Backpacking The Philippines In 2020: Epic Travel Guide!

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
June 2, 2020
Travel Guide
Over the course of 3 weeks, we had the most incredible time backpacking The Philippines, and this travel guide contains everything we learnt along the way.
backpacking Philippines travel guide
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Our experience backpacking The Philippines

In 2019 Bradley and I spent 1 month in the stunning Philippines. It was everything we wanted and more. Crystal clear blue waters, amazing snorkelling, stunning beaches, fantastic people and brilliant rum! The great thing about the Philippines is that because it's got so many amazing islands, you could spend a lifetime exploring here over and over again and constantly discover something new. 

I am so excited that you’re thinking about visiting The Philippines, because you will truly have a FANTASTIC time. So to help you with your planning and your travels, we are going to go through all the things to know about The Philippines and planning a trip to The Philippines. 

So sit back, grab a drink and learn everything you need to know about backpacking The Philippines!

Quick things to learn about The Philippines

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Safety

If you’re wondering is it safe to travel to the Philippines right now, then yes it is. The media focuses a lot on the drug war mafia, and whilst this is happening, it tends to be in the cities and it’s targeted towards locals, not foreigners. Stay away from drugs and you shouldn’t run into any issues. Follow normal safety precautions. Keep an eye on weather warnings too as The Philippines is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes due to its location on the equator during certain seasons in The Philippines. Always check your local government travel page for any Philippines travel warning that may arise.

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Travel vaccines

Before backpacking The Philippines it’s recommend you get Rabies, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis and Hep A. You can check with your nations health centre for up to date info. UK residents can use this resource.

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Sim Cards

The Philippines is well known for having the worst internet in all of Asia, that being said you should get a local sim to help with that, but regardless of who you choose, don’t expect 4G anywhere! Head to any local shop (or airport) and get a cheap sim there. They last 30 days. We used “Globe” network. You can buy one ahead of time here with Klook.

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ATMs

Atms in The Philippines are available in most islands, however more remote islands will be limited. They charge fees of 250-500php per withdrawal, the cheapest was Metrobank at 250php. Try to withdraw in large amounts. 

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Tipping

10% is customary. In some occasions (rarely) it will be already included on your bill.

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Currency

Money in The Philippines is called PHP which is Filipino peso. I suggest you use Revolut, Starling or Monzo to withdraw cash when you get to the country. Some places accept $ too.

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Partying

There are lots of partying opportunities in The Philippines. From full moon parties in El Nido and Port Barton to party spots on Siargao. The rum is crazy cheap and soooo good!

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Malaria Risk

There is little to no risk of Malaria in The Philippines so you don't need medication, but we recommend you use deet in the evenings.

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Religion

92% of The Philippines is roman Catholic making it the only catholic country in Asia. 

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Language

The official language is Filipino and English. You’ll find most speak English well. Some can speak Spanish too, actually you’re considered wealthy if you can speak Spanish as a Filipino.

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Power Sockets

In The Philippines the power plugs and sockets are of type A, B and C. The standard voltage is 220 V. Get a universal adaptor for convenience.

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History

Named after King Philip II of Spain, the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years (which is why some people can speak spanish). It’s made up of around 7,000 islands. The British held Manila for a brief two years in 1764 but gave it back under a new treaty. Next came the Filipino-american war which lasted until 1902 when Aguinaldo was captured.It gained independence in 1946 and it’s economy is growing year on year with a population of over 102 million. 

Best places to visit in The Philippines

Okay, let’s get to the good part of this Philippines travel guide: a look at the best places to go in The Philippines

So if you’re wondering “what are the best places to visit in The Philippines?” then look no further! 

Below I will take you through all the places we visited in The Philippines, including one place we didn’t, but I think you’ll recognise and perhaps want to visit too.

Manila

Manila is the capital of The Philippines and whilst I don’t suggest you spend much (if any time) in the city, there are some cool things to see in the North of the city, such as beautiful scenery and it’s cold up there.

We didn’t have time, but I did have a few great places on my list, so if you do have time, I suggest you head North and see another side to The Philippines that isn’t beautiful beaches. 

Coron

Coron is one of my favourite places in The Philippines. Coron is split into two areas, Coron town and Coron island. You stay on Coron town (there is the airport there) and you take day trips to Coron island.

There is actually only ONE accommodation on Coron island and it’s a floating house boat, and we stayed there. It is beyond amazing. You are literally floating with stunning coral, fish and beaches surrounding you. And you’re right next to all the amazing destinations so you can visit them before any of the crowds get there. Truly an experience. 

You can read all about our stay here..

On Coron town itself there are still some great things to see such as the hot springs, secret beaches and you can visit the Coron hollywood sign! 

Find out more in our Coron Travel Guide.

