If it wasn’t for my Aunty being Filipino, I would ever have visited the place that has become my favourite place in the world. I’m always grateful that I have the opportunity to come here so much to see my family. But the Philippines is a wonderful place to visit so even if you do not have family here, visiting the Philippines is a must during your lifetime. There are so many things to do and see, two weeks almost isn’t enough. but if you are restricted with your annual leave you can definitely have a great trip within two weeks and see many of the beautiful sites the islands have to offer. I have done a couple of blogs on previous trips to the Philippines, but I feel so at home now it felt like a good idea to put all of my knowledge into a post for anyone thinking of taking a trip there soon. I’ve already written a separate blog on one of my favourite places, Blue Rock Beach Resort , and also filmed a Youtube video about the Philippines. However, I still wanted to put together an “ultimate guide” for anyone thinking of visiting.
Visiting the Philippines – is it safe?
I always visit the island of Luzon as this is where my family are. This is also the island that Manila is on and is, in general, pretty safe. Like anywhere, you need to watch out for pickpockets in the big cities. Funnily enough, I feel safer walking around Angeles City than I do in London. Mindanao is a risky area in certain parts and it’s worth checking the foreign office travel website before you go. At the time of writing this, their official advice regarding the region is “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camiguin, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) due to the threat of terrorism.” If you are visiting the Philippines the chances are you are going for the beaches/tourist areas. Places like Boracay and Palawan are perfectly safe.
Where I went, Angeles City is very built up and many of the locals speak English. You will be safe if you follow basic safety travel tips you would follow anywhere such as:
- avoid taking large amounts of money out with you
- do not draw attention to yourself with expensive or flashy jewellery
- respect local culture
- do not venture alone into dark or secluded areas
Visiting the Philippines – how to get there
I always book my flights using Qatar Airways because they fly to Clark, which is the nearest airport to where my family live. They do a free shuttle service between Manila and Clark so even if you are going to use Manila as a base you could still fly to Clark. There is a stop over in Doha, and the amount of time you are there can vary from one and a half hours to six hours. I recently wrote some tips for travelling long-haul in case you need them. The journey sounds long but it does actually go really quickly. One of the things you should consider is flying into Clark and using that as a base to get everywhere else. It is a lot less busy than Manila, and you can still get to all of the tourist destinations from Clark airport. There are some lovely hotels in the area, like Central Park Tower and also The Clarkton Hotel. You can also get to Olongapo pretty easily if you want to visit the beach (I’d recommend Blue Rock).
Visiting the Philippines – getting around
There are a few different ways to get around in the Philippines, depending on your budget. The great thing about catching a trike is that they are very reasonably priced. I actually worked out that it cost me £3.07 in GBP to get a trike to the Korean high street where my Aunty lives, get a coffee and a paper from 7/11, and get a trike back. That’s less than the actual coffee would cost me in London. I also worked out that I spend about £150 a month on coffee and Ribena on my way into the city so that gave me a good idea of how to crack on with my saving in the future.
You can also get a Blue Taxi which you can hail down on the road and call. Another excellent thing about the Philippines is that they don’t overcharge you. They are slightly more expensive than a trike, but still very affordable. For longer journeys there are busses and jeepneys. I have to say, the concept of a jeepney still confuses me a bit. My anxious little mind can’t cope with the whole “how much and when do you pay” situation. You can also take a Victory Liner bus. One of the more recent routes is Clark to Subic, so if you were going to make Clark your base instead of Manila you can easily access the local beach resort.
Visiting the Philippines – eating and drinking
Food is a big deal in the Philippines, so if you are a food lover like me you will be in your element. Visiting the Philippines for me means getting immersed in the culture, so I have tried loads of Filipino foods. One of my favourite dishes is Sizzling Sisig, which is fried pig’s head and chicken liver. Most of the places in Angeles City do a fair bit of English and Australian food though, so if you are not up to trying local delicacies, there will be plenty of places for you to eat.
Central Park Tower – Angeles City (££)
Central Park Tower has amazing views and a huge menu. The hotel restaurant is accessible to the public without a reservation. They cater to a huge number of tastes, including things like pizza and pasta in their menu. The prices are really reasonable, but are a touch expensive compared to the other places you could eat.
