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Philippines travel guide

Travel to The Philippines with our travel guide. Get information on what to see, where to go, and the best dishes to try!

travel to the Philippines

Image: Getty Images

With an impressive 7,641 islands, the Philippines is a country rich in history, culture and natural beauty. From pristine beaches to exciting city life and ancient rice terraces, there is much to see and do in this Southeast Asian nation.

Whether you’re planning a relaxing beach holiday or an action-packed adventure, you can make the most of your trip with our Philippines travel guide. Learn about the best things to see, eat and do and discover why it’s genuinely “more fun in the Philippines”.

Philippines travel restrictions

Fully vaccinated Singaporeans travelling to the Philippines will no longer need to present a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test upon arrival. However, from 1 November 2022 onwards, unvaccinated individuals must submit a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours. They can do so upon arrival.

Fully vaccinated travellers also do not need to quarantine but are required to self-monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms for the next 7 days. You can check the Philippine embassy in Singapore for the most updated information.

Mask-wearing indoors will be optional from 1 November 2022 onwards. Outdoor masking is not required since September 2022.

The Philippines at a glance

The Philippines consists of a group of over 7,600 islands in Southeast Asia. It’s divided into 3 main regions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The archipelago’s natural geographical formations have made its islands popular, with many visitors relaxing on its pristine white beaches or snorkelling in its crystal-clear waters. Cebu, Boracay, Palawan and Siargao are frequently covered in major travel publications.

Apart from island-hopping trips and sunny beach adventures, the country also boasts world-renowned natural wonders. Think waterfalls, limestone caves and breathtaking mountains. Visit the Philippines to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, where the gushing underground river and spectacular limestone cave systems are a natural marvel.

Urban Philippines is full of delicious food and plenty of shopping spots. You can hop on one of the colourful jeepneys to get around or choose to take a private taxi.

The country is also known for its warm and welcoming locals. Its tourism slogan is, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” It beckons with multiple opportunities for adventurous tourists.

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Top things to see and do in the Philippines

If you travel to the Philippines, here are some of the most incredible destinations you can add to your itinerary:

Visit Puerto Princesa, Palawan

    • travel to the PhilippinesPuerto Princesa’s natural underground river cave system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can book a tour to explore the cave’s impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Apart from touring the underground wonder, you can join a mangrove boat tour within Puerto Princesa or try ziplining and spelunking nearby.
    • Located in Palawan, the western city of Puerto Princesa is the least populated city in the Philippines. It draws tourists due to its beach resorts, seafood and clean and green ambiance. It has its own airport as well. A visit here will take you 2–3 days, but there is plenty to keep you occupied. Remember to buy extreme sports travel coverage if you intend to try the mountain and sea sports available.

Trek cross-country and view the Chocolate Hills in Bohol

      • travel to the PhilippinesThe Chocolate Hills in Bohol range over 1,000 hills and got their nicknames because they resemble Hershey’s Kisses from the top. The reality is they result from coral deposits and the local climate. You can climb up to Sagbayan Peak’s observation deck and get a 360-degree view of the hills. Unfortunately, you cannot hike the hills since they are declared protected natural landmarks. If you want to see the mounds in their brown colour, explore Chocolate Hills from November to May. The hills turn green during the rainy season (from June to October).
      • While hiking is not possible, there are many trekking opportunities in Bohol. The terrain comprises mostly low hills and patches of green with the occasional wildlife sightings. While some of the trails require guides, others are easily accessible. Start at the Rajah Sikatuna National Park and get directions at the ranger’s office.

    Explore the rice terraces in North Luzon

      • travel PhilippinesBeautiful Banaue in North Luzon is 6–8 hours by car from Manila. You can go on a day trip to enjoy the cool weather and see the Banaue and Batad rice terraces that belong to the Ifugao, an indigenous group living in the Cordillera mountains. The rice terraces are famous as they date back to the precolonial Philippines and are created by generations of the Ifugao people.
      • Without huge buildings or packed streets, the expanse of land contains farmlands, huts and simple houses. You can take a laidback day trip to appreciate locals’ cultural and culinary tours or trek to the rice fields.

