Apart from the necessary, obvious items that you would bring on any trip (travel documents, passport, money etc), here are some tips and suggestions on what you might want to pack specifically for your holiday to the Philippines.
Keep in mind that most of these things can be found here, especially in the bigger towns and cities. So if you forget something, do not panic.
Type of Clothing
Light and Loose
The Philippines has a tropical climate so it is very humid, even more so during the rainy months. It’s wise to bring clothing that breathes easily and well, unless you’re planning on spending your entire holiday going from one air-conditioned space to another.
Loose, comfortable clothing made from natural fibres that allow air to pass through are best to help you keep cool as they are less likely to trap the heat or sweat in. Cotton and linen fabrics are ideal.
Alternatively, you can visit your favourite adventure travel store to investigate the latest clothing made from technical fibres. See what’s available and recommended for hot / humid climates. Some people prefer synthetic mixes which are designed to wick perspiration away from the skin. They may also tend to dry more quickly after washing.
Location and Occasion Appropriate
Although Filipino culture tends toward conservative, it is not overly so. Sleeveless tops and shorts are acceptable in places like beach resorts and tourist areas; and really almost everywhere during the summer time. When you are visiting something like a church however, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders and not have too much skin exposed.
Should the need arise to visit a government office (for example to extend your tourist visa at the Bureau of Immigration), put away the board shorts and flip-flops for a while. There is a dress standard that may or may not be enforced by a security guard when you enter. Guys – dress appropriately in a shirt, long trousers and closed shoes; and for the ladies, something of a similar level of formality. You might call it smart/ business casual.
Something for the cold (yes, even in the tropics!)
For the most part, summer clothing will get you through the bulk of your holiday. But you should also bring some warm clothing (we’re not talking polar fleece or arctic grade winter wear, a sweater or shawl should suffice) for the following instances:
- If you are here during the cooler months (December, January, February) and are staying by the ocean, you might catch some cool breezes especially at night time or when the sun is hiding
- If you are doing a lot of water sports (scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing) you may want something warm to snuggle into for afterwards, especially if your hotel does not have hot water showers
- Up in the mountains, temperatures can drop low enough that a sweater and sometimes even a jacket would be most welcome
- Travelling in ferries, airplanes, buses, or even going to the movies. I don’t know why this is the case, but air-con operators can be trigger-happy, dropping temperatures to unbearable depths. Always bring a sweater or a jacket or pashmina; something to wrap around yourself. Or risk a torturous experience!
And don’t forget these
or a cap, as long as it has a wide enough brim to protect your face
polarised and/or anti glare
Toiletries and Medication
Essentials like shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant and moisturiser are easy to find here. And travel-sized toiletries are available to purchase everywhere. So, it’s easy enough to buy more product if or when you run out. However, keep in mind that Filipinos are fond of skin whitening products and sometimes you’ll struggle to find a moisturiser or deo that does not have this property incorporated into its ingredients.
– mosquito repellent
You may come across public restrooms (known here as CR – Comfort Rooms) where running water and toilet paper are scarce. So these will come in handy:
– hand sanitiser
– wet wipes
Of course, it goes without saying to always bring along enough of whatever regular medication / prescriptions you use, unless you’re sure that you can find it here without issues.
Travelling into any new environment and experiencing changes in diet increase the chances for upset stomachs, so bring along a small supply of
– oral rehydration solution
– over the counter painkillers
Although these can be found in pharmacies throughout the Philippines it is much more convenient to have them with you already, especially if you are somewhere a little more remote,.
– anti itch ointment
for insect bites and jellyfish stings might also come in handy.
– power adaptors – round and flat
you will find that two types of power outlet exist in the Philippines
Sure, you might bring your smartphone or laptop or tablet and these can be great if and when you have electricity and or wifi. But don’t forget books. Remember those?
You could find yourself experiencing delayed and long travel times. A good novel (or even a trashy one), pen and journal, a deck of cards are all classic non-tech, unplugged forms of entertainment. Might as well make the most of those times when the power is out or when you do not have access to electricity.
Not Necessary but Good to Have
– ear plugs
if you are a light sleeper and not a huge fan of weekend karaoke and the early morning calls of roosters and dogs, bring these.
– flashlight / torch
For the brown outs or walking the islands at night. I have a miniature one attached to my keys but lets face it, most of us end up using the ones on our phones.
– lightweight reusable shopping bag
Wherever and whenever you can, avoid accepting the plastic bags (or “cellophane”) that shopkeepers give you no matter how small your purchase. Rubbish disposal is a big problem especially on the islands. The less plastic consumed means less to potentially end up in our seas.
The reusable bags are not only good for shopping; they also do extra duties as a beach bag or to separate dirty clothes from clean in your suitcase. I know I’ve filed this under “Not Necessary” but I tend to always bring at least one with me any time I travel.
– unlocked mobile phone
You can pick up a SIM card at the airports in Manila and Cebu. Texting is relatively cheap here and can come in very handy when travelling.
– lightweight rain jacket or umbrella
Personally, I don’t usually have either of these with me. But there have been times that I’d wished I did.
If you’re going to hit the beaches or participate in water activities
– all weather/ waterproof camera
– dry bag
– quick dry towel
– water shoes / sandals – to avoid injury from sea urchins and rocky beaches
– rash guard
– mask and snorkel
– extra room in your suitcase for shopping and souvenirs
– a positive attitude!
Remember that you are travelling through a “developing” nation. There are aspects of it that are on par with the most modern countries. But there are other parts which can pose challenges.
Take a deep breath, have a sense of humour and enjoy these differences in culture. You are on vacation, after all!
Have I forgotten anything? If you can think of any essentials that I’ve missed, let us know in the comments below.