Travel Tips for the Philippines: Part 1

Articles from Philippines Tacloban City, Philippines | May 19, 2011

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During the passed three years of my life I have spent one and a half of these living in the Philippines.  I started by doing a six month stint as a volunteer, then, after a year travelling around Australia, a few months travelling Asia and a little bit of time back in the UK, I returned to the Philippines where I have spent the passed year doing an internship as a placement advisor for Kaya in their Asia office in the Philippines.

Because I have spent a substantial amount of time living in the Philippines, I wanted to pass on the benefit of my knowledge for anyone who is interested in volunteering the Philippines and is wondering what they might be able to do in their spare time.

I’m going to split my travel tips up into 2 articles: weekend trips and trips and will require a little more than a weekend.

I’ll start with my suggestions for weekend trips that you can do from Tacloban to give you a bit of a flavour of what you can get upto in your spare time.

Possible weekend trips surrounding Tacloban:

Padre Burgos

This is a great weekend trip away of you’re into diving and snorkeling.  Situated in southern Leyte, it takes around 4 hours to get here by bus from Tacloban.  If you visit during November to February you may get the chance to swim with whale sharks which you should definitely do it, it’s amazing! If you plan to visit Padre Burgos to swim with the whale sharks then it’s worth checking if there’s many around before you go.  You can do this by liking the Sogod Bay Scuba Resort on Facebook and writing on their wall to ask if there’s been many sightings recently.  Here’s the link to their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sogod-Bay-Scuba-Resort/49744426193

Ormoc City

To travel to Ormoc from Tacloban takes around 2.5 hours by bus.  It isn’t an obvious choice as a tourist destination and there’s not a lot to see and do here.  They do, however, have a nice hotel with a great swimming pool which is a good place to just relax and unwind.  The hotel is called Sabin hotel and it’s one of the best value hotels I’ve stayed in in the Philippines.  If you interested in staying there you can have a look through their website: http://www.sabinresort.com/

Chito’s Chow is probably the best restaurant in town.  It’s situated next to the ocean in the downtown area and serves mainly Filipino options.  If you’re vegetarian like me, the chicken curry without chicken or the sweet and sour pork without pork are good options.  They will look at you like you’ve just fallen from out of space when you ask for it but if you explain that you’re vegetarian and ask them to substitute the meat for vegetables they will do that for you – just make sure that you’re clear that you don’t want any meat!

If you want to go out in the evening there’s a nice coffee shop that doubles up as a bar at the weekends.  It’s called Bebida’s and it’s on the end of the Centrum shopping mall.  They have a seating area on the street and serve cocktails – don’t expect them to taste the same as they do back home!  If you’re still raring to go after a few hours here there’s a nightclub called Dustria opposite Bebida’s, it’s pretty dingy and has the smallest toilet doors in the world but it’s cheap and OK if you fancy a bit of a boogey!

Guiuan

If you’re a surfer this is the place to go.  It takes about 3 hours to get here by bus from Tacloban.  The town and the surrounding area is nice but not amazing and isn’t really worth a visit if you’re not into surfing but if you are into surfing then this is one of the best spots in the Philippines to do it!  You can also surf at Calicoan which is close to Guiuan and can be reached by a 30 minute tricycle ride from Guiuan.

Sohoton Caves

The Sohoton Caves are on the island of Samar, which is linked to Leyte by the San Juanico bridge – the longest bridge in the Philippines.  This is a day trip rather than an overnight stay.  To get to the caves you will need to go to the bus terminal in Tacloban and catch a bus that passes through Basey.  If you ask the driver or the conductor to let you know when they reach Basey they are always happy to do this.  Once you reach Basey you’ll need to visit the local tourist office and let them know you want to visit the caves.  Then all you need to do is wait at the office for a boat to become available to take you.  You might be lucky and be able to get on a boat straight away or you may have to wait up until an hour.  Once you’re in the boat the journey takes around one hour to reach the caves; you won’t be bored on the journey though as the scenery is beautiful and gives you a real feel for rural Filipino life as you slowly sail passed local farmers tending to their land and their wives doing their laundry on the river banks. 

Once you’ve had a look round the caves to get back to Tacloban there’s a small bus terminal next to the tourist office in Basey where you can catch a bus back to Tacloban.  The buses don’t run to a schedule, they just leave when they’re full but you’ll generally only have to wait about 30 minutes.

Beaches around Tacloban

The beaches in Tacloban and it’s surrounding areas aren’t the white sand and crystal clear blue water beaches that are what one normally imagines when thinking about the Philippines.  That being said, there are still some nice beaches surrounding Tacloban that tend to be fairly quiet and are great if you just want to spend a day lounging in the sun and having a bit of a swim.  Tadyow and Ollot are the nicest and least crowded beaches close to Tacloban.  To reach them you will just need to catch a Tolosa jeepney from the Robinsons shopping mall (or the bus terminal), if you tell the driver which beach you would like to go to they will tell you where you need to get off.

Cebu City

I’m sure there’s a lot to do in Cebu City.  To be honest all I’ve ever done is shopped at the monster shopping malls they have but I’m sure there’s other things to do there too!  If you’re looking for something a bit different I know there was a prison where the inmates put on dance performances but I think this has been stopped now over controversy about where the fees were going!  Whatever you choose to do in Cebu it’s a more friendly city than Manila and the taxi drivers are slightly less ruthless.  Nevertheless, always make sure you travel in metered taxi’s and check that their meter is on as soon as you get in.  If it isn’t just ask them to turn it on!  There’s plenty of choice for restaurants, bars and nightclubs throughout the city but I would suggest doing a bit of research about the area’s you want to visit before you arrive as the city’s points of interest are kind of spread out.

You can fly to Cebu pretty cheaply from Tacloban – flying time around 25 minutes!! You can also catch a bus to Ormoc City which takes around 2.5 hours and then a ferry (either the Supercat or Weesam Express) to Cebu which also takes around 2.5 hours.  If you Google Supercat or the Weesam Express you can view their schedules and see what the fares are.

Samar

Samar is the closest island to Tacloban and the 2 are linked by the San Juanico Bridge.  I’ve not visited Samar as much as I should have done but it’s apparently very nice.  There’s lots of caves and in the north there are some beautiful white sand beaches that really aren’t very touristy at all.  Unfortunately I haven’t visited any of these so I’m not the best person to give advice but I’ve spoken to lots of people who have visited various places in Samar and say there’s lots of great stuff to do.

Tags: Volunteer , Philippines , Tacloban , Volunteering , travel , abroad , asia

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