The Philippines has been on the top of our must-visit list for as long as we can remember. The beautiful and pristine clear tropical waters were enough to hold our interest. That’s why the moment we planned an extended trip to South East Asia, we knew this country needed to be one of our first stops. We can now confidently say the Philippines is one of the best vacation spots in the world.

Despite all this country has to offer, it is quite remote and isn’t your typical tourist destination. All busyness is replaced with ‘island time’ where everything is a lot more relaxed and leisurely. If you’re like we were, you may not know what to expect travelling in the Philippines. We’ve made this list to get you more prepared on what to expect in the Philippines.

We’ve made a list of 10 must know facts we were surprised to learn on our trip through this country.

1. The Philippines is very eco friendly

If you are anything like us, you are always looking for ways to go green and make your travel vacation more sustainable. While in Canada we are just starting to take notice of the harsh effects of plastic straws, in the Philippines there is not a plastic straw in sight. Everywhere you look you will find paper straws being your only option.

Plastic cutlery is replaced with compostable wood and you have to ask if you want a plastic bag, they aren’t just handed over.

photo of a pontoon boat with crystal clear water in El Nido, Philippines
Crystal clear water by El Nido, Philippines

While it is not safe to drink tap water, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of water bottles. In the Philippines, you will find water refill stations just about everywhere you turn.

From big jugs found in hotels everywhere that are FREE to a cheap refill station located on the streets, you have tons of options. Lots of restaurants offer either free or affordable filtered water that typically is served in reusable glass bottles.

As their tourism is on the rise, you can expect to pay many “eco fees” when travelling around.

Eco fees work to clean and protect both the beaches and the ocean where you are travelling. While these are often around 200 – 500 Philippines Pesos ($5 – $12 CAD) the money does seem to really work to keep the land and waters clean making it worth every single penny.

2. Stray dogs in the Philippines are usually friendly

As with a lot of areas in Asia, stray dogs and cats are a real problem in the Philippines. As heartbreaking as this is, especially to animal lovers such as ourselves, there is a slight light at the end of the tunnel. Animals in the Philippines seem to be better treated with this country where the dogs and cats seem to be a bit better treated as a whole.

Stray dogs in the Philippines are less fearful of humans. You will see the dogs playing all over the streets, a sight you simply do not see in other parts of Asia.

Where normally dogs in this area are in a survivalist “dog eat dog” world – literally – and are much more similar to coyotes than to household pets, this doesn’t ring as true in the Philippines. It is a small breath of fresh air to see dogs acting like, well, dogs.

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3. More islands are constantly getting found

The Philippines consists of over 7,600 islands… and counting. Some islands are so small that they disappear completely in high tides. There are Philippines islands that hold large bustling cities while others show no signs of human civilization.

With so many dots on a map, it is easy to understand how you can lose track of which islands have been discovered and which have yet to have a human ever step foot on them. Combine this with the rough waters of the open ocean and you will see how some islands have never been found.

In our modern world, how crazy is it to think that there are some areas of this world that are so remote that they have had absolutely no human influence.

4. The Philippines is vegetarian and vegan friendly

Whether you’re living a dedicated vegan lifestyle or simply looking for healthier plant-based options, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many options you have in the Philippines.

We always expect a bit of a challenge finding vegetarian and plant-based meals but we didn’t struggle at all here. From smoothie bowls, vegan burgers, veggie kebabs and pasta we always had our choice of tasty cuisine. We found that many restaurants offered up more veggie options than meat options, which surprised us.

5. English is widely spoken in The Philippines

For not being a huge tourist destination, we expected more of a struggle to communicate with locals. We were incredibly surprised to learn that almost all of the locals here, even those not in the tourist industry, speak English well.

As the Philippines is so spread out with many islands, there are multiple different dialects spoken so as a way to communicate easier everyone simply speaks English. This was really great for us as it means we could communicate with locals more readily.  

Speaking of communicating, we were so humbled by how friendly the locals are in the Philippines. It seemed everyone we encountered was ready to chat with us, help us and have real connections.

Getting to know the locals as we travel is one of our favourite things to do and we are always so honoured to get the chance to spend quality time learning about other cultures.

6. The remote location comes with a cost

If you compare the costs of the Philippines to other areas of Asia you will be quite surprised. We found food and especially accommodation prices to be quite high in comparison to places like Thailand and Bali. Still, a bargain compared to American and European prices, but much more than other Asian backpacking countries.

