Category: Philippines (Page 1 of 3)

5 Philippines Travel Tips – What I Wish I’d Known Before I Travelled

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I had a great time travelling the Philippines, but there are a few things I wish I’d known before I travelled there. Here’s my top 5 Philippines travel tips…

  1. It takes ages to get between destinations in the Philippines

Even using a combination of plane, boat and land, it takes a long time to travel between places. Many roads are poor quality making road travel take much longer than usual. Public buses will often stop anywhere and everywhere which adds a considerable amount of time onto journeys.

2. Taxi/tricycle drivers rarely know where they’re going

My first experience of this was my first ever taxi ride in the Manila. Fresh off 24 hours of travelling, I hopped into a fixed rate taxi. The driver seemed to know where he was going, but he tried to drop me off at the wrong accommodation. I had the full address saved on my phone and he still couldn’t figure out where to go. 2 hours later and I finally made it to my hostel. Since then, I got myself a Filipino SIM card with 3G so I can check that drivers are taking us to the correct place.

3. Filipino’s aren’t great at catering for vegetarians or vegans

Filipino’s often think that vegetarians eat fish so may still cook food using fish paste. Vegans will have a particularly difficult time as there’s barely any legumes or pulses in the Philippines. Baguio and Sagada are two places I visited where they have reasonable options for vegetarians.

4. ATM’s are few and far between

There are a lot of towns and cities in the Philippines that don’t have ATM’s. Make sure you carry enough cash, especially if you’re going off the beaten track, as most places won’t accept credit card. Even El Nido only has a couple of cash machines which will often run out of cash by the afternoon.

5. Be wary of the bangkas

 

Bangkas are the local boats that you’ll see everywhere. On my second ride on one, the steering wheel broke and we were left violently swaying from side to side wondering whether we were going to capsize. There was nothing the crew could do except hope for the best. Fortunately the boat turned around and we were able to make it to shore. The safety standards are simply not the same as those in the UK. Make sure you have a life jacket when you get on a bangka. Most will give one to you when you board. Lonely Planet advises against boat travel at night and I would second that advice.

Ensure you follow general travel advice – make sure the activities you have planned are covered by your travel insurance and that you keep up to date with the foreign office travel advice, as there can be problems with typhoons in the Philippines. Most of all… have fun! Filipino’s are amongst the friendliest people in the world and helped me out heaps of times.

Anything you think I’ve missed? Or any Philippines travel tips you’d like to add? Comment below…

 

 

 

 

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The Philippine Experience – El Nido

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When visiting new countries, I love to learn more about the culture, whether through a city tour or a cooking class. By the time I arrived in El Nido, I’d been in the Philippines for over six weeks and hadn’t seen anything of the sort. Then I came across the Philippine Experience. It promised to be a day of fun Filipino experiences. I booked the tour through my hostel, Our Melting Point. Each tour requires a minimum of three people to run and in our case there were four people. The meeting point was outside Spyder Bar on the beach. Our tour guides introduced themselves to us and we headed to the market.

We took a tricycle to the market and the guides explained that Filipino families usually go to the market around 6am, so by 9am it shouldn’t be too busy. They were correct, it was clear that a lot of produce had already been bought. The guides told us what a regular weekly shop looks like and talked us through some of the items we may have found a little unusual in Europe. I enjoyed visiting the market, it was great to see fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes on sale instead of the uniform looking ones that are sold in the UK.

pineapples el nido philippine experience

Wall of pineapples – market El Nido

From the market we headed to the workshop, where we would be spending the rest of the day. To get there we did a mini trek through a forest. Our guide pointed out many different trees and plants which are useful in the Philippines. When we arrived at the village, we had fresh buko waiting for us, along with cold water and calamansi juice. The workshop area is spacious and has lots of information about the Philippines on the walls.

 

The guides had bought some fish from the market, so we were shown how to properly gut a fish and how to tell whether a fish is fresh. After, we went fishing. Only one of us was lucky enough to catch something – the vegan in the group. Typical.

We returned to dry land where we learned about coconuts. We cracked open some old coconuts, collected the juice, then grated the inside. The coconut shavings were then used to make coconut oil.

For lunch, we made chicken adobo. We were supposed to be having pork but the market had sold out because it was Easter weekend. The guides showed us how to make adobo and spoke about the different ways their families make it.

