I am writing this following a two-week break to the country, which makes me no more an expert than someone who might have watched a documentary on whale sharks, however here are a few tips that I wish I had known before embarking on my trip. Hopefully they will be of some use to you!
Don’t Rely on Skyscanner!
Whenever I’ve travelled in the past, I’ve relied heavily on Skyscanner, and its ability to quickly and easily sift through all the flight prices really quickly. What hit me in The Philippines was quite how expensive all the connecting flights were looking, and the fact that to get anywhere you had to travel via Manila. Luckily a fellow traveller alerted me to the fact that Cebu Pacific, a very popular domestic carrier, do not list their prices with Skyscanner. They are markedly cheaper and do not generally require a connection at Manila. Word of warning though; their website is (was) a little tetchy at times – especially on a phone screen – and annoyingly requires quite a long drawn out booking process, so ensure you have a good wifi connection first!
Allow Time for Travelling
Obviously this tip works wherever you go, but given the reliance on flying from island to island, and the very high chance you will be delayed at some point, it is worth putting a whole day aside for travelling from one place to the next – even if it is only for a one hour flight.
Carry Small Denomination Notes
Despite the relatively low value of a ₱1000 note, I don’t think I ever paid with one without being asked for smaller change. A few times I had to wait for change on trust, which wasn’t much of an issue but well worth remembering. It also serves as a handy excuse to visit a McDonalds “just for the change”.
Beware the Taxi Prices at MNL!
This is a personal one, but a tale I heard many times when speaking to fellow travellers. The Taxis directly outside the airport will sting you with a pre agreed price if they think they can. In my own case, a long haul flight with zero sleep and a keenness to get to my accommodation put me firmly on the back foot when I was quoted over ₱1000 for a ride to a hostel that was so close so as to be practically on the runway. As an additional kick in the teeth, the driver got lost towards the end of the journey, and then brazenly asked for a tip.
Note: Every other taxi driver I encountered was extremely helpful and friendly!
Don’t Plan too Far in Advance
This isn’t something I’ve ever suffered from, being horribly disorganised even at my finest moment, however when travelling The Philippines, a country as diverse as it is beautiful, it’s worth being as flexible as possible with your travel plans. Personally I missed more than I saw purely because I extended my stay at El Nino and Boracay because, well, El Nino and Boracay, but I have no regrets – just a deep desire to book on the next Philippine Airlines out of Heathrow…