50 Philippines Travel Tips For An EPIC Trip

Let it be known that the saying, “It’s more fun in The Philippines.”, could not be a more accurate statement, seriously. The Filipinos know how to PARTAY, so if you want to maximize your adventure among these jaw-dropping, 7000+ islands, I have for you a whopping FIFTY Philippines travel tips that will be the cherry on top of your trip planning process and your time on the road! Whenever I was planning my trip out there, I found that there were so many things that were left off all those travel vlogs and guides I read and watched so now I am going to make a BIGGER, BETTER, more diverse set of travel tips for the Philippines that will seriously knock your socks off they’re so good.

I went ahead and separated the tips into around ten different areas so they’re easy to fish through to find what you need. I am going to cover everything from general travel tips for the Philippines to trip planning Philippines travel tips to tips for very specific travel tips for Cebu, Siargao, and Dumaguete! If you enjoyed this post and found it useful for your trip to The Philippines in any way, please let me know in the comments below and share any other tips you might have for traveling the Philippines!

This post may contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.

Need more resources beyond these awesome travel tips for the Philippines? Check out my other blogs on this adventurous country!

 


 

 

Tips For Planning + Booking Your Trip To The Philippines

 

1 | Give yourself at LEAST (we’re talking bare minimum) 2 weeks to explore a couple of islands… maybe even 3

For all of those people that have traveled here and pulled a week off, hats off to you, but if you want to make sure you maximize your time here, 2-3 weeks is the absolute minimum if you have the ability to make that happen. Ideally, 3 weeks is going to be that sweet spot for time since there is just so. much. to. see. and none of it is going to be close together. We’re talking hours on hours apart, on top of long transit times so if you only spend a week to ten days here, you’re barely going to scratch the surface of the surface layer. Try to book more time or set aside more time for exploring larger areas!

 

2 | Plan for transit times to take about 3x longer than expected.

Oh yes. Traffic. Speed Limits. Scooter Speeds. Ferries. Island Time. It’s slow. REAL Slow. One of the biggest things I learned here was that rushing through things here, and really in any part of Southeast Asia, is a myth. So for all of you that like to have a very specific itinerary for arrival times, you may want to toss that out the window. The best thing you can do for yourself here is to embrace the virtue of patience and take in those views because they’re PLENTIFUL. I would allow greater windows of time for activities and getting between certain islands. That will set you off on the right foot. Remember when I said that you’re going to want at least, if not more than two weeks? ^^

 

3 | Take flights over ferries between the main islands to save (a lot) time.

While you can take a ferry or a speed boat to practically anywhere in The Philippines, and it is budget-friendly, it’s not time friendly… like, at all. Unless that is, you’re taking day trips like from Dumaguete to Siquijor or Cebu to Bohol. Then, ferries make sense over flights since the distance is so small, but when you’re going between the main hubs like Palawan, Siargao, Cebu, flights should be the first thing you look at in terms of transportation. They’re not too bad in price, especially if you’re booking one-way tickets, but if you book flights through Kiwi, then you’ll definitely be getting the cheapest flights between islands. Especially if you combine it with my best tips for booking cheap flights.

 

4 | When you arrive, put 750 PHP aside for your international terminal fee for when you leave.

This was something that I had zero clue about the entire time I was here and that is the terminal fees that you’re going to encounter whenever you depart from airports in The Philippines, specifically when you’re leaving one of the major airports (Cebu or Manila) and flying back home. There is a 750 PHP international terminal fee to pay at the airport whenever you depart that will be checked before you go through security, so there isn’t really any way around it. It’s easiest to have this money already set aside just in case you’re running late or don’t feel like hopping out of line last minute to get this fee paid. Slip it into your wallet at the beginning of your trip and then you’ll be set up for when you leave!

 

5 | Downsize your currency as much and as often as you can. Most places will always ask if you have smaller notes and/or coins.

Whenever you go to the ATM or currency exchange, they’re always going to give you the biggest banknotes depending on how much you take out. For The Philippines, these are the 500-1000 PHP banknotes that you want to get change for. From the minute you’re given these, try to break them as fast as you can before you get to really rural areas because a lot of places either won’t accept them or they’ll ask if you have smaller notes, guaranteed. On top of that, wherever you are may not even be able to give you change back to break those larger bills so you may end up having to overpay if you’re only traveling with larger bills. This isn’t as big of an issue in the larger cities like Cebu and Manila, but you never know what you’re going to encounter along the way so use every opportunity you have to break those large notes down!

 

6 | DO NOT (twice for emphasis, DO NOT) try and cram your itinerary. Give yourself at least 3-4 days minimum to explore each island you’re going to.

