Although I think the Phillippines are pretty awesome sauce, my 3 week stay there has had a lot of ups and downs.. Sometimes I have been quite unlucky, but there were some mistakes I made I could have avoided. Here is a list of things that will improve your travels through this wonderful archipelago.
1. Firstly and most importantly – and I’m so sure you will have read that before: Do not attempt to overload your itinery. And if you already think you don’t – reconsider and cut more stuff out!!
During my 3 week stay there I went to Palawan (El Nido), Bohol and to the Banaue Rice Terraces. Now that doesn’t sound much, but what I actually had to do was
- staying in Manila the first day and night
- flying to Palawan + waiting for the van + taking a 6 hour van ride (total amount of travelling: 10 hours
- 4 days El Nido (of which I was sick one day)
- 8 hours travelling to Sabang (Underground River – awesome beach)
- 1 day Sabang 1 day travelling to Cebu City (including wasting time in Puerta Princesa)
- 3/4 day queuing up for ferry tickets + taking the ferry (lots of people because of some festival that was going on)
- 3 days Bohol
- 1 day travelling back to Manila via Cebu (having to spend the night in Cebu)
- 1 day having to hang out in Manila until my night bus left
- 8 hour travelling up north
- 3 days hiking / hospital visits
- 8 hours travelling to Manila
- 2 more nights in Manila before my plane left (to little time to travel somewhere else – to much time to hang out in Manila)
As you can see lots of travelling, flights, waiting, etc. had to be done. Too many days I had to travel via Manila. In the end I should have just done the Visayas and the Rice Terraces or maybe Mayon on the way and left out Palawan. 3 destinations are to annoying for a three week trip and I didn’t do too well in avoiding Manila or Cebu (cities suck).
2. Stay flexible – even if it means flights may get more expensive!
I wish I wouldn’t have pre-booked the flights and just gone with the flow, so I could have avoided those long itineraries. A mistake I have definitely learned of. Flexibility on travels is for sure an important thing, especially if you underestimate travel time
3. Excursions and trips are really expensive there (Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Taal). Even more annoying, as a solo traveler they just don’t put you into a group – YOU have to find your group you want to travel with! I wasn’t aware of that and not staying in a hostel doesn’t help you find people so I ended up not going since 200 $ for a day trip seemed a bit exaggerated.
So, make sure you find a crowd that want to go on tour with you!!
4. That basically counts for any place: Try not to get sick! I got miserably sick on my second day in Palawan. In Bohol I must have scratched a mosquito bite and it infected. Had to go to several doctors and in the end they had to cut it open in the hospital in the middle of nowhere. And then after all I got a fever in Manila on my last day…
5. Don’t always follow the Lonely Planet’s – or any other traveler guide’s – highlights and top tips. Some parts of the Phillies are ridiculously overcrowded and shabby looking. Well, the worst bit was El Nido. No doubt the archipelago there is stunning and beautiful but had I known how busy and full it would be – I wouldn’t have gone there.
It reminded me a little bit of some balearic party islands, Cancún or Florida during Spring Break – only without nice looking hotels but lots and lots of tiny hostels full of bagpackers (who kept telling me they are glad they didn’t go to Boracay because it’s too touristy for them)! How could it have been more touristy, no matter if bagpackers or anyone else – people are people and you have no idea how many of them (all) went on those boat trips they sell everywhere and how many of them I ended up photoshopping out of my pics.
Too crowded for me (or maybe I just hadn’t expected it) and from now on I’m really careful about if or if not I follow those advertised highlights.
After my trip I have seen pictures of so many pretty looking places there and I wonder why I just didn’t go there. The Phillippines are full of stunning beaches and beautiful nature, but to see it all it takes a lot of time. If you only have some weeks – really focus on a certain part of it. It’s true what they say on the internet – although I didn’t believe it myself…