When considering lodging, we found it worth the cost to stay in a resort when visiting these islands as we found the cheap hotels to be full of bed bugs and cockroaches. While these prices may not be the lowest we have seen, it is still a great cheap beach vacation that is sure to provide memories of a lifetime.

We also found that while we spent a bit more on accommodation prices, what we got really was worth it!

7. ATMs are not easily accessible

When you are travelling through Asia you will likely not want to travel with excess valuables. The more you travel with, the bigger the target you are. While this is true in most places, the Philippines is not one of them.

There are many cities, and even islands, that do not have ATM machines in the Philippines.

If you do find an ATM machine, it will commonly undergo power outages or other service issues that limit your ability to access your money. This can be quite dangerous at times. 

We recommend always having extra money with you at all times when visiting the Philippines.

8. The internet in the Philippines isn’t reliable

The internet in the Philippines is more of a fond notion rather than something that actually works. No restaurants or fast food chains offer wifi, something that I have only found in this country. Hotels and airports in this country typically have wifi but not one that actually works.

This is not necessarily a bad thing – just something to know before you go.

There is so much to see and do in the Philippines that you will have no trouble busying yourself for some precious days unplugged from the world. While no signal can be a great recharge for the soul, it is lethal for a digital nomad. We were able to get no work done the whole time in the country, we couldn’t even check a social media handle – a very foreign concept to us.

Luckily we were kept very busy swimming through some of the clearest and most beautiful turquoise waters in the world. We thought the Caribbean was blessed with amazing waters until we went here and experienced this beauty.

9. Blackouts are common in the remote areas of the Philippines

If you were hoping for a cool night’s sleep in the air-conditioned room you paid for, think again. Blackouts happen but in the Philippines, they happen OFTEN. We never experienced a single day in the Philippines that didn’t have at least 2 blackouts. Some lasted a few seconds, some much longer.

This further limits your ability to find any wifi but also cuts out fans, air conditioning, TVs, etc. For this reason, we kept our room colder than we normally would so it could stay cool even when we lost power.

10. Travelling between cities and islands in the Philippines can be hard

This is by far the biggest struggle we encountered in the Philippines. This becomes even harder when you are travelling in the rainy (ie, monsoon) season, as we did. There are very few airports in the country making it so the primary way of getting from island to island is by boat. The seas are CHOPPY and dangerous which makes motion sickness a real thing.

This is by far the biggest struggle we encountered in the Philippines. This becomes even harder when you are travelling in the rainy (ie, monsoon) season, as we did. There are very few airports in the country making it so the primary way of getting from island to island is by boat. The seas are CHOPPY and dangerous which makes motion sickness a real thing.

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We heard stories of people getting stuck on an island for more than 2 weeks because of treacherous waves.

It is not uncommon for boats to go down in bad weather, so they stop all boat traffic when rough waters are present. This can leave you stuck in an area with little control over when you can leave.

Friends we met who were travelling here for 3 weeks ended up getting stuck on an island. They missed their flight out of the country and overstayed their 30-day visitor visa. Luckily, I think, this is quite common as the officials were understanding of the overstayed visa.

When you are travelling on an island, there are many different transportation methods you can use. Our favourite is always renting a scooter. But if you are too nervous about this you can always get by using taxis or tricycles (the Philippines version of a Tuk Tuk).

Have you ever travelled to the Philippines? What surprised you most about this remote country?




  1. Wow, how fascinating that they’re still discovering more islands. The blackouts would be annoying, but I guess you’d just get used to it like anything.

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      It definitely took some getting used to but there is so much to see and do that it is almost nice to have that extra push to unplug and be present.

      Isn’t it cool how many islands there are… and counting!

  2. I’m from the Philippines and this post is very accurate. I live in the province and here, we have a plastic ban so shops who are caught using plastic will be fined and all restaurants use paper straws and the blackouts too. English language is being taught in school since kindergarten so that’s why a lot of people here can speak English even in the provinces. The blackouts are very annoying although never encountered them when I went to college in Manila (capital city). Hope you had a good time during your stay here in the Philippines 🙂

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      Thank you for stopping by! I am glad that, as a local, you found this post to be relevant! We were so impressed by the dedication to reducing your footprint with plastic bans. The blackouts were a bummer but it was a welcomed reminder for us to unplug and be present in experiencing all your beautiful country has to offer!

