Our Philippines impressions were formed gradually over the 3 weeks we spent there. We arrived in the Philippines with open minds, though it’s difficult to erase all the preconceptions you have about a place before you visit it.
In our case, we were anticipating white sand beaches, relaxed swimming, fresh fruit & fish and tasty local food. We chose to visit some out-of-the-way places, so hopefully we would find some secluded places to spend our time.
For such a short trip – just 19 days in the Philippines – we had to be extremely selective about the places we would visit. We narrowed our choices to a shortlist of 2 islands (Cebu and Bohol) and 5 destinations that could be combined into a viable route (see The Philippines – Planning the Trip).
For anyone who enjoys hassle-free swimming, the beaches in some of the more remote locations we stayed were not ideal.
Access to the sea was sometimes difficult over shallow and rocky areas. Fine for snorkeling or diving, but that was about it. There were good sandy beaches in the more touristy areas in Bohol, but we were mainly trying to stay away from the crowds.
Apart from Alona Beach, the public beaches we visited were sometimes heavily littered and not always that clean.
Our Philippines Impressions – Local Food
The biggest disappointment of the Philippines for us was the local food.
If you really want to pile on the calories, this is the place to come. Sugary, sticky marinades are the order of the day. Whether we chose fish, pork or chicken, it all came out tasting the same: Sweet, bland and filling.
We ate as much fruit as possible, but you can’t live off just that. There was a super-abundance of Western junk food outlets everywhere we went, and many of the locals obviously have a taste for them.
By far, the best food we had was prepared by Julian (a British expatriate) at the Seaside Boutique Hotel in Panglao. Using locally-sourced ingredients, he produced some delicious 3-course meals for us during our short stay there.
I picked up a local Globe sim card for 40 pesos, and paid another 50 pesos to add credit. This is the minimum amount, but was plenty for a 2-3 week stay. The only problem was that we couldn’t send SMS text messages back to Europe. They appeared to be sent, but no-one received them.
Final Budget – Actual Costs (not bad at all…)
Planning our trip 2 months earlier, we allowed ourselves a budget of €35 per person per day. This was to cover the 18 nights we would spend in the Philippines.
Since we were flying to the Philippines from Rome, we also needed to allow for 2 nights in Rome – one night before our flight out and another after our return flight.
For these extra nights in Rome, we budgeted €50 (per person per day).
The combined cost of all of our flights was €1,434.
This included return flights for 2 to Rome (Air Malta), return flights from Rome to Manila with Emirates, and internal flights in the Philippines from Manila to Cebu, and Bohol back to Manila (Philippines Airlines).
All for 2 people.
The total trip duration was 24 days. This included flying and stopover time. We also took out travel insurance for €47 per person.
Our accommodation in both Italy and the Philippines came to €633 for 2 for 20 nights (including breakfast on 7 days). Apart from accommodation and flights, we took a total of €973 from cash machines during the trip.
The final combined cost for the trip was €1,620 per person (€3,241 for 2). This averages at around €67 per person per day, including flights, accommodation, food… and all other costs.
This wasn’t too far off from our planned budget of €3,200.
There is so much to see in the Philippines that you can’t do it justice by visiting one or two of the islands. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Hopefully, our short visit was a precursor to other trips to different parts of the country. In the south Mindanao, with its sizeable Muslim population, could offer quite a different experience. Palawan would also be on our shortlist of islands to visit.
…on our next trip.
If you enjoyed our Philippines impressions, check out Central Philippines – Cebu & Bohol. You may also like: