More often than not, when people travel to the Philippines, they go for the islands and beaches. For me, I go for the volcanoes and wildlife. I decided to dedicate half of my time exploring the volcanoes while leaving the other half for the islands and boy, was that a great idea. I got to see the most symmetrical cone-shape volcano in the world, I got to swim with the whale sharks in the wild (not the one where they feed them) and hanging out with the kids of Palawan in Sibaltan. What more could I ask for!
Within this itinerary, you will be able to experience both the adventure and relaxation within one trip. From the thrills of hiking volcanoes to sitting on a hammock while enjoying the sunrise in Palawan. We have got them all covered!
Philippines Travel Video
Why go to the Philippines?
I can write a whole article on why you should come to the Philippines but to keep it short, here is a list of things why you should make the Philippines your next destination:
- The people are really nice and they all speak English so communication is easy and efficient.
- You get to experience the wildlife up close like the tarsiers and the whale sharks.
- For thrill-seekers, there are plenty of stunning volcanoes to hike around.
- Palawan is literally heaven on Earth.
When To Go
The highest season is the dry season from November to April where the country attractions are fully accessible. The number of the whale shark encounters in the wild also peak around April and if you are like me who were looking forward to swimming with these wonderful creatures, March to April is probably the best time. One down side is that it is really hot in April. If you can't handle the heat, traveling during December to February is a good idea as the temperature is a little lower.
How to Get Here
Browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight from where you live to Manila or the main city hub like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok and then you might be able to find a cheap flight from there to Manila via AirAsia. To find a cheap flight, I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo before to compare prices so you will get the cheapest one possible.
How To Get Around
Traveling around the Philippines can be quite a pain since the country is a archipelago. Bus ride takes longer than it should, while flights might not be as budget friendly.
The fastest way is by plane and airlines like Cebu Pacific and AirAsia are well connected and offer affordable prices.
Buses are the cheapest form of transportation in the Philippines. It can be quite reliable if you are traveling within the main islands. Some operators such as Victory Liner have scheduled trips that connects the provinces together.
Train is also another great option if you are not in a rush. Philippine National Railways (PNR) offers many routes with different tiers of services from executive sleeper to economy. It is slower than the bus though but more comfortable.
Traveling within a city or short distance trips are as simple as flagging down a tricycle from the road. They are widely available and relatively cheap if you bargain hard enough. Jeepneys are also great as a backup transport in case the vans or buses are not running as it supposed to (it happens).
Manila - Z Hostel - 11.55 USD/Night (Great location, awesome staff and very good facilities)
Pinatubo - CASA HERMOGINA - 24 USD/Night (single room)
Legazpi City - Mayon Backpackers Hostel - 6.92 USD/Night
Cebu - 1521 Hostel Mactan Cebu - 13.51 USD/Night
Bohol - Moon Fools Hostel - 11.77 USD/Night (Great facilities with bunk beds equipped with curtains for privacy)
El Nido, Palawan - Our Melting Pot Hostel - 10.28 USD/Night
Sibaltan, Palawan - Erlittop Garden - 11.87 USD/Night (Single Room)
Coron, Palawan Fat Monkey Hostel - 6 USD/Night
The Internet situation in the Philippines is quite complex as the industry is being run by 2 companies, Globe and Smart. Their coverages are both subpar with the focus mainly on urban areas. That said, I used Globe and had no problem getting 3G speed in most places mentioned here except Pinatubo. For more info, read here.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Philippines, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Three Weeks Itinerary
Manila (4 nights)
First day arriving in Manila, take a day to walk around the streets of Makati and explore the Intramuros district where the colonial architecture are located. San Agustin Church and Fort Santiago are a few attractions worth seeing when you are there. After you are done with the old town, take a jeepney (it is an adventure in itself) and visit the World's first Chinatown, find a cheap restaurant to sit and eat. The food is great and really really cheap!
