The Philippines offer something for everyone. There's a multitude of activities beside lounging on the beach, including snorkelling, kite surfing, hiking, swimming with whale sharks, visiting desert islands, diving, monkey-spotting and even some great nightlife too!
It can be daunting to choose which of 7,000 islands to visit. I started my trip planning by reading travel websites like the Lonely Planet forums to help me narrow down the choices to a few spots, so now I'm well-equipped to help other people plan!
Despite the fact my partner and I both work in travel, we managed to book our trip for the peak monsoon season (June to November). ‘Are we mad?’ was our first thought… but then we figured that places would be quieter and we may get a few deals on hotels, so we went ahead anyway.
It did rain at some point every day but we also experienced beautiful sunshine everyday. The weather didn't ruin any of our day trips to stunning lagoons and snorkel spots and it actually added some comedy value whilst we were getting soaked on a boat in El Nido with a group of older Filipinos!
I would still advise you to visit during monsoon season, but be aware it will rain for a few intense showers during the day. The recent and ravaging Typhoon Haiyun was a super storm and the usual monsoons to hit the Philippines are nowhere near as strong so will not hinder your trip. However, if you're set on day-long sunshine - peak season is December to April when the weather is hot, hot, hot!
I spent two weeks in Palawan travelling up from Puerto Princessa to Coron via El Nido with one night’s stay in Manila at the beginning and end. Ideally, if the Philippines is part of your round the world trip I’d suggest you spend three to four weeks so you can visit other areas like Cebu, Bohol and the beautiful Boracay.
Palawan is considered the most beautiful place in the Philippines. One of the best things about Palawan is that you really are off the beaten track. There are no chain hotels so everywhere we stayed was very individual and quirky.
We stayed at a desert island resort called Majika Island which was simply stunning! It's a bungalow on the beach with its own boat which will take you out to snorkel at some of the famous ship wreck sights and fishing areas to dive or fish. You can't fail to feel relaxed after a few days in Palawan!
El Nido is a great party place and the Filipino speciality of brandy and lime cordial is not as bad as it sounds! The landscapes are really breath taking with limestone cliffs jutting out of the seascape and hidden lagoons all surrounded by lush forests.
Having travelled extensively around South East Asia, I think the Philippines offers a totally different atmosphere and vibe. Filipino's are simply amazing - everyone we met was warm and friendly and they made a real effort to show off their beautiful country. They know it is the hidden gem of Asia!
We sampled lots of the local foods on this trip, including different fish and barbecued chicken. We also tried more local specialities such as balut (a boiled, fertilized egg!), a dish not for the faint-hearted!
Flights between London and Manila start from as little as £520. Air Philippines has started a direct flight from London Gatwick, meaning a quick and convenient start to your trip.
Once you reach the Philippines, you can choose to fly out to different islands or (if you have more time and you’re after adventure), you could try the inter-island boats. Be aware that these boats tend to operate only sporadically in bad weather, but are an excellent way to get about, especially if you don’t have a fixed itinerary.
If you book far enough in advance, the flights can often be cheaper than the boats - I can help you book internal flights if you do decide you want to book ahead. We also offer this G Adventures trip around Palawan which would suit you well if you’re short of time, as it includes highlights like El Nido - I think it's good value for money.
The Philippines is becoming easier to access and can easily be worked into a bigger itinerary for a round the world trip. For example:
London - Singapore - Manila - Sydney overland Brisbane - Auckland - Rarotonga - LA - overland to - San Francisco - London Flights from £1,399 pp including taxes
Whether you just want a couple of weeks off work or you're planning to explore as much as the country has to offer please feel free to get in touch with me. Let’s help this magnificent country get back the tourism it needs.