How it all started
Who is that lucky girl sitting in a sofa, cooled by air from fans, smile on her face while she’s thinking about each and every moment spent in this beautiful country, the Philippines? It is me, Marianna. I am 21-year-old student living in Denmark and I decided to take my internship with Book2wheel abroad.
For the next three months, you will be hearing from me quite often. I will travel the Philippines as much as I can, meet locals, adapt to their culture and while doing so, camera will be my closest companion. However, before I start sharing my experience, let me shortly explain how this all begun.
In 2016, I started my life in Denmark – Odense, where I enrolled to marketing management studies and.. I liked it! After few months of this program, I got my student job and couldn’t ask for more. Working closely with student start-ups and being part of this entrepreneurial environment made me think more about what I want to do in my life. I found my direction and it seemed enough. I didn’t need anything specific in my mind, just that right feeling.
So, I do not need to explain why I said yes, when Book2Wheel approached me with internship in the Philippines – it just felt more than right. Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my decision. Was it scary? It was. Was it worth it? For me, thousand times yes.
Stick with me on my journey through one of the most beautiful countries in the world and you’ll see it yourself.
How I planned my 3 months in the Philippines
First of all, I have never traveled alone so far away from home. I did travel around Europe and I’ve been to the US for 2 months, but having no one next to you requires a bit of courage and thorough preparation.
At the beginning, everything felt so surreal and I had no idea where to start. I spent some while reading articles and quickly gained an overview of Filipino culture and what makes it so exceptional. Reading wasn’t enough. I watched many YouTube videos, especially those from ‘Lost LeBlanc’. I genuinely recommend this channel, as it contains detailed information about everything you need to know when traveling to South-East Asia.
Usually, I like to have my own source of information from people I trust. Luckily, few of my friends are either Filipino or they have some sort of network. Despite some negative media influence (weather, politics, health issues or other danger), I felt assured this won’t stop me from going there.
Places where to go
Looking at the destinations, there were countless choices – Philippines has over 7 000 islands, many of them are even unknown to locals. To find places I’d love to visit, Pinterest, Google and Instagram were my common tools. I wrote down all the recommended places and those that simply astounded me. Three months is quite a long time, thus I decided to stay as flexible as I can and plan rather ‘on the go’.
I strongly recommend getting the experience from well-known places first before going to more abandoned ones. What travelers usually do is visiting top destinations, then coming back and exploring less inhabited islands.
Read about VISA requirements online at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country. If you are staying in the country for 30 days maximum, you do not need any VISA. However, you must have return/onward ticket to another country. You should be able to extend your stay in Manila, at the Bureau of Immigration – check the price at their official webpage.
How I planned my first month in the Philippines
My first month was similar to this: up to one week in Manila, then traveling to Cebu, Siargao Island and the rest of the month would be for Bohol, Siquijor and Dumaguete. I wanted to spend big amount of time at each of these destinations to get most out of the Filipino culture. Being sure about places I want to visit, I could look up for activities and people I would like to meet.
Here, I recommend thinking about your hobbies and things you really love to do. You want to have unforgettable memories from this place – meeting people with similar passion from different country is just priceless.
How do you get in touch with these people? So easy – social media. You don’t have to be afraid to approach them – people are very friendly and extremely helpful. Contact them through Facebook groups – I recommend these:
TRAVEL ADVENTURE PHILIPPINES (budget/diy traveler):
Just write post whenever you need an information about prices, tips for good accommodation, transport or actual weather. You might have few answers just in couple of minutes.
Example: My life is all about movement, healthy food, exploring unknown places and photography. I also do a lot of parkour and wherever I go, I try to reach out the community. In this case, I did it through Instagram and thanks to this, I had the best stay in Manila!
You could also reach out travelers and catch them on their way – not only your budget will be happier, but you could make awesome friends and memories!
I still cannot say much about my expenses and it hugely depends on your style of traveling. You can enjoy Philippines on budget, which means getting cheaper accommodation, and having fewer activities. You can also pay more for high-end hotels/resorts and eating at expensive restaurants every day. Certainly, each of these styles will take you to stunning places, kind-hearted people and you will feel the culture. Everything is very individual and depends on how you want to spend your time here. Doing bunch of activities such as diving, island hopping and guide tours will surely affect your costs.
I remember finding some estimated costs for one month of traveling on Google. What I can say is – Philippines are not expensive, you can find good accommodation for few bucks almost everywhere. Local food is very cheap and super delicious. Having fresh coconut for $1 was like a heaven and I don’t even know how many I’ve had already.
Please note – in many cases you will have to pay in cash. In bigger cities, ATM can be found easily (plus you can use your card in many malls), but you can run into problems while being in remote areas. Always have cash! It is up to you how you divide it. Keep them as close as possible – ideally in smaller amounts and in different places (wallet, toilet bag or hidden in backpack). You never know what may happen and you know it – better safe than sorry.
Accommodation in Philippines
There are so many ways how to find one. From Airbnb to many online servers providing hotels and hostels. Although I am sure will stay at a hotel at some places, I chose to live in Filipino families. Here is why.
As I mentioned before, I truly want to experience Filipino culture. Living solo in hotels makes it quite impossible. Families introduce you to local habits and you can see the way they live. You don’t get chance to see this in hotels. At the moment, I am based in Pasig (Manila) at my parkour friend’s house. They’d shown me places which are unknown to travelers, helped me getting through the city, teach me Tagalog (one of the Filipino language) and cooked delicious meals. In return, I offered help as much as I could to show how grateful I am. Overall, it is much deeper and stronger experience.
Having my destinations and activities planned, I then decide how many days I can spend there. Also, always check the weather forecast before you go anywhere. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere for hours/days because of some typhoon!
Booking a ticket and packing
You could certainly do this step much earlier and set your travel plan according to that. I like to search and compare prices. I searched ticket price through Momondo, Skyscanner, Kiwi. and found my one way ticket there. I bought it 1,5 month before I left, which is not really far ahead. It cost me around $520 – 20kg luggage and 7kg carry-on luggage included.
TIP: When searching for tickets, go to incognito mode. Servers may change prices each time you search. By doing this, they cannot recognize you’ve been looking for tickets already and prices won’t change.
If you travel for 1 month, I would consider going backpack. For me, having 20kg luggage is a bit annoying, however I have a lot of camera equipment, clothes for 3 months and I’ll be staying at each of my destination for a longer time.
I am not going to dig deeper into packing for the Philippines, but do take many light clothing, it is really really hot here. Tip for girls – it makes no sense using make up here, unless you want to sweat even more just few minutes after applying it :)) Also, remember having some clothes that will keep you warm during flights and bus rides – you wouldn’t believe how cold it gets with an air condition!
How to overcome illness in Philippines – precautions and tips
We only have one life. Be aware of your actions and impact it have on your future well-being. Philippines and other countries in (Southeast) Asia have entirely different environment than what we are used to in Europe, USA … You got the point. Different type of bacteria is present in both food and water, so be extremely careful about what you consume and touch.
Vaccinations are not mandatory here. However, there is some incidence of diseases (again, your Ministry of Foreign Affairs will give you exact information about what and in which areas). Therefore, I recommend you to study it deeply and decide what is best for you. Me personally, I went for natural remedies and tried to prepare my body at least 1 month before traveling. That means very healthy diet, a bit of fasting and taking supplements supporting my immune system. I am not saying that I do not recommend vaccinations! I only wrote what I did. Vaccinations is very controversial topic and everyone needs to take his/her own responsibility.
5 tips how to avoid getting sick/ill
- Have good travel insurance!
- Never drink water from tap. Never drink liquids with ice cubes. Always go for a bottled water or at least boil it first.
- Always wear antibacterial gel or disinfection.
- Be careful with outdoor animals – bite or scratch can cost you your nice trip. Always seek for medical help immediately.
- As soon as you arrive, get a proper quality repellent – you risk a lot with mosquito bites. I also have a mosquito net for sleeping. When stepping into dark/wet/remote bushy areas, have your body covered properly.
Is it that bad? I believe it’s not. However, it’s better to be informed about problems you can run into.
This is rough summary about my travel preparation. I tried to cover everything important and I hope it can help you with your own planning, if you are heading to these stunning places. Next time, I’m going to write about my transportation to the Philippines, few problems I’ve faced and first days here in Manila.
See you soon!