The beautiful Philippines with its 7107 islands and 100 million people, is an unknown and unappreciated destination for the mainstream tourist. It has three international airports , Cebu, Davao City and Manila. Manila is the main airport, and from there the 3 main domestic airlines will take you to almost any of the islands. It’s much cheaper to book the internal flights once you are in Manila, with most flights being under $100 per person walk in. The three main regions are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The spoken language is Tagalog but nearly everyone can speak excellent English from small kids to adults, so there virtually no language barrier anywhere. Public transportation is excellent and plentiful, from jeepneys to modern air conditioned metered taxis, always ask the driver to switch on the meter.
The food choices are getting more westernised every year, I’ve noticed a great improvement in the last 15 times I’ve been there. Filipino food isn’t for everyone, I personally don’t like it at all.
Beer choices are mainly two, San Miguel or Red Horse, the latter gets you pole axed beyond belief with a matching hangover next day. I drink San Mig Lite, full strength 5% but low in carbs, and it tastes a lot like a Corona if that’s your preference. Tanduay rum is also popular at $2 a bottle, but I don’t want to wake up naked in a garden bed so I stay clear of it. Beers are all about a dollar for a 375ml bottle or $1.50 for a one litre Red Horse. Restaurant prices are generally 20% higher for beers, but you can eat a plate of pinoy food for a few dollars. Stay clear of buffets, they don’t believe in wasting electricity on keeping food hot, so get there at opening time while the grub is hot. Don’t be surprised if they bring hot beer to your table as refrigeration is expensive, I’ve been served a hot bottle so I politely ask for a glass of ice to go with it.
Do not get frustrated or act like a wanker, just remember to breathe and smile if things don’t go your way, remember you’re a guest in their country.
TAXI TIP 1 From the international airport Terminal 1 exit the terminal by walking across the road to the waiting area and turn right, from there walk through the car park about 200m out into the public area and just hail a taxi there. The private taxis at the airport will charge ten times the normal fare 1500 pesos, but I usually pay no more than 150 plus an additional 40 pesos to get the driver to use the new Skyway overhead toll road to get to the Mall of Asia area.
TAXI TIP 2 If youre departing from the domestic termial 4 into the city, walk outside the terminal and turn right, walk about 200m past the yellow taxi rank, untill you see the white taxi rank, this is the cheapest thats why its the futrtherest from the terminal exit. The yellow taxis are airport taxis and they usually have a fixed rate, without a meter.
TAXI TIP 3 If you’re arriving at Terminal 3, walk outside and turn right and walk 75m to the Yellow Taxi rank, to catch a metered taxi. Average waiting time for a taxi is about 30 minutes.
There is no bartering for goods, you just pay the price advertised, it always amazes me that tourists spend time and emotion trying to save a few cents on an item, that’s just way too tight arsed 🙂
7/11 is your best friend, there is one every 200 metres and they sell cold beer for a dollar 24 hours a day.
Victory bus lines operate throughout the Philippines offering comfortable modern air conditioned buses costing about $10 for a 300km journey. If you like to travel like a local you can do that too, being crammed into a bus with 60 other people without air conditioning sweating your arse off for $5.
Decent hotels with a swimming pool and aircon rooms start at about $40 upwards depending on what type of traveller you are. These can be booked on your Booking Dot Com phone app, where you can filter results to suit your needs.
Another popular transportation option is to use the Grab App, it’s like Uber but not as dodgy. They are mainly in the bigger cities, but zero out in the provinces, out there you have two options, walk or use a tricycle.
There are three main mobile networks Sun, Globe and Smart pick which best suits your data needs.
We usually fly Qantas Airlines via Sydney to Manilla, believe it or not they are one of the cheapest airlines, i did try Philippine Airlines Via Darwin but their aircraft are about as comfortable as a one wheeled bicycle without a seat. Manilla has the population of Australia in the capital city, its busy, dirty and noisy but the new president is trying his best to clean it up.