  3. Loved reading this guide as it sparked my interest in visiting a place I have never considered. Just curious, why do you think the blackout/power outages are so common? Is it weather related?

    • These are really interesting facts to learn about the Phillipines. I didn’t realise that they keep finding more islands nor the amount of islands that make up the country.

  4. Hello, I am also from the Philippines and I can agree with your post. The internet connection there is really slow even in the city center. With regards to the power blackout it is common in the Philippines for many reasons. Sometimes it is because of the weather and they need to fix something or sometimes short circuit. Philippines still have so many things need to improve to draw investors in as it is really slow. With regards to the internet someone from France rented my Airbnb and I told him upfront it is really slow compared in Western countries and he is complaining about it. As the owner it isn’t good for business and it’s annoying how slow people move in the Philippines. I’m glad that you take it a positive outlook to connect with the present. I was there last year with my kids its frustrating for 1 month my kids couldn’t Facetime or talk to their dad and my youngest is acting different and wild because of it.

  5. New islands keep popping up, I like that. More places to explore. Internet connection rubbish? Sounds like heaven to me. I like to have a social media detox whilst on the road 😀

  6. It isn’t that common that people state the facts that well, I must say when traveling anywhere in the world it is good to give the people a heads up of all the good and bad things to expect. But the fact that they keep finding new Islands and the connection being horrible is a good thing because then you can actually break free from everyday technology and explore more.

  7. I love it that it’s kind of disconnected from the grid! It reminded me when I was in an island in Thailand, there was wifi but hard to get and at some point you simply lived the island life and enjoyed the hassle with a different mindset. It’s refreshing to read your POV.

  8. Michelle Cantu Reply

    I’m an animal lover, I’d definitely be on cloud nine to walk the streets and meet so many animals. What an experience the Philippines is.

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      We are animals lovers as well and we have always said that we travel in spite of our love for animals, not because of it. We found that our heart breaks a little bit more every time we go away and see how horribly treated animals really are but it was so refreshing seeing dogs being happy and better treated in this country.

  9. A horrible internet connection sounds wonderful when you want your holiday to be a digital detox. Philippines sounds just wonderful.

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      It was a great place to visit! Once we gave in and stopped trying to connect to the internet, the lack of wifi turned into a true blessing and was one of the things we loved most about the trip!

  10. ChelseaMamma Reply

    It sounds like the perfect holiday to really get away from it all, but with no wifi, I probably wouldn’t go with teens

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      Yes, we thought this too… but then maybe it is the perfect spot to take them!

  11. I was in Cebu and Bohol Island many years ago but I remembered people there are friendly, love to sing and dance. And yes, most of them speak English so communication should not be a problem. Your post has inspired me to make another trip. I miss their food too.

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      The food is amazing! I am glad you had such a similar and positive experience when visiting here!

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      Agreed! There is so much to see and do in this big beautiful country!

  12. Such an interesting look at a country I have not visited yet. Looks beautiful but I would really struggle with getting around as I suffer from motion sickness on bumpy roads and boat travel makes me ill. Looks like a lot of Dramamine would be needed for me! Lack of wi-fi and blackouts are good to know in advance, I would need to consider an “unplugged” getaway and not stress about lack of connectivity for a little while.

    • Freedom Chasers Reply

      Yes, you would definitely need to bring along motion sickness medications when visiting the Philippines if you are prone to illness!

  13. Personally I have never been to the The Philippines, But some of your points surprised me for example 1. Quite Eco Friendly. I thought it would be very plastic heavy. You have painted The Philippines in a great light and I can’t wait to visit.

  14. Lyosha Varezhkina Reply

    very useful post! i would never have thought atms might be missing, I am used to the card, I hardly see cash lately at all

  15. I never get tired of reading about Philippines and find something new every time. This insightful post will be useful for many travelers planning a trip there.

  16. It is nice to know there are so many vegan and vegetarian places to visit in the Philippines. Sounds like such a neat place to visit overall.

  17. The Holidaymaker Reply

    I love the topic of this post, great tips for anyone traveling there.

  18. I believe I know quite a lot about places but I didn’t know any of these so I needed to thank you! Thanks for teaching me something new! 😀

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