I get it. You want to see as much as you possibly can on your trip to The Philippines, but let me be the first to say that if you try and do this, 1. you’re going to be absolutely wiped by the time you get halfway through your itinerary and 2. you’re going to find that you’re just barely gracing over what each island has to offer, because they’re all drastically different. One of the biggest mistakes I made on my trip was overestimating what my energy levels would be like after hiking to waterfalls, taking ferries, and being exposed to intense sun rays every single day. Normally I can ride the travel high throughout the duration of my trip, but I was flat out exhausted, yet thankful that I booked myself 5 days in Siargao at the end of my trip. When you’re planning your trip, set aside an extra day or two at each island so that you can travel more slowly! You’ll be thanking your past self once you’re on the road!

 

7 | Start your itinerary in either Manila or Cebu. They are the biggest airports in The Philippines and, therefore, the cheapest to fly into!

Technically, no matter where you choose to begin your Philippines itinerary, you’re going to fly into either Manila or Cebu and there is no real way to get around that. In terms of cost, it’s going to be cheaper to fly into Cebu than it is Manila since it’s a more popular area of The Philippines, so keep an eye out for deals to Cebu! One of the other perks of flying into these airports is that they offer nonstop flights to a lot of other areas that the smaller airports don’t offer. For example, if you’re flying out of Palawan and heading to Siargao, you’re going to have a stopover in Cebu since there are no one-way flights from Palawan to Siargao. It’s not anything to stress about, but it’s something you might want to keep in mind if you don’t want to have a bunch of layovers between islands.

 

8 | If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting in shoulder seasons and avoid the month of April.

Most people tend to visit The Philippines during the dry season, November-April, but it tends to be the busiest in March and April. If you don’t know when you’re planning on traveling to The Philippines, you can check out my blog post about the best time to visit. If you do visit in the month of April, keep in mind that Holy Week falls around the second week of the month. Holy Week starts on April 5th and runs through April 11th in 2020. What this means is that the vast majority of Filipinos have the week off and a lot of them take this time to explore the region with their families. Expect crowds EVERYWHERE (on top of an already popular month to visit) and long wait times in popular areas. Certain services may also be closed or unavailable during this time, so keep that in mind if you’re planning your trip over this week.

 


 

 

General Philippines Travel Tips + Tips For On The Road

 

9 | The Philippines is a safe place to travel to. HOWEVER, do your research because there are places that are genuinely not safe to go to. For example,

The very southern part of The Philippines. You really don’t want to make your way down there. The six main areas you’ll want to avoid are Marawai City, Jolo Province, Basilan Province, Cotabato Province, Metro Manila, and Zamboanga. They are unsafe due to kidnapping, gang violence, bombings, murder, and terrorist groups and it isn’t something to take lightly. These places aren’t really too high on the travel radar anyway, aside from Manila, but it’s always safe to know general areas for when you’re planning so you know where to steer clear of. I don’t believe Manila in its entirety is bad (although I have heard a lot of not-so-great-things about it), but there are parts of Manila that you’ll want to avoid. I never visited Manila so I am unsure of specifics, but do some research on the areas there. I also recommend researching the places you will be visiting once you’ve decided. Most touristy spots like Cebu, El Nido, Palawan, Siargao, Dumaguete, Bohol, Boracay, and other popular spots locations are fine, but it’s always good to check up on it.

 

10 | Before you even think about doing anything else, stash a roll of toilet paper with you in your bag. Trust me, you’ll need it.

I am ashamed that it took me around five bathroom trips to finally get this message in my head that I needed to carry around toilet paper in my bag. I got stuck in a few sticky, and messy, situations that would have been avoided had I known to stash a roll with me. You can find them at 7/11’s in single rolls which should last for a while and they’re really cheap which is a huge plus. You’ll find that toilet paper is a national treasure in The Philippines, so when you happen to stumble upon a bathroom that comes stocked, cherish it (shoutout McDonald’s haha!).

 

11 | While we’re on the topic of sanitation, you’ll also want to have some type of hand sanitizer with you. Depending on where you are, most bathrooms won’t have a sink or soap.

While toilet paper is sparse, so is a proper sink and soap combo. While you’re at 7/11 picking up your tp for the loo, go ahead and grab some hand sanitizer as well! It’s a lifesaver after for keeping your hands clean after the restroom or after petting some of the adorable puppies on the islands!

 

12 | Know what your local transportation options are, what they cost, and be firm about getting the proper price.

