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14 Days in the Philippines: A Complete Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Being now at home due to the quarantine restrictions, I thought it would be a great time to sit down and put together all of those amazing places we visited in the Philippines in 2018 into an itinerary which some of you guys can use as an inspiration for your travels!

I am happy to share with you our 14-day detailed plan for a trip that was planned carefully in advance.

Why the Philippines?

One day, our friend who lives in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, invited us to visit him. We had been postponing it because it was never a good time to go. But one day, an ad with a discounted flight jumped out at me and I decided to go ahead and buy the tickets right away.

Thanks to my diary which I keep even on remote adventures, I am able to bring my memories back in detail!

Flight

My boyfriend and I are both Europeans. So, for us, flying from Vienna was the best option. We flew to Manila through Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Together, the flights took around 12 hours. Not bad!

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Manila (2 days)

The capital of the Philippines. And additionally, the city with the densest population in the world!

We stayed at our friend’s place, who, as most of the expats in Manila, lives in Bonifacio Global City.

BGC is a well-known district in the city that offers long shopping streets, shopping malls, many great restaurants, cafés, clubs, and flats.

WHERE TO STAY?

If you will stay in Manila through the night, staying in a safe place such as BGC is highly recommended.

WHERE TO EAT?

You can check out this Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung where we went for our first dinner and had amazing food with great service!

As we had a place to stay in Manila, we used it as our “crash pad” when we needed to stay over one night or just change for a lighter backpack. That was convenient. However, of course, this does not apply to every itinerary.

Taiwanese Restaurant Manila, the Philippines

Our stay in the Philippines looked like ↓

WHAT TO DO?

Exploring the city on a motorbike

While staying in Manila, we explored the city mostly from the seat of a motorbike. As the city is highly urbanized, chances that you will get stuck in a traffic jam for hours is super high. Having a bike in such a city is then a privilege but from my experience. Although, you need to have tough skin and love adrenalin.  With a bike, you can easily explore the developed side of the city and in a few moments, you can find yourself in the poor districts. The social differences between those districts are extreme.

Culture

I also can recommend visiting the gallery of Filipino contemporary art, the Pinto Art Museum!

Galerry of Contemporary Art in Manila, the Philippines

In Manila, the best option for transportation is either bike or taxi.

First, we only spent one day in Manila. The following day, we rushed to enjoy a little bit of sun on the south, to Puerto Galera.

Puerto Galera (4 days)

Puerto Galera is a municipality on the island of Mindoro. It is located on the north-west side of the island. The island is located below the Luzon island, which is the biggest island of the Philippines where Manila is situated.

Puerto Galera sunset beach, the Philippines

We traveled by bus from Manila to the Port of Batangas, which took around 2 hours. For this bus, we didn’t reserve anything. We showed up and went.

Bus ticket from Manila to Port Batangas, the Philippines

A ferry took us from Port of Batangas to Puerto Galera—more specifically—to Sabang Ferry Terminal. There, many bikes and tricycle drivers were waiting, willing to give you a ride.

In this place, be careful about the price and always agree on it before getting into a vehicle. Especially there, the drivers tend to increase the price of the ride.

WHERE TO STAY?

The tricycle took us in front of our pension, Pico de Villa, which is a small cozy resort in the jungle with a beautiful view of the bay.

Puerto Galera accomodation with a view, the Philippines

WHAT TO DO?

But why did we choose to come to this island on our tight schedule?

Mindoro, especially Puerto Galera with its Sabang beach, is known worldwide for its underwater wealth. Divers come from all around the world to dive here! Beautiful colourful corals, fish you have never seen before, and turtles floating around you… that is diving on Mindoro! If you are interested to dive as well, just go on the Sabang beach where most of the diving shops are situated, ask around, and find a place that feels right for you. Focus on certified places which, on the other hand, also means you’ll pay a higher price (worth the extra safety, though).

Diving

For diving, we chose Sea Rider Dive Center which is a known place on the island and among the diving community.

Unfortunately, I have to say that my experience as a beginner was not the finest. The training took approximately 5 minutes. My instructor was obviously losing his temper and patience and barely wasn’t focusing on whether I was still conscious or not. We had kind of a private class 1-1 and a lot of times the instructor of my boyfriend was helping me out when he saw that something went wrong and my instructor didn’t care. So, if I would choose some dive center next time, I would go for a different one.

The price for the 2-hour activity was around 55€/ 63$ per person.

White Beach

After diving, we still had energy so we decided to walk around 1 hour to the near/not so near White beach.

Thanks to an incoming storm that chased most tourists away, we had almost the whole beach for ourselves.

