Last updated on November 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 am
If you’re a seasoned traveler or someone who has been eyeing Asian itineraries for a while now, Philippines should be on top of your list. Southeast Asia is a very popular travel destination especially when you’re looking for warmer weather (almost all the time), blue waters and amazing landscapes, cheap food and accommodation, and nice people and Philippines can easily top on all those aspects.
The Philippines, being an archipelago (a country composed of thousands of big and small islands), can be a tougher place to visit when it comes to itineraries. Also, it’s separate from the other popular Southeast Asian Countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore), so it has some very distinct differences when it comes to culture.
Today, we are sharing to you the top things to know before traveling to the Philippines to help you better navigate the country, enjoy the culture and just to get the most out of your visit to the Philippines.
Things to Know Before Traveling to the Philippines
Quick Facts About the Philippines
1. Currency in the Philippines
The Philippine Peso, its currency, is called piso by the locals of the country. The country was colonized by the United States, that is why English is the language used in their bills. The word “peso” appears on the notes and coinage since 1967. More or less, $1 USD = PHP 54.00. Know the latest currency exchange here.
There are more than 170 languages and dialects spoken in the country, but two of them are considered the official language: English and Filipino. Most Filipinos understand English since it is widely spoken and used all over the Philippines.
Also, there are several unique dialects in the Philippines’ many islands. If you choose stay in the country for a long time, I think you’ll be able to learn many local words from different dialects, especially since many terms are just versions of some English words. Being multilingual is quite normal in the Philippines. For example, Rachel is one of them. She speaks English, Tagalog, and Kapampangan, the dialect of Pampanga (her hometown).
3. Visa in the Philippines
Visa waiver in the Philippines is not that tight. Citizens of most countries don’t need visa to enter the country, but they will only stay for a certain number of days.
There are nationalities that can stay up to 90 days in the country. You usually get 29 days free visa in the Philippines for your first visit. But also there are countries that you will have to apply visa for you to enter the country. Click this link to know how many days you can get for traveling in the Philippines.
4. Flight Out Ticket
You will get 29 days free visa to travel the Philippines but they will ask you for a flight out ticket before your flight, make sure you are bringing yours to avoid any problems.
Read this post to know our favorite places to visit in the Philippines.
5. Easy Visa Extension
29 days is not enough to travel in the Philippines? I agree with you because it happened to Ruben. If you overstay in the Philippines, you will have to pay 1000 PHP fine. We consider 2-3 months enough to travel in the Philippines, well we do travel this beautiful country for 3 months per year ha! Read this article to find out how easy and how much it costs to extend your visa in the Philippines.
6. Weather/Best time to Visit the Philippines
The best time to visit the Philippines is during dry season which is from the months of November to April. This time of the month in the country is when most of its tourist attractions are accessible. However, this time of the month, the temperature is very hot. It’s better to bring the essentials. Also, the air in the country is humid so be ready to sweat a lot.
During the months of December to February is the most recommended time to travel the country. During this time of the year, the temperature is cooler. In the months of May to October, rain will be your biggest problem. You can even experience rain for a few days straight especially from July to September.
7. Cash and ATMs in the Philippines
Bring cash everywhere. Remember that in some famous tourist attractions, in some remote location, they only accept cash. You can use your ATM cards and credit cards on almost every store in the city. ATMs will charge you 200PHP or more or less $4 USD per transaction and you usually will get maximum 10,000PHP per withdrawal.
Take note that in a few places in the Philippines because they don´t have ATMs like Malapascua, a small island perfect for diving, relaxing and scuba diving. So you will have to withdraw enough amount of cash before going there.
8. Health in the Philippines
If you are traveling to the Philippines, it´s recommended to get vaccines against Hepatitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Yellow Fever and Rabies first. Make sure you add sunblock and cream against mosquitoes, too.
Check here the list of vaccinations before your trip to the Philippines.
9. Travel Adaptor for the Philippines
In the Philippines, they use the American adaptor. Most of the places make it possible to fit your European adaptor in the plug. If you are coming from European countries, we recommend you to bring an American adaptor to be able to charge everywhere.
10. Wifi Connection in the Philippines
Don´t expect internet connection in the Philippines to be like in Western countries. There are WI-FI connections in some restaurants and cafes at the city, but you can also use cellular services in the Philippines. Globe Telecommunication is one of the best when It come to cellular data. You can get a 2GB of internet data for the whole week that costs only $2 USD. Internet in the Philippines is good but not as good like in other developed countries. Check here to know which one is the best Filipino sim for tourists.