El Nido

El Nido is another of the great places to visit in The Philippines. El Nido is a well established tourist destination and because of that, it tends to be busier than say Coron. But, it’s just as beautiful. There are 4 main tours for island hopping and island hopping tours are actually the only way to get to see all the amazing things! 

I’ve done a whole guide on El Nido that explains all the different island hopping options, but even if you’re not island hopping there is so much to see on beautiful El Nido. It’s actually home to what’s regarded as Asia's most beautiful beach, Nacpan beach and I can tell you, it’s stunning, not busy and you can glamp here! 

There are waterfalls to discover, lots of partying opportunities (including a monthly full moon party- but perhaps not as crazy as the one in Thailand!)

Check out our El Nido Itinerary to help you plan your trip.

Port Barton

Port Barton literally only got 24 hour electricity at the end of 2018 and because of that, development is increasing and more hotels and guest houses are popping up.

I would visit NOW before all the tourists arrive. This was one of my favourite places in all of the Philippines due to its remoteness (no ATM), beautiful waters, the island hopping tours were quiet and we got to swim with massive turtles.

I loved Port Barton and there are lots of great places to eat and drink whilst enjoying the beautiful sunset. 

Read: Top Things To Do In Port Barton

Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa is a good base to hop onto other islands as there is an airport on there. There are also some great things to visit here too.

There are a variety of beaches (though they aren’t as nice as most beaches in The Philippines) and there are the underground river tunnels which are pretty popular and you can island hop from here to for snorkelling, beautiful beaches and much more.

Siargao

Siargao has it all! You’ll need to fly into this island as getting there by boat requires a lot of island hopping and even then it’s still complicated. There is one tiny airport but I can see this expanding.

Siargao is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world and it’s no surprise why. The place is FILLED with coconut trees and this makes for a pretty epic backdrop. It’s also the surf hotspot of The Philippines, it has amazing island hopping around it (Guyam island is a small island you can even rent out for weddings!), beautiful beaches, amazing accommodation and so much more.

You may find you don’t want to ever leave Siargao, and I don’t blame you!

READ ALSO: Top Things To Do In Siargao

palm trees siargao

Bohol

Bohol is another fantastic place for backpacking in The Philippines because it’s so diverse and has so much on offer.

Bohol is an island for waterfalls and you can discover so many unique ones. It’s also got great opportunities for snorkelling, cliff jumping, beautiful beaches, the unique Bohol chocolate hills and so much more.

This may have been Brad’s favourite island in The Philippines and you can read all about what to see and do in Bohol here

Siquijor

Siquijor is one of the less touristy islands in The Philippines (for now).

It’s small and easy to get around via moped. This little island is super beautiful, offers amazing sunsets, sunrises, epic waterfalls, amazing cliff jumping, diving, snorkelling and so much more.

It was probably one of my favourite islands and one of the most beautiful places in The Philippines.

READ ALSO: Things To Do In Siquijor

Cebu

Cebu is a large island in The Philippines and one of the biggest cities in The Philippines and it’s actually were a lot of people enter and leave the Philippines which means it’s pretty well established for tourists.

You will probably base yourself in the south of Cebu that has amazing waterfalls including Kawasan falls, the chance to swim with thousands of sardines, whale sharks and much more.

Boracay

Boracay is the one place we didn’t go to, basically because it didn’t really fit the route and because I knew that they had to shut it down due to mass tourism which shows it’s one of the most popular places in The Philippines.

It’s reopened now and the sunsets and beaches here are said to be amazing, so it’s definitely a spot I’d like to revisit in the future. 

2020 update: I know it was recently affected by a natural disaster which saw is closed, but I think parts of it may be open now. Just double check before you travel.

Our 16 favourite things to do in The Philippines

There are SOOOO many amazing things to do in The Philippines and you’ll see a lot of them in our individual blog posts, but if you’d like a sneak peak of what to do in The Philippines then let me showcase you my top 16 things to see and do! 

1. Relax on the most beautiful beach in Asia

Nacpan beach is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia and I can vouch for that statement. It’s super long which means you’ll always find somewhere that has no people in it.

We flew our drone and got so many shots with no one around because no one was around! 

You can even go glamping on this beach. The water is beautifully blue, amazing to swim in (I didn’t want to leave) and the beach is lined with beautiful of hundreds of coconut trees. There are a few bars and beach restaurants and accommodation options. 

I can see this place getting super busy in the years to come, so visit now while it still retains a  vulnerable beauty! 

Without doubt one of the best places to visit when backpacking The Philippines. 

READ: Ultimate Guide To Visiting Nacpan Beach

2. Island hopping in El Nido

You simply cannot go to El Nido without trying island hopping. There are 4 island hopping tours known as A, B, C and D!

They cover all the amazing spots that surround El Nido including Big Lagoon (with the clearest blue waters ever), small lagoon, secret lagoon, secret beaches, turtle spots, wrecks and so much more! 

The great thing about the tours in El Nido is that they are all well organised and they all include an amazing BBQ lunch that’s cooked on your own private beach whilst you snorkel the area. All fresh, all delicious.

We made some awesome friends on our tour and it was a fantastic day! 

In general I’m not a big tour fan, but these were something special! 

You can buy your tours right here online....

el nido

3. Visit Bohol’s chocolate hills

Bohol has so many well known attractions, but it's probably most famous attraction is the “chocolate hills”. They’re basically a natural phenomenon that are great giant mounds in the distance and it makes for a great view!

They’re only “chocolate” in the dry season, and they’re green in the wet. They were somewhere in between when we visited. 

There are other things to do whilst you’re visiting such as zip lining etc, but visiting the Chocolate Hills itself is a cheap and easy thing to do in the area! 

You can take a day tour from Cebu if you're short on time.

bohol chocolate hills

4. Check out the amazing Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls was Brad’s favourite waterfall in The Philippines, not just because it’s beautiful but because it’s so much fun!

It’s an interactive waterfall which basically means there are a load of jumping points and swings to swing into the water and it’s so much fun! 

You could easily spend all day here. If you want to go when there is literally no people then you’ll have to go super early. I went at 8 am and it was busy, so earlier than that! 

But regardless, it’s still so much fun. 

READ: My full guide on visiting Cambugahay Falls

5. Cliff jump at Salagdoong beach 

This one isn’t for the faint hearted. I actually used to like jumping off cliffs into the water, but as I’ve gotten older, not so much, but Brad, well he loves it!

The thing about this cliff is that the water surrounding it is so beautiful and blue and nice to swim in.

There are two different jumps, and there was once a slide that landed in the sea (I would have done that!), but it no longer functions! 

There’s a cool place to have lunch and sunbathing spots, so it’s a great place to spend the afternoon when backpacking The Philippines. 

6. Visit the amazing Sugba Lagoon

Sugba Lagoon is located in the amazing island of Siargao. It’s a stunning lagoon with crystal waters and dive platforms for diving! (Again Brad’s dream), but I will say you need to go on the first boat over to beat the mass crowds. 

But it’s such an amazing spot to swim, relax and jump in the water! You can visit the mangroves too that surround the area and there’s a cool sand bar.

TOUR: Book your tour here for the ultimate convenience

Read my full guide on visiting Sugba Lagoon right here.

7. Swing at Maasin bridge 

I’ve mentioned a lot of things that require jumping or swinging in the water, but you’re going to The Philippines which is water based! 

This is another cool spot in Siargao that the locals kind of created. You can climb up the bent palm tree (locals with help) and swing off the top into the river! Lots’ of local fun! 

8. Island hopping at Daku island, naked island and Guyam island

This was probably my favourite island hopping spot in all our travels in The Philippines, and for me it was one of the best things to do in The Philippines. Probably because we had an awesome group, guide who started making rum drinks at 10 am! 

I discovered the most beautiful island, Guyam island which is very small, but omg it’s so beautiful. The water is fantastic, there is a natural swimming pool, it’s beautiful and you can even rent it out for private occasions (perfect wedding destination!!!)..if you can handle the heat! 

I think Guyam island has one of the best beaches in the Philippines btw, super clean, super soft and super relaxing!

Daku island is a larger island that actually has some people living on it and lots of great bars and restaurants to chill and relax. The water is also beautiful to swim. 

Naked island is basically a sand bank, which is beautiful if you’ve never been to one before! Just have lots of suncream. 

Book your tour for a great price right here.

READ: My Complete Guide On Island Hopping In Siargao

9. Learn to surf in Siargao 

Looking to ride some waves? Then head to Siargao. It’s got lots of different surf breaks, the majority of them built for intermediate and pros, but there are beginner spots too and it’s a fairly cheap place to rent a board and get a surf lesson. 

READ: My Siargao itinerary to help you plan your trip

10. Relax at Maquinit hot springs

If you’ve never been to hot springs before, then these ones in Coron are awesome. They're well maintained, cheap but there isn’t a shower which is the only downside.

But there is something very weird about being in 35 degrees heat then sitting in a hot spring of the same temperature...I swear I dropped like 3 pounds! Haha 

But I suggest you visit early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun will not be at its strongest.

11. Visit the Coron Sign 

Forget the Hollywood sign, it’s all about the Coron sign (actually the Hollywood sign is pretty awesome too!), but this one requires a shorter hike to the top (it’s tough in the heat, but there are rest stops in the shade), then get your picture at the sign.

