If you are planning to travel the Philippines, especially if it is for the first time, you may have a number of questions and chances are you are trying to answer as many of them as possible by looking for them online, through blogs and different social media channels like Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.
There are more than 7000 islands and tourism has increased considerably over the last decade. Compared to many of its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, many of the popular tourist destinations have only become as busy as they are over the last decade. As you, most likely, have already seen online, most people tend to end up visiting Palawan (Coron, El Nido, Port Barton), Boracay, Bohol (Panglao Island), Siquijor, Siargao and Camiguin, and trying to design an itinerary to see as much as possible can be one tedious task.
When planning a trip around the Philippines, it is important to be aware of the fact that getting from one place to another, may require time and also careful planning.
How long will you travel the Philippines for?
Whether you are a local, planning a long weekend getaway, or a foreigner, on vacation, one should take into account that time is key. Some islands are much bigger than others and the fact that your preferred destination may be small, may not mean that you can cover everything in just a couple of days. While most map apps will calculate travel times (by road) based on average speeds of 100 km/h or 60 m/h, traveling 100km in the Philippines may take 2 to 3 hours or more.
Where to start and where to end?
Another important thing to have in mind is that at the time of writing, the Philippines has 3 international airports (Ninoy Aquino International airport, a.k.a. N.A.I.A. in Manila, Clark International Airport, formerly known as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, and Mactan–Cebu International Airport). There are international airports on the way in both Panglao Island, Bohol and in Siargao and other airports like Kalibo and Iloilo offer very limited international flight connections.
Most foreign tourists will start to travel the Philippines arriving in either Manila or Cebu, and will exit the country from those airports too, so planning your itinerary will very likely include, at least one night at one or both of these cities.
What to see in the Philippines?
This is usually where the confusion starts. It is hard to feel that after having made up your mind to fly to the Philippines, one may be missing out on those places that look so amazing on Instagram. But at the same time, one may want to visit a less well known place with less tourism and therefore, much less information to help one plan accordingly. Who do you trust? Be brave, a little research will show you that there are plenty of options and it is hard to not find a beautiful place which is yet to become the next big thing.
How to travel the Philippines?
As much as flights may be the fastest way to get from point A to Point B, many itineraries in the Philippines, may require you to take a flight to Manila or Cebu and then fly to the next destination. Sometimes, traveling by road is the best option, not to mention you will be able to see more in less time.
Be realistic about time and geographical location. If you have x amount of days and you really want to see a particular place, start with that one place and design your trip around it. The islands in the Philippines are generally well connected by ferries and roro (roll on roll off ferries) and it is usually not hard to design a good loop that will take you to and from one or both international airports. Check out our map of the different ports in the Philippines.
Is it dangerous to travel in the Philippines?
Don’t be afraid. The media tends to focus on a number of issues that may affect a country, but that does not mean that the whole country is a dangerous place and you should not go. News is news and T.V. stations need to sell commercials and unfortunately, the worst stuff is usually what keeps the audience stuck to that screen. Check out Youtube, and read travel blogs and you will see that the reality is very different. Many foreigners live in and travel the Philippines all the time, and they live normal lives. Remember that just because there was a terrorist attack in Paris, London or Las Vegas, it does not mean that it happens all the time. Anything can happen, anywhere, any time.
What’s the weather like in the Philippines?
The weather is unpredictable. You can look at statistics, you can read about seasons, you can learn about climate zones… but still, no one can control nature and sometimes it rains. Rainy season does not mean it rains every day, dry season does not mean it does not rain. The Philippines has a number of climate zones, some say 4, some say up to 6, but usually the weather is dictated by the Northeast Monsoon (Amihan), or the Southwest Monsoon (Habagat). Most information will say that Amihan, from November/December till May/June, is the dry season, but this is mainly around the Mimaropa, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and The western half of Luzon and Mindanao. The Eastern coast of the Philippines sees less rain during the Habagat season (May/June to November/December).
Typhoon season is said to take place during the Habagat season or the northern hemisphere summer months, however, it is not unusual to see the last typhoons hit the east coast and travel across the islands during the months of November and December. Unfortunately, typhoons in the Philippines usually affect the poorer parts of the Philippines and more often than not, being in a concrete structure will keep you safe from the strong winds and rain. Again, dont let weather conditions be a deterrent and stop you from traveling to the Philippines, and know that by taking the same precautions you would take anywhere else, you should be fine and able to enjoy yourself regardless of what happens. Do check out our video on Cloud 9 in Siargao, recorded during tropical storm Urduja in December 2017.
Sakay & Co specialises in designing itineraries around the Philippines, contact us and tell us how long you want to travel and what you would like to see and we will make sure you travel the Philippines the best possible way.