A Comprehensive Guide for Families Travelling to Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelago of more than seven thousand islands, divided by three major groups of islands – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. As an archipelago, the Philippines is home to idyllic beaches and is often the main reason why tourists would come for a visit.
But there’s more to discover in the Philippines than its beaches. If you are eager to visit this beautiful Southeast Asian country, here’s what you need to know about the top places to visit in the Philippines and other things you need to know about the country.
Top 10 Places to Visit in the Philippines
Boracay is a world-renowned tourist destination about an hour’s flight from Manila. Boasting pristine beaches, powdery white sands, and diverse marine life, it attracts tourists seeking a relaxing holiday in the Philippines.
Boracay is home to numerous beaches, but the most popular is the White Beach, featuring a 4-km strip of white sand lined with hotels, bars, and restaurants. Aside from the White Beach, the other beautiful beaches in Boracay are Puka Beach, Ilig-Iligan Beach, and Diniwid Beach. You can also enjoy various watersports in Boracay, such as kite surfing and standup paddle boarding, and you’ll find tour operators offering these activities along the White Beach.
Palawan is one of the top places to visit in the Philippines for a beach holiday. Offering a more serene and peaceful atmosphere, Palawan is home to unspoilt islands that you can best explore on an island-hopping tour.
As you hop from one island to another, you’ll find the islands boast many untouched beaches surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. And given the excellent tropical climate all year round, Palawan is a paradise for every beach lover. During your island-hopping tour, you can take up several activities like snorkelling, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, and more!
Cebu is an island province that’s part of the Visayas group of islands. Its capital city is the oldest in the Philippines and is home to various historical sites. Like the other islands in the Philippines, Cebu is also renowned for its beautiful beaches.
Cebu is said to be the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines since this is where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first landed. Because of this, you’ll find many historical and religious sites spread across the city, including Magellan’s Cross, the cross planted by Magellan to mark his successful colonization of the country. If you’re here for the beach, head to the Bantayan Island up north or Moalboal in the south.
Bohol is another island that belongs to the Visayas group of islands. It’s famous for the unique geological formations called the “Chocolate Hills.” These are thousands of hills covered with green grass that turn brown during the dry season, resembling chocolate. Thus, the name. Bohol is also famous for the tarsiers, the world’s smallest primate. These tiny species are endemic to the Philippines and have recently become endangered.
Of course, Bohol will not disappoint if you’re here for the beaches. It’s home to Panglao Island, famous for its stunning white sand beaches and beautiful coral reefs. The island is also a popular spot for diving.
Siargao is a popular destination for surfing and is definitely one of the top places to visit in the Philippines. Surfers from around the world would come to this island to ride its world-famous waves. But it’s only recently that this island has gained the attention of tourists. Therefore, you won’t find too many tourists on the island compared to Boracay and other islands.
Even if you’re not into surfing, Siargao is still worth visiting. The island is home to pristine white beaches, perfect for swimming and snorkelling. You’ll find these beaches at Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, an island far from the tourist radar, head to Siquijor island. The island is a bit remote, but those who venture will be rewarded with unspoiled beaches, epic waterfalls, and gorgeous coral reefs.
You’ll find many beautiful beaches in Siquijor, but Paliton Beach is the best. Despite being popular, it doesn’t get too crowded, and there are days when you have the beach all to yourself! The Cambugahay Falls is another place you shouldn’t miss while in Siquijor. This stunning, three-level waterfall has an enormous pool with rope swings that appeal to the more adventurous tourists.
The Philippines is not all about the beaches. If you head to Luzon, you’ll find many interesting places worth a visit, such as the city of Baguio, dubbed the “summer capital of the Philippines.” It’s set high up in the mountains, so the temperature here is colder than in most places in the Philippines. Locals who want to escape the summer heat would come to Baguio, about a 5-hour drive from Manila.
Baguio is also home to many public parks where you can enjoy a leisure hike. Some of the most popular attractions in the city include Camp John Hay, Burnham Park, and the strawberry farm.
Tagaytay is another popular destination in Luzon that has a colder climate. Like Baguio City, Tagaytay has chilly weather due to its high altitude, situated above the mountain ridges. However, Tagaytay is more accessible from Manila, less than two hours’ drive away.
Tagaytay is a great place to relax and escape the chaos of Manila. It has a serene atmosphere with many excellent restaurants overlooking the magnificent views of the Taal Volcano. The volcano itself is one of the top places to visit in the Philippines. It’s one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes and sits on an island within a lake.
Another popular destination in Luzon is Vigan, home to a well-preserved Spanish colonial town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In case you didn’t know, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for many years, leaving behind many heritage sites with strong Spanish influences.
Calle Crisologo is the most popular spot in Vigan, a cobblestone street lined with colonial-style houses. The best time to explore Calle Crisologo is before dusk, as lamps start to illuminate the beautiful street.
Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is where you will most likely arrive on your visit to the country. While most tourists would fly directly to other destinations upon arriving in Manila, it’s worth spending a day or two in the mega-metropolis.
Manila is home to some historical sites, such as the walled city of Intramuros, a 64-hectare Spanish fort built in 1571. Here, you’ll find old churches built during Spanish times, such as the San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral. If you want to learn more about the history of the Philippines, you should spend some time exploring Intramuros.
Top 10 Places to Eat Out
Antonio’s Restaurant, Tagaytay
If you want to enjoy fine dining in the Philippines, head to Tagaytay, and you’ll find Antonio’s. Offering a spectacular fine dining experience amidst gorgeous views, Antonio’s is one of the top places to eat out in the Philippines if you want to escape the chaos of Manila.