If you’re great at haggling, this is your time to shine, but if you’re not, it’s time to shake some rust off and get a little bit assertive. Not rude. Assertive. When I first arrived in Cebu, I was got conned into paying 400 PHP for a tricycle ride that should have cost around 60 PHP. I always felt bad about wanting to haggle with the driver since they technically needed the money more than I did, but a local friend of mine said that they don’t feel bad for scamming you, so don’t feel bad about getting the proper price. It’s pretty easy to look like a tourist here so even if you want to blend in and lay low, it’s going to be obvious you’re not from there. They know this and will more than likely upcharge you by a ton of money and they’re banking on you being passive enough, or unknowledgeable enough, to say yes. Below I’ve listed the four main local methods of transport, click the name to view them, and with little descriptions, so you get a better idea of what exactly they are. Most of the time you’re not going to travel far distances with these options, so never pay over 75 PHP for a ride. If you’re going down the street or somewhere really close, never pay over 15 PHP.

 

Tricycle | motorbike with a carriage attached

Petticab | pretty much a tricycle, but smaller and usually pulled by a pedal bike

Jeepney | (heavily) decorated old school bus

Habal-Habal | basically a motor scooter with extra riders (sometimes up to 10) (yes you read that right)

 

Your main methods of transportation are going to be those listed below. Generally, you’re not going to get scammed if you prebook the bus, ferries, and planes, but be wary of taxis for sure; even the locals get scammed. I would consider these the “price safe” methods of transport since you don’t generally need to haggle or worry about someone charging you more than the fixed price.

 

Main Transport Options | ferries, buses (not jeepneys), taxis, + planes

 

13 | Be careful. Just because something is open for tourism doesn’t mean it’s always 100% safe. I once saw an ambulance that was only…

a pitted, old, and small school bus with only gurney in the back… and no windows. It really goes without saying that you should try and be safe no matter where you are, but the emergency services here aren’t going to be as accessible as they are in the main cities if something were to happen to you. *ahem* that’s why you always travel with this! Essentially, just don’t be stupid and you’ll be just fine.

 

14 | Bring your own (reef-safe) sunscreen. The sunscreens in The Philippines are way more expensive than western prices and most contain skin-whitening agents.

Having the right sunscreen with you is vital to the reefs and oceans you’ll be visiting and your skin. I know that a lot of people buy the things they need once they arrive, but you’re going to spend way more on sunscreen when you get there than if you were to just buy it at home. On top of the cost, most Filipinos want their skin to be lighter rather than darker, so most sunscreens have skin-whitening agents in them to erase color. There are loads of solid reef-safe sunscreens, but this one is my favorite!

 

15 | Wifi and data are next to nonexistent, so if you rely on the internet for your job, or just like to stay connected, consider bringing a portable wifi hotspot like this one.

If you spot a sign that says “free wifi”, don’t get your hopes because it’s more than likely going to be too slow to get anything done. If you get a local SIM card, which is one of many of my greatest tips for staying safe while traveling, they’re not going to have the best signal or any signal at all for that matter once you get a little bit off the beaten path. This is why I recommend bringing your own wifi hotspot. It’s going to give you the best wifi speeds and you won’t have to share the connection with 15 other people. Skyroam has incredible coverage worldwide and is my go-to hotspot for staying connected abroad!

 

16 | Always carry around at least 1-2 liters of good drinking water with you at all times.

Let’s face it. You’re in the tropics. It’s toasty. It’s going to be really easy to get dehydrated. Most places you stay at should have clean drinking water available or for a fee, so make sure you fill up with your Hydroflask before you head out so you’ll have cold and clean drinking water for the entire day. Ideally, you’ll want to have at least two full liters with you if you’re going to be out for the entire day but always have at least one. If you want something a little more flexible, you may want to check out this top-rated, traveler approved filtered water bottle that has hydrated people even in Africa and the most remote locations!

 

17 | Once you get to the main city you’re flying into, Cebu or Manila, leave almost immediately.

While Cebu and Manila are fine cities for a little exploration, you’ll want to get to the action once you arrive. If you want to explore, by all means, do it, but what makes The Philippines so great is far outside the main cities.

 

18 | Power outages are not uncommon, even in popular destinations like El Nido. For some places, it’s common to not have electricity for portions of the day. If you want to stay connected, make sure you bring your own portable battery pack.

While I never lost power during my travels, I’ve heard multiple people mention El Nido’s lack of electricity during large portions of the day, consistently. You never really know what you’re going to encounter until you get there, so if you want to prepare yourself in case of a power outage, then pack along a portable battery pack! It’ll come in handy even if the power doesn’t go out!

 

19 | Rent a scooter rather than booking tours. It’s the cheapest way to get around and the most efficient!

