Do’s and Don’ts when Travelling in the Philippines | Z Hostel
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Do’s and Don’ts when Travelling in the Philippines

You’ve booked the tickets, packed your bags, and started daydreaming about your trip to the tropical paradise that is the Philippines. But what to expect? A whole lot!

As with any other destination, the Philippines will surprise, delight, and disappoint you in many ways. But we’ll make it easier for you to enjoy your time in the country safely and make your holiday one for the books with these handy travel tips:

Do’s

Smile and strike up a conversation

Filipinos have become known around the world to be some of the most hospitable, warm, and friendly people you’ll ever meet. So don’t pass up on this opportunity to get to know them! All it takes is a smile, and they’ll surely be open to talk to you and help you with directions or anything you need. And don’t be surprised if they’ll offer you to eat or drink with them!

Be polite — especially to the elders

Courtesy is a huge thing in the Philippines. Filipinos usually address people they meet for the first time with “Ma’am” or “Sir” whether you’re in the grocery, restaurant, or any establishment. So try as much as possible to be polite wherever you go, especially when talking to elders.

If you’d like to keep it casual and impress them, address a male Filipino with “Kuya” (it means brother in Filipino) and “Ate” (it means sister) for females. 

Be grateful — and tip if you can

Filipinos are not hard to please, a simple “thank you” goes a long, long way for them. So don’t forget to show appreciation to whomever you interact with.

Tipping is optional in the country. But most people working in the service industry — your hotel staff, restaurant servers, tour guides — in the Philippines earn minimum wage, so anything extra will be much appreciated by them.

Bring cash

While ATMs and banks are scattered throughout the main cities in the Philippines, these are less accessible when you visit smaller towns, provinces, and islands. Most establishments, stores, and services outside major cities do not have credit card terminals as well, so make sure you are ready to pay with cash.

Plan carefully and be flexible with your schedule

The Philippines is made up of 7,000+ islands. Visiting both popular and less-travelled destinations may take a lot of time and transfers. So make sure to do a lot of research and choose which places you will visit, and take into account the travel times and options going to each one.

Weather-wise, there’s only two seasons in the Philippines: dry and rainy. If you’re travelling during the dry season, which runs from January to June, expect a lot of sunshine and very occasional rain. But if you’re travelling in the second half of the year, expect a lot of rain and typhoons hitting the country — which means air and sea travel will be disrupted, and could take days or even weeks. So be flexible with your schedule and make room for allowance during these times.

Don’ts 

Expect comfortable and convenient transportation

Entering the country, you may most likely land in the country’s capital Manila, and this metropolis is notorious for heavy traffic jams. Be prepared to get stuck on the road for hours when going around. The mass transportation system could use a lot of improvement as well, so expect to ride in mega-packed trains, buses, or jeepneys. If you wish to be more comfortable, book a ride through the Grab app, but expect to shell out more money. Taxi is an option, too, but expect that the drivers will drop the meter when dealing with foreign tourists and offer an exorbitant fixed price (politely say no and choose another option).

When in smaller towns or provinces, there are no Grab cars or taxis available. Be very willing to rough it out and ride local jeepneys, tricycles, or better yet, rent a motorbike.

Show off gadgets, jewelry, and other valuable items

Dress simply and avoid being flashy when going out to busy streets or crowded places. Keep your bags in front of you and always be vigilant with your surroundings. The Philippines is a relatively safe place to go around, but instances of theft and pickpocketing will always be there. If possible, always walk in groups and avoid going to unfamiliar streets and corners by yourself, especially at night.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of beggars and homeless people around, and they’ll most likely come up to you to ask for money. Politely refuse or offer something else like food or water instead.

Drink tap water or eat street food

Unlike our neighbour Singapore, tap water is not safe for drinking in the Philippines. Always make sure to bring your reusable water bottle and refill it with mineral or distilled water — most hotels and restaurants will have water dispensers for free. When eating in carinderias (popular small eateries throughout the country), make sure to ask if the water they are offering for free is not coming from the tap. Otherwise, buy yourself a bottled water.

Sampling street food is always part of the adventure when visiting a new country. But it’s always good to go on the safe side. Street food in the Philippines may not be the most sanitary, so pass up if you tend to get upset tummies. But if you’re the ultimate foodie, just be ready with some probiotics or loperamide tablets, which you can easily get over-the-counter.

Get stuck with the popular destinations

Boracay, Palawan, and Cebu may be on your itinerary already and it’s easy to understand why. These are the most popular destinations in the country blessed with incredibly white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and other natural attractions. But if you have more time to spare, don’t pass up on these equally mesmerizing yet less-traveled places:

  • Marinduque – known as the “heart” of the Philippines due to its geographic location
  • Romblon – the “Marble Capital of the Philippines” with idyllic islands
  • Dumaguete – the “City of Gentle People” with a laid back vibe
  • Siquijor – small island packed with waterfalls and spellbinding beaches
  • Zamboanga – “Asia’s Latin City” rich in cultural attractions

Travelling in the Philippines requires a lot of planning and patience, but dare we say that it is going to be more than worth it! With stunning beaches and islands, jaw-dropping landscapes, and an incredibly hospitable people, the country is a treasure trove of exciting adventures that will stay with you for life. 

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