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Philippines

by J. Brent Esarza, 20 Feb 2005

Sleeping accommodations in the Philippines are not like in Thailand wherein you can just rent a room for the night. I'd advise to find the cheapest hotels possible (or if you hit the beach, cottages on the shoreline are advisable to save expenses, mostly cheap but come summer season - March to June - prices for places like these can get fairly high). Also, currency is not a problem, as your dollar or Brit pound can go a long LONG way.

The average conversions (depending on the business market) are like so:
  • 1 US Dollar - PhP (Philippine Peso): PhP 50 - 55 pesos
  • 1 Brit Pound - PhP: PhP 100+ or so

So for like, a thousand bucks, that's equivalent to about 50,000+ pesos (or 100,000+ if you use Brit pounds) which can cover everything you basically need for two to three weeks (depending on your spending, of course): food, transport, and lodgings.

Language barriers are not a problem. Many Filipinos can speak English these days (due to heavy westernization in the Spanish and American rule) though it might help if you learn the two main dialects of the country, namely: Tagalog and Visaya. It can be pretty difficult at first to learn. But if you're a seasoned backpacker, you'll get the hang of it. I'd suggest buying a phrasebook, though it's very rare to find one about the Philippines so good luck finding one!

Local transportation (that is, the obscure towns near the good sites and not the big cosmopolitan cities like Manila and Cebu) is amazingly cheap. For prices that range from 5 to 20 pesos, you can travel by tricycle (the Philippine version of Sri Lanka's 'tuk-tuk'), jeepney, or any local transport modes. Buses and taxis have relatively higher prices depending on their routes. Travelling from any of the major islands would mean taking the local sea ferries (which could last for a few hours or even days, depending on where you're going) which can cost a bit for foreign tourists but it can be an enjoyable experience. One trusted name for sea ferries is the SuperFerry line, try it! Domestic flights are faster but it might take the most of your expenses. Whichever way you want to get around, it's your trip.

As for food, no two dishes are the same. Anywhere you go, there will always be a different culinary delight to please your palate. Seriously, the most wicked (but surprisingly delicious) thing I ever tasted was their renowned "balut" or duck egg with a nearly formed embryo of a duckling inside. Locals usually laugh when tourists try it and then hurl at the sight of what they're about to eat. Believe me, it's a culinary experience you wouldn't want to pass up, no matter how icky it looks! It's mostly sold on the streets where available, along with other local delicacies (all of which are within your prescribed budget). Apart from that, the rest of the Philippine cuisine is deliciously whacked!

Common sense will also tell you that any streetwise backpacker will never show BLING. Dress down, chances are you'll fit in quite nicely. Also, it's always a big help if you smile most of the time. Filipinos are really true to form: hospitable and friendly. And then there are the rip-off artists and travel scams. Be cautious at the same time. Local customs such as a simple smile and thank you will help a lot.

Finally, the best thing to do when you come here would be to drink it all in. The sights are amazing and everything is just great.

Bits 'n pieces


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