Renting a scooter is hands down the BEST way to travel The Philippines or any country in Southeast Asia for that matter! Scooter rentals generally cost no more than $15-20 USD / Day and it’s well worth having the extra freedom to explore on your own terms! If you’re not comfortable driving a scooter on your own, there is always the option to hire a local guide. It takes the stress away from driving the scooter, you’ll be able to explore at your say, AND you’ll have an adventurous, fun, and charismatic guide to accompany you!

 

20 | Taxi scams are plentiful, even with the locals, so avoid them at all costs.

Taxis are one of the many outlets for scamming in The Philippines, so it’s best to just avoid them. If you MUST use one (even though you really shouldn’t), make sure they are using their meter to avoid being ripped off and if you arrive at the airport and you’re being solicited by a taxi driver, don’t go with them as that is highly illegal. A way better option for quick transportation is the Grab App. It’s the uber of The Philippines and will serve you a whole lot better than a taxi driver. If the locals hate taxis and avoid them, you should too.

 

21 | Connect. With. The. Locals.

Yes. Yes. YES. I cannot stress this enough! I talk more about this in the section of Philippines travel tips below this one, but this is one of the best things you can do while you’re traveling The Philippines. With adventurous locals and jungle landscapes, connecting with people that know the land is going to take you on some wild adventures! You’ll discover unknown places, unknown ISLANDS, and experience the lesser-known destinations here. This is true for most places you travel to, so carry this important travel tip for The Philippines wherever you go!

 

22 | Make sure you try the mango and pineapple here at some point… #bestintheworld #nocontest

Okay, I don’t want to make rash assumptions or generalizations… BUT the mango and pineapple in The Philippines are some of the best in the world. I don’t know what type of magic they grow these with, but damn. On my whale shark tour near Sogod Bay, I had pineapple so good that I didn’t even believe it was real for a minute. It was seriously a sweetness and flavor explosion that I have never had or experienced anywhere else. The same goes for the mangos. The certain ‘breed’ of mango, if that’s the right diction, is so smooth and sweet that it puts both of these fruits here in the United States as a sad, but rightfully fitting last place in Mario Kart. Make sure you try these fruits as much as you can while you’re here and enjoy other local fruits that you may find! It’s best to get them from local stands, but they will be excellent no matter where you go.

 

23 | While you do want to indulge in the food, DO NOT indulge in the tap water.

The tap water is not drinkable at all, don’t even try to brush your teeth with it. That’s why I recommend bringing your own reusable water bottle so you can get clean water from restaurants or wherever you’re staying. If you never want to worry about the quality of your water, consider bringing an awesome filtered water bottle like this one so that you can stay hydrated no matter where you end up.

 

24 | You’ll find out quickly that a dry bag is your new BFF here in The Philippines. Grab one before your trip or pick one up when you arrive. You’ll spot them almost everywhere.

This is one of the things that I wish I had brought with me on my trip considering a regular ol’ day pack isn’t always going to do the job you need it to, especially if you’re going island hopping. Generally, you can get by fine with a regular one, but most day trips are going to go by a whole lot easier if you have a dry bag. You don’t HAVE to have one, but consider picking one up if you travel with technology or want to be stress-free on all your adventures.

 


 

 

Travel Tips On Filipino Food + Culture

 

25 | When it comes to food, expect lots of white rice and oil. The Filipinos are loud and proud about their cuisine!

In other parts of Asia, it is fairly easy to find some wholesome, healthful dining options in larger cities and around the country, but I found out quickly that the health food bandwagon was lost in translation on its way to The Philippines because they’re all about their local staples. If health is what you’re looking for, or if you just want a break from all the heavy foods, head over to Siargao! It has a diverse selection of dining options that go past local cuisines, like iconic smoothie bowls, vegan grubs, and more! Everywhere else you go, however, expect to indulge in some all the rice, all the curries, all the noodles, and everything else!

 

26 | Filipinos are as passionate about karaoke as Americans are to their sporting events… 

It’s the official pastime of The Philippines AND karaoke was invented here! Filipinos love to express themselves and celebrate in song with their families, friends, travelers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and anyone else they invite along! My favorite dynamic about this cultural obsession is that you don’t even have to be good to get up there and have a good time! It’s nothing like how it is here in the states where you’ll experience deep, deep shame for not being a great singer, so if you want to loosen up those pipes and have probably the most memorable night on your trip, accept an invitation to karaoke night!

