I’m putting it out there. It’s something I think a lot of people will agree with but few will admit to.
The Philippines is my favorite country in South-East Asia.
There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open. It’s bumped former fave Thailand from the top-spot, bypassed Laos and blown Cambodia out of the water. Soz.
Like every great love affair, I didn’t expect it to happen.
Here, I’m going to attempt to explain why I fell head over heels for this often overlooked island nation and why you CAN’T skip it on your visit to South-East Asia.
151 countries benefit from 30 visa-free days in the Philippines. There’s no hassle, no charge and no worries for a whole month! See if your country is exempt here.
Cheapest alcohol in the world
The Philippines is also home to San Miguel Light which has the same alcohol content as normal but ONLY 100 CALORIES. Why isn’t this a thing everywhere?! Guilt free drinking!
It’s still undeveloped
You have to search a lot harder to find ‘real’ experiences nowadays.
Not so in the Philippines. The country is still relatively new on the backpacker radar and islands like Palawan still hold that ‘final frontier’ magic. I even began to get annoyed at how underdeveloped Palawan was, there were so many beautiful sights that are still hidden from tourists. You either had to dig around to find them or stumble upon them by surprise.
The best beaches in the world
Sand that stretches uninterrupted for miles, crystal clear water and lazy palm trees strung with hammocks. The Philippines is beach bum bliss. You can head to beaches like White Beach in Boracay which has everything you’ll ever need in walking distance of your hammock, or hide away on the deserted beaches of Palawan with just the coconuts for company.
Don’t just stick to the sand, the water is teeming with amazing sea-life, packed with coral and tropical fish. The snorkeling and diving are world-class and not to be missed.
Cheap internal flights
The 7000 islands of the Philippines are spread out over 300,000 square kilometres. But you don’t need to rely on overcrowded ferries or spend hours on a bus, you can simply fly. If you book in advance, flights can cost as little as £15 one way and open up the whole archipelago.
Want your culture fix? Head to North Luzon for hanging coffins and ancient towns. Want natural wonders? Fly to the Chocolate Hills in Bohol or the perfectly conical volcanoes of the mainland. Beaches? Check. Rare wildlife? Check. Hiking? Check.
The amazing ecological diversity of the Philippines means that there is something for everyone, beach bums and culture vultures alike.
After travelling South-East Asia it gets tiresome having to always be on the lookout for con artists. Simply taking a taxi or tuk-tuk becomes a chore as you have to barter and reason with the drivers then cross your fingers and hope that he sticks to his end of the bargain. Not so in the Philippines.
In the Philippines it was so nice to actually trust people. True, there’s a couple of bad eggs out there but overall everyone was lovely. Kids would chase you in the street, not to get your money but to say hello and shower you with high-fives. Tricycle drivers would take you straight where you needed to go without a fuss, when we hired a moped it didn’t break down and the vendor didn’t add on extras.
It seems like a lot of areas in the Philippines haven’t yet been dragged into the dark side of tourism. Scams seem relatively rare here and it’s so refreshing to be able to chat to someone without being coerced into buying tacky trinkets or keeping an eye on your valuables.
We were in El Nido when they celebrated their 99th birthday with a fortnight of celebrations, because why the heck not?! It’s a great way to meet the locals and get involved with some of the stranger Filipino traditions, like caribou racing and drag queen contests.
The modes of transport
Squidging into a jeepney never got old. Chugging around the streets of Manila, squeezed next to smiling old ladies was one of my fondest memories. The fact that journeys cost less than 10p made it even better!
On the islands, tricycles and mopeds were the main means of getting from A to B. Working out how to fit your bags and you into the tiny trikes always proved an amusing challenge.
No language barrier
By removing the language barrier it’s so much easier, and quicker, to get to know people or casually chat in passing.
I loved the Philippines but have barely scratched the surface. I’ll definitely be back to explore more of my new favorite South-East Asian country.
What’s your favorite South-East Asian country? Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!