Great sunrise and sunset spot, also a great place to fly your drone for an epic pic!

coron sign

12. Explore Kayangan lake

Kayangan Lake is regarded as the cleanest lake in all of Asia, probably because it’s hidden in the sea and protected by large limestone structures and rocks. Oh it’s beautiful, and filled with little fishes!

You should definitely head here in the morning when no one is around and really take in the stunning beauty. 

This tour will take you there and to other awesome spots in Coron.

13. Snorkel, snorkel and snorkel 

You can't come to The Philippines and not snorkel, it would be like going to Italy and not eating Gelato…

But what I tell you is that before The Philippines, I was terrified of swimming with fishing and when i first put on a snorkel, I freaked out a lot before I could go in, but it was one step at a time and I realized I couldn't’ be in this country with some of the best snorkel opportunities in the world, and not snorkel! 

So I did it! And when I overcame my fear, I didn’t want to get out of the water and now I am constantly on the lookout for chances to snorkel in the world. 

14. Learn to dive 

One step onwards from snorkelling is the amazing diving in The Philippines. It has some of the best dive spots from all over the world, and many of those are actual ship wrecks etc.

The Philippines is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get your diving certificate, so it would be silly not too…

We didn’t which was silly of us I know, but it was a timing thing, but I think when I learn, I'll want to learn here! 

TOUR: This is a great value diving experience in El Nido

15. Visit the iconic Kawasan falls 

Located in Cebu, these falls are probably the most photographed in all of The Philippines and they’re one of the most popular Philippines tourist attractions.

Basically there are different levels of falls and you can canoeing which takes you through the jungle and you jump and swim through different waterfalls until you reach the last one! 

We didn’t do this as basically I didn’t want to with my insulin pump, but we didst go to Kawasan falls and we went super early when it opened and we were the only ones there! 

It was so cool having the place to ourselves to swim and take pictures. So visit early, (7ish) and it will be awesome!

So there you go, that’s just a small selection of some of the best things to do in the The Philippines when your backpacking.

READ: My guide on visiting Kawasan Falls in Cebu

16. Party! 

Whether you like to relax with some music at a bar, a live band or go wild at a boat party or even a full moon party, then The Philippines will have something to offer you. I suggest you make friends, get a bottle of rum and make a night of it.

We made some great friends in The Philippines and did exactly that and I still have fond memories of it. 

Choosing your Philippines itinerary

How long should I spend backpacking The Philippines? 

Forever :P joking! You get a 30 day visa for free upon entering the country for most citizens, so I would suggest you stay for the full duration and see as much as possible. 

Below I’ve created a variety of Philippines itineraries ranging from 4, 3, 2 and 1 week itineraries.

So, the question is, what are you looking for?

1 Week Philippines Itinerary ideas

If you’ve only got one week for backpacking The Philippines then it makes sense to stick to one that's easily accessible and quick to move between so I suggest you do this. Starting in Cebu (for the international airport) 

Cebu>Bohol>Siquijor>Cebu 

  • Cebu: Start in Cebu and head straight on the boat to Bohol, we will be coming back to Cebu later 
  • Bohol: 3 nights: there is so much to do in Bohol that 3 nights will scratch the surface, but if you keep busy you’ll see it all. Island hopping, chocolate hills, waterfalls and much more. 
  • Siquijor: 2 nights: You should be able to see all the great things in Siquijor in 2 nights and get to experience amazing sunsets. 
  • Cebu: 2 nights: Head back to the south of Cebu and visit moalboal for the sardine rush, discover many waterfalls and the famous kawasan falls. 

Total: 7 nights 

2 Week Philippines Itinerary ideas

Okay, two weeks backpacking The Philippines is more reasonable and will give you the chance to see some cool things, but you’re going to have to take a flight! 

Coron>El Nido>Port Barton>Puerto Princesa>Siargao>Cebu

  • Coron: 3 nights: Spend 3 nights here, one day exploring the land area and the next head out onto the water and explore all the hot spots. If you like diving, you might want to spend more time here. 
  • El Nido: 3 nights: Do two of the 4 island hopping tours to get a real taste of what’s on offer and spend your third day discovering all the amazing beaches on El Nido, including hidden waterfalls and amazing sunset spots.
  • Port Barton: 2 nights: Slow down and relax and take an island hopping to to swim with the most amazing turtles and explore colourful waters and secluded beaches. 
  • Puerto Princesa: 1 night: Do the underground tunnels or try an island hopping tour, head to the pier for a fresh seafood dinner. From here you can fly to Siargao. 
  • Siargao: 4 nights: So much to do. Surf, island hop, discover waterfalls, hidden beaches, party, jump in sugba lagoon, snorkel, and relax. 
  • Cebu: 1 night: Try and take a day trip to Kasawan falls to see the epic waterfall of The Philippines. You can fly out from Cebu International airport. 

