A Destination of Smiles – The Philippines
It is definitely more fun in the Philippines. And even more fun travelling this country of a million smiles with the kids and our family. From volcanoes and white sandy beaches, to wild but friendly water giants, to towering shopping malls, the Philippines is a country that will seduce you into coming back over and over again. Except maybe to Manila but more about that later.
Having been to the Philippines numerous times in the past, this was our first time travelling there with the kids and also our first time venturing out from our relatives’ homes in Manila and the provinces to the magnificent islands and waters that have captured the hearts of travelers from around the world. With an initial feeling of uncertainty and worry about how the kids would handle the heat and difference in environment, and how us adults would handle the kids, I’m happy to say it was bloody amazing and we are already planning our next visit back to this tropical paradise! So read on if you too are thinking about going on a tropical adventure to this country of over 7,100 colorful islands.
We visited the following areas on our three week escapade for my dad’s 60th birthday adventure:
What an amazing 60th birthday bash my dad had! – Island hopping, relaxing by the pool, touristy sightseeing, delicious meals, and most of all spending time with relatives. We were a traveling party of 12 – 8 adults, 2 kids and 2 infants and, extra family and friends joined us at some of the destinations so we almost always hired a van to get around.
Getting around the Philippines
Hiring a van with a driver was so convenient for us because we didn’t have to worry about anything for the whole day! We hired a van for the full day when we went to Cebu and Bohol.
In Manila we used Grab and taxis and our cousins kindly drove us around. I downloaded the Grab app as instructed by my cousins and found it super convenient and safe to use.
In Bulacan we caught a lot of tricycles and were also driven around by family. We didn’t get to ride on a jeepney during this trip but hopefully we’ll get to hang off one next time!
– 3500 – 3800php – daily driver and van
– Tricycle fares are per person and I’m not sure how they price it but we paid around 20php for a trip of around 1-1.5kms. Either way it’s a fast cheap way of getting around town if you don’t have too far to go but can’t be bothered walking in the heat of the sun.
– from 15php – bottle of water from Hypermarket supermarket
– 7php-60php for snacks like biscuits and chips
This is a tricycle in Coron – they feel so much bigger than the ones in Bulacan. It seems that each different area of the Philippines has a slight different type of tricycle in the way that they are made, however, almost all of them are able to fit around 8 people!
When going to Cebu from Manila we flew by plane which was only about an hour and twenty minutes long. There are quite a few flights per day that fly to Cebu by airlines such as Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Having flown from Melbourne on an 8 hour flight, the one hour flight was nothing for the kids! They happily looked out the window and had a short nap.
From Cebu to Bohol we took a ferry which was around 2 hours. I ended up chatting to a lovely lady from Anda the whole way learning all about their beautiful beaches there and mysterious caves! I’d love to visit there next time we’re in Bohol. From Bohol back to Manila we caught a plane which was faster and more efficient.
From the gorgeous beaches and resorts of Bohol and whimsical waterfalls of Cebu, we traveled up to Bulacan which is a province north of Manila to visit relatives. There were ate freshly picked fruits and veggies and a roasted suckling pig was cooked for my dad’s birthday celebration.
This is my uncle’s rooster farm. Straight organised rows of trees were planted along with the roosters’ houses. It was so eye opening seeing all the animals such as roosters, chickens, pigs, goats, fish etc being grown and eaten so fresh!
There are some awesome things to see around Bulacan however we chose to spend our time chilling out with our cousins and we got to watch a movie in the cinemas at SM Baliwag. We watched Beauty & the Beast as soon as it came out! It was everything I hoped it would be.
We didn’t just used transport with wheels to get around the Philippines – we rode on a lot of boats both big and little. The kids loved being so close to the water and we made sure they wore their life jackets at all times so they felt safe!
Here is our party of 13 riding a skinny little bangka in Oslob to see the whalesharks. Hannah wanted to just get into the water since she could see it right at her fingertips. We ended up dipping her in for a bit over the side!
After swimming through the beautiful turquoise waters of Coron and lazing around on the powdery warm sandy beaches of Bohol, we found ourselves in busy, smokey, excruciating gridlocked traffic and inefficient ways that is Manila. Luckily our wonderfully amazing cousins had some fun things planned for us. I didn’t really know where to go out in Manila except for the shopping malls and gosh there are a lot of them! My cousins took us to some amazing places which I’ll share with you on a separate blog post on Manila. One of the places worth mentioning was Kidzania in Bonifacio Global City. It is a must-see place when visiting the Philippines with kids.
Other things to note when traveling to the Philippines with kids
1. Shots. We had left it too late for the kids to get immunized
before heading to the Philippines but if I had booked in at the doctor earlier, we would’ve gotten a shot for Typhoid and I think Hep A? I can’t remember now but we came back home feeling well. Hannah had around four mosquito bites while the rest of us hardly had any. I even bought two cans of insect repellent with me and I hardly finished them.
2. Bottled water. Always drink bottled water and never drink out of the taps. Even the water we boiled in the kettle was from a bottle. We ended up buying huge containers of water every time we knew we were going to be at a certain place for more than two days. Thankfully none of us got sick. Mr 4yo got the runs on our second week there but after a day he was fine.
3. Spare clothes. Bring lots of spare clothing for the kids. You never know when a little accident may happen, and you’ll feel so good changing into a fresh set of clothes after a long day out sweating in the heat. You also never know when you’ll come across and cool swimming spot you’ll want to go for a dip in so always have some clothes and bathers with you!