The interiors of Antonio’s exude an elegant feel, a perfect place to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Its menu features a wide variety of delectable Filipino and International dishes. They also have an excellent selection of wine to go with your meals. If you can’t decide what to order, try one of the restaurant’s specialities, the Sucking Pig Confit, served with herb-roasted marble potatoes and fermented black garlic rice.
Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant, Manila
For a taste of authentic Filipino cuisine, head to Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant in Manila. Located within Intramuros, a 400-year-old Spanish fort and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines, the restaurant’s architectural design features a touch of Spanish colonial influence.
The restaurant interior exudes a warm and cosy ambience reminiscent of the colonial era, complete with antique furniture and chandeliers. Aside from serving delectable Filipino dishes, Barbara’s also offers guests a taste of Filipino culture and tradition. Diners are treated to traditional Filipino dance performances and other cultural presentations. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner buffets, and some ala carte dishes. Some of the most popular dishes on their menu include paella de mariscos, crispy pata, and beef kare-kare.
Blackbird Restaurant, Manila
Blackbird is one of the best places to enjoy fine dining in Manila. Located in the heart of Makati, the country’s financial capital, Blackbird offers a sophisticated ambience with top-notch services focused on the warm hospitality of the Filipino people.
The restaurant is housed in the iconic Nielson Tower. Built during the 1930s, this is where the country’s first commercial airport is located. Thus, the menu is inspired by the building’s aviation history, combined with international classics and contemporary Asian dishes. Some of the most popular items on the menu include the peppered tuna steak with warm potato and bacon salad and grilled Iberico pork skewers.
Wave Bar & Lounge, Boracay
The famous tourist island of Boracay is home to some of the best places to eat out in the Philippines. One of these is the Wave Bar & Lounge, a restaurant & bar housed in Henann Regency Resort and Spa, a luxury resort along the White Beach.
Located in the beachfront area, Wave has multiple dining areas, including an al fresco bar and an indoor club at the upper level. Aside from delectable dishes, Wave also serves an excellent selection of tapas and bar specials for the perfect night out in Boracay.
Aria Cucina Italiana, Boracay
If you find yourself craving Italian cuisine while on holiday in Boracay, you should check out Aria Cucina Italiana. Aria is a modern trattoria located along the beachfront of Boracay, right at the entrance of D’Mall, an outdoor shopping area by the beach.
Like any traditional trattoria, the restaurant serves classic Italian dishes, from wood-fired pizzas to homemade pasta. The restaurant also serves meat and seafood dishes prepared by Italian chefs. Aside from the delicious food on the menu, diners especially love the restaurant for its simple interiors and casual atmosphere. You can also dine al fresco for a wonderful beachfront dining experience.
Zubuchon, Cebu City
When looking for the best places to eat out in the Philippines, head to Cebu, the country’s oldest city. Established by the Spanish in 1565, the city’s culinary scene is influenced heavily by Spanish culture. For a taste of authentic Cebuano delicacies, head to Zubuchon.
The Pig & Palm, Cebu City
When fine dining in Cebu, head to The Pig & Palm, a restaurant run by Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton. Featuring a modern European menu, The Pig & Palm aims to bring a taste of European gastronomy to Cebu in a contemporary environment.
The menu consists of tapas-style sharing dishes made from high-quality Filipino produce.
Aling Lucing Sisig, Pampanga
Dubbed the Culinary Capital of the Philippines, Pampanga is another place home to the top places to eat out in the Philippines. One of Pampanga’s most popular dishes is sisig, a dish made from parts of a pig’s face and chicken liver, seasoned with onions, peppers, and other spices.
The best place to eat this popular Filipino dish is in a humble restaurant called Aling Lucing Sisig. The restaurant is owned by Lucia Cunanan, also known as “Aling Lucing,” who herself invented the dish.
Bondi&Bourke, Davao City
Davao is a city belonging to the Mindanao group of islands. It’s about a two-hour flight from Manila and home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country. The city may be far from the tourist radar, but it has a few attractions worth checking out, including a conservation centre for the endangered Philippine eagles.
Davao is also home to some of the top places to eat out in the Philippines, and one of these is Bondi & Bourke. Featuring a quintessential modern Australian dining experience, Bondi & Bourke is run by award-winning chef Wade Watson. The restaurant also serves premium wines and handcrafted cocktails in a social alfresco setting.
Loboc Riverwatch Floating Restaurant, Bohol
When in Bohol, an island famous for its “Chocolate Hills,” one of the top things to do is dine at a floating restaurant in the Loboc River. You will be riding a boat resembling a floating house with a thatched roof and a large dining room.
As the boat glides down the river, diners will be treated to delectable lunch buffets and serenaded by local singers and dancers. There are many floating restaurants along the Loboc River. One of these is the Loboc Riverwatch Floating Restaurant, where guests will be treated to a lunch buffet featuring a sumptuous array of Filipino dishes.
Things To Do as a Family
Boating in the Underground River of Palawan
One of the most popular attractions in the Philippines is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also called the Underground River of Palawan. It’s a cave with spectacular limestone karst formations and an underground river emerging directly into the sea. Families with kids will surely enjoy exploring the underground river on a boat and seeing the jaw-dropping cave formations.
Swim at Boracay’s White Beach
Definitely one of the best things to do as a family in the Philippines is to visit the famous island of Boracay and swim at the White Beach. The stunning beach is the most popular strip on the island, lined with hotels, restaurants, and bars. It has shallow and calm water safe enough for the kids to swim. And while the little ones are playing in the water, the adults can relax on the beachside and perhaps get a good massage.
Island Hopping in Palawan
With its postcard-perfect islands and stunning beaches, Palawan is often the main reason many tourists come to the Philippines. These beautiful islands are some of the best in the world, and the best way to explore these islands is to go on an island-hopping tour.
