Welcome to the Philippines and welcome to Field Trip Boy’s Ultimate Travel Guide to the Philippines for Foreign Tourists and Balikbayan .
This travel guide is designed to make your travels in the Philippines easy and convenient as possible, with some insider tips on how to go around the country, how to meet and greet the Filipinos, places to visit, food to try and other helpful tips that you can use for your Philippine travels and adventures.
This 2012 the Department of Tourism launched the new campaign and slogan with “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. Let’s all support Philippine tourism!
DOT 2012 new logo and slogan to promote Philippine tourism
About the Philippines
The Republic of the Philippines is the 2nd largest archipelago in the world. It has more than 7,100 islands, where each island holds a secret of its own for you to explore and discover. The country has lots of adventures in store for different kinds of tourists.
The country is blessed with lots of white sand beaches. People who love the beach can also do some snorkeling and diving to see the biodiversity of the Philippine marine life such as those found in Apo Reef in Mindoro or the Tubbataha Reef in the seas of Palawan. Some areas in the Philippines such as in Cebu and Donsol, Sorsogon offers visitors to meet and swim with whale sharks while some like those in Bohol offers tourists to do some dolphin watching.
For those who want to hike, trek and do some climbing, the town of Sagada and the rest of theMt.Province is for you. You can also do mountain climbing in the country’s highest peak, Mt.Apo located in Mindanao.
For those who want the bright lights of the city, you can stay in Metro Manila. Metro Manila is the heart of the country. This Mega City is home to millions of people and is composed of different cities such as the cities of Manila, Quezon, Makati, Pasay, Caloocan, Mandaluyong, Taguig and others.
Field Trip Boy in Luneta Park
- Luneta or Rizal Park
Luneta or Rizal Park is the country’s most popular park. It is the place where the country’s National Hero Dr Jose Rizal was shot. Luneta has seen make overs over the past few years. One of the park’s main attraction is the Light and fountain show. Also included in the park is the Quirino Grand stand, Japanese Botanical Gardens, Children’s Park and the Philippine Relief Map. The Philippine National Museum is also located at the side of Rizal Park. No educational and historical field trip in the capital is complete without visiting Luneta.
- Intamuros and Fort Santiago
Intramuros is called the Walled City of Manila. The area served as a fort for Muslim defenders during the Spanish invasion. Later the Spaniards noticed the great location of the fort and fortified its walls from bamboo to bricks and stones. Today, Intramuros is home to historical buildings and sites such as the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church and Fort Santiago. It also houses some of major colleges like the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
Binondo is called the China Town of Manila. Many residents of this area are of Chinese decent. Many stores and restaurants here sell authentic Chinese products such as fruits, garments and even traditional Chinese medicine. A few blocks away from Binondo is Divisoria, the shopping haven for those who wants to have great bargains.
- SM Mall of Asia
SM Mall of Asia is one of the largest shopping malls in the world. You can find almost anything in this mall including high end international brands. The mall is equipped with an iMax theater, ice skating rink and a mini theme park with the SM MOA EYE as it main attraction. Moa Eye is now the tallest ferries wheel in the country. The SM Moa bay area is great in viewing the famous Manila Bay sunset.
- Manila Ocean Park
The Manila Ocean Park is a world-class facility that features various under water attractions such as the giant aquarium. There are also laser and animal shows that will entertain visitors. Lately they’ve added some penguins to their ever-growing family.
The Philippines’ 3 Major Island Groups
The Philippines is divided into 3 main groups of islands namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Luzon is the largest island group in thePhilippines. It is located the northern most part of the country. You can find Metro Manila inLuzon. Palawan and Mindoro is also part ofLuzon.
Top Rated and Popular Tourist Spots in Luzon
- Mayon Volcano
Mt Mayon or Mayon Volcano is probably the Philippines’ most famous tourist attraction. This nearly perfect cone-shaped volcano is located in theprovinceofAlbayin the southern part ofLuzon.
- Tagaytay and Taal Volcano
Tagaytay is just about 1 to 2 hours away from Manila. Its main draw is its cool climate and a great view of the Taal Volcano and Taal Lake. It is best to enjoy the scenery while having lunch at some of Tagaytay’s best restaurants.
- Banawe Rice Terraces
The Banaue Rice Terraces is one of the Wonders of the World. It is hard to imagine our ancestors building miles and miles of rice paddies in the faces of mountains just using their bare hands and crude equipments.
- Pagsanjan Falls
Another popular tourist spot just a few hours away from Metro Manila is Pagsanjan Falls. Pagsanjan Falls is located in the province of Laguna, just south of Manila.
