How to organize a trip to the Philippines
The Philippines is a country of seven and a half thousand tropical islands and a former Spanish colony with a rich history. It was here that Fernand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe ended.
My young man and I think travel is the best textbook – we like to look at historic buildings, not read about them. We also just need to vacation where there is a warm sea. We visited the Philippines in 2019 and found both.
From the editors.
Russian tourists are now banned from entering the Philippines because of the coronavirus. We publish this article to be nostalgic about past trips and perhaps plan future ones.
Almost no one swims in the sea. That’s because many Asians have a cult of white skin – they don’t sunbathe.
Most Filipinos are Catholic, so there are many churches on the islands. The photo shows the oldest preserved church of St. Augustine.
What you should know about Philippines
Philippines is an island country. On its territory there are thousands of different islands: small and large, densely populated and deserted. Tourists come here to lie on the beach, swim with turtles, surf and admire the architecture.
The climate of the islands boils down to two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season lasts from November to April, the air temperature at this time – + 28-29 ° C, and water temperature – + 26-29 ° C. The wet season lasts from May to October, during this time the islands flood and there are more frequent typhoons. So we went to the Philippines in November.
Tourists from Russia do not need a visa to travel to the Philippines, if your trip lasts no longer than 30 days. However, you must have a return ticket and passport, which will be valid for at least six months.
The language is English and Spanish. Before you travel, I advise you to master the language a little, otherwise it will be difficult to communicate with the locals. To do this, for example, I watch soap operas and travel-blogs in English.
The currency is the Philippine peso. It is better to change money at the airport, because exchange offices on the islands are hard to find. We took dollars with us, but euros can also be easily exchanged.
How to Plan a Route
It’s not easy to plan a route to the islands: some can be reached by plane, while some are only accessible by boat. That’s why I advise newbies not to make up their own itinerary, but to take one of the ready-made ones from Vinsky Forum.
If you make up your own itinerary, decide what you want to see and what type of vacation is closer to you. It was important for us to lie on the most beautiful beach, swim with turtles and see the architecture of the medieval forts. We ended up choosing three islands:
- Boracay – we had a beach vacation there.
- Cebu is an interesting place from a historical point of view. You can also swim with whale sharks there.
- Bohol – an island where you can see the Chocolate Hills and unique animals tarsiers.
We also toured the Philippine capital Manila and Mactan Island.
Our 10-day trip plan
|Day||Where do we sleep?||What we plan to do|
|1||Manila||Get to a hotel and sleep after a long flight|
|2||Boracay||Get to the island and swim|
|5||Mactan||Explore the monuments of Magellan and Lapu-Lapu. Take the ferry to Cebu|
|Cebu||See the medieval forts in Cebu City and go to the hotel|
|7||Bohol||Take a boat to the island and explore. Get to Alona Beach|
|8||Bohol||See the tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills, and then go on a tour of the island|
|9||Bohol||Tours to nearby islands, swim with turtles|
|10||Manila||Explore the Intramuros area.|
There are many other wonderful islands in the Philippines. Here’s where else I suggest you go:
- Palawan Island – here you can book tours to the most beautiful beaches with pristine nature.
- Siargao Island – the best place to go surfing.
- Apo Island – there you can also see the turtles. On this island they swim very close.
You can also visit the village of Oslob on Cebu and swim with whale sharks. I will tell you about all these places further in the article.
The moss-covered Fort San Pedro in Cebu City. On the roof you can look at the ancient volley guns, and inside you can relax by a beautiful pond with water lilies
How to get there
There are no direct flights to the Philippines – you have to make at least one connection. Tourists usually fly to Manila or Cebu: there are two major airports.
The roundtrip flight from Irkutsk to Manila cost R65,000 for two people. We travelled via Seoul, the transfer took 10 hours. If you buy the tickets half a year in advance, you’ll find cheaper tickets – for about 55 000 R.
We paid for the flight from Irkutsk to Manila
Please note: Manila has an uncomfortable airport. It’s a long way from one terminal to the other – through traffic and rush hour it may take up to an hour, although they are close to each other. There’s also a free bus between terminals, but it runs once an hour – when we got the wrong terminal we had to take a cab to get to the plane. So read the information on the ticket carefully: you may arrive at one terminal, and leave from another, and you need to save time for that.