If you want to do a little deep dive into a specific conspiracy about karaoke in The Philippines, there is an episode of my favorite true-crime podcast, My Favorite Murder, that covers the history of all those who died because they sang “My Way” by Frank Sinatra poorly. Oh yeah. It’s a thing. They’re called the “My Way Killings”! It’s definitely a story worth listening to! You can download it on the podcast app and then listen on the plane! It’s episode 40, Squad Gourds.

 

27 | Religion is a huge part of Filipino culture and the third-largest population of Catholics is in The Philippines. 

While Islam is prominent in The Philippines, most Filipinos practice Catholicism. You’ll see Spanish-influenced churches everywhere and if you happen to visit during Holy Week, you’ll even see reenactments of the day Jesus was crucified. It’s very apparent that their religion plays a very important roll in their everyday lives, so expect to see small practices everywhere you go. One of the more noticeable things that I picked up is that they always say a small prayer before eating and even my driver always prayed every time before we took off on the scooter. It was a small gesture, but I appreciated it every time.

 

28 | Despite the huge influence from the Spanish and the melting pots of different cultures living in The Philippines, English is widely spoken all around the Philippines. 

This was something that actually took me a little bit off-guard while I was traveling around. Nearly everyone, besides some older generations, can speak English extremely well. In other parts of Southeast Asia, English is not this prominent, at all, and you’re going to get some head turns if you try and speak English fluently in places like Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos, but not here. That is not the case in The Philippines, and this is true for a couple of reasons. The main reason being from the American influence on their education system. The US introduced a free education system to The Philippines and even sent over teachers that spoke in English to help spread the language. On top of that, they were exposed to English in everyday media and all their signs are in English, not Bisaya, or any of the other dialects of The Philippines. The other reason is for economical and geographical reasons. It’s said that The Philippines is in a very unfortunate location since you have Singapore, the financial capital of the region and Thailand, a highly sought after tourism destination despite (heavy) the lack of English. So with tourism that lacks compared to other parts of Asia, no real financial influx, and no natural resources to provide, most Filipinos seek work abroad to improve their living which is only possible with good English skills.

It sure as hell makes traveling the country a whole lot easier, but still learn some basic Bisaya, the main dialect spoken in the Visaya region.

 

hello | hello/hi

goodbye | babay

thank you | Salamat

yes | Oo

no | Dili

 

29 | Knives aren’t presented to the table 99% of the time, but you’ll get used to eating with only a fork and spoon. It’s actually really efficient!

By the time my two weeks in The Philippines was concluded, I was a master at eating with a fork and spoon. Here in the US, we either only use a fork or only use a spoon, never both, so it was a weird adjustment to make. I used the fork in my right hand and my spoon in the left and you use the fork to scoop your bite onto the spoon, then you use both to cut up your food. It’s honestly a very handy way to eat since you can handcraft the perfect bite every single time. If you don’t feel like using both, you don’t have to, but it was an interesting way to get in touch with the culture a little more!

 

30 | Filipinos are the most adventurous people! It really is “More fun in The Philippines”!

I think we’ve all heard those statements like, “blondes have more fun”, “brunettes have more fun”, and let me just say, no, that’s all wrong. FILIPINOS have more fun. For real. The countries tourism slogan is, “It’s more fun in The Philippines!” and you’re going to find out why VERY fast. The Philippines is abundant in many adventurous activities and the locals are ALL about taking advantage of them whenever they can. They’ll jump off 60-foot cliffs with no question, drop all plans to take you through a jungle, you name it, they’ll probably do it. They’re always looking for another adrenaline rush, so if you happen to make friends with a particularly adventurous soul, always say yes to their adventure propositions! It’ll be an experience that you’ll never forget! 100% guaranteed!

 


 

 

Travel Tips For Visiting Cebu, The Philippines

 

31 | Don’t just visit Kawasan Falls, go canyoneering, and bounce. Seriously.

All of the main tourist attractions on Cebu are really the only places that are heavily explored on the entire island. On top of that, a lot of people are trying to maximize their time in The Philippines so they grace over Cebu and only see the main highlights. This technically means that there are a LOT of hidden paradises in The Philippines that you’re going to have all to yourself. I do encourage you to see the main hubs like Kawasan Falls, the Alegria canyoneering tour, and Tumalog Falls, but set aside some extra time during your trip planning process to find those off the beaten path waterfalls and tropical destinations. If you’re lucky enough, you may just meet a local that will show you a hidden location…

 

32 | Carve out an evening to eat at Ven’z Kitchen + thank me later.

I am a huge foodie so trying out local cuisines is always one of my main priorities whenever I am traveling. However, this tends to be difficult sometimes since I am vegan, so whenever I found out that there is a local spot that has authentic vegan dishes, I made sure to eat every drop of rice and entree off my plate! The menu isn’t comprised of just vegan options though, so if you’re in the mood for something else, there’s plenty to choose from! It’s the best local restaurant in Moalboal!

