Yesterday, I told you my ideal itinerary for a first-time visitor to the Philippines that has only a week or two to spend in this gorgeous (but insanely chaotic) country. In fact, that’s the exact lineup of destinations – in the exact same order – that I’ve suggested to plenty of friends when they message or email me for suggestions.
You can check out the all world travel blog home page and search blog posts, or I’ll give you the quick recap: Coron for island hopping; then Siargao to surf and chill like a Rasta; then Dumaguete where you can access Oslob to swim with whale sharks, Sijiour for waterfalls and beaches, Apo Island to scuba dive, and sandbars at Manjuyod or Siliman Resort Island. Last, if you have a few days left, sell out and hit the most visited tourist destination in the islands for sun and nightlife, Boracay.
Places to Avoid in the Phillipines
But today, I’m going to flip that sunshine and share my top list of overrated places in the Philippines. Some of them are just subject to too much hype, some just too hard to get to, others too commercialized, and a few are just plain shit holes and should be avoided like the plague. Trust me when I tell you that this list is just as valuable – if not more so – than my advice for where to book your ticket.
Here we go! (Or don’t go, as the case may be.)
Let’s start with my least favorite place in the Philippines, or anywhere else for that matter. Cebu City is a dump, and I should know because I lived in that dump of a slum without a silver lining shred of redemption for five whole months. Yeah, I feel strongly about it. But my personal animus aside, here’s the problem – and why travelers keep getting duped into coming to Cebu. There is Cebu CITY and Cebu ISLAND. Of course, the city does sit on the island. But in the brochures, you’ll see beautiful photos of waterfalls (Kawasan Falls), beaches (Moalboal) and swimming with whale sharks (Oslob). But those places are hellish 4-6 hour drives from Cebu CITY, each way. Skip it – you have better access and things to do from Dumaguete.
The big draw is the Chocolate Hills and they’re…cool…interesting…nice….but not worth a while side trip to the island, and the beaches aren’t so amazing that it makes it worth it. Read more about it on this entry.
The former of these islands is a great scuba diving spot and the latter a very chill and unspoiled white beach island. BUT they take about 5-8 hours total traveling time between bus and ferry from the nearest airport in Cebu City. Skip the whole travel days – vacation time is precious. (Note: You CAN take a private charter flight into these spots with Royhle Air! Well worth it!)
If you’re looking for culture, history, and one of the most interesting places you’ve ever been…then skip the hell out of Manila. But if you want insane nightlife, reconsider.
Baguio used to be a thriving city in northern mountains of Luzon that was well worth the flight…until they closed down the airport due to excessive fog. If you’re already in Manila or Pampanga, then it may be worth the long drive. But you probably get mountains at home.
Biggest city in Mindanao. Although others will argue, it’s nothing spectacular – and stray too far and it can be seriously unsafe for foreigners. Just not worth it.
Angeles City, Pampanga
If you want partying and a red light district, visit Pattaya in Thailand because Angeles is over commercialized, overpriced, and shutting down year by year. But to me, that’s good news because “normal” tourism, nightlife, a good restaurant scene, and a great alternative to living in Manila is springing up in the shadow of that reputation.
Boracay? Wasn’t this on your list of places to visit if you had 10 days or two weeks in the Philippines. Yes, it was. But Boracay sure isn’t what it used to be, as even five years ago it was one of the nicest islands in the world. It’s still worth a visit for the charming beach life and seaside partying at night, but it sure ain’t the perfect white sand oasis I once lived in.
That’s it! Now, you can plan your vacation in the Philippines and you can’t go wrong!