In summer 2019 we took a trip to the Philippines – more accessible for wheelchair users as we expected! Our tour took us from Manila to Bohol and Tagaytay. Overall a great adventure with fantastic views, nature sightseeing and delicious food.

About my handicap

I travel in a foldable active wheelchair, which I cannot manoeuvre myself. At night, I need an electronic respirator to relieve my lungs. This means that I need access to electricity throughout the night. Furthermore, I need to take several medications daily. Therefore, in the countries that I travel in, it is important that there is a sufficient level of health care in case of an emergency. In the Philippines international hospitals are available which are up to standard, which we experienced after I had a lung infection.

Transport in the Philippines

As the Philippines consist of over 7000 islands, the main modes of transport are planes to get from one island to the other. Further, you can rent cars easily which might be easy for you to transfer into. In Manila there is also public transport, especially the famous Cheepys, buses and also the Subway. However, all of these are not wheelchair accessible. Thus, it is best to get around by taxis, grabs or your own rented car.

Communication

You can buy a Sim card at the airport, that is if your cell phone is unlocked. Internet (Wifi) is available in most malls, coffeeshops and restaurants. So, you can stay connected even if you do not install a separate Sim card. In remoter regions the signal can be weak.

Food and drinks

Churros, a spanish dessert

Originally a Spanish dessert, churros are available in many cafés in Manila – a heritage of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines.

The Philippines is known for its not so exciting cuisine. However, we found this to be not true during our holiday. The locally produced delicacy such as ‘Kinilaw’ or ‘Paksio’ are to die for and after our visit at ‘Purple Yam’ and ‘1477’ we were sold to ‘farm to table’ cooked meals. Generally, seafood is fresh and well prepared. There are stews and yes also very heavy pork dishes. The local beer San Miguel is light and nice to drink in the tropical comate and due to Spanish occupancy also good wines are available at affordable prices.

Religion and culture

Most of the Philippinos are Catholic and Christmas is the biggest public holiday of the year. Actually from September onwards Christmas is prepared and celebrated in malls, shops and with your colleagues. Generally, Filippinos are very friendly, great in speaking English and always happy to help you find your destination or good restaurant nearby.

Quick note on safety

Safety wise it has improved a lot since Duerte came into power and currently you can walk around at night without any problems even in bigger cities. Of course, as in other touristy places you might get the pickpocket thief but no violent assaults.

Tour operator

We did not find an accessible tour operator. We got some tips from Veneranda Mateo.

Philippine Tour

3 days Manila (BGC), 7 days Bohol, 3 days Tagaytay, 4 days Metro Manila

3 Days BGC Manila

Bears out of roses as a instagramable Picture for Valentine's Day in BGC, Manila

Very “instagramable” motive for Valentine’s Day in BGC, Manila

Even if you might think that a polluted, traffic heavy city is not the best way to start your journey… think again… If you are aware of the areas and the places you want to see and try to find your accommodation accordingly it can be a great way to kick off your holiday. We recommend you to stay a couple of days in BGC, which is a newly developed area and which has a very nice walkway called Serendra, a couple of museums and very nice restaurants and cafes. For food, you can try Sunnies Cafe for breakfast and definitely Din Tai Fung or Sentro 1477 at Uptown mall for dinner. For activities you can roll down Serendra and go shopping in the nice boutique outlets or visit the Mind museum. Regarding accommodation, have a look on accessible Airbnb options. Usually they will be condos with swimming pool access. Contact the host and make sure the Airbnb can cater to your needs. Our Airbnb was taken down afterwards as the owner is now permanently renting it so unfortunately, we cannot recommend. But we stayed in One Uptown Residence and the bathroom was narrow but for us good enough. The swimming pool has broad steps to get into.

