The Philippines, situated in Southeast Asia amidst the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, stands as an archipelago adorned with a rich tapestry of natural wonders, historical landmarks, and distinctive cultural customs. This nation encapsulates the quintessence of its region, boasting opulent beaches, expansive jungles, profound seas, and towering volcanoes. The Filipino populace is characterized by its unique way of life, setting it apart from other nations, yet united by a spirit of openness, friendliness, and independence. Welcome to the Philippines—an eagerly anticipating country ready to embrace you with its diverse allure!
Philippines on the Map
Geographical Overview of the Philippines
The Republic of the Philippines, a vast archipelago in Southeast Asia, spans thousands of islands, making it the second-largest island country globally, surpassed only by Indonesia. It shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia and Malaysia, particularly on the Kalimantan part. Notably, the Philippines has no land borders with other nations.
Geographically positioned, Vietnam lies approximately 1,500 kilometers to the west, Taiwan is around 1,200 kilometers to the north, and Kalimantan is a mere 250 kilometers away. The archipelago extends 2,000 kilometers from north to south and 900 kilometers from west to east. Bordered by the South China Sea to the west, Sulawesi Sea to the south, and the Philippine Sea to the east—all belonging to the Pacific Ocean basin—the Philippines boasts a coastline stretching 36,000 kilometers.
Comprising 7,100 islands, with Luzon and Mindanao being the largest, the archipelago predominantly features volcanic origins and is characterized by mountainous terrain, densely covered in tropical vegetation.
The highest peak, Apo Volcano in Mindanao, reaches an elevation of 2,954 meters. Adjacent to the eastern coast of Mindanao, the deep-sea Philippine Trough descends to a depth of 10 kilometers, making the total height of Apo Volcano exceed 13 kilometers—an extraordinary geological formation.
Numerous rivers traverse the archipelago, with the Cagayan River on Luzon being the longest at 354 kilometers. The largest lake, Laguna de Bai, is situated on Luzon, covering 950 square kilometers with an average depth of 2.8 meters. Meanwhile, Lake Pinatubo, nestled in the crater of its namesake volcano, spans a modest 1.9 square kilometers but plunges to a depth of 600 meters.
The rich and diverse animal world of the Philippines includes palm trees, banyan trees, orchids, and bamboo flourishing in its lush landscapes. The forests are inhabited by an array of wildlife, including deer, mongoose, wild boars, and numerous reptiles, creating a vibrant ecosystem.
Ensuring Tourist Safety in the Philippines
The Philippines, renowned for its paradisiacal landscapes, ranks 137th in the global index of peacefulness, positioned between India and Ethiopia. This ranking, influenced by various factors, prompts a closer look at safety considerations for travelers in this island nation.
Terrorist Threat: Certain regions, particularly the islands of Sulu, Mindanao, and Basilan, harbor terrorist groups with radical ideologies. While these activities don’t extend to popular tourist destinations, caution is advised for those considering visits to these specific areas.
Petty Crimes: Despite the generally friendly demeanor of the locals, the Philippines faces a high rate of pickpocketing. While serious crimes against tourists are uncommon, vigilance is necessary to prevent theft or scams, a common occurrence in many tourist destinations.
Traffic Challenges: Navigating the hectic traffic, especially outside major cities, demands constant attention. Unregulated bike drivers and packs of stray dogs on roads contribute to the accident rate, requiring cautious travel.
Health and Hygiene:
Vaccinations: While no mandatory vaccinations are required, travelers are advised to consider immunizations against tetanus, hepatitis, diphtheria, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis.
Sanitary Conditions: In various places, sanitary and hygienic conditions may be suboptimal, increasing the risk of food poisoning. Thoroughly washing fruits, avoiding food from dubious sources, and adhering to personal hygiene practices can mitigate such risks.
Land and Sea Wildlife: While there are no dangerous predators on land, the Philippines is home to poisonous snakes and insects. In the sea, encounters with sharks pose a potential risk, making it one of the regions with a higher incidence of shark attacks in Asia.
In summary, a memorable and enjoyable vacation in the Philippines is attainable by adhering to safety guidelines, exercising caution in specific regions, and maintaining good hygiene practices.
Festive Spirit in the Philippines
The Philippines, known for its vibrant culture, embraces a festive spirit with a multitude of celebrations. At the national level, the country observes 20 holidays, encompassing both secular and religious occasions.
- Revolution Day and Courage Day: Commemorating historical events, these holidays reflect the nation’s resilience and bravery.