You can book different tour packages for an island-hopping tour in Palawan. It’s also possible to hire a private boat and explore on your own. Some islands may not be suitable for the little kids as it requires swimming into small hotels to get into the lagoons, so talk to the boat operator and plan your routes well.
Learn Surfing in Siargao
If your kids are interested to learn surfing, take them to Siargao, the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. The island is home to several surfing schools, including surf camps that offer “surf and stay” options. You can opt for the weekly surf packages or those that will last only a few days. If you have small kids, you’ll find surfing schools that specialize in teaching kids under 15 years old. Run by professional surfers, you can guarantee the safety of your kids when taking surfing lessons.
Swim with Whale Sharks in Cebu
Swimming with whale sharks in Cebu is one of the fun things to do as a family in the Philippines. It’s such a unique experience, something that your kids will surely remember for the rest of their lives. You will be riding a boat for this activity, and the boatmen will lure the whale sharks with food, allowing tourists to get a closer look at these amazing creatures and swim with them as well. The site for whale watching in Cebu is in the town of Oslob, a remote part of the island, about 3-4 hours away from the city centre.
Visit the Manila Ocean Park
Visiting the Manila Ocean Park is one of the best things to do as a family, especially if you’ve got curious little kids fond of marine life. This oceanarium is in the capital city, right next to the beautiful Manila Bay. Featuring fun dolphin shows and interesting shark encounters., the park is suitable for visitors of all ages. The park also features exhibits of various marine creatures, dining places, and hotels. But the highlight of the park is the glass observation tunnel offering great views of the creatures that live underwater.
Discover Historical Sites at Intramuros
If you want to learn more about the culture and history of the Philippines, head to the walled city of Intramuros. When strolling through its cobbled stone streets, you’ll find historical sites dating hundreds of years ago, featuring Spanish influences. The Spanish ruled the Philippines for 300 years, and you will learn more about this in the Intramuros. The most popular sites you should check out within the walled city are Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, and the Museo de Intramuros.
Hike up the Chocolate Hills of Bohol
Hearing the word “chocolate hills” is enough to make your kids get excited about exploring Bohol, an island in the Central Visayas Region. The chocolate hills are unique, cone-shaped geological formations scattered all over the island and covered with green grasses that look “chocolatey” during the dry season. There are thousands of these hills all over the island. They look like giant chocolate kisses, making them truly interesting to see. The best way to admire these unique geological formations is through the viewing point of Sagbayan Peak, a mountain resort in the town of Sagbayan, which also has a small waterpark.
See the Tarsier in Bohol
Aside from the chocolate hills, another popular tourist attraction in Bohol is the tarsier. Tarsiers are very tiny primates that cling upright to trees. They move from one tree to another with the help of their elongated hind limbs. With their small body and large goggling eyes, these creatures are truly fascinating to watch up close. Endemic to the island of Bohol, they are one of the world’s most endangered primates.
Experience Glamping in Baguio
Glamping is a more comfortable way of camping, and this trend is becoming more and more popular over the recent years, especially among families with kids. If you want to experience glamping in the Philippines, head to Baguio dubbed the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” Baguio is home to the Valleypoint Campsite, which offers tents of different sizes and fitted with comfortable beddings and some modern furniture. These tents are surrounded by gorgeous views of nature, allowing for a truly relaxing family bonding experience.
Safety and Security
Although most foreigners feel safe in the Philippines, there are safety and security concerns one should be aware of when travelling to the country as a foreigner. The Philippines has a high crime rate and is often subjected to frequent natural disasters. There’s also the risk of terrorism, although it’s relatively low compared to other countries. It’s usually the southern regions of Mindanao that continue to face threats of terrorism, but these places are out of the tourist radar.
Foreigners must exercise precaution when exploring the Philippines and safeguard their valuables in public places. Best of all, they should keep abreast of the latest political developments and be updated on the weather forecast.
Crime Rate in the Philippines
The Philippines has a high crime rate, and violent crimes are a particular concern. Gangs are present in big cities like Manila, and armed robberies are common on public transport. Foreign travellers must exercise caution and remain vigilant when exploring crowded places. They should secure their belongings and avoid displaying valuables in order not to be a victim of petty crimes like pickpocketing and mugging. Best of all, foreign travellers must avoid carrying a large stash of cash, displaying expensive gadgets in public, or wearing flashy jewellery.
Although the risk of petty theft is high in busy cities and popular tourist destinations, and some thieves operate around beaches and tourist hotspots, the level of petty crimes in the Philippines is still low compared to the many European cities.
Foreigners travelling to the Philippines must be aware of the various scams targeting foreigners. Some of the most common scams include phone calls and email scams and fraud on ATMs and credit cards. Always exercise caution when withdrawing from ATMs or using credit cards. Avoid using ATMs with unusual covers on the keypad as these devices may be able to read banking information and PINs. Also, be wary of strangers lurking around the machines or anyone trying to distract you as you withdraw money.
Always bring small bills with you when you can. Some vendors will lure you into buying more things by claiming they don’t have change for large bills. There are also instances when taxi drivers trick you into paying more, claiming their meters don’t work. Avoid these taxis and insist on using the taxi meter when taking a cab.
Terrorism is one of the issues that the Philippines is dealing with, particularly in the southern part of the country, because of the ongoing activity of Islamist insurgent groups in the area. These groups have been responsible for numerous attacks against the government, which include bombing government buildings, public transport, churches, and local markets. These groups are also often involved in armed clashes with government forces.
Insurgent groups, in particular the Abu Sayyaf, have been responsible for kidnapping several foreign nationals in the country. Because of the threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, the UK and US governments often advise their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to this region of the country, particularly in Mindanao and Sulu.