11. Places not allowed for tourists
Although there are many spots in Mindanao that is worth to pay a visit, there are some places in that region that tourists should avoid. Before visiting a country, make it a habit to research about the country like what to do and not to do in that country.
Like many other countries in the world, Philippines is not an exemption for terrorists. There are a few places that tourists aren´t allowed to visit: Sarangani Province, North Cotabato Province, South Cotabato Province, and Sultan Kudarat Province.
12. Is it safe to travel in the Philippines?
It´s totally safe to travel in the Philippines and we never heard about any traveler having problems while traveling in the Philippines. The worst risk in the Philippines is that you want to stay there forever!
Things to know About culture before traveling to the Philippines
13. Choose from 7641 Islands to visit
The Philippines, “Pilipinas” in Tagalog, is situated in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 7,641 islands and it has 3 main islands- Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire and close the equator, most of the time the climate in the Philippines is very hot.
Our favorite island so far is Palawan, where you can visit Port Barton and El Nido to enjoy the most beautiful island hopping.
14. Are Filipinos friendly?
Filipinos are known in the world for being hospitable. Since the English language is widely spoken in the country, almost everyone can understand it. You will find the locals willing to talk to you if you have any questions about directions or where to go. They will help you with a smile.
15. Ways of Transportation in the Philippines
There are many modes of transportation, from land to sea, in the Philippines that can be availed by tourists.
Tricycle is the most common way to get around the city. It is affordable, easy to use and will bring you to the exact place/address of the establishment. Prices go from 15-150 PHP depending on how long/ how far your ride is.
All jeepneys have their own routes. Before riding a jeepney, make sure to ask your hotel on which jeepney to ride on to make it to your exact destination. Prices can go as low as 9 PHP, depending on the distance.
Same concept with the jeepney but is higher in price because of being airconditioned. Same as jeepneys, it has its own set of routes, going from place to place. However, there are also non-airconditioned buses that are cheaper.
If you prefer convenience over price, you can also ride a cab or commonly known as taxis in the Philippines. It is more expensive than jeepneys and buses. Be careful of some taxi drivers that will overcharge you though. Make sure they turn on and use the taxi meter before you start your ride to avoid being overcharged.
Another option is to use apps like Grab and Uber to get to your destination through a car or taxi. These options are the most expensive but one of the safest and most convenient because they will pick you up from your current location and bring you to your exact destination.
Rather than choosing Airplane for your travel, why not choose RO-RO instead. Though when riding airplanes, you can be at your exact destination within hours, RO-RO is not the same because it travels through sea. It will take you hours and even days to get to your destination. The best thing about riding a RO-RO is that it is way cheaper and that you’ll be able to experience travelling through sea.
16. Traffic in the Philippines
Traffic is a big problem in the country, especially in Manila. Traffic may take up all your time and make your head want to explode because of waiting for so long. Manila, one of the urbanized cities in the Philippines, is where traffic is heavy. But in the province, traffic won’t be a problem that´s why we recommend 12 places to visit near Manila.
17. Fixed Priced in the tours
There are fixed prices for both local and international tours. No need to bargain for tours in the Philippines as other countries around Southeast Asia. It will always depend on your budget and itinerary in the Philippines. Some tours include food, accommodation and tours in their packages. There are many to choose from and it is up to the traveler what to pick.
18. Filipinos eat rice everyday
Unlike other countries in the western part of the world, eating rice is a must in the Philippines. Rice will be forever a signature for Filipinos. They eat almost everything with rice. All restaurants in the Philippines serve rice so better be ready in eating dishes with rice. If you are not a rice eater, don’t worry because most restaurants also offer American and European food.
19. Try Balut
Balut is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. Some locals and tourist may find balut disgusting. Balut is a common street food in the Philippines but it is also sold in stores and Malls. Balut is cheap and is a source of protein and calcium. It is delicious even though it is not appealing to the eyes. Filipinos love to challenge foreigners to eat balut. In fact, Rachel challenged me to eat balut the first time I met her and took me for street food.
20. Jollibee Vs McDonald’s
We all know that Mcdonald’s is a household names for fast food everywhere in the world. But did you know that Jollibee is more famous than Mcdonald’s in the Philippines? They serve almost the same menu. Both are affordable and delicious.
However, Jollibee is more famous with kids and it’s a usual place to go for birthday parties or celebrations.
21. No tissue in the toilet
Filipinos’ comfort room culture is that they use soap and water instead of tissue. Although rolls of tissue are available in most public comfort rooms in cities, don’t be shocked if you won’t see one in some of the places you’ll go to. You’ll see bidet instead or a pail of water and water dipper.
More Things to Know Before Traveling to the Philippines
22. Filipino time
Don’t expect that all Filipinos will arrive at the meeting place at the exact time or earlier. Filipino people are always late. Adjusting your time to the island time is one of the things to know before traveling to the Philippines!
23. Sunday is family day
Sunday is day for Filipinos that they consider as family day. You’ll be able to see most families going to church at Sundays and then they will dine in some restaurants or they will go to malls with their families to spend quality time.
24. Eating food in the Philippines
When dining in some restaurants, people in other countries use knife to cut their food. It is different in the Philippines. All people in the Philippines use spoon and fork when eating, or not use any utensil at all. In this case, you may find it weird because maybe it is not your nature.
25. Free Service Water
When ordering your lunch in carenderias or restaurants, it doesn´t matter what you order as you will get free service water. Prices for a meal in a local carenderia can be 40-50 PHP. It means for less than a dollar you can enjoy a meal in the Philippines.
26. Can you trust Filipino food?
Yes, you can trust Filipino street food. Actually, people love to eat outside in the markets. The most popular street food is barbecue, hot dog, fish balls, chicken balls, balut, squids and animal intestines.
27. Filipino cuisine
Filipino cuisine is full of flavors, and sometimes, is exotic. Adobo is one of the simple Filipino dishes to make. People from other countries know Adobo is one of the main dishes in the Philippines. There are also delicious dishes you should try like Sinigang, Kinilaw, Caldereta, and many more.
28. Security Guards are everywhere
When going inside establishments, it is a must for people to open their bags for the security guard to check what’s inside. This is to make the customers safe. If you are a foreigner coming from another country, don’t feel weird and shocked if the guard asks you to open your bag ha!
Filipinos like getting instant cash and that’s why they like gambling. One example of this is cockfighting. In some countries, cockfights are illegal but in the Philippines, it is widely played. People bet on their favorite cock and win instantly if they bet on the right cock player. Cockfights are so popular in fiestas (festivity of the hometown) in the Philippines. Most people go to the derby arena to watch and bet.
There are many amazing waterfalls around the country. You will find one of the famous waterfalls in the Philippines in Iligan city, the Maria Cristina Falls. It is the waterfall of the Agus river on the island of Mindanao. Our favorite ones are Kawasan Falls in Cebu!
31. Amazing places for hiking
Not only beaches are what you will find in the Philippines. There are also amazing hiking spots to visit in the Philippines: Hiking Taal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the Philippines located in Taal Lake in Tagaytay, is one of our favorite ones. Osmeña Peak is a beautiful place for hiking in Cebu. You can even pitch your tent and wait for the sunrise.
32. Top Beaches in the world
There are amazing beaches everywhere in the Philippines and not only in El Nido in Palawan. You will find them in Malapascua, Bantayan Island and Moalboal in Cebu. And now, the growing Siargao, Camiguin as also one of the most popular spots in the Philippines.
33. Avoid Manila
Yes avoid it because it’s a big city. Although there are nice places like Intramuros and Makati, we recommend maybe Cebu to explore around the island because it’s easier… Or if you are visiting Manila, just head to the North and visit us in Angeles City in Pampanga. We love meeting people! 🙂
34. Basketball is more famous than any other sports.
Filipinos love basketball. When I say love, it means they play it even on a hot, sunny afternoon! Men and women of different ages play this game everywhere, even on the streets. They are also hardcore NBA and PBA fans.
35. Spanish Influence in the Philippines
Philippines was under the control of Spain for 333 years. Because of that, Filipinos adapted many traditions, cultural norms, and customs from Spanish people. Names of the people and language are also heavily influenced by the Spaniards. For example, “Kumusta” was derived from the Spanish of “Como esta” (How are you in English). So if you know how to speak Spanish, you will know many words in Tagalog like days of the week, months, and some of them related to eating and food.
36. Karaoke Machine
When walking in the Streets of the Philippines, you may hear someone singing to the tunes of a popular song. Singing is one of the past time activities of Filipinos. You can rent out a karaoke machine for as low as $10 in the Philippines. It´s very typical in local celebrations at home and it is always the center of attention in parties.
