A guide to solo female travel in the Philippines

If you’re a woman on a mission to conquer solo travel, take the plunge in the Philippines with our handy guide to help you find your way around the country.

Solo female traveler, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we said that solo travel is probably one of our favorite ways to see the world. Nothing against travel with friends or partners, but you can’t deny that there is something exciting about enjoying your own company while paving your way through the world and doing it your way. 

For many solo female travelers, especially first-timers, choosing a suitable destination to visit is one of the biggest concerns. If you are planning to take off on your very own “Eat, Pray, Love” journey to celebrate yourself and to cherish a few days of uninterrupted downtime, consider visiting the Philippines

Tackling cultural differences

Let’s establish this right away: The Philippines is a safe country for women, but it does have its kinks. “Are you traveling alone?” “Where’s your husband?” If you have ever traveled to any Asian country as a solo female traveler, dodging such questions about yourself is probably a cakewalk for you by now. If this sounds bizarre to you and makes you want to roll your eyes, brace yourself to shoot down many such questions that may be thrown your way.

In the Philippines, it is fairly common for solo female travelers to get flooded with similar questions, especially in the remote parts of the country.

Worry not – most of the time, these are harmless queries from curious locals who may not be familiar with the concept of a woman traveling all by herself.

A pro-tip many women use to keep prying eyes at bay is to lie through your teeth and just say your partner is about to join you in a couple of hours. A harmless little white lie to get rid of unwanted attention is sometimes the best solution.

Finding a home away from home

Choice of accommodation can make or break your experience as a solo female traveler. In metropolitan cities like Manila, there are plenty of accommodation options available and safe places to stay are easy to find. No matter which part of the country you visit, look out for hotels or hostels located in busy and accessible parts of the city as opposed to the outskirts or alienated localities.

If you are spending a few days in Manila, consider staying in the neighborhoods of Makati or Manila Bay for an exciting experience. While Makati, home to some of the biggest shopping malls in Asia, is perfect for those looking to indulge in retail therapy and nightlife, the area around Manila Bay offers beautiful views and a glimpse into Manila’s rich history and heritage.

Another great way to choose the right accommodation is by reading reliable reviews of other travelers, especially of  those who have traveled to the Philippines solo. Is the hotel located in a safe part of the city? Is it easily accessible with public transportation? How helpful is the hotel staff during emergencies? Cover your bases while choosing accommodations and you are sure to have a great time in the Philippines. The same advice applies to transportation: Check travelers’ reviews and go with the ride that best suits your needs.

Getting around the Philippines

There are more than 40 airports (international and domestic) spread across the country on various islands, served by at least half a dozen airlines. If you are flying out of Manila, you will be able to find a lot of cheap flights to popular destinations like Cebu and Boracay

The obvious alternative to flying is taking a boat or ferry to travel around the country. The cheaper and more accessible mode of transportation (and, in most cases, the more eco-friendly option), ferries, will be your best bet if you want to visit islands without the hassle of air travel.

Traveling to remote islands on ferries in the Philippines is completely safe because you are typically going to be accompanied by a group of people. There’s no better way to truly see the archipelago’s untouched natural beauty than to go island hopping on a local ferry.

However, if you plan on sticking to one big island like Luzon (where Manila is located), Boracay or Palawan, renting a car may be a good idea for getting around. It’s perfectly safe, comfortable and convenient for a solo traveler. 

Having said that, what you should definitely steer clear from is hiring local, unregistered taxis anywhere in the Philippines. They not only charge unfair rates to tourists, but they are also not the safest travel option for a solo female traveler.

Moreover, since there is officially no way to track these taxis down in case of an emergency, stick to Grab taxis as much as possible. If they are unavailable, always find a reliable local travel company that can provide ground transportation with a trusted driver.

If you are exploring a new city by foot, a good rule of thumb is to avoid venturing out alone into dark, empty alleys at night and trusting your instincts at all times. If something doesn’t feel right, ladies, it probably isn’t right.

Beating solo travel loneliness

As much fun as it is to go solo and to live your travel dreams, it can also get a little lonely at times; especially if you’ve planned a long trip. There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way and it should definitely not deter you from taking those coveted solo trips. If at all you start craving some company, take it in your stride and try one of the following ways to help you cope:

  • How about joining a local group tour? It’s a great way to find company while sightseeing in a new city or while island-hopping. With most group tours, you don’t even need to worry about the transportation since it’s usually included in the package.
    It’s a win-win situation! Alternatively, you could also consider hiring the services of a local tour guide to show you around instead of having to do it all by yourself.
  • Another convenient way to find like-minded people to meet is to start right where you are staying. If you’re putting up at a hostel, you are likely to find fellow solo travelers there who you could share a meal with or just catch up with at the end of the day.
  • If all else fails, head to a local cafe and strike up a conversation with the barista. If that’s not an option, sometimes even people-watching at a cafe can be a good way to distract yourself and to soak in the vibes of the new city.

Packing tips for the Philippines

Want to have a smooth sail through the Philippines on your solo travel adventure? Pack your bags well! Here is a quick list of things you should keep in mind while packing:

  • The Philippines is a hot and humid country and the best way to tackle the weather is by wearing loose, comfortable clothes made of natural fabrics. Think breezy linen tops with skirts, pants or even flowy dresses, topped with a cute hat for extra protection.
  • Make sunscreen your best friend if you want to beat the scorching sun, especially in the islands. Be sure to carry your favorite product along because it may not be available locally. 
  • While Manila is a modern city and is comparable to other metropolitan cities of the world, it’s a different story in the rural areas of the Philippines. Try to dress conservatively if you are not sure what to expect. However, if you are visiting places of importance like temples, museums, churches, etc., dress down irrespective of the city you’re in.
  • Wear something that covers your shoulders and knees as a mark of respect since it is possible that you may be denied entry if not appropriately dressed. But no matter what you wear, keep a scarf or a light jacket handy at all times to help you cover up quickly.

Traveling in the Philippines as a solo woman may seem intimidating, but we promise you it’s a chance worth taking. The country is not just beautiful, it also offers a safe and comfortable environment to give wings to your wanderlust.

Whether you’re the kind of girl who likes to spend days sunbathing at the beach or the kind who wants to explore every nook and cranny of a new city, the Philippines will welcome you with open arms. Take your beach time a notch higher on the white sandy beaches of Boracay or go on a hunt for local street food in Manila; the Philippines is perfect to dip your toes in solo travel adventures. All you need to do is remain calm, composed and confident while you’re at it!

Posted December 1, 2020
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Chandrika Ghosh
Full-time travel blogger & writer from India on a mission to live life on her own terms. Perpetually suffering from itchy feet syndrome. Can be found zoning out into the distance when not typing away on a laptop. Survival strategy - tea & coffee.
image of blog writer Chandrika