With over seven thousand islands the Philippines are layered with countless white beaches and hundreds of deliciously fresh coconuts – so what are you waiting for? Book your flights and discover Asia’s best-kept secrets…
UK residents have a free 28-day tourist visa
Best time to visit: the dry season is between October and May
The cheapest months to fly are in March/ April from Manchester Airport
1 British Pound = roughly 72 Philippine Pisos
Locals speak really good English
Good WiFi is very hard to come by
If you want to island-hop (I strongly recommend) then book your flights between islands as far in advance as you possibly can, it can get really expensive if not
Filipino cuisines are delicious
I spent 28 days island hopping and adventuring so here’s a list of 10 favourites to do in the Philippines:
1. Swim with whale sharks in Donsol
So, I have been obsessed with whale sharks for what seems like forever so I wanted to go to a place where I knew that whale sharks would swim naturally on their own terms. I did my research. Donsol is south of Manila where we first landed in the Philippines. Ready for a journey? Yes? Me too.
To get to Donsol you have to take a bus to Barlaran from the airport for 20 pesos (27p) which took around 20 minutes. Next, you have to catch a bus to Cubao (Araneta Centre) costing 35 pesos (48p) which took around 2 hours with bad traffic. The bus terminal was very efficient, a ticket to Legazpi City costs 1,100 pesos (£15.30) leaving at 9pm to then arrive 11 hours later. The last stretch of the journey would require you taking a minibus to the Donsoltourist information centre, this costs 98 pesos (£1.36) and takes around an hour.
Dancalan Beach next door to the tourist information centre – 500 pesos for a double room, 250 each (£3.47) with a shared bathroom. This place was a beautiful start to our trip because it was so quiet, the beach was right at our doorstep. Make sure you order their vegetable fried rice and mango pancakes!
Come 12 o’clock we hopped on a private boat with four men on a mission to find whale sharks. I cannot applaud these men enough as they were nothing less than professionals. The water wasn’t clear and the sun was hiding yet these guys spotted our first whale shark within 20 minutes! We had hired the boat for 3 hours so for us to be entering the water this soon was really exciting.
*Due to cloudy conditions please excuse these poor quality GoPro photographs!
2. Cebu – Kawasan Falls
Most famous for those icy blue waters and yes, the water really is this blue!
Tip: Visit in time for sunrise in order to beat the crowds!
3. Cebu – White Beach
We stayed in Moalboal which is about 30-minutes on a scooter from Kawasan Falls and a 5-minute scooter ride to White Beach.
Tip: We loved hiring a scooter and going for long rides to explore the surrounding area – it was beautiful!
4. Cebu – Badian – Inambakan Falls
There are so many destinations in the Philippines for waterfalls. If I were you I’d research the ones you like the look of the most, rent a scooter and go from there.
Tip: We arrived at around 11am and this place was still quite empty whereas I’ve heard Kawasan Falls can get very busy after a certain time!
A surfers paradise. It was hard to leave this island; we enjoyed the people, food, scooter rides and water so much that we ended up staying longer than expected.
Accommodation: Soul Tribe Beach Retreat is a beautiful getaway for anyone wanting to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of travelling.
6. Siargao – Island Boat Tour
The boat tours from this island are beautiful and easy to book through your accommodation: we were taken to a few sand islands, snorkel spots and ended with a Filipino BBQ (where you buy all of the ingredients at the market beforehand) on the beach. This may possibly have been one of the best meals in my entire life…
7. Bohol Island
Here, we completed our first night and deep dive with Bohol Divers Club. Diving is probably one of my favourite activities to do in Southeast Asia because it’s cheap and lets you discover what a fascinating underwater world we have!
Bohol is also home to the Chocolate Hills. Unfortunately, there is no chocolate to be found but there is, however, perfectly shaped hills dotted across the horizon… sorcery.
8. Siquijor Island – Cambugahay Falls
Known for its mystical witchcraft, scuba diving and adventure packed waterfalls. We stayed in a small town called San Juan at JJ packers, I recommend heading down to Monkey Business for their delicious food!
Tips: have 50 Pisos ready for entry and don’t forget to explore the surrounding waterfalls instead of staying by the main one.
Swing through the jungle like Tarzan and I’ll be your Jane. Too cheesy? Moving on…
9. Siquijor Island – Salagdoong Beach
Tip: From San Juan, it took around 1hr – 1hr30 to drive here on a scooter but there are lots of gorgeous views along the way to keep you occupied!
10. Palawan – El Nido > Coron
Finally, home to crystal clear water, palmy beaches and mermaid life is Palawan.