You can find some small restaurants and water attractions along the beach. We rested a little bit in the little bit of sun that remained and then went snorkeling in the water.

When the storm got closer, we decided to take a ride back to the city with a jeepney. We were also pretty tired and the ride back to Sabang for 20 PHP/0.36€/0.40$ was worth it.

Snorkeling

When in the Province of Puerto Galera, I would also recommend you to hire your „captain“ with a small motorboat. We found a guy who showed us the best of the island for the snorkeling. He literally brought us to stunning places on hist little motorboat. And while we were snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful coral views, our captain Tony was sunbathing on the boat or guiding us where to look. His method of hanging us on ropes on the boat so we would see more of the sea wealth was also really efficient.

We are now not talking about safety, ok. The whole Philippines-touristic-attraction-activities are, as I experienced, not safety-friendly. But it was fun!

Puerto Galera snorkling trip in the Philippines - part of our itinerary

On the way back, we took a ferry back to Port of Batangas where we switched to a bus. We didn’t reserve anything in advance, just go in front of the port, ask around for the bus station and you will easily find the bus you need. That is the most common way. We took a 2-hour bus back to Manila where we stayed one night before jumping on a plane to Siargao.

WHERE TO EAT?

What did we love in the Philippines? The fresh fruit markets wherever we went. And, particularly, I fell in love with mango there! The freshness and sweetness of the mangoes got me!

And as a real tropic destination, you have to try at least once fresh coconut water. The price for it around the Philippines is mostly similar – around 225 PHP/4€/4.5$. Once you drink the water, they will cut the core of the coconut for you so you can eat its flesh.

Jack Daniels restaurant – on the edge of the Sabang city centre – you get half of a chicken with potatoes for an amazing price. After being so active the whole day, such a big portion disappeared like nothing.

Keep in mind that the Philippines are not known for their cuisine. That’s why you will find a lot of international restaurants around.

Siargao (5 days)

The surfing capital in the Philippines is Siargao, a small island exposed to the open Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean. And here, the waves, the surfer’s community, and the vibe of the island will pull you in.

That’s why we chose for our next stop this magical island – we wanted to enjoy surfing and the tropical vibe that comes with it. Read more about surfing in Siargao in my previous article.

HOW TO GET THERE?

We took a plane from Manila. The most direct (and the fastest) way from the capital is by plane, which takes approximately 1.5-2.5 hours, depending on the airline.

There are two airlines operating on this route:

  • Philippine Airlines
  • and Cebu Pacific

A flight ticket to Siargao can be expensive. Even when we booked the flight with the Cebu Pacific in advance, the round-trip Manila-Sayak Airport (the only airport in Siargao on the west side of the island, in the municipality Del Carmen) cost 9.500 PHP/168€/188$!

Indeed, Siargao has become quite popular.

Siargao Sunset, the Philippines

WHERE TO STAY?

During our visit, we stayed in Lukay Resort Siargao – small bungalows with a common area, great for gathering in the evenings, chatting and playing cards. That was lovely and I can recommend it!

This resort is also in the centre of happening, although you will feel peaceful inside.

WHAT TO EAT?

When we were traveling around Siargao, we unconditionally fell in love with the vegan/vegetarian version of the national dish – the Chicken Adobo (check out my article with the recipe). We tried it first in Café Honest, a chill-out vegan zone on the island.

For breakfast, we mostly ate their power bowl.

Power bowl Siargao

If you will stay in General Luna, which is the most commonplace for staying in Siargao, you will have infinite options for places to eat and kinds of food, from vegan, vegetarian, to Italian and American cuisine. It all depends on your personal taste.

Here are some places in Siargao we tried and fell in love:

1. Kermit Resort

Kermit Resort is not only a resort offering accommodation and surfing lessons. This place t is also known for its pizza. After a whole day of surfing, this place is the best to end your beautiful day. Plus, our resort—Lukay Resort—was just right across the street. Perfect!

2. General Luna Local Market

An open market where you can find fresh pastry, sweet fruit, and fish every day. The market is located by the beach on the east side of General Luna. If you plan to go surfing at the Cemetery spot, you will for sure pass this market.

3. Ocean 101 Beach Resort

This resort is located on the beach and offers bungalows and rooms for accommodation. But, it also an open restaurant with a breathtaking view. We ended up there on our first evening in Siargao, after walking along the beach and watching the surfers coming back to the shore. The sunsets from there were one of the bests. Especially since there is a watchtower just a few metres from you.

Siargao beach in the Philippines

4. White Banana Beach Club Siargao

Boho styled restaurant situated on the beach. We came across this place randomly while walking on the beach, ordered fried rice and enjoyed the peace of the place.

