6 Tips for Travelling in the Philippines
I spent three nights and four days travelling in the Philippines. Before I went there on a short break, I knew nothing about the country. These six key points are things I wish I’d known before I went, and stem from my experience traveling as a single, unaccompanied, Black woman in Manila and Nasugbu.
1. The Philippines is not very disability-friendly
At least, not the kind of traveling I did. For the two days I spent in Manila, I used GrabTaxi. In the city, you can always use taxis as a viable mode of transportation. Getting on the bus to Batangas, however, is not ideal. In Manila, there are no subways and no automatic response systems telling you which stops are coming next. When leaving Manila, there are no easy modes of transportation once you are out of the city. In Nasugbu, the only vehicles you can use are tricycle-taxis that will take you anywhere you need to go.
Out of all the places you could go in the world, you have come to see where they live! Filipinos appreciate your visit and are so happy to share their country with you.
2. Filipinos bargain hard
Filipinos are kind and genuine, but they are also hustlers! They have to be, living the lifestyle that they do. This does not make them bad people, but it does make them hard workers. With that said, know that a taxi ride should not be more than 200-250 Philippines pesos (Php), and insist on these prices. You can bargain down almost anything! If they want the money, they’ll work with you. If you are in one of the beach towns like Nasugbu, tricycle-taxis are 20Php ONLY. They may tell you that the price of a tricycle taxi is 150Php, but this is only because once they make a 150Php quota, they are free to pocket any other money they receive for the day. Feel free to tip them! Just… don’t let them jip you.
3. The Philippines is queer central
It is not shameful, hidden, or taboo to be a queer individual there. There are clubs dedicated to LadyBoys (also known in the U.S. as Trans* women) and they are found all around the city/country – beautiful and vibrant, partying it up with the rest of us girls. I have been told, however, that the idea of queerness–when it comes to gay, cis-gendered men–is a bit different, because to some Filipinos, gay or queer means Trans*, and a cis-gendered gay man as a concept and an identity is not widely understood. As a pan-sexual queer woman of color, however, I must say… it was heavenly.
4. Filipinos are very friendly, but will ask you a lot of questions
They are probably the friendliest people you will ever meet, especially if you have been confined to the Americas. Just know that people will ask you questions about where you are from, what flight you have, when you are leaving, and what terminal you are going to! Some of the information they ask for may strike you as a bit weird, but they just genuinely want to know. It surprised me how quickly I was asked for my Facebook details. People will like you because to them, you are interesting and cool. Out of all the places you could go in the world, you have come to see where they live! They appreciate your visit and are so happy to share their country with you.
If you come to the Philippines without knowing anything, as I did, the best way to learn more is to ask the taxi drivers – they seem to know everything!
5. Expect to be catcalled
If you are a single woman walking alone, people will be friendly and speak with you, but men will also be very interested. If you are used to catcalling then you know how to handle it; if not, it may be a little uncomfortable for you, but you don’t have to worry too much. It is pretty harmless in the Philippines.
6. Learn something about the Philippines before you go so you can talk to the locals
The Philippines is a country with a very interesting culture, language (Tagalog), and way of life. There is a ton of Latin influence, as they were colonized by Spain. There is also a lot of North American influence, because the United States also colonized the Philippines. There is hip hop music everywhere you go (thank the lawd), and virtually everyone in the country speaks English. If you come into the country without knowing anything, as I did, the best way to learn more is to ask the taxi drivers – they seem to know everything!
No matter what your preconceived notions are, go to the Philippines with an open mind and an open heart. It’s a beautiful country I came to love in my short trip.