Ultimate Backpacking Guide for the Philippines

You will never see beaches and islands like those of the Philippines in South East Asia or the Caribbean, they can sell you whatever they want, but the beaches of Coron, El Nido and Siargao have no competition in Asia. If you came to the Philippines for its spectacular islands, waterfalls and marine life, you are in the right place.

It’s more fun in the Philippines!

Everything you need to know for your trip to the Philippines:

  1. Best time of year to visit the Philippines
  2. Basic tips for the Philippines
  3. One month itinerary for the Philippines
    1. Days 1 and 2: Cebu
    2. Days 3 to 5: Bohol
    3. Days 6 to 9: Siquijor
    4. Day 10: Oslob
    5. Days 11 to 13: Moalboal
    6. Days 14 to 17: Malapascua
    7. Days 18 to 20: Corón
    8. Days 21 to 23: El Nido
    9. Day 24: Puerto Princesa
    10. Days 25 to 30: Siargao
  4. Philippines daily budget
  5. Where to stay in the Philippines
  6. What to do in the Philippines if you have more time

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 60 PHP Philippine Peso

Best time of year to visit the Philippines

As in most South East Asian countries, the Philippines has two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season. The only drawback from my point of view is that a rainy season in Thailand or Laos brings a lot of rain during some moments of the day. But a rainy season in the Philippines comes with tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons, wreaking destruction wherever they go.

  • Rainy season: June to November
  • Dry season: December to May

Storms usually intensify in the end and beginning months of the rainy season. I was in November and we had several typhoon alerts and we had to stay several days in the hostel because transportation of all kinds stops for safety.

Basic tips for the Philippines

Here are some tips that may be useful on your first visit to the country:

  • Grab: As in many countries, taxis take advantage of tourists so take advantage of technology and use Grab, it costs half as much as Uber and less than a taxi. If for whatever reason you cannot take a Grab, always agree on the price with the taxi drivers, they will tell you <> Don’t listen to them, always agree on the price even in the Tuk-Tuk.
  • Visa: The visa for Spaniards and most nationalities is 30 days but it is easy to extend. In big cities, like Puerto Princesa, Cebu you can extend it.
  • Manila: Everyone says it’s horrible, it’s true, don’t go.
  • Island Hopping: You should do it wherever you go, you will hardly find a better country to go island hopping and see a sea as turquoise as the Philippines.
  • Avoid the bridge seasons between the rainy season and the dry season, this is when the weather usually gets worse and you may find yourself stuck on an island.

One month itinerary for the Philippines

The Philippines is very easy to travel, and the best option is from east to west or from west to east, point is no more complicated, on my trip I made several somewhat stupid comings and goings, but here I show you the route that makes the most sense. Keep in mind that flights between islands are super limited and that they all pass through either Cebu or Manila, the rest of the islands do not have flights between them.

Days 1 and 2: Cebu

With great security your access to the Philippines will be either through Cebu or Manila. My route starts in Cebu.

Cebu is without a doubt the city with the most history that you will see on your trip to the Philippines, the rest is purely nature and beaches. So give it a couple of days. The Spanish conquered the Philippines through Cebu, Ferdinand Magellan planted a cross in the city and asked everyone to be baptized.

Today you can find a replica of this cross, a multitude of churches in the region and colonial buildings that still date from that time and are preserved in very good condition. You should not miss Fort San Pedro, Basilica del Santo Niño and Cebu Cathedral.

Days 3 to 5: Bohol

You will make most connections between islands by ferry, there are usually at least 2-3 ferries a day between nearby islands, to Bohol there were at least three a day. The ferry from Cebu to Bohol cost 800 PHP (15€) and takes about three hours and takes you to the town of Tagbilaran, which you don’t want to stay in, you should stay in Panglao.

In Bohol, there are plenty of things to do to fill your day for the next three days. I recommend that you rent a motorcycle to get around the island, it is much simpler and more practical. The highlight of Bohol is undoubtedly the Chocolate Hills, cone-shaped hills that extend along the horizon and are green, but for some reason they are called Chocolate Hills. Tarsiers are also common on this island and are protected because they are in danger of extinction. They are mammals the size of a hand with giant eyes. They are usually found in sanctuaries.

