Debating travelling the Philippines with a baby or toddler? Don’t debate and just go. Seriously we want you to know the Philippines is a fantastic and easy travel destination with little ones.
When we were first thinking of visiting the Philippines I was excited. Who doesn’t want to immerse themselves in a tropical climate with aqua blue water, thick rainforest, stunning islands, beautiful locals and coconuts galore? Every island felt like a fantasyland. And we surprisingly found it easy to travel with a toddler! Babies are absolutely adored in the Philippines and you will receive star treatment wherever you go. We also found baby-related items were easily attainable even in the more remote areas and we never felt unsafe. The following is our comprehensive rundown on everything we learnt from 1 month travelling the Philippines with a baby.
Table of Contents
Travelling the Philippines with a Baby or Toddler
Accommodation in the Philippines with a Baby
You do not need to stress about the poor quality of accommodation in the Philippines. We stayed in cheap places the whole month we were travelling and loved each place, even if they didn’t have 5 stars. We never paid over $40 AUD for one night, with the more expensive places being in Coron and El Nido. They still had everything we needed. Accommodation costs in the Philippines are slightly more than other parts of South-East Asia however still very reasonable. We would recommend having a place with aircon and if staying in places like Port Barton try to stay at a place with a backup generator – as power there can be a little temperamental. Until recently the town didn’t even have 24-hour power, however now everywhere on the usual tourist trail has power but suffers occasional ‘brownouts’.
In saying that about aircon, we did find the quality of air conditioners to be VERY hit and miss, with some cooling much better than others. Always good to have a room that also has a fan just in case the air-conditioned can’t keep up. You might think just a fan is sufficient but sometimes of the year it is super hot and doesn’t really cool down overnight.
We would also recommend trying to source a place with a pool if going to El Nido and Coron. The only safe beaches you’re able to swim in are only accessible via tuk-tuk rides. With babies and nap times, trips to the beach can be hard to fit in every day, no matter how motivated you are! Having a kettle and fridge in the room is also super handy. All our accommodations that didn’t have kettles would provide us freshly boiled upon request for sterilizing bottles, likewise, they would keep things in the fridge. Finally, the best places and deals book out well in advance, so start planning your Philippines trip with your baby asap!
Transport in the Philippines with a baby
We used many different types of transport during our stay in the Philippines. Planes, coach-busses, minivans, small and large ferries, small local boats, taxies and grab cars, tuk-tuks, scooters and our feet. Figuring out transportation in the Philippines can be hard at times so here is a little run down on the ones we used. We won’t go into detail about the plane transport because it’s nothing special just your average plane ride.
As the Philippines is made up of loads of different islands, busses are your best bet for travelling long distances as long as the roads allow for it. We used coach busses on a few occasions and found them reasonably comfortable. Some busses even have onboard attendants almost like air hostesses, plush seats, aircon, and movies for your entertainment. They do have more modest busses without aircon but you wouldn’t use them as the price difference isn’t worth it.
Our favourite part of the bus trips was having different people jump on and off selling delicious food. We even tried some empanadas and a few yummy Buko pies (coconut pies), they were freshly cooked and still piping hot, delicious! The best part is the busses only cost a few dollars to cover immense distances! Be aware the bus stations are chaotic to say the least and seem to be with little organisation. Be prepared for a bit of stress if catching a bus from a station. Busses also just stop at designated spots along the road and you simply wave them down. Just be aware that you may have to wait for a few to go past as some may not have air conditioners.
Busses often don’t run exactly to a schedule so factor that into your travel times, and be aware they drive like complete psychos, blasting the horn and racing the whole way.
We also used some minivans to get to places where mainly tourists travel that didn’t have perfect roads the whole way. We had heard some horror stories about the roads in Palawan, however, we found that they have built new roads and almost the whole way to Port Barton was sealed road. Except for maybe the last twenty minutes. Roadworks are wherever you go in the Philippines widening and strengthening the roads to accommodate the increased tourism. We didn’t mind the minivans, however, the one thing we would mention is that they pack you in like sardines and drive like absolute madmen. Next time we would probably hire a private car for these trips instead if money permitted, the cost, however, is about 10x more of sharing the journey. Ollie coped fine being squished up laying across both James and I to sleep.