 

After lunch, we relaxed for 15 minutes before learning how to weave using coconut leaves. We made a couple of toys.

Once our lunch had settled, it was time to climb a coconut tree! There was a harness and helmet provided – an unusual feature in the Philippines. I didn’t climb the tree because I was in a lot of pain from falling off a motorbike the day before (more on that later!)

To end the afternoon we played some Filipino games and learned a traditional Filipino dance, topped off with some halo-halo, a Filipino dessert.

I had such a great time learning about Filipino culture. I wish I’d been able to do this, or something similar, at the beginning of my trip. The great thing about The Philippine Experience is that it’s suitable for any age group. Many thanks to Mark, Shay and the rest of the team!

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Island Hopping In El Nido

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I follow a few Philippine tourism accounts on Instagram, and I swear around half of their posts are of El Nido in Palawan. The pictures always show turquoise crystal clear waters and towering cliffs, so naturally I was excited to see this for myself. There are few flights which go directly to El Nido, so I flew to Puerto Princesa which took an hour from Manila. From Puerto Princesa to El Nido I took a van which cost 500PHP. Google Maps thinks it takes a little under four hours to get to El Nido. In actual fact, it takes around six hours.

Once in El Nido, there’s a lot of tour operators who basically all offer the same tour packages, A, B, C and D. From speaking to other backpackers, it seemed like A and C were the most popular. The hostel I was staying in (Our Melting Pot) also ran their own tours so I started with Tour A.

The meeting point was in the hostel at 9am, which gave me plenty of time to enjoy the free breakfast. Once on the boat, we were told there would be 5 stops. The first stop was Seven Commandos Beach, a white sand beach . The beach is quite large so although there were a lot of tourists, it didn’t feel busy.

seven commando beach el nido palawan philippines

Seven Commandos Beach

The boat spent around 40 minutes there, then headed for the next stop: Shimizu Island. The beach here was already full of boats by the time we arrived. Everyone got off the boat whilst the crew prepared lunch. There’s snorkelling to be done in this area but a lot of the coral is dead. We headed to the beach where lunch was served: salad, grilled chicken and fish.

The next stop after lunch was the Secret Lagoon. We headed over there and yet again, there were a lot of tourists. Only one person can go through the entrance to the Secret Lagoon at a time so there was a large queue at the entrance. Once inside, the lagoon does look great.

The fourth stop of the day was the Small Lagoon. This was my favourite stop because three of us hired a kayak and paddled around the lagoon. The water is beautifully clear. The water in this area is full of jellyfish which fortunately do not sting. Whilst in the kayak we got drinks, ice cream and a guy on a boat gave us a shot of rum to make us fully realise our dream of becoming pirates.

el nido palawan philippines small lagoon

Clear water in the Small Lagoon

 

The final stop of the day was at the Big Lagoon. Unfortunately it was low tide so there wasn’t another opportunity to kayak. This stop wasn’t as busy as the others, but I preferred the Small Lagoon.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time on Tour A and I felt that for 1300RM, the price was reasonable for such a touristy area. The downside was that each destination was crowded so sometimes it was difficult to fully appreciate the beauty of these places. It’s possible to hire private boats for a similar price (you’ll need a group of 10+ to make it cost effective) and they’ll take you wherever you want to go.

 

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Good Friday Turned Bad – Why I Won’t Be Riding Motorbikes Again

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On Good Friday, myself and 4 others decided to hire motorbikes and explore a few of the beaches outside of El Nido. I’d seen plenty of Filipinos and tourists riding motorbikes around town, how hard could it be?
It cost 500PHP to hire a motorbike for the day, so around 9 we headed to the shop and hired 3 motorbikes between the 5 of us. I was a little shaky on the bike at first but once I was used to how it worked I was fine.

Good Friday at the Beach

The first stop of the day was Duly Beach, around an hour drive away from El Nido. The highway was quiet, which made for good driving conditions. After the highway came the dirt roads. I’m not sure why I felt dirt roads would be a good idea on a motorbike. I definitely wouldn’t ride a motorbike on a dirt road back in the UK.