Total: 14 nights

Read: Our Palawan Itinerary for inspiration and more details

3 Week Philippines Itinerary ideas

3 weeks gives you lots of time to see lots when backpacking The Philippines. But you will need to take flights to speed up your timing. 

Coron>El Nido> Port Barton> Siargao> Bohol> Siquijor 

  • Coron: Start here (you may need to connect through Manila) 3 nights here. 
  • El Nido: 3 nights: Spend time discovering the beautiful beaches and you'll have time to do 2 island hopping tours.
  • Port Barton: 2 nights: Spend one day doing the awesome island hopping tour and swim with turtles, then spend your check day discovering the wonderful beaches.
  • Siargao: 4 nights: Take one day for island hopping, then take some time to surf, rent a moped and visit Maasin Swing, natural pools and much more. You'll also have the chance to go to Sugba lagoon.
  • Bohol: 4 nights: This will allow you time to do the island hopping tour, spot dolphins and snorkel. You can also explore amazing waterfalls and the epic chocolate hills.
  • Siquijor: 2 nights: This will give you time to check out the amazing waterfalls, epic sunsets and go cliff jumping!
  • Cebu: 2 nights: Just enough time to visit the epic Kawasan falls and other nearby waterfalls.

Total: 20 nights (includes a night extra in case you have to connect from Manila) 

4 Week Philippines Itinerary ideas

4 weeks is what we had when we were backpacking The Philippines, we did it 28 days actually. The reason for this being that the visa is 30 days, so figured we would make the most of it!

Brad has actually written a full guide on our 4 weeks Philippines itinerary, so you should check it out here for all the details.

When is the best time to visit The Philippines

If you’re wondering when is the best time to travel to The Philippines, you’re not alone! With the threat of bad weather, hurricanes and earthquakes, it’s definitely good to research your time when visiting the Philippines. 

Bradley and I visited in May, which was the shoulder season and it was perfect.

The crowds were less (though still busy), the weather was great, we only caught rain a few times and the prices could have been slightly cheaper, but I wouldn’t know as I have nothing to compare it too. 

Peak season for The Philippines is November to April during the dry season.

It will be busier and flights will be more expensive, so I suggest May and November (the shoulder months) as the best time of year to go to The Philippines. 

siargao island

Backpacking The Philippines: Sorting your Philippines Visa

You’ll be happy to hear that for most citizens you get a 30 day FREE visa on arrival when entering The Philippines.

This includes all citizens of the European Union and a lot of other countries. There are only a few exceptions to the 30 days visa waiver program, for the likes of Portugal and Brazil who get a different amount of time. 

But you can check your citizenship here and find out where you stand. Also check your government travel website for further information. 

You can extend your visa in the country for another 30 days for an additional fee. But we did not do this, so I suggest either speaking with a travel agent to help you extend or head to the local immigration office to find out the process. 

Make sure you do this a couple of days after you land in case it takes a few weeks for your visa extension to be processed. There will be hefty fines if you overstay your welcome without the correct visa! 

How do you get to The Philippines?

The easiest and most convenient way to get to The Philippines is flying. There are two main international airports that most tourists fly into and these are Manila and Cebu.

We flew into Manila as we wanted to go to Coron first and I think it makes more sense to start that end and finish in Cebu! 

You can get international flights from all around the world and I would expect to pay around $500-600 return flights from the UK to The Philippines. 

Use Skyscanner for the best deals.

If you’re already travelling Asia then you can get cheap flights from other Asian countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc from $50-100.

Read Also: 22 Awesome Things To Do On A Long Flight

Getting around The Philippines

Since it’s comprised of 7,000 islands, getting around The Philippines requires flying and taking lots of boats!

I’ve done a whole post on getting around The Philippines that goes through everything you need to know, but I’ll go over the basics here too.

When on an island you can get around fairly easy via tuk-tuks, taxis, shuttle vans, local buses (jeepneys) and mopeds if you can ride one. It all depends on the island you’re on.

For example, Cebu and Manila have grab which is super convenient and you can order food off them too. But on Siargao, you get around via tuk-tuk style vehicles, and on Palawan you get between places via shuttle bus or local bus. 

When getting between islands you can choose to fly or get a boat. Basically for longer distances such as between Puerto Princesea and Siargao, I would fly, but shorter boat rides (2 hours or less, such as Bohol/Siquijor/Cebu) I would suggest just getting a fast boat! 

You can get super cheap anti-sickness tablets for the boat journeys if you experience sea sickness.

Finding the best accommodation in The Philippines

Accommodation in The Philippines can be a bit hit and miss.

If all you want is a basic hostel dorm to rest your weary head then you’ll be spoilt for choice. But for Brad and I, we’re a couple who like air conditioning, a decent toilet and WiFi if we’re lucky! 

