The Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world. Over seven thousand coral-fringed islands rise out of a vast expanse of the western Pacific. Often ignored by travelers due to its 'inconvenient' location, the Philippines offers amazing rewards to those willing to take the time to go there. You will find the Philippines much less crowded than most Southeast Asia destinations and it's teeming with lush vegetation, fascinating wildlife, some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world and the opportunity to swim with the famed whale sharks. The peak months for swimming with the whale sharks are from February to May, though they have been known to migrate as early as November. Unlike whale watching, it is not a matter of if you will see one of these magnificent creatures, but rather a question of how many you might see!
Flying to the Philippines from the U.S. may require a connection in one of the other countries that fly to the Philippines, as PAL is the only U.S. airline currently flying to the Philippines. You can make connections in France, Hong Kong, the UAE, the Netherlands, South Korea, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, Qatar, Singapore or Thailand.
The majority of flights will most likely land in Manila, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque. Unless Manila is your destination, it is recommended that you fly into Cebu City's Mactan-Cebu International Airport instead. The country's second-busiest airport, it is more modern and has more amenities. Flying here also takes you away from the unscrupulous taxi drivers that haunt Manila's airport. The Franciso Bangoy International Airport in Davao on the island of Mindanao also handles international connections from Singapore with SilkAir. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Angeles City and previously confined to cargo flights, now handles passenger flights on AirAsia, Tiger Airways and CR Airways. Research your options carefully and plan according to what sites you want to be sure to see while in the Philippines. There are six more international airports and 34 regional airports on the islands, providing plenty of opportunity for island hopping.
There are 23 domestic air carriers in operation with a current Air Operator Certificate, the largest being Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, with fleets of 46 and 28, respectively. Check these airlines first for the most competitive rates.
Flexibility in flying to the Philippines will result in the cheapest air fare. Travel during non-peak hours and during the week, as opposed to a weekend. Traveling to the Philippines can be accomplished at anytime, though avoiding Holy Week, which is around Easter, will insure your being able to book rooms and avoid the biggest tourist crunch and the highest rates. Typhoon season from June to early December can put a damper on your vacation, but will probably not result in cheaper fares due to the unpredictability of typhoons. In more recent years the weather has become even more unpredictable, but you take that chance regardless of where you travel. Fares may be highest during January and February when it is the least humid and the temperatures are pleasant, and when many places are in the throes of winter. But, since the Philippines is not one of the most popular destinations, flight prices are considered reasonable and easily come-by, year-round.
The Philippines is really a relatively little known gem just waiting to be discovered by you. Take the road less traveled and take a chance. You will be thankful that you took the time to explore the Philippines.
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