    Explore the famous Kawasan Falls in Cebu

      • Travel to the PhilippinesThe Philippines has some gorgeous waterfalls. If you only have time to visit one, visit Kawasan Falls in Cebu. Its 3 waterfalls extend into natural swimming pools and lagoons. While you can no longer trek to the waterfalls due to damage by Typhoon Odette in December 2021, you can still try canyoneering with an experienced guide.
      • You can take a zipline from the start point to skip the 15-minute walk. Once there, the guide will strap you with mountaineering gear before lowering you into the depths of the mountains. Then, with a lifeguard, you can jump straight into its turquoise waters. Apart from Kawasan Falls, you can also go to Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna and Bomod-ok Falls in Sagada for more adventure.

    Snorkel or dive in Palawan

      • Trying snorkelling or diving for the first time? Head to Palawan’s Tubbataha Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to more than half of the world’s known corals. Swim among turtles, reef sharks and manta rays while admiring the colourful corals in the reefs.
      • Divers can spend hours exploring its marine biodiversity. Plenty of beginner and expert dive packages are available so you can book a trip to take you there. Apart from sea sports, Palawan is great for island-hopping. Visit historic sea wrecks at Coron or head to El Nido, considered a paradise on Earth for its stunning geographical features.
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    Best time to visit the Philippines

    The Philippines has a tropical humid equatorial climate with abundant rainfall and gentle winds. It’s generally wet or rainy from June to October. The cool, dry season is from November to February while March to May is the warmest.

    The best time to visit the Philippines depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. The dry season (November – April) is the best time to travel as rainfall is lowest during these months. However, this is also peak tourist season, so accommodation and flights may be more expensive.

    Summer from March to May is perfect for getting a tan if you visit Boracay, Palawan and Cebu. January and February are also ideal travel months as it’s cooler overall, but it’s still sunny. If you visit during the monsoon months, check the travel advisory before purchasing travel insurance. You may not be able to make your claim if there is a travel warning posted pre-departure.

    Do I need to apply for a tourist visa to visit the Philippines?

    Singaporeans may enter the Philippines without a visa for a stay not exceeding 30 days. You should have a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay and a return ticket to Singapore or an outward-bound ticket to your next destination.

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    Travelling to the Philippines

    The Philippines’ international airport, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), is in the capital city of Manila. Most travellers from Singapore take a plane from Singapore’s Changi Airport to NAIA. Flights take approximately 4 hours.

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    Do I need travel insurance for the Philippines?

    While travel insurance is not a requirement of entry, it’s strongly recommended that visitors purchase appropriate cover for medical treatment and evacuation before travelling to the Philippines.

    You’ll want to enjoy your holidays without worrying about unnecessary medical expenses. Besides, travel insurance covers petty crimes and the loss of essential travel documents. It covers trip postponement or curtailment if you or your family gets COVID-19.

    Travellers can also check the website of the Philippine embassy in Singapore for the most updated guidelines.

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    Where to exchange Philippine peso (PHP)

    Peso is the unit of currency used in the Philippines. Its currency code is PHP and its symbol is ₱.

    You might hear locals refer to it as the “piso” in Filipino.

    Changing money at Changi Airport in Singapore is best because you might need cash upon arrival. However, while you are in the Philippines, some options exist for exchanging money.

    If you stay in Manila, try local money changers in Makati or at Mabini Street in Ermita, Manila. The most reputable one is Czarina, which operates several outlets and has been around since 1978. The business also does not charge any commission.

    If you prefer to travel without cash, consider a digital multi-currency wallet or bank account when you travel to the Philippines. Read our comparison of YouTrip vs Revolut vs Wise to find the best digital wallet for when you travel.

