The Philippines is somewhere that many hostel backpackers leave off their itinerary due to not being accessible by land. But it is only a short flight from the larger airports in mainland Southeast Asia, and it's becoming more and more affordable to fly here. In short, there is no reason to leave this pearl out of your hunt for paradise.
Here you will not find your usually breed of backpackers. Those willing to venture off the beaten track of Southeast Asia will be rewarded with beaches, islands, and hostels that can rival the most picture perfect postcard moments. Don't get me wrong, it is not all smooth sailing, and you will have to work a bit for the perfect trip. As the Philippines is made up of over 7,100 islands, getting to your hostel may involve a medley of different modes of transport. It's not uncommon to take a bus, ferry, taxi, plane, bus, ferry, taxi to reach your next destination.
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, as opposed to the rest of the continent which is Buddhist. You won't find any tuk tuks here, instead the Filipinos have made use of old military vehicles from the war, now called "Jeepneys". You cannot miss these graffiti emblazoned contraptions, each more flashy than the last. Jeepneys generally run specific routes. But, for an extra fee, you can privately hire. Since the Filipinos as a population have over 200 dialects, they have adopted English as their second language. As a result of this, all Filipinos speak English with perfect grammar and diction.
Now, as most are aware, western currencies favour a generous exchange in Southeast Asia and the Philippines are no exception. However, being an island country, things are a bit more pricey here. But only slightly, so those on a budget can still afford a fantastic 30 day trip here.
Now the food. The food in the Philippines is generally made up of two staple ingredients, rice and meat. The Filipinos have many creative and delicious ways of cooking these two, but vegetarians may struggle in more remote places. Be sure to try lechon (slow cooked crispy pork belly) and chicken adobo (chicken cooked in a tomato sauce served with, you guessed it, rice).
As most are already aware, the Philippines are home to some world class diving. Not a fan of diving? The waters off these islands are so clear that even snorkellers can experience the same views from the surface. The ocean surrounding the Philippines are tropical, meaning that diving and snorkelling are possible in only a bathing suit. Whale sharks can be seen from November to June. But for a better chance to see these majestic underwater beasts, visit between February and April. Malapascua Island, north of Cebu island, is home to the beautiful thresher sharks, with sightings possible year-round. For some of the cheapest, but by no means inferior, diving and snorkelling head to Panglao, Bohol.
For a more cultured view of the country try North Luzon. Here they boast the "North Luzon Loop," a round trip passing through small villages, rolling rice terraces, and beautiful scenery. The north of the island is also home to some of the best surfing in the country.
If you do venture off the beaten trail, in this "off the beaten trail" country, hostels will be few and far between. For the more developed tourism areas there are hostels a plenty, often with a gorgeous beach on their door step. Generally the Philippines hostels are clean, friendly, and readily equipped for all travellers needs. And with English as the countries second language, communication isn't a problem.
Hi, I'm Max Dickinson,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Philippines hostels. Welcome.