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TOP TIPS TO TRAVEL THE PHILIPPINES

January 29, 2019

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WHY, WHEN, WHERE & HOW TO TRAVEL IN THE PHILIPPINES

A QUICK TRAVELLER'S GUIDE 

 

Kids playing with a bang boat, Philippines

 

 

After two months of Nepal and Himalayas, here we are in the Philippines – we could already picture ourselves on white deserted beaches and in lush jungle, and couldn’t wait for better and more tourist-friendly infrastructures and less organizational issues.

 

The reality of tourism in the Philippines is quite different from what we imagined and it took us time (and money) to adjust to their “hidden” fee system, their visa bureaucracy, their complicated transportation system and, least but not last, their heavily meaty dishes. 

 

Although the Philippines are going towards big changes in order to be more prepared to bigger tourists’ hordes, you are still travelling in South East Asia and our recommendations below will help you readjust your expectations to enjoy your holiday in the Philippines with the right mindset. Enjoy! 

 

These are of course based on our personal experiences, however, we found some of our opinions were shared by other travelers as well.

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PHILIPPINES CULTURE HERE

 

WHY VISITING 

 

Whenever people think of the Philippines they imagine white sandy beaches with coral-rich crystal-clear sea waters of small islands and the lush green towering mountains as a background. This is actually not too far away from reality in some Filipino regions. As we found out while travelling some of the islands here, there is so much more to see and experience if relaxing and sunbathing is not necessarily your priority.

 

BEACHES & ISLAND HOPPING – Instagrammers have done an excellent job in showcasing the amazing picture-perfect bays and beaches of the Philippines, especially in Palawan Island, which is now one of the main tourist hub in the country. However, one should not always stick to the classic itineraries offered by most agencies – there are so many ways of enjoying deserted islands even on a budget, it does not have to be a luxurious expensive resort =)

 

DIVING – The real beauty of the Philippines can not actually be seen from land, you have to descend into its deep blue waters to discover another world, populated by the most colourful tropical fish, the largest number of corals in the world and some bigger inhabitants such as marine turtles, sharks, dolphins, manta-reys, you name it. Another attraction you don’t want to miss are the wrecks of mostly Japanese war ships sunken during World World II.

 

HIKING & WILDLIFE – Despite its warm humid climate which can puts off even the more avid hikers, if you plan ahead and start early in the day, you can enjoy beautiful hiking through jungle and bamboo forests or up active volcanoes and spot some interesting wildlife, such as endemic squirrels, monitor lizards, lots of birdlife and snakes.

 

CULTURE – The Philippines have suffered from colonization since the first Spanish ship landed here in the early 16thcentury and Americans have left their legacy in more than one way from 1898 to 1935 - as a consequence, Filipinos have been greatly influenced by outside cultures and their Catholicism is only an example of centuries of Spanish domination. However, do not forget the Philippines are still a South East Asian country and as such, it is an interesting mix of traditions with its own unique character.

 

 Crystal clear water at Malapascua Island, Philippines

 

 

WHEN TO GO

 

There are two main seasons in the Philippines – the dry season (from December to April) and the wet season (from May/June to November). Most travelers will visit the country in the dry season, and in conjunction with Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

 

The wet season is not fun in the Philippines as it brings powerful typhoons or tropical depressions to the country, with the related dangers of travelling by plane or boat or visiting the more exposed areas. Some typhoons can still hit the country during the dry season, especially during December/January which are transition months between dry and wet season, so be always aware of weather alerts. You can visit this website here (www1.pagasa.dost.gov.ph) which is relatively reliable in terms of typhoon alerts.

 

Mesmerising sunset in Coron Town in Palawan, Philippines

 

 

WHERE TO STAY

 

The Philippines offer a wide range of accommodations, from hotels, guesthouses, homestays, and backpacker hostels. As always, when visiting a country in high season (December to February) make sure you book your accommodation in advance in the most touristy places– you might also want to reserve some very popular tours (like kayaking/sailing trips from one island to the other) in advance.