How to beat burnout
There are three ways to travel between the islands:
- On lowcosters – they fly to the more developed tourist islands.
- By private planes – suitable for flights to secluded islands and more expensive.
- By boat and ferry – best option if the islands are not too far apart.
We traveled by lowcosters, ferries and boats. The trips left only positive impressions because they took about an hour and were well organized.
There are two main low-cost carriers in the Philippines: AirAsia Philippines and Cebu Pacific. We chose AirAsia because we read in reviews that it was less likely to be late.
We ended up with three flights: Manila to Boracay, Boracay to Mactan, and Bohol to Manila. We took a ferry from Mactan to Cebu and a boat from Cebu to Bohol, because the islands are close.
Hotels can be booked on, for example, Bucking, Agoda, or Airbnb.com. We booked on Bookings. The average price for a hotel with a pool or near the sea is 5000-6000 P per night.
We spent 47,278 P for the hotel.
|Newport Condo||1||3800 Р|
|Boracay Resort||3||18 000 Р|
|Turtle Bay Dive Resort||2||14 478 Р|
|LEUX Hotel||3||11 000 Р|
On popular tourist islands like Boracay, Palawan, and Panglao you won’t have a problem with lodging even if you don’t book anything: you can simply walk into the hotel you like and ask if it’s free. But if you book a room in advance, the price per night will be lower. On less popular islands it is always better to book accommodation in advance, as there are fewer hotels and there may not be enough rooms.
we paid for accommodation in the Philippines
In the Philippines we stayed in apartments and hotels. Everywhere the service was top-notch, advising us on everything and helping us figure out boat schedules to other islands. The rooms were clean.
Boracay is an island that has the famous White Beach. There is light sand and palm trees, no sun loungers, and there are restaurants along the perimeter.
Of entertainment in Boracay there are boat tours around the island and scuba diving – scuba diving. On the other side of the island there is a beach for windsurfers. We only sunbathed and swam on Boracay.
When we were on the island, it was under renovation. The first line near the ocean had already been built with new hotels, but in the center of the island construction was in full swing and you could hear the noise of drills. So we checked into a hotel by the beach and did not go to the center.
We came to Mactan from Boracay by plane. It is a small island connected to Cebu by two bridges.
Mactan is a very important place from a historical point of view: it was here that Fernando Magellan was killed, who made the world’s first round-the-world voyage. In memory of this event on the island erected two monuments: one – to Magellan for his contribution to history and geographical discoveries, the other – the chief of Lapu-Lapu, who fought against the Spaniards for the independence of the Philippines and killed Magellan.
On the right is a monument to Lapu-Lapu, and in the background next to the flag is Magellan. Source: CHANG HYUN / Shutterstock
Cebu City is one of the strategically important and oldest cities in the Philippines. It has a bloody history of Spanish, American, and Japanese attempts to occupy it. Since then, there are many historical sites – I will tell you about a few.
Magellan’s Cross, which Magellan brought from Spain on his ship. It was erected when the Filipinos converted to Christianity. It’s revered as a shrine.
Basilica of Santo Nino is a beautiful cathedral in the colonial style, decorated with ancient bas-reliefs on the perimeter. It contains a statue of Jesus, brought by Magellan as a gift to the Filipinos.
On this island we stopped at Alona Beach because it is the most developed tourist spot on Bohol. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants, and everything costs much less than on Boracay. Unfortunately, there was a lot of algae on the beach this time of year, so we didn’t swim.
The Chocolate Hills are mountains that look like chocolate truffles. There are about a thousand and a half thousand of these hills in an area of 50 km². They are covered with green grass, which during the dry season changes its color to brown – that’s why they are called chocolate hills.
During the tour we were told that the tarsiers cannot stand noise and harsh light. That’s why in the reserve everyone talks in whispers and takes pictures without flash. As we walked through the forest, we found about five tarsiers. The sight of them is mesmerizing and mind-blowing – I think it’s worth the time spent.
