Manila is rich in history. There are museums, some of the oldest universities in all of Asia, and theaters to visit. Tourists can appreciate the diversity of the city’s architecture that reflect all periods of the city’s history from the Spanish, Chinese, American, and today’s modern skyscrapers.
The city boasts some of the best world-class hotels and shopping areas in the Makati Central Business District.
Popular places to visit in Manila include: the National Museum of the Philippines, Rizal Park, National Museum of Fine Arts, University of Santo Tomas (founded in 1611, one of the oldest universities in Asia), the Plaza de Armas, the Manila Cathedral, Intramuros (the Walled City and former seat of government when the Philippines was under Spanish rule), and Malacanang Palace (president’s residence).
There is an island off Mindanao called Siargao well known for surfing. Surfer magazine called Siargao one of the “Ten Best Surf Trips of All Time.” Siargao is popularly called the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.”
Michelle Calaycay of Maui, Hawaii, called Siargao a mesmerizing place, “not only because of its beautiful scenery but also because of its people. They have been helpful and trustworthy each time I’ve visited there.”
Calaycay said she discovered Siargao on social media and was curious to visit then finally went for it. “We stayed at a house where the people took care of us and cooked for us.”
Siargao is also known for the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao. Its name originates from the Visyan word siargaw, a mangrove species that grows on the island.
The island-surf spot has a population of 94,273.
What tourists should know
As a guide to plan a budget for your trip: accommodations (hotels, motels) vary from mid-range $30-50 and higher end $60 plus a day; typical food prices for one person: street $1-2, average restaurant $6-8, expensive restaurant $12 plus. Alcohol is very inexpensive, less than a $1 for beer or $2 for beer in a bar. Jeepneys (local bus) costs less than $1, tricycles $1-2, overnight buses $15-20, local flights $50-100.
A big plus that makes it easy to get around the country is that most Filipinos speak English. Still, it helps to learn a few basic Tagalog words and to carry a pocketbook dictionary.
Light clothing is recommended year-round because of the warm weather.
As soon as possible upon arriving, go to a money-changing shop (peso is the currency) and be sure to get loose change if you plan on taking public transportation.
It’s also a good idea to buy immediately sun block, water bottles, (and mosquito repellant if traveling to rural areas).
t’s fine to haggle for best prices when shopping at markets and tourist shops.
You’ll be eating at restaurants most of your time and you should know the standard tip amount is 10 percent of the total bill (unless a service charge is already included, then you don’t tip).
If you plan on going island hopping, Skyscanner App can be downloaded on your phone to view bus, boat, and train schedules.
Calaycay advised to never drink the tap water.
Balesteros said to bring hand sanitizer, carry toilet paper and water bottles in your bag wherever you go. “Just have a positive attitude and expect that not everything in your itinerary will go according to plan. Try to find beauty in the ordinary, immerse yourself in the environment and do not rush your way through the trip.”
Travel advisory and safety tips
The U.S. Department of State says a separate visa is not required to visit the Philippines as long as travelers have a return or onward destination airline ticket, and a valid passport with at least six months left before expiration.
The State Department warns against traveling to the Sulu archipelago and Marawi City in Mindanao because of the civil unrest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that vaccines be up to date for Hepatitis A, Typhoid or Malaria if traveling to remote, rural areas.
Some common sense safety tips veteran travelers to the Philippines say:
- Be aware of your space and the people around you, especially when you are in a crowded place like on a jeepney or bus or at a busy street or at the airport. Pickpocketing, purse-snatching, cell phone-snatching, have been known to happen when people are not paying attention.
- Be suspicious of strangers who are too friendly.
- It’s a good idea to carry sanitation pads. Use it on utensils at restaurants before eating.
- As a tourist, you might be surprised at how cheap something is. Try not to look so surprised or amazed at the cost, it will only bring attention to you that you’re a tourist. Try to blend in, have fun, but don’t draw too much attention to yourself.
Do your own research
There are other places in the Philippines not mentioned above that tourists rave about like Palawan. Plan ahead, check the internet, talk to family and friends who’ve been there for ideas.
The Philippines has been getting bad publicity lately because of the government anti-drug war. Recent tourists say it is still safe in most parts traditionally visited by tourists.
Tourism is one of the country’s main forms of revenues. Tourists keep going back because it has all the things people expect in a travel destination to have a fun time and be amazed.
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