 

In the Philippines we used three main reservation websites for accommodation – Booking.com, Agoda and AirBnB. We found that many accommodations are listed on all three websites with slightly different prices. Agoda seems to offer cheaper prices for the same accommodation while AirBnB might be a great choice if you would like to experience homestay. Booking.com is also a good source for all accommodation types, from basic to luxury, with good deals and flexible cancellation policies. 

 

Be ready to spend around PHP500/700 per night for a double room with shared bathrooms, cold shower and a fan. A private room with private bathroom, hot shower and air condition (and sometimes included continental breakfast) comes between PHP1,000 and PHP2,000 per night. Accommodation quality is usually increasing above PHP2,000 and luxury resorts usually charge very similar prices to those in Western countries (above USD100 for city-based hotels up to USD300 and above for private island resorts).

 

 Nipa hut stay at Mount Avangan Eco Resort close to Coron town, Palawan, Philippines

 

 

Fancy an overnight in a typical Filipino Nipa hut? We recommend Bohol Nipa Huts near Loboc with a great riverside location surrounded by crickets by day and fireflies by night. If you’re travelling to Coron and want to relax away from the crowds, then the nipa huts at Mount Avangan Eco Adventure Park might be for you.

 

 Authentic Nipa Hut stay close to Loboc along the river , Bohol Island, Philippines

 

 

VISA

 

Upon entry into the country you will be granted a FREE 21-day tourist visa(please check if your country is eligible for this free visa here - http://immigration.gov.ph) and until here no problem.

 

After the initial free 21 days you will need to apply for a visa extension which will grant you an extra month – we found the official immigration website of the Philippines very generic and somehow misleading, so we read few blogs before going through this process.

 

You can ask for this second visa at one of the main immigration offices around the country (listed here - Immigration Offices Philippines) – we filed our application at Cebu City office (which is out of the city centre in a shopping mall, by the way). We highly recommend to be there before opening time as people are already lining up early in the morning because the application process can be long and tiring (more than 1.5 hour).

 

You will need your passport, two passport sized pictures, a return ticket and money and you will need to fill in an application form – a s of October 2018, it cost PHP3,030 (USD90 p.p.) to get this second visa. Make sure they stamp your passport with the new visa and date as they haven’t done it with us, so we had to hold on a piece of paper with all details during our time in the Philippines (which is annoying and confusing for other immigration offices).

 

TIP – It usually takes one morning to obtain your second visa, however make sure you apply for it AT LEAST one week before your first free visa expiry date as it might take longer or the immigration office might be close – you never know!

 

If you stay more than 2 months in the Philippines, you will then need to apply for subsequent visas which grant you 2 more months each time you apply (until a maximum of 16 months’ stay in the country). Things get a little more complicated at this point as the immigration office will keep your passport for a few days (at least two days) to process the visa and print a Filipino I.D. card ( ACR I-Card) for you (you will need 2 passport-size pictures for this).

 

We tried to go through this process at Tagbilaran Immigration Office in Bohol Island. The very impolite immigration officer opened the office more than one hour and a half after the official opening time and kept us waiting without telling us anything. When we finally got inside the office, he served us after all other costumers (as they had easier visas to process). As soon as he told us how much it was (PHP7,800 p.p. / USD200 p.p.) for the visa extension and I.D. card and when he mentioned he had to keep our passports for 5 days over the weekend (we had only 3 days left on Bohol Island at this point), we renounced to apply for the extension and he rudely throw our passports and money back to us. A very unpleasant experience unfortunately!

 

DID YOU KNOW?– You can overstay your visa in the Philippines but it`s not recommended at all. If you, accidentally or voluntarily, do overstay your Philippines visa, you’ll need to pay a fine which is much more expensive than paying for a visa extension.