As soon as I step off of the plane in the Philippines, I want to get a Jollibee (there is a Jollibee in London which is a bit out of the way in Earl’s Court so I don’t visit often). Jollibee is a fast food restaurant that is really popular. Their main meal is fried chicken and rice, and they also do things like spaghetti and hot dogs. I can’t even tell you how good it is. You could easily live on it if you are travelling on a budget, and the menu is quite big so you wouldn’t get bored.
Filipino food dictionary
As previously mentioned, sisig is chicken liver and pigs head, fried with herbs and spices. It comes out on a hot plate, so it is “sizzling” when it is served. Don’t let the thought of it put you off. It’s actually delicious.
“Abodo” is just the Spanish word for “marinade”. So Chicken Abodo is basically chicken marinaded in soy sauce and vinegar. Although it is traditionally cooked in clay pots, it is usually prepared in a metal pot nowadays.
Balut really isn’t for the faint-hearted. The dish is a boiled egg, but with the duck embryo partially developed. It’s an incredibly famous national dish, and it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Saying that, if you are going to visit, you might as well try it.
This sour-meat stew is another dish that is really well-known in the Philippines. Pork is the most common meat used, but it isn’t that out-there to see this made with things like chicken or fish.
Visiting the Philippines – things to do
If you are thinking of visiting the Philippines you might be wondering what there actually is to do. One thing I can promise you is that no matter which area you visit, you will be spoiled for choice. Because the prices in the Philippines are so fair, you’ll be able to find something to do on any budget. I will cover a few options of things to do local to Clark/Angeles and also Manila, which is around an hours drive away (depending on traffic).
Olongapo (Blue Rock Beach Resort)
I’ve already written a separate review on Blue Rock Beach Resort, but I just wanted to include it in my guide. The Olongapo/Subic area is a short drive form both Clark and Manila. There are plenty of beach resorts to choose from, most of them ranging between £15 – £100 per night (the £100 ones would be the height of luxury). The sand is smooth and the sea is warm, and this is a perfect area to spend a few days as you will find all of the shops and nightlife you want as well as all of the usual water-sports and beach activities.
Local markets in the Philippines
If you are in the Philippines, then it is definitely worth visiting a local market. Angeles City has the Friday market. You can pick up anything from the Friday market including clothes, make-up, shoes, bags, food and much more. It’s definitely worth a trip if you are close to one.
Spend a day in Manila
If you are going to use somewhere like Angeles as your base, you wouldn’t have much reason to go into Manila. The locals tend to avoid it because of the traffic and how busy it is, but it you are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Philippines it’s worth seeing. Rizal Park is a huge public park, which is a bit like the Manila version of central park. It has great views of Manila bay and is steeped in interesting history dating back to the Spaniards rule. Intramuros is another part of Manila that is a direct result of the Spanish influence. The walled city looks completely different to the rest of Manila. You could also take a stroll along Manila bay promenade, which is strangely reminiscent of British seaside towns.
Things you should know before visiting the Philippines
- The local currency is Philippine Peso (PHP), which usually hover around 66 PHP to £1.
- due to the crack-down on drugs, you can’t buy things like strong painkillers OTC. If you absolutely need to take medication like that, make sure you have a prescription on you.
- English is quite widely spoken, but it’s still nice to learn basics like “salamat” (thank you), in Tagalog.
- Ferries and boats are weather-dependent so check before you travel.
- Monsoon season is June to October.
- It’s quite hard to buy tampons. So unless you want to use pads all trip, take your own.
- Filtered water is free in most restaurants. Even the locals do not drink tap water.
- Nearly all of the moisturiser is “whitening”. In countries like this, being dark-skinned is associated with being poor and working outside. There are loads of whitening treatments as the whiter you are, the more beautiful you are. Unfortunately that makes it pretty hard to get a normal moisturiser so you are better taking your own.
Top products you’ll need before visiting the Philippines
There is a risk of Dengue fever in some parts of the Philippines. Off! is a great mosquito-repellent, and one or two sprays lasts hours. You can buy it there, but if you have the room in your luggage it might be worth buying before you go, just to make sure.
As previously mentioned, tampons are quite hard to find in the Philippines. You’ll find pads galore but if tampons are your preference you might want to take some with you.
As mentioned, unless you want one with whitening treatment in, it is better to take your own moisturiser. Depending on where you are it can also be quite hard to find good skincare products, which are needed when you are getting that much sun.
Here is one I would suggest wherever you are travelling. I’m actually at the point of organisation where I put all of my documents like my lounge pass and airline ticket in order in the wallet.
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