Vigan City was awarded the title of Heritage City by UNESCO because of the well preserved houses that dates back to the Spanish era. There are also a lot to see and experience in this beautiful city in Ilocos.
The Visayas Region is located in the center of the archipelago. It is composed of a number of islands such as Cebu, Bohol, Panay, Samar, Negros, Leyte, Siquijor and others. Major cities in the Visayas Region includes Cebu City, Iloilo, Bacolod, Tagbilaran, Ormoc, Dumagute and Tacloban.
Popular and Top Rated Tourist Spots in the Visayas Region
- Boracay Island
The island of Boracay is the country’s most popular beach destination. This beach is known for its fine white sands and clear waters.
- Chocolate Hills and other Bohol attractions
Bohol’s main tourist attraction is the Chocoloate hills. But the province still has a lot to offer such as the Loboc River Cruise, Alona Beach in Panglao, the Tarsier Sanctuary and a lot of Zip line facilities.
- Cebu’s white sand beaches and other attractions
Cebu is the Queen City of the South. There are a lot of things to do in and around the city. There are also a lot of world-class beaches and dive spots in the province such as those found in Bantayan Island, Moal-boal and Camotes Island.
Mindanao s the 2nd largest island in the country. It is located in the southern portion of the Philippines. The 2 largest cities in the region are Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.
Popular and Top Tourist Spots in Mindanao
- Maria Cristina Falls
The Maria Cristina Falls is the Philippines tallest waterfalls. The height of the Maria Cristina falls is 320 feet. This famous tourist attraction in Mindanao is just 8 kilometers away from Iligan City, Lanao del Norte.
- Mt. Apo
Mt.Apo is the Philippines highest peak. The mountain stands at the height of 3,143 meters above sea level. Mt. Apo sits between the borders of Davao del Sur and Noth Cotabato. The mountain is considered a national park and climbing its peak usually requires 3 to 5 days. Davao City is located at the mountain’s foot.
- Camiguin Island
Camiguin is the island born of fire for it has 7 volcanoes, the Hibok Hibok Volcano being the most popular. Camiguin is famous for white sand beaches and sweet tasting Lanzones. A famous site in Camiguin for tourists and divers alike is the island’s Sunken or Underwater Cemetery.
- Zamboanga City
Zamboanga City boasts of a different culture not found in the rest of the country. You have to visit this beautiful city to appreciate its beauty and the wonders of its people. Zamboanga City is also popular for its colorful sail boats known as Vinta.
- Siargao Island
Siargao is the surfing capital of Mindanao. Surfers can enjoy lots of surf the whole year round including the sought after Cloud Nine 9 barrels.
Passports and Travel Visa Requirements for Foreigners
All foreign tourists are always welcome in the Philippines. Most foreign travelers, like those coming from the US, Australia, Canada and the European Union, are allowed to enter and travel the country for 21 days or 3 weeks without any Visa provided they have a valid passport and possesses tickets for their return from their home country or to their next destination.
For foreign tourist it is best to check out your passport’s validity. Just like in most countries, it is best to have a valid passport that has still more than 6 months of validity.
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration allows foreign nationals to extend their visits here in the Philippines. For those who want to stay longer than 21 days, you can apply for the Temporary Visitor’s Visa. The standard extension for your stay here in the Philippines is 59 days, but there are applications that allow you to stay longer.
The Philippine Climate and Weather
The Philippines is a tropical country so expect hot and humid weather the whole year round. It is best to pack light clothing and flip-flops if you want to travel the Philippines. The normal temperature in most part of the Philippines during the day is around 26 degree Celsius.
There are 2 seasons in the Philippines: the wet and dry season.
Wet Season or the rainy season in the country starts from the month of June till early February. Storms and typhoons usually come around August till October.
Summer or the Dry season usually starts from March till May.
Language and Dialects in the Philippines
The Official Language in the Philippines is called Filipino. Filipino is derived from the old dialect called Tagalog. Other major dialects in the country are:
Cebuano- Mostly used in most areas in Visayas and Mindanao especially in the area of Cebu and Davao.
Waray- This dialect is usually spoken in the islands of Panay and Samar
Ilongo- This is the dialect in the area of Iloilo and Bacolod
Bicolano- Dialect of the people in the southern portion of Luzon called the Bicol Region
Kapampangan- Kapampangan is spoken by the people of Central Luzon particularly in Pampanga and some towns of Tarlac.
Ilocano- This dialect is spoken by the Ilocano people of Regions 1 and 2.
The English Language and the Filipino People
For foreigners, you don’t need to be afraid of asking for directions or mingling with people for most Filipinos know how to speak, understand and read English. In fact, for years, the Philippines is considered the 3rd largest English-speaking country in the world, just behind the U.S andU.K.
