Hand holding coconut in front of the beach

The Philippines

The Philippines goes hand-in-hand with beautiful white sand beaches, postcard landscapes, amazing diving and more. A couple of years ago, this country wasn’t as popular as it is today.

Holding a coconut on the beach

Since 2016, from the election of President Duterte and his war on drug traffic that has brought a lot of international media coverage to major traveler accounts such as Jack Morris (@doyoutravel), Beautiful Destinations (@beautifuldestinations), Christian Leblanc (@lostleblanc) and more sharing their amazing and inspiring photos and videos on Instagram and YouTube, the Philippines has received a lot of attention.

If you are planning a vacation to the Philippines and are looking for more information then you are on the right page! This article will give you an overview of what to expect from this amazing country.

Also, if you are more curious and excited about the Philippines after reading this post, you can check out our travel blogs at the end where we list all our travel guides around the country. Besides, we have also added a FAQ below. Enjoy the read! 😊

Couple holding hands on the beach

First, we’d like to start by mentioning that the Philippines has a special place in our hearts. This is where Put The Suit Away was born. We met in the Philippines in 2015 and our project of travel blog was born a few months later. Previously to Put The Suit Away, Alex had already lived and traveled in the Philippines for 3 years, helping friends and contacts to organizing and planning their trip there.

But enough about our story and let’s get to the practical facts. You can visit our About Us page if you wish to know us better.

Philippines Flag

The Philippines is composed of 7,641 islands that are just waiting for you. While the country has many dialects (Tagalog, Visayan…), everyone can speak English to a certain extent. There is no real language barrier.

Following the latest news coverage like President Duterte’s war on drug traffic or the battle of Marawi in the South against ISIS fighters, many people have been worried about safety in the Philippines. We can guarantee you that the most of the Philippines is perfectly safe to travel. Although, some parts should indeed be avoided.

We have listed them in our FAQ below.

What is the main language of the Philippines?

The Philippines has many dialects. The main ones you will encounter are Tagalog that is spoken in Luzon, the main island of the Philippines where the capital manila is located, and in Palawan. Visayan is spoken mostly on the island of Cebu and surroundings.

But most of the population across the country can speak English, making it very easy for travelers to go around.

What currency is used in the Philippines?

The currency is the Philippine Piso (PHP). On average, 1 USD = 50PHP and 1 EUR = 65 PHP. You can use these references if you need to quickly estimate an amount from Pisos to Dollars or Euros.

For a more accurate rate, you can get the app XE on your phone or visit their website.

Is the Philippines safe to travel?

Despite the press painting a scary portrait of the country, and having lived in the Philippines for four years, we can assure you that it is safe. Like most of the countries, you have to be aware of scams and observe basic precaution rules like not leaving your belongings unattended. Here are a few examples below:

  • Some tourists on a trip to Boracay Island left their bags with their towels on the beach and went for a swim. On their way back, all their belongings were gone. Basic precaution would be to leave most of your belongings in your hotel room or have someone stay on the beach to watch over the bags.
  • One of our friends shared a story with us. After arriving in Banaue from Manila, he realized that his bag that he puts in the bus trunk was missing. It turns out someone took it from the trunk at the bus station in Manila while the bus was getting ready to leave. No one was watching the bags and the trunk doors were open.

While most of the Philippines is safe, some areas in the South should definitely be avoided. This includes the areas of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula. This is where the terrorist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is active and known for kidnappings and frequent clashes with the Filipino Military.

Here is a map with the areas you should avoid in red:

Any scams we should be aware of?

Obviously, be careful of taxi touts at the airports arrivals. They charge a ridiculous price to take you to your destination.

Look for metered taxis posted outside of the airport and you will get a better price.

You can also use the GrabTaxi app. Their prices are aligned with the metered cabs and are sometimes cheaper. You will also get better, cleaner cars and better service. We have used GrabTaxi a lot during our travels in the Philippines and Myanmar.

Another scam you should be aware of is the kids in the street trying to sell you flowers and other objects. They usually work in groups and bump into you all together while emptying your pockets. Alex had the bad luck to experience it. It cost him his phone and almost his wallet.

What diseases can I be exposed to during my trip to the Philippines?

This is probably something you shouldn’t overlook when preparing your trip!