As you can imagine with the whole loads of island situation we caught lots of ferries. For the price difference, we would also suggest booking tourist class or business class when given the option, they are also fairly cheap. These mean you can enjoy aircon (sometimes it’s too cold so bring a jumper in case) and sometimes watch some terrible movie on the screens. Otherwise, the cheapest ticket available is in the open air on the top deck, which is also kind of fun too.
Local Boats (Bangka)
If you are heading to the Philippines and don’t visit the remote beach islands, you’re being straight-up silly! They are beautiful and loads can be visited by a boat driven by a local Bangka boat, a traditional Philippino fishing boat. These smaller vessels can easily access all of the super special spots the Philippines has to offer. When it comes to boat safety it’s important to listen to the driver and always use commonsense. We brought a special infant approved lifejacket for Ollie from home as we wanted to ensure he was always safe and sound. Some local boats did have little life jackets available and offered them to us. However, we preferred to use our own, as they looked very worn to say the least and were nowhere near as fitting and secure. Best to just bring your own.
Taxis and Grabs
Taxis are available almost everywhere but just be careful as not everyone reliable and many will try to rip you off. Always make sure they use the meter before you jump it or you may be in for a rude surprise once you arrive. Also, make sure to break up your 1000 peso note to smaller money as they often ‘won’t have change’, regardless if they do so that they can keep it.
We preferred to use Grab cars, the Philippino and other Asian countries version of Uber, however some areas it’s still not available. They are generally a much cheaper way of getting around than a taxi and you are safe in knowing what the fare will be before you go anywhere. Be aware that you will be hard-pressed to get a vehicle with a car seat so ensure you do your seatbelt up
If you haven’t used a tuk-tuk yet then get excited! Ollie loved our tuk-tuk rides and even cried when we arrived at our destinations and had to disembark. Our favourite part was seeing the themed ones! We experienced a Hello Kitty, Transformers and many many more. Another thing we noticed is that in every new town we visited, the tuk-tuks were made differently – some better than others.
We honestly were always amazed how they would manage to stack up all of us and our luggage. We suggest keeping tuk-tuk rides to short journeys as they really aren’t comfortable, very loud and not the safest. In some places, though they are your only option, especially the smaller towns. Always negotiate a price with them before you go anywhere. Generally, in tourist areas, tuk-tuk drivers try and rip you off so stand your ground about what price you want to pay.
We also rented a scooter and helmets and went on a sunrise waterfall adventure with Ollie strapped into our Babybjorn baby carrier. We one did this on two accounts as tuk-tuks don’t tend to start running in the early hours. Being a lifelong licensed motorbike I trusted James implicitly in carting us around – at a very slow speed!
Our main mode of transport while exploring the towns was our trusty feet! Just keep in mind that there are not many pathways and people tend to drive close to you so always carry your little ones and walk in a single file on busy roads. A stroller would be completely useless in the Philippines and would be a nightmare trying to walk with. Best to just carry your little one or use a baby carrier.
The water, like almost everywhere in Asia, is not drinkable! DO NOT DRINK THE WATER! It’s not even okay to brush teeth with the water. Use bottled water to make bottles, to drink or brush your teeth. When you find yourself in a warm climate, water is super important and being hydrated is paramount to having an enjoyable holiday. Make sure you are hydrated as well as baby, toddler or kids!
Bring a good sippy cup everywhere, one that holds enough water and your little one finds it easy to drink out of. Ollie drinks loads of water as we offer him his sippy cup 24/7, it’s pretty much always in one of our hands. We found it best to buy big 4 litre bottles of water from corner stores every time we needed some and would refill our bottles. Usually, we got through one per day for the three of us.