Most street signs are also written in English, so traveling can be very easy for tourists.
There are also many local newspaper and magazines printed in the English language.
Common Filipino Terms and Its English Translation
Magandang Umaga: Good Morning
Magandang Tanghali: Good Afternoon
Magandang Gabi: Good Evening
Salamat: Thank You
Walang Anuman: Don’t mention it, you’re welcome
Magkano?: How Much?
Walang Tawad?; Any discount for this?
Bayad: Fare, Payment
Communications and Internet Connection
A large portion of the Philippine have cell phone coverage from 3 major cell phone companies: Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular.
For foreigners who want to save from costly roaming charges, you can buy sim cards and pre paid cards from almost everywhere. Many stores or Sari-Sari Stores can help you load up your sim packs for as low as 10 pesos. For most local cell to cell calls, the companies charge around 6 pesos per minute while text messages are around 1 peso per SMS sent. To get more value, it is best to read posters or ask around for some promos for unlimited calls and texts.
Looking for internet shops is also not a problem in the Philippines. There are a lot of computer shops or Internet Café all around the country. The neighborhood internet shop can charge you for 12-15 pesos per hour of use, while some shops inside the mall can charge you with 30 to 50 pesos for an hour.
Some establishments also place wi-fi routers for their customers to connect to the internet. Simply look around for coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and gasoline stations with the wi-fi sign. Most establishments offer this service for free granted you buy some items from their shop. In Metro Manila, it some establishments charge 50 pesos an hour if you want your laptops connected to their power supply.
The Philippine Peso and Other Currencies Accepted in the Country
The official currency in the Philippines is called the Philippine Peso. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or Central Bank is currently rolling out the new designs of the Philippine Bank notes so don’t be surprised if you have two bills with the same denomination but with different looks. The older bank notes and bills are still accepted in all stores and banks.
The Philippines has circulated coins in the value of 1 centavo, 5 cents, 25 cents, 1 Peso, 5 Pesos and 10 Pesos.
For bills we have the 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Peso bills.
Foreign tourists are warned not to bring more than $10,000 worth of money inside the Philippines. You are also not allowed to take with you more than 10,000 Pesos when you leave the country.
Foreign Currency Exchange
Banks and other authorized money changing stores in the Philippines accept and trade American Dollars, Canadian and Australian Dollars, Japanese Yen, Korean Won, British Pound, Euro, Swiss Franc and other currencies around the word.
To be on the safe side, it is advisable to have your dollars and other currencies changed inside banks and other establishments inside malls and other secure locations.
As of the time of writing, 1 US Dollar is equivalent to 43.63 Philippine pesos.
Here are some examples of the current exchange rates of different currencies to the Philippine Peso.
Australian Dollar 43 Pesos
Canadain Dollar 42 Pesos
Hong KongDollar 5.45 Pesos
SingaporeDollar 33 Pesos
New ZealandDollar 33pesos
Saudi Real 11.40 Pesos
Indian Rupee 70 centavos
Euro 55 Pesos
UKPound 67 Pesos
Swiss Franc 45 Pesos
(Please take note that this is made for example purposes only. Exchange rates can change everyday so it is best to look for news papers and the internet for the most updated foreign exchange rates) – FTB
Just to give you an example of how much goods in the Philippines are priced as compared to US Dollars, a can of Coke here is sold at around 25 Pesos or about 50 cents US. Starbucks coffee is sold around 120-150 pesos or around 3 to 4 US dollars.
ATM machines, Credit Cards and Travelers Cheques in the Philippines
Most ATM machines are placed outside the bank’s buildings or inside malls and other shopping arcade. Most machines are open 24/7 while some are being monitored by CCTV cameras. Most big commercial banks such as BPI, Land Bank and PNB accept foreign cards but for a certain fee. It is best to consult your banks first for local charges for some banks charge as much as 3 Dollars per transaction.
In many hotels and restaurants in the bigger cities of the Philippines, credit cards such as Master Card, Visa, American Express and Diner’s Club may be accepted as a mode of payment. It is best to ask around first if the store is accepting credit cards or if their equipments are online before ordering something to avoid some problems. It would be difficult to locate establishments that accept credit cards in far flung and rural areas so it is best to bring some extra cash.
Traveler’s Cheques are honored in many big hotels, but not much in smaller hotels and in most restaurants. For those bringing with them Travelers Cheques it is best to have your checks in US Dollars and always bring with you your Passport and receipt when ever you want to cash out or pay using your Travelers Check.