Island hopping tours were easy to set up through front desks or travel shops along the main strips. As a big fan of the Filipino BBQ, I highly recommend taking an El Nido > Coron boat tour for the day where you can bag yourself a gorgeous beach BBQ cooked while you’re working up an appetite free diving towards abandoned shipwrecks and getting that insta-worthy shot jumping into Kayangan Lake!
That concludes my 10 favourite things to do in the Philippines, thanks for reading!
“I haven’t got the time or money to apply for a full tourist visa during this trip so I’ll just visit The Great Wall”
The 72 hour transit visa is a perfect solution if you want to swing by China for a short visit, and it’s absolutely free! Here’s some information to help you do the same if you’re thinking of flying into Beijing:
Before entering Beijing you will be asked to present your flight details regarding your flight in and out of Beijing, if you cannot provide this then you will not be able to enter China
The 72 hours starts from the moment your flight lands in Beijing. So if your flight lands at 14:30 on Monday 4th March then you will have to be taking a flight out of the country by 14:30 on Thursday 7th March. Simple!
Other states start the 72 hours from 00:00 following your landing so check online for accuracy
You will be asked to fill out a form confirming where you will be staying in Beijing and how long for
You are not allowed to leave the state of Beijing during your stay
I had an absolute nightmare. Just picture me, landing in Beijing by myself and breezing straight through passport control. Collecting my bags and walking straight towards the exit feeling like I’ve just passed through the highest level of security clearance. I was on the subway and soon to be at Beijing train station. This happiness lasted for around 30 minutes.
***Scroll down for pictures of what I got up to, or start here and read through my honest experience of travelling in Beijing…***
I had researched prior to my visit, the perfect route was all set out on my phone. I had my battery pack fully charged, 50 pounds worth of Chinese currency and my hostel was booked right next to the wall. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I arrived at the train station to discover it was closed, and had been closed for a few months already. It was now 3 o’clock and getting dark on this freezing cold winter’s day. Within seconds of discovering that the station was closed, a very persistent man followed me, pestering me to take his taxi all the way to my hostel which I hadn’t enough money for. No matter how many times I yelled ‘NO’ this man would not leave me alone. I tried to walk away from him but he pulled at my arm.
I walked back to the subway where I came from but he followed from a different entrance. I could feel the tears in the my eyes welling up. There wasn’t many people around so you can only imagine how nervous I was getting. Suddenly, I saw a young man walking towards me looking at his phone. I ran to him asking for help. I think he could see my eyes watering. He was the first person I found that spoke good English.
Thank you to my first guardian angel.
He let me take pictures of some Chinese phrases from his phone to show people where I needed to be. In this moment I was so thankful to him.
I arrived at a bus station. Even though I had the Chinese translations on my phone, no one could seem to point me towards the right bus. There were four to pick from, every driver pointed me towards the next bus. I was starting to tire. I asked a woman for help and she pulled me onto a bus with her. She got off only a few stops later.
It was now fully dark outside and I was sat on an overcrowded bus with my huge backpack and winter coat, surrounded by Chinese living their normal day. Checking my maps.me app regularly to see where exactly we were going probably kept me from panicking for the whole journey. I had no idea where this bus would take me but it seemed to be heading in the right direction. An hour passed. I remember the thoughts that ran through my head: “I’m going to have to sleep on the streets”, “It’s fine, you can do this, just put on extra socks”, “No, you’ll get there”, “Everything is written in Chinese and I have no way of translating it”, “Why am I doing this to myself?”, “I’m a rubbish traveller”, “You’ve travelled to many countries alone, easy”, “I can’t do this”, “Don’t be stupid, man up!”. I remember looking at myself in the window next to me, “Stop working yourself up, you baby, just ask someone”.
I cleared my eyes and looked around the now half empty bus for someone, anyone. I made eye contact with a young girl, I smiled and she then sat down next to me. This wonderful girl. We spoke through her translator app on her phone. “Don’t worry, I will help you”. She typed and I would respond. After a few minutes she rang my hostel and told them to meet me at the bus stop where I would get off at. Bless her heart. Another woman who was getting off at the same time also gave me a warm smile and a thumbs up, “you get off with me!” she demanded. Just before the young girl hopped off the bus she wrote to me, “You are very cool”, and suddenly all of the self doubt was swept away with that single comment.
Thank you to my second guardian angel.