4. Currency exchange. If you withdraw some money before heading to the Philippines, you can get a good rate of exchange at the currency exchange outlets. You can find them in most of the airports and shopping centres. We did that, and also withdraw money from an ATM, which charged us a fee each time. So if you find a RCBC atm or bank, you can withdraw a max of 20,000php from there instead of the standard 10,000php that the other ATMs like BDO allow.
5. Tips. Before arriving in the Philippines I would highly recommend that you have some Philippine pesos ready at hand, and have some smaller denominations like 10 and 20php notes. Tipping is common practice and with the hard working people helping you out, I’m sure you’ll be wanting to give them a little extra for their service and effort.
6. Attitude. Be open-minded, positive and adaptable. There are lots of different dishes to try in the Philippines that can’t be found elsewhere and having an open mind will allow you to enjoy each experience a lot more. The service there is also a lot slower than I’m used to – 45mins wait to get my take away dinner order and 15mins waiting in line at the supermarket. Not all places were like this but I noticed a lot of improvement opportunities in Manila in terms of customer service. It made me feel so happy to be home when I got back to Melbourne! – I was able to visit two banks, Vodafone and get lunch all in half an hour!
No matter how positive I was, I could handle everything except the traffic of Manila – when you’re sitting in traffic for an hour just to get somewhere less than 8kms away, it’s just simply ridiculous. I already don’t drive to work in Melbourne because I hate sitting in traffic – you should see the traffic in Manila. If I didn’t have luggage and kids to carry with me, I’m sure I would’ve just walked to most of the places. Does anyone have the answer to reducing traffic in Manila? It is simply a big waste of time. No wonder a lot of travellers are now bypassing Manila altogether and going straight to places like Cebu and Borocay. Hopefully those other cities can get their infrastructure right before it gets as busy as Manila.
There, there, it’s ok. You don’t have to put up with the traffic everyday!
7. A Globe mobile SIM – As soon as we arrived in Manila, we walked over to Mall of Asia (MOA) and stopped by a Globe outlet to get a Globe SIM and some credit. We paid 500php ( approximately $13AUD) for unlimited data, sms and calls to other Globe SIM holders for 15 days which is expensive by Philippine standards but it was convenient and easy so that’s what we went with. Since there were a lot of us traveling together, having our mobiles made it easier for us to get around together and apart. And if you want to stay in touch with others that aren’t with Globe, you can just use the data included to contact them via Facebook, Whatsapp or Viber etc! In my previous trips to Europe and Asia I didn’t even bring a mobile phone with me at all – how times have changed.
8. Nappies, wipes, baby food & formula. These 4 items can be easily found in all the SM stores and supermarkets so don’t fret if you haven’t pack enough or have forgotten something for the kids. They have everything from baby nappies and wipes to baby cologne in the toiletries section. I always like to peruse the toiletries and make up section whenever I’m overseas. They always have such different things. In the Philippines it’s all about the whitening of the skin. Whitening lotion, whitening soaps and whitening creams line the shelves. So different to the shops here in Australia where everything is all about getting a tan…getting darker and bronzed up!
9. The people. The people of the Philippines are super friendly and love kids. There is always someone happy to help out and unlike my experience in China, if they see you with a pram or a baby in the Philippines, they almost always let you board the elevators first instead of pushing in front of you! Most people speak English and even just by saying simple greetings and “thank you” in Tagalog (“Salamat po”), it will get you far. I didn’t experience as much beggars begging through the windows of our van as I did in previous visits and there were less people haggling with you on the street. I felt quite safe traveling with the kids despite my initial worrying!
Our friendly and knowledgeable guides at Aguinid Falls in Cebu. Mark and Meyer not only helped us navigate and climb the falls, they took pictures of us with our cameras while they were at it!
We met some absolutely gorgeous people with big, welcoming hearts on this trip, and I always leave the Philippines so sad but excited to come back because of all our relatives and friends that live there.
10. Kids life jackets and water shoes. We traveled with a 4yo, 3yo and two 1 year olds in tow and visiting the gorgeous places that we did meant that we were constantly in and out of water. Whether it was in the open seas or in the hidden inland waterfalls, having brought our own life jackets from home made it so easy for us when it came to swimming with the kids. You can purchase them from stores like Big W and any of the outdoor shops like Anaconda.
If you’re thinking about adding a stamp from the Philippines to your passport, just do it! Snorkelling, shopping, swimming, eating and partying – don’t you know it’s more fun in the Philippines? You’ll be forever in awe at the sights, sounds and smells of this vibrant country and its people.
It is the perfect place to discover the truly amazing natural wonders of this world but also on the flip side, it is an essential trip to be made in order to come back home to a feeling of immense gratitude, and humbleness for all the blessings we have here. Clean water supply, working toilets, less polluted air and efficiency are just some of the simple luxuries we take for granted on a daily basis.
Temple of Leah in Cebu – built by Mr. Teodorico Adarna to show his endless devotion and undying love for his wife, Leah.
Walking along rickety wooden bridges and blue flowing rivers on the way to Kawasan Falls. Passing lots of locals, travelers and people coming back from Badian canyoneering!
Have you traveled to the Philippines with kids? What were your favourite and least favourite travel spots?
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Thank you so much for your continued support here and on Instagram and Facebook. It’s been so nice chatting with readers and answering questions about tours and things to do in the Philippines especially on Instgram. If there are any other topics or places you would like to read about please let me know. In the meantime hope you’re having a great week! x