A Guide to the Philippines for First Time Travellers

Curious about visiting the Phillipines but not sure where to start? Read our guide below for first- time visitors.

Travelling to any new destination is an exciting prospect and gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in an entirely different culture, learn about unfamiliar local customs, and explore a natural environment that’s a world away from the land you call home. But of course, it always pays to embark on your new adventure prepared with some insider knowledge that could help you get the most out of your experience and ensure your plans run as smoothly as possible. Here are a few useful hints and tips that every first-time visitor to the Philippines should keep in mind during their stay.

Manila is the gateway to everywhere

International travellers from Australia and New Zealand and around the world will often enter the Philippines via its bustling capital, Manila, but don’t be put off if your preferred final destination in the country seems a little off the beaten path. Manila offers frequent flight connections, including low-cost options by Cebu Pacific and full-service flights by Philippine Airlines, to most parts of the Philippines from some of its remote and unspoilt islands to the country’s more popular and well-known hubs.

Hotels are cheap

Usually, travelling on a budget means preparing to stay in no-frills hostels, homestays, or lodges, but in the Philippines, your accommodation can still be a highlight of your trip even if you’re looking to save money on your overnight stays. High-quality hotels with luxurious pools, great restaurants, ocean views and beach access can be found dotted all around the islands from around AUD$80 per night per couple.  

Give yourself plenty of time in the destination

There is so much to see and do in the Philippines, from hiking the dramatic and expansive Tagaytay Highlands not far from Manila to sailing around the tropical uninhabited islets near the tiny island of Siargao – and that’s before you’ve even thought about squeezing in a dive or snorkel experience, or even a jungle quad biking tour. If all the excitement of an explorative adventure in the archipelago sounds better than staying put, be generous with your time when planning your trip to ensure you can enjoy the unique range of activities you’ll only get to experience in the Philippines.

Have an itinerary but don’t over plan

It’s always beneficial to have a rough plan for your trip to the Philippines, so you don’t find yourself spending too much time researching activities or making arrangements when you get there. But it’s also wise to make room for spontaneity. For example, the Philippines is a treasure trove of outdoor adventure and cultural experiences, which means you may decide that it’s worth staying in one destination for longer than anticipated. At the same time, just like most other tropical destinations, the Philippines can be prone to passing storms and heavy showers, so you may decide to reorganise that paraw sailing cruise or dive experience for a clearer and calmer day.    

Embrace the local street food culture and restaurants

Whether you’re looking to travel around on a budget or not, you can’t pass on the opportunity to try some local street food in the Philippines. It’s not only cheap to buy – usually around a few cents to a couple of dollars – it’s also incredibly delicious and offers an authentic cultural experience. Look out for BBQ pork skewers, sweet banana spring rolls (turon), mouth-watering crispy cheese sticks, and refreshing coconut milk ice cream (sorbetes). And when it comes to eating in restaurants, don’t be afraid to let go of your Western ideas around economising because many restaurant meals in the Philippines are a similar price to eating at well-known global fast-food outlets. 

Take cash everywhere with you

Unlike home, the Philippines is still a largely cash-based society when it comes to everyday transactions, so always take cash around with you so you never get stuck for a bite to eat or something to drink. Fortunately, the relatively low value of things you’re likely to buy, such as street food or the odd souvenir, means you’ll never have to carry around large sums of money at once to keep you in sustenance throughout the day. It’s also a great idea to ensure you’re equipped with small denominations of money to save any difficulties receiving change or to avoid emptying a vendor of all their cash.

Don’t be afraid to chat to locals and ask for advice

Anyone who has travelled to the Philippines will tell you that the people are warm, friendly, and highly hospitable. When visiting, don’t be afraid to engage with those friendly faces who might be only too pleased to offer some helpful advice about your plans or simply tell you more about the local area you’re in.  

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