The Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, is an incredible destination for a road trip, offering a diverse array of landscapes, cultures, and experiences that cater to every traveler's taste. With its pristine beaches, lush mountains, vibrant cities, and charming countryside, a road trip through the Philippines promises a delightful journey of discovery and adventure.
One of the most compelling reasons to embark on a road trip in the Philippines is the country's stunning natural beauty. From the world-famous beaches of Boracay and Palawan to the lush, terraced rice fields of Banaue, the Philippines is a feast for the eyes. The diverse landscapes provide endless opportunities for adventure, whether you're eager to explore hidden coves and secret lagoons, hike to the summit of an active volcano, or simply relax on a sun-soaked beach.
Another major draw of a road trip in the Philippines is the rich cultural heritage that awaits exploration. The country's history has been shaped by a unique blend of indigenous, Spanish, American, and Asian influences, creating a fascinating tapestry of traditions, architecture, and cuisine. As you travel from one region to another, you'll encounter a wealth of cultural experiences, from historic Spanish-era churches and ancestral homes to colorful festivals that celebrate local customs and beliefs.
The Philippines is also known for its warm and hospitable people, who are always eager to share their culture and make visitors feel welcome. As you navigate the country's roads, you'll have countless opportunities to interact with locals, learn about their way of life, and form lasting connections. This genuine warmth and friendliness make the Philippines a truly special place to explore by road.
Food lovers will be in for a treat as they sample the diverse and flavorful Filipino cuisine. From the iconic adobo and sinigang to regional specialties and street food, the Philippines offers a culinary journey that will satisfy even the most discerning palate. Local markets and roadside eateries provide ample opportunities to taste authentic Filipino dishes while getting to know the people who create them.
Furthermore, the Philippines' extensive road network makes it relatively easy to explore the country by car or motorbike. With well-maintained highways and a growing number of scenic byways, you can travel from bustling cities to the remote countryside in a matter of hours. This accessibility allows you to experience the full breadth of the country's natural beauty, history, and culture.
In conclusion, the Philippines is an exceptional destination for a road trip, offering a diverse and captivating blend of natural wonders, cultural richness, and genuine warmth. With its stunning landscapes, fascinating history, and friendly people, a road trip through the Philippines is sure to be an unforgettable adventure that leaves you longing for more.
Travellers who come to the Philippines most often start from Manila, the capital, and its surrounding region. If you’re into metropolis-esque landscapes, you’ll fall in love with Manila. Frenetic nightclubs, thousands of food stalls, and urban flair – that’s what you get for staying in the capital. Among its best highlights, you’ll find Fort Santiago, the National Museum of the Filipino People, and Rizal Park.
At a stone’s throw away from the capital, there’s a literal plethora of tourist attractions and fun outdoor activities to pursue. Check out the scenic Lake Taal where you’ll have an opportunity to visit a dormant volcano. In Anilao, you’ll find top-notch scuba diving centres that will allow you to immerse yourself in the underwater experience.
For more natural wonders, you should definitely direct your steps to the Pagsanjan Falls, a paradise for the lovers of canoeing. While in the region, don’t forget about such jewels as Malolos, with historical architecture, charming Mount Samat, or the Subic Bay.
The Zambales Coast offers a beautiful insight into the flora of the Philippines. Travel to Vigan and admire its colonial edifices, visit Palanan to depart for the Northern Sierra Madre Natura Park, and drive to Bontoc and Banaue to see the breathtaking rice terraces. If you would like to see mummies that have been buried for centuries in the nearby caves, you should definitely head for the small village of Kabayan.
The southern part of the country is an equally rich treasure trove of attractions, with places such as Sorsogon City offering perfect paradise beaches, Masbate known as the wild east, and Catanduanes which has a bad reputation for being swept by strong typhoons.
Suggested Road Trips in the Philippines
Luzon Loop: The Luzon Loop is a fantastic road trip for first-time visitors to the Philippines, as it covers some of the most popular destinations in the country. Starting in Manila, the nation's bustling capital, drive north to explore the historic cities of Vigan and Laoag, both known for their well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Continue to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Banaue, home to the breathtaking Banaue Rice Terraces, often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." From Banaue, head to Baguio, a popular mountain retreat with cooler temperatures and lush scenery. Finally, make your way back to Manila, with a stop at the stunning Taal Volcano and Lake in Tagaytay.
Cebu and Bohol Adventure: For those who prefer island-hopping adventures, this road trip takes you through the beautiful islands of Cebu and Bohol in the Visayas region. Start in Cebu City, where you can explore historical sites such as Magellan's Cross and Fort San Pedro. Drive south to visit the stunning Kawasan Falls and swim with whale sharks in Oslob. From Cebu, take a ferry to the neighboring island of Bohol, famous for its Chocolate Hills and the adorable tarsier, one of the world's smallest primates. Don't miss the chance to relax on the pristine beaches of Panglao Island before heading back to Cebu.
