Cebu City isn’t named the Queen City of the South for nothing. Aside from being the oldest city in the Philippines, it is also the center of Metro Cebu, the largest metropolitan area in the country next to Metro Manila.
Urban Cebu is a fusion of old heritage sites and modern development. Amidst the high-rise buildings and sprawling shopping malls lie several historical sites that have seen how the Philippines fought for its freedom and the way of life of early Cebuanos.
The city is fun and oozing with energy. Its nightlife is one of the most famous in the region with all the bars, clubs, and discos open until the wee hours of the morning to accommodate the party-goers.
And if you are looking to escape into nature, there’s no better place than Cebu City as it is the jumpoff point to several beautiful islands, beaches, and waterfalls be it in Cebu towns or nearby provinces such as Bohol and Negros Oriental.
This brief guide to Cebu City will let you know how to get there, what to do, eat, and drink, where to stay, and must-see spots.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: Booking for summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Cebu City in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
Cebu North Bus Terminal
Cebu Citilink Terminal
There are many ways to get to this destination depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Cebu City: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The major ports of entry for this destination are provided below.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Cebu City …
SEE & DO
The following are popular places to see and activities to enjoy while in Cebu City.
1 | Basilica del Santo Niño
The oldest Catholic Church in the Philippines, the construction of Basilica del Santo Niño started in 1735. The church stands on the spot where the image of Santo Niño (Holy Child) was found after a fire was set to raze the village. The miraculous image is the centerpiece of the church and Cebu’s Sinulog Festival. This church of Baroque architecture houses ancient paintings and is adorned with exquisite archways and impressive stained glass windows.
2 | Cebu Ocean Park
Aside from being the first marine park in Visayas and Mindanao, Cebu Ocean Park also has the largest Oceanarium in the Philippines. It has several attractions such as Lagoon, Jungle Trek, and Glass Bottom Ride that will surely amaze guests of all ages. For conventions, celebrations, and parties, it offers events place and state of the art function rooms.
3 | Colon Street
If Manila has Escolta, Cebu has Colon. Named after Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus), Colon St. is a historical street in Cebu and is often called the oldest street in the Philippines, although some experts claim this to be untrue. The street is often crowded with locals as it is a great place to shop for clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories, bags, housewares, and many others.
4 | Fort San Pedro
In the pier area of Cebu City stands Fort San Pedro, a military defense structure built to protect the Spanish colonizers against Muslim raiders. However during the Philippine Revolution in the 19th century, it was overtaken by Filipino revolutionaries. The oldest triangular fort and the smallest fort in the country, Fort San Pedro was declared a National Historical Landmark and now serves as a park with a museum which houses historical items such as documents, paintings, and sculptures.
5 | Parian District
Parian is the Chinese settlement required by the Spanish authorities during the Spanish colonial era. While it is now a modern-day barangay, several ancestral houses can still be found in the area. These houses have been restored and transformed into museums for anyone who wants to take a glimpse of the old Cebu. Structures found in Cebu’s Parian District are Casa Gorordo (designated as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute), Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House (said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China), 1730 Jesuit House (oldest dated house in the Philippines), and Heritage of Cebu Monument, a sculptor showing significant scenes in the history of Cebu.
6 | Provincial Capitol
Resembling America’s the White House, Cebu Provincial Capitol is the seat of government of the province of Cebu. It was designed by Juan M. Arellano, the same architect who designed Manila Metropolitan Theater, Legislative Building (now National Museum of Fine Arts), Manila Central Post Office Building, and several other provincial capitols in the country. While not a tourist attraction per se, many tourists visit Cebu Provincial Capitol for a photo op. However, activities take place within its grounds during big events such as Sinulog Festival, Christmas, and New Year.
7 | Sky Experience Adventure
Atop Crown Regency Hotel sits Sky Experience Adventure, a theme park that offers extreme activities like Sky Walk Extreme where you will be walking around translucent glass flooring on the edge of the hotel building 126.55 meters above the street. Other activities that offer different kind of high includes Edge Coaster where riders are locked on a rail seat as it goes around the edge of the building, Tower Zip, Climbing Wall, and Cliff Hanger which is a climbing wall positioned 7 feet from the edge of the building 473 feet above the ground. Surely thrill-seekers should not miss these death-defying activities when in Cebu City.
8 | SM Seaside City Cebu
Whether you intend to shop or just look around, SM Seaside City Cebu is definitely worth a visit. After all, it’s the 3rd largest mall in the Philippines and 11th in the world. It has over 700 stores and services, a Large Screen Cinema, Director’s Club cinemas, 18-lane bowling and amusement center, and an Olympic-size ice skating rink.
