Sunday, January 13, 2013

100 Plus Tips to (Sole) Travelers in the Philippines

In my seven years of traveling alone around the Philippines, I have experienced so many things, faced different challenges, encountered various problems, met different people, learned a variety of cultures, and most importantly, traveled safely. 

This year 2013, I will try to finish all the provinces (8 remaining) in the Philippines. 

But before that, I would like to share some  helpful tips that I have practiced religiously in my travels. 

 There is no 100% guarantee that these tips will keep you safe and secured, but at least it can hopefully guide you in your own travel. Enjoy traveling in the Philippines! 

1. Travel light. Bring a backpack
One of the basic things about traveling is to travel light. You do not have to bring so many things or stuff. Bring only what you need and you can carry for several days.

2. Do not over-pack 
Know how many days you will be traveling. Again, you will be carrying the excess baggage at your back. And you do not want to end up having a sore back.

3. Do not eat too much
You are not on a vacation. If you are, then indulge. If not, and you  just want to wander around, then, watch your weight. Usually, at the end of my travel, I usually gain weight and I hate it.

4. Wear sandals
Rubber shoes are best worn in sport activities. But here in the Philippines where the terrain is composed of terrestrial and fluvial domains, it is a lot better to bring something that easily dries while walking. I prefer the brand - "Sandugo." It is tough and durable!


5. Bring your own flashlight
While I was in Mindanao last summer 2012, there were intermittent brown-outs and I ended up in a dark room for hours. 

And it pays to have it when you are doing your spelunking. You can place it at the corner pocket of your backpack.

6. Ask three times from different people for directions
The number one problem in traveling is getting lost. I usually ask from three different people for my destination. If the direction given by all the three is the same, then, I proceed to my destination. 

But if all three of them give me different directions, then, I usually look for a policeman or a barangay tanod for my direction. Getting lost is a waste of time!

7. Photograph the vehicle (specifically the part which shoes the plate number)
I rarely do this (you might offend the driver). But sometimes you just have to do this especially when you are leaving your stuff inside the taxi. There was this one experience in Baguio wherein I had to leave my stuff inside the taxi and I had to this.

8. Travel in the morning, check in late in the afternoon
The best time to roam and tour is in the morning. Best for capturing pictures and it usually rains in the afternoon. Check in time for the hotel also starts in the afternoon.

9. Always bring a jacket
It serves so many purpose. 

Your jacket is your best friend when it rains and when it is cold inside the bus or van. Feel her comfort.

10. Drop by the local tourist office
I learned this from my co-teacher in FEU. It is better if you meet the person in-charge and get acquainted. Get the contact number. Get the details. Interview the person. He is the best resource person in the vicinity.

11. Get the number of your guide
There are times you have to do it by yourself without the help of your guide. 

In South Cotabato and Bukidnon, when I did my zipline adventures, my guide was at the opposite end. And there are times, your guide cannot enter the premises of the resort or hotel and you have to inform him when to fetch you.

I had this experience in Calbiga, Samar where I left my nikon battery pack at the tourist spot and I asked (and paid) my guide to bring it to my hotel in Catbalogan, Samar. Good thing I was able to get the number of my guide that day.  

And after the tour, you can hire him again or refer him to another person.

12. Bring at least two cameras (one should be a waterproof camera)
When I first traveled in Palawan, I had only one camera (and it was not waterproof) and the camera fell in the water. And I ended up using my cellphone as my camera.

13. Bring an (three-folds) umbrella or a rain cover for your bag.
When you travel in the rural areas or mountains, finding shelter is one of the problems you can encounter. 

I was in Quirino when I experience this predicament. I walked several minutes in the rain. 

When I was also in Calbiga, Samar, I also experienced walking while it was heavily raining.

14. Put your money on separate pockets (and some in your bag)
This is one of the best things to practice. You'll never know what lies ahead of you. You might end up losing your money. 

15. Test your shorts
In spelunking and trekking, after my tour, almost all my shorts are usually torn and no longer usable.

Buy the best shorts for your tour.

16. Bring the exact number of shirts and shorts.
If you have three days for your tour, then, bring three shirts and shorts. Should the need arise for another shorts, I do the laundry at the hotel. 

But if you plan to have two weeks for your tour, bring at least five. Hotels usually have their laundry services. Again, travel light.

17. Bring a map
I have dozens of them per province. You can buy them from National Bookstore. Buy a map which shows the roads and the tourist spots.

18. Search the internet for tourist spots
I have 2 tourism books but I usually surf the net for tourist spots, directions and how to go there.

19. Bring a book
There are times you have to travel for 4- 8 hours of land travel. 

Reading a book helps you kill time.

20. Read travel blogs
I read travel blogs for directions and adventures. I follow Pinay Travel Junkie, Sole Sisters and Pinay Backpacker.

21. Pray for your health and safety
Everywhere I go in the Philippines, it is my humbling task to go to a church and pray for my health and safety. 

22. Always prefer lodging in the city/town 
It is a lot better, safer, and convenient. 

23. Be always prepared
Have you seen the movie - "The Impossible." If yes, no more need to explain.

24. Plan ahead. Make a tentative itinerary
Arrange where you want to go and ask your guide if he knows the destination. 

25. Know whether there are ATMs or credit card facilities in your destination
I was in El Nido when I learned this. There was only one place where you can use your credit card and the only atm in the vicinity and it was off-line.

26. Eat light, Drink light, No party
When you are in Boracay, it is the opposite. But as a general rule, it is quite difficult to travel with a terrible hangover.

27. Buy your souvenir at the last destination
You do not want to bring and carry your souvenirs in your next destination.

28. Do not talk to strangers
Choose the person to talk to. You can talk to the hotel staff or the police officers. But as a general rule, refrain from talking or divulging about your personal details.

29. Do not give your personal itinerary to others or post it in the internet prior to your tour. 
For security reasons, especially if you do not trust the person/guide. You can always post it after your tour. Do not give the specifics of your tour.

30. Be careful what you eat. 
Having allergies, diarrhea or food poisoning can ruin your tour. Worst you might be staying for a couple of days in the hospital and that is not part of the budget nor your itinerary.

31. Be careful what you drink. Drink instead mineral water or softdrinks
In Visayas and Mindoro, they have this voodoo stuff or "kulam." I am not superstitious but it pays to travel safe.

32. Mother nature is your friend. Preserve Her.
Learn to love, protect and conserve mother nature. Save her for future generations or for your future travel.

33. Bring your own litter
There is a thing called "garbage can/bin. If there is none, place your trash in your pocket or bag.

34. Bring a dry bag
When it rains, everything gets soaked. When you do water adventures such as snorkeling or white river rafting, it pays to have a dry bag.

35. Know your limitations or injuries
Honestly, I have done so many adventures. But I simply cannot do sky diving, bungee jumping, plunge and zorb ball. The reason, my broken shoulder. And I do not want to aggravate my injury.

36. Promote travel in the Philippines. Help our economy.
For the last seven years, I have traveled in the Philippines and have only one foreign travel - South Korea.

37. Bring your own medicines.
Bring at least the basic medicines for fever, diarrhea, headache, pain killer and allergies, if any.

38. Bring your own charger and octopus adapter
If you have various cell phones, bring all the charger.

39. Bring your own netbook or tablet
Never borrow from anyone. First, he might not lend you. Second, it is very humiliating.

40. Wear sunblock or shades or hat
Summer requires these three for your uv protection.

41. Two bags only.
Again, travel light. The second bag should be the camera bag only.

42. Bring a plastic for your dirty clothes
When you travel for days, you need to separate the clean ones from the dirty ones. It is what you call personal hygiene. Segregate them.

43. Buy a good bag
Northface is the best brand.

44. Be always alert and vigilant
Out there it's different, its rough out there.
Trust no one but yourself.

45. Be street smart
Reading these tips is different from reality. Being street smart is something not taught in school. It is something learned from your experience.

46. Shorts are better than pants
It is light, dries fast, comfortable and cool to wear.

47. Inform your relatives where you are
When I went to Maguindanao, Lanao Del Norte and Cotabato City, I told my parents where I was. This year I will be going to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Your relatives have the right to know your destination. 

48. Change your paper bills
Never bring P1,000 peso bills. Remote areas do not have change for your large bills. Bring your bills in hundreds and fifties.

49. Gadgets - tablet, netbook, usb charger, video camera
One word - "documentation."

50. No deadly weapons in your travel
Airports do not allow these things to be carried.

51. Know the local customs and practices
Respect their local customs and practices. You do no want to offend them.

 Know also what is the dominant religion. You do not want ending fighting them for a flimsy reason.

52. Do not take anything from the forests or beach as a souvenir
Nature is not a shopping mall wherein you are allowed to shop and carry what you want.

53. Do not buy souvenir items made from rare animals or plants
You have to do your part to protect the environment. If there are no buyers, there are no sellers.

54. Always register, especially when you are hiking
For your own safety, register. This is one of the basic rules in hiking and spelunking. If something happens to you, they know what to do and where to find you.

55. Always hire a guide 
You do not know the place and you do not want to be lost. Haggle for your guide's fee. Know the fee in advance.

56. Don’t throw attention to yourself by displaying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry.
Never tempt the devil inside a person.

57. Low profile
When I travel, I do not tell people that I am a lawyer or my income.

58. Nikon or Canon? 
Nikon is the best in terms of landscape.

59. Know your travel time
You must know how to budget your time travel especially if you have several destinations.

60. Be yourself and enjoy
It's your travel.


61. Sleep at least 6 hours
You need your strength.

62. Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure
Health is wealth when you travel.

63. Vitamin C
To have stamina and have strong immune system, you can drink Del Monte Pineapple Juice.

64. Know your allergies
This is one thing I am careful of, I have allergies in several foods.

65. Book your flight at least 6 months in advance. 
You will get the best and lowest deal.

66. If you can book your own flight, book it. 
You can save a lot and you can have the best choice. Be patient in doing it.

67. Book your flight early in the morning.
So that you have plenty of time to tour the whole day.

68. Airphil or Cebu Pac?
Lowest and best deals are offered by Airphil. 

69. Always bring 2 valid IDs and your credit card
Check in at the airport requires you to present these IDs. You have to bring the credit card that you used in booking your flight.

70. Know your flight details. Better to call if you are not sure.
Always read and be familiarized with your flight.

71. For Domestic travels, arrive at least 2 hours before the slated flight. In local airports, at least one hour.
You do not want to be late, worst be left out by your plane.

72. Know the things which are not allowed to bring in the airport. (big shampoo, large toothpaste, umbrella, perfume, lighter, can opener, flammable liquids and aerosols, pointed objects, Swiss knife etc)
    Airport officials will simply confiscate them.

73. There are limits to hand-carry items. Know the baggage limit (usually 15 kilos, hand carry is 7 kilos).
Know them. They are posted at the airports.

74. Do not lose your ticket and boarding pass.
They will not allow you to board the plane.

75. If you are carrying a baggage, make sure it is properly marked.
Otherwise, it will end up in the wrong hands.

76.Do not lose the tag of your baggage.
This is one problem you do not want to encounter at the airport.

77. Small amounts of everything
For your personal hygiene

78. Inquire from at least three hotels
in order to get the best price, then get the rates and contact numbers.

79. Hotel must have a wifi, hot shower, and cable television.
You need to pamper yourself.

80. Inside the hotel, hang your dirty clothes.
So that it will not smell

81. Things are not free in the hotel or resort 
Do not consume things inside the refrigerator. You will pay for it later.

82. Unwind at the hotel. Stroll around. Relax.
Chill =)

83. Bring an octopus adapter (P105.00 only in Handyman)
There are hotel rooms which have only one outlet for charging.

84. Ask the hotel about their check-out time
Some hotels offer 1 or 2 hours grace period after the check-out time before they charge you of the penalty. 

85. Watch the weather news at night.
This will help you decide what to do the following day.

86. Make sure you charge all your electronic device while you are inside the hotel.
You do not want to have a low bat phone.

87. Get the telephone number/contact number of the hotel and your companion, if any.
There are times you need to extend your stay while you are away from the hotel. Or you need to book the hotel anew.

88.  Don’t answer the door in the hotel without first verifying.
It is better to be safe than to be sorry.

89.  Close the door securely whenever you are in your room. Use all the locking devices provided.
I usually place the table or chair at the door so that it will make a noise if somebody surreptitiously enters the door at night.

90. Don’t needlessly display guest room keys in public or carelessly leave them on restaurant tables, or other places.
Somebody might grab and use it or you might misplace it and pay for it.

91.  Don’t invite strangers to your room. 
In the same manner, don't talk to strangers. 

92. Ask if there is a curfew in the hotel or in the place.
I was in Biliran, the hotel that I was staying has a curfew!

In some places, they also impose a curfew.

93. Check to see that sliding glass doors or windows and any connecting room doors are locked.
Be safe and secure.


94. Rehydrate. 
You can drink Gatorade when climbing, trekking or spelunking. You need to quench your thirst.

95. Expect the unexpected.
So that you will be prepared for everything.

96. Do not be a show-off when doing it
Otherwise, you might end up hurt or caught in an accident.

97. Van or Bus??
In Visayas, van is the usual mode of travel. But some van drivers drive recklessly especially in Samar.

Bus ride is more convenient and a lot safer (but in some parts of Mindanao, I prefer using the van).

In ARRM, van is better than bus.

98. Choice between a small or bigger vessel for your sea travel??
Bigger vessel for your own safety. 


99. Tricycle or habal-habal?
Habal-habal. Its cheaper, convenient, flexible, and faster.

100. Sit beside or near the driver.
to inquire about directions and for your destination

101. Do not leave valuables in your vehicle/van/bus.
You have to be always careful.

102. Assess the peace and order in the area.
especially when you are traveling in the remote areas in Mindanao. 

103. Bring a portable mobile energy bank or charger. 

I will think of other tips in traveling that I can share in the future.

Good luck and enjoy traveling in the Philippines!!! =)

CIAO! =)



Others –


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