I’ve been to my fair share of tropical islands in my travels. Hawaii, New Caledonia, Vanuatu… But I had never been to a south-east Asian country, let alone to a place that spoke a language other than English. Travelling to the Philippines was a real eye-opener to me and a cultural experience that I will never forget.
I learnt a few things during my travels that I believe are extremely beneficial to anyone wanting to take a trip into Filipino territory.
- Everything in the Philippines is cheap as chips
Considering the Philippines is a third-world country, it makes sense that everything is dirt cheap. When travelling over to Manila I greatly over-estimated how much spending money I would need. I literally came back to Australia with more than half of the money I took with me. Everything is So. Damn. Cheap.
If a 3-course meal for less than $20 sounds like your kind of thing, then you need to visit the Philippines. You can get a feast for as little as 150 Pesos, the equivalent of $4 AUD. Generally meals at restaurants will set you back a maximum of $15 but if fast food is more your thing, be prepared to find the smallest coins in your wallet.
In terms of public transport, I probably wouldn’t recommend using anything except for Uber due to the fact that safety just isn’t a thing in the Philippines. However the cheapest form of transport is the infamous and eye-catching Jeepneys. A Jeepney is a small bus shaped vehicle with open windows and doors. A ride on one of these things will literally set you back 7 Australian cents.
2. You will develop a deep hatred for rice
Every meal in the Philippines comes with rice. And if you’re not originally from an Asian country, this is totally out of the ordinary. Everything you eat will come with rice without the need to ask for it. I mean every single meal. If you order fried chicken at a restaurant it is guaranteed to come with rice. Fish, with a side of rice. Pork, with a side of rice. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will all come with rice. Even a Big Mac at a Filipino McDonald’s comes with rice. You will, without a doubt, not want to see rice ever again when you return home.
3. Spend as little time as possible in Manila
Manila is a great place to see if you want to experience the over-populated, fast-paced city it is. It is a great place to go if you want to explore the Spanish architecture, some of the greatest shopping malls, and amazing food markets. But if you are after relaxation, Manila is not the place for you. The heart of Manila is absolutely packed. It is literally the most densely populated city in the world.
You do not know the definition of traffic until you’ve visited Manila. A 5km drive can take up to 3 hours in peak traffic, and that is normal for Filipino locals. Road rules also aren’t obeyed. Drivers do not pay attention to stop signs, traffic lights or lines on the road. Blinkers are not used. Instead furiously beeping the horn of your car indicates that you would like to merge lanes or turn at an intersection.
Alternatively, I suggest travelling to one of the smaller islands surrounding the Philippines. They will be less populated, slow-paced and guaranteed to provide you with the opportunity for a relaxing holiday. Boracay, Cebu, and Palawan are absolutely gorgeous. These islands are most suitable for tourists with lots of activities and site seeing locations. If picturesque, tropical islands are more your style, definitely check out these popular destinations.
4. Don’t travel to the Philippines in July
July is literally the hottest month of the year for the Philippines. The minimum temperature each day is 30 degrees coupled with a guaranteed 100% humidity. Being the wet season, most days involve pouring rain and thunderstorms. However this does not mean the heat drops. If you do happen to visit the Philippines in July, be prepared to be dripping in sweat each and every day. Changing your shirt a few times a day is necessary if you happen to spend a lot of time outdoors, because it will end up soaked with perspiration. The sun is also guaranteed to give you a mighty fine burn if you do forget to apply sunscreen. Coming home as a lobster rather than having a slight tan isn’t exactly the best look.
5. You MUST try a traditional Filipino feast
If you have visited the Philippines and haven’t had a feast where you are required to eat with your hands, you are doing it wrong. I’m taking about a huge table covered with banana leaves with an entire roasted pig as the centerpiece. Of course it is customary to have rice with your meal but crab, fish, prawns, clams and sticky pork bites are also part of the banquet. Lechon (basically a giant roast pig), also known as suckling pig, is a national dish of the Philippines. It is generally prepared for special occasions and festivals and is a must-have if you travel to the Philippines.
So there you have it, 5 things I learnt during my travels to the Philippines. Was travelling to the Philippines worth the money? Definitely. Would I go back there? 100%. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell yes. It is definitely a travel experience I will never forget.
Have you travelled to the Philippines too? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear of your south-east Asian experiences.
Until next time,