The Philippines has been on my bucket list since I originally travelled through Asia four years ago but I just haven't had the time (or money!) to go, until now – but it was well worth the wait. It has to be one of the most beautiful and friendly countries I’ve visited (and the constant sunshine was a real bonus too!). Here are my five favourite things about this amazing country:
1. It’s absolutely beautiful
OK, I know you’re thinking it might seem obvious but it really is so stunning. It’s one thing looking at photos but actually being there in person is a whole other story! My favourite place was El Nido, which is known for its white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and as the gateway to the Bacuit archipelago – a group of islands with steep karst cliffs. We spent two days relaxing on the stunning nearby beaches but my favourite day was a boat trip around the archipelago visiting the crystal clear waters of the big, small, and secret lagoons as well as having lunch on a private beach. The scenery is just unreal and you can explore the lagoons and caves by kayak or go for a swim!
2. English is widely spoken
The national language in the Philippines is Filipino but it’s estimated that there are around 134 different Philippine languages in use across this diverse country. With that in mind, it’s certainly helpful that a large majority of Filipinos speak a good level of English and a lot of signage and menus (in tourist areas) are in English too. As well as being convenient, it also means that it’s much easier to chat to the locals about their culture and learn more about their country and traditions, which can sometimes be more difficult with language barriers.
3. The people are sooo friendly
This leads me on to my next point – almost everyone I met was so keen to chat to me and offer help when it was needed! In some countries the locals are either a bit reserved or fed up with tourists and don’t give you the time of day, but in the Philippines this just wasn’t the case. We were always welcomed into each new destination with big smiles, warm welcomes and loads of advice on what to see and do. Out and about, we often made lots of local friends and if we needed anything, be it directions to an ATM or advice on where to eat, there was always a friendly face there to offer assistance.
4. There are loads of really great food choices
I’m not going to lie, I did visit McDonalds on more than one occasion during my trip (this was during long travel days so I think grabbing something quick on the road can be excused!), but you really could get your hands on any type of cuisine in the Philippines – and it’s done well, so when you order a spaghetti Bolognese, that’s actually what you get (if you’ve been to Asia before you’ll understand how groundbreaking this is)!
Whilst sampling the local food is one of my favourite parts of travelling, it is also nice to have a break from eating the same thing every day (noodle fatigue, anyone?!). During my trip we gorged on Filipino, Greek, Italian, Indian, and Mexican cuisine, to name a few, as well as enjoying some delicious BBQs on the beach with fish caught that day and plenty of fresh tropical fruit. Filipinos are also big on ice cream and shakes, so if you’ve got any room left after the main event and have a bit of a sweet tooth then you’re in luck!
5. They love Karaoke!
Finally, a country after my own heart! My guidebook said that karaoke is basically the national sport in the Philippines, it’s like baseball is to the US or cricket is to India – well, it wasn’t wrong! Pretty much every other bar has a karaoke machine or a separate karaoke room so you can sing to your heart’s content. The main difference here though is that Filipinos take karaoke pretty seriously, so our drunken group chanting along to Mambo Number 5 and the entire Oasis back catalogue was a bit of a surprise to them. As the evening drew on, we made plenty of new friends and the locals (who were mainly singing love ballads) must have rubbed off on us as our song choices mellowed and we ended with a beautiful (although some may beg to differ!) Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman duet!
I had an absolutely fantastic time in the Philippines and would love to go back. For me, it was a perfect mix of adventure (swimming with whale sharks, zip lining, and cliff jumping) and chilled out beach time. The friendly locals, widely spoken English, abundance of great food options and lively evenings make it a great destination for the first-time traveller or more experienced adventurers alike!
Inspired by Hannah's trip? You can book your own Philippine adventure right here, or give us a call on 01892 277040, ping us a message online, or get in touch via email at [email protected] to find out more about our Philippines Island Hop tour.