 

Therefore, make your calculations carefully and decide if the money spent on the visa extension is worth the time visiting the Philippines or not – we decided that we would have rather prefer spending the money on visiting Malaysia rather than staying in the Philippines for longer, but it really depends on your travelling plans.

 

Unfortunately, we had to book our flight to our next destination after the Philippines before reaching the country (otherwise we wouldn’t have been allowed into the country), so we just picked a date for the outbound flight without first knowing the high costs for the visa extension. We hope our bad experience will help others to plan their trip here more carefully.

 

TIP – We just discovered a very useful website (www.onewayfly.com) which allows you to reserve flights with 14 day validity without really booking them for a small fee (EUR19) – they will send you an E-Ticket to show for immigration purpose, which is exactly like a confirmed flight ticket, however, it is not valid and booked. Worth checking out for next time.

 

If you're on Bohol Island for a few days, don't miss the Chocolate Hills - Philippines

 

 

ELECTRICITY

 

The USA plug is used in the Philippines so we highly recommend to buy an international adapter – this is the one we use (Pors-ela) and it`s extremely durable, compact and can charge up to 5 devices at the same time.

 

Most accommodations have sockets in all rooms and communal areas and blackouts are not extremely common, unless you`re travelling to small islands (like Malapascua for example). In any case we like to carry with us this head torch (Kathmandu Raven 300 Head Torch) and lantern (Luci Outdoors)all the times in case of any power cut. These are also great for camping.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT CAMPING HERE

 

                                                                     Going off-the-grid on Popototan Island, Philippines

 

 

PHONE & INTERNET

 

We highly recommend to buy a Filipino SIM card after your arrival for local calls and texts to accommodations and/or drivers and to use it with internet packages.

 

There are two main operators in the Philippines, Globe and Smart. As always one does have better reception than the other in certain regions and works much slower in other areas – difficult to know before buying the SIM card.

 

We found out that Smart was slightly worse than Globe in the regions we visited (Bohol, Cebu, Palawan) which are also very touristy places to visit.

 

Wifi connection is generally available in many restaurants and hotels/hostels around the Philippines, however, reception is usually very slow or jumpy so we recommend to buy a pre-paid internet package on your phone and use it as a hotspot for your other devices. The internet plans are quite cheap but they would only offer few Gigabytes for limited time (3 to 7 days) so every few days you will need to recharge your mobile.

 

 

No phone reception? No problem! Sunset jump on Popotan Island, Philippines 

 

 

MONEY

 

As in most South East Asian countries most local restaurants, hotels and shops will not accept credit cad payment so better you stock up on cash at the first occasion.

 

ATM - The main cities and tourist hubs have ATMs or banks where you can withdraw money. Not all ATMs accept all card types so always check the card types accepted by the ATM. We used different banks (Banco De Oro, Bank of the Philippines Islands, Metrobank…) and we did not encounter any problems with money withdrawal. Most of them will charge you PHP250 for each transaction. Most of these banks have a maximum of PHP10,000 to PHP15,000 per transaction limit.

 

TIP – Use Maps.me to find the closest ATM to you. For more info see Transportation section below.

 

TIP 2 – Always check if there is an ATM in the location you are visiting as it might turn up there is none, like on very small islands such as Malapascua. Luckily for us, a local restaurant could give us cash, charging our card for the amount we wanted plus a 10% fee (which is enormous!).

 

DID YOU KNOW? – Always get a printed receipt of your transactions. It does happen the ATM machine is empty but your bank account will still show the withdrawal – in this case you might need to contact your bank and show them your receipt as proof of the withdrawal.

 

Currency exchange - We personally did not exchange any currency but there are some currency exchange in the main cities. Always confirm the exchange rate and check the calculations before making the exchange itself.

 

 Banknotes in the Philippines

 

 

EATING OUT

 

We found Filipino cuisine to be rather different from our expectations. Our love for veggies and fruits has been tested hard in the Philippines as the main ingredient which dominates the majority of restaurants’ menus is meat, usually (but not always) accompanied by rice.

