Backpacking in the Philippines

Welcome, fellow wanderlusters, to the Philippines – a tropical paradise that promises to take your breath away with its turquoise waters, vibrant culture, and adventure galore. 

This Southeast Asian gem is a land of contrasts – from bustling cities to pristine beaches, from lush jungles to towering mountains, the Philippines has something for every type of traveler.

But for budget-savvy explorers, backpacking unlocks the true Filipino magic. It’s the perfect way to experience the country’s rich culture and natural beauty, all while keeping your expenses to a minimum. 

Imagine hiking through remote villages, discovering hidden waterfalls, and relaxing on secluded beaches – all without breaking the bank. That’s the beauty of backpacking in the Philippines.

With over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a backpacker’s dream destination. Each island offers a unique experience, from the famous beach parties of Boracay to the unspoiled nature of Palawan. 

You can spend your days island-hopping, diving with whale sharks, trekking through rice terraces, or just relaxing on a hammock.

But backpacking in the Philippines isn’t just about the destinations – it’s also about the people. 

Filipinos are known for their hospitality and warmth, and as a backpacker, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to connect with locals and immerse yourself in their culture. You’ll taste delicious street food, learn to dance to traditional music and make lifelong friends along the way.

So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your trusty backpack, and dive into the ultimate guide to backpacking in the Philippines. 

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime, filled with unforgettable experiences, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of fun. The Philippines is waiting for you!

Backpacking Guide in the Philippines

Top Backpacking Destinations

Palawan

El Nido and Coron are two of the most stunning destinations in the Philippines, and both are located in the Palawan Province. 

El Nido is located at the northern tip of Palawan and is known for its towering limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, and world-class diving. Stunning islands, islets, white sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters surround the town.

On the other hand, Coron is located in the eastern part of Palawan and is known for its shipwreck-laden waters, and Kayangan Lake is considered one of the cleanest lakes in Asia. Beautiful islands, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters also surround the town.

What makes these destinations truly special is their natural beauty and unspoiled surroundings. 

The limestone cliffs of El Nido and the shipwrecks of Coron are unique and offer visitors an unforgettable experience. The clear waters of both destinations are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, and the marine life is simply stunning.

In addition to its natural beauty, Palawan is also known for its warm and friendly people, delicious food, and rich culture. Visitors can enjoy local delicacies, explore the local markets, and immerse themselves in the local culture.

All in all, El Nido and Coron are personified island paradises and are definitely worth a visit for anyone who loves nature, adventure, and relaxation.

Cebu

Cebu is a province located in the central part of the Philippines, comprising a long, narrow island and 167 surrounding islets. The province is known for its rich history, pristine beaches, delicious cuisine, and exciting activities that cater to all kinds of travelers. 

Cebu City, the provincial capital, is a bustling metropolis offering modern and historical attractions. 

Visitors can explore the impressive Spanish colonial architecture of the Basilica del Santo Nino, the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, or learn about the island’s pre-colonial culture at the Museo Sugbo. Foodies can indulge in local cuisines such as Lechon, a roasted pig dish, or Ngohiong, a deep-fried spring roll.

For the adventurous traveler, Cebu has plenty to offer. 

The Kawasan Falls in the town of Badian is a popular destination for hiking, swimming, and canyoneering. The falls feature turquoise pools, cascading waterfalls, and lush jungle surroundings. 

Malapascua Island, located off the northern tip of Cebu, is a must-visit destination for divers. The island is renowned for its thresher sharks, which can be seen year-round. 

Other popular dive sites include Gato Island and Monad Shoal, where divers can spot manta rays and hammerhead sharks.

Overall, Cebu is a stunningly beautiful destination that offers something for everyone. Its unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventures make it a must-visit destination in the Philippines.

Bohol

Bohol is a beautiful province in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It is famous for its pristine beaches, lush forests, and unique wildlife, such as the tarsier primates. 

