Hindsight is 20/20.
When you travel, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything. No matter how many TripAdvisor reviews you read, sometimes you just gotta learn from experience (especially since 90% of the info out there seems to be outdated).
That was certainly the case during our one-month backpacking/digital nomad-ing trip through the Philippines.
So, do yourself a favor and learn from our mistakes.
If you’re looking for travel tips for Philippines, here are 10 big No-No’s to avoid:
#1.) Forgetting to check the weather
WARNING: There are TYPHOONS in the Philippines. Let me tell you from experience… It is NOT wise to schedule your boat trips on a typhoon day, especially if you have a flight scheduled after said boat trip (that was a $500 mistake I’ll never make again).
I recommend checking the weather every morning to help plan your trip. Don’t be like me—the last person on the island to find out we were about to get smacked with a typhoon. I literally only found out because I was eavesdropping on another traveler’s conversation.
(Here’s what it looked like, by the way)
#2.) Overpaying tricycle drivers
There’s no way around it…
Tricycle drivers are gonna take you for all they can get. In 99% of our tricycle rides, their asking price was 5-7x than what a local pays. Now, I don’t mind paying more than a local, but let’s be reasonable here. I’m happy to pay two or maybe even three times the local rate.
But FIVE TIMES?? Nuh-uh.
The kicker is, they even have the official prices are posted right in the tricycle with big letters that say, “OVERCHARGING IS ILLEGAL, VIOLATORS WILL BE FINED.”
#3.) Wasting my life fighting over pennies
On the other hand, if every driver is refusing to take you and you spend more than 5 minute searching for someone, maybe it’s better to just suck it up and pay.
It’s annoying to get mocked and ignored for trying to negotiate a price that’s not outrageous. But in the end, you have to decide which is more important—getting treated fairly, or your precious time.
Sure, it hurts knowing you paid 5x more than you should have. But we’re talking about a dollar or two extra here. If ponying up means I get an extra half-hour at the beach, then by all means, take my dollar.
#4.) Forgetting to budget
Philippines is known for being a cheap country to travel to. But if you’re not careful, things can spiral out of control (especially in touristy spots).
We spent most of our time on Palawan Island and were surprised how hard it was to stay within our Philippines budget. Sometimes cheap Filipino food can be hard to find, and the cost of those island hopping tours adds up quick!
Before heading to the Philippines, make sure to download our budget breakdown below for a better idea of what you’re getting into (plus some extra savings tips).
#5.) Forgetting sunscreen
In the Philippines, there is sun….A LOT of sun (even during rainy season).
I highly recommend bringing a big bottle from home, because sunscreen is pricey in the Philippines. And unless you wanna be “that person” with a flaming lobster sunburn, you’re gonna have to lather it on thick.
#6.) Not planning ahead
I usually like to go with the flow and schedule my accommodation, transport, and tours at the last second. But in the Philippines (especially high season on Palawan), this isn’t a good idea.
I can’t tell you how many people I met who said they couldn’t stay at top hostels because they were booked solid (mostly Frendz Hostel in El Nido, Mad Monkey in Nacpan Beach, and Happy Camper in Coron—the most popular hostels in each area). We also had some trouble reserving our El Nido tours the night before.
Speaking of planning, this detailed Palawan itinerary will save you a buttload of time. It gives day-to-day breakdowns for any length trip (from 3 days to 3 weeks), including all the highlights you must see (and which ones to skip).
#7.) Planning too far ahead
That said, planning TOO FAR in advance is also a No-No. This is what we did. We were worried we wouldn’t have internet connection during the trip (this turned out to be outdated info), so we booked our accommodation two weeks in advance.
On one hand, it was nice being able to stay in all the most popular places (unlike the people mentioned above). But we also lost flexibility. Turns out, we underestimated all the cool things to do in Sabang and Port Barton. If it weren’t for all our reservations, we definitely would’ve stayed longer.
BTW, if you’re currently planning your trip, make sure to check out this epic Philippine’s bucket list so you don’t miss any highlights!
I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I saw one other person during our Philippines trip who had more stuff than us.
Now, to be fair, we are on an open ended trip (and have all our digital nomad gear) while many others were just there for a week or two, but I still felt kinda ridiculous lugging everything around.
Turns out, you really don’t need much at all. One of my best Philippines travel tips is to pack LESS than what you think you need.
Check out our ultimate Philippine’s packing list for a full rundown on exactly what you need (and what you should leave at home).
You’d be surprised how many times you can reuse clothes when you don’t have time to do laundry. And if you need more, you can always buy it during your trip.
Traveling light also saves you money if you plan on flying to different islands. Paying extra for a checked bag on every flight can add up!
#9.) Being scared to try local restaurants
Philippines is supposed to be a very affordable country, but if you’re always eating in touristy restaurants, you’ll probably pay just as much (or more) than you would at home.
So instead of breaking the bank, follow this money-saving tip:
Always pay attention to where locals are eating.
It might not be the fanciest place in the world, but if people are eating there, you probably won’t get sick. If you’re lucky, it’ll even taste good!
We stayed in El Nido for 5 days and would’ve paid a fortune eating out at touristy restaurants for every meal. Fortunately, we found a nice local place right next to Frendz hostel that cost a fraction as everywhere else.
Some of it looked gross, but the Pork Sisig and Chicken Adobe was always pretty ok (just avoid the fat chunks).
(Bonus tip: Coconut (“Buko”) shakes and friend bananas on a stick are the bomb dot com 💣)
#10.) Expecting to be on time
Last but not least, be flexible with your time. Expect everything to run late, and don’t schedule activities too close together. Doing so is a recipe for stress.
If something is scheduled for 8AM, it’s safe to expect that thing to start any time between 7:45 and 9:00. (That’s right, our hostel mates almost missed their tour because their ride showed up too early).
Travel Tips for Philippines Checklist
Alrighty, let’s do a quick recap of all the Philippines travel tips and advice we’ve learned. Here’s what NOT to do on your trip:
#1.) Forgetting to check the weather (typhoons are a real thing here!)
#2.) Getting scammed by tricycle drivers
#3.) Fighting over pennies
#4.) Blowing your budget
#5.) Forgetting sunscreen and getting roasted
#6.) Not planning ahead properly
#7.) Planning TOO FAR ahead
#9.) Being a wuss about trying local restaurants
#10.) Expecting to be on time
Basically, to avoid these common mistakes, all you need to remember is…
Go with the flow, be prepared but stay flexible, and for the love of avocados….
CHECK THE BLEEPING WEATHER FORECAST!
There you have it friends! Enjoy your trip, leave a comment with any questions, and don’t forget to save the pin below! 😎
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– 11 Amazingly Cheap Places To Visit in Philippines for Couples
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).