When travelers talk about visiting the Philippines, they could be describing any one of the over 7,000 islands that make up the Republic of the Philippines. The island destination is one of the biggest archipelagos in the world, and it's mostly known for its beaches (and cheap and tasty Filipino food).
Of course, there's always more to a place than what makes it into the travel brochure. Here we'll cover the eleven things tourists should plan their trip around when heading to any place in the Philippines.
Visit The National Museum Of The Philippines, Casa Manila, And Fort Santiago
Yes, these are all historic places, and we're making that recommendation on purpose. The Philippines is such a unique and culturally rich place that it's worth delving into the country's background. By checking out the National Museum (which features art, science, and history exhibits) and Fort Santiago (a citadel featuring memorials to a local hero), you'll see more than just cheap Asian food and Instagram backdrops (we hope).
Aim For The Dry Season In Manila And Beyond
According to Audley Travel, there's ideal weather (read: non-typhoon climate) between November and April. That's when the country is driest. But that also means lots of tourists, which can be a drag. Around December to February is also when the weather is coolest, and that seems to be the sweet spot for travelers.
Center Your Travels In Manila, The Country's Capital
Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is arguably the most popular place for travelers. It's right on the ocean, has colonial influences that are still visible, and has a ton of places to explore. Plus, a five-star hotel in this area averages just over $100 per night!
Stay At The Manila Hotel
The Manila Hotel has over 5,000 excellent reviews on Google, and it averages under $80 per night. There's a pool and spa, and the location can't be beat. You'll also be near spots like Manila Ocean Park and Rizal Park (more on those later).
Eat Adobo At Least Once (With A Side Of Rice, Obvs)
Chicken (or other meat) adobo is a famous food in the Philippines. Adobo just means "marinade" in Spanish, and it's usually vinegar and soy sauce. Rice is also a top side dish in the Philippines, and you'll see it everywhere (and usually for pretty cheap).
But some other Filipino foods aren't exactly "normal" for the average vacationer. For example, balut, which is a hard-boiled duck egg where the contents of the egg are more mature than average. But Filipinos swear by this nutrient-rich treat, and kids there even love it.
To get your mind of that, we'll mention the top dessert in the Philippines: halo-halo. The word means "mix" in Tagalog, says Atlas Obscura, and it's a blend of sweetened ingredients like beans, coconut, and fruit, plus crushed ice, evaporated milk, and just about anything else you want to put in it.
Get Around Manila A Lot Like You Would In The States
Like other tourist destinations, Uber has caught on in Manila. However, the city also has Grab Taxi, which is similar to Uber though less familiar to international travelers. They do have an app, though! For a lot of destinations, you can simply walk, which lets you linger over historical and cultural happenings.
If you want to visit anywhere else on the archipelago, however, you'll need to hop on a ferry to head across to other islands. Jeepney rides are also common, though not air-conditioned and decidedly less comfortable than a car with only a few passengers.
Enjoy The Sights In Manila: Rizal Park And Manila Ocean Park, For Starters
Conveniently located near the coast in Manila is Rizal Park, a huge public park where you can snap your Insta photos, stretch your legs, and attend public events when they occur. The site is a Spanish colonial relic, and it had a significant role in the history of the country. In fact, the park is named after Filipino patriot José Rizal, which spurred the revolution against Spain, summarizes TripAdvisor.
Also nearby is Manila Ocean Park, an aquarium with live shows and displays on marine life. It's right behind the grandstand at Rizal Park, making these two spots must-do attractions.
The Baywalk is another spot where you can walk and enjoy the sights, including the sunset over the water in Manila Bay.
Budget For Cheap Meals And Stretch Your US Dollars
In the Philippines, you'll need to pay for most transactions with Philippine pesos. They're colorful and easy to figure out, as the smaller denominations aren't used much. Currently, one Philippine peso is worth two cents in USD. In some places, you can use US dollars, but it's not too common.
Not sure how much cash to bring? Investopedia says a meal at a restaurant costs around $3USD, while a bottle of water (you shouldn't drink from the tap) costs around 36 US cents. You'll likely spend the most on transportation, but Investopedia says folks living in the country on a US income can expect to spend around $40 per month on transport. Not too bad!
Get A Cheap Flight In September (If You Dare)
There's a reason why flights are cheap in September, though Kayak only says that fares will be low, not that you might wind up in the middle of a typhoon. To clarify, "typhoon season" is generally said to be June through November. Therefore, travel during the cheapest months at your own risk! Also, if you do visit in typhoon season, maybe skip Manila. The flooding is worse there, and the sewer tends to back up...
Be Kind To Friendly Locals (And Don't Make Assumptions)
As blogger I Am Aileen writes of her native country, Filipinos (or Pinoys) are proud but also friendly. Despite countries like Spain and the US colonizing the Philippines for so long, Filipinos are often overly friendly toward Americans. Though, as Aileen notes, they may also find unexpected upcharges on their tabs at restaurants and elsewhere.
The key is being respectful, such as not assuming things about the people you meet, and not pitying them for being "poor." As Aileen writes, Filipino people are some of the happiest in the world, and your efforts to talk to them and appreciate their country will go a long way. Plus, it's pretty easy to communicate as many Filipinos speak English (it's the major language in the Philippines, apart from Tagalog or Filipino, which is a standardized form of Tagalog).
Visit All The Beaches Around Manila
You're on an archipelago, so you should act like it. And in Manila, there's no shortage of great beaches to explore (and sunbathe on). You'll find Patar White Beach, Burot Beach, Borawan, Nagsasa, and Laiya all near Manila, explains Philippine Tourism USA.