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What You Need to Know About Traveling the Philippines

philippine rice terraces

 

The Philippines is an archipelago made up of more than 7,000 individual islands located on the eastern edge of Asia. With over 100 million citizens, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country in the world, offering visitors a wide variety of ethnicities, cultures, and different people to meet. The country itself is very diverse as well, with the fifth longest coastline in the world. Island in the Philippines are covered with mountains, volcanoes, tropical rainforests and beaches that tourists and locals alike are known to enjoy. More than just natural beauty, the Philippines is also home to big and bustling cities, like its capital city, Manila. The Philippines offers a variety of outdoor activities, historical sites, and endless island hopping.

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Getting There

Despite being entirely surrounded by water and easily accessible by water, most people choose to fly into the Philippines. There are eight international airports located around the Philippines, and the most popular one to fly into is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital city of Manila. The bad news is that this is one of the worst-rated airports in the world, in terms of the facility itself and reports of corrupt officials and employees. If using the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, don’t expect 5-star facilities, but don’t be frightened away from using this airport: with travel smarts and sensible planning, arrival into Manila doesn’t have to be a hassle. Depending on travel plans, you might also consider flying into the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, geographically located in the center of the country and providing easy access to a number of island destinations.

 

Getting Around the Philippines

Air travel is also a good way to get around the country once you’ve arrived in the Philippines. A number of airlines offer domestic flights, and there are usually good deals to be found. Rail travel is also an option, via the Philippine National Railways. Visitors can also opt to rent a car to drive around the islands, if they dare. In big cities, especially Manila, traffic and other drivers can be crazy and overwhelming. Those that don’t want to risk it can take a taxi in most big cities. For travel near and far, buses are the most economical option. And since the Philippines are a series of islands, boat travel is popular too. There are a number of companies running ferries and cruises among the islands; a trip on the water might involve an hour of transit, or a week aboard a fully-equipped boat.

 

What to Do

Now that the basics are covered, onto the great parts of the Philippines that make it an amazing travel destination. The natural splendors of the country are one of the great appeals of the Philippines as a travel destination. A country made up of islands is, of course, home to many, many beaches. Visitors can swim in the blue waters, scuba dive to explore the coral reefs, board sail, sunbathe and more on the beaches of the Philippines. Many other adventurous activities, like caving, seeing national parks, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, trekking, hiking and whitewater rafting are great ways to explore the natural and unique flora and fauna. There are many rare plants and animals that can only be found in the Philippines.

Aside from the natural beauty of the country, there are also a number of historical and impressive man made sites. The Philippines is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like the Banaue Rice terraces in Batad, the European colonial town of Vigan, and the impressive architecture of numerous Baroque churches. For a more authentic and local experience, most towns have an annual festival that celebrates a patron saint or anniversary in history. Attending the festival of a smaller town or city is a glimpse into the local people’s way of life.

 

Fun in the Big City

Manila is a densely populated city that has many of the issues big cities are known to have – like poverty and traffic – but also its own unique and diverse charm and culture just waiting to be discover. The San Agustin Church in Intramuros is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a site of many notable Filipino weddings. As the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese (Roman Catholics make up over 90 percent of the population) in the Philippines, there are numerous historic churches around the city, along with Buddhist and Taoist temples too. Manila is also home to a number of museums, including ones devoted to religion, contemporary art and design, a children’s museum and even a museum for shoes, plus many more, focusing on the history, lives and culture of the Filipino people. For local outings full of historical intrigue, check out Intramuros, where the historic walls of the old city are found, and Rizal Park, which offers visitors a fountain, lagoon, marine animal park, museum,library, planetarium and more.

For the familiar comforts of city life, Manila has malls, shopping centers and sports arenas. The more adventurous shopper will enjoy straying off the beaten path and exploring the local bazaars and markets in Divisoria, Binondo and Quiapo, where local Filipino food, crafts and bargains are to be found. Those looking for the cutting edge of culture in Manila should check out the art scene on Chino Roces Avenue or the music scene at Club Dredd in Eastwood City or Makati, Warehouse 135.

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