Natural Calamities in the Philippines
The Philippines is prone to natural disasters. Foreigners travelling to the country must be uptodate on the latest weather forecast and have a plan of action in the event of an emergency. Most importantly, they should have appropriate insurance to cover medical expenses.
Typhoon is a common occurrence in the Philippines, and the country experiences several tropical cyclones each year, usually between June and November. It can cause severe flooding and landslides in mountainous areas. Foreigners must always be aware of the risks of the place they plan on visiting in the Philippines and must seriously follow government warnings.
Earthquakes and volcano eruptions can also happen as the country is an earthquake zone and is highly vulnerable to volcanic activity. The Philippines has a few active volcanoes, including the Mayon Volcano in Albay and Taal Volcano in Batangas.
Protests and Civil Unrests in the Philippines
Protests are common in the Philippines, mainly in large cities such as Manila. The country has various anti-government groups that have long been against the government. Although most of these protests are peaceful and are rarely a cause of concern for foreigners, it is best to avoid going to places where protest exists.
Food and Water Safety
The quality of tap water in the Philippines is questionable. Thus, foreign visitors should avoid drinking from the tap. However, bottled water is readily available in various shops and restaurants all over the country. Foreign visitors must also be careful about ice made from tap water. As much as possible, avoid having ice on your drinks when dining at restaurants or cafes, except in some luxury hotels and international restaurants.
Health and Medical
The Philippines has several accredited hospitals with well-trained medical staff. In most cities around the country, the healthcare system is decent enough compared to many other countries. However, with more than seven thousand islands and a coastline of more than 20,000 miles, the Philippines has many remote areas that do not have access to up-to-date medical equipment. Some of these areas also have inadequate staffing, so you cannot expect the same quality healthcare as you would from big cities like Manila.
The Philippine Healthcare System is continuously improving, and the country’s health insurance corporation, PhilHealth, aims to offer universal insurance coverage to Filipino citizens. Foreigners who are legal residents of the country can join the system by paying affordable premiums. Offering a range of private and public healthcare options, every healthcare needs you have can be met in the Philippines.
Philippine Health Insurance Corporation
Established by the Philippine government in 1995, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) aims to provide universal coverage at affordable premium rates. It covers all types of medical care, from preventive to curative and rehabilitation services. In 2019, when the Universal Health Care Law was passed, PhilHealth began to cover diagnostic testing, including laboratory tests.
About 90% of the population in the Philippines are members of PhilHealth. Much of the funding came from taxes collected on tobacco and alcohol. Many employers and workers also pay premiums to support PhilHealth.
Private and Public Medical Care in the Philippines
In general, the public hospitals of the Philippines have medical facilities that can handle preventive and primary care. You will also find several private facilities that provide specialized care in areas like orthopaedics, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
Getting treatment from private hospitals in the Philippines could mean additional comfort for the patients since fewer people usually seek medical care from these facilities. As a result, it’s often quicker to get treatment. In addition, private facilities have more up-to-date equipment.
You don’t necessarily need to go to private hospitals if you want to be treated by English-speaking medical staff. Most Filipinos speak good English, especially professionals like doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. If you prefer to seek treatment from a private facility, make sure your health insurance provider can cover the cost of the treatment or that you have enough funds to pay for the treatment. Private facilities are often more expensive compared to public healthcare facilities.
Remote islands and towns have village health stations and local health centres to provide primary medical care. However, these small health centres often struggle with staff shortages since medical care providers prefer to seek better-paying jobs in the private sector and in big cities like Manila. In addition, a lot of the medical providers in the Philippines have gone overseas for better opportunities. Because of staff shortages and the fact that more patients tend to seek care from these facilities, you can expect treatment delays in these facilities.
Healthcare Options for Foreigners in the Philippines
Foreigners who are legal residents of the Philippines can be eligible for the PhilHealth. If you are an employee of a local company, your membership will fall under the Formal Sector. Freelancers and self-employed foreigners can also join PhilHealth under the informal membership category.
Once you become a member of PhilHealth, you can benefit from outpatient and inpatient care, rehabilitation, prescription drugs, diagnostic testing, and preventive services. The annual cost of the premiums for PhilHealth ranges from less than $100 to more than $700, depending on your income. If you want to become a member of PhilHealth, visit a local PhilHealth office or visit their website since they also accept online applications.
The Philippine healthcare system covers both private and public medical care. Some Filipino workers are covered by Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) through their company to help cover the costs associated with private healthcare. You can also get covered by an HMO in the Philippines or obtain coverage from an International Health Insurance Company. That way, you can get treated through private healthcare facilities without worrying about paying the costs out of pocket.
Remember, you may need to seek treatment from a private healthcare facility if you require speciality care. It also saves you from the hassle of having to wait longer for treatment, which is often the case in public hospitals.
Out-of-Pocket Costs of Medical Treatment in the Philippines
Although the public health facilities and hospitals in the Philippines are of high quality, many patients choose to seek medical care in a private setting. Private facilities not only have the latest equipment, but you also don’t need to wait longer since they are not short of staff. Moreover, private hospitals often specialize in various areas of medical care. For instance, someone with cancer or diabetes can only get necessary care from a private hospital. However, if you opt for private treatments, be prepared to shoulder the out-of-pocket costs. In addition, most of the drugs in the Philippines come from outside the country and are often very expensive.
One way to avoid paying expensive out-of-pocket healthcare costs is through HMOs. HMOs have a network of providers where members can seek medical care. Many employees in the Philippines have HMOs as part of their benefits package from employers. If you do not want to be limited to the HMO network coverage, consider acquiring a private health insurance plan. The plan will allow you to get treatment from private healthcare facilities without worrying about the overwhelming out-of-pocket costs in case you get hospitalized.