Everyone who was still sat on the bus when I was leaving offered to help me with my backpack, they all gave me their thumbs up as I left with the older woman, she was meeting her husband. They both waited with me in the darkness through biting cold winds until a man appeared and passed his phone to me. I put it to my ear, “Hello?” I asked. A woman responded and told me that this is the man who will walk me to Beijing Badaling Leo Great Wall Hostel. The kind woman and her husband waved goodbye and after a 20 minute walk against the icy wind I was finally walking into my room. Much to my surprise they had put me into a big double room all to myself. This is exactly what I needed. I took a really long, hot shower and before I knew it I was tucked up in a comfy bed eating Pringles. I felt safe.
I woke up slowly, I showered and took the time to dry my hair. I made myself feel good. Throwing on my winter coat I stepped outside and into the reception next door. The men guided me the way towards the wall, one even drove me all the way up to the entrance which would have taken me at least 25 minutes walking. I felt like this was going to be a good day. A much better day. I started climbing the stairs of the first tower.
As I breached the top, I peered my head over the last step to see the first stretch of wall that I would walk upon. Peaceful. I don’t think I have ever felt such peace in my whole life. No one to be seen or heard. Everywhere I looked I saw no one, not even someone in the far distance. I was alone.
After the fourth tower I reached a point where the stairs became increasingly steep. I looked up to what looked like the top, only for a few seconds, then I began to climb. I was standing on top of The Great Wall of China. Just me. Winds picked up my hair and blew it over my face. I sat down next to a piece of wall to shield myself from the cold. I remember sitting there thinking about my travels, thinking of how far I had come from standing in front of a classroom full of students just months ago. I used to daydream about being in the places that I’ve now stood. I’m living my own dream.
Obviously I took a few pictures to honour this moment. You may look at them and feel nothing, they’re just pictures of me standing on The Great Wall of China to you. I see these and I remember how I felt, and will for the rest of my life.
That afternoon I packed my bag and checked out of my room. I knew I had a flight booked for the early hours of the next day so with plenty of time to get there, nothing could go wrong, could it?
The first European people I saw were a group of tourists, they were sat eating in the reception of my hostel. They were heading back to Beijing City as part of their tour and luckily, their driver offered to take me with them so I didn’t have to catch the public bus again. I was so relieved. After chatting and getting to know some of the people on the bus, I went back to their hostel. I left my backpack in storage and we wandered the streets nearby. A girl offered to take me to the Forbidden City and to try my first serving of Beijing Peking duck. This trip took a good few hours.
It was now 9pm and I was about to head off to the airport, I had researched what trains to catch and was feeling confident. I even checked with the receptionist just to make sure that the trains were still running.
I hopped onto my first train, everything was going well. I needed to get off to then switch to a train that would drop me off at the International Terminal where I would swiftly check in and grab a hot chocolate as I waited for my flight. This thought was burst by the fact that I had just missed the last train to the airport. Great. I left the station to find myself surrounded by not one but five men shouting at me, asking where I was going. “Airport?”, “Airport?”, “Where you go?”, “I take you to Airport”, I was telling them no. I thought I’d just find a bus but it was past 10pm and there were no buses in sight. I tried walking away from them but it seemed that everywhere I walked, they followed. Personal space was not considered in this moment.
Meet guardian angel number three…
I started to feel myself turn red, my skin started to sweat even though it was freezing cold outside, I had men with raised voices in my face, here we go again. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t have enough money for a taxi and couldn’t find an ATM nearby.
All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I saw a girl. A vision of white. She was dressed head to toe in pure white. She wore white knee high boots, white cotton leggings, a white woolly dress, a white belt around her waist, white leather gloves with a white fluffy cuff and to top it off she wore a bright white hat. She didn’t look real. In that moment I truly felt like she was an angel who had been sent to me.
I ran towards her and asked her for help. She was Chinese and she had me call her Ranchy. Fresh off the plane from London where she is currently studying, she was disgusted with the men. She immediately took me under her wing and demanded that I come with her. We walked around 200m away from the men as she yelled back at them, dragging her white suitcase behind. Using an Uber-like service she ordered a taxi. I remember thinking “Do I trust this stranger?”.
I reminded her that I needed to go to the airport. She reassured me, looked into my eyes and told me “It’s ok, I will help you. I’ll take you to my friend and you will get a taxi from there”. She told me about the first time she arrived in London, how she was completely lost and that she couldn’t find her way to her new apartment. She couldn’t speak good English at the time and must’ve felt just like I did in China. Helpless. She told me that a young man saw her confusion and took her all the way to her apartment, and even carried her luggage. As he left she thanked him profusely. He simply answered her with, “You’re welcome, but the next time you see someone who needs help, help them.” I felt like I could trust her with my life.
