As always I went to a country without any guides or reading reviews so my first days in the Philippines were a bit overwhelming. That’s why I am sharing what I found out in the past two weeks since I was staying here in the Philippines talking with other travellers and local people.
Strong Spanish and USA influences
The Spanish colonised the Philippines from 1521-1898 and then the USA from 1898-1946. You can see the influences in language, food and religion. Catholicism is still the main religion in the Philippines with over 76 million of the world’s Catholics (the highest after Mexico and Brazil).
Where to go?
Manila has many cheap flights so it is the first destinations for most of the people. Although, Manila is a huge city with millions of people and super crazy traffic. I loved huge beautiful buildings, but I won’t recommend staying there for a long time. Phillippines is more known for beaches and peaceful, blue water than cities. Everybody visit beautiful islands of Phillippines. Most travellers choose Palawan, Boracay and Cebu.
Interesting fact! Phillippine flag
The Filipino flag is the only one in the world, which can determine whether the country is at peace or at war. 3 golden stars represent the 3 island groups: Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. It also has a strip of red and blue:
- when the country is at peace, the flag is flown with blue on top.
- when at war, it is reversed with red on top:
Wifi and mobile data
Well… wifi sucked and it doesn’t matter where you are. Are you in Manila, are you in Palawan it doesn’t matter the situation with wifi is really bad here. In many countries Starbucks and McDonald’s have free wifi access, but not here. I was truly not happy about it because I had to work remotely. Many time I had to rearrange my work and even in hostels, I had problems with it.
On the other hand, mobile data here is so cheap! I bought a SIM card for 80 pesos and I put 300 pesos to my account. For this, I’ve got 6 GB a free usage of Facebook, Instagram and some other apps. Don’t buy SIM cards at the airport it is way more expensive. I think the offer I’ve got was 8 GB for 1000 pesos. Every supermarket and even small shops have SIM cards.
The capital of blackouts
I stayed in Palawan for a couple of weeks and I experienced blackouts daily. The island has problems with electricity so be prepared for it. Like, always have a charged power bank, headlamp and buy a SIM card. It doesn’t matter where you stay you will still not have electricity, no Wi-Fi, no AC, no lights. Also, never leave your chargers and devices all the time in the outlets, it can destroy it.
Outlets – make up your mind!
An interesting thing in Phillippines you can find here two types of outlets. Japanese type and European type, sometimes in the same room you have those two different outlets, sometimes only one. So better have an adapter of both.
If you are a vegetarian – good luck
In the Philippines, it was quite hard to find vegetarian dishes. Locals love meat and every part of the meat. Liver, intestines, heads, legs and everything you can imagine. I am not a vegetarian, but I am a bit awkward with meat. I don’t like skin, I don’t like parts of meat which I don’t know, I don’t like fried meat and I mostly eat fillet. Some restaurants offer tofu dishes and you can find some small vegetables and fruits shops, but not a lot. Even when I ordered the sizzling tofu dish there was meat inside just for a flavour.
If you are not vegetarian, but you are awkward with meat as I am then here what is in Philipinian traditional meals:
- Adobo – marinated chicken in soy sauce and some vinegar.
- Balut – the embryo of a duck.
- Kare Kare – a stew with oxtail and lot of vegetables, which is flavoured with ground roasted peanuts (or peanut butter), onions and garlic.
- Lechon – roasted pig, you can choose which part you want to eat. It is literally an entire young pig which was fed on just its mother’s milk, which was roasted for many hours.
- Isaw – chicken intestines, this was actually delicious, but I will not try it again.
This is the junk food chain created in the Philippines, it’s a must to try the food there while you are in Phillippines. The most popular and craziest for me is Spaghetti, which is sweet. Personally, I liked to try it, but I would never order it again.
Fork and Spoon
In many places, you will not get a knife to eat your meals. The waiter will bring you a fork and spoon to eat your meal. How to eat? Take the fork to your left hand and spoon to the right hand and scoop your food with the fork to the spoon.
Buzzing streets of Phillippines are full of different and unique transportations. On the first day, it can look crazy, I feel you I’ve been there. So here are all types of transportation in Phillippines. Don’t forget to always ask how much the ride will be before you get into the vehicle, you will save yourself from problems.
It’s a really special transportation in which you sit facing other passengers. It is an alternative to the city’s buses, but their design is usually a bit more special. Jeepney is an icon of Phillippines you can see it in many advertising all around.
Be ready to hear daily “Do you need a ride Ma’m?” streets are full of tricycles everywhere. They are quite cheap transportation and a must to do just to have a Philippine experience. Although, drivers tend to say a bit bigger price for foreigners so don’t forget to bargain.
Taxi vs Grab app
This is an app alternative to a taxi, works just like Uber. In many places, drivers tend to take more from tourists so if you want to use a taxi ask the price before going to the place and check if taximeter is on. I still like to use Grab more. For example, at the Manila airport to go from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 taxi price was 500 pesos and I paid for Grab 140 pesos.
Some Phillippinian say that it is completely safe in Phillippines, but I didn’t feel like it. Mostly because my personal space was destroyed so many times. People talking to me, whistling, trying to sell something, drivers stopping and asking if I need to go somewhere, kids asking for money and many more. I just didn’t feel safe as a solo traveller, especially in Manila so I recommend considering that quite seriously. Which was interesting for me that there are so many security around, almost every shop has security guards when you enter some supermarkets you have to leave your bags at the specific counter. When you go by train you have to go through a metal detector and check.
ATM and cash
In the Philippines in most of the places you have to pay cash. Especially, if you go to islands like Palawan, even at Mcdonald’s I couldn’t pay by card. Also, in some places, it’s quite difficult to find ATM so better take out more cash. The fee is usually 200-250 pesos.
I hate bargaining, but in Phillippines, you have to do it with drivers, food sellers and everywhere where the money is involved.
Many travellers say that Phillippines are a country of smiling and friendly people. Which is true I met really nice, welcoming Phillippinians and make sure to spend some time with locals.