This is what the Chocolate Hills look like at the height of the dry season. When we were there, they were green. Source: OSTILL is Franck Camhi / Shutterstock
Tarsiers are palm-sized animals that only exist in Bohol. At the sanctuary, they live in conditions close to the real thing. I hope they are well fed. Source: Olga Savina / Shutterstock
Manila is the capital of the Philippines, where we spent our first and last day. Before the trip I had read that Manila is very dirty and crime is rampant, so we moved around the city only by cab.
What I liked most about Manila was the Intramuros neighborhood, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a walled area that was built by the Spanish in the 17th century to protect the Spanish nobility. It’s incredibly beautiful there.
Manila’s main cathedral, which was rebuilt after the 2012 earthquake. The neo-Romanesque facades of the cathedral with intricate bas-reliefs and travertine statues look impressive. Travertine is a light-colored rock and is commonly used in the construction and cladding of buildings. Source: Sean Hsu / Shutterstock
What else to do in the Philippines
The best place to see turtles is Apo Island, which is so wild that you have to take several ferries to get there. But the nature there is untouched by man and the turtles swim close to the shore.
We went snorkeling in the village of Moalboal on Cebu Island – it’s the most famous place with the richest underwater fauna in the Philippines. There we saw huge starfish, colorful fish, and live corals – it was great.
That day we went swimming with turtles. They are found far away from the tourist spots, so it took us about 40 minutes to get there. Source: Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock
This is what our exit to the sea looked like from the hotel in the village of Moalboal. The building in the background was a dive center where we could rent snorkeling equipment. Unfortunately, we didn’t have snorkeling equipment, so we weren’t able to take pictures of the reefs and fish
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to El Nido: the island is too far away, we weren’t ready for such a move.
Swim with whale sharks. In the village of Oslob on the island of Cebu, local fishermen bait whale sharks – stunningly beautiful spotted fish that feed on plankton. They are up to 20 meters in size.
There are many surfing schools on Siargao Island, here are a few of them: Kermit Siargao, Harana Surf School, Dream Surf
Filipino food is the best that Filipinos have managed to gather from other places around the globe. For instance, they’re good at Thai and Indian food and there are some good Italian restaurants here too.
I would not recommend taking a bus with air conditioning. We took it for 4 hours and got a very cold. So be sure to bring warm clothes if you don’t want to wait for a bus without air conditioning.
Jeepneys are converted U.S. jeeps that were left after World War II on military bases. They are now used as public transportation. We didn’t have time to ride them, so I don’t know the ticket price.
When we arrived, we immediately bought a SIM card with Internet – we needed it to call a cab, and then to distribute the Internet. In general, you can do without it: there is usually wifi in cafes and hotels – but it’s more convenient with a sim card.
Our trip was uneventful and I felt safe on the islands – except for megapolises like Manila and Cebu. I will tell you what to watch out for in the Philippines, and which islands it is better not to visit.
Theft. Tourist islands are safe, but in megacities there are pickpockets and robbers. So I advise to use an app to order a cab and not to walk in problematic areas.
Terrorists. The website of the Russian Embassy in the Philippines advises not to visit some islands and archipelagos of the Philippines: Mindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan. Terrorist groups are active there.
Active volcanoes. The Philippines has active volcanoes – the last eruption was in January 2020. That’s when the Taal volcano on Luzon Island began spewing lava. Be careful when planning your itinerary and read the Philippine news before you go to a volcano: there are warnings about eruptions in advance.
Typhoons. They usually come from May to October, most often in August. They often have casualties: for example, in May 2020, 54 people were affected by a typhoon, and in December 2019, 41 people died. You can track typhoons at typhoon2000.ph, but the forecast appears a couple of days before the event.
Illnesses. Before a trip to the Philippines is advised to be vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
- Hepatitis A and B.
- Yellow fever.
- Japanese encephalitis.
We didn’t get any vaccinations, but we took out insurance. We also took repellents: there were recorded cases of Dengue fever on the islands, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. To protect ourselves from them, we bought a fumigator and covered ourselves with mosquito netting at night.
Where to rest in the Philippines – 8 resorts
Looking for the best places to vacation in the Philippines in 2022? We tell you about 8 resorts: who they are suitable for, pros and cons, how much the tours cost. Where best to go and when best to vacation in the Philippine islands.