We arrived at Ranchy’s friend’s apartment to only realise that I’d left my purse, holding all the money that I had, inside the taxi. A rush of tears welled up in my eyes. Panic. Instant panic. “How on earth did I leave my purse in the taxi? It must’ve fell out somehow!”. Ranchy immediately rang the taxi driver and he returned five minutes later. Those five minutes felt like a lifetime. I thanked the driver and then Ranchy. She really was an angel. I met her friend and she guided me towards an ATM where I drew some money out and they put me into a taxi. I squeezed her goodbye.
The journey from here to the airport was a calm and relaxed one, I felt myself sink into the seat gripping onto my belongings. I arrived at the airport to find that my check-in counter didn’t open for a few hours, but that was fine because I was sat down watching Gilmore Girls on my iPad. Half way through my episode, a boy sits on the bench next to me. I thought he was going to the same place as me so I asked him. Hours later we had been talking, getting to know each other. I learnt about his life in China and how much he wanted to leave. He was travelling to Kuala Lumpur to take a test to enable him to study there. At just 17 years old he was prepared to leave his family behind and live abroad, I remember thinking of how brave he must be.
This trip taught me so many lessons for my future travels. I think you need to go through some bumpy trips to prepare yourself for the even tougher. If I hadn’t of learnt from this experience then I wouldn’t have been as prepared for future non English speaking countries. I walked upon The Great Wall of China. I made it.
A juicy bubble of delicious food, tradition and k-pop.
Following a smooth flight from Osaka we arrived in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea.
Good to know:
Try a Korean barbecue, they’re delicious
1 British pound = approx 1,476 Korean Won
You might struggle to find ATMs that work well
Koreans are super friendly
Public transport is really easy to navigate
We stayed in two different hostels within Seoul, for the first few nights we stayed at a place called Kim’s Family Guesthouse which was around 700m from the Hongik University metro station. This is one of the most popular areas in Seoul. The accommodation has a very homely feel to it with having been built in an apartment, the showers are warm and the kitchen has everything you could ask for. The owner was very helpful in trying to answer all of our many questions. When I say ‘our’, I mean Hannah’s.
Mr Comma Guesthouse was by far my favourite place to stay because of their homely atmosphere and comfortable beds. The WIFI is fast, the kitchen is easy to use, the showers are powerful and the house is perfectly warm; this was amazing to us because it was so cold outside. The guesthouse is situated around 800m away from the Hongik Univeristy metro station which is opposite the streets holding many vibrant shops and street food.
Barbecue – Korean style! I had been waiting for so long to have an actual Korean barbecue and it did not disappoint. We ventured out into the cold air to hunt for our first meal in South Korea, we stopped at the first restaurant we saw just because it was bustling with locals inside. I think I can speak for both of us when I say it was a mouth watering meal worth waiting for! You order two portions of meat to grill yourself to which these are complimented by around 8 other random side dishes. We were pleasantly surprised by the women who worked here, they were very kind and helpful.
Myeongdong street food – you must try the street food in this area, I tried to make my way through everything that was cooking but I failed miserably as I fill up quite quickly!
Gyeongbokgung Palace – also known as Gyeongbok Palace and used to be the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, built in 1395. Make sure you get off at Angus Station and you’ll find the palace heading east.
Bukchon Hanoi village is perfect for a taste of Korean tradition. I love the feel you get from walking around the beautiful houses, you’ll also see women dressed in their traditional clothing along with their friends and loved ones. You can also find a stunning viewpoint if you keep following the signs up towards the hill; we visited during sunset.
Wander into sheltered markets to taste new foods cooked right in front of you while sitting on small plastic stools.
DMZ – the Korean Demilitarised Zone is definitely worth a visit. We took a tour from our Guesthouse early in the morning, much to my dislike (not an early morning person) and set out for the DMZ. On arrival, we were introduced into a cinema room where we watched a short video explaining some of the history between South and North Korea. The tour includes seeing the sights: The Demilitarised Zone, The Third Infiltration Tunnel, The Dora Observatory, Exhibition Hall, Freedom Bridge and Dorasan Train Station.
Busan – Canvas Hostel is probably one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in because it was literally built like a hotel and had the most comfiest of facilities. We found it really hard to step outside the building. I wasn’t too keen on this city, everywhere we walked smelt of sewage which if you ask me isn’t a very nice smell… also make sure you draw money out before coming here because we found it really hard to find an ATM that worked well. As we arrived during a brisk winter, the usually beautiful Haeundae Beach was cold and dull but that din’t stop us from enjoying a peaceful walk along it.