    Tips to remember when exchanging money in the Philippines

    • Some money changers may have touts at their storefront, enticing you with offers. Beware of scams from these touts.
    • Most money changers and banks charge commissions for changing money. Check with the shop before you exchange any currency.
    • Tipping is not compulsory in the Philippines, but it has recently become a common practice. PHP50–100 is considered a decent tip.
    • The Philippines has a registered list of money changers. Check it if you come across money changers with offers that seem too good to be true.
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    Top cities to visit in the Philippines

    DestinationDescription
    ManilaManila is the capital city of the Philippines. The Spanish arrived in 1571, marking the city’s official founding date. The place still bears Spanish influences, noticeable from landmarks and street names. The city is well-connected by light rail transport so you won’t have much trouble getting anywhere. However, those jeepneys are probably the most enjoyable to ride. Fares are fixed so you do not have to haggle.

    While in Manila, you should visit the historic Walled City of Intramuros, named after the Spanish phrase meaning “within walls”. Step inside and go back in time, with its cobbled pathways and well-preserved buildings. The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers Manila’s prime tourist spots: Fort Santiago, the San Agustin Church and the Manila Cathedral.

    Rizal Park, one of the largest urban parks in the Philippines, is yet another important historical site in Manila where locals typically unwind on the weekends. It’s named after the national hero, Jose Rizal.

    travel to Philippines.
    CebuCebu is part of the central Visayas region covering 7 large islands and hundreds of smaller islands. It counts among the top places to visit in the Philippines, attracting more than 2 million tourists annually. It offers stretches of white beaches, luxurious beachfront resorts and diving spots.

    Visit its port capital Cebu City, which still maintains landmarks from its 16th-century Spanish colonial past such as the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño church and triangular Fort San Pedro. To enjoy the best panoramic view of the city, climb up Tops, an observation deck on Mt Busay. Divers should head to Lapu-Lapu in Mactan Island, which is just off the coast of Cebu City. You can enjoy fresh seafood and explore historic shrines there. From Lapu-Lapu, book a dive package to explore the stunning underground coral reefs at Nalusuan and Caohagan.

    Philippines.
    PalawanTake a short flight from Manila and head to Palawan. It’s in the western Philippines, where its white sand beaches, natural jungles and breathtaking coral reefs draw millions of tourists annually. The city offers plenty of opportunities to try extreme sports such as kayaking, canyoneering and parasailing.

    Visit El Nido and Coron if you want to dive into pristine, clear waters and admire the rich biodiversity of the local ecosystem. Many accommodation options are available near El Nido. Coron offers more privacy and is popular for parasailing activities. Divers also head there to explore the shipwrecks from World War 2. There’s also the river tour in the Iwahig Firefly Watching Mangrove Ecotourism and Wildlife Park in Puerto Princesa if you prefer less physically exhilarating activities.

    travel Philippines.
    BoracayBoracay is a tiny island in the western Visayas region, boasting 17 pristine beaches. This is the place to go if you wish to enjoy privacy coupled with beautiful views and resort accommodations. It also has a lively nightlife scene with countless beach bars and nightclubs. For a scenic view of the isle, go on a day trip to Mount Luho, its highest point.

    You can head to Puka Beach, an idyllic, secluded beach perfect for relaxing with an ice-cold coconut. Want to party till late? Stay along its White Beach on the west coast. It’s fringed by bars and restaurants built under leafy palm trees. For water sports, check out Bulabog Beach where you can snorkel, dive or join a banana boat excursion. Island-hopping on a speedboat to Magic Island, Crocodile Island and Crystal Cove island are other adventurous options.

    travel Philippines.
    BoholBohol province consists of the main island and several small islands. Located in the country’s central Visayas region, it is famous for its Chocolate Hills amid the lush green of the Bohol jungles, where one can enjoy a leisure trek.

    Apart from the hills, you can visit tarsiers at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. The tarsier is the world’s smallest primate.

    If you want to try the zipline, bungee jumping, rappelling, paramotoring and other river activities, head for Danao Adventure Park.

    For a change of pace, visit heritage sites such as the Blood Compact Monument and the Baclayon Church or Church of Immaculada Concepcion. Built in 1717, Baclayon Church is considered as one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Legend has it that the locals used millions of white eggs to fortify the cement for its structure.

    travel Philippines.
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    Philippines food guide

    Here are some of the most delectable Filipino dishes you should try when you travel to the Philippines.