COVID-19 and Healthcare in the Philippines
Like many developing countries, the healthcare system of the Philippines has suffered greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, many Filipinos have been hesitant to get vaccinated. One of the reasons behind this hesitancy is the 2017 immunization scandal involving a vaccine against dengue fever, which resulted in fatal consequences for some children who got the vaccine.
Although the healthcare system in the Philippines is not perfect, the country has a decent system capable of providing high-quality medical care to its citizens and foreign visitors. As a visitor to the country, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you will have access to good quality healthcare in case you need it.
The Philippines enjoys wonderfully warm weather all year long, which means it’s an ideal destination at any time of the year. With its tropical climate, the weather is generally hot and humid. The country experiences only three seasons – a hot and dry summer, a wet season, and a colder dry season. The weather patterns of the Philippines are a result of the prevailing winds from the southwest monsoon, locally known as “habagat,” and the northeast monsoon or “amihan.”
The average temperature in the Philippines ranges from 21°C to 32°C, with the average annual daytime temperature at 26.6°C. Temperatures could fluctuate from one region to another depending on the season. However, January is generally the coldest month, while May is the warmest.
The Philippines is prone to typhoons, which usually happen between June and November, mainly affecting the Visayas region, including Cebu, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The typhoons in the Philippines often leave significant damage due to heavy rains and extreme floods.
Thanks to the long and sunny days during the dry season, it’s a popular time for tourists to visit. During this period, the sun rises just after 5 AM, giving early risers plenty of time to explore the outdoors. At most, the Philippines enjoys up to 13 hours of daytime bliss during the dry season, peaking between December and January.
There’s about one hour difference in the daylight hours between the dry and wet seasons, so you can still enjoy plenty of daylight hours when you visit during the wetter months, which would be from June to October.
Since you will probably spend most of your time at the beach when visiting the Philippines, you must be aware of the sea temperatures.
During the dry season, the sea temperature throughout the country ranges from 26°C to 28°C and is only slightly colder during the wet season, ranging from 24°C to 26°C. Given these temperatures, you can spend time at the beach in the Philippines throughout the year. You can go for a swim, enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, or even work on your tan, regardless of the season!
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of the country’s weather conditions.
January is a high season across the Philippines. Weather-wise, it’s one of the best times to visit the country. But as expected, high season means the prices of accommodation and activities are expensive. And since it’s the peak season for tourists, you are sure to deal with the tourist crowds when visiting tourist sites.
Manila’s temperature in January ranges from 25°C to 30°C. If you visit high-altitude places like Baguio, expect the temperatures to be colder, especially at night. Meanwhile, the southern part of the country is warmer, but you can expect a limited amount of rainfall.
Siargao, a popular surfing destination in the southern part of the country, enjoys an average temperature of 27°C in January. Meanwhile, the weather in Boracay and Palawan can be rough due to the monsoons, and island-hopping tours might be limited.
February is also a great time to visit the Philippines. The country has beautiful weather during this time of the year. It’s not too cold or too warm, allowing you to explore comfortably. As a result, February is a high tourist season in the Philippines. The entire country enjoys an average temperature of 30°C, with minimal rainfall, though most days are dry and sunny.
February is a great time to visit Baguio City and the areas in the Cordillera region since the temperatures in these areas are slightly colder. As for the capital city of Manila, the temperature hovers around 30°C, which can be a bit hot, especially in the middle of the day. For those who want to escape the heat, head to places at a higher altitude, such as the mountainous region of Baguio.
Visitors will start pouring into the Philippines in March, the peak tourist season. Even though the temperature will get hotter, it’s still bearable. You can explore the outdoors or spend a longer time at the beach.
In Manila, the average temperature in March can go up to 32°C. It’s a popular time to visit the coastal towns of Palawan, such as El Nido and Coron since the sea temperatures will start to warm up. During this time, sea temperatures will warm up averaging a balmy 27°C.
In March, the Philippines experiences up to eight hours of sunshine. Downpours will be unlikely, with only an average of three rainy days across the month. Given the wonderful coastal breezes, March is the perfect time to swim at the beach.
April is a busy time in the Philippines. As a predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines celebrates the Easter holiday, which usually falls during April. Many locals will travel, and as a result, hotels can be more expensive. Also, popular tourist areas can be crowded, especially the beaches on Easter Sunday. It’s a local tradition to visit the beach during easter.
Temperatures will rise in April, with daytime temperature in Manila averaging 34°C. The humidity is also high, dropping to 32°C at night. There will be about nine hours of sunshine each day, giving tourists more time to explore the outdoors. The sea temperatures will also start to heat up, climbing to 29°C. Therefore, it’s a great time to visit the popular beaches of Boracay, Palawan, or Cebu. But then again, April is a busy season, so you can expect the beaches to be crowded.
May is the hottest month in the Philippines. If you don’t mind the scorching heat and the high humidity, you can come to the Philippines in May. During this time, the temperatures across the country could go up to 36°C during the day, coupled with high humidity. The temperatures at night are generally colder.
As the month progresses, the chances of rainfall will also increase since the rainy season will start to creep up along the country’s shores. Moreover, May sees only about 32mm of precipitation. However, rains can help break the humidity, offering welcome relief from the intense heat. The best places to visit in the Philippines in May are the coastal regions, such as Palawan, Boracay, and Cebu.
June is the start of the low season in the Philippines and may not be the best time to visit the country since it’s the start of the rainy season. But if you want to save on accommodation and activities, this is the best time to visit the Philippines if you don’t mind the occasional rainfall. Prices will start going down and the tourist crowds will begin to disperse.
But expect heavy rainfall when you visit the Philippines in June. You can still go to the beaches of Siargao, Cebu, Boracay, or Palawan. However, island hopping tours might be limited due to the unpredictable weather.