Jeonju – this charming village has got to be my favourite place in South Korea. Do not miss it! Why? Because you’ll get the chance to really get a feel for the South Korean traditional housing and their cuisine. We stayed in Happy Hanoi Guesthouse 2 which was a beautiful house tucked away in a small pocket of Jeonju. We slept on the floor in a traditional wooden room with a view of the courtyard. I was excited by the fact we were sleeping on a floor – a heated floor may I add!
They see me rollin’…
Explore the traditional village of Jeonju by this cool looking scooter. It was so much fun, I think we forgot how cold we were for a couple of hours and enjoyed our time wizzing around the cobbled roads and finding sizzling hot street food.
Make sure you take a walk around the surrounding village, you’ll see girls wearing matching outfits and the most beautiful traditional houses.
Nambu Market is a market running along the waterfront selling anything from fresh fish to juicy fruits. We took our new toy on a ride through the narrow pathways feeling like absolute rebels.
Hannah, “Hey, we could ski here”… me, “oh really? Shall we?” Hannah, “Yes, let’s go skiing for two days then”. So off we went on another spontaneous trip! We stayed at the Yongpyeong Resort Hotel which was a quick 5 minute walk to the bottom of the slope. I was absolutely buzzing as I had never been skiing on actual snow before, and where better to do it than the next location of the Winter Olympics? We had so much fun here, Hannah taught me how to ski properly, we ate about 4 kebabs per day and laughed so hard we cried.
This trip was a jam packed 10 days of us running for every bus, getting trapped in an elevator, being almost late for everything and Hannah making me laugh by the hour!
I hope this blog post has been somewhat useful, thank you for reading.
Where the freshest sushi is created, where Mount Fuji stands tall, where snowboarders cut the finest powder and where you’ll find quirky fashion statements around every corner.
Japan has always been a dream of mine, an obsession with this intriguing country has developed quickly over the years. So when a friend got in touch and asked if I wanted to join her in Japan, how could I say no?
Good to know:
Japan is very expensive!
You will find it hard to come by good English or somebody that understands you but the Japanese are very generous and will try to help you in every way that they can
1 British pound = 147.38 Japanese Yen
Access to WiFi is really good
Eat the traditional food, that’s an order!
I stayed in ‘IRORI Hostel’ which was around an 8 minute walk from the metro station. As I breached the surface of the underground I felt a rush of ice cold air greet my face as I found myself surrounded by a wall of towering buildings. Even though Tokyo is a capital city, at 1:30am it was deadly silent that it was almost deafening. I used my maps.me app to guide myself. As I was walking a kind man saw me in my backpacking attire and immediately asked if I needed help finding my hostel. He kindly looked it up on his phone and escorted me to the door, told me to enjoy my experience in Tokyo and carried on walking home. This is just one example of how kind the Japanese people are.
With 2 hours sleep I woke up at 7am to explore the world’s biggest fish market, Tsukiji Fish Market. I bought a travel card (similar to London’s Oyster card) where I loaded around 2,000 Yen so I didn’t have to buy single tickets for every trip.
I meandered through the never ending rows of fresh fish being cut, beheaded, skinned and packed before my very eyes. Men work hard from the early hours of the morning to sell fish coming in many shapes and sizes.
Something smells a little bit fishy, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s the smell of my clothes. After exploring, me and my friend Hannah sat down in a tiny sushi restaurant where we waited for around 40 minutes to taste the freshest sushi I’ve ever eaten. I’m more of a macci girl but I still enjoyed the experience of trying the different kinds of sushi – for breakfast!
We then ventured out into Shibuya but only for a few hours until we crashed; returning back to our hostel for a well deserved nap before heading out to explore Tokyo at night.
We spent the next afternoon browsing through racks of the coolest vintage clothes until that sharp feeling in the pit of our stomachs yelled out. We tried our first Japanese ramen in a cute restaurant to which we don’t even know the name of because everything in this area was written in Japanese!
More from the area of Shibuya and the famous Shibuya crossing…
Girl, just call me Beyoncé.
Do not miss the chance to sing your heart out whether you chose to go alone or with some friends. The Japanese love to sing karaoke as a social or solo activity; you can rent a room, order drinks and dress up in crazy outfits. Me and Hannah loved this experience, that’s after we figured out how to work the karaoke machine…
Puppy love! We were obsessed with the fact that you could go to a place where you paid to sit and pay with little dogs just for fun. We went to Dog Heart in Shibuya to play with beagles and a lovely golden retriever, you could also chose an option where you took a dog for a walk but we decided to stay in the warmth for a while.