ultimate guide to the philippines

Discover the treasures of the Philippines for yourself! What are the best tourist spots in the Philippines and what other destinations are a must-visit? When is the best time to go and what can you do for 2 weeks? With over 7000 Philippine islands, which are the best ones to visit? Read on for an introduction to traveling around the Philippines. 

There are so many beautiful, postcard-worthy white sand beaches and islands all over the Philippines, complete with crystal clear waters and a rich and diverse marine life that it can be difficult to decide where to travel in the country. Tourists who love swimming would find it hard to leave, as diving and surfing spots are world-class here. The Philippines beaches are among the best in the world as well, whether it's white sand, black volcanic sand, or even pink sand in some places. 

Aside from its famed island and beach destinations, the country offers other wonders too like mountain hiking and trekking tours with stunning views of a sea of clouds, trips to majestic waterfalls and sightseeing tours to man-made rice terraces, centuries-old historical landmarks, and architecture, unique and colorful festivals that showcase the locals' culture, and the most unique Filipino dishes that will get you craving for more. 



If you're traveling to the Philippines this year, check out this ultimate guide to Philippine travel to plan your trip. 

CONTENTS
 

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila, the Philippine capital, is located in Luzon, which also includes other big islands/island groups like Palawan, Batanes, and Mindoro, among others.



Visayas in the central part of the Philippines is where you can find Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Iloilo, and Siquijor.



Mindanao, in the southern part of the Philippines, is where you can find Davao as well as the islands of Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, and the Sulu Archipelago, to name a few.



Given the number and variety of things to do here, filling your itinerary for a week or so when traveling in the Philippines won’t be a problem. In fact, you need to prioritize to ensure you maximize your Philippine travel.

Arriving at Manila Airport: What You Need to Know           

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Like any metropolitan city, Manila can be confusing for first-time visitors, starting with arriving at the airport. It doesn’t help that the Manila international airport, officially known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), has four terminals, none of which are connected by a subway system like other countries. However, there are now Point-to-Point (P2P) buses that you can board to transfer airports or you can book a taxi or Grab car via the Grab App (like Uber)  if you have connecting flights. Here's a rundown of these four airport terminals:

NAIA Terminal 1

Serves all the international flights from and to Manila except for the ones operated by airlines in NAIA Terminal 2 and NAIA Terminal 3.

NAIA Terminal 2

Operates the domestic and international flights of the flag carriers of the country, the Philippine Airlines and the PAL Express. This terminal is also known as the Centennial Terminal to commemorate the centennial declaration of the Philippine independence.

NAIA Terminal 3

Caters to international flights operated by Cathay Pacific Air, AirAsia, Emirates Airline, Cebu Pacific Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta Air Lines, All Nippon Air, and Singapore Airlines, as well as all domestic flights of Cebu Pacific Air. It has a transit lounge (airport hotel) and a massage place.

NAIA Terminal 4

Hosts domestic flights from CebGo, AirSwift, and SkyJet. Some AirAsia flights depart from here as well, so check your tickets closely. 

Outside Manila: Clark International Airport

It takes two to three hours to travel from Manila to Clark. The fastest way is through the Premium P2P Bus Service. One station is at NAIA Terminal 3 (Pasay City, Php 350, one way) while another is at North EDSA MRT Station / Trinoma (Quezon City, Php 200-250, one way).



philippine peso

Currency Exchange and ATMs

In all airport terminals, there are money changers open 24/7 in both the arrivals and departure areas. There are ATMs as well that accept foreign-issued cards though a fee will be charged by both the ATM and your bank.

Free SIM Card

Once you arrive in Manila airports, take advantage of the free SIM cards given by the major telecommunications companies in the Philippines: Globe and Smart. You can top up your credit in convenience stores like 7-Eleven all over the country.

Transportation to and from the Manila airports

All Manila airports have taxi stands. You can get a coupon taxi (white) that’s dispatched by airport personnel and charged a fixed price, or a yellow taxi that’s metered. Both are more expensive than regular white taxis but relatively safer to use.

There are also shuttle buses that will take you to the nearest metro station (fare is at Php 20). However, if it’s your first time in the Philippines, taking this route is not as comfortable as taking either an airport taxi or booking an accredited taxi/cab, private car, or carpool through the Grab App or Owto App, as there are only three metro lines and most likely none of those would be near your hotel. Your best option when going to your hotel from the Manila airports is to book through those apps for an airport pick-up service.

