Whether you are bringing your own vehicle or riding public transportation, going to Pampanga is easy because of its accessibility from Metro Manila. If you're driving, it only takes less than two hours to get there via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Commuting is also fairly easy since there are many bus companies that provide daily trips to this province. Bus lines like Five Star, First North Luzon Transit, Partas, Genesis, and Victory Liner offer trips from Metro Manila to Pampanga. Cubao in Quezon City and Pasay are the main terminals of these provincial buses.
If you’re coming from Cebu, you can take a plane to Clark International Airport. There are also international flights to Clark from Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, and Dubai.
How to Get Around
If you're looking for the most efficient way of getting around Pampanga, your answer would be the jeepney. There are many jeeps that ply the main roads of Pampanga. You can also find them in transport terminals around the city. Riding a jeepney is more ideal if your destination in the province is just along the roads and highways.
Tricycles are also available to take you around Pampanga. Riding a tricycle is a good option if you're not familiar with getting around the city. It is a bit costly compared to jeepney fares, but these could get you to destinations that are off the beaten path.
What to See
Pampanga's historic sites and landmarks are proof of the large part it played in shaping the history of the country.
Some of its famous landmarks are the many Spanish-era Catholic churches that are worth a visit especially during the Lenten Season. One of its most notable churches is the St. James the Apostle Church, or Betis Church, in Betis, Guagua. It is also known as the "Sistine Chapel of the Philippines" because of the beautiful paintings that cover a large part of its ceilings and walls. Another interesting church is the San Guillermo Parish Church in Bacolor. Half of it is buried in lahar when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, but it still remains functional to serve those of the Catholic faith.
The San Fernando Heritage District offers more glimpses into Pampanga during the Spanish period with its many well-preserved heritage houses that will appeal to history buffs. Some of the most famous ones include the Lazatin House, the Consunji House, and the Hizon-Singian House. While you're in San Fernando, make sure to visit the old PNR Station. A historical marker declares it as the last stop of the 1942 Bataan Death March prisoners-of-war before they proceeded to Camp O'Donnell.
Fort Stotsenburg Park is another notable historic site. Located in Clark, it was built in memory of Col. John Miller Stotsenburg, Colonel of the First Nebraska Volunteers and Captain of the Sixth U.S. Cavalry who died in battle against Japanese forces near Quinga in Bulacan. You'll find the Gate Posts to Fort Stotsenburg, which were originally located along Dau Highway.
Although most of Pampanga is highly urbanized, it boasts plenty of natural wonders that will definitely strike the fancy of nature lovers out there.
Mt. Arayat is Pampanga's most defining natural wonder. It is perfect not only for hikers but also those who want to relax since there are many resorts found within its surrounding national Park. Meanwhile, Mt. Pinatubo is now a scenic volcano because of its beautiful crater lake, which was formed after its eruption.
While Pampanga does not have a coastline, it boasts a considerable number of waterfalls for those who want to take a dip in pools of fresh water. Two of these waterfalls are found in Porac: Miyamit Falls and Dara Falls, while Haduan Falls can be found in Mabalacat. Aside from these magnificent waterfalls, Candaba Swamp is also a popular place to visit if you want to see several species of migratory birds.
There are lots to see and do in Pampanga so you won't be left idle during your stay.
Pampanga is home to plenty of amusement and adventure parks that offer fun bonding experiences among families and friends. Take your kids to an educational yet fun day at Zoocobia Fun Zoo in Clark where they can enjoy interactions with different species of animals. Aside from encounters, there are also some rides and attractions that you and your kids can try, including a zip-line, ATVs, and giant slides. You can also take them to Clarkland Dinosaur Island so that they can learn about dinosaurs through life-size moving dioramas, a fossil museum, and fun rides and attractions like the Jurassic Jungle Safari. Meanwhile, Paradise Ranch is a great place to visit if you are a nature lover. It features relaxing gardens filled with all sorts of flora and fauna as well as an aviary, a butterfly garden, and some swimming pools.
Sky Ranch Pampanga is also another attraction that both kids and kids-at-heart will truly enjoy. Located just at the back of SM City San Fernando, this amusement park boasts several rides like Ferris Wheels and roller coasters for an exciting experience. Sandbox in Porac also offers adventure and sports attractions like wall climbing and rappelling that will give you and your friends the adrenaline rush that you've been looking for.
