It’s more fun in the Philippines 2015
About The Philippines
Mabuhay. Welcome to the land of warm-water beaches, coastlines you can have to yourself, smouldering volcanoes, intricate cave systems and undiscovered backpacker trails.
Our story began long ago, when these beautiful islands were home to Indo-Malay and Chinese merchants. Then in 1521, the seafaring Spanish explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan discovered us.
350 years of Spanish rule left us with a unmistakeable Catholic identity, lively town festivals like Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan, colonial Spanish-Filipino architecture, and centuries-old stone churches that watch over bustling town plazas.
The Americans who came next introduced us to their educational and legal systems, as well as their democratic form of government. They also left us with widespread spoken English. So if you speak English, feel free to ask for directions or strike up a conversation. If you happened to speak to a Filipino who only speaks Tagalog, we’re sure they’ll be happy to point you to someone who speaks English.
For an extended read, we recommend Lonely Planet’s section on Filipino history.
We’re the hosts to a lot of the mosts. Our islands are a hotbed of life, with nearly 200 mammal species, 600 species of birds, and at least 400 coral species.
We also have extensive mountain ranges. The most volcanoes per square kilometre. The most mangrove species. And the most bio-diverse reef system.
So if you’re looking for underwater landscapes to dive into, mountain ranges to hike on, flat plains to drive across, caves to explore, waterfalls, rock faces, rivers, lakes, and anything else you can think of… the Philippines is the place to be.
Our people are predominantly of Malay ancestry with a sprinkling of Chinese, Spanish, American and Arabic heritage. More than 100 cultural minority groups are scattered throughout the country.
We have two official languages – Filipino and English. Filipino is based on Tagalog, the predominant dialect from the Luzon mainland, and is used nationally to communicate among the ethnic groups. There are also seven other widely used languages and more than there176 local dialects!
But don’t worry, almost every Filipino speaks English. So don’t be shy to start a conversation. We won’t be.
Weather & Climate
If you want the bright and sunny, tropical glory of the Philippines, plan your trip between the summer months of March and May.
It will be hot and dry, but that’s what beaches, sunscreen and hats are for!
Want things a little bit cooler? Then November to February are best for you.
Some might say avoid the rainy season from June to October, but a good traveller knows that off-peak season means lower rates in airfares, hotels, resorts — and maybe the beer too. Just be forewarned that during the months between July and September it’s monsoon season which could mean strong winds and heavy rain.
Some parts of the country such as Cebu and Davao, are warm and comfortable in all seasons with an average temperature of 26.6 °C, and can be visited throughout the year.
Fly within the country on our local airlines. You’ll find information on flight schedules, destinations, booking, and online ticketing on their websites:
You can also take a chartered flight to major domestic destinations and island resorts.
If you prefer traveling by boat, try the roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ships between Manila and the country’s major ports. To and from smaller islands, take fast sea crafts and other ferry services. Resorts also offer island hopping by banca (small, local boat), or fishermen and other locals offer their boats for hire.
The Visayas region in particular, has a robust network of inter-island boats. For commercial options, tickets are available through ticketing and travel agents. Schedules are published in dailies and the Buy & Sell publication. You can also start your search through these websites:
Two major shipping lines 2Go and Montenegro Lines
A list of ships and ferries from Marine Traffic
A helpful blog for boat travel is Cebu Boat Trips
It is possible to travel by air-conditioned bus from Manila to nearly all major destinations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
There is also a National Railway, that, sadly, only really transects Southern Luzon. Some of the trains have recently been replaced or refurbished though, so if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a viable way to get from Manila to Legazpi.
Within Metropolitan Manila, take the Light Railway Transit (LRT). It’s the fastest and most economical way to travel throughout the metropolis:
LRT Line 1 – to go to and from the Roosevelt in the north to Baclaran in the south.
LRT Line 2 – to go to and from Recto Avenue to Santolan St. in the eastern part of the metropolis.
The Metro Rail Transport (MRT) Line 3 – to go through Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), Metro Manila’s main circumferential road. Stations are located at major intersections of Makati City, Ortigas, and Cubao.
If there are no LRT lines where you’re going, take a bus or metered taxi. You’ll find taxis in Manila and major parts of Metro Manila, and they can usually be flagged down right where you’re standing.
For short distances within the city, try taking a public utility jeepney (PUJ) or a tricycle.
For more info on the Philippine National Railway:
Philippines National Rail
The Light Railway Transit (LRT)
The Metrotren (MRT)
Some helpful blogs for getting around Manila:
Better yet, ask a local for directions. It’ll be fun!
If you’d like to try our roads, an international driver’s license is valid for up to three months. There are car rental services available in major cities, just ask your hotel to assist you. It might be easier to go around with a local driver, so you won’t have to worry about navigation and local traffic rules.
Off-roading is popular in the Philippines though, so if you’re into that, there are local 4WD groups in most adventure destinations.
Underbone motorcycles are also available for rent in most of the cities. If your hotel can’t help you and you don’t spot a “Motorcycle for rent” sign anywhere, just approach any tricycle driver for a lead.
10 Reasons to Visit
1. Play pretend castaway
Our beaches are the perfect escape from cold, icy-water beaches.
Your own private island awaits in Bicol’s Caramoan. Hire a boat to take you from one island to the next, until you find your dream getaway.
2. Dive the Apo Reef
There are many renowned dive sites in the Philippines. But none quite like Apo. This is a diver’s chance to earn bragging rights. Look out for trophy creatures like the hammerhead, whale shark and manta ray.
3. Trek Mt Apo
Head to Davao for a volcano that has never blown its top. Standing at 2954ft, Mount Apo is the highest peak in the Philippines. A hike up this mountain will take you through virgin forests so keep your eyes peeled for pitcher plants, orchids and wildlife that include the Philippine eagle.
4. Surf in Siargao
A gem unknown to the average tourist, the tranquil island of Siargao needs no introduction to seasoned surfers. Most head to the wooden pavilion on Cloud Nine for the infamous Siargao break. But waves for both experts and novices abound elsewhere on this island too.
5. Swim with whale sharks
You’ll need to be a decent snorkeller to keep up with these gentle giants but when you do, it’ll be a ballet you’ll never forget. The peak months of March and April almost guarantee this chance.
Hundreds of volcanoes dot the land — sizzling peaks like Mt Mayon to make you think that the gods must have been on edge. Steal a view from the top, soaring by private plane over the smoking mouth, or ascend these fiery mountains by foot, through lava-rock trails. The choice is yours.
7. Explore an underground river
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park features a spectacular limestone landscape with an underground river. One of the river’s distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the sea, and its lower portion is subject to tidal influences. The site also contains a full “mountain to sea” ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.
8. Bacuit Archipelago
Take a short bangka ride from El Nido to Bacuit Bay in Palawan. This archipelago will thrill island lovers with imposing limestone escarpments, palm-tree-lined white sand beaches and coral beaches.
This world famous beach is a serious contender among other Southeast Asian party beaches. But according to Lonely Planet, Boracay is still generally mellower than the likes of Kuta or Koh Samui. If it’s quiet solitude you’re looking for, head to the southern end of White Beach.
10. Rice terraces of Banaue
A testament to the skill and perseverance of the Ifugao people, these terraces were carved into the mountains so they could grow rice. World heritage listed, they’re impressive not only for their chiselled look but also because they were created about 2,000 years ago.