How to Get Around the Philippines      

jeepney philippines

The primary way of going around the Philippines is by buses, planes, ships, and ferries. Boat rides are great for short distances; for everywhere else, flights are recommended.

Depending on when you visit, you can find a lot of cheap flights in the Philippines. In fact, sometimes it’s cheaper to book a flight than a ferry. The biggest flight carriers are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and AirAsia

Within small towns and cities, the primary mode of transportation is by bus, jeepney, or tricycle (like Thailand’s tuktuk or India’s auto-rickshaw, but smaller). In addition, major cities would have taxi cabs and the Grab app. Only Manila has the metro system. 

Hotels in the Philippines (and Other Accommodation Options)            

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to GoIt is not hard to find nice hotels in the Philippines. In tourist destinations, especially, you would find a variety of options, from 1- to 5-star hotels, ranging in price from Php 2,000 per night to up to over Php 50,000 for luxury resorts. In general, accommodation here is more expensive than in other Southeast Asian countries.

For budget travelers, there are numerous hostels, guesthouses, and homestays all over the country. Hostel dorm beds in major cities cost Php 600 and up, while private rooms start at Php 1500. Note that budget places are less likely to have hot shower available, and in some places, there would be no Wifi.

It's highly recommended to book at least one night in advance especially true in well-known tourist destinations like Boracay, Palawan, and Puerto Galera during peak season (e.g., summer and holidays).

Best Time to Travel to the Philippines   

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

The Philippines has two distinct seasons, wet and dry. Dry season starts from November until June – these months are considered as the best time to travel to most destinations in the Philippines.

Wet season, on the other hand, is from July to October. During this time, an average of nine typhoons hit the Philippines and may cause flooding and landslides in some areas. While not all typhoons make landfall, the heavy rains may still affect your trip so make sure to check weather forecasts. 

Note, though, that it doesn’t rain every day, nor does it rain the whole day during wet season, unless there is a typhoon. It's still best to check weather forecasts for your Philippine destinations when planning a trip. Weather-wise, here’s what you can expect when traveling in the Philippines and where to go.

January to March | Ideal Months to Travel in the Philippines

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

January to March are usually the ideal months to travel to the Philippines. Even if there are bigger chances of precipitation, these are the months of the year when the temperature is cooler. The month of March also signals the upcoming festivals and the long weekend of Holy Week (Easter).

These months also highlight some of the biggest and grandest festivities:

  • The province of Aklan commemorates the Ati-Atihan Festival in the second week of January.
  • The highly anticipated annual Sinulog Festival of Cebu is celebrated every third Sunday of January.
  • Millions of devotees gather in Quiapo, Manila to join the procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9.
  • The Summer Capital, Baguio City, parades beautifully-adorned floats with flowers during the Panagbenga Festival in February. Check Baguio City tours here. 
  • There are weeklong religious activities during Holy Week (Easter) in March all over the country, but more specifically in Pampanga. Check Pampanga tours here.

April to June | Summer in the Philippines

philippines boracay

During this time, the temperature and humidity levels are highest. These are the months when a lot of beach resorts are fully booked, the rates are high, and most tourist spots in the Philippines, especially the beaches, are full of visitors.

Keep in mind that the sun is the strongest from April to June, too, so precautions are needed when spending most of the time under the sun. Lather sunblock every two hours to avoid sunburn. During the Holy Week, tourists go to the following popular summer destinations:



If going on island hopping tours in the Philippines is not your cup of tea, there are also other places to visit and explore.

  • Watch the Moriones Festival in Marinduque and how the people in Pampanga celebrate the season during Holy Week. Learn more about Pampanga in this guide.
  • Taste the freshest catch in Dagupan City during Bangus Festival every April.
  • Head to Quezon Province and witness the colorful Pahiyas Festival, a thanksgiving (and very colorful) festival held every 15th of May.
  • Witness the festivities and watch the beautiful women of the country all dressed up during Flores De Mayo.
  • Take part during the different pistang bayan (town fiestas) in the provinces of Batangas and Bulacan.
  • In June, take part in the combined Pintados-Kasadyaan festivals of Tacloban City that includes the sailboat race, Subiran Regatta, and the religious rite Balyuan.
  • Join the nationwide celebration of the feast day of St. John the Baptist where everyone gets doused with water on June 24th. It’s officially called the Wattah Wattah Festival or Basaan Festival in Filipino.

