A Solo Backpacker’s Guide to the Philippines

Among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is one of the best travel destinations for solo backpackers. Choices for sale solo traveling in the Philippines abound whether the big city or the outskirts. Each place boasts of its own exciting attractions.

Another great thing about the Philippines is the majority of the people speak English, albeit broken. It means obtaining the information you need quickly, so you can get around more easily.

Below is a casual guide when backpacking solo to the country.

Why travel solo

The safety of traveling to the Philippines is a major concern among travelers, especially the first-timers. It is already nerve-wracking to go by yourself—what more in a place like the Philippines.

Fret not because the Filipinos take pride in their own brand of hospitality, which is the best in the world. All you have to do is ask, and there will inevitably be someone willing to assist you.

Speaking of safety, destinations in the Luzon area are the safest. The Visayan region came in close. Not because of the presence of insurgent groups, but these areas have proper and more established physical infrastructure compared with that of Mindanao.

The bottom-line is the Philippines is safe to travel alone with low risks of danger if you know which high-risk destinations to avoid.

Solo versus guided travel

Before you fill up your Philippines travel itinerary, you need to decide whether to travel solo or join a guided tour. Solo travel offers flexibility that guided tours cannot. However, guided tours are safer and more secure compared with traveling alone.

Often, you will hear that the Philippines is the best for solo travelers. You won’t know this for a fact unless you experience it by yourself. The best part about this is that you need not consult others when making travel-related decisions. 

Also, you won’t be tied down with a schedule. You won’t be able to go where you really want to go or make side trips. You don’t have anyone else to split up the costs, so you need to shoulder everything by yourself.

These disadvantages are taken care of with a guided tour. The tours are often designed to include only the best travel destinations in the country. The costs are cheaper, so if you opt to join several trips while staying in the Philippines, you will save a significant amount of money.

What budget for a month

While at it, you will need a budget of at least $1,000 to experience the best of what the Philippines has to offer. 

You can make it cheaper, depending on your choices of accommodation and activities.

Where to stay

When traveling solo to the Philippines or with a company, you have several choices of accommodation.

Airbnb remains a popular choice for travelers. Anything goes with Airbnb rentals—entire house, room, condo unit, resort, etc. Also, rental rates are often cheaper compared with hotels.

Nevertheless, here are other options for where to stay in the Philippines.

Hotel

Staying in a hotel is still a popular choice. In the Philippines, hotel operations vary, and the price range will definitely depend on whether the hotel is low-end or upscale. 

Then again, you won’t run out of options, especially in established travel destinations such as Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Boracay.

Hostel

Hostels are perfect for solo travelers to the Philippines, especially women. Hundreds of hostel operators offer female-only rooms and dormitory-like settings. Most of the time, hostels feature common areas where you can meet and mingle with other travelers. 

This is also a popular choice for travelers on a budget. Palawan and Siargao have a fair share of hostels to choose from. Hotels in Palawan are fully booked since they are cheap. Call ahead to make a reservation.

Apartment

An apartment is like a dormitory whereby there is a suite of rooms that form one residence. With this, expect to see lots of other travelers in the place.

Some apartments are buildings converted into accommodation, while others are specifically designed to suit this purpose.

Transient house

Transient houses are common in northern Luzon, specifically in La Union, Pangasinan, and Baguio. From its name, a transient house is a home converted into a lodging facility. Transient houses can be rented for a relatively short period of time—from two days to two months or more. 

If you are planning to stay in the Philippines for an extended period of time, a transient house is a perfect choice. It offers the convenience of a home away from home minus the hefty price tag.

Couchsurfing 

Couchsurfing means sharing one’s home to the traveler, someone the house or condo owner knows personally or through travel groups. This makes traveling in any country a truly social experience. 

Everything can be improvised, especially the sleeping arrangement. Although, homes offered to couchsurfers often have guest rooms to accommodate them. The stay is, of course, only temporary.

Where to eat

Eating delicious and nutritious meals will not be a problem in the Philippines. The country is largely agricultural, so fresh produce is prioritized. Aquafarming is also a common livelihood; thus, seafood is abundant.

If you are wondering where to eat these meals, below are some of your options.

Restaurant

Restaurants are everywhere. Your concern here is the budget-friendliness of the resto. Definitely, upscale dining places charge higher, and you usually find them in high-end malls and hotels. Some are standalone restaurants whose reputation is built on the food they serve the people.

The majority of the restaurants are found in the city. The farther you are away from the city, the more affordable the menu offerings are. However, restos within or near the airport complex tend to command the highest prices.

Food park

The Filipinos are experimenting with food concepts. Case in point: food sparks.

