18 Days in the Philippines – the Complete Guide to Paradise
The Philippines are one of the most incredible locations one can travel to. The country is made out of 7641 islands, which hold some of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. Picture in your mind beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, incredible lagoons, colourful corals and palm trees spread over remote islands. And that’s just a little part of what the country has to offer. As visiting every island on the Philippines would take years, this guide offers you an itinerary of the highlights and most spectacular places to visit.
Day 1: Arrival in Manila
Most of the international flights arrive in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which is located on Luzon Island. As the city is rather chaotic than interesting, we advise you to hop on the next flight immediately. Otherwise, you can spend a day in Intramuros: the historic centre and the oldest district of the capital.
Day 2-5 Cebu
First destination of this Philippines guide is Cebu Island. Arrive in Cebu City, get into your rented car or hop on a bus and head south to Moalboal. People come to Cebu looking for beautiful nature, stunning waterfalls and whale shark watching. All the best things to do in Cebu, Philippines can be found on the south part of the island.
Day 6-9 Siargao
Siargao island has unique idyllic and worry-free vibe, stunning beaches and a mind-blowing natural beauty just a short boat ride away: Sohoton Cove. It’s truly a paradise on earth.
Day 10 Traveling
As the islands in the Philippines are really spreaded apart and divided by the sea, traveling from one place to another will take time. From Siargao board a plane to Puerto Princessa with stopover in Cebu. From Puerto Princessa take a shuttle van to El Nido. The whole trip will take a day. If you are not on a small budget, see if you can get a direct flight from Cebu to El Nido.
Day 11-15 El Nido
Next in our Philippines Guide: El Nido. It’s without a doubt is one of the most beautiful locations is the Philippines. Do not get discouraged by the small town: hop on a long tail boat that will take you island hopping around the spectacular natural wonders. As you will stay here for a few days, make sure to do a few island hopping tours, but also explore the nearby areas of El Nido. It really is a dream.
Day 15- 17 Coron
On the last day of your stay in El Nido, take a ferry to Coron, the Gem of the Philippines. Known for its impressive gorgeous scenery, secluded beaches and crystal-clear waters of its lagoons, this island will not disappoint you. Here you can scuba dive next to ship wrecks even as a beginner and visit some of the world’s most beautiful natural sites.
Day 18 Departure
Board a plane from Coron to Manila, just in time to catch your international connection back home.
If you have few more days to spend after the programme of this Philippines guide, you can add Bohol to your route. The island is easily accessible from Cebu with just 2hours of ferry ride. Bohol is known for the chocolate hills, rice terraces and adorable tarsier monkeys. Spend here 3 days to complete your 3 weeks trip in the Philippines.
When to go
Philippines are spread over a big part of the globe, therefore the seasons will be different on each island. In general, the best time to travel to the Philippines is from November till March as it’s the dry season. July to October are monsoon season and we do not advise traveling then, as moving from one place to another will be a challenge due to heavy rains and storms.
Most nationalities will receive a 30-day Visa on Arrival when traveling to the Philippines. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months. You might be obliged to show a return ticket with departure date of maximum 30 days later.
You can get a sim card at the airport in Manila upon your arrival. Globe or Smart are the recommended companies.
Wifi is available in most good hotels and restaurants, but is highly unreliable in the Philippines. The only time we had a good wifi reception was in Kermit and Ocean 101 common area on Siargao Island.
Traveling around the Philippines is not complicated, even if it takes time
Most islands are reachable by flights. Planes depart often and are not too expensive. Find the best deal on skyscanner.com
Most busses are comfortable and have AC, unless you board a jeepney: the traditional bus from the Philippines. It will be crowded and slow. Buses depart often and are the cheapest way of transportation. Flying to Puerto Princessa in Palawan and then taking a bus (van with ac) to El Nido will save you a lot of money, in comparison of flying directly to El Nido.
Traveling between islands by ferry is a popular way of transportation. Take a ferry from Cebu to get to Bohol and from El Nido to Coron.
Driving in the Philippines scares lots of people. We rented a car in Cebu to be mobile and not rely on buses and had a great experience. For more info read:
↬ Best things to do in Cebu, Philippines
Arriving at one destination the easiest way of getting around is by motorbike or scooter. The rentals are easy and very cheap, usually 350 – 600 PHP (6-10 EUR).
If you do not want to drive a motorbike by yourself, you always have the option of taking a tuk-tuk. They can be spotted anywhere in the Philippines and the ride will be cheap, even if not the most comfortable.
Food in the Philippines
To be honest, the food in the Philippines is not amazing. But keeping it simple and fresh, you can get some delicious dishes throughout the whole country. Make sure to try the adobo which is a stew meat in soy sauce and vinegar. During the island hopping in El Nido and Coron, you will be served delicious and simple lunch compose of grilled fish, chicken, rice, vegetable and fruits. The prices for food in those cities are pretty low. For example a dinner with fish and rice will cost you 2-3 EUR.
↬ TIP : Mangos are the best fruits in the Philippines!
There is a variety of choices throughout the Philippines and some travel blogs linked in this guide will give you some inspirations. There are many hostels and home stays for those on a small budget, as well as nice hotels with decent prices. It won’t be as cheap as Bali or Thailand, but for 25 EUR a night pp you can have a nice room in a mid range hotel.
↬ TIP : Try glamping in El Nido: camping in style, right next to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.