Philippines Packing List – 14 Must-Have Travel Essentials
If you’ve traveled to the Philippines before, whether to visit family or explore on your own, you know that the country has so many amazing and beautiful sights to see and a variety of fun activities to choose from that will suit your own travel preferences.
So, whether you’re planning a vacation in the big cities, hanging out at the beach, hiking through the mountains, or a combination, here are the essential must-pack items for your trip to the Philippines.
Disclosure Statement: This post may contain some affiliate links. However, as always, all opinions are my own. Read full blog disclosure statement here.
1. Basic Travel Medications
Be prepared for some common traveler maladies by bringing these items:
- Allergy medication (in case of rash, bug bites, air quality, etc)
- Pepto Bismol tablets – helps with upset stomach and easy to take on the go
- Diarrhea medication – because sometimes it’s just inevitable
- Motion sickness medication – for bouncy bus rides, small boating excursions
2. Sweatshirt or Blanket for Bus Rides
During most months and in a majority of areas, the Philippines is hot and humid. But be warned, if you’re traveling on an air-conditioned bus, the temperature will feel like it has been set to arctic freeze. Bring a sweatshirt (and thin blanket or wrap if you have the space). Otherwise, be prepared to be cold and miserable.
In some mountainous areas such as Baguio or Sagada, the air is significantly cooler in winter months (December – February). During the day, the temperature is fairly mild, but at night it gets chilly enough to warrant a thick jacket or fleece.
3. Hiking Backpack
There are so many great mountain regions in the Philippines that are popular for hiking and caving. If you plan on taking advantage of these outdoor activities, you’ll want to bring a backpack that’s not too heavy or bulky and provides back support as well.
I have a strong preference for Gregory backpacks because of the lower back structure which provides support while also allowing air to pass through. This means no sweaty back after your hike!
4. Water Bottle
Tap water is usually not advisable to drink so having a supply of bottled water while traveling is essential for preventing dehydration in the heat. While you can just buy bottled water at any local sari-sari store, I do find it a lot easier to transfer bottled water to my Hydro Flask travel bottle. It keeps water cold for longer, plus some hotels and hostels will provide purified water stations where you can fill your bottle up in the morning before you head out for the day.
5. Walking Shoes
In large cities like Manilla, there are a lot of cool tourist attractions to see including historic buildings and churches, parks, museums, and my favorite: the open-air markets. If you’re not a regular traveler, you’ll be surprised at how much you walk throughout the day. So make sure you have comfortable walking shoes. My preference is to wear my normal Asics running shoes (I wear the gel-cumulus similar to these), but for days with less walking (and an attempt to keep my feet cool and airy) I used to wear a really comfortable pair of Teva sandals.
In the Philippines, an umbrella is useful for both rain and sun. During the rainy months (generally late July to early November), you won’t want to travel anywhere without one. If you’re traveling during those months, be prepared for heavy downpours that will soak you entirely if you don’t have some means of shielding yourself lol. And while you might feel that using an umbrella isn’t necessary when it’s sunny out, I am telling you, it makes a huge difference. It will provide instant shade wherever you go.
7. Travel Guide
If you’re not familiar with the Philippines, or if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge about the country and history of various cities and landmarks, I suggest bringing a travel guide as a starting place. You’ll find a lot of basic information and can supplement that with research from travel bloggers, family, or local advice.
Sometimes I prefer a good old-fashioned book to carry around instead of having to search on my phone. This especially comes in handy for situations where I won’t know what the wifi/phone service will be like.
Check out the Lonely Planet Guide as a start, but there are also a lot of other great travel books out there.
8. Beach Bag/Towel and a Great Book
Sometimes all you need is a day on the beach with a good book and a fruity cocktail to sip on. And in a country with over 7,000 islands, you’ll find plenty of beaches to do just that!
Need book ideas? Try these recommendations from 11 Stellar Books to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. And don’t forget to check out the recently released Philippines travel memoir, Somewhere in the Middle.
9. Bug spray
While not needed in a large city as much as in a rural area, this is great to have handy when you arrive in the country. Actually my preference is to use OFF Lotion and not the spray because I think it works better. But it’s hard to find in the States, so you might need to buy when you arrive in the Philippines at a local department store or convenience store.
10. Packs of Tissues
Most public bathrooms (called a CR or Comfort Room) in the Philippines will not supply you with toilet paper, or will charge you for just a few squares of toilet paper. Always carry a pack of tissues in your pocket or purse for when you use the CR. And remember that most public CRs will charge about 5-10 php (Philippine pesos) for use.
11. Dry Bags
If you’re planning doing any island hopping tours, snorkeling, or just a leisure boat ride, don’t forget protect your electronics with dry bags. See this Peace Corps Packing List post for more detailed info on the dry bags including sizes and usage.
I always bring a journal with me while I travel. It helps to remember all the activities I did that day, sights I found interesting, or new dishes I tried. If it’s in a country where I don’t know the language, I record words or phrases I learned that day. If you’re someone who wants to write stories about your travels, this is the best place to start recording your experiences.
Tip: Don’t forget to write about each of the five senses: How did it look? Sound? Taste? Feel? Smell?
I recently came across a passion planner by Where to Next. It includes stories of Filipino travelers and entrepreneurs who are pursuing their passion. With all that inspiration, it’s a great way to plan, document, and process your trip.
Psst! If you’re traveling with children and want to teach them more about Filipino culture during your trip, be sure to get them this unique Philippines Travel Kit by 1020 Press. It comes with a journal, info about popular places to visit, a postcard, games and instructions, and a fold-out map. Your kids will love the activities and it will give them an opportunity to write about everything they are experiencing.
If you’re traveling to the Philippines to visit family or friends, you will need some great pasalubong (souvenir gift from abroad) ideas. While you can opt for the more typical gifts such as American brand candy, clothing, shoes, etc, you can also get creative. Small gifts like games, art supplies, stickers, and coloring books work great too without busting your budget.
So whether this is your first time to the Philippines or you’re hoping to explore and find a new adventure, make sure you pack the last essential item: openness. Whether you’re Filipino and are already familiar with the culture and customs or you’re heading to the Philippines for the first time, a sense of openness is required for any traveler.
Be open to new sights, experiences, perspectives, and come with a willingness to learn more. If something doesn’t go as planned, say bahala na and just go along with it.
Bahala na – a Filipino phrase that means “it’s up to God” or “it is what it is”
Who knows? A turn of events could turn out even better than your original plan! So enjoy and ingat ka (take care). Don’t forget to say hi to the Philippines for me!
Ingat sa biyahe! Safe Travels!
Psst! You might also enjoy reading:
- Top 10 Must-See Places in the Philippines
- How to Ride a Jeepney in the Philippines Like a Local
- 5 Reasons Why Traveling Will Help you Find Yourself
- 14 Packing Essentials for Peace Corps Philippines
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