Backpacking In The Philippines

in Asia,Philippines

philippine roadThe Philippines isn’t often the first place people think of when it comes to backpacking, especially since it’s so close to other much more popular backpacking destinations such as Thailand and Australia. There are over 4,000 Philippines islands, most of them accessible via low fare carriers from Manila, which is where most travelers arrive. This unappreciated destination isn’t yet full of tourists, has an extremely wide range of terrains and climates, and beaches that will rival most others around the world.

Visa Requirements

American, European, Australian, and New Zealand tourists don’t require visas if the stay is 21 days or less. Beyond that you’ll need to have a visa to stay in the Philippines. The easiest way to get an extension or arrive with a longer term is to contact the embassy, tell them your travel plans, and prove you have a return ticket out. Generally this isn’t a problem for most citizens of the countries listed above.

Hostels and Places To Stay

Finding inexpensive hostels and hostels across the Philippines is relatively easy and the best part is that most are exceptionally well maintained. You’ll pay a bit more in parts of Manila and Makati, as well as during the tourist seasons in the resort islands. Your best bet is to visit right before the rainy season (around early May) which is when most tourists head home. You’ll get better rates, less crowded hostels, and get to see more of the local culture.

Here are some good places to stay in Manila and Boracay, two popular destinations within the Philippines for backpackers via Hostelbookers.



Getting Around The Philippines

Inside most cities, including Manila and Makati, the easiest way to get around is on the back of a “jeepney“. These colorful open jeeps are modified transportation vehicles left over from the US military. They’re everywhere and it’s the primary way, other than walking, that the locals get around. Simply hop on and off and pay based on where you’re going. The rates very but are very reasonable. The common way of paying, especially if you hop on at the back of a full jeepney is to pass your change to the person in front of you who then passes it up along the line to the driver. You’ll get any change due back this way as well.

Transportation To The Other Islands

There are several low fare carriers operating in the Philippines, including Asian Air, which fly Manila and to and from most of the Philippine islands. The cost is generally $100 or much less. Typically flights come in and out of the larger islands and if you’ll be going to most places like Boaracay that are smaller, the second leg of the journey will be by small boat. These long wooden boats are used to shuttle people back and forth many of the closer Philippine islands although you may have to wade a bit to get out to them. For this reason it’s best to bring a backpack you can carry overhead so it doesn’t get wet.

Climate and Weather

The Philippines are mostly tropical meaning the climate is warm and humid during most parts of the year. There is also a rainy season that begins in May and last through September but can also linger into November. You won’t need heavy clothes if you’re coming here and it’s best to bring light reflective gear. Your backpack should also be good at transporting sweat away from your back, that will make your time in the Philippines (and other warm places) much more comfortable. The Osprey Atmos 50L is a good choice.

philippine ocean cebu philippines

Things To Do

  • See Intramuros – The old Spanish settlement from colonial times, much of it is still intact and the entry fees are nominal.
  • St. Agustin Church – One of the oldest in Manila, St. Agustin has an elaborate interior and beautiful gardens.
  • Head to the Other Islands – Boracay, Banaue (2,500 year old rice fields), and several thousand more. The terrains, cultures, and climates vary among the islands so look through them – you’ll find it difficult not to be surprised by the selection.
  • Scuba Diving – The Philippine islands, in particular the smaller ones around Boracay, are famous for their snorkeling and scuba diving. You can take lessons, become certified, and see a wide range of exotic sea life.
  • Exotic Food – Balut, the unfertilized duck still inside the shell, is one of many unusual Philippine delicacies.

Recommended Gear

It’s warm and humid in most of the Philippine islands, which is more true the further north you are. A good backpacks that breathes well against your back to prevent excessive sweating is recommended.

Backpacking The Region

If you’re considering a regional backpacking trip try combing the Philippines with:

| Thailand | Australia | New Zealand |

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