Palawan Paradise: Known as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Palawan offers a road trip filled with stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush jungles. Begin your journey in Puerto Princesa, where you can explore the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring an impressive underground river. Drive north to the coastal town of El Nido, famous for its limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, and vibrant marine life. Enjoy island-hopping tours, snorkeling, and diving in the stunning Bacuit Archipelago. Finally, continue to Coron in the northern part of Palawan, where you can explore more pristine beaches, visit the enchanting Kayangan Lake, and discover World War II shipwrecks beneath the turquoise waters.
These three road trips showcase the diverse landscapes, culture, and natural beauty of the Philippines, making them ideal for first-time visitors eager to experience the best this remarkable country has to offer.
Due to the fact that the Philippines is an archipelago, the islets are linked with one another with an intricate network of ferry routes. Most ferry tickets are very affordable and the trips are pleasant providing you with stunning views of beautiful lagoons.
The Philippines also offers a network of buses. Bus stops literally riddle the cities and smaller villages so there are plenty of smaller destinations that you’ll easily reach by bus. There are also minivans which are considered a lot quicker in comparison to regular buses. Remember to always mind your luggage, especially when the bus gets a little bit overcrowded.
The only functioning railway in the country runs from Manila to Naga so it doesn’t offer many sightseeing opportunities. The views behind the window are really scenic though.
Thus, holidaymakers who enjoy staying totally independent of the public transportation should definitely consider renting a vehicle. There is a wide choice of car rental companies in the capital and at the international airport. They offer an interesting selection of vehicles that will live up to the expectations of the most demanding motorists.
Contrary to what you might expect, the Philippines follows right-hand traffic. That’s some great news for those who were a little apprehensive about travelling around a foreign country in a vehicle. Unfortunately, native motorists are rather unpredictable so you need to stay cautious at all times nevertheless. In some of the areas, you’ll come across unpaved road sections which might be slightly less safe; however, there’s always a possibility to rent a 4x4 vehicle that will make your travelling experience more pleasant.
In order to drive a vehicle in the Philippines, the motorists are required to be 17; however renting a car is possible when you are 21. Some car rental companies will even require you to be 23 to rent a vehicle. While travelling around the Philippines, it’s important to carry your driver’s licence, registration documents, insurance documents, and your passport.
There exist a number of things which are forbidden when travelling around the Philippines. Even though the restrictions concerning seatbelts vary across the islands, it’s best to stay on the safe side and make sure that all your passengers have fastened seatbelts.
When it comes to blood alcohol level, the allowed amount is 0.05% in the Philippines. You can only use hands-free sets for talking on the phone while driving; otherwise, you may face high fines. It is also forbidden to overtake near a junction. Parking on the pavement is a major traffic offence as well.
In the Philippines, you are required to keep to the following speed limits: 100 km/h on highways, 50 km/h outside built-up areas, and 30 km/h in built-up areas. Interestingly, you can use speed camera warning devices and you won’t be charged any additional fines if a police officer spots such a device in your vehicle.
In the Philippines, you won’t find any fixed speed cameras; however, there are plenty of police patrols equipped with speed guns. All expressways in the Philippines are toll roads; however, they are still rather affordable. They offer impeccable road state that will soothe your heart after so many kilometres on bumpy roads and unpaved sections.
When taking a road trip in the Philippines, it's essential to be aware of several factors to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some key aspects to consider:
Driving conditions: Traffic in the Philippines, especially in urban areas, can be congested, and driving habits may differ from what you're used to. Be prepared for heavy traffic, unpredictable driving behavior, and occasional disregard for traffic rules. Drive defensively and stay alert at all times.
Road quality: While major highways are generally well-maintained, you may encounter varying road conditions, particularly in rural areas. Roads may be narrow, poorly lit, or affected by weather conditions such as heavy rain or landslides. Plan your route carefully and be cautious when driving on unfamiliar roads.
Weather: The Philippines experiences a tropical climate with a dry season (November to April) and a wet season (May to October). Heavy rain and typhoons can cause flooding and landslides, which may impact your road trip plans. Stay updated on the local weather forecast and be prepared to adjust your itinerary if necessary.
Navigation: While GPS navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze are helpful, they may not always be accurate or reliable, especially in remote areas. It's a good idea to have a paper map or road atlas as a backup and to ask locals for directions when needed.
Vehicle maintenance and rental: Ensure that your rental vehicle is well-maintained and has all the necessary documentation, including registration, insurance, and a spare tire. Familiarize yourself with the vehicle's features and fuel requirements before setting off on your road trip.
