Finding budget friendly destinations (#randfriendlydestinations) is becoming increasingly difficult for we poor South Africans. Once you have done Thailand, you many be thinking: “what next?”. Well, why not try the Philippines?
The Philippines is pretty amazing. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is a government campaign to attract more tourists to their lovely shores. It’s hard to believe that a country consisting of more than 7000 islands with the most beautiful beaches, dramatic landscapes and friendly people would have any trouble attracting visitors. However, we need to be upfront about the reasons people may be slightly more hesitant to visit the Philippines.
Firstly, Manila transport– Manila has one of the worst airports in the world. I can attest to that having been there 6 times in two weeks. The airport is divided into four buildings that are not well connected. You can’t walk from one building to the next with bags and it is advised that you allow at least 3 hours for connecting flights. This often leaves one at the mercy of taxi/cab drivers who are downright notorious for being dishonest and overcharging (something which really drives me crazy).
Next up is the traffic in Manila; there are roadworks everywhere around the airport, so much so that driving 5km can take an hour. Don’t believe me? Read this article from October, 2015. Getting around the city is also pretty difficult but Grab and Uber are lifesavers.
Next, the transport woes continue. Some of the most amazing islands are the ones that are hardest to reach. Makes sense doesn’t it? For example, your choices for getting to El Nido is either a 6-7 hr bus ride from Porto Princesca on a terribly bumpy road (which many say is a drastic improvement from before) where I literally fell off my seat a few times. Option 2 is a direct flight to Manila which is close to R3000 for a 40 min flight. That is a lot of money to spend on a single flight, especially for backpackers. Low cost carriers such as Air Asia Zest are making travel easier and I suspect that in a few years this won’t be a problem anymore.
That brings up the next point, Philippines is just not as cheap as other countries in South East Asia. Not to say that it is expensive by European or American standards – but with the rather pathetic ZAR, it’s definitely more expensive than say, Thailand. Several nights in Boracay we ended up spending around R500 for 2 people on rather basic meals. In El Nido we spent R120- R150 on an average sized margherita pizza. These are resort towns so higher prices are to be expected. Accommodation in the smaller island towns are also not great value for money but you don’t really go to Philippines to stay indoors anyway.
My last point is that the Philippines is not an halaal friendly destination. Like South Korea and a few other places in the East, finding a restaurant that doesn’t serve pork is difficult. So pack your instant noodles for those days that you just cannot find food. There’s only so many Mister Donuts you can eat. However, Philippines has realized the value of the Muslim tourism market and is accelerating the development of the market.
Once you accept these hurdles and accept that the Philippines is in a state of rapid development and growth, you will realize that now is a great time to visit Philippines! It’s not easy which makes it less touristy right now. The more accessible it becomes, the less you will be able to enjoy the solitude of being the only person on your own little island.
So now I’ll get to all the reasons why you should visit the Philippines.
- The beaches! And boy there are a lot of magnificent beaches! Warm, blue water and powdery white sand.
2. Hidden beaches, breathtaking lagoons and underground rivers
3) Epic sunsets
4) Swimming with amazing sea life like the spectacular whale sharks
5) A volcano in a volcano? What’s going on here?
6) Stunning rice terraces
7) The Rand is stronger than the Peso- Yay.
1 Rand buys you approximately 3 pesos. Manila is pretty much on par with South African Pricing but some things such as clothes at the market can be much cheaper. For example- I bought 10 very fashionable tops for R400!
8) South Africans get a Philippine Visa on arrival
No pricey Visas or waiting around like if you are visiting Europe. The Philippines offers South Africans a free 21 day visa on arrival. Just make sure you have a return flight ticket to present and that your passport is valid for more than 6 months.
Watch our Expresso interview about the Philippines:
If that isn’t reason enough; I don’t know what is.
It certainly is more fun in the Philippines!