There are endless waterfalls you can visit, we went to Pahangog. The best beaches are Dumaluan and White Beach, the best party in Alona and if you feel like diving you can’t miss the Balicasag Marine Reserve.

Days 6 to 9: Siquijor

After Bohol, we headed to Siquijor, there are two ferries a day for 800 PHP. Siquijor is like a land of witches and other supernatural phenomena and you will soon understand why.

Our hostel (one of the best of my trip), Fable, had a charismatic owner, who began to tell us about the mystique of the witches and oracles of the island. It didn’t take us long to become fascinated and go see a “witch” to read the lines of life through our hands. I am very skeptical about these things, but he read different lives to all of us and in most of them he was correct.

I propose a couple of routes for a couple of days.

Day 1: Pitogo Cliff to see spectacular cliffs from which you can jump into the sea at various heights, the enchanted tree of Balete, eat at Lazi and visit the picturesque town and go to Cambugahay waterfalls. The best restaurant on the island Twenty4 in Lazi.

Day 2: Start a quiet morning at Paliton Beach and explore the center of the island, the Cantabon Cave (you can sneak in without a guide), the Mount Bandilaan viewpoint and go to the Larena market.

Siquijor has a good nightlife and great restaurants, JJ’s Backpackers and Baha Bar.

Day 10: Oslob

Oslob is perhaps the only part I would take away and not recommend from this trip. The only reason you are going to this place is to see the Whale Sharks. However, the way you see them and swim near them is very far from being ethical. So having done it I don’t recommend it.

Days 11 to 13: Moalboal

Three days in Moalboal? Are we crazy? The truth is that we were hit by a hurricane and we couldn’t go out or do anything for two days, so we drank a lot, played a lot of pool and spent a lot of time in the hostel.

The main highlight of the region is canyoneering at Kawasan Falls, it is a unique experience, you can zip line, jump from 10 meter high waterfalls and follow the river downstream, but for safety reasons it caught us during the rainy season. and the water level was very high and we had to postpone it twice.

Other things you can do in Moalboal is diving and one of the few places in the world where you can dive into a shoal with thousands of sardines. If you don’t want to dive, you can go snorkelling right on the city beach.

The beaches are not very top so don’t stay here for long either.

Días 14 a 17: Malapascua

When Madonna referred to Isla Bonita, she had to refer to Malapascua not Ibiza… For me, along with Siargao, the highlight of the trip. A small island, not very touristy, super quiet but with a local and unique traveler vibe.

You will come for the diving and stay for the people. Malapascua is the only place in the world where you are practically guaranteed Thresher Sharks. These are sharks 6 meters long, of which 2.5 meters are the tail, a unique spectacle of nature. Once in El Nido I returned to Cebu just to go to Malapascua to dive with them. Diving with permits and two dives costs 4000 PHP (75€).

Apart from this it is worth exploring the island and heading to the northern villages near White Sand Beach, Bantigue Beach where there is an abandoned hotel and Gugma Beach. In addition, cockfighting is a Filipino tradition and here you can see them. If that’s not your thing, you can always go sing Karaoke at a local’s house.

To get to Malapascua from Cebu, you will need about 5 hours by minivan to Maya for about 300 PHP and another hour by boat to Malapascua Island for 200 PHP.

Days 18 to 20: Corón

From Cebu I took a flight to Coron (USU) for €100 and stayed in Coron for a couple of days. I was very lucky with the weather because the storm had just passed and we had two days with great sunshine.

You should definitely do the Island Hopping that will take you to different islands, if you have a sunny day the beauty of the islands will be multiplied by ten. Kayangan Lake, Twin Peaks, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoon and CYC Island are must stops!

Days 21 to 23: El Nido

There is a legendary speed boat that connects Corón and El Nido and I say legendary because everyone (with a hangover) ends up vomiting from the tremendous jumps that the boat makes for 4 hours. The ferry seems tremendously expensive to me, 2900 PHP (50€) but it is the only way to get from one island to another.

Just like the nest, you can’t miss the Island Hopping, there are several routes and I ended up choosing to do it with Outpost and the people from the hostel, they took us to Cathedral Cave, Snake Island, Enatula Beach and Small Lagoon.

The next two days were dedicated to exploring the region, we grabbed some motorcycles and went to Bulang Beach and Nacpan and did the via ferrata and the El Nido canopy walk. There is a lot of nightlife in El Nido and all the bars are a stone’s throw away in the center.