The Philippines accept tourists from Russia, but only vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the WHO. For convenience, we give pre-pandemic prices for flights and tours. Information about visas and flights may not be current, check with official resources. Take a look at the list of open countries.
Search for Last Minute Tours at Level.Travel and Travellata – they will find the best deals among different tour operators. Want to save money? Check it out:
Attention: tours to the Philippines are expensive, flying on your own will be much cheaper. Round trip tickets from Moscow start at 25000 rubles. A room for two in a decent hotel costs from 1000 rubles. Take a look at: how to get a cheap flight to the Philippines.
Map of resorts in the Philippines
This is probably the most popular resort in the Philippines. If you haven’t decided where to go to the Philippines for the first time, we advise you to choose Boracay.
Who it suits. The picturesque island is famous for its excellent beaches with white sand and a rich underwater world. Rest here will suit families with children and older tourists.
Prices . The resort is not cheap. In high season a tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 267 thousand rubles.
Pros and cons . In 2019, Boracay was closed to tourists for six months because of environmental problems. Now there are many bans on the island: you can not drink alcohol, smoke, eat, build sand castles on the beaches. Banned casinos, souvenir shops, fire shows, water-skiing and sea excursions, temporarily – diving. But after the works and the introduction of bans, the island became much cleaner.
Boracay (Photo: unsplash.com / @ramonkagie)
Magellan sailed to the island in 1521. The capital Cebu is the oldest city in the archipelago. It is second only to Manila in size.
Suitable for whom. The tropical island is a universal resort. Divers, couples, beach lovers and excursionists go here with pleasure. Cebu has a unique entertainment – swimming in the open sea with giant whale sharks.
Prices . Holidays in Cebu will cost more than on Boracay. During the high season tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 284 thousand rubles.
Pros and cons . The best beaches are in Cebu province, on the small islands of Malapasqua, Mactan, Pavillion, Samilon, Balikasag and Sigijor. They are near the island of Cebu. In Cebu, the white beaches are only in Moalboal. In general, the beaches are concentrated in the south and west of the island. There are no direct flights from Russia, so you have to take a long flight with a connection.
Malapaskua (Photo: diaz / flickr.com)
A small island paradise near Cebu, not spoiled by tourists – that’s its beauty. It has good beaches, but it’s very shallow. You can snorkel.
Suitable for whom. There is no nightlife, exciting tours, large-scale historical sites and water attractions. All very quiet and peaceful.
Prices. Tours to Bantayan are not sold – you need to travel independently from Cebu. Prices for accommodation and food – like everywhere else in the Philippines.
Плюсы и минусы . Нет развитой инфраструктуры, но необходимый минимум для туристов есть. Отдыхающие обитают в основном на курорте Санта-Фе. Пляжи очень хороши! Подробнее об отдыхе на Бантаяне >>
Marco Polo lived and rested on the fabulous island of Bantayan for two weeks. It is very beautiful and peaceful – recommended for introverts. Bantayan (Photo: unsplash.com / @roxannedlp)
If a beach vacation isn’t important to you, go to Bohol in the Philippines – it has very beautiful nature, relatively few tourists and you can watch tars. The island is a two-hour drive from Cebu.
Who is suitable. Bohol is the best place to relax in the Philippines for connoisseurs of exotic nature and divers.
Prices . This is one of the inexpensive tropical resorts. In high season, a tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 160 thousand rubles.
Pros and cons . Bohol has many attractions: the Chocolate Hills, the oldest church in the Philippines, waterfalls, caves, and a forest of redwood trees. But most important of all is the center of the tarsiers, the adorable big-eyed primates. Beach infrastructure is poorly developed, we advise to swim in nearby Panglao – there is the famous Alona Beach, though not spectacular. There are sea urchins in shallow water, so be careful entering the water.
Marco Polo was in Bohol: Alexei and Renata saw the chocolate hills and visited the tarsiers. The cutest tarsier. Bohol (Photo: unsplash.com / @jampatcon)
This is the largest province in the country – the archipelago consists of one large and three dozen small islands.
Who Suits. Palawan resorts appeal to lovers of seclusion, snorkeling and diving. The island of Arretefi is home to more than 100 species of rare birds.