July to October | Rainy Season in the Philippines  

Masskara Festival BacolodColorful masks at Masskara Festival in Bacolod.

The volume of rainfall increases from July to August. These months are considered the wettest months although it does not necessarily mean that it will rain all day long.

When typhoons hit, the majority of the islands in the country are affected, making trips around the country (depending on where the typhoon hits) a little difficult. Expect flight delays and even cancellations in some cases.

Flights to different islands and beach resorts are cheaper during these months. To avoid the heavy rains, head to the islands and join a Cebu tour, a Bohol tour, or a Siargao tour instead. Go to the beach, enjoy a food trip, or visit museums and historical places. Here are some other things to do in the Philippines on these months:



Note that for Filipinos, Christmas season starts as early as September. Some establishments would even start to decorate their stores with Christmas ornaments as early as September 1st. 

November to December | Holiday Season in the Philippines     

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

The lights and sound show during Christmas season in Makati at Ayala Triangle Gardens

November marks not only the beginning of the dry season but also the start of the long holiday celebration in the Philippines. These are the best months to visit the Philippine cities because of the night markets, light and sound shows, and Christmas bazaars.

November to December are the best months to complete your holiday shopping as well, as most malls are on sale. However, there are other things you can do too:

  • Watch the Higantes Festival (giant paper effigies) in Rizal.
  • Appreciate a grand Christmas experience in San Fernando, Pampanga and its Giant Lantern Festival.
  • Enjoy the cold weather and admire the views of Banaue Rice Terraces while sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee in Benguet. Learn more about Benguet in this guide.

Choosing the best time to visit the Philippines depends on what kind of activity you want to do. Come at different times to appreciate everything the country has to offer.

Must-Visit Tourist Spots in the Philippines  

philippines quiapo church

With over 7000 islands, you will definitely need to prioritize when deciding on the places to visit in the Philippines. Much depends, of course, on how long you will have in the country and what you are interested in doing.  Here are some of the most popular destinations in the country.

Manila | The Capital of the Philippines

Many visitors skip Manila and only go here as a jump-off point for their forward destination in the country. Like any metropolis, it’s big and overpopulated.

However, this bustling city is worth exploring for at least a day or two. It has a number of attractions that would appeal especially to tourists who are interested in history and culture tours.

It has, for example, the old Spanish fortress in Intramuros that provides you with a glimpse of what the city used to be under over three centuries of Spanish rule. Nowhere is the Spanish influence seen more clearly than in the Walled City, from the cobbled streets to the restored houses.


  • Check availability of Manila tours to explore these attractions

Highlights are the old churches of San Agustin, built in 1587, and the Manila Cathedral, originally built in 1571 and governed by the Archdiocese of Mexico. Outside Intramuros, there’s also historic Quiapo Church, whose annual Feast of the Black Nazarene every January attracts millions of devotees.

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

You can also have a food tour in Binondo, one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world. Want to sit by the bay and have a beer? You can watch one of the best sunsets in the Philippines along the Manila Bay at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex.

When booking a hotel, choose the ones in Makati (the business district) or Taguig. Both of these destinations have plush hotels, high-end shopping malls, and a variety of bars and restaurants that offer a range of local and international cuisines.



Palawan | Gateway to the Best Islands in the Philippines

philippines palawan

Palawan definitely deserves its title as one of the world’s most beautiful islands and one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. You will see it for yourself once you go island hopping; you’ll see beautiful powdery, white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, towering limestones, hidden lagoons, and even a safari. Check the availability of Palawan tours to explore these natural wonders. 



Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, is often the first place that travelers go to, as it has frequent and affordable flights to and from Manila and Cebu. The city is the jump-off point for island hopping tours to Honda Bay, the UNESCO Heritage site Underground River, the Iwahig Firefly Tour, and several Palawan destinations like El Nido and San Vicente.



Coron is another very popular tourist destination in Palawan. There are direct flights and boats from Manila to Coron (via Busuanga Airport, an hour from Coron town proper), which makes it a possible first destination for the Palawan leg of your Philippine itinerary.



If you’re into water activities, Coron is the getaway you might be looking for. It is best known for wreck diving and snorkeling, island hopping to hidden lagoons surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, and the iconic Kayangan Lake. Google Coron, Palawan and the first photo you'll see is of the view going to the freshwater lake.



Kayangan LakeDiving into the clear waters of Kayangan Lake.

