I think we can all agree:
The Philippines looks like a traveler’s dream; over 7,000 beautiful islands each with their own unique adventure just waiting to be had.
But backpackers and adventure travelers alike like to be spontaneous, which is hard to do when the Islands are so damn far apart with no real infrastructure dedicated to tourists. A quick scan online will reveal some hard truths:
Getting around the Philippines is not easy.
Unline other backpacking trips, planning your internal transport options in advance becomes a must. Islands might be days of traveling apart. That dream of Island hopping in the Philipines just got a lot less… dreamy.
Don’t you worry.
I’ll show the absolute easiest way of traveling the Philippines.
NOT YOUR USUAL BACKPACKING DESTINATION
Thailand is made for backpackers. It’s easy to get around, and more importantly, it doesn’t take too much research to figure out where one should go, or what route one should take
Everyone and their mother knows the major Islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Phi Phi, and traveling between them takes very little effort. Have a little longer? Do the jungle thing bro – spend some time in Chang Mai.
Once in Thailand, you’ll quickly meet thralls of backpackers all doing the same route as you.
In the Philippines, there are no such typical backpacking routes. This is partly due to choice. There are over 7,000 Islands in the Philippines! But more importantly, you are limited by the lack of transit options. Even short ferries to and from neighboring Islands can take 8 hours.. and that’s if you make their once a day departure times! Want to go to an Island that isn’t immediately next door? That’s going to take you 4 ferries, 3 days.. and a raft. Yikes.
FLYING WITHIN THE PHILIPPINES
This is why when it comes to traveling internally around the Philippines your best bet is to fly.
Now, I know this doesn’t sound very backpacker-y and whilst it may not be your absolute cheapest option, it can still be extraordinarily cheap. Like $20 cheap.
Yeah, now you’re listening!
Besides, what would you prefer, 3 days on multiple ferries, or one 40 min flight??
During my 11 days in the Philippines, we took 6 internal flights. It sounds like a lot, but they were all between 30mins – 1hr 30mins long, plus you only had to be at the airport an hour before. The biggest drawback was the layover times on days where we had to take two flights to get to our paradise island of choice, but we built this into our itinerary as travel days where we could catch up on work with some nice semi-fast airport wifi.
Following is a compressive list of all the low-cost carrier operating in the Philippines. I’ve broken them down into three categories.
Main Players – Low cost airlines that have multiple internal flights all over the Philippines
Toe-dippers – Low cost carriers that have just one or two routes within the Philippines
Outsiders – Low cost airlines that have multiple routes from neighboring countries to Filipino cities.
Niche Outsiders – Low cost carriers that have only one or two very specific flights into the Philippines
Cebu Pacific Air rules the Philippine skies with the most flights, flying to almost every domestic regional centers and island destinations. It also flies to and from the Middle East, the Pacific, Australia and the US (Hawaii)
Philippine Airlines may not be classified as a low-cost Airline, it still made the list as it is one of only 3 airlines that operates multiple internal routes with the Philippines. Price wise it may not compete with Cebu Pacific and Air Asia’s super low promos, it’s standard fares can still be sub $100, which in the United States would be considered low cost!
Air Asia flies internally to 20 destinations across the Philippines as well as destinations all over the world, including Europe and the US.
SkyJet Air is a new boutique airline operating solely within the Philippines between Manila and 4 other destinations; Coron, Siargao, Boracay, and Botanes.
Xiamen Air operates internal flights between Manila and Cebu.
Jetstar Airways flies into Clark and Manila from Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore Indonesia, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Australia and New Zealand. It’s best budget promos are from Japan, Singapore, and Australia.
Scoot is a Singapore-based low-cost airline operated by Singapore Airlines and the sister company of Silk Air. Scoot can take you to 63 destinations across 17 countries. Whilst Scoot can fly you to over 20 destinations in the Philippines, it doesn’t this by partnering with Cebu Pacific. So unless you are flying directly to/from Manila, Clark, Cebu, and Kalibo you are probably best served booking directly with Cebu Pacific.
Silk Air – operates low-cost flights from Singapore to Davao.
Jin Air – operates low-cost fares to Cebu from Seoul and Busan.
Vanilla Air – operates low-cost fares to Cebu from Tokyo
Jeju Air -operates low-cost flights to Cebu and Manila from Busan and Incheon in Busan and Incheon from Cebu and Manila.
Air Busan – operates low-cost flights to Cebu from Busan.
Cheeky Tip: Almost every single flight was late. Those layover times I complained about? Necessary, if it wasn’t for a couple of hours spare, we would have missed our connecting flights. Build a cushion into your Itinerary when booking internal flights. You are flying on Island time.