I guess many people are planning their trip to The Philippines and that is why I decided to share my experience on what things waiting to be packed may be useful in this country and what are completely useless.
If only I had this knowledge in a proper time I could pack my backpack in much more clever way.
Of course everything depends on for how long you go; is that going to be couple of weeks or not specified time, one year for example. That also depends on whether you will constantly travel or want to spend most of the time in one place.
My experience comes from living on a small island, situated 1.5 hours ferry trip to big city, where I can buy all necessary products and get access to all services required.
If you want to know more, ask specific questions, feel free to ask in comments and I will answer promptly.
Medicines and hygienic items
That is “must have”, doesn’t matter for how long you go. Simply take small first aid kit with you especially if you are allergic or need any specific medicine. Most of popular medicaments you can buy in local pharmacy. They usually have different market names, but person in the pharmacy will know what you need. However something for allergy, for food poisoning, any disinfectants are worth to take with you. These kinds of products are not so obvious to get in local pharmacies. Quite useful may be also sunburnt remedy, although locals use aloe plant, as it is the best for any burns. Other creams and ointments you can buy here and prices are same or lower than in Europe.
Talking about “pharmacy stuff”: very important information for women – there are generally no tampons in shops or pharmacies. Local women do not use them so you have to bring them with you.
Condoms? Yes, available, however usually in Filipino size which is, let’s say, not practical…
Clothes and shoes
Forget long pants. One pair of regular or zip-off would be enough. It is warm all the time here. The most important if you take t-shirts and shorts, ever few pairs of them. You can also spend 3-4 Euro per piece buying clothes here, no problem. You will not be disappointed. There are also many second-hand shops and if only you are ok with this, you can find nice clothes in a very good condition and pay like 1 Euro per piece. If you are coming for longer, especially out of peak season, take light rain jacket. It is not mandatory, but may be useful.
Bare in mind that Filipinos are generally small, so female formed women or big-shouldered men may face some difficulties with buying clothes here, especially in smaller places.
Shoes, different than sandals or flip-flops, are useful only during travel from and back to Europe. Unless you are planning trekking, hiking etc. I took two pairs running shoes with me and thought these are always necessary. Well, after few months I realized I put them on maybe two times. If one day you desperately need regular or sport shoes, you can buy them here. Price would be same or, in most cases, lower and it’s always batter to leave more space in the luggage and carry less.
Living in such climate, you will be taking shower few times per day and quick-drying towels are just perfect. For me that is mandatory element in my luggage. It is also light and takes less space than regular towels.
Perfumes and cosmetics
Perfumes here are very expensive, good brands even 2-3 times more expensive than in Europe. Bring them if they are necessary for you. Remember though about high humidity in the Philippines, which makes you wet few minutes after shower and everything you put on your body will run with sweating. Simply, think twice if and how much of perfumes you need to place in your luggage. Branded creams and other specific cosmetics are also quite expensive but if you plan stay longer you will be happy with good quality local products available in shops. And believe me, after few weeks you would rather choose natural products like virgin coconut oil or fresh aloe, which are healthier and better than any other cosmetics.
It’s not for survival fans only. Good knife is useful on many occasions. I have my CRKT M16-03Z (Militaria.pl) all the time with me and use it in the kitchen, on camping, on local market cutting fruits etc. It also helped few times with doors opening and simple motorbike repairs.
At these latitudes it’s getting dark about 6:30 pm everyday and live is going on till late night. Roads in the Philippines are poorly lighted and on small Siquijor they are completely dark out of bigger places. Because there are only 4 bigger places on the island, most of it is just dark. It is the same on other islands, too. Also it is dark near houses, so small and good torch is crucial. I do advise even two – one hand torch and one headlamp. It is worth to buy good quality ones, Fenix models for example.
Basic diving set
There is a lot of water around, really 😉 Anyone who wants to swim and admire wonderful underwater life should bring diving mask and breathing tube at least. Those available in local shops are not good quality ones and quite expensive, too. I think there is no common sense to carry snorkeling flippers, as they take too much space in the luggage and you can always borrow one pair or snorkel without.
Doesn’t matter you will have laptop, tablet, camera or any other device with you, it is worth to bring memory stick as well. You will be meeting people, spending time, partying, travelling with them and everyone will be taking pictures. You may want to copy many of them to remember all those nice people and moments in the Philippines.
Memory cards or mobile phones are generally more expensive here. If you want to have mobile internet access you will have to buy local sim card. In this case double sim card mobile phone or spare one can be useful, especially if you want to keep your local phone number active while travelling.
It is very hot here and you will be sweating heavily. Local drinking water doesn’t contain minerals and you will have to supplement them in order to stay in a good shape. Food can help, but you may not have possibility to have proper meals every day. That is not a big problem in case of 2-3 weeks visits, but if you plan to stay longer it would be good to bring vitamins and other minerals and add them to drinking water from time to time. Do not trust local “powders” – except sugar and food colorants they do not contain anything valuable in. I’m pretty sure after some time you will find natural sources of minerals and will be using only them, but at the beginning good vitamins and minerals supplements can help.
Asian specialty is awful “3+1” mixture of instant coffee, instant milk and sugar. Also in the Philippines it is available in literally every shop. Real coffee is rarity and if you find it somewhere you can be sure it is relatively expensive and poor quality. Of course you can order good coffee in most of resorts and good restaurants; it is also available in any bigger city, but as mentioned before, its price is high. So, if you are coffee lover you should bring more with you (I can hug one packet with pleasure ;-))
In case you still have spare space in your luggage, fill it with your local favourite food, but first study terms and conditions regarding food transportations. Buying good sausage, cold meats (the best are Polish ones of course) or good cheese it’s like a miracle. These kinds of products are almost unavailable and very, very expensive, so if you love such food and have to have it, just think about packing small stock.
And if you plan to visit any non-vegetarian Poles living in the Philippines you will make them extremely happy if you bring a sausage instead of bottle of quality vodka