 

33 | Base yourself in Moalboal and then explore the island from there. It’s a great central location with amazing diving, beaches, and food!

Remember when I said that Cebu is huge? If you’re driving from Cebu City to Moalboal it’s going to take a little over 3 hours to get there, but this is an excellent place to set up camp for your time on this island since it’s centrally located and not as far as another popular place to stay on Cebu, Oslob. Moalboal has great oceanside restaurants and nightlife to spice up your time on this island and it also serves as a fantastic place for diving, snorkeling, white sand beaches, and that iconic blue ass water that everyone talks about! *swoooooooon*

 

34 | If your first priority is seeing a stunning, pristine, white sand beach then head over to White Beach (conveniently located in Moalboal + aptly named) or head over to Sumilon Island when you visit Tumalog Falls!

My first full day in The Philippines was spent watching the sun go down over White Beach. The beach is on the popular side, but there are plenty of spots to enjoy the atmosphere all to yourself. White Beach has that crystal clear water and fine, white sand that everyone dreams of seeing, so it’s well worth paying it a visit and adding it to your Philippines itinerary! Another great option for a beautiful beach is the sandbar on Sumilon Island. It has been named “the Maldives of The Philippines” and you’ll find out why exactly when your boat docks! I wasn’t able to visit myself, but I would put this at the top of your must-sees while in Cebu! It’s stunning!

 

35 | Before you decide to book an Oslob Whale Shark Tour, please reconsider and go somewhere else.

I am a huge advocate of sustainable travel. Swimming with whale sharks had been on my bucket list for so long and once I finally was able to do research about where I wanted to make it happen ethically, I realized that all of the pretty photos I was seeing were painting an experience that was simply untrue. Once I found out that the sharks are fed and crowded by hundreds of people, and their natural migration patterns, diets, mating, etc., was being disrupted, there was no convincing myself that this was in any way okay to go on. Instead, I went out of my way to book an alternative, ethical tour that had zero crowds for the ENTIRE day, supported local families of the region, AND provided me an ethical experience with whale sharks that I will remember forever. I wrote a whole blog post about where the best place to swim with whale sharks in The Philippines is, so all the information for the tour that I went on will be at that link. Do more research and know what you’re supporting before you choose Oslob.

 


 

 

Travel Tips For Visiting Dumaguete, The Philippines

 

36 | Casaroro Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in The Philippines, is right outside of Dumaguete in Valencia. Don’t miss it!

What is the best part about Casaroro Falls? Ever since Typhoon Sendong blazed through the Visayas back in 2011, the trail to Casaroro Falls was destroyed and there haven’t been efforts to fix it since then. What this means for you is that you have an entire 100+ foot waterfall and secluded jungle paradise ALL TO YOURSELF. I went here on a Friday afternoon and my group and I were the only ones that were there for a while. This is unusual with a place as beautiful as this one, so if you do happen to make it out there, pack out any trash you take, follow the arrows, and leave the environment just as you found it so others can enjoy it too. Out of all the places I visited in The Philippines, this was my favorite!

 

37 | Siquijor Island is one of the best island hopping tours you can take from Dumaguete… It’s also known to be a cursed island, so you’ll find mysteries all around this place. It’s worth staying an extra day or two to explore and immerse yourself in the island’s mystic vibes!

Most people only take a day trip to Siquijor, but I quickly realized that this island is a paradise waiting to be explored. If you have the time, consider staying the night here and adding an extra day to your itinerary. There are tons of waterfalls to explore like The Zodiac Falls, Cambugahay Falls, Lagaan Falls, Lugnason Falls, and Kawasan Falls (not to be confused with the Kawasan Falls in Cebu). On top of all those dreamy, blue water paradises, you have beaches, the iconic Salagdoong Cliff Jump (seriously go check it out), plus many beautiful, old Spanish style churches that you can explore. Siquijor is a smaller island, but it’s chalked full of incredible things to do! You can’t see it all in only a day!

 

38 | Let it be known that Dumaguete is a college town, and we all know what that means… POPPIN’ nightlife! 

I’ll let this tip speak for itself. Once the sun goes down, it’s time to boogie in Dumaguete!

 

39 | There is more to see in and around Dumaguete than meets the eye: hiking, waterfalls, sandbars, VOLCANOS. You may want to spend more than just a few days exploring this region…

Dumaguete is just a small province on Negros Oriental, a region and island that is even larger than Cebu! A lot of people only end up visiting Apo Island and Siquijor Island and then make their way to El Nido or Coron, but there are MANY things to do that not a whole lot of people know about: Mt. Kanalon, Mt. Talinis, Twin Lakes, to name a few! I’m sure there are many untouched waterfalls waiting to be unveiled as well!