I usually stay in the Pearl Hotel in Malate information and bookings HERE. This hotel is within walking distance to Robinsons Mall and also Manilla bay, and is about $5.00 by taxi from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Manila is home to regular typhoons of mass destruction, however this doesnt stop the constant building of condos or high end six star casinos. Its considered the Pearl of The Orient with is stunningly beautiful women and amazing white sand beaches, as well as an abundance of local fresh fruits and coconut drinks. The heavily congested roads are blanketed with a thick layer of smog acompanied with the constant drone and whine of engine noise and vehicle horns. With all the kaos and mayhem the locals seem to take in their stride with a friendly smile, and a patient attitude, with their motto EVERYTHING IS OK SIR. By night the temperature drops a few degrees making it bearable to walk outside away from the air conditioning, to enjoy the pretty city night scapes and listen to the blarring music spewing from the many bars in the Malate area.
I recommend two places for live bands and good times catch a taxi or a GRAB car. 1. Cowboy Grill Malate Address: 532 Remedios St, Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila, Philippines INFO
2 Johnny B Good in Makati ( previously the Hard Rock Cafe) Address: Ayala Center, Level 3, Glorietta 3, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines INFO
Nestled 5000 feet above sea leave is the much cooler city of Baguio which is six hours North from Cabao Victory Bus terminal in Manila. The cost is 400 pesos each way that’s $10, and is very comfortable with regular pit stops to buy beer and use the CR (comfort room, or toilet). If you’re a tall person make a beeline for the middle of the back bus row where you can stretch your legs in the aisle while sitting down. Baguio is famous for its strawberries and majestic views, beautiful parks and a plethora of western food choices, my favourite is Army Navy burger joint. The population is 700 000 people so it’s a bit crowded with traffic all the time.
Tagaytay which is 2000 feet above sea level is three hours South of Manila Cabao Victory Bus terminal. The bus fare was $2 last time I went there in 2017 in an aircon modern bus. Hotels start at about $60 but you don’t need swimming pools or aircon because it’s so much cooler there. It’s a much newer city than Baguio and a smaller population with 100 000 but just as much traffic especially on weekends, so I suggest you go there on weekdays. It has stunning views over lake Taal, and beautiful gardens as well as many western food choices. My favourite eating place is Gerry’s bar and Grill with its great selection of hot food, cold beers and a magnificent view of the lake and volcano.
Alaminos 100 Islands
Four hours north west from Manila Cabao Bus terminal is the 100 islands archipelago; Victory Bus lines travel here for $7 in an aircon modern bus. The island boat terminal is 7km away from Alaminos city and you have to catch a tricycle there the only option for $2.50. There are hotels closer to the boat terminal but there are no restaurants there or anything to do other than drink beer in your hotel room. Hotel prices range from $40 upwards including breakfast. The island hopping takes a full day and costs $40 including snorkelling gear.
Mention Baler and the first thing that will pop in everyone’s mind is surfing! And this without a doubt is true because Sabang Beach is a real surfer’s paradise. But more than surfing, the town is increasingly becoming popular not only to surfing enthusiasts, primarily because of its natural beauty, historical significance and other attractions.
Baler is the capital of the province of Aurora. It is situated on the east coast of Luzon, fronting the roaring waves of Pacific Ocean and enclosed by the mountains of Sierra Madre. The town’s relative isolation has preserved much of its historical sites, cultural heritage and tradition that are all deeply rooted on its vibrant past.
Manila to Baler
Genesis Transport Service is the only bus company that plies directly from Metro Manila to Baler. Their Baler bound buses are located in their Cubao Terminal New York Ave, Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Genesis offers two types of bus service for the Baler:
The executive luxury bus called Joy Bus, a non-stop service trip with snacks on a sleeper bus with Wi-Fi, a bus stewardess, blankets, pillows and a morning kit. There are at least three trips a day, with travel time of five hours and P750 (November 2014 rate) fare. Advance reservation is required.