New food parks seemed to mushroom in distinct areas in the city. Maginhawa Food Park remains to be one of the most prominent among food parks in the city.

Food parks offer artisan offerings and homemade meals—those that you don’t always find in restaurants. Some operators are micropreneurs who concentrate on food park operations. Occasionally, they sell their food products online or in bazaars. 

Carinderia

Anywhere you go, even in the most remote areas, you will surely find a carinderia. Carinderia is your friendly neighborhood eatery.

One good thing about carinderias is they serve local delicacies. The food is always fresh because they get their ingredients from the public market. 

If you want to live like the locals, your first stop should be the carinderia.

Hole-in-the-wall eateries 

Hole-in-the-wall dining places are unassuming and often unpretentious out-of-the-way places to eat. 

These are often themed restaurants. The diner either screams of what it is based on its facade, or you won’t think it is a dining place until you get inside.

What to do when backpacking solo

When in the Philippines, there would be no shortage of activities. Each destination has something unique to offer. But below are some of the must-try things to do in the Philippines.

Do a historical tour in Manila

intramuros manila

Manila is characterized by two things: vibrant cityscape and historical destinations. There are guided walking tours in Manila, specifically in the Intramuros and Binondo areas.

Trek the Kiltepan Peak in Sagada

Sagada is increasingly becoming a famous destination more so for women solo travelers. An adage: Where do broken hearts go? In Sagada! 

The place is really solemn, inspiring you to reflect on your dreams, passion, and, generally, your life. Sagada is also colder since it is situated in higher altitudes. Also, the place is nestled within the verdant Cordillera Mountain Range. 

Sagada is for mountain climbers. Trekking the Kiltepan Peak is a popular option, though one can just bask in the breathtaking views, including the Hanging Coffins, Echo Valley, and the Banaue rice terraces, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Sightsee in Baguio City

Baguio is the default summer destination in the Philippines. If you happen to go here from April to July, you might as well go to Baguio.

Baguio City today is more commercialized, but the laidback vibe still dominates. And it shows on the places to visit in Baguio—from Burnham Park to the strawberry farms of La Trinidad.

Take a dip in Boracay

Upon hearing the word Boracay, your mind will surely conjure one scenario: the white sand beach. Boracay is actually legendary for being a postcard-perfect island paradise.  

Aside from the powdery white sand beach and crystal clear blue water where you can swim, snorkel, dive and do all sorts of water activities, Boracay is also known for its pulsating nightlife. Be amazed at the beauty of the sunset and sunrise, slowly covering the waters of Boracay before and after partying.

Boracay takes only 45 minutes of plane ride from Manila to Caticlan Airport. 

Island hop in El Nido

Palawan is famous for its pristine beaches. El Nido is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the island province.

El Nido is famous for its white-sand beaches. However, there are also hidden sparkling lagoons and uninhabited islands that you can visit when you go there. 

The primary mode of transport going there is a boat ride, which can be costly if you are traveling alone. 

Dive in Barracuda Lake in Coron

Coron is a diving hotspot. Barracuda Lake is the first option; the second option is the skeleton wreckage that is popular among freedivers.

Not just the diving spots, though. Coron also features a variety of scenic views and landscapes. For instance, you will not see the Twin Lagoon without passing through—actually swimming—under the cliff.

Bike around Batanes

Batanes captivates any traveler effortlessly. The place is a visual masterpiece. It is best to explore the place, especially the capital town of Basco, and the culture of the locals. 

Batanes is made for sightseeing, so biking around Sabtang and Batang islands is the best way to do so.

Surf in Siargao

Siargao takes pride in its waves that are almost the same with that in Oahu, Hawaii—probably the best in the Philippines. No wonder it is called the surfing capital of the country.

While Siargao hosts surfing competitions, there are surf breaks for all levels. If it’s your first time, befriend the beginner waves at Jacking Horse. For seasoned surfers, Cloud 9 is the best place to be.

Recommended article: We’ve already prepared a Siargao itinerary if you want to do an island hopping tour. If island living is your thing, here is our list of the best surfing towns in Luzon.

Do a food trip in Cebu

Cebu is famous for its world-class lechon (roast belly) and dried mangoes. What you did not know is every place in Cebu has its own delicacy. For instance, Carcar, Cebu is popular for its chicharon.

There are also famous restaurants that the Manileños crave for.

Like traveling to any destination in Asia or anywhere else in the world, experiencing the promised allure of the Philippines is easy if you take plenty of street smarts, wits, common sense, and patience with you.

There is always something or someplace to enjoy in the Philippines. You’ll regret not doing it any sooner. You know what to do next.

You might find yourself camping during your backpacking trip. Check out this list of solo camping gear products from CampingGears.ph.

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