 

Having said that, we managed to find some great vegan/vegetarian restaurants which were literally assaulted by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, in search for a healthier meal and something different.

 

ARE YOU VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN? FIND OUT OUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS IN THE PHILIPPINES HERE

 

Rice is the main staple for locals which comes with small portions of meat or fish, sometimes without even one single vegetable to accompany the meal. Fruit is eaten rarely (mostly in smoothies or ice cream) and junk food and sugary beverages are the norm in Filipino diet.

 

        Local dinner at Nipa Huts near Lomboc, Bohol Island, Philippines

 

 

Philippines’ favourite meat is definitely pork which is cooked in many different way (fried, minced, barbequed…). In general, all meat we tried in the Philippines never really satisfied us, sometimes too chewy, sometimes too bony.

 

What is probably fresher and better tasting than meat is fish, though we have always been served rather small fishes and of the same type, just cooked in different ways (fried, boiled, in coconut sauce…). Fish usually comes with a portion of rice.

 

Luckily for us, you can buy different variety of fruits (bananas, mangoes, papayas, guyabanos….) and veggies from the street stalls or from markets. Remember – if you can peel it, you can eat it safely.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT FOOD ETIQUETTE & MORE IN THE PHILIPPINES HERE

 

Market Stall Coron Town Philippines

 

 

Here below are some of the dishes and drinks we have personally tried during our visit to the Philippines. We love experimenting with local food, however you must take some precautions with street food – LEARN MORE ABOUT FOOD SAFETY HERE

 

PANCIT CANTON – The classic, omnipresent Filipino Noodle dish was our safe-to-go dish in the Philippines. It can be found in pretty much all menus and is also widely offered ready-to-eat. These yellow wheat noddles can be served with meat, fish or only vegetables and a thick soy sauce base and slices of kalamansi (local citrus fruit). It is a medley of stir-fried julienned carrots, snow peas, Chinese cabbage, purple onions and usually includes pork and/or chicken.

 

 Omnipresent Pancit Canton in the Philippines

 

 

LUMPIA – The Filipino version of spring rolls, Lumpias are savoury snacks made of thin crepe pastry enveloping a mixture of chopped vegetables or minced meat. It is usually served deep fried.

 

SISIG PORK – Chopped pork (usually using pieces of the pig head or liver) which is boiled, broiled and grilled and seasoned with vinegar, calamansi juice and chopped onions and served in a hot plate. It also refers to a method of preparing fish and meat, marinated in a sour liquid such as lemon juice or vinegar, then seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices.Some restaurants are therefore experimenting with other meat such as chicken, beef, tuna…

 

 Sizzling Sisig Pork in the Philippines

 

 

ADOBO – Adobo generally refers to the typical Filipino cooking method of marinating seafood, meat or vegetables in vinegar, soy sauce, black garlic and black peppercorns. Typically, they use chicken or pork and accompany the dish with rice.

 

CHAMPORADA – We had this dessert for breakfast and after dinner on Malapascua Island. It consists of boiled sticky rice with cocoa powder and sugar (and sometimes milk) and it’s very filling and yummy.

 

3-IN-1 COFFEE – If you are a serious coffee lover, msure you ask for BLACK coffee, no sugar and no milk when you order at the café. Otherwise, you will usually be served a Filipino version of instant coffee – a mix of coffee, sugar and creamer, therefore 3-in-1.

 

KALAMANSI JUICE OR TEA – If you love lemon juice or tea, you might want to try kalamansi juice, hot or cold, which is a very popular citrus fruit found everywhere in the Philippines.

 

Calamansi Juice in the Philippines

 

 

TRANSPORTATION, DRIVING & MORE

 

Comprising more than 7,600 islands, Philippines transportation system can be very confusing and disorganised. To their geography, add the fact many transportation businesses in the country are born and gone in a season, so information on blogs and websites can be sometimes unreliable or not up to date. If you base your logistics research and organization on the internet, travelling in the Philippines can easily turn into a nightmare.

