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Philippines | The Ultimate Guide

Which islands to visit, when to do, and our favourite things to do in this Southeast Asian paradise.

Updated

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Comprised of over 7,000 islands, the Philippines country offers everything from bustling city hubs to unparalleled beach resorts and traditional mountain villages. Reminders of the nation's colonial history live in the culture, architecture and cuisine of this nation, and exotic experiences abound in the form of jeepney rides and whale shark encounters.

Flights to the Philippines are plentiful with luxury and budget carriers, including Cebu Pacific and Qantas, flying directly from Australia into Manila where you can easily find internal flights and inexpensive buses. Compared to Australia, prices for accommodation, food and sightseeing are rather affordable and we can just about picture ourselves kicking back on a picturesque beach with bancas bobbing in the sea and a $2 San Miguel, the local brew, in hand.

Now all you have to do is get there.

How to get around in the Philippines

An adventure in itself, getting around the Philippines usually involves a few unique forms of transport, such as the jeepney, a large open air vehicle with benches in the back, and tricycles, which are motorbikes with covered side carriages. Along with jeepneys, taxis are the most common form of transport.

The major cities of the Philippines are not very walkable due to a lack of footpaths and the fact that attractions can be pretty far apart, but taxis and tricycles are cheap and quick to hire. As the Philippines is made up of a cluster of islands, getting around the country often involves flying, but the larger islands do have buses that you can catch. Renting a car or a motorbike is not recommended as driving can be hectic.

Travelling between cities

  • Internal flights: Flying in the Philippines is mostly affordable thanks to a number of budget airlines such as AirAsia and Cebu Pacific that fly to all of the major tourist destinations. However, flights can cost more when travelling to smaller islands.
  • Buses: Buses are often referred to as tourists buses in the Philippines and they have set fares and timetables. They're considered a budget option for getting around the larger islands.
  • Ferries: If travelling between neighbouring islands, like Cebu and Bohol or El Nido and Coron, a ferry can be an affordable (and even quicker) option than flying. For example, the ferry between Cebu and Bohol is just two hors.

Public transport within the major cities

  • Types of transport: In Manila, there's the LRT (Light Rail Transit), the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) and the bus. Jeepneys are also used widely. In Cebu City tricycles, jeepneys and multicabs are the most common form of public transport.
  • Getting to and from the airport: There are nine bus routes from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Manila. The LRT can be used but it's a 2km taxi ride from the airport. Getting from Mactan-Cebu International Airport to the Cebu City centre involves taking three jeepneys and it's best to ask the locals for exact directions.
  • Best apps for getting around: The Sakay.ph app will show you train routes, bus routes and jeepney routes. It provides step-by-step instructions for using these types of transport and getting around and compares routes by price, length and number of transfers.Buses: Buses are often referred to as tourists buses in the Philippines and they have set fares and timetables. They're considered a budget option for getting around the larger islands.

Taxis and Uber

  • Taxis: Taxis can be hailed from the side of the road or at your hotel. They can be found at taxi stands at shopping malls and tourist spots around the city in Manila and Cebu City. Taxis can also be booked ahead of time online.
  • Uber: Uber is available in Manila and costs PHP143-PHP291 from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the city centre. From Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Cebu's city centre an Uber will cost you PHP149-PHP189.

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