9 | Taoist Temple
While a place of worship, Taoist Temple is one of the most visited tourist spots in Cebu City and is open even to non-worshippers of Taoism. Devotees visit the temple to perform rituals to grant wishes and have their fortune read by monks. The temple has a chapel, library, souvenir shop, wishing well, and several dragons. Since it is located over 200 meters above sea level, the temple offers the panoramic view of the city and even Mactan Island and Bohol when the sky is clear.
10 | Tops Lookout
Another spot that offers a panoramic view of Cebu City is Tops Lookout. The spectacular view especially during nighttime is not the only thing to look forward to in this spot. It has a fortress-like viewing deck with lush greenery and circular stone architecture which makes it the perfect setting for romantic photoshoots.
NOTE: The Sinulog Festival occurs annually in Cebu City the 3rd week of January.
EAT & DRINK
The following are flavorful foods to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Cebu City.
1 | Anzani
Anzani offers fine dining focused on Italian dishes with favorite ingredients such as tomatoes, olives, chickpeas, herbs, lemon, and cheese. Aside from delectable dishes for lunch and dinner, the restaurant also allows guests to enjoy their wine cellar containing 1,250 bottles of wine. Anzani offers a panoramic view of Cebu as it is situated atop the Nivel Hills. It’s price range isn’t cheap but it’s definitely worth it for someone who wants to indulge.
2 | Cafe Laguna
Cafe Laguna has been serving Filipino cuisine for over 25 years. Its menu contains not only that of Cebu’s favorite dishes but also from different regions in the country.
3 | Casa Verde
For all American favorites such as ribs, pork steaks, tenderloin, and burgers in large servings, head to Casa Verde. While its menu is an array of western dishes, its setup has the elements of traditional Filipino. Casa Verde is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike so expect a long list of customers waiting to be seated during peak hours.
4 | Circa 1900
Circa 1900 is an ancestral home preserved and transformed into a classy restaurant serving international cuisines. The chef incorporates local ingredients for customers to enjoy great and absolutely delicious foods.
5 | Larsian Barbeque
One’s Cebu dining experience isn’t complete without a meal or two in Larsian. Larsian is not a fancy restaurant but an open-air food court comprising around 30 food stalls serving grilled meat, various seafood dishes, and the famous chorizo de Cebu. It is open 24/7 and perfect for budget travellers.
6 | La Vie Parisienne
While its name sounds fancy and ambience looks classy, a dinner at La Vie Parisienne will not cause a dent in your budget because it’s actually affordable. This French bakery, deli, and a wine library offers freshly baked breads and pastries with croissants costing between Php 25 to Php 50. A bottle of champagne and wine starts at a little over Php 200. Gourmet sandwiches and different kinds of cheeses and meats are also on their menu.
7 | Maya Mexican Restaurant
Looking to satiate your Mexican food cravings? There’s no other place to be but Maya, a laid-back, casual restaurant serving really tasty foods and superb cocktails. Guests rave not only their nachos, taco, and burrito but also their beef brisket. The ambience is modern and sophisticated which makes it a great spot to hang out with family and friends.
8 | Sunburst Chicken
Sunburst Chicken serves uniquely flavorful fried chicken and is probably one of the best on the island. Whether eaten on its own, or dipped in ketchup or ketchup with worcestershire sauce, surely you will not be disappointed.
9 | The Pig and Palm
Owned by Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton and his Cebuana wife Irha, The Pig and Palm serves European gourmet with the influence of Cebu flavors. The restaurant, with Spanish colonial architecture, is clean and has minimalist interiors. When dining late at night, try their popular cocktails such as their signature Dill or No Dill, Rum DMC, Coff’ Medicine, and Notorious P.I.G.
10 | Zubuchon
Zubuchon’s specialty is lechon and is owned by the same guy who prepared and served the dish Anthony Burdain feasted on and which he later proclaimed as the “Best Pig… EVER”. The restaurant also serves other dishes such as fish-skin tacos and lechon kare-kare. Zubuchon has branches not only in Cebu but also in Manila.
KNOWN FOR: Lechon
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in Cebu City ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following are our top choices for each price range.
1 | Red Planet Cebu (Budget)
2 | Quest Hotel and Conference Center (Mid-Range)
3 | Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino (Luxury | Resort)
When doing research online of where to stay for specific destination, we use the following sites to conduct our research:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Quest Hotel and Conference Center is the best property to experience this destination.
This chart is your guide to get an idea of how much to budget daily in Cebu City. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs in Cebu City in 2020:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
BEST NO-FEE INTERNATIONAL DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to this destination. This is your guide on what you need to know BEFORE you go to Cebu City!
Tips & Hacks
These Top 10 Tips can help guide you when visiting Cebu City in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found in Cebu City. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Cebu City, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel, resort front desk, or tour guide as they are more likely to give you reliable information about Cebu City than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
There are some things you need to keep in mind to guide you from doing prohibited or illegal activities in Cebu City or anywhere in the Philippines.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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