Philippines

With more than 7,000 islands sprawled along the Pacific Ring of Fire, it’s virtually impossible to visit all of the Philippines. Fortunately, the country’s finest qualities—including stunning landscapes and hospitable locals—can be found all across the archipelago. Those seeking white sand beaches should visit Boracay (which is, admittedly, also a serious party island) or Palawan (which is less developed).” Culture-lovers are better off on the largest island, Luzon, home to the UNESCO-recognized town of Vigan, the Ifugao rice terraces, and baroque churches.

Hanging bridge to Palawan island, Sentosa, Singapore

Photo By Roman Rudiak/Shutterstock

Overview

Can’t miss things to do in Philippines

The Philippines’ charm stems largely from three characteristics: ancient cultures, natural beauty, and overwhelmingly friendly people. A visit to the beach is a must. Swimming with whale sharks is highly recommended (and completely safe). Island-hopping trips among the thousands of uninhabited islands are surprisingly affordable. A visit to a village where life has remained essentially the same for millennia—such as to Batad, set among rice terraces inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List—is a unique and humbling experience. Hospitality is an important part of Filipino culture, and if you socialize with locals you’re likely to be invited to a home-cooked family dinner.

Food and drink to try in Philippines

Filipino cuisine—like the culture—varies from island to island. It consists of a hodgepodge of Austronesian dishes influenced by neighbors (such as Malaysia) and former rulers (Spain and the United States). The result is a variety of paellas, pork, noodle-based dishes (known as pancit), and liberal use of soy sauce, vinegar, and fish sauce. Outside of large cities, few Filipinos frequent restaurants, and the best food is most often found on dinner tables in local homes. Fortunately, locals are wonderfully outgoing and quick to invite a new friend to dine with the family. Where possible and appropriate, accepting such invitations is recommended.

Culture in Philippines

The Philippines lacks many of the characteristics shared by other Southeast Asian countries. While others in the region have strong Buddhist and East Asian traits, Filipinos are a primarily Austronesian people (the same who later migrated to Tahiti and Hawaii), strongly influenced by three centuries of Spanish rule and a long American military presence. The culture is best described as Asian–Latin American. American fashion and rock-and-roll culture are popular, Catholicism is widespread, and colorful Filipino Jeepneys are practically identical to Latin American “chicken buses.” Music completely ingrained in the culture and ancing is an unofficial national pastime.

Shopping

Low prices and affordable alterations make shopping any place in Asia a treat. This is especially true in the Philippines, said by some to be Asia’s shopping capital. Western styles are common, and malls are so popular that many of the world’s largest reside in the country. For high-end shopping in Manila, Greenbelt in the Makati district is the obvious choice. The SM Megamall in the Ortigas district is the biggest shopping center in the country and is an impressive sight. Bargain hunters should head for Greenhills in the San Juan district, where pearls are plentiful, designer goods suspect, and shopkeepers ready to bargain. The best times to shop are after Christmas and Valentine’s Day, when sales are ubiquitous.

Practical Information

March through May are the hottest months in the Philippines, followed by a rainy season that lasts until October. November to February are the most temperate months to visit. Most nationalities don’t need a visa for trips of up to 30 days, though an ongoing ticket and a passport that’s valid for at least six months are required. Air conditioning on buses can be frigid, so be sure to take warm clothing. The currency is the peso; English is widely spoken. Electricity is 220 volts.

How to get around Philippines

The majority of international flights land in Manila, though there are other options if you want to avoid the chaotic capital. For a nonstop flight from the United States, book on Philippine Airlines. As of October 30, 2018, the airline launches nonstop service from JFK to Manila five times per week. Domestic travel in the Philippines is affordable. Islands are easily reached on airlines including Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, and AirAsia Philippines. You can also island hop by ferry. Book through 2Go Travel.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Mau‘i-based chef Sheldon Simeon thought his grandmother’s pork adobo recipe was lost to history. Then he traveled to the Philippines to film an episode of “Family Recipes” and discovered that the recipe was right where his grandmother left it.
Whether you’re an urban explorer or more of a beach bum, there’s a hotel in the Philippines for your type of trip. While business travelers tend to stay near Manila, many will fly through the hub to hit the famous beaches of the Philippine islands, where there are five-star resorts and plenty of sunshine. Here’s where to find everything from a historic hotel with views of Manila Bay and a luxury property near Makati’s best shopping to a private island resort surrounded by coral reefs.
Filipino food is a grand stew of flavors and styles developed across the Southeast Asian country’s 7,000 islands. Flavors often lean toward sour in savory dishes (the country is a vinegar fan’s delight) and, on the dessert front, the sweet relief from the heat that halo halo and ice cream treats provide. But you’ll also see the influence of many other countries’ flavors in the mix, from Spanish cuisine to Chinese. The restaurant scene ranges from relaxed open air spots that focus on local food to high-end dining at resorts. If food is your top reason to travel, consider sticking around the capital for several days. Many restaurants in Manila are becoming household names around the world.
Every now and again, travelers just need to stay in one place and leave the running around to the rest of the world. That’s where resorts come in. Though most of these resorts on the Philippine Islands are within easy reach of other grand adventures, these properties serve up a world all their own. They all serve memorable meals and have snap-worthy views.
Not surprisingly, this chain of more than 7,000 islands holds a million wonders—wildlife, mountains, jungles, and the white sand beaches of your dreams. With so many places to go, you’ll have to make some tough choices. What can wait for the next trip? Will you go island hopping or stay put on one of the larger islands? Will you head for the Chocolate Hills and the chance to see tiny primates with giant eyes? Or will you swim with whale sharks and go scuba diving off the low-key island of Palawan? There are no wrong answers.
The popular island in the Philippines is welcoming visitors once again, but with a new set of rules to protect it from the effects of overtourism that nearly ruined it.
To get a taste of authentic Filipino food, it’s no longer necessary to book a trip to the Philippines. Meet the chef helping to bring the complex island cuisine stateside.
Well, it’s actually not that surprising once you learn about musical culture in the Philippines.
When it comes to solo sojourns, a new generation of apps is attempting to connect travelers faster than ever.
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