Prices are high. In peak season, a tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 227 thousand rubles.
Pluses and minuses . Hotels are located only on two islands. The rest have the status of a nature reserve and are covered by mountains, jungle and mangrove forests. Tourists do not suit only remoteness from the main part of the archipelago.
Palawan (Photo: unsplash.com / @zilch)
The main hotels and beaches are concentrated in the north of the island. The most popular beach is White Beach with its white sand and stunning sunsets, hotels and restaurants.
Who’s Suitable. Mindoro is loved by divers, older tourists and families with children. The main attractions are Aninuan and Tamarao Falls, Mount Alcon, Lake Nauhan and the coastal town of Puerto Galera.
Prices . By Philippine standards, recreation is inexpensive. In high season, a tour from Moscow for two people for 14 nights costs from 146 thousand rubles.
Pros and cons . Mindoro is good with white and golden sand, clear blue water, picturesque coral reefs, coconut palms. A lot of Filipinos come on weekends, so the hotels are packed and room rates go up.
Mindoro (Photo: wikimedia.ru / Magalhães)
The name comes from the almost black mountains that cover the island.
Who is suitable. Those who want a quiet, measured rest by the sea. Fans of underwater diving, snorkeling and excursions like it here. Young people love the town of Dumaguete, where there are discos, nightclubs, stores, tennis courts and golf courses.
Prices . In high season, a tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 190 thousand rubles.
Pros and cons . The black mountains and tropical forests growing at their feet give the landscapes of Negros a unique flavor. The only drawback – the lack of an airport. The island resort is located in the center of the archipelago, an hour flight from Manila and 30 minutes – from Cebu.
Apo Island, Dowin, Negros (Photo: unsplash.com / @cjtagupa)
The country’s capital is located on the west side of Luzon Island and consists of 16 cities. The world’s most populous metropolis is a city of contrasts. Here ultra-modern architecture neighbors slums where poor people live.
Suitable for whom. The huge city is not a beach resort, but the business heart of the archipelago. Manila is the best place to vacation in the Philippines for anyone who wants to experience the traditions and culture of this country. Admire the historical district of Intramuros, shop in modern mega-malls, try the national cuisine in the most famous restaurants in Manila. Visit near tall skyscrapers and on interesting excursions.
Prices . Manila is the most inexpensive vacation in the Philippines. In high season, a tour from Moscow for two for 14 nights costs from 86 thousand rubles.
Pluses and minuses. The city has a wide range of accommodation – from cheap apartments to expensive hotels. Tourists prefer to stay in Intramuros, Ermita and Malate. Near the capital are three good places for diving. On the downside, the city is noisy, overcrowded and dirty, and also unsafe. The nearest beaches in Manila are 120 km away from the city.
Chinese New Year in Manila (Photo: unsplash.com / @mbcaptures)
Who and where best to vacation in the Philippines
Where to go in the Philippines with kids : Boracay, Cebu, Mindoro, Bantayan, Negros, Mactan, Panglao and Mindanao.
Cities and resorts for young people : Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Bantayan, Luzon, Baguio, and Beguito.
Where to vacation in the Philippines for excursionists: Manila, Cebu and Bohol.
Resorts for older tourists: Boracay, Cebu, Mindoro, Bantayan, Negros and Mindanao.
Kayangan Lake, Coron, Philippines (Photo: unsplash.com / @carlaforniagirl)
When is the best time to vacation in the Philippines
The Philippines is warm all year round. Most of the country has an equatorial climate and the north has a subequatorial climate. The weather is strongly influenced by monsoons, so there are two seasons – dry and rainy.
In the middle of spring the humidity increases, and it is time of tropical rains. During the summer months, temperatures are high and the resorts are stuffy. The heat peaks in July and August. Sometimes downpours lead to floods and mudslides, and in some years typhoons pass through the islands. Because of natural disasters in many areas, transport stops.
On vacation in the Philippines is best to go from November to April. During these months, the sun is not as aggressive as in summer. The temperature does not rise above +25. +30°С. During the dry season, there are no strong storms, it usually rains at night, and the water in the sea is heated to a comfortable +24. +28°С.