Coron is the best place for wreck diving as there are a handful of sunken ships hidden beneath its waters, some of which are big enough to be explored inside, while some are shallow enough to be seen by snorkelers. Not a certified diver? No worries, as the dive shops in Coron have Discover Scuba activities too, for non-divers. 

El Nido is another well-known destination in Palawan. The town has transformed over the years, from one that doesn’t even have an ATM and 24-hour electricity into a tourist hub.



There are regular island hopping tours in El Nido that take you to various islands and beaches such as the Hidden Beach, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Hidden Lagoon, Paradise Beach, and Natnat Beach, among others.

When visiting El Nido, you can choose from tour A, tour B, tour  C, or tour D during your visit, as operators offer very similar prices. You also have the option to rent a boat with a guide and boatman to customize your trip. Alternatively, you can also book your El Nido tours online for convenience.



Boracay Island | Tropical Paradise

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Boracay became a popular destination for both local and foreign tourists because of its fine, white sandy beaches, its combination of a party and family-friendly atmosphere, its many accommodations across budgets, and several Boracay tours and activities from beach bumming to snorkeling and parasailing.

Watching sunsets may be cliché to some, but the sunset in Boracay is definitely one of the best you’ll see in the country. The silhouette of sailboats, the shadows of people walking along the shore, and the sky turning from blue to a fiery red and into a faint orange is an image you won’t quickly forget.

Most accommodations in Boracay are in the beaches called Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3. However, you can easily visit the other beaches there during your stay.

Puka Beach, for example, may not have sand as fine as in Station 1, but if you go early enough, you can avoid the crowds and have a relaxing hour or two by the beach.

Bulabog Beach is becoming a popular destination for kitesurfers. The winds here are strong enough for those who want to try something new or want to improve their skill. There are a number of shops offering lessons and provide rental gear, too.

You’ll have plenty of options in Boracay when it comes to food, as there are markets, budget restaurants, Western food, buffets, and bars that cater to different kinds of tastes. There are fun activities like Boracay pubcrawls too! Indeed, Boracay is the destination to be if you want a bit of everything in one place.



Cebu | Islands, Diving, Historical Sites, and More

magellans cross

The province of Cebu is another popular place to visit for both locals and foreigners alike because of the range of natural, historical, and cultural attractions it offers. 

Bantayan Island and Malapascua Island in the north are famous beach destinations in Cebu because of their pristine beaches and sky blue waters. Visitors usually combine a trip to these two destinations.



Malapascua is best known for its thresher sharks. It's the only place in the world where they can be consistently seen almost every day. Read our article on the Top Things to Do in Malapascua

Bantayan Island, on the other hand, is more for beach bumming and snorkeling. It has a healthy coral garden you can explore and long coastline of white sandy beaches. Both islands provide a laid back atmosphere if you want to just spend the whole day relaxing. Check out our article on the Top Tourist Spots in Bantayan Island

Make sure to go to the south of Cebu as well and include Moalboal in your Philippine itinerary. This is where you should be if you want to experience the famous sardine run. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of sardines swimming beneath you (or above you if you choose to dive) is definitely an experience unique to Cebu.

Another activity to consider during your visit to Cebu is canyoneering. It is an adrenaline-pumping activity where you jump into a pool of water from around 25 meters high. You’ll also get to trek and enjoy some moderate hiking activities and take the plunge at the azure waters of Kawasan Falls. 



Other places of interest in Cebu province include Osmeña Peak, Tumalog Falls, Tingko Beach, Lambug Beach, and Basdaku Beach just to name a few.



Cebu City, the capital of Cebu province, is cosmopolitan and developed. You can go on historical tours that will take you to sites like Magellan’s Cross, as well as old churches and museums, among others.

There is a variety of restaurants offering local and international food, too. If you’re a meat-eater, never miss the famous lechon (suckling pig) that Anthony Bourdain called “the best pig ever.” There are countless bars and shopping malls for entertainment as well.

The Queen City of the South has the second busiest airport in the Philippines located in Mactan, flying to 25 domestic and 22 international destinations. From here, the best beaches in Cebu are easily accessible by private transportation and public buses. 



You also have several options when it comes to accommodation, whether you want to splurge or stick to a tight budget.

Bohol | Countryside and Island Tours

Chocolate Hills in Bohol PhilippinesChocolate Hills, Bohol.

This province neighboring Cebu is another must to include in your Philippine itinerary. You can do a countryside day tour of Bohol from Cebu, but why stay only one day in one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Philippines?