- Independence Day: Marking the country’s liberation, Independence Day is a significant celebration that unites Filipinos in patriotic fervor.
- European New Year and Last Day of the Year: In addition to local festivities, Filipinos enthusiastically welcome the European New Year and bid farewell to the old year.
- Christian Celebrations: Christmas and Easter hold immense importance in the predominantly Christian nation. The observance of All Saints’ Day spans three days, honoring departed loved ones.
- Muslim Holidays: Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha, integral to the Muslim faith, are recognized as official holidays, contributing to the diverse religious tapestry of the Philippines.
- Sinulog Carnival: Popular among tourists, this carnival honors the Christ Child, featuring vibrant parades and cultural displays.
- Ati-Atihan Folk Festival: Another local favorite, this festival showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines through lively street celebrations and traditional performances.
In addition to these public holidays, numerous local festivities further enrich the cultural tapestry of the Philippines, providing visitors with a glimpse into the joyful and diverse spirit of the nation.
Exhilarating Adventures in the Philippines
Tourism in the Philippines thrives as one of the key sectors, attracting over 8 million visitors seeking diverse and quality vacations. From pristine beaches to active volcanoes and lush jungles, coupled with historical sites and unique cultural traditions, the Philippines offers a myriad of attractions.
Here are 10 enticing activities for an unforgettable Philippine experience:
1. Beach Vacation: Head to Boracay, renowned for its picturesque beaches and luxurious hotels, providing a perfect setting for a beach getaway.
2.Diving: The Philippines, renowned for its captivating coral reefs and diverse marine life, stands out as an exceptional destination for both diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Notably, Cebu provides the opportunity for thrilling dives alongside tiger sharks. Delve into this article to discover fascinating insights about formidable predators, such as tiger sharks, adding an enriching layer to your understanding of the underwater world.
3. Kitesurfing: Considered the kitesurfing capital, Boracay showcases thousands of surfers harnessing the constant monsoons for an exhilarating experience.
4. Zipline: Explore the mountainous terrain of islands like Boracay, Bohol, and Palawan with ziplines offering breathtaking views over bays and coves.
5. El Nido Lagoon: Located in Palawan, this vibrant destination boasts mysterious rocks and caves accessible by catamaran or local boat.
6. Authentic Bungalows: Crystal Cove near Boracay features an authentic village with bungalows, unique gazebos, and benches, offering a serene connection with nature.
7. Pinatubo Volcano: On Luzon Island, near Manila, trek to the famed Pinatubo Volcano, featuring a beautiful lake in its crater reachable by a designated walking trail.
8. Underground River: Experience the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan, the world’s longest underground river, showcasing stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
9. Rice Terraces: Visit the Banaue Rice Terraces on Ifugao Island, a remarkable testament to human labor carved into rocks 2000 years ago and still in use today.
10. Ethno-tourism: Explore the diverse tribes across the archipelago, including the Ifugao tribe known for their unique customs, offering a fascinating glimpse into their traditional way of life.
Embark on these exciting adventures to make your visit to the Philippines truly unforgettable.
Essential Insights about the Philippines
For those planning to visit this nation, here are key facts to know:
The Philippines has two official languages: Pilipino and English. Pilipino is based on Tagalog, while English serves as the language of interethnic communication and is widely understood.
Beyond the official languages, the country boasts over 150 local languages, reflecting its rich linguistic diversity.
With a population of just over 115 million, the Philippines ranks as the 13th most populous country globally. Nearly half of the population resides in urban areas.
The Philippines is a multi-ethnic state, home to several dozen nationalities. Prominent among these are the Cebuano, Iloka, and Tagalogs.
Approximately 5% of the population consists of descendants from mixed marriages with Caucasians, particularly Spaniards and Americans.
- More interesting facts about the Filipinos, their character and local color can be found in this article.
The official currency is the Philippine peso, divided into 100 centimos.
Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 pesos, while coins are in 1, 2, 5, 10 pesos, and 1, 2, 5, 10, and 25 centimos.
It’s advisable for tourists to carry cash in USD denominations of 50 and 100. While local currency is preferred, dollars are accepted, often at less favorable exchange rates.
Euros or pounds can also be exchanged, though typically at a less advantageous rate than for dollars.
Currency exchange can be done at airports, banks, hotels, and major shopping centers.
Shopping centers generally offer more favorable rates, while airports tend to have lower rates. Credit cards may not be universally accepted.
Although the Philippines is a secular state, approximately 92% of the population follows Christianity, with 80% being Catholics and 8% Protestants.