If a cultural experience is what you seek, visit Nayong Pilipino in Clark. It features replicas of cultural and historical sites like the heritage houses of Filipino heroes as well as mini native villages like the Ifugao Village and Kalinga village. You'll also enjoy cultural performances like traditional dances. Aside from this theme park, there are also some museums in Pampanga you can visit to learn more about its history and cultural heritage. Swing by Museo ning Angeles in Angeles City, or Clark Museum and Museong Kapampangan in Clark Freeport Zone to see even more historic artifacts and memorabilia.
But if you just want to be pampered during your Pampanga vacation, then Puning Hot Spring is the place to go. This resort in Barangay Sapang Bato lets you indulge in a relaxing dip in its many hot spring pools. There are also many soothing spa treatments available like massages, mudpacks, and sand steam.
Events and Festivals
One of the most awaited events in the country, the annual Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is held in Clark Freeport Zone. Local and foreign tourists flock to the privnce to see the hot air balloon exhibitions. The event usually kicks off every January or February.
If you want to witness an unusual festival, make sure to visit San Fernando City in October, in time for its Frog Festival, which is locally known as Piyestang Tugak. Not only does it feature frog catching competitions and cuisines, you can also expect colorful street dances and performances.
Another San Fernando City festival is the Giant Lantern Festival, one of the well-known Christmas festivals in the country. Every December, barangays in San Fernando showcase their giant lantern creations which serve as their entry to the Giant Lantern Competition.
Meanwhile, Barangay San Pedro Cutud is a popular pilgrimage site during Lenten season because of its penitential rites, most especially the Via Crucis. For this, devotees, as a form of sacrifice, are nailed on a cross as re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
There are also branches of your favorite fast food chains in Pampanga. Expect a Jollibee, McDonald's, or KFC along some of the highways and main roads, in city centers, and in most of the malls.
Pampanga is known to be the "Culinary Capital of the Philippines" since some of the country's yummiest dishes, including sisig, were invented here. Aling Lucing's Sisig in Angeles City is the birth place of sisig, so make sure to swing by if you want to have a taste of this authentic Kapampangan dish. Another place that offers great sisig is Mila's Tokwa at Baboy.
The famous halo-halo and pancit luglug or palabok of Razon's also originated in Guagua, Pampanga. Although you'll find several branches of this restaurant in the metro, it's a must that you stop by its original branch in Guagua, located right next to a gas station.
Everybody's Cafe in San Fernando City is another popular restaurant in Pampanga. It is a much more upscale version of the carinderia but serves exotic fares like dishes made from frogs and crickets. For international food with a local twist, try the Pinoy-style pizzas at Didi's Pizza and the sumptuous fried chicken at Angeles Fried Chicken.
Bars and Clubs
While you can find bars in almost every town and city in Pampanga, most of them are concentrated in Angeles City, known as the province's entertainment district. You'll find most of its bars and clubs along Fields Avenue, also known as Walking Street. It has numerous clubs and bars where you can enjoy great music and different kinds of drinks.
For high rollers visiting the province, you can try your luck at Casino Filipino, located in Clark.
Where to Shop
Malls and Supermarkets
For your shopping, dining, and entertainment needs in Pampanga, you can head to any of its several malls. There are two SM Malls in the province: SM City San Fernando and SM City Clark. Just across SM City San Fernando is Robinsons Starmills. Meanwhile, Ayala Malls' Marquee Mall can be found in Angeles City. There are also two local malls in Angeles City that you can visit: Nepo Mall and Jenra Mall. In addition, you can also find a branch of membership-shopping club S&R in San Fernando City.
Duty Free Shops
Clark is the go-to place if you're shopping for imported items. There are many duty free shops in the area where you can buy anything from imported food products to clothing and other merchandise.
What to Buy
Processed meat is one of Pampanga's famous products. Make sure to buy a pack of tocino or hotdog from Mekeni or Pampanga's Best. For some delicious kakanin or rice cakes that you can take home, visit Susie's Cuisine. You can buy a bilao of assorted kakainin, so you can sample some of their delectable creations. Meanwhile, Nathaniel's Bakeshop is another popular stopover for pasalubong. It offers a variety of pastries and sweet treats. From cakes and pies to tarts and rice cakes, you won't run out of options for take home goodies.