The regular air-con bus that travels six to seven hours for a fare of P450, advance reservation is not necessary.Although Genesis has a published schedule of the trips, the schedule of the regular aircon bus is almost always not followed. Joy Bus from Cubao to Baler are set to depart at 12:30AM, 1:30AM, 2:30AM and 5:30AM while the regular air-con bus has supposed to have hourly trip from 2AM to 8AM but it also depends on the volume of passengers. It is advised to be in the station early if you are taking the regular air-con bus and be attentive of the announcement and updated schedule since there is no proper way of queuing or ticket issuance for the regular trips. For advance reservation on Joy Bus and other information, call their Cubao Office at (02) 709-0803 or (02) 421-1425.
Boracay Island Aklan
About two hours by plane from Manila to Caticlan $100 and then catch a ferry 1.2 Km to the island for about $5. Best area to stay in is Station 2, as it’s central to D mall and in the middle of the island which is only 6km long. I hired my own motorcycle for $5 a day, because I prefer my independence. Hotel prices vary but because Boracay is the number one tourist destination the minimum hotel prices start at $100 including breakfast.
In Boracay we stayed in the Peninsular Hotel Station 2 check reviews HERE , it has a giant pool and is beachfront, with included breakfasts and twin queen beds for $50/night for three people.
El Nido palawan
From Manila fly two hours to Peurto Princessa $100 and I suggest you stay there a few days to also check out Honda Bay and also the Underground River. Hotels cost about $40 a night depending on your style. Then you can either fly or bus it to El Nido. I caught the bus and it was like I was in the dentists chair for six hours with 15 people crammed into a ten seater mini van. This bus ride is $40 return but you can stay as long as you like but still have a ticket to return when you’re ready with a few busses available throughout the day. The only downside of El Nido is the electricity load shedding where power is turned off between 8am and 2pm, so try to find a hotel with a standby generator. Island hopping and snorkeling is compulsory it’s that amazing, a one day tour costing very little. Hotels start at $60 for aircon room including breakfast ocean front.
Check out the incredible sunsets.
A short flight from Manila to Tagbilaran lands you on the beautiful Bohol Island, or you can catch the Ocean Jet ferry from the pier in Cebu city. Bohol boasts the beautiful Panglao attached by a bridge in the south west of Bohol, and the Chocolate hills. The other thing to do is have lunch in Loboc on the floating river cruise restaurants, and on the way there go check out the miniature monkeylike Tarsiers.
So after a three hour delay because of typhoon type rain in Iloilo waiting in Manila Domestic terminal 4, we finally boarded our Air Asia flight to Iloilo. Terminal 4 can be likened to an Indian train platform with not enough seats for travellers, limited communication about delays and zero wifi, kinda like stepping back into the 70s. The flight takes about an hour with some beautiful scenery out of the aircraft window, of farming land and mountains. The fare cost me $120 return to Manila booked directly with Air Asia through skyscanner app.
Iloilo has the reputation for being the cleanest city in the Philippines and i agree that is was, the hour long 18km taxi ride from the airport to the city exposed me to its clenliness. I opted to stay in Go Hotel in Robinsons Mall as its central to everything with a giant mall in the same complex. The hotel rate was 1500 PHP whis was about $50 so i stayed there two nights. The city boasts some beautiful old buildings like Molo Church and Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. You can catch the water ferry across Iloilo Strait to Guimaras Island, it takes about 20 minutes to get to the island, where you will be bombarded with transport vendors. Just keep walking till you reach the privately owned mini vans to take you where you need to go, the fare is 80 PHP anout $2.50.