Anyway, I was fine riding the bike on the dirt roads. The first problem came when riding on the track down to Duly Beach. I somehow managed to fall into a barbed wire fence, which left me with a nice cut on my forearm. Being mere metres from the beach, I parked up the bike and enjoyed a few hours at Duly Beach. Duly is a lovely beach and is really quiet. The surf is a little rough so it’s popular with surfers.

We headed to Nacpan later in the day. I was a little nervous about getting back on the bike but once I had passed the fence I was ok. I made it down the dirt track to Nacpan without a hitch but the road to Nacpan is dodgy. There’s huge holes in the road at random points and sometimes you can’t see them until they’re right in front of you. I met a guy who said he went over one because he didn’t see it until the last minute, fortunately, he wasn’t hurt but he did get a flat tire.

Once in Nacpan, I had a couple of fruit shakes and relaxed for a couple of hours. One of my friends was meeting another friend there so we all chatted for a while and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

The Accident

Around half 4 we decided to head back towards El Nido. I would have loved to see the sunset at Nacpan but I really didn’t fancy driving back to El Nido in the dark. On the road between Nacpan and the main highway is a wooden bridge. As I was going over the bridge I fell off the bike and into the water below. All I remember is hearing a thud and landing in the water.

A lovely Filipino family were in a pickup truck behind me at the time and one of the guys helped me out of the water, whilst another took the motorbike off the bridge. One of the ladies gave me some tissue because blood was pouring from my leg (I hadn’t noticed). If it hadn’t been for these kind people I’m not sure how I would’ve got back to El Nido. They let me sit in the back of the pickup truck and one of the men drove the bike back to El Nido.

Once I arrived in El Nido, I had to pay for damages to the bike and then shower. The water I fell into smelled awful so I was desperate to have a shower and actually feel clean. My clothes were ripped so they went in the bin. Even at this point I think I was still in shock at what had happened. I tried to go to a pharmacy to buy some antiseptic and plasters but they were closed due to it being Good Friday. Luckily a lovely girl in the hostel had some iodine which she kindly let me use.

The following day my bruises had really begun to show up and I ached really badly. The cut on my leg turned out to be a lot more painful than I expected because most of the skin had come off. Somehow I’d failed to notice this the previous day.

Final Thoughts

Looking back, I’m so grateful for the kindness that the Filipino family who helped showed me. I’m also very lucky to have escaped a serious injury, although I’ve no doubt that my leg will be scarred for quite some time. To be honest, I think hiring a motorbike was a stupid idea. I wouldn’t ride one back home, so I don’t know why I thought hiring one in the Philippines would be a good idea. This accident has really made me think about some of the activities I’m doing whilst travelling.

Got any thoughts? Or similar experiences you’d like to share? Comment in the space below…

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Five Places I Loved In The Philippines

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After two months travelling around the Philippines, I thought I’d list my top 5 destinations:

1. Batad Rice Terraces

batad rice terraces philippines

The Batad Rice Terraces

It’s difficult to show how stunning the Batad Rice Terraces are on pictures alone. They are incredible. Built over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao people, it’s easy to see why they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that Batad can only be accessed on foot makes viewing more worthwhile. Read more about getting there here.

2. Apo Island

turtle apo island philippines

There are too many turtles to count near Apo Island

Apo Island itself isn’t much to shout about but its surrounding reef is amazing. Boasting over 400 different types of coral and teeming with marine life, this is paradise for snorkellers and divers alike. Oh, did I mention there’s a turtle sanctuary?

3. Sagada

rice terraces sagada philippines

Views of the rice terraces near Sagada

Sagada is a beautiful village surrounded by mountains, caves and hiking trails. It also has an impressive number of restaurants with a large variety of foods. Sagada is very popular with Filipinos living in Manila, who drive there at weekends to enjoy some of the fresh mountain air. Read more about Sagada here.

4. Bohol

chocolate hills bohol philippines

Chocolate Hills, Bohol

Bohol is an island close to Cebu and is home to the Philippines famous chocolate hills. Bohol is also home to the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier, which can be seen in a sanctuary. Bohol is a popular stop for tourists and backpackers. Read more about it here.

5. El Nido

el nido palawan philippines

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is situated at the northern tip of Palawan. There are numerous islands to explore along with many gorgeous beaches. The water is incredibly clear which makes it perfect for diving.

Do you agree with this list? Got anything to add? Feel free to comment below!

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