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A One Month Travel Itinerary for the Philippines

Updated: Jun 20

This is a travel guide and one-month itinerary for the Philippines, a country notoriously dizzying to plan for, with so much conflicting information on which of the 7000 islands you should choose for your trip. I spent several months in the Philippines and have put together this itinerary with everything I learned.



CONTENTS




 


So much Love for the Philippines


Before visiting the Philippines I had heard mixed accounts of what it's like there. Some people said it's the most beautiful place on Earth, whilst some said it has 'no culture'. I actually disagree with both.


Don't get me wrong, the Philippines is stunning, but nowhere has made my jaw drop like the landscape of New Zealand. Also, I think it's completely unfair to say there is no culture in the Philippines, of course there is! Just because they don't lay pretty flowers on the pavements like they do in Bali, it does not mean they don't have a strong sense of identity and a rich heritage.


When I was leaving the Philippines after almost 8 weeks in the country, I was interviewed at the airport by somebody from the government tourism board, and they asked me my favourite thing about the Philippines. Without hesitation, I said THE PEOPLE.


Hands down, no question, they are up there with Malawi and Iraq as the most hospitable and warm people I have ever met in my ten years of travelling almost 50 countries. Not to mention that Filipino and British people grew up on a lot of the same stuff, so the cultural references are very similar, making it effortless to get along with everyone.


Filipino hospitality, or “magiliw na pagtanggap,” is a cultural practice passed down from generation to generation. Basically, it refers to the warm and welcoming nature of the Filipino people towards their guests. It is deeply ingrained in the Philippines' culture to treat visitors with utmost respect and generosity... and we really felt it.



The rice terraces of northern Luzon
The rice terraces of northern Luzon
 


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Planning a Trip to the Philippines


The Philippines is a dizzying place to plan a backpacking trip. To give you an idea of the scale, I would like you to imagine the 7000 islands of the Philippines mapped into three chunks.


The southern portion is Mindanao, where the British government advises against all but essential travel, but most adventurers I know would take that advice with a pinch of salt! This travel warning excludes the world-class surf destination of Siargao.


The middle chunk is the Visayas, an island group home to the most famous beach in the Philippines and maybe even the world; Boracay. Most backpackers tend to head straight here, or to Palawan, which is an extension of the northern chunk of the Philippines; Luzon. Luzon is also home to the nation's capital; Manila.


I think when planning an itinerary for the Philippines, it's about balance. That's a balance of visiting the show-stoppers, like the emerald archipelago of Palawan, that you'll have to share with the 2 million other annual visitors, and finding the path less travelled, which you may have all to yourself.


As I am learning more and more, some world-famous destinations are just not worth visiting any more (Machu Picchu, Bali, Venice Canals...) It's not because these places aren't stupendous, but rather that there are too many people there to enjoy them.


I have put together a one-month travel itinerary for the Philippines, however, if you have the time, I implore you to extend this and stay longer.


Slower travel is the key to making connections and discovering the true charms of a place.


A skim boarder in Liw-Liwa
A skim boarder in Liw-Liwa

 


How to Get to and Around the Philippines


You're probably going to want to start your journey in Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines and has a well-connected international airport: Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)


A one-way ticket from the UK is currently around £300, you can compare prices on Skyscanner but always book directly with the airline.


To get around the Philippines with land transport and ferries, I recommend choosing 12Go Asia. If you prefer to rock up and go you can book things in person on the fly, but if you prefer peace of mind 12Goa Asia is where you can reserve your transport ahead of time (you will be paying them a commission for the privilege.)



 


When to Go to the Philippines


The rainy season is June to November (for the most part).


The peak of the typhoon season is July to October. The Philippines is in a very vulnerable position when it comes to tropical cyclones, and they can often be devastating to local communities.


The dry season starts in December and it gets increasingly hotter until May. From March onwards the heat can be excruciating, and if you fancy trying to surf, the waves will start to flatten out in many places (with the exception of Siargao) so it's not ideal.


