Starting and ending in Manila, I stayed to the north, mainly due to typhoon season. The mountains are beautiful and tropical. Villages on mountainsides rely on rice and home-raised foods, as well as what nature provides– including frogs and plants from nearby rivers. An island nation, fish is prevalent in coastal towns.
Language: Tagalog. Colonized over the centuries by Spain and the United States, Tagalog is a mix of various languages, including Filipino, English, and Spanish. Many people throughout the country speak good to excellent English, although the youngest generation speaks less, as English is no longer a national language. Because of the melting pot of cultures, there are many national holidays.
Currency: Philippines Peso (PHP)
Visa: 30-day visa-free for some nationalities. Check the Philippines Embassy for visa details.
Solo Travel Friendliness: Easy, but lonely if staying off the beaten track. The culture is very family oriented, and many people wondered why I was alone. People are very helpful, but I overall I did not find them overly welcoming, in terms of inviting me to join them in activities. I found local contacts before my trip via social media, so met them during my trip. There are places with plenty of travelers to meet up with in highly touristed locations.
Wifi: Poor in budget accommodation, whether on or off the beaten track. Even in tourist towns, WiFi service is very slow. Good enough for occasional Facebook, but not for working while traveling. During typhoon season, it is often down for days at a time in more remote locations.
Toilets: Flush toilets in most places. Outhouses with pit toilets in remote villages.
What Locals Wear: Outside of major cities, both men and women generally wear clothing that is somewhat conservative, keeping skin covered from shoulders to knees.
Food: Rice is served at every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Fish and vegetables are commonly eaten throughout the country.
Domestic Flights: Flying between islands is the quickest way to get around. Luggage limits are low. Have a look at backpacks that are carryon sized.
Things to Do
Trek from Barlig to Mayoyao, through deep forest, up Mt. Amuyao, and through rice paddies, spending the night in a riverside village.
Visit the hanging coffins and cave in Sagada. The regular cave tour is good for anyone. If you want to hike for hours and really understand the massive size of this cave, take the longer cave tour. While in Sagada, visit the small, but excellent, cultural museum displaying textiles, basketry, tools, jewelry and more. Free of cost, but donations accepted.
Batanes Islands in the far north are accessed by plane from Manila or a long boat ride. Remote and rocky, the coastline is beautiful. Take a ferry between islands.
Eat!!! Here’s the breakfast spot where I ate breakfast each morning in Manila.