Day 24: Puerto Princesa

Six hours separate El Nido from Puerto Princesa in an eternal Minivan trip where you will not be able to stretch your legs. Honestly, Puerto Princesa is a total pass, there is nothing to do there, but the Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park is well worth a visit if you have never seen caves of these characteristics.

You can go on a tour or on your own by taking a scooter and driving an hour towards the port of Sabang, the roads are amazing and the scooter is a great option. Once there you will catch a boat that will take you through one of the longest underground tunnels in the world.

Days 25 to 30: Siargao

If I had told you that Malapascua was the island where you would fall in love, Siargao is the island where you would consider staying. A Koh Tao style but bigger and with more options. Very chill and with endless places to visit.

You will arrive by ferry through Dapa or from the airport in the middle of nowhere… many things make very little sense in this country… Without a doubt you should stay in Cloud9 or General Luna and from there explore the island.

If you come for surfing you can go to Cloud9 or Ocean9, both very good beaches with great waves for all levels.

If you come for the views Maasin River, Magpopongko Pools and Flats and the Palm Forest is your place. You can also do island hopping, but after 30 days I was already a little fed up with so much boating.

In General Luna every day there is a different place to party and the restaurants are some of the best in the Philippines.

Philippines daily budget

The Philippines is expensive, don’t let them tell you otherwise, the main reason is the huge amount of transportation that you are going to have to use constantly to get from one place to another…

Accommodation: It is the average for South East Asia, upwards, plus less you will be around €8 per night, with Coron and El Nido being the most expensive places.

Food: Looking back, €7 seems like a little, but compared to its neighbors, the food is more expensive and less good, so nothing to eat is expensive and bad.

Transportation: This is where 30% of your budget will go, you will have to take at least 3-4 planes to move between more distant islands and Cebu or Manila and ferries to go to any small island. Flights usually cost €70-100 and ferries 15-20, not counting the one to El Nido which costs €50.

Leisure: This is where you don’t want to skimp on expenses, the Philippines has good parties and better activities, you are going to do a lot of Island Hopping and if you like diving you will find yourself with a hole in your wallet.

Where to stay in the Philippines

  • Mad Monkey Cebu // Cebu: If you have already been to a Mad Monkey you know what you are going to find, a party hostel although a little soulless, with many locals who come there just to party. The hostel is a bit old.
  • Murals // Cebu: Somewhat away from the places of interest but more familiar and with a fairly large chill out area, very clean and quiet.
  • Adriana’s Place // Bohol: The description of paradise, they are little bamboo cabins 5 minutes from the beach. Very backpacker atmosphere and family run.
  • Fable // Siquijor: Without a doubt the best hostel in the Philippines and my top5 of this trip. The owner, a Filipino guy raised in Canada, just opened it and the atmosphere and good vibes and sense of family couldn’t be better. Super clean, very spacious rooms and every night there is some activity.
  • Biggies Inn // Oslob: Good for spending one night, it is the cheapest in the area.
  • Chief Mau // Moalboal: The only backpacker hostel in the town, they organize activities every day, spectacularly clean and with a super social chill out area.
  • Villa Sandra // Malapascua: It is good for sleeping although I was hardly there, correct and very cheap, nothing out of this world.
  • Outpost Coron // Coron: It is the most popular hostel in Coron, in my opinion too remote, although the infinity pool on the rooftop will steal your heart. Island Hopping excursions leave every day, very clean and comfortable.
  • Outpost El Nido // El Nido: Too far from the center, but the sunset views are unbeatable although if I returned to El Nido I would stay closer to the center. Super clean but less social than I would expect.
  • Green Turtle // Puerto Princesa: Correct for one night, you couldn’t ask for more. Clean rooms, although there is nothing around them, nothing.
  • Mad Monkey Siargao // Siargao: The party hostel par excellence in Siargao, all the people come to do the preview and then go to another place. In my opinion, it’s too much of a bar and not very familiar, although they always do activities, it lacks the spirit of family. Rooms too full due to the little space they have.

What to do if you have more time in the Philippines

Without a doubt Luzon, I would have liked to explore northern Luzon and go find the legendary old woman who does tattoos and is over 100 years old.

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