| Part 1: Introduction
23.8: Kuala Lumpur -> Cebu
26.8: Cebu -> Bohol -> Cebu
28.8: Cebu -> KL -> Kota Bharu
We have been travelling to southeast Asia every year since 1999, but
have never visited the Philippines before. There is no specific reason
for this, or perhaps I should say that we have focused initially on the
more interesting locations in the region, and the Philippines are a bit
out of the way, i.e. it's not that easy to get there. Then, since our
kids reached the school age we have only been able to travel to
southeast Asia in August because this is the school holiday period, the
only school holidays long enough to justify a long distance trip. And
August is not exactly the best time to visit the Philippines due to the
Also, feedback I've got from other people who visited the country was
less than stellar.
this year we finally decided to have a first look at the Philippines.
We noted that the Visayas region around Cebu is not that affected by
the August monsoon and there are direct flights with Airasia from KL to
Cebu, so we took the plunge.
After having seen Cebu I must say that
there are probably nicer places in the Philippines where to spend a
holiday, because Cebu (and Mactan island) are not too impressive.
Mactan island for instance has no nice beaches (it's all coral rock
coast, with a few resorts having their own artificial sand beach). In
Cebu city itself there is not that much to see in terms of sights,
although the city is kind of interesting.
What strikes a visitor is
the deep level of religiosity of the population in Cebu, i.e. how
seriously local people take their catholic faith. On the Sunday when we
visited the old church in Cebu, this was literally overrun by pilgrims.
People lighting bundles of candles in the streets, atmosphere like in a
rock star concert.
We might visit again the Philippines in the future, but are not exactly
in a rush to do so.
Despite the probably low income levels in the Philippines costs for
western level hotels are surprisingly high. Taxis, food and other stuff
cost more or less the same as in Thailand and Malaysia.
For some reason we were not able to find Filipino restaurants and most
of the time ate in the food courts of shopping malls or in Asian fast
food chains. We saw local food in food stalls along the streets, but
didn't dare to eat there because these places looked quite dirty.
We stayed in the overpriced Costabella Tropical Beach hotel in Mactan
island. From feedback I got in the Lonely Planet forum, these kind of
prices are not unusual in the Philippines. If true, this would mean
that you get much more from the money in Thailand, where accomodation
is less expensive and there is a very wide range of hotels for all
Exchange rate (August 2014)
1 Euro = 58 PHP (Philippines Pesos)
1 Euro = 1.32 USD
For current exchange rates check the Universal
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card.
phones and prepaid cards
We bought two SmartBro SIM
cards, which cost 50 pesos each, together with a 200 pesos Internet
package (unlimited Internet for five days, perfect for our trip) and a
100 pesos recharge. Very fast 4G network, which however was not
available everywhere, i.e. was quite spotty.
The WLAN in the hotel was so slow to be essentially unusable, so we
relied on the Internet connection provided by the phone.
In spite of the monsoon season the weather was quite good over these
five days, with a lot of sunshine and only rain every now and then.
The usual set of tropical vaccinations. We didn't refresh any
immunisations for this trip. The area around Cebu is free of malaria.
A visa on arrival is available for
tourists of most western and developed countries.
Overall the area we visited (Cebu and Bohol) made a good impression. We
never felt unsafe.
Cebu city and Mactan islands are rather unspectacular, the island of
Bohol has a number of attractions which make it a worthwhile
destination. The dried mangoes are delicious, but you need to buy the
good quality ones.
Nothing really, although the accomodation is quite poor value.
used primarily taxis to move around. These are affordable and fast. Try
the easytaxi application, with which you can avoid the 50 pesos
surcharge when you can them by phone. In the evenings it can happen
that taxi drivers will refuse to use the meter and ask for a fixed
The ferries to/from Bohol island are not bad, although the
boarding procedure is a bit cumbersome. You need to be at the jetty
half an hour before the departure.