It's also 'summer' from March to May so most domestic travel happens around this time.


Therefore the best time to visit The Philippines is December, January and February.


A colourful church in Siquijor
A colourful church in Siquijor
 


A One-Month Travel Itinerary for the Philippines


As I said before, there's so much to choose from in the Philippines so I have tried to balance some of the hotspots with some less travelled places.



Here are our destinations:


Zambales ~ Mt. Province ~ Siquijor ~ Cebu ~ Malapascua ~ Sairgao



I have deliberately missed the following popular places in the Philippines:


  • Boracay: Being 'the most beautiful beach in the world' it is incredibly busy.

  • Moalbaol: A very popular scuba spot because of the sardine run, but again, overrun.

  • Oslob: Poor practices with feeding whale sharks, I don't believe this is an ethical place to spend time.

  • Palawan: Again, because it has been voted the most beautiful island in the world it is extremely popular, and I believe Malapascua and Siquijor will provide a good alternative.



 


A One-Month Travel Itinerary for the Philippines



1. LAND IN MANILA


After trawling the internet, spending time in Manila myself, and speaking to people who are from there, I have concluded that there is really not a lot to do in this sprawling industrial megacity.


Perhaps if you have more patience than me you can dig deeper to find Manila's creative soul. Otherwise, I would suggest crashing somewhere close to the airport for one night if needed and then heading out to our first stop.



The megacity of Manila
The megacity of Manila
 

Not sure what to pack for your trip to the Philippines? Check out the I Dream of Mangoes article:



 


2. ZAMBALES - 5 DAYS


For our first stop on this one-month travel itinerary for the Philippines, you can take a Victory Liner bus from Manila to the westward province of Zambales - to a town called San Felipe, which will take 4-5 hours.


From here you can stay in the artsy surf village of Liw-Liwa. You won't find any other foreign tourists, instead, you will be amongst a young laid-back Filipino crowd, with great cafes, and even better waves.


I would suggest visiting Liwa Monday-Friday to avoid the weekend tourists from Manila, and the love for Karaoke that comes with them. You can stay in the cute bungalows of Kwentong Dagat, have pastries and coffee at Sunny Corner, and rent surfboards from Surf Theori.


Liw-Liwa is purely good vibes and good people, and you will likely want to extend your time here (like I did, to 6 weeks!) You can read about my time in Liw-Liwa here.


The Agoho trees of Liwa in Zambales
The Agoho trees of Liwa in Zambales
 


4. MOUNTAIN PROVINCE - 5 DAYS


For the next stop on this 1-month travel itinerary for the Philippines, you can stay on the main island of Luzon, heading up north towards the mountains and rice terraces. You'll need to catch two buses, totalling about 10 hours.

Again, with most tourists heading down to the islands, you'll have this slice of paradise to yourself.


I would suggest basing yourself in Sagada, a peaceful town in the Cordillera mountains which has retained much of its indigenous culture.


From here you can enjoy all nature has to offer, with treks, waterfalls and caves to explore. You can also hop over to the neighbouring Ifugao province to walk amongst the famous Banaue rice terraces.



 


5. MANILA - 1 DAY


Head back down to Manila to catch your first flight to the islands. Depending on your bus schedule from the mountains, you can choose to spend a night of R&R in Manila or fly straight out to Dumaguete.



 


6. SIQUIJOR - 6 DAYS


A flight from Manila to Dumaguete will set you back around £30. You can check the prices on Skyscanner but be sure to book directly with the airline.


Dumaguete itself is quite a nice town, and if you're into Scuba, just 20 minutes down the road is Dauin, which has some amazing muck-diving. I would recommend Bongo Bongo divers for trips to nearby Apo Island for turtle heaven, and Anahaw Dauin for amazing smoothie bowls and yoga classes.


