(Guest post written by Jeanne Whitman)
The Philippines, being an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, has a whole lot to offer for tourists. For first time explorers, however, that bounty of potential destinations can make it hard to pick where to go.
Fortunately, there are tried and tested spots and attractions which never disappoint and can give more reasons for first time tourists to go back. Here are some of the prime tourist spots in the Philippines no matter what your interests might be.
For water adventurers
Experiencing the powdery sands and turquoise waters of Boracay is still a must-try for first time tourists. Although the place can get crowded, if you go during the off-peak season, you can have a quieter atmosphere. Peak season is during summer, from March to May.
If island hopping and snorkeling is your cup of tea, visit Palawan. The islands of El Nido are some of the most beautiful and if you’ve seen The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner, you’ve already had a sneak peek of the islands through some of the scenes.
Palawan is also renowned for its marine biodiversity in places like Coron. Additionally, the rural capital Puerto Princesa is home to the Underground River, which belongs to the New 7 Wonders of Nature. It’s also the entry point for divers who want to explore the world-famous Tubbataha Reef.
For altitude seekers
Those that love the highlands should take a trip to Baguio and Sagada. Baguio is the Summer Capital of the Philippines due to its cold weather even in summer. It’s also known for its Seven Peaks, the most famous of which are Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ulap. Watching the sunrise and sea of clouds atop one of these mountains is an experience like no other. Want more of a challenge? Try conquering all seven summits in as few days as possible.
Sagada is home to exhilarating mountain views as well. A New Zealander even commented that “It feels a lot like Lord of the Rings actually.” That’s coming from someone whose home country was where the films were really shot. Furthermore, Sagada is home to the Hanging Coffins; has lots of caves for spelunking and; waterfalls for swimming in cold waters.
For culture buffs
At the heart of the Filipino culture is its numerous festivals. This October 1-12, Zamboanga City aka the City of Flowers is set to celebrate the annual Hermosa Festival. There will be flower shows, art exhibits, trade fairs, and parades of vintas, which are colorful native sail crafts.
Bacolod City or the City of Smiles, on the other hand, will be holding their Masskara Festival on October 14-21. Jolly performers wearing masks of different smiles and colors will be taking to the streets, and carnivals will be set up for the delight of locals and foreigners alike.
Note that there are more festivals in October and other months. You can check out this detailed list if you’re visiting the country during any other part of the year.
Regarding food culture, a tourist will have no shortage of options given that each province has its own signature dishes. All you have to do is ask the locals and you’ll have your satisfying fill of Filipino cuisine.
Additional basic tips
As with any other country, practice common safety and be wary of bad people lurking in dark alleys. The Philippines is a safe country for tourists as long as you observe precautions: avoiding dark areas, keeping money and expensive items hidden, and other similar practices.
In Manila, traffic can get bad especially during local rush hours. You’ll most likely be entering the country through Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Be aware, NAIA’s parking lots and other public transportation options are minimal and the lots can get congested fast as opposed to other major airports like Atlanta or London Heathrow for instance, which Parking4Less details as having the most airport car parks and services in the UK. (Good to know for my January trip to London!)
Additionally, state-of-the-art airports like Heathrow have efficient alternative public transport even on peak travel days. Unfortunately, this is not the case at Manila’s NAIA – while there are loads of cabs, there isn’t the option to hop on the subway to get you to your chosen destination. Thus an important tip – make sure to do plenty of research beforehand, so that you know exactly how to get where you need to go!
One final tip – be friendly and learn how to haggle! A lot of times, you can bring prices down if you’re friendly and know how to bargain, regardless of whether it’s food, tours or souvenirs. Familiarize yourself with words or phrases like “Kamusta po?” (How are you?), “Magkano po?” (How much?), “Wala na po bang tawad?” (Can I get a lower price please?) and “Salamat po!” (Thank you!).
Great advice from Jeanne since I’m leaving next week for my first Philippine adventure – any other tips or suggestions?