By July, the Philippines will be quieter since tourists will begin to leave the country. While the eastern areas remain relatively dry, the western portions will receive a substantial amount of rain. Daily temperatures fluctuate between 20°C and 32°C, and the climate will get colder due to rains. In July, the average rainfall in the Philippines is 253mm, with up to 17 days of rain in the entire month.
Typhoons will start to affect the country and could be devastating. Large typhoons can lead to extreme flooding in various parts of the country and may destroy several houses and buildings, putting the entire city into a lockdown.
August has almost the same weather conditions as July, where you can expect a lot of rain and typhoons can hit various parts of the country. Temperatures will vary between 21°C and 32°C. There will be more rain in August than in July, with an average of 24 days of rainfall throughout the month.
You will most likely experience rain during your visit to the Philippines in August, especially in the Luzon and Cordillera regions. The southerly islands have much better weather, but you will still likely experience rainfall when you visit these places in August. If you are into surfing, August is a wonderful time to visit Siargao.
September is also a very wet month in the Philippines, so you cannot expect to do a lot of outdoor exploring if you visit during this time of the year. Because it’s a low tourist season, accommodations are more affordable. But there’s a good chance that the country will be hit by a typhoon, which could cause heavy rains and flooding, affecting your travel plans.
Temperatures throughout September hover around 25°C but could still go up the 30°C. The average rainfall is 421 mm. It may not be as rainy as the previous months, but you can expect some downpours. By the end of the month, things will dry up a bit.
October is a shoulder season in the Philippines. The country just came out of the rain-soaked season and slowly heading toward favourable weather conditions. Hotel prices are still quite reasonable but could spike by the end of the month.
In October, the average rainfall in the Philippines is still generally high, averaging 22 days. The country receives up to 355mm of rain in October. The northern area, which covers Luzon and Cordillera, will be receiving much rain, while places like Cebu and Bohol are relatively free from heavy rainfall. The average temperature in October ranges between 25°C and 27°C.
In November, tourists will start arriving in the Philippines, and as a result, prices will increase. The weather is getting better, and the rainy season will completely pass, although you can still expect rain on some days. In November, the Philippines will receive an average of 192mm across 19 days, while the temperatures range between 24°C and 32°C.
The clouds from the rainy season will start to disperse and be replaced with bright sunny skies. The humidity level will also go down. November is a great time to visit famous tourist sites like Boracay and Palawan. However, you will have to share these places with a crowd of tourists.
December is a high season across most of the country. The weather is colder and more pleasant, attracting visitors looking for a beach break during the holiday season. But be warned – hotel prices could triple around Christmas and New Year, so if you’re on a budget, you may need to reschedule your holiday. However, given the wonderful weather, it’s still worth visiting the Philippines in December.
In December, days are clear and sunny, with low humidity levels and less rain than in the previous months. Boracay, Manila, and almost everywhere in the country enjoy fairly good weather in December, making it a popular time to visit the Philippines.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Philippines is from December to February when the temperature is at the coolest, and the rain generally slows down. Things start to heat up in March and will go on until May. If you don’t like to go sightseeing in the scorching heat, avoid visiting during this time of the year, especially since the humidity is high. But if you happen to be in the Philippines during this time, spend as much time in the water to cool off. Or you can go to places with cooler weather, such as Baguio City.
It’s worth noting that the rainy season in the Philippines, which runs from June to October, can often disrupt flights and boat trips, and there is the risk of cyclones. Therefore, if you visit during this time, try to make your schedule flexible to allow unexpected travel interruptions. Some tours will also be cancelled during the rainy season, especially island-hopping tours.
Aside from the typhoon season, where the weather is generally wet and unpredictable, the Philippines is a great destination to visit any time of the year. Typhoons will sometimes occur as late as January or as early as August. Weather-wise, the best time to visit the country is between January and May, but that’s also the peak season for tourists.
If you want to avoid the tourist crowd and don’t mind a little rain, you can visit during the low season, which is from June to September. It’s the rainy season in the Philippines, although some parts of the country do not experience rain during this time of the year.
What To Wear
The weather in the Philippines can be unpredictable. Even during the country’s supposed dry season, some places can experience rains and typhoons. If you’re planning to travel to the Philippines, you must come prepared and pack clothes ideal for both seasons.
Before packing your bags to fly to the Philippines, it’s worth checking the weather condition to know what to wear to the places you plan to visit.
Since you will most likely be visiting some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, you should pack some swimwear. Wear clothes made from natural fibers like cotton, silk, or linen to stay comfortable under the high level of heat and humidity.
Aside from the country’s beautiful beaches, the Philippines is also home to dense forests and mountainous terrains that avid hikers might want to conquer. When hiking or trekking in the Philippines, wear appropriate clothing like quick-dry clothing, long-sleeved shirts, and waterproof or breathable trousers. More importantly, make sure to wear a pair of comfortable footwear.
If you plan on exploring the country’s historical landmarks or busy street markets, you should wear light casual clothes made from breathable fabrics.
When exploring indoor attractions like churches, museums, and religious places, you may be required to wear proper clothing. Anyone wearing shorts and flip-flops might be refused entry. It may be best to wear a casual top paired with loose-fitting pants or a knee-length skirt. These are also appropriate if you have to walk outdoors or ride public transportation, such as a tricycle or jeep.
The Philippines is home to several shopping malls, especially in major cities like Cebu and Manila. These are the best places to visit in case rain starts pouring or if you want to shop and dine out. You are allowed to wear anything you want when visiting these places, including short dresses and skirts or skimpy shorts. You will not draw much attention since the locals in big cities are somewhat open-minded. Most Filipinos also get fashion inspiration from Hollywood celebrities, so you will not feel out of place.
