The Philippines

July 2, 2015

I have been to the Philippines many times. It is quite simply a beautiful country and an absolute must off your backpacking list of countries to visit.

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  1. Here’s a rundown of what should go in your suitcase:
    Shirts/blouses. Bring up to five short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts or blouses (how many of each depends on the season) in a cotton/polyester blend. Shirts with long sleeves that roll up easily can double as short-sleeved. Look for a wrinkle-camouflaging pattern or blended fabrics that show a minimum of wrinkles. Synthetic-blend fabrics (such as Coolmax or microfiber) often dry overnight.
    Pants/shorts. Bring two pairs: one lightweight cotton and another super-lightweight pair for hot and muggy big cities. Jeans can be too hot for summer travel (and are slow to dry). Many travelers like lightweight convertible pants/shorts with zip-off legs. While not especially stylish, they’re functional in Italy, where you can use them to cover up inside churches while still beating the heat outside. Button-down wallet pockets are safest (though still not nearly as thief-proof as a money belt). If you bring shorts, one pair is probably enough. Shorts can double as a swimsuit for men when swimming in lakes or the sea.
    Underwear and socks. Bring five sets (lighter dries quicker). Bamboo or cotton/nylon-blend socks dry faster than 100 percent cotton, which lose their softness when air-dried.
    Shoes. Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes with good traction. Mephisto, Ecco, and Rieker look dressier and more European than sneakers, but are still comfortable. Sturdy, low-profile tennis shoes with a good tread are fine, too. For a second pair, consider sandals in summer. Flip-flops are handy if you’ll be using bathrooms down the hall. Whichever shoes you bring, make sure they are well broken in before you leave home.
    Sweater or lightweight fleece. Warm and dark is best — for layering and dressing up.
    Jacket. Bring a light and water-resistant windbreaker with a hood. Neutral colors used to look more European than bright ones, but now everything from azure blue to pumpkin orange has made its way into European wardrobes. A hooded jacket of Gore-Tex or other waterproof material is good if you expect rain. (For summer travel, I wing it without rain gear — but always pack for rain in Britain and Ireland.)
    Tie or scarf. For instant respectability, bring anything lightweight that can break the monotony and make you look snazzy.
    Swimsuit. To use public pools, you’ll need a swimsuit (men can’t just wear shorts; and in France, men need to wear Speedo-type swimsuits — not swim trunks).
    Sleepwear/loungewear. Comfy streetwear — such as shorts, leggings, T-shirts, tank tops, yoga pants, and other lightweight athletic gear — can be used as pajamas, post-dinner loungewear, and a modest cover-up to get you to the bathroom down the hall.
    Documents, Money, and Travel Info
    Money belt (or neck wallet). This flat, hidden, zippered pouch — worn around your waist (or like a necklace) and tucked under your clothes — is essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on. Get a lightweight one with a low-profile color (I like beige). For more, see my article on money belts.
    Money. Bring your preferred mix of a debit card, a credit card, and an emergency stash of hard US cash (in $20 bills).
    Documents. Bring your passport; plane, train, and rental car documents or vouchers; driver’s license; and any other useful cards (student ID, hostel membership card, and so on). Photocopies and a couple of passport-type photos can help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen. In your luggage, pack a record of all reservations (print out your hotel confirmation emails). Bring any necessary contact info if you have health or travel insurance.
    Guidebooks and maps. Pack the travel info you’ll need on the ground (or download it into your ereader). I like to rip out appropriate chapters from guidebooks and staple them together, or use special slide-on laminated book covers.
    Small notepad and pen. A tiny notepad in your back pocket or day pack is a great organizer, reminder, and communication aid.
    Journal. An empty book to be filled with the experiences of your trip will be your most treasured souvenir. Attach a photocopied calendar page of your itinerary. Use a hardbound type designed to last a lifetime, rather than a floppy spiral notebook. My custom-designed Rick Steves Travel Journals are rugged, simple blank books that come in two sizes. Another great brand, with a cult following among travel writers, is Moleskine.
    Small day pack. A lightweight pack is great for carrying your sweater, camera, guidebook, and picnic goodies while you leave your large bag at the hotel or train station. Don’t use a fanny pack — they’re magnets for pickpocket

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