Amid the recent bad incidents, sometimes blown out of proportion by the media, thereby sending a negative image throughout the world, there are still safe destinations around The Philippines. The country is blessed with abundant natural wonders and we may have the cheapest beer in the world too so all the more reason to come backpacking in the Philippines! Certified beach bums can revel in the shorelines of its more than 7,000 tropical islands, while nature lovers can explore, trek, hike its peaks and breathe in the jaw dropping view from the top.
Most of would-be visitors’ question is “Is it safe to come over and visit Philippines now?”
Me : “Why, yes of course! No better time than the present!”
It is totally safe to come and dip your feet in our powdery white sand beaches. I’ve been backpacking my way around Luzon and Visayas region met foreigners along the way in mountains of Cordillera and in Davao City. I’ve chatted with a couple of them and asked them how they feel about being safe going solo around the country. To sum up all the different responses I get, it all boils down to;
“The media were wrong after all!”
Heck, I even know of a travel blogger from United Kingdom conquering Bicol and Visayas region all by himself evidently enjoying RO/RO ferries to no end. He still alive and kicking, instagramming waterfalls and his hammock hanging against a beautiful sunset backdrop everywhere he goes. Seems like a cool way to conquer the islands isn’t it?
Generally, avoid the southern part of Mindanao region as most of the armed conflicts and kidnappings are concentrated in this area. Instead, head to these equally beautiful destinations around the country.
Travel to the island of Palawan and see why the island is voted most beautiful island in the world. Getting around Palawan, especially in the more popular municipalities such as El Nido, Puerto Prinsesa (city capital), Coron or Sabang is no rocket science and safe. The locals here are generally helpful to the island visitors as tourism is a major industry here.
You can count more foreigners than locals here, one evidence that they have already made up their mind that The Philippines is their second home. I’ve seen them back-riding comfortably in tricycles, watched them haggle for a sarongs and other local products. I must say I’m pretty amazed at their bargaining skills. I see them joining numerous island hopping tours and seem to be having a grand time hopping from one island to another. Do yourself a favor, banish all worries about being kidnapped. Instead pack your bags and book a domestic flight from Manila to Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan.
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Lighthouses, windmills, overlapping mountains, scenic drive, the calling of the sea, and its warm locals. All that is missing in the picture is you.
Pagudpud is a world of its own, located in the top most part of Ilocos Norte in the main island of Luzon and one of the more peaceful locations that you can visit in The Philippines. This coastal town is even perfect for family travel because many hotels offer kid-friendly activities. So pack your bags and get on a 10 hour butt-numbing bus ride from Manila to Pagudpud or enjoy a scenic road trip with stops along the way for photo shoots.
Leyte & Samar
You gotta love the island provinces of Leyte and Samar. I call them the wonder twins of Visayas region connected by the longest bridge in The Philippines, the San Juanico Bridge. These 2 islands is abundantly blessed with diverse natural wonders! Amazing sandbars and blindingly white sand beaches, natural bridge and caves, waterfalls that swish over cascading rocks with a crystal clear pool at the bottom not to mention its sweet and warm locals.
Backpacking thru these natural wonders and commuting around town is totally safe. One thing to worry about? How to do all these nature tripping in a short stay!
Sagada, Mountain Province
Dubbed as the “Shangri la of The Philippines”, Sagada is a perfect destination for the solo traveller looking for a refuge to mend a broken heart. Sagada and its lemony desserts can heal all kinds of heartaches so they say.
From Baguio City, the summer capital of the country, Sagada is another 6 hours of zigzag nauseous ride in the mountains of Cordillera Administrative Region in northern Philippines. A quiet town of about 12000, not including dogs, coming to Sagada is finding a piece of bliss from all the noise of life.
Slow travel in Sagada and feast on the endless displays of lemon pie in every cafe, conquer the numerous caves, wake up and watch the sunrise that seems to heal every type of broken hearts and relationships, stay longer for more lemon pie to complete your healing process. There are many reasons why Sagada should be your next destination if you’re rounding up adrenaline-packed activities around the Philippines.
Banaue and Batad in Ifugao
Still in the Cordillera region of Luzon, another safe destination in The Philippines is the quiet idyllic towns of Banaue and Batad in Ifugao. Another 6 hours bus ride from Sagada and you will reach this lovely peaceful town. Walking around town will make you feel right at home because locals generally smile at tourists here and are very helpful with directions. I was waiting for a bus that will take me to Isabela and the lady that I happened to ask for directions gladly waited with me at the bus stop, flagged the oncoming bus and let the driver know to drop me off at Santiago. Another proof that angels do exist.
Come after the months of June and July, the province’s planting season, to capture the lush greenery of rice paddies fed by an ingenuous irrigation system built with Igorot hands 2000 years ago.
Inspite of the recent embassy travel advisory from some countries, Cebu is perfectly safe for tourists. I highly recommend visiting the northern part where the picturesque Bantayan Island awaits for you to deep dive in its rich marine life and savor its delicious “kinilaw” (seafood cooked in vinegar) viands.
You can also visit the southern part of Cebu, travel to Badian for adrenalin-packed adventures like canyoneering in Kawasan Falls and hiking the famous Osmena Peak.
As with most other first class municipalities, watch out for pickpockets in crowded places like wet and dry goods market, shopping malls, jeepney and bus terminals (Read Ceres Bus Terminal), restaurants and coffee shops and of course, tourist spots.
Batanes, located in the northern most part of the country, is also one of the safest destination you can visit. I have not been there yet, but it’s on my list!
This province is where the saying “Honesty is the best policy” literally applies and the Ivatans innately possess. As the story goes, and soon I will find out if there is truth to it, here you will find unmanned shops where you pick up the goods you need and leave your payment at the counter.
As with the fine print in travelling, your safety is always at risk everywhere you go and my beloved country is no exception. As I’ve said, avoid the areas of southern Mindanao as armed conflicts and incidents of kidnapping are concentrated here.
Avoid drawing attention to yourself, dress down, be a local, be smart about your surroundings and you will be just fine. Take time to monitor local news and current events and always check with your embassy for the latest travel advisory.
Oh and bring your common sense everywhere you go. Safe travels!
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Any other destination that you think it’s safe to visit in The Philippines? Share it in the comments section!