Official language: Filipino is the national language, but it’s only the native tongue of about one quarter of the population. Luckily English is a widely spoken language, backed up by about 170 indigenous languages and hundreds of dialects.
Currency: Philippine Peso
Welcome to the land where Asia and Europe collide in a place of sand-circled tropical islands!
Mabuhay and welcome to the Republic of the Philippines! With its popular tourism tagline “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” the country proudly promises to wow and entertain travelers from all over the world. Nicknamed as The Pearl of the Orient Seas, the Philippines is renowned for its paradise beaches, exotic flora and fauna, delectable local dishes, incomparable hospitality, and a colorful, lively and exciting culture. If there ever was a surreal melting pot of religious lifestyles, Philippines would be it, where Catholic traditions and Islamic customs seamlessly blend together to create a nation unseen anywhere else in Southeast Asia. The strong European influence is all thanks to the Spanish who made their mark in everything from the town names to cuisine, but there’s also a touch of American presence in modern day Philippines as one can see in the local busses and a strong love for Pop music. A tour to the Philippines would lead you to hop from one island to another, sightseeing in and around the sea, seeing as there are 7,107 islands around. But this country is not just about the marine life and pristine beaches, attractions such as the jungles, mountains, volcanoes and hidden caverns all scream out to be explored by tourists from all walks of life. Step inside and discover a country where East meets West in a magnificent showdown of natural beauty, timeless traditions and captivating cultural backgrounds! With more than 32,000km of coastline, the Philippines make a big splash in the tourism industry with their pristine and unspoiled beaches and islands. Another thing this country is famous for is its rice terraces, which just happens to be one of the many wonders of the world. And then there’s Manila, the capital city which might just turn out to be more famous than the country itself with its hellish traffic, the Intramuros, the Chinese cemetery and Rizal Park. So what makes the Philippines such a unique destination? The answer might lay hidden in the fact that Filipino hospitality is a one of a kind experience. It could be because they have some of the most unspoiled beached and islands. There’s a probability that the answer has something to do with their diverse range of fauna and flora. Or it could be that they have some very iconic busses, called Jeepneys and they have what appears to be the cheapest alcohol this side of Southeast Asia. A marvelous blend of all these factors come together to make the Philippines a destination so unique that its incomparable to neighboring countries!
Must see places in Philippines
Prepare to be wowed beyond words by majestic limestone karsts, pristine waters, possibly your best diving and snorkeling experience, natural wonders and a prison without walls, among others. Palawan also hosts a UNESCO Heritage site, the Tubbataha Reef which is undeniably the best dive site in the country and famed throughout the world. Palawan is more than perfect for honeymooners, not only in pictures but also in experience. Discover a place teeming with incomparable natural wonders combined with extraordinary hospitality. There is simply so much to see in Palawan but let’s focus on the more popular towns of Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Coron and the island-resort of Amanpulo.
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol boasts of not less than 1200 hills making up a scenic landscape. The province is also a favorite among divers, having a distinction of one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems. The endangered Philippine tarsiers at Bohol’s tarsier sanctuary are one of the smallest primates in the world at about 3 to 6 inches in height.
See remnants of the old walled Fort of Manila, built during the Spanish regime and played a critical part during World War II, a UNESCO heritage Baroque Church, or simply one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Board a ferry bound for Corregidor Island, the country’s strongest fortress during World War II. The country’s capital is an absolute haven for history buffs, shopaholics and urban adventurists. Live the fast life and get lost among the crowd in countless flea markets to large shopping malls, join walking tours and soak in Manila culture, a melting pot of people from all over the Philippines.
This island paradise boasts of exceptional fine white sand and scenic beauty beyond compare. Consistently in the list of Top Beaches in Asia, it won’t be surprising to travel the world yet not find sands better than here. Travel + Leisure magazine officially recognized Boracay as the best island in the world in 2012.
Davao City is the capital city of Metro Davao, the third most populous city in the entire Philippines. In terms of land area, it is the biggest city in the country. Fondly dubbed the Crown Jewel of Mindanao and the Fruit Basket of the Philippines among others, the city is considered to be the most crime-free area in the entire country. It is a gateway to many tourist spots.
Cebu City is a metropolitan district in the central part of the Philippines with world class hotels and casinos and a vibrant nightlife to boot. It is the oldest city in the country thus having a multitude of historically-significant stories to tell. The Spanish colonization of the Philippines began in Cebu with the baptism into Catholicism of Rajah Humabon and his wife, and eventually 800 of his subjects.
The region prides itself on ancient churches and colonial houses. Vigan, the capital of Ilocos Sur, is a UNESCO World heritage site that has best preserved an original Spanish colonial town in all of Asia. Not only is Ilocos teeming with architectural masterpieces, it is also known for yummy local cuisines and an expansive array of natural wonders
Bicol Region is comprised of 6 provinces namely Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, and Masbate with the first four featuring promising tourist attractions. Camarines Norte is home to at least two distinctly gorgeous beaches. Camarines Sur has equally stunning and rugged beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, caves and a well-known wakeboarding complex. Albay’s pride and glory is the world’s most perfectly-shaped cone of a volcano, luxury beach resort, ruins and a zip line over a hilly nature park. Sorsogon offers a rustic retreat to nature – swim with butandings, watch fireflies or take a dip in lakes of a volcano.