Another place to go is West to Garinfarm in San Joaquin which is an hour on an aircon bus for $3.00, once you arrive you need to pay 150 PHP $4.00 entrance. Then you need to walk through a hanging plant tunnel for about 600m to reception all uphill. The resort has a huge swimming pool with quaint sea view cottages, for $50/night, as well as access to the actual pilgrimage climb of 288 steps to the top of the huge cross. At the rear of the huge cross there is a totally white biblical display so bright you need sunglasses to look at it, but certainly worth the extra heartbeats climing up there.
Many people say Mindanao is dangerous, but I’ve never had any problems there in the many times I’ve been there. The furthermost West I’ve been is General Santos City in South Cotabato, the tuna fish capital of the Philippines. There is an International airport in Davao City, and i like to stay in the Marco Polo hotel for a few days until we go explore somewhere else. Samal Island is just offshore from Davao and the Blue Jazz resort is excellent value with its ocean front and water slides. Four hours North of Davao you will find the Enchanted river and Hintuan Falls, just hire a mini van for a few days with a driver at $80 per day plus fuel. In this van you can fit 6 people plus the driver comfortably with your luggage and cartons of cold piss, as well as munchies and your ipod.
Davao is the capital city of Mindanao with 1.8 million people and is accessible directly to Davao International Airport. Its a relatively clean city and boasts some of the purest artesian water on the planet. Its much like any other major city in the Philippines with traffic and noise, but people seem to be more chilled out there. Mindanao is a huge land mass with plenty to see and do, Ive travelled as far North as Bislig and as far West as general Santos City.
Eden Adventure Park is an hours drive west of the city and offers many fun activities for the kids including Indiana Jones ziplines, skyrider and skycycle to name a few as well as being much cooler due its elevated altitude in the mountains. Entrance fee for day use is $7.00/person with a light lunch , but some rides cost extra.
Mondays – Sundays from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed on Christmas Day
Address: Brgy. Eden, Toril, Davao City
Crocodile Park is also a fun place to go to observe hundreds of crocodiles and various other animals for the entrance fee $7/adult and $5/kids.
Samal and Talikud islands are easily assceeible from davao city and have many cheap resorts and cold beer.
We got bored one afternoon so i took my son to gerrys bar and grill at Abreeza Mall Davaofor the promo 6 beers in a bucked and tuna sisig dish for $12, this is what happened lol.
About 4 hours drive from Davao City is the beautiful quaint seaside town of Mati, here you can stay in bugalows suspended above the ocean like in the Maldives just at a tenth of the price lol.
About 4 hours North of Davao City by a private van is the world renound bottomless Enchanted river in Hinatuan, with its clear turquoise fresh water. from there it runs out to the sea, you can take an outrigger to the islands from the mouth of the river there.
Surigao City is also popular for surfers to transit to Siargo Island with a very similar name, its a 3 hour boat ride from the city to the legendary Cloud 9 surf break.
General Santos City
Usually referred to as General Santos City, and abbreviated as GenSan, is a 1st class highly urbanized city in Soccsksargen, Philippines. It is a highly urbanized city located at the southern portion of South Cotabato, but perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that world famous boxer Manny Pacquiao is a native. When you speak about General Santos City (GenSan), you speak about fish; the tuna (Bariles) fishing industry is strongly present in General Santos City. From the airport and harbor large amounts of processed tuna, acclaimed as the most fresh and the best in quality, is sent too many markets around the globe, the city’s ports are daily processing the largest total of fish landings in the country. General Santos City truly deserves to be named as the Tuna Capital of Asia; it is no wonder that many restaurants and smaller eateries (carinderias or turo-turo) offer tuna as their main dish, the word “tuna” is prominently displayed on colourful billboards outside various food outlets. You can order it cooked fried, grilled, as soup and even raw; the grilled tuna is a best seller, but one of the most delicious appetizers is probably “Kinilaw na Tuna“, a raw fish salad that is usually consumed as “pulutan“. A phrase derived from the Filipino word “pulutin” literally meaning “something that is picked up” or “Finger Food”.