Sometimes hotels in The Philippines could be a little on the “miss” side, depending on how well developed the location was! 

But there is a lot of choice and actually one of my favourite “hotels” in the world is in The Philippines which is the floating houseboat in Coron island (the only hotel style building on all of Coron) which was just a dream. 

My best travel tip for finding places to stay in The Philippines would be to use Booking.com 

We use them for 90% of our trips and we found they had the best availability and choice when it comes to hotels and hostels in The Philippines.

They also price match, which means if you did by chance find it cheaper somewhere else, they’ll give you the difference anyway. 

But since that’s who we use, it’s who I’m recommending and I’ve linked the destination pages below here. I’ve also made a note of who we stayed with in each location and whether I recommend it! 

  • Coron: Paylon HouseBoats: if there is availability, then stay here, you’re on Coron island, which no one else will be and you are floating in nature, it’s unbelievable- trust me when I say it will exceed your expectations. Book it here. 
  • El Nido: Raje Residence: Big room, good breakfast, good wifi. Book it here. 
  • Port Barton: Eashantis Place: Good location, good breakfast and friendly staff. Book it here. 
  • Puerto Princesa: Villa Skanderborg: Good staff, wifi and a large room! Book it here. 
  • Siargao: Nine Clouds Guesthouse: Great place, good food, close to surf. Book it here. 
  • Bohol: Palm Rise Resort: Good breakfast, good wifi, nice pool! Book it here.
  • Siquijor: AMK Travelers hub: good breakfast, good aircon and clean, great location too. Book it here.
  • Cebu: "TGH" The Guest House Badian: Great location (kaswan falls, good food, wifi) Book it here. 
  • Manila: OYO 105 Melbourne Suites: Good location, rooftop pool, good wifi. Book it here. 

There are of course other ways to book hotels and hostels in The Philippines. I’ve listed some alternatives below. 

There is always the option to just turn up and book when you arrive, but I think this is silly. However, some people still do it, but if it’s peak season, the chances are you’ll not find anywhere, and since a lot of the hotels in The Philippines are hit and miss, you could be stuck in a really bad place! 

Philippines travel guide: How to dress

If you’re wondering what to wear in The Philippines then I’ve got you covered. Since The Philippines is a catholic country, there is no real strict dress code as such.

But, I still always think you should be respectful of other people and yano, don’t walk around naked. 

But you can walk around in swimwear and not look out of place.

I suggest wearing light clothing as it’s super warm and humid and since you’re going to be in and out of the water, just keep a light dress with you that you could pop on and off.

For guys, same with a light vest top or something similar. 

Bring sunglasses and flip flops with you, I actually recommend you buy a pair of water shoes, they’re so handy for swimming in the sea and avoiding stinging yourself on coral etc,they’re like $6 and I thought them useful for waterfalls too to avoid cutting your feet!  

If you’re going in the shoulder seasons, then you may experience a little rain, it only ever lasts a little while, but it’s worth bringing a cheap poncho out with you in case they come! 

I didn’t find it got cold in the evenings in The Philippines, but it’s always a good idea to bring a light jacket with you travelling. 

What you'll need
WHat We Recommend
Comfortable shoes

Do not skimp on high quality shoes when travelling. You’re going to be walking a lot. Personally I wear Skechers go walk and I’ve been using them for 3 years that they are perfect!

Hiking shoes

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking and adventurous activities, invest in a pair of good quality hiking shoes. You can hang them onto your rucksack.

Reef Flip flops

Brad LOVES these flip flops and I have to say they’re the best pair he has ever bought. They are high quality, comfortable and you can open beer bottles with them (oh yeah!). He uses them for the beach, walking up mountains, long walks, everything and they last long!

Jacket

As said before, it’s a good idea to have a light jacket for your evenings. Some places it can get a little chilly so this will make you more comfortable.

Long trousers

If you want to stay cool, then wear cool long trousers, these are good in the evening to help cover your legs from bug bites.

Cap

Keep your head protected from the intense sunshine!

Playsuits and dress (again, for the ladies)

Super lightweight and breathable means these are perfect for backpacking Mexico.

Deet

Certain areas of Mexico are prone to mosquitoes, so use deet to keep them at bay. I recommend at least 50% deet.

Suncream

Protect your skin. You still tan with sunscreen on! Get a high factor and note that it will be more expensive when you arrive to purchase, so it’s best to bring before you go backpacking Mexico.

high quality camera

You’re going to want to document your travels and if you want a camera that takes high quality pictures and super high quality videos, then I suggest the Canon G7x Mark II. It’s what we use for 80% of our pics and videos. Get a Go Pro for cool underwater pics.

International Travel Adaptor

It’s good to invest in a decent one which will work for a variety of different countries in the world.