The Philippines being a tropical country, many mosquito-transmitted diseases are present such as Malaria or Dengue. You are also exposed to rabies due to many untreated cats and dogs roaming the streets.

You should consult with your local disease center before your trip to make sure all your vaccines are up to date.

As of today, there is no known vaccines against Dengue or Malaria even though some leads look promising. You can bring with you some medicine such as Malarone to prevent Malaria when traveling in an exposed area.

However, we do not recommend taking it as it causes heavy secondary effects. Best way is to avoid getting bitten by mosquito using insect repellents. We use a brand called “Repel 100” that has proven to be very efficient: we came out of a hike in the mosquito infested area without a single bite.

While this may sound scary to you, there is no way to freak out! We have lived 4 years in the country, traveling in different regions, and we never got infected!

What other precautions should I take?

Aside from mosquito repellent, be careful to not ingest infected water and food. Make sure your food is always cooked and drink bottled water.

Alex got Amebiasis from drinking iced tap water in his juice in Siargao. While this is not life threatening if treated early, he suffered the effects even several weeks after being cured. If you suspect you have Amebiasis, make sure to go see a doctor!

Otherwise, we can only recommend you to bring a lot of sunblock. The sun is very strong and you will be burnt within 10mins after sun exposure without protection!

What are the best spots to visit?

With 7,641 islands, you can’t run out of beautiful spots! The most popular ones are mostly located in Palawan and in the Cebu Region.

  • El Nido (Palawan)
  • Coron (Palawan)
  • Puerto Princesa (Palawan)
  • Port Barton (Palawan)
  • Bohol (Cebu area)
  • Malapascua (Cebu Area)
  • Panglao (Cebu Area)
  • Kawasan Falls (Cebu Area)

If you want to learn more about things to do in the Philippines, you can check out all our articles below our FAQ. We review destinations, and provide travel tips and budget insights.

Can I fly a drone in the Philippines?

You can definitely fly a drone in the Philippines. However, while you won’t have any problem with the customs at the airport, in some places like Manila, the police will ask you to land your drone if they see you flying it.

Our advice: save yourself the trouble and keep it for the islands. You won’t run out of amazing places to shoot in the Philippines!

When is the best time to visit the Philippines?

The best time to visit the Philippines is between December and April which is the summer season.

The rainy season goes from June to October. May and November are considered transition months, alternating between rainy and sunny days.

Should we use a Credit card or Cash?

We strongly advise to carry a good amount of cash for safety. While withdrawing money is easy in Manila many ATMs tend to run out of cash in popular spots. Besides, many hotels and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.

What activities should we expect to do in the Philippines?

The Philippines has everything to offer. Beach bumming, island hopping, scuba diving, canyoneering and hiking are probably the most common activities. Just pick your favorites ones!

What is the best transportation mode to go around the Philippines?

Although buses are the cheapest way to go around, the Philippines is mainly composed of islands and you’ll probably have to fly to get to your destination.

Main companies like Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines cover all the country.

Our advice is to book early and fly during week days. Prices are cheaper and you will most likely find a flight at a convenient time. Also expect planes to have any delays and not leave on time, especially during rush hours on weekends.

If you have more time, you can always take a ferry and enjoy a cruise. 2GO ferries cover the main island of Palawan and Cebu.

You can find more information and budget on our blog posts.

Do I need a visa for the Philippines?

Usually, 30 to 59 days are given at your arrival, depending of your citizenship (make sure to check how many days you are allowed). You will need to have a plane ticket booked to show the authorities that you are leaving the country within the duration of your visa period.

It is possible to get a one-month visa extension at the airport for PHP 3,030, which is EUR 48 or USD 58.

Can you teach us some words?

So Alex knows a little of Tagalog from his time in Manila and here are a few words to show off:

  • Magandang Umaga!: Good Morning!
  • Magandang Hapon!: Good Afternoon!
  • Magandang Gabi! : Good Evening!
  • Salamat!: Thank you!
  • Kumusta?: How are you?
  • Mabuti!: I’m good!
  • Kuya!: My friend! 
  • Derecho lang!: Go straight!

We hope we answered most of the questions you could have about the Philippines. If you have any other questions, you can leave a comment and we will answer you at the soonest time possible!

Check out our travel guides and reviews about the Philippines:

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