Backpacking throughout the Philippines is an adventure – you’ll be met with the world-renowned inconveniences of Manila (not to mention the perpetual bumper to bumper traffic) before you can savour the cold, crisp air of Baguio City in the North or the clear blue waters and underground rivers of Palawan in the South. Exciting, huh?

It may take a while and a few more trips to the Philippines before you are acquainted with the inherent charm of the bothersome security checks in Manila malls. But before you step out of the airport and begin your backpacking trip, you’ll find these travel hacks quite helpful so your next trip can be less of a hassle.

Travel hack 1: Passing security checks in the airport

One of the things people forget when going through security is that wearing a belt is a huge hassle. If you insist, put it on after all the security checks. I always find it convenient to bring a body bag or a small bag where I can place my passport, valuables, coins, phone and camera when I need to go through that beep machine. With everything in the bag, you don't need to remove them one by one and then put them back in your pockets again.

One of the basic backpacking tips for first-time flyers: liquids, gels or aerosols which are 100ml or less can be placed in your hand-carry bag but they must be placed inside a transparent plastic. The plastic must be re-sealable and not sealed with items such as tape, rubber bands or ribbons. If you really need lots of lotion or sunscreen (more than 100ml) for your beach hopping adventure, they should go to your checked-in baggage.

The list for restricted items inside the airport was revised mid-2015. You can find that memo 

Travel hack 2: Claiming airport freebies

Did you know that Globe, one of the leading telecommunication companies in the PH, is giving away free sim cards for foreigners, backpacking tourists and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming in the country? Usually, they set up small stands. Just ask the airport concierge.

You may present your passport and an ID, and voila, a pre-loaded sim card! You’re welcome. 

Travel hack 3: Finding cheap taxis in the Manila airport

Saying this with a lot of self-loathing: Airport taxis can charge as high as Php1000 (US$22) per trip when the flag down rate is only Php40 (about $1). If you exit the airport looking like a foreigner (because you are and that’s not your fault) with a trolley full of luggage, expect somebody to come near you for their taxi service.

If you are backpacking, try going around the airport and exit through the departures side where you’ll find regular-metered taxis at the cheap flag down rate. If you don’t want to go all the way there with your 1-month worth of vacation of bags, download GrabCar or Uber and find your taxi in an instant!

P.S. NAIA has free Wi-Fi, which you can use to download the apps and get the taxi or sedan you want.

Travel hack 4: Getting a free shuttle bus

Budget travelers, particularly those on a backpacking trip, like this word a lot – free. Why not, right? Every (insert currency here) counts.

This travel hack will get you a free ride on the shuttle bus system which connects all terminals for passengers who have connecting flights but departing from another terminal in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. There is one available every 15 minutes, or at least that’s what their website says. Are you on a flight with Philippine Airlines? It has its own service between NAIA terminals 2 and 3. Just ask around, there’s always a helpful Samaritan out there.

Travel hack 5: Backpacking like a boss by booking island trips ahead


Hey, you’ve bagged a deal in Manila after a business meeting! Nice. Time to celebrate our victory with a backpacking trip to one of the small islands in the south. Save your hard-earned money by booking ahead and booking through local low-cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save with their promo fares.

It goes the same way when you’re going to ride on a boat or ferry. Upon reaching the destination, purchase a return ticket right away. Sometimes, ferries have “one for two” promos or purchasing two tickets (departure and return) for the price of one.

Don’t forget to take a picture of available return schedules, so you won’t miss your trip.


Travel hack 6: Getting a travel insurance

The Philippines is a beautiful country for backpack travelling and you may find it fun exploring its caves and diving into its depths. But when you go to the remote islands, hospitals and banks are essentially non-existent if you ever get injured. A comprehensive travel insurance coverage from a good provider will even allow doctors to come to you, instead of you going to the nearest hospital. While most insurers offer reimbursement of medical expenses, there are a few available insurers who will give you medical attention without purging your wallet.


Travel hack 7: Going around with an offline map

When backpacking, it’s hard to get around when you are in a new and unfamiliar town. But fear not, there’s an app for that! It’s called Maps.Me – and it’s fully OFFLINE. Step aside, Google Maps. No more screenshots and downloading the route for offline use. You can easily find it on Google Play and in the App Store.


Backpacking throughout the Philippines? Find a cheap travel insurance to cover for delayed flights, lost baggage, trip cancellation or injuries while on the trip. Compare travel insurance with GoBear.