Islam is a minority religion, practiced by just over 5% of the population.
The country experiences a tropical monsoon climate with three distinct seasons: hot and dry summer (March to May), rainy season (June to November), and cool winter (December to February).
Summers are hot, with temperatures often exceeding 32 degrees Celsius, minimal rainfall, and high humidity.
The rainy season, from June to November, brings cyclones and typhoons, making it an unpredictable and inconvenient time for tourists.
The northeast monsoons in December bring cooler and drier conditions. January is the coldest month.
Overall, the best time to visit is from December to May, encompassing the local winter and summer.
The average sea water temperature off the coast of the Philippines remains consistently suitable for swimming throughout the year.
Here are the approximate water temperatures for different seasons:
- Winter (December-January): +26 to +28 degrees Celsius.
- Spring (March-May): +28 to +30 degrees Celsius.
- Summer (June-July): +29 to +30 degrees Celsius.
- Autumn (September-November): +29 in early fall, decreasing to +28 degrees in autumn.
In this tropical paradise, three natural phenomena can impact your vacation: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and typhoons. These occurrences are not limited to specific seasons, posing potential challenges throughout the year.
The Philippines experiences up to a dozen powerful typhoons annually, with the peak season occurring from June to September.
Typhoons bring heavy rainfall and hurricane-force winds, causing severe floods. This period is considered unfavorable for travel.
Notably, Typhoon BofA in November 2012 was particularly destructive, causing $1.6 billion in damages and claiming 1,900 lives.
The archipelago is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, leading to significant tectonic activity.
There are 23 active volcanoes in the Philippines, some in close proximity to popular tourist destinations. Noteworthy ones include Pinatubo, Mayon, Bulusan, and Canlaon.
Volcanic eruptions, such as Pinatubo’s recent reactivation, can impact travel plans.
Regular seismic activity is observed, with Mindanao experiencing the strongest and most destructive earthquakes.
An earthquake on November 17, 2023, with a magnitude of 6.7, resulted in nine casualties.
Travelers are advised to stay informed about local conditions and exercise caution, especially during the typhoon season and periods of increased seismic and volcanic activity.
- About the most devastating disasters in the history of the Philippines you can read in this article.
The Philippines operates as a presidential republic, featuring a six-year elected president who serves as the head of the executive branch and commands the armed forces. Legislative power is vested in a bicameral Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The country is administratively divided into 18 regions, further segmented into 81 provinces. Manila serves as the capital.
Prominent Cities and Resorts
Quezon City, a vibrant metropolis, stands as the largest and most populous city in the Philippines. As a key component of the National Capital Region and the Greater Manila Metropolitan Area, it boasts a youthful and modern ambiance since its establishment in 1939, with a current population of 2.6 million residents.
Manila, the capital of the nation, ranks among the most densely populated cities globally, hosting 1.6 million inhabitants within its compact 38 square-kilometer expanse. Beyond its demographic density, Manila is adorned with numerous museums, historical monuments, and ancient cathedrals. Noteworthy is Rizal Park, a prominent attraction featuring an oceanarium, along with enchanting Chinese and Japanese gardens.
Boracay, a petite island centrally located in the archipelago, serves as the Philippines’ premier tourist hub. Renowned for its White Beach and Bulabog Beach, the island attracts diving and kitesurfing enthusiasts worldwide. Despite its global appeal, Boracay maintains a modest local population of merely 28 thousand residents.
Cebu, a lengthy and slender island at the heart of the archipelago, emerges as a preferred destination for beach enthusiasts and lovers of exotic landscapes. Celebrated for its waterfalls and picturesque smaller islands, Cebu accommodates a population exceeding 3 million residents.
The «Pearl of Palawan» stands as a national symbol, representing one of the pivotal centers of pearl cultivation in the Philippines. Palawan’s significance lies not only in its natural beauty but also in its contribution to the country’s thriving pearl industry.
The Philippine Eagle, the national bird, holds a distinguished place as one of the world’s largest and rarest eagles. Beyond its impressive size, this majestic creature captivates with its striking and unique appearance, making it a proud symbol of the nation’s diverse wildlife.
Sampaguita, a small, jasmine-like flower, weaves through the fabric of Philippine culture, entwined with romantic legends. This delicate bloom symbolizes purity and simplicity, embodying the nation’s essence through its cultural significance.
Arnis, a local martial art and sport, reflects the Philippines’ rich heritage of self-defense techniques. This traditional practice emphasizes skill, agility, and strategic thinking, showcasing the nation’s commitment to preserving its unique martial arts traditions.