 


 

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Travel Tips For Visiting Siargao, The Philippines

 

40 | Do not leave Siargao without giving surfing lessons a whirl!

Once you arrive in General Luna, you’ll quickly find that surfing is what Siargao is all about, and what it’s best known for! Surfing lessons and camps are widely available throughout the island so you’ll be chalked full of options to choose from for the one that best fits your schedule and budget! It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro, beginner, anything in between, there is room for everyone, so don’t be afraid to learn something new and feel what it’s like to stand up on a surfboard for the first time… It’s kind of addicting! The best place to book surfing lessons is through Kermit Siargao, or you can book a week-long surf camp with them as well! The week’s price is around ~$380 USD for the entire week and their twice a day, daily lessons run at around $56 USD / Day and include everything listed here on their website! If those aren’t quite in your budget, you can hire a surfing guide with a board for around $30 USD.

 

41 | If you’re planning on booking a surfing lesson, plan it in Pacifico rather than Cloud 9. 

Ever since Cloud 9 was exposed as being one of the best surfing locations in the world, other lesser-known, and maybe even better spots have been left as a quiet paradise for those who seek it. If you go to Cloud 9, you’re going to be surrounded by surfers of all kinds, but Cloud 9 is a surf break for very experienced surfers! One of my friends that I went to Siargao with was actually hit by another surfer during her lesson because it was so crowded. If you book a morning surf session, you’ll have the entire beach to yourself in Pacifico. The beach(es) in Pacifico has been known to resemble the North Shore of Oahu and they’re remarkable for surfing! The lessons here are going to be cheaper, more relaxed, and crowdless!

NOTE: When I was headed to some of the beaches near and in Pacifico, there was a man that tried to get me to pay a fee to use the beach. If this happens to you, don’t give him the money. The beaches here aren’t owned and they’re open for everyone.

 

42 | If you’re interested in staying in the hub of the island stay in General Luna, but if you want to get off the beaten path stay in Pacifico. Can’t decide? Check out my full guide for where to stay in Siargao!

Since Siargao was way off the radar for a long time, except for surfers, a lot of the restaurants and accommodations in Siargao are pretty new. Investors have flocked to this island, so there are beautifully designed resorts, retreats, and other establishments all around General Luna. Most places book up extremely fast, so you’ll want to secure your rooms as soon as you know you’ll be in Siargao. If you want to know what the best options are for where to stay in Siargao, check out my blog post here!

 

43 | When going to popular spots like the island hopping tours, Sugba Lagoon, and the Magpunkgo Rock Pools, arrive extremely early (like for sunrise) to avoid crowds.

I talk more about this below, but ever since Siargao’s tourism boomed, even more so since I visited, there are going to be a lot of people at the popular tourist spots there. I always recommend arriving at places early to avoid crowds anyways, but since this island is so small, it’s going to feel a lot more packed than other areas do. Especially in General Luna. So, set those alarms clock early and get to exploring!

 

44 | Siargao’s tourism has exploded rapidly in recent years and the island hasn’t been able to keep up with it. Please keep that in mind when traveling and booking places here.

Before Siargao’s recent tour boom, it was known to be what Bali was back in the 70s/80s. Today, things are drastically different and the island hasn’t been able to keep up with the increase in tourism. The Sayak (Siargao) Airport, for example, has no terminals, no baggage claim, no information desk, and just one bathroom. When you get off the plane to exit the airport, it’s probably 40 feet of a hallway until you reach the other side. It’s tiny. This was almost two years ago for me, so I am unsure if some updates and additions have been made, but keep these things in mind whenever you’re here.

 


 

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Ethical Travel Tips For The Philippines

 

45 | Don’t Go To Oslob or Donsol To see the whale sharks. Go here instead!

I know I already talked about this in my “Travel Tips For Visiting Cebu, The Philippines”, but I want to make sure I say it twice for emphasis. There are many other-worldly ways to see these beautiful sharks in their natural habitats, so please do your research before you book a tour to Oslob or Donsol. Oslob has made (very minimal) improvements in recent years, but the crowds and feedings have not slowed down. I have witnessed a lot of travel photographers go to this location even after hearing about its malpractice, and quite frankly, it’s sad. If my word isn’t enough, read these. #stoposlob. If you’re unaware of what is going on in Oslob and why feeding the whale sharks/this tour is so awful, I’ve written about the ethics of this in this blog post.