 

Here below are some useful tips to minimise inconveniences and set your expectations beforehand. Stay safe and enjoy the ride!

 

  1. Do not always trust information found on the internetalways double check with local tourist agencies or information centers on site if ferry companies are still up and running, if your chosen route is on the exact dates as per the ferry/bus company’s website, if weather will be fine on your travelling date (or if a monsoon is on the rise).

  2. Clarify the transportation costs and inclusions/exclusions before buying the ticket – sometimes small ferry terminal or airport/luggage fees are excluded from the ticket cost and it’s so annoying when you find out you have to pay more afterwards.

  3. Make sure to obtain a physical ticket for any big transportation (such as ferries, flights, long-haul buses) from the travel agency and double check the details on the ticket are correct before walking away.

  4. It’s perfectly ok to read blogs and articles to prepare yourselvesfor check in procedures and the trip – just be very selective and check the post date to make sure you`re not reading something from 2012 (as mentioned, things in the Philippines change within months).

 

Ferries and bangkas – Let’s start with two of the most common transportation means to move from one island to the island in the Philippines.

 

One to two hours trips are usually in bangkas, the typical wooden and bamboo boats used by fishermen in the Philippines. They are extremely unreliable as they are not very stable with big waves and do not usually receive proper maintenance – it’s normal to hear stories of broken bangkas on the way to diving spots (it happened to us on our first diving trip and we waited two hours in choppy sea to be towed back to the island). Make sure you do not book long trips on bangkas – they might be slightly cheaper, but definitely more dangerous than on other boat types.

 

Navigating Philippines' crystal clear waters by Bangka

 

Longer trips less than 6 hours in duration will be in passenger ferries (usually up to 40 passengers) – there will usually be plastic seats or more comfortable seating and, depending on the price of the ride, duration of the trip and size of the boat, the seats will be under cover or inside the main cabin. The price varies a lot on the basis of the before-mentioned aspects and fares can go from PHP1,500 p.p. onwards.

 

We have taken a fast passenger ferry (Montenegro) from Coron to El Nido and, apart from sea sickness because of rough sea, the journey was organized and enjoyable (although 1 hour longer than advertised!) with movies and comfortable seating.

 

Overnight trips or more than 6 hours in durationare in bigger cruise ferries which offer beds in a communal area or private cabins, and a restaurant on board. Our experiences with cruise ferries have been varied.

 

The 5-hour slow ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran (Bohol) offered a bunk bed to each passenger in a communal area (not exactly clean) and toilets – no food was served and the luggage were just piled next to our bed but the trip was relatively fast and cheap (PHP350 p.p.).

 

The overnight ferry (2Go ferry) from Manila to Coron offered the same dorm-style accommodation as well as more comfortable and much more expensive options, such as air-con dormitory or shared / private cabins. Dinner was included but the actual portion (both vegetarian and meaty) was ridiculous and we had to buy extra food. Unfortunately, the choice of snacks on board was very poor – other than junk food we could only find some expensive bananas and little sweet cakes. Tea was not in the menu but we managed to get some hot water (so bring your own tea bags). The only option for hot drinks was coffee (which was the only highlight of the trip, from proper coffee machines) – Filipino coffee (3-in-1 with coffee, milk and sugar) is not for us.

 

Passenger ferry in the Philippines

 

Local / tourist buses – There is no distinction between local and tourist buses (like you can find in Nepal for example). The main difference in terms of price and comfort is made by the presence of air-con (which is often very strong, so you might want to avoid it). Travelling by bus in the Philippines is mainly safe, however, timetables might not be respected because of traffic or the bus might leave only when it gets full. During longer rides the bus will usually stop for toilet breaks or lunch/dinner (however, the choice of food available is sometimes very poor so better you bring your own snacks/picnic lunch with you). For shorter rides do as the locals do – use smaller vehicles such as the famous jeepneys or minivans (see below for more information).

