Nice place to visit Philippines
A big thank you to Dave for stepping up and filling a reader request for a post on the Philippines. Dave has been traveling for over 5 years in search of a place called home. He writes a fascinating travel journal series on The Longest Way Home, and includes many travel resources for others looking to either travel in similar places, or looking to live overseas.
Relatively speaking, The Philippines is one of the least visited of all the popular South East Asian countries. The reason for this is that, unlike the others, you need a plane to get there.
Don’t let this put you off. Once you arrive there, you’ll discover one of the premier travel destinations in the entire world and one that is great for solo travelers.
How to do it on a budget: Planning is the key
Manila will be your first port of call and your central hub. You can find accommodation in Manila here. That said it’s a giant sprawling metropolis so you may not want to stay for long. Having a ticket pre-booked online with Cebu Pacific, the Philippines budget airline, can get you out on the same day.
Advanced booking for return flights can cost as little as $80. You can then, in any order, choose from these great solo budget picks within the Philippines.
Fly into this long strip of an island, capital of Puerto Princesa, then grab an aircon mini van for 600 pesos ($10) to Sabang and visit the longest subterranean river in the world. Spend a day soaking up the sun on white beaches before taking a local bus to El Nido via Salvation Junction or returning to Puerto Princesa by the air con mini van.
In El Nido you are in a tropical paradise. Still not overly touristy, El Nido offers a relaxed island atmosphere. Crystal blue waters are great for, snorkeling, scuba diving, and island hoping. While inland, enjoy rock climbing, a heap of great restaurants specializing in fresh seafood and a laid back atmosphere.
There are no taxis on Palawan. You need to take a tricycle (rickshaw). These are the normal forms of short distance transport here. Jeepneys do cover the longer distances and are half the price of air-conditioned min vans.
Return Flights to Palawan Manila or Mindanao should be booked in advance costing approx $80.
Accommodation can vary between $8 per night to $30. Head further down the beaches away from the big hotels to find the prices dropping
Take a flight from Palawan back to Manila with a connection to Bohol in the south on the same day or take the ferry from Mindanao. Once there enjoy visiting the mystical chocolate hills, and the rare tarsier.
Avoid the package tours, they are expensive and not necessary. Rent a motorbike, or hire a tricycle for the day to get around. Public transport is always available. Head inland for cheaper accommodation than the resorts by the beaches.
From Bohol catch a cheap ferry or fly to Mindanao, and from there another ferry to the tiny volcanic island of Camiguin. Climb volcanoes, visit a sunken cemetery, hot springs and enjoy tiny island life.
Sagada / Banaue
By now you would have settled into Philippine life and are ready to tackle Manila once again. Arrive back in the capital and arrange a bus to Sagada in the north. Once there enjoy the fabled hanging coffins. Go deep underground caving or trekking into lush rain forested mountains.
From here another bus can take you to Banaue where a day trip will take you to the magnificent rice terraces. You can also overnight it there, and the accommodation is quite cheap. Again, avoid the package tours. All the trails are marked out well, there’s no real need for a guide unless you are not accustomed to trails and hikes. But stay on the paths!
Solo travel in The Philippines
One of the great advantages of traveling solo in the Philippines is that nearly everyone speaks English. Moreover, The Filipinos (Pinoys) are incredibly friendly and helpful. Maps, buses, and plane routes are all in English too.
Accommodation nearly always includes an ensuite bathroom, with the cheaper options being with fan only or air-conditioning.
Managing your budget in The Philippines
Beware of cheaper guesthouses in Manila. Some charge in 12 or 24 hour periods which can either be good, or bad depending on your times. The rest of the Philippines operates normal check out times.
Food in The Philippines is very cheap. If you eat at local cantinas you’ll rarely break a $2 meal.
Booking ahead with the airlines can cut a ticket price in half.
Always ask for a discount at a guesthouse. Filipinos always do, and while you might not get a great offer, sometimes it can be a welcome surprise.