Every country surprises you in different ways. What are the aspects of it that you notice and that you inevitably compare to your own? This is our “have you noticed of Philippines”!
We spent 49 days in the Philippines, traveled to 6 different islands and noticed so many similarities as well as differences in such a vast and scattered country. Some aspects of it were fascinating, some a bit more challenging. There is so much more to see and to learn about this country, but this is what we have learned from our experience in the Philippines!
Type of food: one of the biggest struggles for us was the food! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of dishes that are truly delicious, but mainly if you are a meat eater! This is not the best country for vegans and vegetarians! We didn’t find a great variety of vegetables. Also the dishes that did have them most of the time had some meat or fish added as well. Often you would also have the combination of meat and fish together, which to me just doesn’t sound right!
Restaurants: don’t be surprised if everything offered on the menu isn’t available. If you go in the same place for more than one day, it still won’t be available! Also be prepared to wait a while to get your food. I would recommend good planning on when to order specially if you are hungry! Often we would eat one at the time, I guess they were cooking one dish after the other. Imagine if we had another table in front of us!
We also noticed that if you order the same dish in the same place you will never get exactly the same dish! So make sure you enjoy it the first time, it will probably be the last time you try it!
Fruits: what we did love was the fresh mangos, dried mangos and mango juices. We were in mango heaven! Lets not forget the fresh coconut!!! We stayed in a few places that had coconut trees in the garden, all they had to do was climb up the tree and pick them!
The main highways are well maintained. However once you get on the regular roads, you never know what you will find. Some of the main roads go through villages, so don’t be surprised if you find lots of traffic due to all the trycles that jump on the road as well. Some side rides need to be repaired, so the ride might be bumpy!
Big cities are a nightmare for traffic. When we were driving out of Manila, it took us 90 minutes to get from one part to the other and we were told that we were lucky. It can take also up to 3 hours! Plus you can find plenty of pretty crazy drivers, so if you are a nervous driver you might want o hire a driver instead.
Filipinos are friendly and kind. They will try to help you also if they don’t speak english. They love kids and will always keep an eye out for yours if he/she is doing something that doesn’t feel safe to them. Luca is fearless and more than once has really scared people around us when seeing what he was doing.
They don’t speak much English, mostly to get around. For example, tour guides know perfectly what they need to tell their clients. If you ask more specific questions you won’t get an answer, but simply a similar version of what they told you before. One of our tour guides told us this joking, but we later realized that it was very true!
Philippines wasn’t as cheap as we expected for Asia.
Remember to always check your bill, more than once we have been charged an extra dish we didn’t order. I honestly don’t think they did it on purpose, they simply were not paying attention.
At times they will raise a price, also if there is a huge sign that says what the real price is! When we were paying for our luggage to be put on the ferry, they asked us 100 pesos although the sign clearly stated 50 pesos, of course Mass argued and got the right price. However they charged other tourists 150 pesos! I do wonder how the tourists didn’t see the sign though!!!
When shopping at markets or stores too sometimes, they tend to make their own price, so make sure you bargain before accepting what they tell you!
There are 2 major phone companies in the Philippines: Smart and Globe. We got a Globe phone number as well as a data sim card. Our contract gave us the possibility to call only globe numbers. This is the reason why most Filipinos have both numbers, so they can be reached by everyone.
We noticed that depending on what island you are on, one works better than the other. In fact my data plan didn’t work in Cebu Island, where Smart seemed to be much more popular. However it worked very well on Luzon island, where Globe is widely advertised.
The Wifi in general goes pretty slow. If you work online you need patience! However every island is different. In most of the islands we were able to access all our social media, but in Palawan Facebook wasn’t working at all.
If there is any type of weather issue, it will easily stop working! We were there during 2 typhoons and although we were in a different area we were affected anyway!
No worries, in the big cities like Manila or Cebu City it worked out great!
The higher level of the hotel doesn’t guarantee it being still in good shape. We booked some 4 star hotels that really needed a lot of love, but you could easily be fooled by the posted photos. At times the price was too high for the service they were giving. On the other hand we stayed in others that were well maintained and with great service and not very expensive.
Airbnb rentals can be tricky for foreigners. The rates look expensive for a night but simply because they are based on the number of Filipinos that are spending the night. We were told that usually they go in bigger groups and share the space, so the price ends up being really cheap. We were traveling only in 5 so it wasn’t that convenient. Unfortunately we also had a few bad experiences with airbnbs that had beautiful pictures, but not truthful. Probably they were taken years before when the house was brand new! We ended up leaving and staying only at hotels after that.
Plane: You can move around the many islands of the Philippines by air or ferry. For the longer distances we booked flights with Cebu Pacific, which had the best deals.
Ferry: for closer islands we went on ferries with OceanJet, which were fast and cheaper than a flight! We never had an issue, never a delay. We were very tight on one of the ferries but luckily it was a short ride!
Car: We rented a car in Manila to drive up north to Baguio. Apparently it is pretty surprising for Filipinos to see foreigners rent a car. When I asked the hotel concierge for the closest rental company, they kept on suggesting a driver! We ended up renting a car and it was easy to get around, although Manila isn’t fun at all to drive in!
This is all based on our personal experience here in the Philippines. Of course everyone travels differently and has different experiences, we hope this doesn’t make anyone misjudge this beautiful country, rather give you an heads up, so you can be a bit better prepared!
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