Banks in the Philippines are usually open Monday to Friday except for public holidays. Banking hours are from 9 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon.
List of Philippine Holidays, Festivals and Fiestas
The Filipinos are fun loving people. They are also very religious. These 2 factors are the main reasons why the country held so many fiestas and festivals whole year round. Here are some of the must see festivals in the Philippines:
Cebu’s Sinulog Festival Grand Parade Dancers
Top Festivals in the Philippines
- Feast of the Black Nazarene
Millions of people and devotees flock the Quiapo church just to see the miraculous Black Nazarene. The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held every January 9 at Quiapo Church in the City of Manila.
Cebu’s most famous festival is the Sinulog Festival. The main festivities is held every 3rd Sunday of January. The festival is held in celebration to the Sto. Nino or Child Jesus, Cebu City’s patron. The celebration can last for weeks that are often highlighted by beauty pageants, fluvial parades, and street dancers dressed in colorful attire.
- Ati-atihan Festival
The Ati-atihan festival is the answer of Kalibo, Aklan to Cebu’s Sinulog. This Festival is also held in honor of the Sto. Nino. The festivities is usually held every January 16 to 22. Highlights of this festival is the street dancers that are painted in black and wears colorful customes while shouting “Hala Bira!!!”.
- Dinagyang Festival
Another great festival in January is the Dinagyang Festival. Dinagyang Festival is held yearly in the City of Iloilo.
- Panagbenga Flower Festival
The Panagbenga Flower Festival is Bagiuo’s way of showcasing one of their major products, cut flowers. Every February, a parade of colorful floats made up of assorted flowers roam the Summer Capital’s streets particularlyBagiuoCity’s main street, Session Road.
- Moriones Festival
The Moriones Festival is celebrated every Holy Week in Boac, Marinduque. The festival showcases men wearing colorful wooden masks and roman soldier costumes as they portray the life of Longilus, a Roman Centurion who’s blind eye was miraculously healed when he stick his spear to Christ’s side while he was nailed in the cross.
- Pahiyas Festival
The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon in probably one of the most colorful festivals in the Philippines. The feast is held in honor of San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of agriculture. Every May 15, people from Lucban dresses their houses with colorful “Kiping” and many of their produce such as rice, and different kinds of vegetables.
- Kadayawan sa Dabaw
Kadayawan sa Davao is held every 3rd week of August. Just in time forDavao’s famous Durian to bear fruit and the native orchid called Waling-waling to bloom.
- Feast of the Nuestra Senora de Pena Francia
The Feast of the Nuestra Senora de Pena Francia is celebrated every 3rd Saturday of September in Naga City, Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region. People flock the Church just to see the image of the Virgin Mary. One of the highlights of the festival is the fluvial parade in where the Feast of the Nuestra Senora de Pena Francia is paraded with the way lighted by thousands of floating candles.
- Higantes Festival
Agono, Rizal is called the Philipinnes’ Artist Town for it has produced a lot of National Artists and world class painters. Every November 22 and 23, many people here go to the streets wearing Higantes costumes or giant figures made out of paper mache. Some Higantes can reach as high as 10-12 feet.
- Giant Lantern Parade in San Fernando City Pampanga
San Fernando City in Pampanga is claiming to be the Christmas Capital of the Philippines thanks in part of their booming Parol or Christmas Lantern industry. Every December, different barangays compete for the best and most colorful Christmas Lanterns as they make giant parols for everyone to see and enjoy.
List of Public Holidays in the Philippines
Aside from these colorful town fiestas and festival, you should also be aware of some of the Philippines’ official Holidays. Here is a list of the official public working and non- working holidays for 2012 in the Philippines.
New Year’s Day January 1 (Sunday)
Maundy Thursday April 5 (Thursday)
Good Friday April 6 (Friday)
Araw ng Kagitingan April 9 (Monday)
Labor Day May 1 (Tuesday)
Independence Day June 12 (Tuesday)
Eid’l Fitr August 18 (Saturday)
National Heroes Day August 27 (Monday)
Bonifacio Day November 30 (Friday)
Christmas Day December 25 (Tuesday)
Rizal Day December 30 (Sunday)
Chinese New Year January 23 (Monday)
1986 People Power Anniversary February 25 (Saturday)
Ninoy Aquino Day August 21 (Tuesday)
All Saints Day November 1 (Thursday)
All Soul’s Day November 2 (Friday)
New Year’s Eve December 31 (Monday)
Must Try Filipino Foods and other Delicacies
Try out these all time favorite Filipino food and delicacies to truly complete your Philippine adventure!!!