Book
Why you should read it
kindle for sri lanka
Kindle Fire

Rather than carrying around actual books, a Kindle is a far more practical item to have with you, and you can download as many books as you want for just a few dollars each. The Kindle Fire also lets you browse the internet, so saves you taking a tablet with you as well, if you're that way inclined.

sri lanka history book
Sri lanka History

If you're keen to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka, then this is a great book. It covers everything through from ethnical origins of Sri Lanka's population, all the way up to modern day tourism.

lonely planet sri lanka guide book
Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet have long been the go-to provider of travel guide books for all countries around the world. Personally, we have never paid for one, but instead look out for them in hostels and hotels! But they certainly are in-depth, so long as you get the latest edition. Which is crucial for Sri Lanka. We read a Lonely Planet Guide book for Sri Lanka that was dated 2004 and which described how hostile and dangerous the country is! Which, I suppose, it was at the time. What with the civil war and all ...

rough guide book sri lanka
The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka

Personally, we always opt for Rough Guides as opposed to Lonely Planet. They do some great itinerary and off-the-beaten-track suggestions. So, if you’re looking for more travel inspiration, then go for Rough Guides.

this divided island book
This Divided Island

This Divided Island is an incredibly popular book that has been nominated for, and win, some very highly praised awards. It offers deep insight into what life was like during the recent Sri Lankan civil war.

island of a thousand mirrors when backpacking sri lanka
Island Of A Thousand Mirrors

Island Of A Thousand Mirrors looks at the deep rooted conflict that exists between the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples of Sri Lanka. It does so through the eyes of two young girls, each of whom who come from a different cultural upbringing but still wish to remain friends despite their differences.

cecelia ahern books
Cecelia Ahern books

Finally, here are two books, completely unrelated to Sri Lanka, but which Cazzy enjoyed during her time here. Cecelia Ahern is her favourite author and Marble Collector and Flawed proved to be yet another two great novels by the world-renowned author.

Eating & drinking in The Philippines

Okay, so when it comes to eating in The Philippines, it was the worst food in Asia for, but drinking, my god, they make the best rum in the world. 

Okay first the first. It’s just rice and beans all day every day, with maybe chicken or fish and very little flavour.

But actually I can’t eat rice, or fish, and lots of times no one had noodles (which was my backup), so it was a little frustrating. Coffee was always disgusting, and breakfasts in The Philippines were a joke. 

Of course if you pay a little extra you can get western style food that tends to be a bit better, but still not great!

But in contrast, Brad said he loved the food, so there you go! 

In Siargao the food was great because there was so much choice and restaurants, same with El Nido, they had some great Greek restaurants! 

The drink though. The Philippines produce their own rum and it’s about $2-3 for a litre of rum, and it’s just the nicest I’ve ever tasted. It’s like a spiced rum and you can get as cheap at £1 in a bar. Oh how I miss the rum! 

As with everything, the less developed the place and the more rural the place, the less choice. But if you’re the type of person who loves fresh seafood, rice and fruit, then you’re going to love the food in The Philippines. 

For type 1 diabetic readers (like me, Cazzy) you can avoid heavy carb foods such as rice and noodles by option for fried vegetables instead if you’re struggling with blood sugars, and there are plenty of hypo treatments in the form of smoothies and fresh fruit. 

Brad was obsessed with the mangoes in The Philippines and I have to agree that they are bloody amazing. No other mango as compared yet! 

Useful tools for your Philippines trip

After spending 4 weeks backpacking The Philippines we certainly came across a variety of tools that made travelling the area a lot easier. So, in turn, to help make your life easier travelling The Philippines, I’m going to list them below!

  • Booking.Com: The app is super useful for booking accommodation in The Philippines super quickly. Also you can check direct with the property via their in-chat app! 
  • Skyscanner: You’re going to want to fly between islands when backpacking the Philippines, so use Skyscanner for the best prices. 
  • 12goAsia: We used this for all our boat bookings, super easy, convenient, cheap and they only charge a tiny admin fee. Plus it’s all on your phone, no need to print! 
  • Grab: Useful is the cities for ordering taxis, not getting ripped off, especially to and from airports, oh and you can order food. 
  • Offline Google Maps: We always download offline maps for the area we are visiting. You won’t need wifi and can get from A to B easily! 
  • Revolut/monzo: These are travel cards that link up your own home bank card with an app and allows you to easily top up money and withdraw with the best exchange rate on the market. We would be lost without these. But remember when you’re withdrawing, you will be given two options: one will say accept conversion, or choose bank conversion, always do NOT accept the conversion of the ATM, that means you won’t get the best exchange rate on the market from these cards. 

Our Philippines backpacking budget

You’ll be happy to hear that the cost of backpacking the Philippines is relatively low if you know what to do!

If you’re on a strict budget, eat locally, don’t drink and you’re staying in dorms, then you could easily survive on around $25 a day (including attractions). 

