When you research the Philippines online, you’re likely to see pictures that depict a tropical paradise of coconut trees, limestone cliffs, and blue lagoons. What you won’t see are the things that can make traveling across the Philippines stressful and even painful. The cost of living may be low, but the natural beauty of the Philippines comes at a high price.
In my home state of Louisiana there are a lot of mosquitoes. But it doesn’t compare to the amount of mosquitoes in the Philippines. Back home I don’t have to sleep in a mosquito net every night.
Flies are just as bad. Most restaurants have outdoor seating, and as soon as your meal arrives at your table, you’re trying to eat while swatting away flies.
Out of the 8 countries I’ve visited in Asia, the Philippines has the weakest wifi. El Nido was the worst. If I was lucky, I could get online for about 5 minutes a day.
The roads in the Philippines are underdeveloped and full of pot-holes, making overland travel slow and dangerous. Some roads are mostly, if not all, rocks. I was thrashed around in that little tin-can trike like a rag doll on those roads.
Traffic in Manila is horrible. I’ve been to New York City, and I’ve never heard so much noise. Cars are constantly honking. You can see the black car exhaust coming out of the tailpipes. There’s always construction on the sidewalks, so sometimes you have to walk on the road inches from passing cars. It really does feel like a concrete jungle.
I left Korea without sunscreen because it’s not widely available, and if you do find it, it will be very small and very expensive. I assumed sunscreen would be cheap and sold most places in the Philippines, but I was wrong. Like Korea, it’s expensive and in short supply. I had to borrow sunscreen from fellow travelers, and I still got sunburned.
Shopping, in general, in the Philippines is a challenge. The names of stores are literally just a person’s name followed by the word store. For example: “Kate Store.” Not “Kate’s Store” by the way. Just “Kate Store.” Nothing about the names indicate what they sell. At one point I lost my nail-clippers. I went to dozens of stores, and never found one that sells nail-clippers. So I had to borrow them from fellow travelers.
The city of Coron has left me with permanent scars. The scar on my right knee is from swimming in Twin Lagoon. While treading water, I tried to see if my feet could touch the ground, and a clam pinched my toes. Startled, I tried to get higher footing and accidentally kneed some jagged rocks. I didn’t realize how severe my injury was until I got back in the boat and saw the blood running down my leg.
The scars on both my feet are from coral. When snorkeling , the bed of coral beneath you changes elevation. At one point I would look down through the crystal clear water at the colorful coral reefs far below my feet. Then I’d swim out farther, go vertical to get my camera phone ready, and my feet would bang into the surprisingly sharp coral.
This was in January. It is now April, and all those wounds from the rocks and coral are now scars.
The point of this article is not to discourage people from visiting the Philippines. Just learn from my experiences, be prepared, and you’ll have a great time.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley