Backpacking In The Philippines:
Tips For Tropical Adventures On A Budget
The Philippines is one of those countries that is perfectly situated in South East Asia that never gets quite as many tourists as it should—this is because a lot of backpackers are more familiar with Thailand and Vietnam as possible destinations. However, if you go to the Philippines, you will have no trouble communicating with the locals, as most of us speak English quite well—so it’s basically dummy-proof if you get lost or want to know a great place to eat around the area. We also offer equally competitive prices for goods and lodging, and have so many beautiful sights to see in virtually every part of the archipelago. However, all backpackers should have knowledge of the terrain, and I’m happy to offer some tips if you’re getting ready for a flight to the Pearl of The Orient.
As it’s separated from mainland Asia, do some planning about your method of transportation.
If you’re going to be traveling primarily in Luzon, where the capital is situated, it’s better for you to familiarize yourself with bus routes, as they’re easily the cheapest and easiest way of getting around. Visayas and Mindanao will require the use of the ferry system. You could also take this opportunity to ride a jeepney for the first time—this kitchsy and colorful Pinoy icon is far better for the local experience than the taxi system. Do remember to keep an eye on meters if you’re going by cab, and to ask locals about the fares. Sometimes they’re posted online as well by the bus lines. The Philippines also offers cheap flights from one part of the archipelago to another. Check out seat sales from Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines to snag the best deals on local flights.
2.Ditch the mall experience and go for local food. There are carinderias everywhere.
One of the best meals I’ve had while traveling around the Philippines was at this small hut selling food in Pangasinan. After a long day at the beach, we were able to get a grilled fish stuffed with tomatoes and onions, plenty of rice, sautéed shrimps and bistek—sliced beef gently simmered in soy sauce with onions—good for a group of five, and for around a thousand pesos, which is amazing value. You’ll find similar experiences of good, fresh food when you avoid the malls in city areas and stick to local cooking. Philippine cooking gets a bad rep from some travelers because of the fat, salt and sugar which some dishes have, but from my experience they’ve been eating in the wrong places.
3.There are plenty of local hostels and bungalows which offer good prices for backpackers.
Setting up accommodations is definitely not a problem around the Philippines. From the more fancy boutique hostels like MNL Boutique Hostel in Makati—a business district in the sprawling area of Metro Manila—to the no-frills beach bungalows or tent set-ups on any island’s beach, accommodations here as a general rule are very affordable and meet the standards of seasoned backpackers.Circle Hostel a chain which operates in beach areas such as La Union, Baler and Zambales, offers very comfortable lodging that can easily fit into your budget. Some locals also offer to rent out their homes or extra rooms for weekends, so check out Airbnb in the Philippines if you’re a smaller group, or see listings for home rental in the area you want to stay in and get in touch!
4.Know what it is you really plan to do and pack accordingly.
One of the beautiful things about the country is that it has so many diverse attractions. From mountain climbing in the Cordillera region, to surfing in Zambales, to diving in Palawan, there’s something to suit every kind of traveler. Pack up the gear you need so you won’t get surprised by sudden changes in weather—there’s a tendency to go from sunny to rainy in a snap around the months of June and July. Don’t bring too many unnecessary things with you. After all, why haul around hiking boots if your real plan is to head to the beach
5.Filipinos are friendly, so go ahead and ask away!
When you’re backpacking around the country, you’ll meet locals or other Filipinos who are traveling in the area as well, and they’re a gold mine of information about the best places to eat in your next destination, or where to stay and what to do. Their command of English is excellent, so there won’t be any need for pantomiming your questions—you’ll understand each other straightaway
In so many ways, the Philippines is a gorgeous place with warm, welcoming people and so many incredible natural wonders. Plan your itinerary well, and you’ll have a great time. Who knows? Maybe we’ll run into each other. Have a safe trip!