a travel guide to the philippines


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Compared to other countries in southeast Asia, the Philippines is a country that often goes overlooked by travellers. But that is done at the detriment of budget travellers traversing the region. You can find just about everything in the Philippines: large cities, tropical island beaches and cheap accommodation and food. The Philippines is a must-visit country and one that will leave you satisfied with your trip to the Pearl of the Orient Seas.

The Philippines is a country that consists of more than 7,000 islands, and many offer the beautiful beach paradise so many travellers look for when venturing around the world. It is easy to find cheap food, drinks and accommodation in the Philippines and it is a country that won't cost you a lot of money when visiting. The country isn't just a cheap jaunt during your gap-year travels, it has some amazing places to that are unlike any others in Asia. The metropolis of Manilla is a husting, bustling modern city, but outside of it – and on the many islands – you will find natural landscapes full of people still living in small villages.

The Philippines offers a diverse range of options when visiting and combined with low prices that allow you to live like a king or queen, the Philippines shouldn't be missed.

Culture

Thanks to Spanish colonisation, the Philippines has had western influence since the 1500s. Spanish influence can be seen throughout the country in everything including language, food and architecture. Due to the previous Spanish influence, Catholicism is the largest religion in the country.

The Philippines is now a United States territory, so the direct influence has changed, but western forces still remain.

Outside of the major cities, the influence is less apparent, and if you travel to the smaller islands you will find people living hand-in-hand with nature oblivious of what happens in the larger towns.

Places to visit

Manila

Founded in 1571, Manila is a city brimming with history and modern luxuries that can be found around every corner. Manila is the city that most travellers visit first when they fly into the Philippines. The city is a bustling metropolis that is full of people from all over the country.

Manila has some fantastic landmarks to view and see while visiting the city. Unfortunately, during World War II, many of the city's Spanish buildings and other monuments were destroyed. Today, those that remain are being restored and can be visited when travelling through the city.

Boracay

Hop on a boat or fly 196 miles south of Manila to find the tropical paradise of Boracay. A trip to Boracay will give you the chance to spend every day at the beach, lounging on sandy shores and taking long swims in the ocean. The temperature of Boracay rarely drops below 23°C, which gives you the chance to enjoy the beaches at all times. The prices of Boracay can be expensive, but if you know where to look, you won't spend more than you will on the mainland. The island does cater to tourists, but there are plenty of places to stay and eat that won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Cebu

Cebu island is one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines and the island's capital, Cebu City, was the first capital of the country. It contains plenty of great historic buildings originally built by the Spanish and it offers visitors landscapes not found in other parts of the country.

Cebu is a great island for travellers looking for outdoor activities. Diving, snorkelling and other beach sports are very popular on the island. Panagsama is a city well-known for its great nightlife, and is a favourite place for travellers to visit.

Food

The cuisine of the Philippines has been influenced by Asian, Spanish and Mexican food over the centuries. When walking down the streets of Manila, you will find a variety of dishes available at restaurants that range from simple meat or fish dishes to paella.

Many of the dishes fall under one of three flavours: salty, sweet or sour. In fact, you will often find two of the three flavours paired together on a table.

Like other Asian countries, you will find yourself eating rice with every – or most – meals. One of the country's most popular dishes is adobo. Made with pork or chicken, it is cooked in vinegar, soy sauce and a host of spices. It is a brilliant meal to eat for dinner.

Although rice is a staple, you can find a number of great noodle dishes, too. Favourites include pancit iomi, misua and Filipino spaghetti. All can be found for a song at many of the small restaurants around the country.

What to see?

If you can pull yourself away from the big city of Manila or the Spanish influenced Cebu City, the rural areas of the Philippines has so much to offer visitors. Mt. Pulag is six hours from Manila and you can reach the area by bus. Mt. Pulag is well-known for trekking and venturing around, up or down the mountain can take two days. Be prepared for physical activity when visiting the mountain. Arrive on day one and hike halfway up the mountain before setting up camp. Finish off the hike the next day as you view the area from Mt. Pulag's summit.

Once you leave Mt. Pulag behind, head to the beach on Palawan island. It is another of the Philippines' picture-perfect island paradises. It is a quiet and relaxing place to visit, and one that is still just off the beaten path. Getting there isn't difficult, and keeping it low-budget is possible.

If you are looking for more natural landscape to "oo" and "aw" at, then the Cordilleras is the place to go. Waterfalls, mountains and terraced rice paddies can be found in the region. There are also the Sagada Caves and hiking trails to walk when travelling in the Cordilleras. It is an area often overlooked in an often too overlooked travel destination.

Nightlife

On a whole, the nightlife in the Philippines' major cities can be compared to the nightlife of Thailand. Although many of the bars' prices are cheaper – if only slightly – than in Thailand. You will find many of the same budget beer bars,

karaoke joints and go-go clubs in the Philippines. However, the country has far more nightlife to offer than just these Thailand-esque places.

Whether it is in Manila or Cebu City, men can find sports bars or girly bars where they will find plenty of entertainment. But if you are looking for just a relaxing drink there are places to go. To find the best bars and nightclubs, it is best to keep your eyes and ears open. The best ones aren't always the most well-known.

If you find yourself in Angeles City, Midnight Rodeo is renown for being a great night out. On Boracay there are a number of great venues, but the Red Pirates Pub is considered one of the best.

Overall, the Philippines' nightlife will resemble that of Thailand's. However, expect to spend less, if you are being good.

Volunteering

There are plenty of opportunities for travellers to volunteer in the Philippines. Whether it is helping the poor, working in a school or working in performing arts groups, there are many great ways to help locals while travelling through the country.

Of course, doing some research and finding an organisation to contact is one way to set up a volunteering opportunity. However, there are groups that can put you in contact with those that need help. Some volunteering groups will only place you if you pay a fee, however, others can organise a volunteer opportunity for free.