Philippines Travel and Backpacking Guide
The Philippines is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world with incredible islands and beautiful beaches. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel or go backpacking in the Philippines.
Activities & Things to Do in Philippines
Travel to the Philippines
If you would like to travel to the Philippines there are so many places of interest to visit, from ancient rice fields to some of the best beaches in the world.
View our Philippines guide with travel tips, ideas for the best things to see and do, advice about itineraries, costs, how to save money, and more!
- Capital - Manila (population 1,650,000 approx)
- Currency - Philippine Peso:
- Population - 91,980,000 (approx)
- Language - Filipino + English + local languages
- International Dailing Code +63
- Country Area - 300,000 km2
Top Reasons to Visit the Philippines
- Spectacular islands and beaches
- Tasty local food
- Great value on tourism and sightseeing
- So many different places to see
- Experience a different country/culture with so many diverse places to go
How to Get to the Philippines
Several airlines offer international flights to different areas of the Philippines, book in advance to get the best deals. Most international flights arrive into the capital Manila.
Weather & Best Time to Visit
The Philippines is a year round destination and there is no best time to visit.
What to Know Before You Go
Thinking about going travelling or backpacking in the Philippines? Great decision!
When looking to travel in Asia a lot of people don't add the Philippines to their itinerary but believe us you will be missing out if you don't go. The Philippines is a spectacular country full of treasures, be it its tropical and diverse landscapes and beaches, its mixture of cultures or its actual, well, treasures (with hips of sunken Spanish galleons and the still undiscovered spoils of war of the Japanese Imperial army during WW2!). You will love exploring this stunning country.
From touch down in the Philippines you are greeted with the sound of hundreds of people, busy hustling and bustling as they rush to meet their loved ones and no matter what time of day be prepared for the humidity to hit you, almost as a little reminder that you are now in a truly tropical location.
Like a lot of big Asian countries, the Philippines is very busy, jeepneys beeping their horns, tri-cades, motorcycles, taxis and people literally on every street corner, but don’t let this put you off, instead embrace it and get ready for the most unique and rewarding experiences of your life.
Itinerary & Best Places to Visit
Here are some of the best places to visit to go in the Philippines, we have also included things to do including tourist sights, exciting activities and local tips.
In Cebu you can take a trip down to the famous Larsian BBQ area right off the main roundabout in the centre of the city one evening, we can only describe it as a big tent full of copious BBQ stalls all striving for your business, fish, pork, squid and much much more accompanied by puso (Cebuano rice wrapped in banana/coconut leaves) all at a very cheap price. The great local food and atmosphere is amazing if you are feeling adventurous!
Whilst whizzing around you are more than likely to come across the famous lechon baboy of Cebu (spit roasted pig) this is pretty much a right of passage whilst in Cebu. You may also hear cries in the night of ‘Balut... balut...’ We’ll leave you to google this one, it’s only for the brave. If you want something a bit closer to home, maybe try Jollibee (very famous fast-food restaurant in Philippines) they do a great burger that’s for sure.
If you like to shop there are plenty of shopping centres in Cebu, Ayala and SM being the biggest, if you want something a bit more traditional head to the Colon area, the oldest street in Cebu, little markets if you want local souvenirs, though do be wary of pickpockets in this area as it is extremely busy. Taxi is probably the best way to get around the city but don’t worry, they are cheap! Moving away from the city, Kawasan falls is a must see, picturesque waterfalls not too far from the city.
If you are into scuba diving, Moalboal on the west side of the island is a must go, known as one of the best diving spots in the world, only about a 2/3 drive. Then of course head back to Mactan Island for the most beautiful, postcard finish beaches. There are plenty of resorts here so take your pick, ‘Bluewater’, ‘Costa Bella’, ‘White Sands’ are a few of the places we recommend. Whilst on the way, definitely stop off and check out the Lapu-Lapu monument, the hero of the Mactan who was the first native to resist the Spanish colonization.
A few things we would suggest here definitely check out Rizal (sometimes known as Luneta) Park, this seems the heart of the city, a charming park with the monument to another Filipino hero Jose Rizal. Come at night to see a spectacular light show across the water feature in the centre.
Always a great atmosphere, lots of people, food stalls, fun fair rides and music. Makati is the celebrity/business hub of Manila, if you like to shop, drink coffee and enjoy good nightlife, this is your spot. Manila is also home to the Mall of Asia, this place is massive and the 3rd biggest in Asia (second only to 2 in China).