Bohol has many beaches and activities for those who want to see more of the region. Panglao Island is your likely base as it offers many beachside accommodations and restaurants.

Start your trip with an island hopping tour in Bohol that operators offer visitors in Alona Beach in Panglao. The trip often includes stops in Balicasag Island (perfect for snorkeling and diving) and Virgin Island.



If you prefer beach hopping, you’ll have plenty of options which include the beaches of Alona, Momo, Dumaluan, Bolod, Quinale, and Doljo, to name a few.

A trip to Bohol is incomplete without visiting the attraction that brought it fame, the Chocolate Hills. These green hills that turn brown during the summer months will remind you of Hershey’s Kisses, hence the name. The viewpoint was affected by the major earthquake in 2015, but it has since been restored.



Another must-see is the tarsier, a tiny primate (around 3.5 to 6 inches long) with huge eyes that can be found only in Southeast Asia. There are sanctuaries in Bohol where you can see these tiny and cute creatures (do not hold or touch them, though).



While in Bohol, do go on the Loboc River Cruise. It provides you with a relaxing and scenic way to see the countryside. Loboc River tours have one meal included (either lunch or dinner) plus a cultural performance.

Bohol also has relics of Spanish colonial times; you’ll see a number of old churches that provide you with a glimpse of the province’s historical and cultural heritage. While some of these churches were completely destroyed during the 2015 earthquake, most of them have been restored already, including Baclayon Church.

These destinations are only some of the best places to visit in the Philippines. The country has plenty more to offer tourists with various budgets and preferences for their trip. 



What to Eat in the Philippines: 12 Must-Try Filipino Foods            

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Filipino food is one of the most underrated in Asia. Most foreign visitors know what to expect from Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese food, but are totally clueless about Filipino dishes. 

Filipino cuisine is actually one of the most diverse in the world. Because of its colonial past, it has influences from the west as much as it has oriental roots.

Note though, that the cuisine is meat-heavy, and vegetarian or vegan tourists traveling outside major cities may find it hard to look for restaurants that provide vegetarian or vegan options.

If you are a first time visitor in the Philippines and you don’t have any idea what Filipino food to try, here are some of the best food in the Philippines that you should try in your culinary and food tours.

1. Adobo

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Adobo is a popular Filipino dish and a cooking process in Filipino cuisine. It involves meat or seafood cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper. Some regions have their own version by adding more ingredients but the base flavor remains the same.

The name adobo was given by the Spanish due to the similarity to adobo or adobar, a cooking practice that also uses vinegar and soy sauce indigenous to Iberia. It is considered as the unofficial national dish of the Philippines due to its popularity across all regions.

2. Sisig

Sisig is a favorite pulutan (hors-d'oeuvres) accompanied by a local beer. The dish is made of chopped parts of a pig’s head and liver. Onions, chopped chili peppers, eggs, and calamansi are added. It is normally served in sizzling plates.

This appetizing dish originated from Pampanga, the culinary capital of the Philippines. Hundreds of sisig variations are available today such as tuna, squid, tuna, milkfish, and mussels. If you are looking for a vegetarian version of Sisig, some restaurants serve mushroom and tofu sisig.



3. Lechon 

A Filipino party is not complete without the center of the party, lechon. Lechon is a suckling pig roasted to perfection. The whole pig is skewered on a large bamboo stick and spit-roasted over burning charcoal.

The pig is roasted for hours with occasional basting and is served with a local sauce. One of the most famous foods in the Philippines, lechon is a must-try for anyone coming to the country. The best lechon in the Philippines are from Cebu, read our Ultimate Travel Guide to Cebu to learn more.  

4. Sinigang

Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew characterized by its sour and savory broth. A classic Filipino dish, sinigang is the dish Filipino kids ask their moms for if they are sick. The sour taste is from the use of tamarind to flavor the broth.

This traditional food in the Philippines has evolved so much that several alternatives for tamarind are being used these days. It includes guava, mango, kamias, santol, and even watermelon.

5. Caldereta

Caldereta is another classic Filipino dish and stew. This savory dish is cooked originally using goat meat but beef, chicken or pork can also be used these days.

Tomato sauce, liver spread, vegetables, bell peppers, and cheese are added to the meat. The name of the dish is derived from the Spanish word caldera or cauldron in English. 

6. Crispy Pata

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Crispy pata or pork knuckles is a famous Filipino pork dish and among the favorites in Filipino family dinners.

