Their tourism slogan says, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” and they’re serious about it. No matter where you are, you aren't ever more than two hours away from lush green areas, white sand beaches, lakes, rivers, tropical islands or mountains. For most solo travellers, Philippines is not as popular as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam. But this gudie might just prove that this could be a great destination for solo and group travellers.
There are three regions - Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao but the whole country is made up of groups of islands with the longest coastline in Asia at 36,289 kilometres. Some islands have become busy business hubs like the capital, Manila, and the cities of Angeles, Cebu and Davao.
Flight duration from UAE 9 hours 6 minutes
Non-stop flights offered by Emirates, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines
Other flights offered by Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and many others
Lowest flight cost to Manila, Philippines starts at Dh713
Time difference 4 hours ahead of UAE time
Best time to visit is between December and May
So why visit the Philippines? Here are 10 reasons to visit
Their contagious smile
People in other South East Asian countries are nice and friendly, but Filipinos are born with happy hormones. They would never hesitate to invite you over to enjoy lunch, merienda – local term for afternoon snacks, dinner and will even invite you to stay in their homes. Get ready for non-stop karaoke singing, parties and delicious food.
They speak English
90 per cent of the population can speak and understand English, so you can easily ask for directions no matter how remote the area you are visiting is. This makes your travel a lot easier and more comfortable.
The cheap flights
Flights to the Philippines are generally cheap. A number of airlines offer daily and affordable direct and indirect flights from the UAE. There's Air China, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Oman Air, Malaysian Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways.
This is where you can find one of the smallest primates in the world. The Tarsier sanctuary is in the island of Bohol. Tarsiers are one of the cutest mammals with big brown eyes and a gaze that will surely melt your heart.
The colourful festivals
A former Spanish colony, this is a country full of colourful fiestas that are held annually bringing your festival experience to a whole new level. Some of the biggest and most grandiose out of these are the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo or Sinulog in Cebu (both in January), Panagbenga in Baguio City (February), Moriones Festival in Marinduque (April) and MassKara Festival in Bacolod (weekend closest to October 19), among many others.
The most beautiful beaches
The beaches and crystal-clear waters are to die for. The Great Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga has pulverised red corals from the sea mixing with white sand creating a pink shore. Among the best beaches in the country are Boracay Island in Aklan, El Nido in Palawan, Camiguin Island, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Puerta Galera in Mindoro, Nasugbu and Lian in Batangas, Panglao in Bohol, and Palaui Island in Cagayan Valley.
Swim with whale sharks
Local fishermen have been trained in Donsol Bay to help you spot whale sharks. Hop on a small boat with your mask, snorkel and fins and be ready to swim along the gentle giants, locally called 'Butanding', which only eat 'uyap' or small shrimps.
Forget the taxis. This crampy yet open public transportation will let you bounce and bang sideways and it’s fun way to observe the Filipino way of life. The colourfully decorated ride has always been an integral part of their culture. Just knock on the roof and the driver will let you get off.
The perfect waves for surfing
The Philippines is home to some world-class surfing waves attracting thousands of local enthusiasts and international tourists. Top waves are in Siargao Island, Baler in Aurora, San Juan in La Union, and Lanuza Bay in Surigao del Sur.
The scuba diving experience
Philippines has some of the best diving sites in the world. Choose from scenic underwater worlds from the Tubbataha Reefs National Park and Bohol Island for wall dives and coral pictures; the Black Forest dive site off Panglao Island; Anilao Batangas, Puerto Galera for macro underwater photography; or Malapascua Island to see the Thresher Shark.