From Dumaguete, you can take the 2-hour ferry to the magical island of Siquijor, which is a must-visit on any one-month travel itinerary for the Philippines. It's where days of waterfall chasing, paddle boarding, snorkelling, and sunset watching easily slip away. Read my article for information on Siquijor and things to do during your stay.



Sunset at Paliton Beach
Sunset at Paliton Beach
 

7. CEBU - 1 DAY


There is a ferry once daily from Siquijor to Cebu which takes 5 hours and costs £30.


Cebu is a city with a story to tell and it is worth spending a night or two here. You can get around the city by paying 8 pesos (12p) for a ride in a jeepney, which is a converted WW2 vehicle used nowadays as a shared taxi. You can spend time strolling this very safe city and getting lost, and checking out the local food, which will invariably involve pork!



 


8. MALAPASCUA - 4 DAYS


Malapascua is where you make up for missing the scuba diving around Palawan. Famous for their thresher sharks, you'll need an Advanced Open Water to get down to 25m to have a chance to spot them.


Malapascua is a beautiful island, where you can spend time exploring the glittering white beaches and all the coral reef has to offer.


To reach there, you'll need to get a bus or minivan from Cebu to New Maya Port which will take 4 hours and cost about £4. From the port, you can catch a boat to Malapascua which takes 45 minutes and costs less than £2.



The white sands of Malapascua
The white sands of Malapascua
 


9. SIARGAO - 5 DAYS


From Malapascua take the bus back to Cebu for your flight to Siargao, which will cost about £40.


Siargao is a world-class surf destination, with a lot of the action happening at Cloud 9. The water can get a bit busy from 7am onwards so I would suggest joining the line-up by 6am.


Other things to do: practice Ashtanga yoga at Sadhana Siargao, explore Sohoton Cove National Park, or take the leap at Sugba Lagoon.



The lagoons of Siargao
The lagoons of Siargao

 


10. MANILA - 1 DAY


We round off our one-month travel itinerary for the Philippines by flying back to Manila (£30) to fly out.



 


**BONUS STOP & NEXT ON MY LIST: BICOL REGION**



I have never been to the Bicol region of the Philippines but I have only heard wonderful things from my Filipino friends. It's definitely on my list for next time, and if you have time I strongly suggest you dive straight into this lesser-travelled part of the country.



 


Other Things to Think About When Travelling in the Philippines



Visas


If you're from the UK you can get a visa on arrival free of charge, which will last you for 30 days. From there on out you can extend your visa continuously for up to 3 years.


The visa extension process is super straightforward, I think we paid £15 to renew ours for another 30 days at a small 'Bureau of Immigration' in Olongapo in Zambales. They are a bit funny about attire and may not let you in the office if you are wearing open-toed shoes.



Money


If it's available to you, I would suggest getting GCash so you can pay for things by phone, rather than taking cash out constantly which can rack up huge fees. The currency in the Philippines is Pesos or PHP, and I would say it's on par with Indonesia and Thailand for the price of day-to-day items and domestic transport.



Phones


Absolutely get yourself a SIM card so you can easily tap into mobile data, which is really helpful for navigation. You can get a traveller SIM from Globe for 1000 pesos (£15) which will last you for the month with 40GB. You can buy this when first you land in Manila at the airport.



 


I am going back!


I have roamed through Asia quite a few times now, and there are some places I don't feel the urge to go back to any time soon (even though they were great), like Japan and Korea.


There are some places I would like to go back to but only for specific reasons, like Indonesia only for Scuba.


However, one month in the Philippines was just not enough, I can't wait to go back and explore, there is so much to see and I could easily spend a full six months there.



The cliff jumping spot in Salagdoong, Siquijor
The cliff jumping spot in Salagdoong, Siquijor

 


Thank you for reading my one-month travel itinerary for the Philippines. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles every week about my current travels around the world.


For more travel Asia inspiration, check out my post: A Seoul City Break

Happy Travels

xx



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I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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