This dish is made by boiling the entire pork knuckles with seasonings for 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender. It is then frozen overnight with another batch of seasonings and then fried until the skin is crispy. 

7. Chicken Inasal

Chicken inasal is grilled chicken marinated in vinegar, calamansi, and annatto oil. This delicious dish came from Bacolod and popularized by several restaurant chains around the Philippines. Check out our Ultimate Travel Guide to Bacolod to find out where you can taste the best chicken inasal in the Philippines. 



8. Dinuguan

The name dinuguan derives from the word “dugo” or blood, hence the word dinuguan means “to be stewed with blood.” It is made of pig’s blood and offal.

Dinuguan is similar to the Irish black pudding except that it is a stew instead of sausage. Aside from being eaten with rice, Filipinos also pair it with puto (steamed rice cake).

9. Fish Kinilaw

Fish kinilaw is the ceviche of the Philippines. Made of raw fish, this appetizing dish is denatured using vinegar as a primary ingredient. Onions, ginger, chili peppers, black peppers, and calamansi are added for the flavoring.

Popular fish used for kinilaw includes yellowfin tuna, mackerels, and marlins. 

10. Halo-Halo

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Halo-halo is a Filipino favorite snack. This cold snack and dessert consists of crushed ice, evaporated milk, and various ingredients such as beans, jellies, tapioca pearls, mixed fruits, leche flan, purple yam, and even ice cream.

Halo-halo is extremely popular especially during summer months to stave off the heat. You can find a lot of food stands selling halo-halo in the neighborhood. Read our Ultimate Travel Guide to Pampanga to find out where you can taste one of the best halo-halo in the Philippines. 

11. Taho

Taho (soy pudding) is a popular street food in the Philippines. This healthy snack is made of soft tofu, caramelized brown sugar, and tapioca pearls. It is a comfort food that you can buy from street peddlers anywhere in the country.

12. Balut

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

As a foreigner, you might have heard of balut from your adventurous friends who keep telling you that you have never been to the Philippines if you haven’t tried it.

Balut is a boiled fertilized duck embryo that is eaten from a shell. Don’t let it scare you, though; balut tastes like an ordinary egg with tasty soup.



Suggested 2-Week Itinerary in the Philippines              

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Creating an itinerary for the Philippines is somewhat daunting, especially for a first-time visitor. This 2-week itinerary in the Philippines will give you an idea on how to maximize your time in the country.

Day 1: Manila

Don’t spend more than a day in Manila if you only have 2 weeks in the Philippines. Although Manila is interesting, the fun starts outside of it. If you're spending more time in the capital of the Philippines, check out our Ultimate Travel Guide to Manila

Things to do in Manila for 1 day:

  • Visit Intramuros in the city of Manila. It used to be the center of government during the Spanish times.

  • Walk to Rizal Park. It’s a favorite leisure spot of the locals.

  • Watch the Manila Bay sunset along Roxas Boulevard. You can walk there from Rizal Park or take a cab to Harbor Square in the Cultural Center of the Philippines where you can have a drink and then dinner.


Day 2-3: Banaue 

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Banaue is famous for its iconic rice terraces. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and often called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Located at around 1500 meters above sea level, it uses an ancient irrigation system where water comes from the rainforest above it. 

Things to do in Banaue for 2 days:

  • Walk around the rice terraces.

  • Check out the local village and watch an Ifugao cultural show (ask your hotel about this).

  • Trek to Batad and check out Tappiya Waterfalls. Depending on when you go, you can swim there, too.

Take an evening bus going back to Manila from Banaue so you can arrive early the following day. 



Day 4: El Nido via Manila 

If you have time to explore Manila before your flight, head to Makati where you can explore shopping malls or parks, and treat yourself to a good meal or a bit of shopping. Make sure to withdraw enough cash for El Nido, Palawan.



The ATMs in El Nido are always out of cash. A lot of places don’t accept credit cards yet so you might want to plan ahead just in case.

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Day 5-7: El Nido, Palawan

Most travelers go to El Nido by flying to Puerto Princesa and then traveling by land for 5-6 hours to El Nido. To save time and if you have the budget, flying direct from Manila to El Nido is a good option. Only AirSwift flies directly there. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and AirAsia have daily flights to Puerto Princesa.

