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Philippines vacation travel guide

Why choose the Philippines?

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the western Pacific Ocean that includes more than 7,000 islands. With Manila as its capital, the country is known for its rich biodiversity and for its diverse cultural heritage, with influences from its indigenous roots, Spanish colonization, and American education and governance systems.

 

The Philippines has a strong educational system and one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. The country has a rich tradition of music, dance, and craftsmanship and is renowned for its stunning beaches and islands, each offering a variety of experiences from total relaxation to water sports and lively nightlife.

 

The warmth and hospitality of Filipinos are often highlighted as one of the country’s greatest treasures, along with the widespread use of English, which makes communication and navigation for tourists much more accessible.

 

The Philippines is also noted for its affordability, making it a great destination for budget travelers. Whether it’s for its culture, natural beauty, or the warm hospitality, the Philippines presents a compelling case for being on your bucket list.

philippines vacation

Planning your Philippines vacation

• Visa: Many nationalities can enter the Philippines without a visa for stays of up to 30 days, provided they have an onward or return ticket. Check the official Philippines Bureau of Immigration website or with the Philippine embassy in your country for the latest information as requirements can change.

• Vaccinations: Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines are recommended because you can contract these diseases through contaminated food or water in the Philippines. Depending on where you are going and what you are doing, you might also need vaccines for Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies. Malaria prophylaxis might also be recommended for certain rural areas.

• Flight Booking: Check out our flight booking tips to make sure you get the best value for your money.

• Currency: The currency of the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP). Credit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas, but it’s less common in remote areas. It’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand for small purchases, tips, and places that don’t accept credit cards.

Philippines vacation

Best beaches in the Philippines

With over 7,000 islands, beaches are a top attraction in the Philippines.

• White Beach on Boracay: This beach is known for its powdery white sand that feels like flour between your toes. It’s the kind of beach that you see on postcards and think, “Nah, can’t be real.” But it is!

• Puka Shell Beach in Boracay: Named after the puka shells you’ll find in the sand, this beach is a bit more low-key than White Beach. It’s perfect for when you want the beauty without too many folks around.

• Alona Beach in Panglao, Bohol: Alona’s got palm trees, blue water, and a chilled-out atmosphere where you can just kick back and enjoy the sun.

• Siargao Island Beaches: Beyond its reputation as a surfing mecca, Siargao has a multitude of beautiful beaches.

• Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Pagudpud’s beaches often resemble those of Hawaii, with long stretches of white sand and impressive waves.

Philippines vacation

Can't-miss Philippines attractions

• Palawan:Known as the last frontier of the Philippines, Palawan is home to stunning lagoons, clear blue waters, and incredible biodiversity. Don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the breathtaking lagoons of El Nido.

• Chocolate Hills in Bohol: These unique geological formations are a mystery of nature. Over 1,200 perfectly cone-shaped hills turn cocoa-brown in the dry season, hence the name.

• Intramuros in Manila: The historic walled city from the Spanish colonial period is full of history, with Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, and Manila Cathedral as must-visit landmarks.

• Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a marine sanctuary with some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, making it a top spot for diving.

• Vigan: Step back in time in the well-preserved Spanish colonial town of Vigan, with its cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages.

Philippines vacation

Our favorite food in the Philippines

• Adobo: Often considered the unofficial national dish, adobo is a savory stew of pork or chicken (sometimes seafood or vegetables) marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices.

• Sinigang: A sour soup made with tamarind, tomatoes, various vegetables, and either pork, beef, shrimp, or fish.

• Balut: For the adventurous eater, balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly developed embryo inside, boiled and eaten from the shell. It’s a popular street food.

• Kare-Kare: A rich and hearty stew made with oxtail, vegetables, and peanut sauce, often served with shrimp paste on the side.

• Halo-Halo: A popular and colorful dessert that means “mix-mix,” consisting of shaved ice, milk, various fruits, sweet beans, jelly, and topped with ice cream or leche flan.

Philippines vacation

Cultural experiences in the Philippines

• Visiting Historic Churches:The Philippines’ Spanish colonial past is evident in its many historic churches, such as the San Agustin Church in Manila and the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

• Filipino Martial Arts: Take a class in traditional martial arts like Arnis, Eskrima, or Kali to understand the Philippines’ history of tribal warfare and Spanish colonial influence.

• Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana: Wearing the national dress, the Barong Tagalog for men and the Filipiniana for women, can be a unique cultural experience. These elegant garments are often worn during major events and celebrations.

