However, travelling the Philippines can be tough too. With its 7,000 islands, 100 dialects and a population that's roughly a third of the United States', the country can be intimidating to first-time visitors. But if you decide to push through with your flight to the Philippines, here are the most helpful do's and don'ts to remember.
Leave your winter clothes behind.
Trust us, you won't need them. As far as Filipinos are concerned, there are only two seasons: sunny and rainy. Either way, you'll want to keep an umbrella with you, in case the heat gets too unbearable and/or the rain suddenly pours (which happens a lot!).
Also, you'll want to stock up on comfortable clothes. Shirts made of thin fabric are ideal, as are shorts and flip flops. In the highly unlikely event that you need to stay warm (like when visiting places like Baguio), jackets and blankets can come in handy too.
Learn basic Filipino phrases.
Although Filipinos usually have a strong grasp of English, it won't hurt to know a Filipino phrase or two. After all, hearing a foreigner speak your language fluently is always a pleasant surprise. It's also a good idea to brush up on Filipinisms (i.e. unique ways Filipinos use English), such as "Xerox" for photocopying services, "Colgate" for toothpaste and "No parking on both sides."
Learn how the local transportation system works.
Generally, you'll find these modes of transport in the Philippines:
- Bus. Used to travel between cities, provinces and regions.
- Jeepney (or "jeep" for short). Used for distances up to 4 kilometers or more.
- Tricycle. Used for shorter distances than the ones jeepneys travel.
- Train/LRT/MRT. Found in urban areas such as Metro Manila.
If you want to travel without blowing your budget, getting on the abovementioned vehicles is a good idea. But if you still don't know your way around, use Uber or Grab to flag down a taxi. Granted, taxis are more expensive, but if paying a premium means you'll be safe throughout your stay, the price is worth it right?
When in the Philippines, do as the Filipinos do.
In restaurants, you don't need to wait for a server to come to your table. Instead, call their attention by raising your hand. If the gesture gets you eye contact with a server, form a rectangle with your fingers to signal that you're "billing out." Wait for the bill to show up at your table, pay with cash or credit card, and give the server a "tip" as thanks for their effort.
If you're eating at a place that has no utensils whatsoever, chances are you're supposed to eat by hand. For more info on the etiquette(!) of eating with your hands, check out this handy guide.
Speaking of food, Filipinos typically eat at least five meals a day. Aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner, they also have "brunch" and merienda in-between the aforementioned mealtimes. So if you like to stuff yourself silly every meal, watch what you eat in the Philippines!
Look for the not-so-touristy places.
There's more to the Philippines than Boracay and Palawan. The country has other hidden wonders too, like the Grecian pillars of Fortune Island, the bird sanctuary of Polilio Island and the haunted lighthouse of Pundaquit. In fact, if you go out of your way to visit these extraordinary places, you might not want to go back to the usual tourist hotspots!
Prepare for the Filipinos' unique brand of idiosyncrasies.
In the Philippines, there's a concept called "Filipino time." Essentially, if a Filipino tells you that a party will start at 7 PM, expect it to start at least a couple of hours later. That can be annoying if you're the punctual type who likes your ducks in a row, but that's just how it is.
Also, it's not uncommon for local businesses to take a break from 12 to 1:30 P.M. That's because Filipinos love their siesta, which is a holdover from the Philippines' Spanish colonial period. It's not always a bad thing, though: Filipinos seem happier and more alert after a nap.
Prepare to have fun too.
If there's one thing you need to remember about Filipinos, it's this: Filipinos love to have fun. They sing even when they're out of tune, dance even when they're just flailing around, and jump off waterfalls even when they're afraid of heights. When you're with a mostly-Filipino group, that's a hundred-percent guarantee you won't get bored.
What else would you like to know about travelling in the Philippines? Do you have any firsthand experiences you'd like to share? Share them with us in the comments!