truly stole my heart, and I will go back to explore more of the 7000 off grid islands for sure.
Photo of a Tarsier at the Conservation Centre, Bohol, Philippines
Brodi from Our Offbeat Life
I haven’t visited the Philippines yet, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic border closures. I travel full time with my family and we were in Southeast Asia when the pandemic hit. We had planned to visit the Philippines in early 2021. However, border closures canceled our trip. Someday, we will head back for a redo.
When we finally do make it to the Philippines, the islands of Palawan, Borocay, and Bohol are high on our list. We’ve heard from other friends who have visited the Philippines that they have some of the best beaches in the world.
Based on what I’ve read online, Cebu seems to be a thriving community for digital nomads so I’d like to visit there to see what it’s all about. However, other than hot spots like beaches and digital nomad communities I don’t know a lot about the rest of the Philippines.
Several families I know who have visited there have told me to avoid Manila. My limited research has concurred, suggesting that the city is dangerous with limited things to do there with kids. Before we make our trip to the Philippines, I want to find out more about kid-friendly places to visit there that also have strong internet connections so that my family can continue to work while we travel.
Photo of the daily Farmers Market in Bangued, Abra
Marco from Nomadic FIRE
I have lived in the Philippines on and off for 6 years. Prices for most services are extremely low. If I was there for several months, I would hire a private driver. If I were only visiting for a month or so, then I would use Uber. Uber could take you to most places for $5-$8.
If I was in the countryside or smaller beach towns, local motorcycle transport called trikes cost less than $1.
I still consider the Philippines as the most underrated country in SE Asia. The country has several stunning islands voted the “most beautiful island in the world.” However, I moved to the Philippines for the remarkably low cost of living and easy to obtain long-term visas.
I love Filipino food. However, unlike most countries in SEA, the Philippines has a horrible street food scene. Getting good Filipino food at a restaurant costs more than eating out in the US. But groceries are very cheap, and I could hire a personal chef for under $300 a month.
I always stayed in apartments or Airbnb. The cost of accommodation varies. An upper-middle-class one-bedroom apartment in a trendy neighborhood in Manila would cost $500 per month. The same apartment in a smaller tier 2 city like Dumaguete would cost $350.
The Philippines is safe. There is petty crime, but less than anything I experienced in South America. Violent crime is rare. However, the country gets a terrible reputation due to the current President’s “War on Drugs,” but the reality is that war only affects poor neighborhoods. As an expat or tourist, you would never notice.
Always. I retired six years ago and travel perpetually. The Philippines is on my regular rotation of countries I live in whenever I visit SEA. The country is criminally underrated, and everyone I know that does visit loves it. If you haven’t visited the Philippines, you should.
Boracay Sunset, Philippines.Photo Courtesy Globeblogging
Holly from Globeblogging
The Philippines makes a great budget holiday alternative to Bali or Thailand.
While there is a small airport on nearby island Caticlan, I chose to embrace adventure and take an overnight ferry from Batangas to Boracay, it’s not an experience I recommend. The island of Boracay itself is quite small, so it is easy to get around on foot, though I took a motorcycle taxi or moped a few times just for the fun of it. Boracay has been awarded the most beautiful island in the world a couple of times, and while it definitely was beautiful, especially the Boracay sunset, I felt like it was just another Thailand on its way to being over-touristed.
The food was cheap with plenty of choice, even a McDonalds on the beach, and the price of seafood is astonishing – provided you remember the first price you get given is for tourists and you need to haggle! While it isn’t unsafe it should be remembered that it is a third world country and valuables should not be left unattended at any time. Hotels are quite comfortable and affordable, but opt for air-conditioning!
It’s not expensive to get a top hotel in Manila, and you can even find one with a rooftop pool and service so you don’t have to leave. The city itself is massive, full of people and dirty. As in many Asian countries you take your life in your hands if you plan to drive, but hopping on a Jeepney is a cultural experience not to be missed.
Everything was very cheap and foreign currency holds a lot of value. While I’d visit The Philippines again, I would give Manila a miss and opt for one of the less touristy islands.
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