• Filipino Cuisine: Participate in a traditional Filipino ‘kamayan’ feast, where a variety of dishes are laid out on banana leaves and diners eat with their hands, or enjoy a ‘boodle fight’ which is a military-style of eating.

• Ifugao Rice Terraces: Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces of the Ifugao people is a great cultural experience – they reveal centuries-old farming practices and a deep connection to the land.

Philippines vacation

Philippines customs and etiquette

• Greetings: Filipinos are formal with greetings. Use “po” and “opo” when speaking to elders or those in authority as a sign of respect. A gentle handshake accompanied by a smile is common, and close friends and family may greet each other with a cheek kiss or a hug.

• Invitations and Visits: If invited to a Filipino home, it’s polite to bring a small gift like sweets or pastries. Always wait to be told where to sit, as there may be a seating arrangement based on age and status.

• Dining Etiquette: Wait to be asked to start eating, and it’s customary to leave a little food on your plate to indicate you are full. Eating with your hands (kamayan) is acceptable in more casual settings, especially when eating seafood or at a beach outing.

• Shoes in the House: Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home unless told otherwise. This is a common practice throughout Asia and is seen as a sign of respect for the homeowner’s space.

• The ‘Mano Po’ Gesture: When greeting someone older, it is polite to take their hand and bring it to your forehead as a gesture of respect. This is called “Mano” or “Pagmamano.”

Philippines vacation

How do I avoid Philippines roaming charges?

Before international travel, you should always make a plan for how you’ll use your phone.

Philippines roaming charges can add up quickly, and you don’t want to get stuck with a huge phone bill after an amazing vacation.

Carrier travel data packages are often expensive, with limited data and a lot of restrictions.

A budget-friendly way to avoid Philippines roaming charges is to download a Philippines eSIM that comes with a prepaid Philippines data package.

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Travel tips for your Philippines vacation

Philippines vacation

Famous festivals in the Philippines

• Sinulog Festival: Celebrated in Cebu every third Sunday of January, Sinulog is one of the country’s most famous festivals. It honors the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus, with a grand street parade featuring costumes, street dancing, and floats.

• Ati-Atihan Festival: Held in Kalibo, Aklan in January, this festival is known as the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals.” It features participants in colorful tribal wear and black body paint, dancing to the rhythm of drums in honor of the Santo Niño.

• Panagbenga Festival: Also known as the Baguio Flower Festival, Panagbenga is celebrated throughout February in the city of Baguio with beautiful flower floats, street dancing, and garden exhibitions.

• Pahiyas Festival: This takes place in Lucban, Quezon every 15th of May to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Homes are decorated with agricultural harvests and colorful rice wafers called “kiping.”

• Pintados Festival: Held in Tacloban City in June, the Pintados Festival celebrates the region’s pre-colonial history with participants painted to resemble the ancient tattooed warriors that once inhabited the islands.

Philippines vacation

Philippines phrases that will come in handy

Try to learn a few basic phrases, as this is appreciated by locals and can enhance your travel experience.

 

Hello/Hi – “Kamusta” (kah-moos-tah)

• Thank you – “Salamat” (sah-lah-maht)

• Yes – “Oo” (oh-oh)

• No – “Hindi” (heen-dee)

• Please – “Pakiusap” (pah-kee-ooh-sap)

• Sorry/Excuse me – “Paumanhin” (pah-oo-mahn-heen) / “Patawad” (pah-tah-wahd)

• How much? – “Magkano?” (mahg-kah-noh)

• Where is…? – “Saan ang…?” (sah-ahn ahng)

• Goodbye – “Paalam” (pah-ah-lahm)

• Bathroom – “Banyo” (bah-nyoh)

• Water – “Tubig” (too-big)

• Food – “Pagkain” (pahg-kah-een)

• How are you? – “Kamusta ka?” (kah-moos-tah kah)

• I’m sorry – “Pasensya na” (pah-sen-syah nah)

Philippines vacation

Famous local markets in the Philippines

• Divisoria Market, Manila: Often referred to as the shopping mecca of the Philippines, Divisoria is a market district where you can find everything from clothes and accessories to toys and household goods at bargain prices.

• Carbon Market, Cebu: The oldest and largest farmer’s market in Cebu City, Carbon Market offers fresh produce, seafood, and a variety of local goods. It’s a lively place to experience the local hustle and bustle.

• Baguio City Public Market: Located in the summer capital of the Philippines, this market is famous for its fresh strawberries, local handicrafts, woven products, and second-hand clothes (ukay-ukay).