 

TIP – As in many other countries, make sure your money and other valuables are close to you and keep an eye on them.

 

Jeepney – This is probably the most interesting ride you can get in the Philippines (tricycle apart). Jeepneys are these long minibuses (originally made out of U.S. military jeeps with vis-à-vis seatings), super colourful and generally painted with Catholic subjects or Bob Marley- inspired. The jeepney’s final destination or main direction should be printed on the side, however, it is difficult to understand if a certain jeepney will pass from where you would like to stop. Therefore, always ask locals around and the driver. This is also the cheapest way of getting around cities or towns (we did not find any jeepneys in smaller locations where tricycles were instead the norm). The fare varies (between PHP7 and PHP15 for short rides within a city) and you pay the driver directly or pass the money to other passengers around the jeepney who will collect the fare and hand it to the driver, telling him the number of people paying.

 

TIP – To stop the jeepney do as the locals do – click your tongue repeatedly or tap a coin on the jeepney metal side.

 

Striking a cool pose with a Jeepney in the Phillipines 

 

Minivans – These compact vans are becoming more and more popular for certain routes which are mostly frequented by tourists (such as in Palawan) as they offer faster rides and virtually no stop during the trip, and for these reasons they charge much more than normal 30-seater buses. Sometimes they are the only option available. Unfortunately, drivers answer to no one when they want to make more money and they squeeze way more people than their minivan’s capacity in a tiny space (sometimes 15 people in a 8-seater!).

 

Taxi & Grab – You can find white taxis in main cities, however, in smaller towns and villages the norm are usually tricycles as they can squeeze into tiny alleys. As for taxis, most taxi drivers talk English and know main landmarks - always ask drivers to use the meter; if you decide not to use the meter (see “Did you know” section below), then bargain the price and always agree on a fixed rate with the driver before getting in. Driving sometimes do not respect all road rules, but driving is never too wild.

 

DID YOU KNOW? - Taxi drivers should use the meter. There is usually a fee of PHP40 to start the journey and then every kilometer adds PHP20 and every minute PHP30. For longer distances It is actually better to bargain the ride price.

 

Grab is the equivalent of Uber in Asia – you have to sign up first, then you insert your pick up location and your destination and Grab will find you a nearby driver and show you the fixed price for the ride – if you are satisfied, you just “grab” the driver and the app will show you the location/ ETA of the driver in real time so you can keep track of him/her. It is much cheaper than a normal taxi, but Grab only works in big cities in the Philippines.

 

Tricycle – Omnipresent in every small to medium-sized village in the Philippines, the tricycle usually consists of a motorbike attached to a rudimental passenger cabin on the side or at the back. They are very compact and cheap, so a great option to cover short distances (from ferry terminals to accommodation in town for example) but trips longer than 2 hours or with too much luggage might be extremely uncomfortable in this tiny vehicles. Always agree a price before jumping on a tricycle!

 

Ready for a Tricycle ride in the Philippines

 

 

Rent a car or motorbike – Driving in the Philippines is generally safe and roads are mostly paved if you stick to touristic routes. If you’re not a confident driver, driving in big cities or at peak times in villages might be dangerous for you and others as rules are often bended and all kind of vehicles will try to take over you if you’re unsteady at the steering wheel or stop for just few seconds longer at crossing.

 

DID YOU KNOW? – Your national driver license is legal for the first 90 days in the Philippines. After that you need an International driving permit.

 

Motorbikes are the usual choice for rental as they are less expensive than car rental and reliable enough to cover medium distances, however, if you think of driving for more than 3 hours in a row by motorbike, think twice, especially if you have big pack backs with you as the journey might be uncomfortable and rain can be around the corner, even during the dry season.

 

Cars are obviously bigger in size so not at all convenient for short distances or small villages, and also more expensive. On the other side, if you have big luggage and you plan to cover long distances, the money you spend on a car rental might be worth it.