37. Whitening Products
Most Filipinos are brown-skinned and not everyone in the Philippines loves that. Because of this, whitening products are everywhere! You can find whitening soaps, lotion, and sun blocks on every skincare shop because most Filipinos dream of having whiter skin.
38. Fresh Coconut Juice everywhere
You can buy fresh juice in the streets of Philippines costing only from 10 PHP. There are many vendors of Fresh Coconut Juice and most are located in the markets of the Philippines. Even in touristic areas, doing island hopping, you can have the whole coconut as cheap as 50 PHP, or for only one USD.
39. Wearing Pajamas in the street
You can wear pajamas all day, even when going outside. Pajamas are always used in the Philippines to buy their breakfast or late in the evening to walk around in the neighborhood.
40. Umbrella on a sunny day
You may find it weird when in the Philippines, locals used umbrella while walking on a sunny day. Unlike in other countries, people like to walk under the sun. Don’t misunderstood the Filipinos because it is very hot and humid here. Most Filipinos love to keep their skin fair and they don´t like to get tan like most Western people.
The word “pasalubong” is used when someone asks you to buy them something from a certain place where you intend to go. It´s a must in the Philippines when going back home to bring pasalubong for your friends and family. It could be food, clothes or souvenirs.
42. Nightlife in the Philippines
Nightlife in the Philippines is not as alive because Filipinos like dining and doing karaoke indoors than partying, like in neighboring countries like Thailand. But of course, you can still find places for parties in almost all the destinations if you look for it.
43. Massages in the Philippines
There are a lot of good massage spas in the Philippines. You’ll be able to find these spas in the streets or malls. Massages are famous in the Philippines because many Filipinos see it not just as a relaxation for the body but for the mind as well.
Festivals in the Philippines
44. Christmas in the Philippines
Almost all of the countries in the world celebrate Christmas, and Philippines has a unique way of celebrating it. Misa de Gallo is celebrated December 16-25th, nine-day dawn masses is dedicated to this holiday. At this time of the month, the streets are full of people going to Church to join the celebration. In front of the Church you’ll see vendors that sell “bibingka” and “puto bumbong”.
At the end of the 9th dawn mass, the streets of every home town is filled with children going to their godparents to receive their gifts.
45. New Years Eve in the Philippines
Skies filled with fireworks is what you will see in the night of December 31. Every family in the Philippines is preparing for Media Noche with a lot of food in their tables. Usual media noche dishes are spaghetti, lumpia, pansit, sticky rice cakes, and round fruits.
It is a tradition to prepare your table with 12 kinds of round fruits on it. This is to give luck for the upcoming 12 months of the year. Coins in a bowl of uncooked rice is also prepared by many Filipinos and this is also for good luck.
46. Holy Week (Semana Santa)
Summer is the most awaited season in the Philippines particularly for students. But in the Philippines, which is a Catholic Country, it is also a season for repentance.
Visita Iglesia is one of the few things Filipinos do during Holy week, where they would visit several churches to witness different ways on celebrating this season.
Another is “penetensya” or penitence is a show mimicking and re-enacting the hardship of Jesus Christ experienced in the cross.Our Top Destinations in the Philippines
47. Plan for a relaxing visit to Banaue in North Luzon
Banue rice terraces and Batad are absolutely amazing places where you can relax. The life is simple in that area and the views will make you feel like you’re in another dimension. You can go to Sagada if you have time, too. There are night buses from Manila and it takes around 8-9 hours to get to Banaue.
48. Siquijor is one of the best!
It is our favorite off-the-beaten path destination in the Philippines for sure. There are many things to do in Siquijor from swimming in the beaches with blue and transparent water to visiting amazing waterfalls around the area. It´s a good place for snorkeling and relaxing, too. Filipinos call it “witch island”, maybe it’s because Siquijor is a magical place!
49. The perfect place for snorkeling and diving- Anilao, Batangas!
Never miss visiting Anilao, Batangas when yo go travel in the Philippines! Just a few hours of driving from Manila and you will discover this paradise that is a perfect place for snorkeling and diving.
Most of the tourists here are locals. It´s quiet and not very crowded, a reason you’ll love to visit here. You can also visit Tagaytay and even going to Puerto Princesa to extend your trip.
50. Come as soon as possible!
The tourist rate is growing so fast in the Philippines and the infrastructures aren’t the best, but its better visiting as soon as possible before it becomes like Thailand and Vietnam, so crowded and the places will lose its magic.
Are you ready to visit Philippines soon? Share with us your questions or previous experiences! We’d love to hear from you!