We found that if Ollie is being fussy and refuses water he will drink more when we add some coconut water (only once a day to minimise sugar intake, 100ml coconut/150ml water). Coconut water is a perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes. It’s also loaded with several important nutrients, including minerals that most people don’t get enough of. We give a huge thumbs up to coconut water! Just watch out and read the back because some have loads of added sugar. We loved the Philippines and found fresh coconuts available everywhere even while island hopping, we found an abundance of them on seemingly deserted beaches!
Also, it’s a good idea to take some rehydration packets overseas with you. They are fantastic to ensure you don’t get too dehydrated. Check on packets first if they can be used for your children’s age range. All of the ones we found could be used at any age. Although they can be found everywhere, we suggest bringing your own. We needed some in remote Port Barton and after searching about twenty stalls we found a lady who sold plenty of it.
It’s easy to strike up a conversation with anyone as English is widely spoken and displayed everywhere. Mostly everyone is happy to lend a helping hand especially if you are holding a baby or with a child. It was truly amazing to watch how caring and nurturing the Philippino people are with young children, especially babies. Everywhere we went Ollie was the centre of attention and every place we went accepted him with open arms. You could see the locals beaming with joy entertaining and hanging with him. While visiting don’t be surprised if you have a constant humming of people yelling “hey baby” from every shop, stall, car, bus driver, or any people walking by. Don’t worry they aren’t hitting on you, they just love your baby haha! Shopkeepers, restaurants and accommodation hosts were all willing to help with anything we ever needed.
Mosquitos in the Philippines with a baby
If you’re anything like me, the main reason you are googling info on travelling to the Philippines with baby/child is to research the safety. Mosquitos and dengue fever is a huge part of that lingering unsure feeling. After 1 month travelling around many different islands, we never had worries as we implemented simple and effective steps to keep those pests at bay. The most important part; bring baby safe mosquito repellent and use it day and night. Did you know that most disease-carrying mosquitoes are most active during that day?
We also put the repellant patches on him at the back of his shirt whilst out exploring. We usually used them in the afternoons and nights as this tends to be when more of them are out – regardless of what they are carrying. When we returned home from outings we would take the patch off him and put it near his bed or above the bed head if he ended up sleeping in our bed. Seeing the patches last 8 hours that seemed to be the best way to make the most of them.
Make sure you are extra vigilant in high forest areas or any areas with still water. Daily we would perform a pest-kill in our accommodation. Every afternoon before leaving for dinner, we would put away anything that Ollie could touch then spray the room with eco-friendly fly spray. Closing up everything and leaving the room for a few hours to kill any bugs or mosquitoes. Once we returned to the room, we wiped down all surfaces and were very careful about the door being left open to not invite new bugs in. To further protect him we also had a mosquito net for his portacot, and one for our bed (however the big one for our bed was a big hassle to carry and setup).
If you follow these tips you can make the most of your holiday without too much worry about mosquitos or anything they could be carrying. Make sure you also remember that some accommodation and rooms won’t be built to a high standard. Thus they could have cracks and gaps in doors, windows and around air conditioner units. We plugged gaps, these can be solved with towels or other items to cover them over.
Food and Dining Out in the Philippines with a Baby
The Philippines is one of those places where you’ll find loads of things to eat no matter your taste buds. In most restaurants, there were lots of western option as well as traditional dishes like chicken adobo. However some of the food can be quite unhealthy and we tended to ask that they cook Ollie’s food with no butter, salt, pepper, sugar or spice. Restaurants were always happy to comply with requests. We also found vegetables to be less prominent in dishes than in other countries so made sure to make the most of them when we saw them.
Some of our favourite dishes were:
- Chicken and/org vegetable pancit (a fried noodle dish)
- Chicken or pork adobo (a soy sauce based gravy almost, found in every restaurant and delicious, try the aloha versions that include pineapple)
- The many different curry dishes that are not spicy (Ollie loved the Philippine curries, as did we!)
- Kare-Kare (yummy satay stew),
- BBQ meat is a huge thing in the Philippines and they do it well!