Safety and security: While the Philippines is generally safe for travelers, it's essential to stay vigilant, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. Keep your belongings secure, and don't leave valuable items in your vehicle. Be cautious when driving at night, as visibility may be limited and pedestrians or animals might be on the road.
Local laws and customs: Respect local laws, customs, and traditions. For instance, foreign driver's licenses are valid for up to 90 days, after which an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a local license is required. Additionally, remember that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, and conservative behavior and attire may be expected in certain situations.
By being aware of these factors and taking necessary precautions, you'll be better prepared to enjoy a safe and memorable road trip in the Philippines.
The best time of the year for taking a road trip in the Philippines is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to April. During these months, you can expect more stable weather conditions, with less rain and lower humidity, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
The dry season can be further divided into two periods:
Cooler months (November to February): These months are characterized by cooler temperatures, particularly in the early mornings and evenings. This is an excellent time to visit if you prefer milder weather, as well as for exploring higher elevation areas like Baguio and Sagada.
Hotter months (March to April): This period is warmer and can be quite hot, especially in lowland areas. However, it's a great time for beach lovers and those looking to enjoy water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
While the dry season is the most popular time for road trips in the Philippines, it's essential to note that this period also coincides with peak tourist season. You may encounter larger crowds at popular attractions and higher prices for accommodations and services. To avoid the busiest times, consider traveling during the shoulder months of November and February.
Keep in mind that the Philippines is a tropical country, and even during the dry season, you may still experience occasional rain showers. Additionally, regional variations in climate mean that some areas may be affected by rain more than others. Always check local weather forecasts and be prepared for possible changes in weather conditions during your trip.
The cost of a road trip in the Philippines can vary significantly depending on factors such as your travel style, accommodations, dining preferences, and activities. However, the Philippines is generally an affordable destination, and it's possible to have an enjoyable road trip experience on a modest budget.
For a mid-range traveler, you can expect to spend around $50 to $100 per person per day, which would include comfortable accommodations, meals at local restaurants, entrance fees for attractions, and other miscellaneous expenses. For a week, this would amount to roughly $350 to $700 per person, and for a month, it would be approximately $1,500 to $3,000 per person.
Car rental costs can also vary depending on factors such as the type of vehicle, rental duration, and additional services like insurance or GPS. A standard economy car may cost around $30 to $50 per day, while a larger SUV or van could be $60 to $100 or more per day. Keep in mind that these prices may fluctuate depending on the season and availability, and it's usually more cost-effective to rent a car for longer periods.
It's worth noting that if you're on a tight budget, you can still have an enjoyable road trip in the Philippines by choosing budget accommodations, eating at local eateries, and focusing on low-cost or free activities. On the other hand, if you prefer luxury travel, there are plenty of upscale options available, including high-end resorts, fine dining, and exclusive experiences, but these will come at a higher cost.
When planning your road trip in the Philippines, take the time to research your preferred destinations, accommodations, and activities to create an itinerary that suits your budget and preferences.
There are several guidebooks and road maps available that can help you plan an unforgettable road trip in the Philippines. Some popular and reliable options include:
Lonely Planet Philippines: A comprehensive guidebook by one of the most well-known travel guide publishers, Lonely Planet offers in-depth information on various destinations, attractions, accommodations, and dining options across the Philippines. The guidebook also provides valuable tips on local customs, transportation, and safety.
Rough Guides: The Rough Guide to the Philippines: This guidebook offers a wealth of information on Philippine destinations, along with insightful cultural and historical context. It provides practical advice on transportation, accommodations, and activities to help you make the most of your road trip.
Insight Guides Philippines: Another excellent option for planning your trip, Insight Guides provides detailed information on the country's history, culture, and top attractions. It also features beautiful photography and insightful features on various aspects of Filipino life.
Moon Philippines: A well-researched and practical guide, Moon Philippines covers not only popular destinations but also lesser-known attractions and off-the-beaten-path experiences. The guidebook is packed with useful tips and recommendations, making it a great companion for your road trip.
In addition to guidebooks, consider getting a road map or atlas to help you navigate the country's roads:
Philippines Road Atlas: This detailed road atlas provides comprehensive maps for various regions and islands in the Philippines, making it an invaluable resource for planning your route and navigating the country.
Nelles Map Philippines: A foldable, waterproof map that covers the entire country, this map is perfect for road trips as it is easy to use and durable.
Hema Philippines Adventure Map: This adventure map is specifically designed for travelers seeking outdoor activities and off-the-beaten-path experiences. It includes topographic details, points of interest, and practical travel information.
By combining the information from guidebooks, road maps, and digital navigation tools, you'll be well-prepared to embark on an exciting and unforgettable road trip in the Philippines.