• Bankerohan Public Market, Davao: This market is known for its wide array of fruits, especially durian, which Davao is famous for, as well as other exotic fruits like mangosteen and rambutan.

• D’Talipapa Market, Boracay: A seafood market where you can buy fresh catch and have it cooked to order at nearby restaurants. It’s a must-visit for seafood lovers.

Philippines vacation

Go on a Philippines shopping spree!

• Bargain Wisely: Haggling is a common practice in many Filipino markets. It’s expected that you will ask for a lower price, but do it respectfully. A good rule of thumb is to start at around half the asking price and negotiate from there.

• Shop Local: Seek out local products. The Philippines is known for its pearls, handmade crafts, woven fabrics, and local delicacies. These items are not only unique but also support local artisans and producers.

• Mind the Timing: Markets can be less crowded early in the day, giving you more comfortable browsing time and better attention from sellers. However, some vendors may drop prices toward the end of the day to clear out merchandise.

• Discover the Thrill of Thrift: Explore the Philippines’ second-hand markets and shops, known locally as “ukay-ukay.” These spots can be treasure troves for vintage clothes, unique finds, and even designer labels at a fraction of the cost. The hunt is part of the fun!

• Foodie Souvenir Hunt: Turn your shopping expedition into a culinary adventure. Look for unique local delicacies and snacks to take home, such as dried mangoes from Cebu, pili nuts from Bicol, or artisanal chocolates made from local cacao.

Plan the perfect Philippines vacation

  • Philippines in January

    January offers cool and pleasant weather, with temperatures ranging from 24-30°C (75-86°F). It’s a perfect time for outdoor activities and witnessing the Sinulog Festival in Cebu, a colorful, religious celebration in honor of the Santo Niño.

  • Philippines in February

    The Philippines in February experiences warm and dry weather, with temperatures usually between 25-32°C (77-90°F). It’s an ideal time to explore the outdoors, particularly with the celebrations of the Panagbenga Festival, also known as the Baguio Flower Festival, showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage and love for flowers.

  • Philippines in March

    March sees the start of the hot dry season, with temperatures climbing to 25-34°C (77-93°F). Beaches become prime destinations, especially with the onset of Holy Week celebrations.

  • Philippines in April

    April is among the hottest months, with temperatures ranging from 25-35°C (77-95°F). This month is perfect for beach-going and partaking in Easter celebrations, alongside various local fiestas.

  • Philippines in May

    May continues with hot weather, temperatures between 25-34°C (77-93°F), and occasional rain showers. It’s a time for Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan, religious and cultural festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary.

  • Philippines in June

    June marks the beginning of the rainy season, with temperatures around 24-32°C (75-90°F). It’s also when the country celebrates Independence Day, with various patriotic events.

  • Philippines in July

    July is wet and humid, with temperatures from 24-31°C (75-88°F). While outdoor activities might be limited, indoor and cultural events are plentiful.

  • Philippines in August

    August brings heavy rains and typhoons, with temperatures around 24-30°C (75-86°F). The month is notable for the Kadayawan Festival in Davao, celebrating harvest and indigenous culture.

  • Philippines in September

    September remains rainy, with temperatures between 24-30°C (75-86°F). This period is quieter in terms of festivals and events but it’s a perfect time for those who prefer a less crowded experience of the Philippines. It’s also an excellent month to explore indoor attractions, such as museums and art galleries.

  • Philippines in October

    October sees the end of the rainy season, with temperatures around 24-31°C (75-88°F). The MassKara Festival in Bacolod, known for its colorful masks and street dances, is a highlight.

  • Philippines in November

    November welcomes cooler weather, with temperatures from 24-31°C (75-88°F). It’s a great time to visit, as the weather starts to dry, ideal for exploring the islands and enjoying the All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day traditions.

  • Philippines in December

    December is cool and dry, with temperatures ranging from 22-30°C (72-86°F). The Christmas season is wonderful, with lights, parades, and festivities making it a magical time to experience Filipino culture and hospitality.

How do I use my phone in Philippines?

Affordable eSIM data

Choose a data package

Start by deciding how much data you’ll need. Then choose a prepaid data package for your Philippines vacation. If you need more, it’s easy to buy more Philippines data.

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Install your eSIM

An eSIM is a downloadable SIM card, so you’ll install your eSIM on your phone or tablet. It takes less than two minutes, and then you will have a Philippines eSIM on your phone.

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Activate your package

When you’re ready to start using your Philippines eSIM you’ll activate your data package and make sure your device knows to use your Philippines eSIM for all mobile data.

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