 

On foot - Walking around in Filipino cities and villages is generally safe during the day as long as you avoid going out alone at night in cities and very dark alleys where there are more chances of getting harassed. There are actually some neighborhoods in Manila Metro, close to Intramuros, which you should avoid even during daylight as there is a very high micro-criminality rate in these areas.

 

TIP – We use the app Maps.me  to get around on foot, by car, by motorbike,etc. – we noticed that Maps.me was not precise in a couple of occasions when we took off-the-beaten-path roads to reach some waterfalls or different Chocolate hills than the touristy ones in Bohol Island. So do some research on the internet for directions before heading out to not-touristy places. Highly recommended and FREE!

 

Honking is pretty normal for Filipinos while driving, especially for bus drivers (whose honk is very loud and if misused, it can be quite annoying). Honking is especially used to let you know they’re taken over another vehicle or they’re turning right or left at crossings.

 

Domestic flights – To speed up logistics between one island and the other, you might want to consider flying domestically. Cebu Pacific and Jetstar serve the main domestic routes. Flying is the most expensive way of travelling between cities, however, it is also the fastest and it can save you lots of hustle.

 

TIP - Make sure you check the checked-in baggage policy for your selected flight as there is sometimes a limit of 10 kg per person and you might have to buy extra kilos; sometimes, heavier luggage will not be accepted at all on certain routes.

 

Manila from the air - flying in the Philippines

 

 

ORGANISED TOURS

 

From most of the tourist hubs in the Philippines you can jump on an organized tour, especially when island hopping. The price generally range from PHP1,000 to 2,000 per person for a full day. Most tour companies follow the same schedule (8.30am to 4pm) and the same route for the same tour – for example, for island hopping they will pick you up from your accommodation, stop in a couple of places for snorkeling or kayaking in the morning, a lunch stop at the beach and another two to three stops in the afternoon for more snorkeling. Lunch varies from company to company but it usually consists of a big shared plate of rice, grilled meat or fish or both, few vegetables (expect cucumber and tomatoes), a banana and water. No other snacks are generally included, so bring your own.

 

TIP – If you are vegetarian, clarify with the agency what your lunch will include – sometimes they might bring you a separate portion of vegetables with rice. During our diving trip vegetarian lunch was simply rice and cucumbers so I surrendered to meat and fish not to starve. 

 

DID YOU KNOW? – All organized tours in most touristy locations are recognized by letters, so Tour A or B or C (and so on) will always include the same locations.

 

Sometimes mask and snorkel are included in the price, sometimes you have to rent them for a small fee. Sea shoes are recommended because of rocks, corals, urchins or stone fish present close to the shore. We also recommend a water-proof bag to keep your electronics dry (they sell many different types of dry bags in Coron or El Nido).

 

 

You can book tours directly at your hotel/hostel, it is not necessary to book in advance, however it’s better if you decide the morning before the selected day and do not wait until late in the evening. There are also lots and lots of agencies along the streets, all selling the same exact tours, you can spend some time asking for prices and you might get a cheaper one if lucky.

 

DID YOU KNOW? – In an attempt to regulate tourism, the government has started to impose same itineraries with same price and route to all companies in some touristy locations such as Port Barton, El Nido, Coron…. If controls finds out an agency is charging you less, the agency might risk very high fines.

 

There is also the opportunity to organize private tours to the same destinations as the organized tours at a higher price (private boat from PHP5,000 onwards) – in this case, you might want to leave earlier than all organized tours so you can get to the most famous stops before the crowd gets in. Or better, you might want to stop in exclusive beaches only very few tours include

 

OUR EXPERIENCE - We have personally tried Island Hopping in Coron and in Port Barton – although we found these tours to be very standardized and crowded (especially in Coron), we did like a couple of locations, especially for snorkeling. We did not try any inland tours in the Philippines.

 

Mesmerising blue waters during a Island Hopping Tour on Coron Island, Philippines

 

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