- Fried lumpia (like spring rolls but better, they also aren’t just a savoury dish, they have banana lumpia which are called turons, yum!)
- Buco pie is a coconut pie and you can’t visit without trying one!
You will find it hard to find any places with baby chairs so if possible bring your own. We use a Phil&Teds one that can attach to any table and it came in super handy. You have no idea how hard it is to feed an adventurous toddler that just wants to see the world if they aren’t locked into a chair. Also ALWAYS bring mosquito repellant to dinner!
The world is such an exciting place for little ones. Simply exploring a new wonderful country like the Philippines will keep them entertained. The local kids are always happy to play with someone new. And loads of them seem to know a little English so that’s helpful. When we went to the beach, Ollie would often have a crowd of local kids playing with him. The smile never left his face!! Usually, accommodations we stayed at would have the families children there as well. He always seemed to be playing with someone new! Seriously travelling the Philippines with a baby will have them making friends wherever they go.
Aside from that Ollie loved island hopping because of his love for boats. He also enjoyed swimming at the many beaches. Pretty much all of the beaches had calm shallow water perfect for toddlers to spend loads of time. Exploring rock pools, building sandcastles and playing with his ball were all some of his favourite activities. Oh, and eating sand..
When it comes to digital entertainment, be prepared for a detox. The internet via wifi and even a SIM card is horrible, even in main cities like Cebu. If your kids need entertainment whilst on transport, remember to download everything before you land in the Philippines. Seriously downloading anything can be an absolute nightmare so come prepared. We also found it handy to have a few educational games on there, like flashcards and the like.
SPF50+, no ifs or buts, that is the sunscreen you will buy and use. I don’t care if you want to tan more, bubba needs 50+. It’s best to be vigilant and continue to regularly top up everyone’s sunscreen as the sun is super strong. Plus if it doesn’t come off whilst you are all sweating it sure will while swimming. Make sure to get a wide-brimmed hat for your little one. We also brought a travel umbrella with us. It often came in handy whilst walking outdoors and at beaches that didn’t have shady trees.
Supermarkets & Baby Supplies
The Filipinos are great mall lovers with shopping malls everywhere as well as a wide variety of supermarkets. Even the small island towns had small local stores. If they didn’t have what you were looking for, they sure knew someone within walking distance that did. We guarantee that the Philippines have you covered with pretty much all your baby supplies.
We never had any trouble finding nappies or wipes, baby food and baby paracetamol and formula. Before heading to smaller destinations we purchased everything. But learnt small towns also had supplies, just at a slightly higher cost. Regarding nappies, they are all the fantastic pull-up variety. Be aware the cheap ones really won’t last the night, so make sure to buy the better ones available. We like the Mama Poko ones which are reasonably priced and found all across Asia. We never had leakage issues with them but did with most others. Tip: Make sure you read the back of everything. We noticed that they put sugar in everything especially things like milk. You also can’t buy fresh milk just long-life milk so we would recommend bringing your own formula if not breastfeeding.
As discussed in transport, we brought a special infant approved lifejacket for Ollie from home. We wanted to ensure he was always safe and sound. It not only straps across. But also between their legs to stop it going above their head if they happened to go under. Some local boats did have little life jackets available and offered them to us. We preferred to use our own, as they looked very worn, and nowhere near as fitting and secure. The larger ferries did not offer any. Best to just bring your own.
On day trips for peace of mind, we also tied a rope to Ollie’s lifejacket. That meant he could explore the boat but could not reach the edge. We also loved how friendly all our day trip boat drivers were. Even looking after Ollie whilst he napped on the boat so that we could have a little snorkel! Anyone that says you can’t do all the boat trips in the Philippines with a baby has no idea. We had a blast!
Hopefully this has helped answer your questions about travelling the Philippines with a baby, toddler or child. We hope we have covered everything but more than happy to go into further detail if you want more information!
If you are considering a trip to the Philippines, definitely take a look at our ultimate guide to Two Weeks in Palawan.