Steeped in centuries of colonial rule, the Philippines is unlike anywhere else in Asia. Here, Spanish churches replace Buddhist temples, American jeepneys rather than tuk tuks rule the streets and English is widely spoken. This cultural whirl means that one day you could be trawling megamalls in Manila and the next, exploring villages where coffins hang from the cliffs. You won’t find Southeast Asia’s well-worn tourist trail in the Philippines either, the path here feels wilder and less tamed, that’s part of its magic. Whether you’re trekking in near-deserted UNESCO rice terraces, spotting bug-eyed tarsiers in the jungle or exploring uninhabited islands, local life remains largely unblemished.
Perhaps because of this, it’s hard to find a warmer welcome anywhere but the Philippines. Expect to be greeted with broad smiles, invited to join karaoke marathons (a national pastime) and addressed as Sir or Ma’am wherever you go. Filipinos famously embrace the spirit of bahala na, what will be will be, and there’s a determination to enjoy life. This, paired with a deep Catholic faith, helps people deal with the challenges of living in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The double-edged sword of this volatile topography is the country’s soul-stirring beauty, from smoking volcanoes to tropical waters teeming with whale sharks and mountain ranges where cloud-seas nestle.
Navigating the Philippines’ 7,500 plus islands can be overwhelming, so talk to our destination experts. We’ll tailor your dream itinerary, complete with exotic islands, rice-terrace wonders and Spanish colonial treasures. You’ll soon understand why, as the tourist authority proclaims, It’s More Fun in the Philippines.
Time difference: GMT +8
Flight time: London + 13-14 hours
Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)
Language: Filipino (Tagalog) and English are official languages
Electricity: 220 voltage
Telephone code: +63
Tipping: Isn’t traditionally expected but is becoming more common due to western influences. Upscale restaurants and hotels will likely include a service fee in your bill but feel free to tip an extra 20-50 PHP directly to waiters, maids and bellhops. Leave a 10 percent tip for a great tour guide or masseuse and if you’re travelling by taxi, jeepney or trike, it’s considered polite to round up the fare.
Etiquette: Smile! You’re in the Philippines where a friendly, positive attitude conquers all. With that in mind, losing your temper is frowned upon and causes a deep sense of hiya – shame. Be prepared to answer lots of questions from curious locals and avoid using blasphemous language in this devoutly religious country. It’s also important to show respect for elders, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. If you’re dining with locals, dishes are often served in communal bowls – be sure not to take the last serving.
Religions: In contrast to much of Asia, Christianity is the dominant religion in the Philippines due to decades of Spanish rule. Around 90 percent of the population identify as Christian, most prominently Roman Catholic, and you’ll find stone colonial-style churches dotted across the country. Filipinos tend to be deeply spiritual, particularly the older generation, and religious fiestas are a cultural highlight throughout the year. Minority religions include Islam, Buddhism and Animism.
Visas: You can look up the latest advice on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/philippines/entry-requirements. Please be aware that this information can change at short notice.
Vaccinations: Health facilities, hygiene and disease vary world-wide and you may choose to take the necessary vaccinations before you depart. You can find out more about The Philippines on the NHS’s Fit For Travel website.