Any traveler in the Philippines needs a healthy amount of patience. It may take a couple of hours for the bus to leave the station or two days for your clothes to dry, but it’s best to just chill out and take it in stride. It’s a happier traveler who just surrenders to the pace of life in the Philippines and the eccentricities of these islands.
Meeting people is very easy, as almost everyone speaks English and is curious about other nationalities. Karaoke bars are good places to go, if you can tolerate large doses of bad music. Once you have one friend, you’ll have as many as you can count as they introduce you to everyone they know.
The Philippines has a very family-oriented culture and if you are brought into a home you will be treated as one of the family, with extra status as a foreigner. This is a beautiful experience and one of the highlights of travel in the Philippines. Every traveler here should take an opportunity to visit a Filipino family.
Be prepared to play 20 questions as young people are eager to learn about the outside world. Try not to blow their minds too much and if they ask you what religion you belong to it’s best to just say you’re Christian and leave it at that.
The main rule of the Philippines is to avoid the cities and go to the distant islands. Some of the islands are spotless, and you won’t see a soul for days or weeks if you choose. Ferries run regularly between the bigger islands but the times are never predictable. It’s best to be very flexible with your travel plans – or just not to have any.
A good strategy is to leave the airport in Manila, take a metered taxi to the ferry station, and get on the first boat leaving to anywhere else in the country. Anywhere’s better than Manila.
Crime in the cities is a real hazard and as life is cheap in the Philippines travelers should keep their wits about them. Remember that you’re seen as a walking dollar sign in tourist areas and the cities and the police couldn’t give a shit. So don’t make life easier for the bandits by getting drunk out of your skull and then stumbling back to your hostel down dark streets in the small hours.
Some parts of the country (especially Mindanao) are still under martial law, so be careful not to get kidnapped, and avoid traveling at night.
The Philippines are a pretty safe place to travel for females as Filipina women are often the breadwinners and so escape the usual South East Asia mysogny. Then again, the Catholics still view women as the tempters of Adam and women are deemed to be ‘loose’ if they dress too provocatively.