    Lechon

    Lechon is a Filipino dish of crispy roasted pork cooked with lemongrass and served with a special sauce. The best lechon is supposed to be found in Cebu, but you can find it at any major restaurant in the country.

    Adobo

    Adobo is a familiar Filipino dish. A heartwarming broth of stewed meat in soy sauce and vinegar, it’s usually cooked with peppercorns and bay leaves. Many restaurants also have it on their menu.

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    Kare-kare

    This is a rich stew of peanut sauce, oxtail, vegetables and other meaty parts of beef cuts. It’s usually served with fermented seafood paste or “bagoong” for a complete meal.

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    Sinigang

    This is a classic Filipino dish, a sour broth with a tamarind or local “kamias” base. It features various vegetables with meat, usually pork, shrimp or fish. Locals love the acidity and spiciness of it and consider it one of the best comfort food.

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    Sisig

    Sisig is beef chow or chopped-up pieces of a pig’s face, served hot and sizzling on a hot stone plate. Some restaurants use mayonnaise or raw egg to make it creamy, but a pig’s brain is also a common dressing choice.

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    Pancit bihon

    Pancit is Filipino for noodles. The popular vermicelli noodle dish is sauteed with broth, meats, veggies, soy sauce and fish sauce. Usually served at birthday parties as a symbol of longevity, pancit bihon is also an everyday staple besides rice for many locals.

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    Philippines shopping guide

    The Philippines is an excellent shopping destination. You can choose from intricate handicrafts, home furnishings, jewellery, handmade embroidery and baskets from local markets.

    • 168 Shopping Mall in Divisoria. Located in Chinatown, Manila, this is a popular destination for shopping. This 5-story complex has a mix of bargain goods and accessories, including shoes, bags and toys. You can also eat at the various food carts and restaurants scattered around the complex.
    • Ayala Centre. This 6-storey building in Cebu is where you go shopping for essential needs. It’s an upmarket mall with international fashion brands such as Armani Exchange, Guess, Lacoste and Esprit. There is a cinema, spas and restaurants around the mall. You can also find this mall in Makati, Iloilo and Davao.
    • D’Talipapa Market. Boracay is known for its seafood, but it’s at D’Talipapa Market where you can shop if you want it fresh. All kinds of seafood are sold here and you can also get your fish cooked at any nearby restaurant.
    • Antequera. In Bohol Island, head to the west of Tagbilaran City. Over there, the age-old tradition of basket weaving continues to thrive. Buy your favourite basket bags here.
    • Gaisano Capital Mactan.The biggest mall in Mactan Island (also Lapu-Lapu) has 3 levels of shopping, a huge food court and entertainment options, plus 3 cinemas.
    • Divisoria. This popular flea market is located right in the middle of Manilla, where Chinatown is located. Its street stalls sell a myriad of items, from clothing, bags, textiles and numerous accessories all at a budget-friendly price.
    • SM Mall of Asia. One of the largest malls in the Philippines, SM Mall is located in Pasay City. You can shop at brand-name shops or dine at restaurants, with plenty of entertainment options such as an IMAX theatre and an Olympic-sized ice skating rink. There is even an IKEA outlet located in the mall!
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    How to stay safe in the Philippines

    Travel insurance for the Philippines is essential as it can protect you from the specific risks such as terrorism, monkeypox and possible petty crime incidents.

    The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advises that terrorism risks continue to exist in some areas in Mindanao. Monkeypox surveillance is also a top priority for the Philippine government.

    Heed these travel tips while travelling in the country and continue to check MFA for the most updated travel advisory.

    Here are more tips as well.

    Dos:

    • Register with MFA before you travel overseas.
    • Learn some words and phrases in Filipino. Most Filipinos speak English but learning some phrases in the local languages helps.
    • Be patient. The traffic jams and long queues are fairly standard in the cities but traffic might be better outside Manila.

    Don’ts:

    • Flaunt your valuables in public.
    • Give money to street beggars. There is a law that makes begging for alms illegal.
    • Insult the country or its people. This should be common sense anywhere you go.
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    Images: Getty Images

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