The photos you see are not the experience that you’re going to have.

 

46 | There is no proper trash service in The Philippines. If you see trash, pick it up and leave places cleaner than when you arrived. 

Trash is a huge issue in The Philippines. You’re going to see piles and piles of trash being burned everywhere and litter practically on every island that you go to. If you’re on any type of adventure, hike, island hopping tour, etc., make sure that you are packing out all your trash and consider doing a quick beach clean-up to help make these islands cleaner and more enjoyable for everyone. If we all do just a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference. If you read my packing list for The Philippines, you can use that reusable bag to fill with trash until you get somewhere where you can dispose of it properly. I like this bag because it packs into a small, 5″x5″ inch square making it perfect for travel!

 

47 | Bring Your Own Plastic-Free/Zero Waste Travel Essentials.

This is going to be a game-changer for the amount of waste you’ll produce while traveling here. Plastic is a very prominent material here as it is cheap, so if you can bring your own essentials to avoid using it, that’s the best way to go. A reusable water bottle and bamboo/steel straw combo are going to do a huge service, but check out these other plastic-free items to look at other ways you can reduce your waste!

 

48 | Pack reef-safe sunscreen.

You’re going to be swan-diving into blue ass water for the vast majority of your trip so you want to make sure of two things: 1. you’re wearing sunscreen that is both healthy for you and the environment and 2. you’re protecting your skin from all those UVA/UVB rays. Ever since Hawai’i banned sunscreen that wasn’t reef-safe, there are plenty of options available that are good for you and the planet. I wrote an entire blog post about reef-safe AND plastic-free sunscreens that you should check out if you want to support small businesses and acquire some adorable packaging. I highly recommend all of those, but the one that I pack on all my trips is Raw Elements!

 

49 | Consider hiring local drivers + guides to give back to the local communities.

While having a tour company do all the booking and take care of everything is nice, consider hiring a local guide. This is especially handy if you’re traveling as a solo female in The Philippines so that you use the buddy system, but you’re with someone that knows their way around and the language. I hired my local guides through an (all-female) travel Facebook group and I had guides hired for Cebu and Dumaguete. I reached out to a girl that I met through this group and she was able to set me up with guides all around the region. If you need a guide, just send me an email or message me on Instagram and I would be more than happy to send you the information for my guide(s)!

I like hiring local guides because I knew that my money was going directly towards improving a family’s life rather than another agency. It’s a small gesture that can really make a huge difference!

 

50 | Don’t give money to the begging children.

This is a difficult statement to make, however, this is one of the most important Philippines travel tips that you’ll want to remember while you’re here. The Philippines is a 3rd-world country. There is poverty on every corner and you’re more than likely going to encounter young children selling things, asking for money, etc.. It’s going to be tempting to help them by purchasing a bracelet off their ring or offering up some pesos, but this is one of the worst things you can do for these children. While at the moment it may seem like a good thing, but in the long run, it only perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Children on the streets are more vulnerable to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and some are even forced to beg on the streets by criminal organizations, funded by people that want to help these children. On top of that, when you’re giving them money, food, or anything else, you’re teaching them that they can get food and money just by asking this means that working on the street is more favorable. What happens when they get older? This is an ongoing issue not only in The Philippines but many other developing countries, like India, so even though you may feel like you’re doing something good, you’re only making the situation worse.

There are many alternatives to giving money or food to begging children, one of my favorites being hiring local guides (mentioned above) and donating to proper charities. By hiring local guides, you know that the money is going back to improving their living conditions and maybe even sending their child to school, or getting them off the streets, or being able to provide lunch and dinner for the next couple of days. A great organization to look into is the Childsafe Movement. Their website has more information about what to look out for while traveling, other tips for your trip(s), and even a page where you can donate and help support this movement.

 


 

Do you have any other useful travel tips for the Philippines? Share with me in the comments below!

Aaren

 

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These 50 Philippines Travel Tips are SERIOUSLY going to save your toosh while traveling The Philippines. When I began writing these travel tips for The Philippines, I wanted to include tips for all areas and not generalize all fifty, so you can find travel tips for Cebu, Siargao, trip planning, on the road, Dumaguete, ethical travel tips, + more! #philippinestraveltips #philippinestravel

These 50 Philippines Travel Tips are SERIOUSLY going to save your toosh while traveling The Philippines. When I began writing these travel tips for The Philippines, I wanted to include tips for all areas and not generalize all fifty, so you can find travel tips for Cebu, Siargao, trip planning, on the road, Dumaguete, ethical travel tips, + more! #philippinestraveltips #philippinestravel

 

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