Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia with the most stunning islands. The beaches here are white, grey and gold coloured. But the sand is not as impressive as the color of the water. If you go island hopping, you will find paradise, trust me.
Not only that, but diving here is top class and inexpensive. You can swim with whale sharks, visit amazing waterfalls, go kayaking from island to island, Philippines is a great destination to visit while you travel around Southeast Asia.
I spent 20 days in Philippines. This was clearly not enough time for me to see everything but its a good excuse to come back for more.
Scroll down to read about the places that I visited, my daily budget and other expenses. I hope that you find it useful!!!
This is the capital of Philippines and one of the main entry points to this country. Manila is big, busy, polluted and chaotic.
Commuting here is quite an adventure and will prove how patient you really are. Sometimes it can take long hours just to reach a few kilometers, especially during rush hour.
I only spent a few days in Manila. During my visit, I went to Intramuros, a beautiful walled city that was built during the Spanish colonization to protect themselves from foreign invasions. If you are in Manila for a couple of days, this place is worth visiting.
I stayed at my friend James house which is why I cannot recommend a particular hostel. My time here was great, he is an amazing host, chef and friend.
I came to Puerto Galera to get my diving Open Water Certificate. There is not much to do in this town besides diving, so I would only recommend it if you want to get a cheap diving certification.
I got my Open Water Certificate with Jeroen Elout in Puerto Galera.
Included on your diving fees, Jeroen includes accommodation in a tent at his place. This is where I stayed.
Palawan, named the “World’s No.1 Island” (at least that is what every single advertising sign said on the street), has become more and more attractive for tourists nowadays and I can understand why. Even though the weather was not the best whilst I visited this island, I still got to witness the beauty of it.
This are the places that I visited when I was in Palawan Island:
Puerto Princesa: There is not much to do or see in Puerto Princesa. However, flying to Puerto Princesa can be the cheapest way to reach Palawan Island from Manila. From here you can go to Honda Bay, Sabang and/or El Nido.
Read the story on “How I Got to El Nido” in here.
I stayed at Puerto Bayview Backpackers. This hostel has basic but nice rooms with shared toilets, good WiFi and great staff.
Sabang: Sabang is not worth staying long but makes a great stop when you are going to El Nido. Here you can visit the Underground River Cave, which is considered one of the new Natural Seven Wonders of the World.
You will need to get a permit to visit, which you can obtain in Puerto Princesa or in Sabang for the same price.
For more information, see the story on “How I Got to El Nido”.
I spent most of my time in a place called El Nido, its paradise. Located north in Palawan, El Nido is the perfect spot to enjoy beautiful beaches, limestones, go kayaking, snorkeling AND island hopping.
The most beautiful beaches are Las Cabanas and Nacpan Beach. You can either stay there or make day-trips to enjoy this stunning places.
Nonetheless, my highlight in El Nido was the island hopping tours. Make sure you do the Island Hopping Tours A and C and bargain for a good price!!! You should not pay more than USD 20 for the full day with lunch and snorkeling gear included. Don’t skip this!!
For more information, see the story on “How I Got to El Nido”.
I shared a room at Rovics Pension (not Rovics Hotel) with my Colombian friend Diego. The room had AC, TV and private toilets. The place has a great view, location and friendly staff. WiFi was not very good, though.
Cebu City: If you don’t start your trip in Manila, there is a high chance that you will do it in Cebu Island. The capital is Cebu City. I don’t recommend staying in here for more than one or two nights.
There are many things to see around this island that its not worth spending much at Cebu City. If you want to dive with thresher sharks go to Malapascua, if you want to dive with sardines and beautiful coral go to Moalboal and if you want to swim with whale sharks go to Oslob.
Accommodation: In Cebu City, I stayed at Tropical Hostel. They have good facilities, location and free WiFi.
Moalboal: This place is great for diving. I did some fun dives with Dive Neptune and we got to see schools of sardines everywhere. The coral was nice and we saw many small fish and turtles. The price per tank with Dive Neptune was USD 25 at the time I did it. Totally worth it.
Accommodation: I shared a room with my Swiss friend Joanna at Tan Awan. It was more of a guesthouse than a hostel. They have a kitchen in case you want to cook. Rooms are clean and in good conditions.
Oslob: Oslob is the place where you can go snorkeling with whale sharks. This experience is amazing although I understand when people criticize it. Every morning small boats of fishermen feed the whale sharks so they can come and be part of the attraction. This may seem unethical to many people because there is a chance that whale sharks lose part of their nutrients if they just hang around Oslob being fed by the fishermen. I understand your point and respect it.
That being said, I did go swimming with this beautiful and impressive creatures. I went with a group of travelers that were staying at my hostel and shared a small boat. We got to snorkel for a while with the whale sharks. The place is full of tourists, so they sort of “assign” you an area where you can swim. Please do not touch or harm the animals!!! The price is approximately USD 21.
After swimming with the whale sharks, we took a “Jeepney” to visit the Tumalog Waterfalls. This waterfalls are beautiful and worth spending a while relaxing and swimming over there. Transportation and entrance fee was around USD 3 per person.
Daily Budget: Around USD 20 per day which include accommodation, transportation and food. This budget does not include diving. The only thing that can make this country “expensive” is the fact that, many times, you will have to catch planes if you want to go from island to island. There are ferries and boats but, depending on the season, it may be hard to find one that suits your time schedule. Nonetheless, Cebu Pacific offers good prices if you book in advance.
Try the Food: Philippines is not famous for its cuisine but its actually pretty good. Dishes where locals eat usually cost between USD 1-3. Try the lechon, which is a whole roasted and very tasteful pig. The sisig is also very good (sizzling chopped up pig face) although it does not sound appealing. My favorite: Adobo, consisting of chicken or pork stewed in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper and laurel leaves. And please, don’t forget to try the Balut, which is an unhatched duck egg (you can see the head depending on how old it is). If you don’t mind eating fast food, go to the biggest fast food chain in Philipinnes called Jollybee, you will find it everywhere.
Follow me on Instagram: @backpackinglawyer