The Barong, an exceptionally shaped leaf-like knife, holds historical significance as a rebel weapon. Its distinctive design and cultural relevance speak to the Philippines’ complex history, serving as a tangible reminder of resistance and the fight for freedom.
The Nipa Hut, a traditional dwelling on stilts made from bamboo and leaves of the nipa tree, stands as a cultural emblem. Reflecting the ingenuity of Filipino craftsmanship, these huts are a testament to the enduring connection between the people and their natural environment, showcasing a harmonious blend of tradition and practicality.
How to Get to the Philippines
Tourists eager to explore the diverse beauty of the Philippines can strategically plan their flights based on specific destinations, with major airports serving as convenient entry points to various regions of the archipelago. These key aviation hubs facilitate seamless travel to the country’s stunning locales.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) – Manila: As the primary gateway to the Philippines, Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila connects travelers to the bustling capital and serves as a crucial transit point for flights to other destinations nationwide.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) – Cebu: Catering to the central region, Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu is a vital entry point for those keen on exploring the Visayan Islands. Its strategic location facilitates access to the picturesque beaches and cultural wonders of Cebu and nearby provinces.
Clark International Airport (CRK) – Angeles: Situated in Angeles, Pampanga, Clark International Airport is emerging as a key alternative gateway to Manila. Travelers choosing this airport enjoy proximity to both the capital and scenic destinations in Northern Luzon.
Davao International Airport (DVO) – Davao City: Serving the vibrant city of Davao, Davao International Airport connects visitors to the mesmerizing landscapes of Mindanao. This airport is a gateway to Davao’s unique attractions and the surrounding natural wonders.
Iloilo International Airport (ILO) – Iloilo City: Iloilo International Airport provides access to the enchanting islands of Panay and Guimaras. It is a convenient choice for those seeking a blend of historical sites, vibrant festivals, and pristine beaches in the Western Visayas.
Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS) – Puerto Princesa: Nestled in Palawan, Puerto Princesa International Airport welcomes travelers to one of the country’s most breathtaking destinations. It serves as a gateway to the stunning landscapes, underground rivers, and vibrant marine life of Palawan.
Tourists can strategically choose their entry points based on the regions they wish to explore, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable journey through the diverse wonders of the Philippines.
Cost of Vacation in the Philippines
The cost of a vacation in the Philippines can vary significantly based on factors such as travel preferences, accommodation choices, and the extent of guided tours. Whether opting for independent exploration or relying on travel agencies and guides will also influence the overall expenses.
Given its Southeast Asian location, the Philippines may incur relatively higher flight expenses for tourists originating from Europe or America. For instance, a round-trip ticket from Paris to Manila can start at 450 euros in the lowest price bracket, with the possibility of 1-2 layovers.
Tour packages to the Philippines begin at $3,000 to $4,000 for a 9-day itinerary, inclusive of flights. While this may seem costly for budget-conscious travelers, the unique experiences the country offers make it a worthwhile investment.
Once in the Philippines, travelers should anticipate the following expenses:
Food: Dining costs are generally lower than in Europe. An inexpensive restaurant meal for two may range from 15 to 50 dollars, excluding alcohol. Fast food options are available for 3-4 dollars, and a cup of cappuccino costs approximately 1-2 dollars.
Accommodation: Three-star hotel double rooms average around $60, while hostels offer more budget-friendly options starting at $18. Luxury five-star hotels provide rooms from $120.
Sightseeing: While many beaches and historical sites are free, admission fees apply to museums and ethnic festivals. Additional activities like diving may cost around $30, and group island tours can range from $20, while individual tours may cost up to $200. Specialized activities like whale shark tours or guided trekking to Pinatubo can reach around $200-$250.
Souvenirs: Costs for souvenirs vary widely, with bijouterie starting from $3.5, coconut-based products, pearls, and local teas and coffees also contributing to individualized expenses.
Transportation: Public transport, such as buses and shuttle buses, is an economical option within cities, with tickets ranging from 20 to 60 cents. Taxi boarding costs $0.7, with an additional average of $0.5 per kilometer.
Factoring in a reserve for unforeseen expenses, a 9-day vacation for two people in the Philippines, including flights, can range from $3,000 to $5,000. However, individual preferences and additional activities may contribute to higher overall costs.
If you have already visited the Philippines, please share your impressions in the comments. Please write a few words, what you liked most of all, what moments remained in your memory forever, and what you would recommend to other tourists. We will be very grateful for your recommendations!