A Solo Traveller’s Guide to the Philippines

Dinagyang Festival
Dinagyang Festival | © travelmag.com / Flickr
Gelyka Dumaraos

A solo trip to the Philippines can definitely complete your Southeast Asia backpacking tour. Even when alone, you will never feel secluded with the hospitality and company of Filipinos who are willing to lend a hand and be a friend. But do you have second thoughts on giving the Philippines a shot? We’ve got you covered, from accommodation to practical tips, for your solo adventure.

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Where to stay

The first thing you should do is find a place where you can check in your baggage and stay for the night. Aside from high-rise hotels in the metro area, you can opt for cheaper accommodation in hostels or apartments and transient houses offered on Airbnb.

In Manila, there are cheap apartelles where you can stay as well, with some offering an overnight stay for as low as $16–25.

The good thing about these accommodations is that there are a lot near the airport, bus terminals going to the provinces, transportation areas, and entertainment and leisure hubs.

Better yet, you can opt for Couchsurfing and meet locals, or if you have Filipino friends who can adopt you for a night or two, it would be great to stay with them so that you can save some money. However, don’t forget to give them a token of appreciation!

Skyline in Manila

Where to eat

Manila has a lot of hole-in-the-wall eateries waiting for visitors to discover them. Food parks in Marikina City, Quezon City, Makati City, and areas in Manila are all crowded with hungry tummies, day in and day out.

If you are looking for posh restaurants serving everything from hearty, giant burgers and coffees to healthy pasta dishes, check out Poblacion in Makati or Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

When you want to go out of town, you can have a gastronomic adventure up north in Pampanga and taste their sizzling sisig or go all the way to Quezon Province and taste their different delicacies.

Eating in Manila

What to do

There are many things that the Philippines has to offer for every traveller. Up north, a solo explorer can enjoy trekking amidst rice terraces or take in the beauty of the sunrise from Kiltepan Peak in Sagada, Mountain Province. It is also fun to explore Baguio City alone and taste La Trinidad, Benguet’s strawberry. At night, spend time with the locals while enjoying a bottle of craft beer.

You can also go camping, snorkelling and island hopping by yourself. In Zambales, there are many coves perfect for camping even when you are alone. Pitch tents in designated areas and create a bonfire for the night.

Down south, you can check out the Bicol region first. See the famous Mayon Volcano and its perfect cone shape, or frolic by the beaches of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte. In the Visayas and Mindanao, there are also numerous things you can do if you’re travelling solo – surf in Siargao, island hop in El Nido, Palawan, trek limestones and discover caves in Coron, or see the world-renowned Chocolate Hills in Bohol.

Island hopping in Coron, Palawan

Getting around

In Manila, it is easy to get around. Most often than not, your hotel will help you secure a shuttle if you want to go to a mall or tour places within the city. When transportation is not provided, and you want a more convenient way of going from point A to point B, having a booking app for cars is a great alternative. But when you want a cheaper option, you can always take a ride in the jeepneys – the most common form of transportation in the Philippines. Jeepneys are old US military jeeps from World War II.

Better yet, if you want to explore every place and experience Manila like a local, go for a stroll. There are many walkable areas within the city, which can lead you to great hole-in-the-wall establishments and unique places that aren’t visible when riding in a vehicle.

Colourful jeepneys

Where to meet people

Travelling alone in the Philippines is not a new scene. Many locals also travel solo, and you’ll meet people along the way who are doing the same thing as well. Exploring the world on your own is often the best time to meet more people and make new friends.

Try checking into hostels instead of the luxurious five-star hotels, as they have a common area where you can meet more people and hang out. Hostels can also save you big bucks if you are on a budget.

One of the most popular hostels in the Philippines is The Circle Hostel, located in Zambales and in La Union, where no one is a stranger. It gives a sense of belonging even when you are travelling alone.

You can also check backpacking forums to see if they have meet-ups close to where you are staying. You can visit bars and clubs in Manila (and even in Boracay and Cebu) where you can meet friendly locals and fellow travellers too.

Filipino people

Practical tips

If you plan on doing an island tour for a day or two, it is best to get a guide. It can be the boatman, or you can hire someone. It’s even better if you coordinate with the local tourism offices as they will help you secure a trained professional. They can even help you search for boats or a place to stay.

If there is no tourism office nearby, locals will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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