Essentials and Accessories
Whether you’re planning to venture into the outdoors or prefer to explore indoors, it’s a must to bring the following essentials when travelling to the Philippines. These essentials will come in handy in the event of a sudden change in weather or temperature.
- Hat or Cap
- Jacket or sweaters
Here are some suggestions on what to wear in the Philippines:
- Dresses – women should pack at least a couple of dresses when visiting the Philippines during summer. Opt for breezy dresses made from light fabric, so you’ll feel comfortable walking under the heat. Bring versatile dresses that you can wear for island hopping and sightseeing. A pair of flip-flops and a straw hat will also work best during summer.
- Tops – since the Philippines has a tropical climate, wear light and loose-fitting tops. White and light-coloured tops are better as they reflect the heat. When going out at night, opt for dark-coloured tops. A classic white tee would come in handy. And instead of synthetic tops, choose light cotton tops instead. Pack one or two sleeveless tops for sightseeing or island hopping. Avoid wearing very revealing tops when visiting religious places.
- Bottoms – pack jeans, shorts, and skirts to go with your tops. Although denim jeans may not be a good idea when going to tropical countries, it’s a staple in the Philippines. You’ll find most men and women wearing a pair of denim all over the country. They are also perfect for when you need to go out on cooler nights.
Hopefully, this list will give you an idea of what to wear when travelling to the Philippines. In case you forget to bring something, fret not. The Philippines has plenty of shopping malls where you can shop for clothing and other essentials. Most of these malls are home to top international fashion brands like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and more.
About the Philippines and People
The Filipino culture and values make the Philippines different from the rest of the world. Although some of these cultures stem from the Chinese, Spanish, and Americans who colonized the country for many years, most are distinctly Filipino.
Filipinos Take Pride in their Families
Filipinos give importance to families. Whether you’re an immediate family or from the third or fourth generation, you will be treated as a family member. Close familial relationships sometimes go beyond genetic connections or bloodlines so that close friends and neighbours are treated as part of the family.
Most children live with their parents until they get married. Others even choose to stay with their elderly parents even when they already have their own families. Parents often encourage their kids to have a close relationship with their uncles and aunts. They raise and encourage their children to continue to play an active role in the family. Because of the closeness of Filipinos to their families, gatherings are often large and loud.
Respect for Elders
Filipinos strongly value respect for the elderly. Young people are taught to respect their older family members and are encouraged to address them politely and with appropriate titles of respect. When addressing the elderly, Filipinos use catchphrases like “po” and “opo,” to show respect. They also have a culture of “pagmamano,” which requires them to raise the hands of their elders and bring them towards their foreheads as a sign of respect.
Showing respect is an essential part of Filipino culture. Politeness is a norm evident in the way they talk, even to strangers. You can expect a Filipino to be polite in talking to you, regardless of what they may actually think about you.
Most Filipinos Are Religious
Filipinos are known for their strong religious faith that even during challenging circumstances, their faith remains intact. When you visit a Filipino house, you’ll find images of the cross and other religious paraphernalia displayed around the place. It has also become a tradition for Filipinos to attend church every Sunday. Others even twice or three times a week.
One thing that makes the Philippines unique among its neighbouring Southeast Asian countries is that most Filipinos are Christians. Christianity was introduced to the country as early as the 16th century with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. More than 80% are Catholics, while the rest are Protestants, Muslims, etc. Even though the Catholic Church separated from the state in the 1990s, Catholicism still plays an essential role in the country’s societal and political affairs.
Filipinos Are Known for their Resiliency
The Philippines is prone to disasters since it lies along the boundary of major tectonic plates and is in the middle of a typhoon belt. But despite the calamities and catastrophes, Filipinos always rise above these challenges. Instead of wallowing, they pick themselves up and move on with their lives.
The Filipino people have always been very resilient. There’s this concept in the Filipino culture known as “Bayanihan,” which encourages unity and cooperation in the community. This behaviour is most evident during challenging times, which further helps the Filipinos to face adversities.
Cheerful and Fun-loving Attitude
Filipinos, in general, have a cheerful and fun-loving attitude towards life. They know how to have fun and would often joke around with each other. In fact, they laugh even during difficult times, which is one of their coping mechanisms. But there are times when their sense of humour can be unconstructive and distractive towards other people.
If you find Filipinos always laughing, even in the presence of foreigners, don’t take this as a sign that they are mocking you or making fun of you. They are just being cheerful, which is in their nature. Filipinos are typically optimistic and resilient despite being faced with challenges.
Filipinos Value Culture and Traditions
For most Filipinos, traditions and culture in their home are highly important. They would set aside a specific day for important events and celebrations, such as birthday parties, festivals, reunions, etc. At every gathering, you can expect a fest of sumptuous foods.
Filipinos will make sure to celebrate, even a simple event such as a graduation, birthday, or job promotion. The Philippines is also known to have the world’s longest Christmas celebration. As early as September, Filipinos have already started hanging Christmas lights and decorating their homes for the coming holidays.
Filipinos Speak Good English
There are more than 70 major language groups in the Philippines, with more than 500 dialects. For 300 years, Spanish was the country’s official language. It was when Spain ruled the Philippines, and this lasted until the 20th century. After the Americans occupied the country in the early 1900s, the Spanish language declined, and Filipinos started learning English.
In 1935, the Constitution of the Philippines declared English and Spanish as the official languages, and in 1939, Tagalog was named the country’s national language. In 1959, it was renamed “Pilipino” and “Filipino” in 1973. The current constitution declared Filipino and English as the country’s joint official languages.
One of the good things about travelling to the Philippines is you won’t have a hard time talking to the locals since most of them speak good English. Of course, this may not be the case in the remote mountainous areas, but more than half of the country’s population speaks English, making it one of the largest English-speaking nations in the world.