Things to do in El Nido for 3 days:

  • Join an island hopping tour. You will have a choice of 4 tours – Tour ATour B, Tour C, and Tour D. Each tour has a different itinerary so it’s up to you to select which sites you would like to visit. All tours start at 9am and end at 5:30pm. You can allot 1 tour a day.

  • Enjoy the food and dinner at El Nido Boutique and Art Café.

  • Drink a cocktail and watch the sunset of El Nido in Las Cabanas.



Day 8-9: Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Puerto Princesa is the capital of Palawan. It is home to the UNESCO Heritage site and the “New 7 Wonders of Nature,” the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Leave early for Puerto Princesa from El Nido on Day 8 since travel time is around 5-6 hours.

Things to do in Puerto Princesa in 1 day:

  • When you arrive, you can hire a tricycle or a tour van to take you around the tourist spots in Puerto Princesa for 2-3 hours.

  • Book a tour of the underground river for Day 9 (you should book this in advance). The whole tour will take 5-6 hours.



Day 10-12: Bohol

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

You can’t fly directly to Bohol from Puerto Princesa but you can fly to Cebu and then take a ferry to Tagbilaran. The flight takes about an hour while the fast ferry takes about 2 hours.

There are several fast ferries traveling between Cebu and Bohol so you shouldn’t have any problem finding transport that goes to Bohol.

No advance booking is necessary. Just go to the ferry terminal in Pier 4 North Reclamation Area.

Things to do in Bohol for 2 days:

  • Rent a motorbike and go around the city yourself, or book a Bohol countryside tour for convenience. You can visit the majority of Bohol attractions by driving towards the mainland from Panglao Island. Check out Baclayon Church, Blood Compact Shrine, Bilar Man-Made Forest, Loboc River, and the Chocolate Hills.

  • Hang out at Alona Beach in Panglao. There are several bars and restaurants there if you need a break from beach bumming. 

  • For more adventurous activities, go to Danao Adventure Park where you can take the Plunge (canyon drop) as well as other activities.

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Day 12-14: Cebu

On Day 12, you can take a ferry to Cebu from Bohol. There are several trips during the day and you won’t need to book your ticket in advance. Just go to the pier in Tagbilaran and book the next trip.

Things to do in Cebu for 2 days:

  • When you arrive, go around Cebu City and check out its tourist spots, which include the Magellan’s Cross, and Basilica del Santo Niño.

  • Alternatively, you can go directly to Moalboal, around 2 hours from the city, where you can go island hopping and snorkeling to swim with the sardines.

  • From Moalboal, head to Alegria and Badian for canyoneering and the Kawasan Falls in one for convenience.



There are several flights from Cebu to Manila, so going back to Manila on Day 14 won’t be a problem. Just make sure to check your flights and allot extra time for delays so you won’t miss your flight out of the country!

FAQs on Philippine Travel

Your Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide 2019 | What to Do and Where to Go

Now that you know which destinations you should add to your trip to the Philippines, take note of these helpful tips: 

Is it safe to visit the Philippines?

Generally, yes. However, there are some areas in Mindanao that are best avoided by foreign tourists due to the political instability in the region. 

What are the Philippine citizens called?

We are called Filipinos (not Philippinos).

What languages are spoken in the Philippines?

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. This makes it easier for tourists to get around since English is widely understood and spoken. While Spanish was the country's official language in the 19th and early 20th centuries, only a very small percentage of the population speak or understand it now. A lot of words, however, derive its origin from Spanish. All over the Philippines, around 180 languages (and dialects) are spoken, 12 of which are used by at least one million people.

Do I need a visa to visit the Philippines? 

Passports holders from any country EXCEPT THE FOLLOWING either don't need a visa or can pay for a visa on arrival: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan (have to apply for an ETA online), Timor-Leste, Tonga, Ukraine, and Yemen. If unsure, double-check with your embassy.

Is Wifi widely available all over the country? 

Most hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in major cities would have Wifi connectivity, but the quality of the connection varies widely, depending on location. You can use data but note that in a lot of islands, the signal can be weak to nonexistent. 

Can I use my credit card? 

Cash is still king in the Philippines. You can use credit cards in shopping malls and restaurants in major cities, but once you go out of the major cities, and especially in the islands, credit cards are not usually accepted. So before leaving Manila, make sure to bring cash. A lot of tourist destinations do have ATMs and money changers, but check before you leave.

Discover for yourself what our country has to offer. With so many destinations to travel to, start planning your trip to the Philippines now! Find the best Philippine tours and activities for your trip.