Manila's Chinatown is one of the busiest, dirtiest, poorest and consequently most interesting neighborhoods of the country's capital. Chinatown is a feast for the eyes once again and a short and intense introduction to a world extremely different to the one you might be used to back home or from the hotel you might be staying in.
If you want to get out of the city, take a trip to the nearest volcano, Taal. It does take a short boat ride and then a horse ride up a dusty steep mountain until you arrive at the magnificent Taal volcano, trust us it’s worth it.
If you like to party, Boracay is your place! Once voted the most beautiful beach in the world, Boracay’s White Beach is among the best your eyes will ever witness.
During the day the place is riddled with water sports and restaurants that appear on the beach, serving the freshest, cheapest and most delicious seafood (oysters, lobster, you name it) you could ever hope to experience. Once night time appears watch the tables and chairs gradually abscond as the place becomes a hub for night life.
The glorious thing about this place is its versatility along the main strip. Once minute you will be in a full out nightclub, take a few steps along the strip and you will be listening to an acoustic act perform in front of an audience that is lazing around on bean bags on the beach whilst drinking at a small candle lit table. Whether you want to relax or dance the night away you will find it here in Boracay.
Located a short ferry ride off Cebu’s south east coast Bohol is one of Philippines little gems. Sand so white it actually hurts your eyes, sea so blue you can’t resist jumping in, palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze and the best bit is, the beaches here are almost always deserted.
Bohol has a famous tourist trail that I’d highly recommend once you’ve pulled yourself away from the divine beaches. There are tours which include visiting the famous chocolate hills, a wonderful buffet meal on a boat cruise and a trip to see the most famous residents, the tarsiers!
If you really want to get away from it all, and we mean REALLY get away, go to Palawan. Located on the west side of the Philippines it cuddles the Chinese sea, making the water wonderfully warm. Landing in Puerto Princesa, we took a car journey along roads that looked as if they had abandoned for years to the idyllic Port Barton.
e recommend staying in Villa Margurita, a private villa surrounded by a couple of hostel style places on a deserted beach. Just beautiful, if you want to lay on a hammock and just watch the sea, come here, you couldn’t feel further from the ‘real world’.
A visit to Vigan is recommended, this is the best preserved Spanish colonial city in Asia (and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List). Vigan is quite a small place and you can easily find a local guide.
There are horse carriage excursions where you can see a lot more and even a zoo where you can see tigers. The Rice Terraces in the Center of North Luzon (also on the UNESCO World Heritage List) are also a must visit if you are looking to see the real Philippines.
The One Hundred Islands National Park
The One hundred Islands National Park is amazing to visit even though it is not really recommended by the seen-it-all guide books. But it is really worth a trip in fact, especially during the off-peak season except for a few Korean tourists, you will likely not meet many tourists. You can also rent a boat for the day which can be fun, its also cheap if you get someone to help you haggle.
The Park is made of 129 islands and you can hop by boat from one island to the next. The One Hundred Islands National Park is quite a drive to get there and you might need to stop off on the way, sometimes finding cheap accommodation can be difficult.
From The One Hundred Islands National Park you might want to travel to Banaue via Solano. You can do this journey by public buses. Banaue is built among ancient rice terraces and is the only city "easily" accessible by bus in this great area of the Philippines.
From there you have to walk to see the other rice terraces, the rice terraces of the village Batad is probably the nicest and are advised to check out. Solano is certainly not a touristy town, but you will managed to find a confortable hotel with warm water if you walk around. There are also lots of bars with live music... and lots of ladyboys.
When you arrive in Banaue, you will be greeted with the impressive sight of the city. Quite an amazing place really! Batad's rice terraces are still hours away but worth the journey and effort in getting there. You might need help to get there, try to travel in the low season as there are lots of buses and services are less busy.
You can hire bikes or get driven, then walk the rest of the way until Batad's junction. Here you can get a local guide who will take you to batad's rice terraces and an impressive waterfall. This can be quite an exhausting experience but if you are looking to get off the beaten track then you will love the highly gratifying hikes here.
- Apo Island
- Caramoan Peninsula
- Coron, El Nido, Palawan
- Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
- Langun Gobingob Caves in Samar
- Mayon Volcano, Albay
- Mount Pulag, Luzon
- Siargao Island
- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Philippines Budget Travel Tips
The Philippines is a great value destination especilly compared to other destinations in Asia like Thailand and Japan. Make sure you try to book accommodation in advance to secure the best deals. The cheapest way to get around the country is one public transport, although not the most comfortable method it will save you a lot of money.