Our feelings about the Philippines after one month!
Visiting the Philippines in 2024 is a great option! The people are really nice, the landscapes are amazing on earth and underwater, it’s affordable and in many places the seafood and tropical fruits are also nice. We have had many good feelings and a couple of not so good feelings after travelling here for a month and we would like to share these ones with you. These feelings are as of 2024 and we think that some of the things will change in the near future since it's a country that seems to be developing really fast.
The good feelings
1. People’s kindness: People are extremely kind between them as well as with tourists. You feel quite a lot like home and they almost always wear a smile. They always try to help you and are super polite addressing everyone as sir or ma’am. They love it when you speak a couple of words of Tagalog, which is the official language (despite having so many different dialects). Even if you just say “salamat po”, which means thank you!
2. English is so good: Up to now it’s been the best place we’ve seen with a high level of English. Everyone we’ve met could speak English, from the 5 year old children by a small fisherman’s village at the beach to the old people, the waiters, the tricycle drivers, basically anyone, which is a thing that is hard to find in most countries in Asia and even in Europe. The level of English is so good that Koreans and Japanese go to the Philippines to improve their English. This surprised us a lot and it was very practical for travelling as well as for getting to know the locals better.
3. Nature is so beautiful and photogenic: The sea lagoons, pristine waters, beaches, caves, underwater rivers, blue rivers, coral formations, limestone formations, sea life, waterfalls, and even hot springs. They have almost everything that is related to water, except snow and glaciers. And these places make the Philippines spectacular. It’s a paradise for droning and underwater photography. We especially loved the islands of Siquijor and Bohol.
One of the best things we’ve done during the tour, was the multi-day expedition from El Nido to Coron, where we got to visit some of the most virgin islands in the Philippines, snorkel in amazing places as well as having the best food we’ve had in the country. We would recommend this to anyone visiting the Philippines. We did that with Buhay Isla and it was amazing. We’ve heard that Tao Philippines is also very nice but the price is twice as high and for what we’ve heard it’s not really much different than the Buhay Isla one. We would like to share a couple of videos of the Philippines with you here for you to have an idea of the beauty of this country, including a summary of the highlights of the multi-day tour. To know more about Siquijor tips check this post.
To know more about Bohol tips check this post
To know more about Bohol tips check this post
To know more about Coron and Ocam Ocam beach and Dugongs, click here
And to know more about Puerto Princesa you can check this post.
5. Much safer than we thought: People warned us about the Philippines not being very safe, still having many pirates, etc. Even in the official travelling advisory website of Germany it’s recommended to take a lot of care in the trip. But we felt very safe, even when walking at night or taking a motorbike at night. Moreover, no one tried to scam us either. We have to say, though, that we only visited touristic islands.
6. Food is not that bad: we’ve heard not super nice things about food in the Philippines before arriving here but food was not that bad. Many of the dishes were tasty, such as octopus and chicken Adobo or Kare Kare. Moreover, we didn’t have stomach ache in almost all the trips except in Coron city, where the quality of the restaurants we tried was usually not that good for us.
The not so good feelings
Cash is king: We’ve complained about other Asian countries using cash a lot but the Philippines is next level in that aspect. You need to pay everything in cash, even hotels and supermarkets. It’s very complicated to find places where cards are accepted in 2024. In fact, it’s one of the top cash countries in the world. Before, it used to be free to withdraw in HSBC banks but now there are almost no HSBC left, so you need to pay about 250 pesos each time you withdraw and usually you can only withdraw up to 10,000 pesos.
Many things are chaotic: This is probably one of the most difficult things to understand in the Philippines, especially if you have things planned. You need to account for flexibility because it can happen that things don’t work as planned. For example, one day our flight from Coron to Cebu was canceled at the airport and there were no more flights that day because it was getting dark and the airport in Coron doesn’t have any lights, so there cannot be any night landings… Luckily, we had planned one day as a buffer to travel from Cebu to Moalboal and very luckily they put an extra flight for the next morning for us to be able to fly. However, many other passengers were supposed to fly to Europe exactly the same night as a connecting flight and they couldn’t make it. Some of them were even on their honeymoon...
Not much variety of food (especially vegetarian/vegan options) and quite bad food for us in Coron: In Coron city we tried 7 restaurants and 4 of them tasted bad and Èric had a stomach ache every day in Coron city…Especially the Ramen, and the Thai restaurant were really not tasting good. After having traveled to both Thailand and Japan, the Ramen tasted like instant noodles and the Thai was lacking many spices and tasty sauces. Ocam Ocam beach has a very nice local restaurant, though. Apart from this, there’s not a lot of variety of food in the majority of Philippine restaurants, especially if you are looking for vegetarian or vegan options, and in fact, compared to the other Asian countries we’ve been to, there are actually not many Filipino restaurants. That’s probably why in Europe it is not so common to see Filipino restaurants, as compared to Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean or even Indonesian…Since there’s not so much variety of food, we didn’t find any cooking class anywhere we’ve been. The majority of the cooking classes are in Manila but we decided to skip Manila.
There are many abandoned dogs: This was an aspect common in Thailand and Indonesia as well but in the Philippines the amount of abandoned dogs is really big and some of them are in a really bad state of health, with very little hair, scratches and even blood in some limbs… Moreover, they are everywhere, from beaches (where they will come as soon as you open a bag of chips) to streets and roads at night (which is very dangerous when going with the rental motorbikes, which often have almost no lights).
Sometimes the tourism is not controlled: In the most famous places of the Philippines, such as the underground river or the Coron island hopping tour, the tourists are not controlled at all. In order to make money they allow as many tourists as possible, which makes it unsustainable and counterproductive. For instance when there are so many boats that you cannot park yours in front of a famous beach, or where there are so many kayaks that people can almost not drive or end up crashing against snorkelers (it happened to us once since we were snorkeling…). This massification of tourism also means that many people end up stepping on corals, which we saw with our own eyes. And even one ship started the engine when we were snorkeling coming back to our ship! This was actually dangerous and the guy was saying sorry to us but still didn’t turn off the engine. If we were inexperienced swimmers, we could have hurt ourselves…
The internet connection is really bad in many places: It doesn't matter if you have globe, smart or any other SIM, the internet providers are pretty bad, which makes you have almost never internet. Even if they give you 100 GB of data per month, the possibility of you being able to use it in most of the islands is very low... This is not only the case of SIM cards but also a problem with the wifi, where the upload and download speed is in general really low, which makes it impractical to upload videos.
As a summary, we would really recommend visiting the Philippines since it’s a beautiful country. We think that this country will develop extremely fast because of their good level of English and the fact that many tourists come from neighboring developed countries such as Korea and Japan, who start doing business in the Philippines.
We would also recommend visiting it because people are very nice, the food is also great (despite not having lots of variety, especially if you are looking for vegetarian/vegan meals) and the English level is so good that it makes travelling really easy. Moreover, everything is written in English on the streets and roads, which is really handy. However, when planning you should know that everything works with cash and you need to pay the fees to the banks. Also you should plan with days of flexibility if you want to catch important ferries or flights or do any expensive activities such as diving. There is also quite a lot of over tourism in the main highlights, which diminishes the value of such beautiful destinations. We think this will change as well in the future once they go towards more sustainable tourism.
We hope you like this summary of our feelings in the Philippines in 2024 and that is useful for you to have some ideas of the current experience travelling such a beautiful and interesting country! Let us know what you think about this post and see you next time in Kuala Lumpur with our last country of South East Asia ^^