Brad and I are “mid-range” travellers at the moment, not completely budget, but not luxury. We need air conditioned, private rooms with private bathrooms, and we like to eat local food, but in a moderately clean environment.

We also like a drink or 2, and if we can, we opt for private tours when affordable and possible. So for us, our budget was around $40 a day each. 

Below I’ll give you some sample budgets ideas. 

Budget for food 

Food in the Philippines is cheap, especially if you’re eating luxury, then it’s super cheap!

Once you go to chain restaurants, or well known restaurants, then the price becomes higher and more in line with the Western world prices. Although some spots are still cheap, like Mcdolands in The Philippines was definitely the cheapest we had ever seen it around the world. 

I suggest a budget of around $15 a day and that would be nice eating, and perhaps a rum and coke! 

Most places come with breakfast, although I can’t say the breakfasts in the Philippines are all that great, it’s really hit or miss! 

Budget for drink 

If you want to party then The Philippines will deliver! There are lots of chances to drink on a variety of islands and it’s cheap.

Local rum is super cheap and delicious and only costs around a $1 for a drink. You can get cocktails, beer and (some wine) all relatively cheap! 

If you only wanted one drink in the evening then I’d put aside $2 a day for that. 

Budget for attractions 

Lots of the attractions in The Philippines are very cheap. The majority of waterfalls only cost between $1-3 to enter and park your moped (if you’re driving one), which is very cheap and usually the cost is enforced by locals to help their local living which is fine! 

I never really felt like I was getting ripped off in The Philippines, everything was well priced. Even the tours are great value, expect to pay around $10-20 depending on the tour and basically all tours include a fresh, bbq beach lunch! 

Set aside $10 a day for tours and attractions, because you won’t be doing island hopping tours everyday! 

Budget for accommodation 

Accommodation in the form of dorms is quite cheap and there is lots of choice, but I feel that the accommodation for private rooms are a little more expensive in some areas (such as Coron town) and the quality does not match. 

I would expect to pay around $20 a night for a private room with air conditioning and breakfast and for a dorm room, around $7-10. 

Overall I suggest a Philippines backpacking budget of around $30-40 a day for a comfortable stay. You could easily spend a lot more or less, but this amount should be enough to enjoy everything comfortably. 

The Philippines is definitely one of the cheaper backpacking destinations in the world to visit, so it’s no wonder a lot of budget backpackers visit too! 

Drone laws in The Philippines

You’ll be pleased to hear that The Philippines is a drone lovers dream! The Philippines drone laws are basically non existent and you should just practice normal drone laws, such as not flying too close to people. 

Actually some of our best drone footage ever came from The Philippines and it’s so easy to get good drone footage because it’s so beautiful!

Below I've listed some of my favourite droning locations in The Philippines. 

  • Coron Sign in Coron 
  • Coconut View Point, Siargao 
  • Salagdoong Cliff Jump, Siquijor 
  • Anywhere on Coron Island 
  • Big Lagoon, El Nido 
  • Nacpan Beach, El Nido 
  • Chocolate Hills, Bohol (there is a sign saying you can’t drone during certain times, just go outside the main area, drive down a bit and fly your drone from anywhere, they’re won’t stop you and it’s not disturbing anyone- don’t worry :P ) 

PS we use a Mavic pro, he’s called baby mavic!

Little word of warning, a lot of people have lost their drones when flying in The Philippines, and this is due to signal loss caused by the limestone rocks.

So if you are going to use your drone, make sure you keep close to it and don’t fly it too far away from you or it could be the last time to fly it! 

Remember your drone battery will drain quicker in the heat too, and be wary of wind conditions and the time it takes to get back home on a limited battery. 

Final thoughts & advice for creating your own Philippines itinerary

So there you have it, my backpacking The Philippines travel guide! I really hope you’ve found the travel tips in this guide useful and it helps with your planning.

The Philippines truly is one of the most beautiful countries in the entire world and the water is out of this world. Bradleys actually been to a lot of the Caribbean islands and he says the water in The Philippines is better, so there you go! It’s a lot cheaper in The Philippines.

What’s great is that it’s not overly touristy yet. It’s currently going through a bit of a boom thanks to Instagram, so it will get more and more popular over the years. I’m hoping that won’t spoil things and that the coral reefs and beaches are all still looked after. 

But, I do suggest you get visiting now to see the stunning, amazing, incredible beauty of The Philippines. 

Also, you’ve probably heard how friendly Filipino people are, and it’s true, they are some of the most friendliest people I’ve ever met, which makes visiting their country even better. 

If you’ve got anything else you’d like me to add to this backpacking The Philippines travel guide that you’ll think will be useful to fellow travellers, then please do drop me a comment below. 

Happy travels! 

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