ATMs and Money Changers
You don’t have to worry when it comes to withdrawing cash since there are many banks and ATMs all over Pampanga. As for money changers, you can find most of them in city centers and malls. Most restaurants and commercial establishments also accept credit cards.
Fare: PHP 105.00 to PHP 3,000.00
Bus fares to Pampanga range from less than PHP 110.00 to about PHP 150.00 depending on the bus line and which part of Pampanga you'll be visiting. Fares are cheaper if you're coming from Cubao terminal. For air travel, a one-way flight from Cebu to Clark via Cebu Pacific is about PHP 3,000.00. When commuting around Pampanga via jeepney, PHP 7.00 is the minimum fare.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
Aside from numerous restaurants, there are also eateries all around Pampanga for a cheaper dining alternative.
Shopping: PHP 150.00++
Your PHP 150.00 can already go a long way in Pampanga. You can already buy six pieces of puto pao for PHP 100.00 or macapuno pie for PHP 125.00 from Nathaniel's Bakeshop.
Accommodation: PHP 300.00 to PHP 5,000.00
Choose among the wide variety of accommodations in Pampanga. There are dormitories, hostels, budget inns, and lodges for backpackers. And for those who want to enjoy a luxurious stay, you can check out some of its high-class hotels and resorts.
Activities: PHP 50.00++
If you're going to visit Museo ning Angeles, you'll be charged a PHP 50.00 entrance fee. Meanwhile, Nayong Pilipino's entrance fee for adults costs PHP 150.00. There is no entrance fee for Sky Ranch Pampanga; you'll just have to pay for every ride or every attraction you try. But if you feel like trying them all, you can also avail of the Ride-All-You-Can ticket which costs about PHP 1,500.00. Dinosaur Island's entrance fee is about PHP 350.00 while Zoocobia's is about PHP 300.00. If you want to go to Sandbox, the entrance fee is about PHP 1,000.00. Meanwhile, a packaged day tour to Puning Hot Spring costs PHP 3,000.00, inclusive of ATV rides, lunch, access to hot spring pools, and some of the spa treatments.
||Arrive in Pampanga. Visit Betis Church and say a little prayer. Take photos of its amazing interiors.
||Head to Nayong Pilipino to explore its many attractions.
||Enjoy lunch at any of the fast food chains in SM City Clark.
||Check in early at your chosen accommodation.
||Head to Sandbox and try out its fun attractions. Ride the zip-line, go rappelling, or try outdoor archery.
||Head to Museo ning Angeles to see the artifacts and memorabilia displayed there.
||Relax amongst peaceful surroundings in Fort Stotsenburg and wait for the sunset.
||Head to Aling Lucing's Sisig and feast on Pampanga's most famous dish for dinner.
||Go back to your accommodation to freshen up.
||Head to Walking Street and go bar hopping.
||Head to San Fernando Heritage District to view its wonderful ancestral houses. Make sure to also visit the San Fernando Train Station and take lots of photos.
||If it's not a Monday, head to Zoocobia and enjoy animal encounters.
||Dine at Zoocobia's in-house restaurant for lunch.
||Enjoy the several rides including the zip-line and ATVs.
||Check out from your accommodation.
||Head to Bacolor to see its infamous San Guillermo Parish Church.
||Have some snacks at Everybody's Cafe.
||Visit Nathaniel's Bakeshop to buy some pasalubong.
||Ride a bus going to Metro Manila.
The Philippines only has two seasons: the dry season which runs from December until May, and the wet season from June until September. Make sure to plan your visit during the dry season so the weather won't ruin your vacation as some attractions may be closed in the event of heavy rainfall.
In case of any emergency, there are several hospitals all over Pampanga where you can seek medical attention. Pharmacies are also available but be sure to bring your own medicine especially if you have certain medical conditions.
While Tagalog is also used in Pampanga, Kapampangan is the common language spoken by the locals. Here are some Kapampangan phrases you may use:
Magkanu ya ini?- How much is this?
Nokarin ya ing...?- Where is…?
Salamat pu- Thank you.
There is no customary tipping practice in the country. Most would just leave small bills like 20.00 PHP and 50.00 PHP as tip, while others leave loose change. Some restaurants already include Service Charge in their bill so there's no need to tip when dining.
Safety and Security
Pampanga is a generally safe place. But even so, you should practice constant vigilance whenever you visit any destination. Make sure to survey your surroundings and keep your valuables in a safe place.