The Chocolate Hills, a geological formation of more than 1,000 hills that turn brown during the dry season, is a must-see attraction for visitors to Bohol. 

In addition to its natural wonders, Bohol also boasts charming towns like Loboc, known for its floating restaurants that serve delicious local cuisine. Adventure seekers can enjoy canyoneering in the rugged terrain, visiting stunning waterfalls, and experiencing dolphin watching in the Bohol Sea. 

Overall, Bohol is a perfect destination for those seeking natural beauty, cultural experiences, and exciting outdoor activities. Whether relaxing on a pristine beach, hiking through a lush forest, or discovering unique wildlife, Bohol has something for everyone.

Siargao

Siargao is a stunning island in the province of Surigao del Norte in the Philippines. The island is known as the surfer’s paradise and attracts surf enthusiasts from all over the world to its world-class waves and stunning beaches. 

The island is situated in the Philippine Sea, east of Cebu and northeast of Mindanao.

Apart from surfing, Siargao offers various outdoor activities catering to all travelers. 

You can explore hidden coves and lagoons by motorbike, unwind in coconut groves, and go island hopping to the nearby islets. 

The island is also home to several natural wonders, such as the Sugba LagoonMagpupungko Rock Pools, and the Sohoton Cove National Park, all worth exploring.

Aside from its outdoor activities, Siargao is known for its laid-back vibe and chill nightlife. The island offers a variety of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that cater to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual beachfront dinner or a night out dancing, Siargao has got you covered.

Overall, Siargao is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a relaxing and adventurous vacation. With its natural beauty, friendly locals, and unique culture, Siargao Island is truly a gem in the Philippine archipelago.

Banaue Rice Terraces

The UNESCO World Heritage Site we are discussing is the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines

Considered to be one of the most magnificent man-made wonders of the world, these breathtaking terraces carved into the mountains offer stunning vistas and a glimpse into indigenous Ifugao culture. 

The terraces are located in the Cordillera mountain range, about 350 km north of Manila, in the Ifugao province of the Philippines.

The Banaue Rice Terraces are a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the indigenous Ifugao people, who have cultivated these terraces for over 2,000 years. 

The terraces cover an area of over 10,000 square kilometers. They comprise hundreds of individual terraces, each carefully carved into the mountainside and irrigated by a complex system of channels and aqueducts.

Walking through the paddies, you will feel connected with the locals and experience their unique charm. The terraces are a marvel of engineering, architecture and a living cultural landscape showcasing the harmony between humans and nature. 

The Ifugao people deeply respect the land, and their traditional farming practices are based on a profound understanding of the natural world.

Overall, a visit to the Banaue Rice Terraces is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.

Backpacking Hacks

Embrace the jeepneys

If you’re looking for an affordable way to travel between cities, you might consider hopping on one of these vibrantly decorated buses. It’s budget-friendly and a fun and unique way to experience the journey. 

However, it’s important to note that these buses may soon be phased out, so it’s best to take advantage of the opportunity while you can. 

Make the most of your travel experience by enjoying the colorful and artistic designs that adorn these buses. Who knows, these rides might just become a memorable part of your travel journey.

Island hopping

Ferries are a great way to explore and connect with many islands. They offer a convenient and affordable way to travel, making it possible to experience the beauty and diversity of different islands all in one trip. 

If you’re planning to travel during peak season, it’s crucial to research ferry schedules and book your tickets in advance. It will help you secure your spot and avoid the disappointment of sold-out ferries. 

It’s also important to note that ferry schedules can vary depending on the season and weather conditions, so checking for updates before departing is always a good idea. 

Taking a ferry is a beautiful way to explore new places and create lasting memories. So why not plan your next adventure and experience the magic of island hopping today?

Homestays and hostels

Travel can be an excellent way to explore new cultures, meet new people, and gain new experiences if you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodation options that offer unique ways to connect with locals or other travelers, consider homestays or hostels. 

Homestays are accommodations that allow visitors to stay with local families and experience their daily lives. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in local culture, learn about their customs, and get insider tips on places to visit or eat. 