If there is one word to describe the smallest and northernmost province in the Philippines, it would be dramatic. It is home to picturesque hills, stunning natural formations, archaic local lifestyles, and fascinating architecture. Batanes not only stands out as a pollution and crime-free region, visitors revel in the feeling of being in a totally different world, truly away from everything.
The cold mountain breeze of the Cordilleras is only secondary reason to visit this destination. It is home to Banaue Rice Terraces, dubbed by the locals as the “8th Wonder of the World” due to its ancient majestic splendor. Sagada boasts of unique caves, hanging coffins, and indigenous culture. The region’s capital Baguio City is dubbed as the City of Pines and the Summer Capital of the Philippines for its cool weather and a myriad of pine trees throughout the city.
Things to do in Philippines
Go diving in the Calamian Islands
Uncover Colonial Heritage
Go mountaineering in Sagada
Snorkel with the Whale Sharks
Explore Bohol Island
Best time to visit Philippines
Tourists visit Philippines from January to May
The Philippines has a year round hot climate with sea breezes cooling things down a little in “winter”, which is from November to February. Typhoon season starts in July and lasts until October, which is generally the wetter season in the Philippines. The best climatic conditions for tourists are probably between the months of January and May.
Did you know?
Food is a major chunk of Filipino culture as it is present in all occasions. To paint a picture for you, a typical Filipino eats three major meals per day (i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and plenty of snacks in between. Yes, sometimes even post-dinner snacks.
Who wouldn’t think Filipinos eat too much?! The truth is they hardly eat meals alone. They share food with everyone for a chance to lightly socialize. Chance upon a Filipino eating and he will smile and motion you to take a bite of his meal saying, “Come on, and let’s eat.” It is the polite thing to do in local customs and the appropriate response is “No, thanks. I’m okay.”
Of course, you are welcome to dig in if you are friends. Favorite dishes are adobo, sinigang, tinola, lechon, bulalo, sisig, cured meat like longganisa, tocino and tapa, chicharon, caldereta, kare-kare, pinakbet, crispy pata, pancit and spring rolls, regularly served with rice. No trip to the Philippines is complete without trying halo-halo, a yummy dessert incorporating a mix of local preserved fruits, yam and nuts with milk and shaved ice.
Make sure you try local dishes when you are there:
- Lechon - prepared for fiestas and family celebrations, this dish is a roasted whole pig
- Kare-Kare - delicious oxtail stew in a rich peanut sauce served with bagoong, which is fermented shrimp paste
- Adobo - this dish consists of braised pork and chicken in a tangy soy sauce with vinegar and garlic
- Fresh seafood - try it grilled, boiled, fried or steamed, but just make sure you get some kalamansi (lemon) bagoong (fish paste) and labuyo (native hot pepper) to dress it up with
- Philippine Rum - since you’re only there once, you have to get a sip of the world famous Philippine rum!
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In the Philippines, festivals or fiestas are synonymous to abundance (Translation: You will be graciously offered more food than you can eat in your lifetime and be expected to fill yourself up to the brim).
Although most fiestas stem from Catholic influence they resonate Filipino values more in the spirit of fun, gratefulness, faith and hope. The most popular festivals are SInulog of Cebu in January, Dinagyang of IloIlo in January, Masskara of Bacolod in October, Ati-Atihan of Aklan in January, Kadayawan of Davao in August, Panagbenga of Baguio in February and Pahiyas of Quezon in May. During summer, Holy Week is a solemn time for reflection and penitence to the extent that Catholic devotees emulate the sufferings of Jesus Christ, crucifixion included. An epic scripture narrating the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is chanted, reverberating from chapels and homes. Christmas on the other hand is a totally different story. September marks the start of Christmas, typically with a countdown, and ends in January during the Feast of the Three Kings, making the yuletide season the longest festivity in the country.
- Always bring Philippine pesos. Only known establishments accept credit cards. US dollars may be accepted but in rare cases.
- Money changers and ATM’s are aplenty in metropolitan districts but could be scarce in remote places so make sure you bring enough cash when traveling outside big cities.
- Never change money on the street or inside a restaurant, especially if you want to get honest value for your dollars
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- Note that sometimes when you ask for directions, Filipinos might use their lips to point towards where to go.
- When you need to get off mass public transportation like jeepneys, buses or rickshaws shout “Para!” This will signal the driver to stop. You can also knock on the ceiling of jeepneys the way locals do.
- For domestic flights, major providers are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia Zest, SeaAir and PAL Express.
- Dress modestly when you’re out and about as the Filipino’s are conservative people
- Deal with the idea that the Filipinos live life slow, and “business” stops at lunch time
- Staring at people is considered rude in the Philippines, so don’t do it
- You never know how clean the tap water is, so for your own wellbeing, stick to bottled water