White Banana Restaurant in Siargao, the Philippines

And, last but not least, wherever you are, grab a fresh coconut or mango shake – refreshing, healthy, and heaven in the mouth!

Mango shake has its own place in our hearts and also our itinerary throughout the Philippines

WHAT TO DO?

Surfing!

Siargao is the number one place to surf in the Philippines. You can meet people from all around the world on the island. Surfing is not the only one fun you can experience in Siargao, but it is the biggest part of the island.

Read my Guide to Surfing in Siargao where you will find all you need to know when preparing to surf in this magical island!

Take a ride on a scooter

How to describe Siargao? Palms, surfing, aaand scooters.

Of course, you can use the tricycles to move about on the island, but in the end, renting a scooter might be even cheaper. And, you will enjoy the freedom of exploring the island on your own.

Part of the itinerary was also rent a scooter, the Philippines

You can rent them at every corner. Just be aware that the renters will most probably take your ID and keep it until you return the scooter. Also – the scooters are not rented with helmets. You barely can find any helmets on the island.

How about gas? Wherever you go on the island, there will be always shops or locals selling gas in Coca-Cola bottles for 60 PHP/1€.

Siargao Island Hopping

One of the most popular activities on the island is the Siargao Island Hopping tour. Reserve a whole day for this trip so you can fully relax and have fun!

Island Hopping in the Siargao,the Philippines

Which islands are the most popular?

There is a known island trio: Daku Island – Naked Island – Guyam Island. You can book the ride on the outrigger boat online or right there. There is a lot of places which offer this tour.

One stop in our itinerary - Guyam Island, Siargao, the Philippines

We did our island-hopping tour as it was way cheaper than going through an agency.  The places we visited were Kawhagan Island, Sugba Lagoon and Guyam Island.

Our itinerary in the Philippines also included Guyam Island

See more photos in my previous article 5 Instagrammable places in Siargao!

Our 14-day itinerary in the Philippines also included Guyam Island.

Batad (3 days)

Our itinerary to the 14-day adventure in the Philippines will bring you to Batad now.

We flew from Siargao back to Manila where we slept one night. Afterwards we took a night bus from Manila to Banaue and arrived early in the morning. We made an online reservation for this bus trip, just to be sure we have our spots inside.

Recommendation: please take warm clothes with you on the bus. There is a strong AC inside of every bus which is not turned off even during the night!

Girl in Banaue, the Philippines

WHAT TO DO?

Within a few seconds of our bus arriving in Banaue, we were hassled into a pickup car with other tourists from the night bus. We were taken to the “touristic office” that offered us a private tour to the rice terraces in Batad.

Later on, we found out this office wasn’t the official one. Be aware that groups of locals make money from unofficial guide tours. But – was it less fun? I don’t think so. We enjoyed our guide and the tour a lot!

Tour

We picked the 3-day tour in the fields without coming back to the city of Banaue. You can choose a 3-day tour or daily tours with a sleepover in the city.

Alert! Please don’t make the mistake (as I did) of packing a 10 kg backpack! Trust me, it’s nothing pleasant on the rice fields. Keep it light.

We spent the whole day on our feet and the guiding agency provided us with accommodation in different guesthouses every evening.

DAY 1

The first day of the tour happened in the jungle and just in the evening, we saw the rice terraces for the first time.

The hike in the jungle was accompanied by rain the entire afternoon which made the hike slightly harder.

Be aware that this tour is not recommended for people who are not used to hiking. We met a couple of French people who were struggling with overcoming forest obstacles and came to the guest house way after sunset. It might be dangerous. Their guide decided the very next morning that they needed to start hiking at least one hour ahead of us and then he skipped a few beautiful rewarding detours with them.

DAY 2

The next day was perhaps even more challenging. We either walked up high steps on the rice terraces or down steep ascents and descents on some paths in the bushes.

This harsh day was finished at the Tappiyah Falls where we soothed the pain in our feet in the icy water.

Tappiyah Falls in the Philippines

We spent the second night in Simons’s Inn and Restaurant – a place with a beautiful view, good food, and an option to play the guitar and board games.

DAY 3

The last day we took it easy. There were still a few hours of hiking on stairs among rice terraces, however, it was not that hard of a path anymore. We arrived back at the city of Banaue in the afternoon. Before leaving by bus for Manila, we had plenty of time to wander around the town, buy souvenirs and try local pastries for 4 PHP/0.07€/0.08$!

We spend one last night in Manila at our friend’s place and caught the flight back home the very next day.  

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