The Philippines has more than seven thousand islands, so if you want to explore the country, you’ll have to travel on a ship or a plane. But when getting around a city, you have various options for transportation.
Getting Around On-Land
Taking the shuttle vans is one way to get from one town to another, which is usually the norm in famous tourist sites like Cebu, Siargao, and Palawan. The fare for these shuttle vans is pretty reasonable, so if you’re travelling on a budget, this would be a great option. For instance, if you are heading to the famous tourist town of El Nido in Palawan, you’ll most likely land at the airport of Puerto Princesa. You can take the shuttle van to get to El Nido, which is about a 5 to 6 hours drive.
One of the most popular options for tourists to travel around is to drive a scooter, especially in the islands of Siargao, Cebu, Bohol, and Palawan. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get from one place to another. Plus, it only costs less than $10 per day to rent, so it’s also the cheapest option. However, you need to have an international driver’s license before you can drive a scooter in the Philippines.
Driving in the Philippines can be challenging for most foreigners. Although the road in most areas in the Philippines is generally in good condition, your biggest threat is the other drivers, who are often very reckless. Make sure you follow the local driving laws and stick to the speed limits to avoid hefty fines.
Some of the cities and towns in the Philippines have decent bus networks that are very affordable. But be aware that although they are very cheap, you may have to wait for them for a long time, and they don’t usually follow any timetable. It is best to ask the locals when taking public transportation. Thankfully, most locals speak good English, so this should not be a problem.
There is another popular mode of public transportation in the Philippines called a jeepney, and you will commonly find them in big cities like Manila and Cebu. They are very cheap, but not too comfortable since they are often packed and have no air conditioning.
Ride Sharing Apps
You can also use ride-sharing apps like Grab in big cities. These apps are highly recommended for foreigners, as it keeps you from getting ripped off. It’s also very convenient since you don’t have to give directions to the driver on where to go since you can pin the location.
You can also take taxis in the Philippines, but they are known to rip foreigners and can sometimes be challenging to communicate with the driver. Unless they have a taxi meter, it is best to negotiate the price beforehand. To know how much the trip will cost you, check out the price in Grab and use that as your basis when negotiating the taxi ride.
Tricycles are like tuk-tuks or rickshaws that are common in various places around the Philippines. It’s one of the cheapest ways to travel from one place to another. But they do not travel long distances, so you can only use them within the town or city. The fares are usually cheap, but there are times when you may need to negotiate the fare especially if you are the only passenger.
Another way to get around the Philippines is to rent a car and drive around wherever you wish to visit. It can work well in big cities and islands and is a more comfortable option than a scooter, especially during summer.
To rent a car in the Philippines, you must have a valid driver’s license. You will also be asked to provide a copy of your passport. Most car rental companies accept cards for payment, but you can also pay in cash if you wish.
As a foreigner, you can use the driver’s license issued by your home country for 90 days. However, the license must be in English. If your license is not in English, you’ll have to visit your local embassy and have it translated to English. If you plan on staying in the country for more than 90 days, you should go to the Land Transportation Office to have your license converted to a local version. You can also choose to apply for a new license.
Always carry your driver’s license and car rental documents when driving your rented car all over the country.
Getting Around the Philippines on a Plane
As mentioned, the Philippines has more than seven thousand islands, home to many beautiful beaches. Travelling from one island to another requires taking a boat or plane. But travelling on a boat could take a lot of time. Depending on where you’re heading, it could take several days before you get to your destination. Thus, the most convenient option is to travel on a plane.
Most tourists start their journey in either Manila or Cebu since both cities have international airports. These cities are also well-connected to all the major cities in the Philippines. If you want to visit Boracay, you will find daily direct flights from Manila or Cebu. On average, the flights between the major islands of the Philippines could cost less than $100 per person. Fares are usually cheaper if you book them several months earlier.
Three major local airlines are operating in the country. Aside from Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, there’s also Cebu Pacific and Air Asia Philippines. Both Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are budget carriers and are known to offer good deals, especially if you book your flight several months ahead, so better watch out for these offers.
Travelling Around the Philippines by Ferry
If you have plenty of time, travelling by ferry or boat is cheaper than taking a plane, and you can easily take a ferry between the different islands in the Philippines. Some islands are so close together that they only require a quick journey between islands. Fast boats are also available on some islands, such as between Cebu and Bohol.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when taking ferries is that the schedule could change instantly, especially if you visit during the monsoon season, which is generally between June and October. The weather could change quickly, going from bright sunny days to torrential rains with thunderstorms in a matter of minutes. When this happens, ferry trips will be cancelled for safety.
FAQs About Getting Around the Philippines
Can You Easily Get Around the Philippines?
Although the Philippines is made up of seven thousand different islands, travelling from one island to another should be easy, especially in famous tourist destinations like Palawan. There are well-established routes for tourists and locals, and you can choose from different transportation options.
How Expensive Is It to Get Around the Philippines?
Depending on the mode of transportation you prefer, getting around the Philippines should not cost you a lot of money. Everything is reasonably priced, especially if you book your trip earlier, as most local airlines offer huge discounts for flights booked several months in advance.
Can You Rent a Scooter to Drive Across the Philippines?
While it’s possible to travel around the Philippines by scooter or car, it’s not a popular option because it can come with many challenges. You could spend several days or even a week on the road and may need to pass by destinations that can be dangerous for foreigners. Travelling by scooter is only recommended if you’re within a city or an island.
Should You Book Ferry Tickets in Advance?
If you plan on taking ferries when travelling from one island to another, you should book the tickets in advance, especially during the peak season. However, buying ferry tickets online can be tricky. Not all ferry companies offer the option to purchase tickets online. If you can’t purchase your ferry tickets online, you can buy them several days in advance or on the day itself. Just show up on the pier, where you’ll find a ticket booth.