Homestays can range from basic to luxurious, and you can find them in various locations around the world. 

Hostels, on the other hand, are budget-friendly options that offer shared accommodations and communal spaces. They’re a popular choice for solo travelers or groups who want to meet new people and have social connections during their stay. 

Hostels typically offer dormitory-style rooms with shared bathrooms, but some also have private rooms and en-suite bathrooms. They often organize group activities and tours, making it easier for travelers to explore the area and connect with others. 

Whether you choose a homestay or hostel, both options offer unique ways to experience local life and make new connections.

Eat like a local

Filipino cuisine is a unique blend of flavors and ingredients that reflect the country’s diverse cultural influences. From savory meat dishes like adobo and sinigang to sweet treats like halo-halo and bibingka, there’s something to satisfy every taste bud. 

One of the best ways to experience Filipino cuisine is by visiting the street food stalls and local markets. These places offer a wide variety of affordable and delicious food options that will leave you craving more. 

Adobo, for example, is a popular Filipino dish made with chicken or pork that’s marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and other spices. The result is a mouthwatering combination of sweet, sour, and savory flavors that tickle your taste buds. 

Sinigang, on the other hand, is a sour soup that’s made with tamarind, tomatoes, and a variety of vegetables and meats. It’s a comfort food perfect for rainy days or when you’re under the weather. 

So, if you’re looking for a unique culinary experience that won’t break the bank, check out the street food stalls and local markets in the Philippines!

Learn some Tagalog

As a traveler, learning basic phrases in the local language can make a huge difference in connecting with locals and immersing yourself in the culture. 

Even if you only know a few words or phrases, it shows effort and respect towards the community you are visiting. 

By greeting someone in their language or asking for directions, you are showing your interest in their culture and opening up opportunities for communication and making new connections. 

So, feel free to learn a few basic phrases before your next trip – it could enhance your overall travel experience.

Pack light

When planning for your next vacation, it is always a good idea to pack smartly. One of the best ways to do this is by choosing versatile clothing that can be worn differently.

It allows you to pack less and still have a variety of outfits to choose from. Additionally, it is essential to consider fabrics that dry quickly, especially if you plan to engage in water activities. It can make your experience more comfortable and hassle-free. 

Finally, it is crucial to use reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin and the environment. Remember, many hotels and resorts offer laundry services, so you don’t need to pack many clothes. It can save you space and make your trip more convenient.

Beyond the Beaches

The Philippines is a country that has much more to offer than just stunning coastlines. From north to south, many hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. 

The country is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, with lush rainforests, majestic mountains, and ancient rice terraces. 

Hiking through the rainforests is an experience like no other, where you can witness a diverse range of flora and fauna that can only be found in this part of the world.

The rice terraces, which date back to more than 2,000 years ago, are a testament to the ingenuity of the Filipino people. These terraces were created by hand and have been preserved and maintained by generations of farmers. They are not only a marvel of engineering but also an incredible sight to behold.

If spelunking is your thing, then the Philippines is the place to be. Many hidden caves are waiting to be explored, some of which have underground rivers and waterfalls. These caves are also home to unique bats, and insects adapted to the dark environment.

Finally, if you want to experience the vibrant culture of the Philippines, then take advantage of the many festivals that take place in different parts of the country. The festivals celebrate the country’s history, religion, and traditions, and they are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

In short, the Philippines is a country that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or a culture enthusiast, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see in this beautiful country.

Remember

  • Be respectful of local customs and traditions.
  • Support sustainable tourism practices by choosing responsible tour operators and minimizing plastic waste.
  • Haggling is expected in some markets but do so politely and respectfully.
  • Tipping isn’t mandatory but is appreciated for good service.

The Philippines awaits you with open arms, ready to captivate your senses and fill your backpack with unforgettable memories. 

So, start planning your adventure, embrace the island life, and get ready to discover the magic of the Philippines!

Shelu Abapo
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