Balot is a hard boiled fertilized egg of a duck. Eating it is the true test of being a Filipino. It is usually sold in the streets during the late afternoons and night time. It is best enjoyed with a dash of salt and some spicy vinegar.
Adobo is one of the most popular Filipino dishes. The most popular version of Adobo is CPA or Chicken Pork Adobo. It is made by cooking together pieces of pork and chicken and seasoning it with vinegar, soy sauce and lots of garlic, black pepper and some bay leaves.
Inihaw is the way Filipinos grill their food. Inihaw is best enjoyed during picnics at the beach. Seafood, chicken and pork belly are favorite inihaw choices.
Kinilaw is the Pinoy’s version of the Ceviche. Raw fish is marinated in vinegar with lots of chili, red onions and black pepper.
Pansit is the favorite noodle dish of Filipinos. It is always present in all parties and celebrations. Popular versions of pancit are canton, miki, bihon and palabok.
- Pinoy Style Spaghetti
Filipinos love their spaghetti sauce sweet and spicy. So don’t be shocked if you see your host put banana ketchup and hot dogs in your spaghetti sauce because it’s just the way Pinoys want their spaghetti.
- Fish Balls
Fish Balls are the favorite street food of Filipinos. Fish balls are very tasty and very affordable.
The best way to cool of the hot sun of the tropics is enjoy a glass of Halo-halo. Halo-halo is a combination of shaved ice, lots od=f sweetened beans, jackfruit, banana, kaong, nata de coco and tapioca. To top it of, some ube and leche flan is added.
Sinigang can either be made from pork, seafood or beef. This soup is a bit sour, perfect for the Philippine weather.
Bagoong or sautéed shrimp paste goes well with many Filipino dishes especially Kare-Kare. It is also great for green mangoes and other sour fruits.
- Lechon Baboy
The roasted pig from the Philippines was declared Best Pig Ever by Anthony Bourdain. They are usually served during special occasions like town fiestas, festivals, reunions and others.
Mode of Transportation : Getting Around the Philippines
Flying is the most time efficient way to visit lots of places in the Philippines. There are a lot of domestic flights to most major cities around the country that are serviced by domestic airline companies such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Phil Express and Zest Air.
Try to check out PISOFARE.INFO for the latest domestic promo fares being offered by the country’s budget airlines.
There are a lot of shipping companies with routes coming from Manila going to different points of the country such as Cebu,Negros and Surigao. Traveling by boat can be a whole new experience to most of us but it can be very time consuming. Travel time from Manila to Mindanao can last for 3 days or more.
Buses are usually used for inter province travels. Some buses are also used for RORO or Roll on/Roll that are used by some passengers going to island provinces such as Mindoro, Samar, Leyte and even in some parts of Mindanao.
Jeepneys are the most affordable way to commute here in the Philippines. You can ride a jeep for your city tours or going to the next town. Minimum fare for a jeepney ride is usually 8 pesos and an additional 1 peso is added for the next kilometer.
As March 21, 2012, the new minimum fare for Jeepneys in Manila will be at 8.50 pesos.
Check here to know more about the Philippine Jeepney.
There are a lot of taxis plying the streets of major cities of the Philippines such as in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro. The usual flag down rate for taxis is 40 pesos and additional 3 to 4 pesos are charged for the next 300 meters.
Airport taxis or Yellow taxis usually have a flag down rate of 70 pesos. Some airport taxis have fixed rates based the computation of the distance of your destination.
If Thailand has their Tuk-Tuk, the Philippines has its Tricycle. Riding a Tricycle is an affordable way to go about some short distances inside a town or a city. The minimum fare for each passenger is about 7 pesos for a short ride.
Philippine Hotels and Affordable Budget Places to Stay
There are a lot of world class hotels in Metro Manila such as Edsa Shangrila, Sofitel and the historic Manila Hotel.
For those who are on a backpacking trip or wants cheap accommodations inManila, go around the Malate district in the City ofManila. There are a lot of backpacking hotels and youth hostels all around the area.
In Cebu, Shangrila Mactan and Radisson Blu hotel tops the list of high end hotels. For those looking for affordable hotels and pension houses in Cebu City, you can try out those located in Capitol Site or you can click this link.
Most beaches such as in Boracay or in Panglao,Bohol have lots of hotels that can accommodate all your needs or fits your budget.
Field Trip Boy would like to thank you for reading this Ultimate Travel Guide to the Philippines. Hope this guide can help you during your adventures here in the country. I would try my best to update this page for the latest travel news and events. All your comments, suggestions and questions are also welcome. Just leave your comments below at the comment area.
Have a safe and fun-filled holiday here in the Philippines.
Field Trip Boy– “Your Friendly Pinoy Tour Guide”