Getting To The Philippines
Getting to the Philippines can be a bit of a challenge. This is because it is a country that isn’t connected to its neighbors by land. Unlike other popular Southeast Asian destinations, it takes more than an overnight bus to get to the country. There are several transportation options available and thousands of beautiful islands waiting for willing travelers.
Getting to the Philippines by air
Airplanes are by far the easiest, safest, and most common way of getting to the Philippines. Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia are two of the most popular low-cost carriers flying into the country. They have flights from as far as the Middle East. Full-service airlines flying to the Philippines include the flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Emirates, Etihad, ANA, and many others (it’s a long list!).
Main airport in Manila
The most common international flights to the Philippines fly directly to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. As the country’s main airport, NAIA can get pretty congested. So if you’d like to skip all of that air traffic, you could also try flying into the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark. This is about an hour north of Manila.
Also, depending on your itinerary, it might be better for you to bypass Manila or Clark entirely. You may fly in directly to other regional hubs in Visayas and Mindanao.
Airports in the South
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu welcomes flights from a variety of international destinations including Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. It’s best to fly straight there if your itinerary is focused on destinations such as Cebu, Bohol, Bacolod, Dumaguete, or Siquijor.
If your main destination is Boracay, try getting to the Philippines via flying in to Kalibo. International flights that land there come from Seoul, Busan, Singapore, Beijing, and Taipei.
For travelers who want to explore Palawan, the Puerto Princesa International Airport is best, with international flights coming in from Taipei.
The Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao welcomes flights from Singapore and occasionally Jeddah, and is best for those who are doing the bulk of their traveling in Davao, General Santos, and other parts of Mindanao.
Travel time by air
If you’re coming from the United States, getting to the Philippines will take about 16 hours, while it takes about 14 hours from Western European airports. Flights to the Philippines from the Middle East last around nine hours, while from South Asia, it takes roughly six hours.
In Asia, the quickest flights to the Philippines will be from Hong Kong, which is roughly an hour away. Other destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and even Japan and South Korea are all between three to four hours away.
Getting to the Philippines by sea
Getting to the Philippines via boat is definitely the more obscure way of doing it. However, it can be done, particularly if you’re traveling from Malaysia.
Shipping company Aleson Lines travels between Sandakan in northeast Malaysia, to Zamboanga on the southernmost tip of the Philippines. This route should come with a warning, though. While foreigners have been able to travel to Zamboanga without a glitch, it can be unsafe. Foreign travelers may be targeted by kidnappers from terrorist groups. That being said, it may be best to avoid this route at all. Though, it is an option the foolhardy may be all too willing to take.
Cruise ship MV/Seabourn Sojourn does stop in the Philippines for a few days as part of its 44-day Asian cruise. This starts in Hong Kong and ends in Singapore. If you’re interested in seeing even just a bit of the Philippines, this might be the most ideal way for you to do it. The best part is, the cruise hits some of the best (albeit very touristy parts) of the country: Manila, Hundred Islands, Boracay, El Nido, and Coron. Take note, it is a cruise, so it also comes with a hefty price tag.
The Philippines is in the UTC +8 Time Zone, so be sure to adjust your watches when you arrive. You wouldn’t want to miss any connecting flights!
Don’t forget that low-cost carriers don’t normally serve refreshments for free. Have some cash on your person (dollars are your safest currency bet) so you can purchase a drink or snack, especially on a long-haul flight.
If you’re flying via Cebu Pacific Air in particular, you can also expect a round of a Q&A game initiated by the cabin crew. You might find it slightly annoying if you’re trying to sleep. But, it can be fun, especially if you get your answers right!
Also, take note that if you’re on a plane with mostly Filipino passengers, expect a lot of food in the carry-on bins and a lot of chatter just before you land.