7 days Bohol

You can take a flight from Manila airport direct to Bohol. We took Cebu Pacific and Air Asia and both were ok. No issues with cabin wheelchair and the staff were friendly. We had a slight delay with Cebu Pacific, but nothing to worry about. Just make sure when you book your flight that you declare the needs for assistance.
Bohol is an island and has several great activities that you can do with a wheelchair and comfortably in your car: You can visit the Chocolate hills, go on a river cruise and visit butterfly parks. We did the river cruise on the Loboc River and even though we had to transport Tobi down about 20 steps the people were willing to assist. The drive was fun so it is full of Chinese tourists.
The rest of our stay we relaxed at the Island View Beachfront Resort, which is a great resort about 2 hours from the airport in the South. The owner just recently built three luxury cottages and one of it is accessible. We reviewed and gave further tips to the owner how to make it even more accessible. Further he was renovating the restaurant and mentioned that the access will be easier…The staff was super nice and always happy to assist. Also, we had discussed with the diving school who is next door to go diving. Unfortunately, Tobi was sick and could not join, but Verena went diving and was thrilled. So this is also a good diving or snorkelling place.

Boat on the Loboc River on Bohol island, Philippines

Sightseeing by boat on the Loboc River. Not really accessible, but many helpful hands – and many tourists!

3 days Tagaytay

It is a volcano crater and from the rim you have beautiful views. There are many resorts along the crater rim. We stayed in a private apartment, but we saw on Airbnb many options. Again contact the host and make sure that it caters to your needs. In Tagaytay you can enjoy the somehow cooler climate and visit some of the great eateries. Just to be at a place with view is relaxing and beautiful. Lunch at Sonjas is organic and delicious.

View from the crater of Tagaytay

Magnificent sunset view from the crater of Tagaytay

4 days Metro Manila

For the last four days we chose to stay in Metro Manila to have a look at the old harbour and also to be able to explore Rizal Park and Intramuros quarters. We stayed in Rizal Park Hotel, which has two accessible rooms. Make sure when you book that you get a confirmation back. For us the accessible room actually was not so great for transfer to the toilet so we chose to stay in a normal one which had better access. The staff is flexible so just have a look when you arrive what suits your needs. Definitely recommendable to have sunset drinks at the pool area…. You can see the whole bay with the sunset… if you feel like have a swim at the same time… priceless.

Entrance of the Rizal Park Hotel, Entramuros in Manila

The Rizal Park Hotel, a former military homestay, is ideal for excursions to Intramuros

Rizal Park

So as said before we explored one day Rizal Park It has several little parks and statues within which is nice… then we visited the National Museum of the Philippines, which was under renovation but still some of the exhibitions were interesting. Another day we explored Intramuros. Intramurros is about 1 km square area of pre-war preserved buildings. It is also called the ‘walled city’ as it has still walls all around. For wheelchair users there are sometimes hindrances regarding cubble stones and not lowered board walks, but overall it is very interesting to visit. There is also cathedrals and museums to see. We just had a roll through. One of our highlights in the end of this tour was the discovery of the ‘San Diego Gardens’… tucked away on one corner of Intramuros it is a perfect recovery place…. Lush gardens and there are ramps to drive up on the wall and you can look towards the modern Metro Manila…also when we were there was a very nice Bonsai exhibition. Definitely worth a visit to hang out and enjoy…. Regarding restaurants Metro Manila has a lot to offer…. We really enjoyed the seafood restaurant Harbour View. You sit on the water, the seafood is delicious and fresh and price wise also not too upmarket…depending on the wind so it might be a bit smelly from the waters…but we were lucky. Another culinary highlight was Purple Yam Malate. Unfortunately, it is not that accessible as it is in an old Philippine house. However, they carried Tobi up 25 stairs and once we were seated, we enjoyed the food tremendously. Also, the Japanese Restaurant Yurakuen Japanese Restaurant. As part of the hotel, was delicious and in a very nice atmosphere. Overall, we would definitely recommend a stay in Metro Manila….

Wall of the Fortaleza at Intramuros in Manila

Some of the walls around Intramuros are accessible – like the Baluarte de San Diego

Overall, we really enjoyed the Philippines. Regardless of its reputation of not so good food we found very delicious and tasty, local treats and the Philippine with their friendliness, excellent English and hospitality really made us want to come back soon.

Three Philippine dishes

Who sad, that the Philippine cuisine is boring?