Well, I mean, I don’t know why you need any reasons at all: it’s the Philippines! But since you insist, here’s a list of 10 reasons on why you should visit the Philippines and each reason will give you more and more wanderlust, to the point that you’ll probably be packed and halfway out the door when you’re done!
But seriously, the Philippines is basically heaven, and it’s so underrated! We’ve just launched our newest Philippines Island Hopping trip and it’s a beaut (you should definitely book). Filled with the best beaches, some amazing food, really friendly locals, and of course immaculate vibes, it seems the world is just catching up to the hype.
We spoke to our very own Ben Garwood, adventurer to the stars and big Contiki fan, about his trip to the Philippines back in 2018, and why you should follow in his footsteps.
1. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to
In an age where travel is being decided more and more by the ‘Instagrammable’ potential, the Philippines is basically a no-brainer destination. From the amazing chocolate hills to the white sand beaches and the Banaue rice terraces, this country is like a playground of beauty.
“Everywhere you go is stunning, and so interesting. I was travelling with my friend who was a Geography major and he would point out all the rock formations and dormant volcanoes. Compared to other popular south-east Asian destinations, the Philippines’ beauty is so real and so untouched.”
2. “El Nido is like a postcard”
El Nido is one of the stops on Contiki’s Philippines itinerary, in fact travellers pitch their tent (not literally) there for a few days – and not without reason! “Everywhere you go is literally so gorgeous. I remember sitting on the boat coming into the island and it being one of the first times I was truly awed. The views were just breathtaking.”
You’ll spend 3 days in El Nido with Contiki, so that’s ample time to really soak up all the beauty. Not only that, but the included experiences are to die for: especially the visit to the turquoise Bulalacao waterfalls and then sunset meditation on the beach. A. Dream! “It’s definitely somewhere I’d return to again.”
3. It’s not as touristy
If you like the look of Thailand and Vietnam but want something just a tad more lowkey, then you must visit the Philippines! The weather is just as sunny and bright, the beaches are prize-worthy, and views are jaw-dropping, and they won’t be hindered by hoards of people.
Basically, you’ll get the whole country to yourself, but you have to book quick before word catches on… “You really get the best of both worlds here, it’s a more laid back experience, but you can still do everything you want like sight-seeing, partying, etc. It’s got a really authentic vibe.”
4. The locals are so kind
Nothing is better than travelling and being embraced by the locals – it makes you feel like you belong and instantly turns a place into home. “The locals are lovely. A lot of restaurants are actually held just outside of locals’ homes. You’ll have a few tables and chairs set up and a family manning the BBQ and the food. You get served specific dishes and they take care of you.”
“I actually got my haircut at a local’s home. It was a guy who ran his business from his living room and they’re just so kind and hospitable. It wasn’t a bad haircut either!”
5. You really get to connect with people
When you visit the Philippines with Contiki you obviously get your whole group to hang out and connect with – that’s the bonus of social travel! But as you move around the islands you may bump in to people you’ve met before on a random night out or social outing.
“When I visited the Philippines I was backpacking and so I stayed in hostels. It was great because you’d meet people there and you’d make friends super quick, and because most backpackers follow a similar trail, you’d end up bumping into the same people along the way and really building bonds.” The bonds you make while travel are so special and should definitely be cherished!
6. But it’s also got a great party scene if you’re into that
Like any beachy destination, the night life is out of this world! Whether you’re looking for a chilled bonfire night with some bits of food and a couple drinks, or you’re wanting to go for a full club night, the Philippines have got you!
There are clubs and bars you can dance the night away in, or beachside bars and gigs so you can really get into that beach-life and have the best. Time. Ever. It’s not Contiki without a little bit of a party, and if you’ve never danced in the sand under the moon then now’s your time to shine.
7. The desserts are unreal
If anything, you should visit the Philippines just so you can experience the food, specifically the desserts. Filipino food is so unique, and some dishes have made tours around the world for how scrumptious they are – chicken adobo anyone? The street food is special, but best of all are the desserts and you can’t get anything that compares in your local convenience store. “There isn’t a lot of Western food out there, so you’ll definitely be thrown out of your comfort zone and eat what the locals eat, but that’s part of the experience and it’s good fun!”
Have you heard of halo halo? The name means ‘mix-mix’ and that’s exactly what it is: a mix of all things sweet and delicious! It’s refreshing and flavourful, and includes a burst of textures. Basically, it’s ice cream, fruit, shaved ice and evaporated milk all in one big glass. Be sure to grab one after a long day on the beach to cool down.
8. You get to enjoy so many unique experiences
Swimming with whale sharks is a big thing in the Philippines – it’s one of the main tourist attractions and not one to miss. “Some companies will take you out early in the morning and you get to watch as they feed whale sharks and watch them come out from the water. They’re beautiful! And then you get to swim with them and it’s just unlike anything else.”
The Philippines is also filled with gorgeous diving spots, and you can see so much unique wildlife you might not see anywhere else like sea turtles and starfish!
9. The islands are magical
Have we mentioned how beautiful the Philippines are? Yeah? Well this time we want to talk specifically about the beaches and islands! These are the main focus of our Contiki trip, and for good reason – those Philippine islands are true stunners and out of this world.
“We did a load of island hopping, spending a couple days on a boat with other people in their 20s, just exploring and checking everything out. The sunsets on the islands are unreal: the sky just gets lit up with this bright orange and everything else glows with it.” The islands are little bits of paradise and it’s honestly worth the trip just to experience them for a minute!
10. It’s cheap!
Thanks to the high exchange rate between most currencies, if you’re swapping USD, GBP, or EUR then you’ll be able to get a lot of bang for your buck! You can get lots of delicious treats and meals for a low price, as well as some stunning experiences, and even cheap accommodation. A top tip is to rent a moped so you can get around the country easily – you can move around whenever you need and experience as much as possible for a decent amount. Or… you can hop on the Contiki coach where transportation is free…
Do it with Contiki!
“Honestly, I kind of found myself in the Philippines by chance. It wasn’t a set part of my Asian backpacking itinerary, I went on a whim and I’m so glad I did. I would visit the Philippines again and again and again.”
A Contiki past traveller, Christian, who got to have a first look at our newest trip agrees with Ben that the experience and the locals are everything: “Everyone was so friendly there. It’s just so laid back, there’s no rush to get anywhere, and everyone’s willing to help you out and be really friendly towards you, even if you can’t speak the language.”
Travelling to the Philippines is easy with Contiki! Your whole itinerary is planned, transport and accommodation is all taken care of, and you have your trustee Trip Manager who will take you around the islands with no stress or hassle. But don’t take it from us, take it from our past traveller Laura: “It’s so organised, you just have to show up to your trip and have fun! Everything is completely planned for you.”
So, best friends acquired, and the most amazing experiences along the way – meet us in Puerto Princesa and we’ll be on our way!