Famous for the longest combined coastline in the world and Imelda Marcos' shoe collection amongst many other things, the Philippines has developed a unique identity by merging its pan-Asian ethnic origins with hundreds of years of colonial influence. Experience this intoxicating mix in Manila, where the sights, sounds, and flavours reflect the merging of local Filipino culture with that of the various immigrant groups. As Asia's largest Christian country, churches, cathedrals, and chapels of the baroque style or made entirely from steel are dotted all across the Philippines' three main island groups. Visit the vast rice fields of the Igorots at Banaue and Bhohol's Chocolate Hills in the highlands, or go down to the coast for a bit of whale-shark-watching at Donsol. Palawan's coral reefs and subterranean park are a must-visit for any diving enthusiast while beach lovers can pick a spot on the sands of Boracay.
The country's scattered and isolated location makes it less crowded than Malaysia or Indonesia, but this is precisely what makes it a great place to visit. From Spanish-style Vigan to Siquijor's mystic healers, the Philippines reveals a culture and way of life that is far removed from the urban landscape you're probably used to. The local cuisine reflects the country's diverse influences — from whole roasted pigs, to simple stir fried noodles, Filipino food is an explosion of tastes. Chilled fruit-based drinks and herbal teas are popular during the summertime, but rum, brandy, and gin are staples all year.
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Most airlines fly via Hong Kong (HKG), Seoul (ICN or SEL), Tokyo (NRT), or Singapore (SIN) to Manila (MNL), which is the main international airport for the Philippines. There are smaller international airports at Angeles City (CRK), Cebu (CEB), Davao (DVO), Kalibo (KLO) which are preferable if you want to avoid Manila altogether and head straight to the beaches or countryside. Air Philippines has direct flights from Vancouver (YVR) to Manila, while other airlines such as Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, United, Continental, Dragonair, and Korean Air fly to Manila and Cebu via airports in the US and Asia.
Most Filipino airports charge international passengers a terminal fee which is payable in the local currency of pesos or in US Dollars.
The country has a tropical climate — hot from March to May, rainy from June to October, and cool from November to February. In some areas of the Philippines it rains all year round and the typhoon season is from July to September. The average temperature for the year is 25°C with a humidity level of 77%, although temperatures during the summer can soar as high as 38°C.
When booking your tickets, try to avoid the Easter and Christmas holidays, typhoon season, and the peak tourist season from January to May. The off-peak season extends from June to September, and although this falls under the rainy season, areas like Bohol, Cebu, and Negros have good weather for most of the year and, weather-wise, can be visited at any time.