Mt Pinatubo (1 night or day trip from Manila)
After a day in the city, take a taxi to the Pasay bus station and hop on a bus bound for Capas (2 - 3 hours). Make sure to tell the bus driver to drop you off at the McDonald junction and take a tricycle to Santa Juliana (30 mins) where you can get a jeep up to Pinatubo. If you arrive early, you maybe able to get a shared jeep from the tourist office in Santa Juliana. If not, you can stay overnight and get a shared jeep with the hotel instead. For more information, please visit Wikitravel.
Lake Ta'al (Day trip from Manila)
For a visit to Lake Ta'al, I would recommend you to book a trip from an operator in Manila or look for a trip on Tripkada and join a group since it is not so easy to go there independently. It takes around 3 hours to get to the lake from Manila and you are required to charter a boat to the start of the hiking trail and hire a local guide to lead you to the crater.
The hike is best done in the morning to avoid the scorching heat of the Philippines. Once you reach the lookout point, you will have a view of the whole crater from the top. You have the option to climb down and swim (in a designated area only!) or stay up at the lookout point and enjoy the view. It was definitely worth the hike!
Legazpi (3 nights)
After Manila, you can either take a bus or a plane to Legazpi city where you will be met with a view of the Mayon volcano. If you take a flight from Manila, be sure to seat yourself on the left side of the aircraft for a view above.
There are plenty of adventure to be found in Legazpi. First take a tricycle to the Cagsawa ruin early in the morning (7 AM) and beat the crowd. After seeing the Mayon Volcano, walk out from the ruin towards the road, you will find many ATV operators offering an ATV tour to one of the many spots around the volcano. It is definitely worth doing since you get to see the volcano up close and appreciate its symmetrical beauty.
On your way back, you can drop by the Daraga Church and enjoy another perspective of the Mayon volcano.
Donsol - Whale Sharks (day trip)
From Legazpi, you can do a day trip from the city to Donsol quite easily with a transport available at the Legazpi bus terminal. Once you arrive in Donsol, you can take a tricycle to Donsol Whale Shark Interaction Center where you can charter a boat to swim with the whale sharks in the wild, the way it should be done.
In Oslob, Cebu, they feed them everyday to attract the young ones for the tourists which affected their migration pattern, their behavior towards humans, and getting severe sun burned from being above the water for too long. I highly recommend you avoid going to Oslob and come to Donsol instead. In Donsol, they track down the whale sharks in the wild and we swam with them when we found one. This allows us tourists to enjoy the wildlife in its habitat without a long-lasting effect.
Cebu (4 nights)
The city itself is not very attractive but Cebu city gives us the perfect base for exploring the surrounding natural wonders such as the Kawasan Falls, Osmeña Peak and the Pescador Island. You can spend 3 days doing day trips to these nature spots before heading to Bohol.
Bohol (3 nights)
When you are in Bohol, I highly recommend you renting a motorbike and explore the landscape at your own pace. Chocolate Hills, the tarsier sanctuary, and the man-made forest can be done in one trip, and riding a motorbike between these places was a highlight in itself as it takes your through lush forests on curvy roads.
If you have time left in Bohol, you can also go to Anda and explore the Cabagnow Cave Pool or just chill out at the beach.
Palawan (4 nights)
Spend a day or two in El Nido and do the Boat Tour A to the beaches and lagoons of Palawan. It is touristy but beautiful nonetheless.
Personally, El Nido was too crowded for me so if you want to avoid the tourists, rent a motorbike, drive to Sibaltan and stay at the Erlittop resort. With a price of a hostel, you will get the whole cabin to yourself overlooking the sunrise beach. They also offer a snorkeling tour around the northern part of Palawan away from the crowd.
Coron (4 nights)
You can also spend a few days in Coron island where you can go hike Mount Tapyas, hike the Kayangan Lake and go on a snorkeling tour and if you are lucky enough, you might even be able to see the Dugongs munching at the sea grass along the coast of Busuanga.
With this itinerary, you will be able to experience the volcanoes, the islands, and all the amazing wildlife in its habitats within 3 weeks. What do you think about the itinerary? Did I missed something from the list? If so, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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