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Philippines

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The Heritage Hotel Manila
The Heritage Hotel Manila - dream vacation

Roxas Boulevard corner EDSA, Pasay City

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Remington Hotel - dream vacation

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Dusit Thani Manila
Dusit Thani Manila - dream vacation

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Red Planet Makati
Red Planet Makati - dream vacation

E. Mercado corner F. Calderon St.,, Makati City

Mandarin Plaza Hotel
Mandarin Plaza Hotel - dream vacation

Archbishop Reyes Avenue corner Escario Street, Cebu City

The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas) is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands in South-East Asia located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea.

The combined length of all its beaches make for one of the world's longest coastlines, and the many islands and many waves of immigration make for considerable cultural diversity. It would take decades to visit and experience everything. It has been Asia's largest Roman Catholic country since Spanish colonial times, but perhaps the easiest way to recognise a Filipino abroad is to see who has the broadest smile. More than a hundred distinct ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences and a fusion of culture and arts enhance the wonder that is the Philippines.

Regions

Wikivoyage divides the country into 4 major island groupings:

The Philippine government's administrative system uses three top-level regions, as above except that they include Palawan under Luzon. Below that are 18 lower-level regions, 80 provinces, 120 cities and many rural municipalities. The lowest administrative level is the barangay — a rural district or an urban neighborhood — and addresses or directions in the Philippines will often include the barangay name.

Cities

With more than 7,000 islands and a population around 100 million, the Philippine archipelago has many cities. Listed below are some of the most important cities for visitors, some of which are provincial capitals and centers of commerce and finance, as well as culture and history.

  • Manila - the national capital, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world - with all that implies in terms of pollution, crime, urban poverty and traffic jams - with few parks. However, the smiling, stoical and resourceful people themselves are its saving grace, rather than the relatively few surviving monuments, historical landmarks and sights widely scattered around the city and its surrounding metropolitan area of Metro Manila!
  • Bacolod - known as the "City of Smiles" because of the MassKara Festival (Máscara in Spanish) held annually on 19 October, it is one of the gateways to Negros Island and the home of the famous Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
  • Baguio - Luzon's summer capital because of its cool weather, it boasts well-maintained parks and scenic areas, as well as being the home of the "Igorot", the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras.
  • Cebu - the "Queen City of the South" was the first Spanish base in the Philippines and is a major center for commerce, industry, culture and tourism. Metro Cebu is the country's second largest urban area, after Metro Manila. Consider flying into its graft free and under-used airport as a more central and pleasant alternative to Manila - regularly nominated as one of the world's nastiest major airports - if your object is tourism.
  • Cagayan de Oro - known as the "City of Golden Friendship", it is popular for white water rafting and is the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
  • Davao - the largest city in the world in terms of land area, is known for its Durian fruit and for being the home of Mount Apo, the Philippines' tallest mountain.
  • Tagbilaran - known as the site of the Sandugo (blood compact) between Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and Rajah Sikatuna representing the people of Bohol.
  • Vigan - the capital of Ilocos Sur and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its city center is the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Philippines. Visit between 03:00 and 05:15 to savour some of its well-preserved, cobbled streets rather than the stench and noise of two-stroke engines.
  • Zamboanga - known as "La Ciudad Latina de Asia" (Asia's Latin City), it is the melting pot between the Philippines' Christian and Muslim cultures, boasting old mosques, grand churches and historic colonial structures.

Other destinations

  • Banaue has 2,000-year-old rice terraces and called by Filipinos the eighth wonder of the world, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People are fascinated at the immense work of the Igorots in making this.
  • Batangas is the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines with world class dive sites and beaches. Its accessibility by road about 2 hours from Manila Airport makes it a popular destination. It is home to Taal Volcano and the Taal heritage town.
  • Boracay is a 10 km island featuring white sands.
  • Camarines Sur has beautiful coral reefs, and shorelines of Black and white sands. Visit the Camarines Sur Watersport complex and go water skiing.
  • Donsol is the Whale Shark Capital of the world, dive and see whale sharks.
  • Malapascua Island just like other islands in the Philippines, the island features a beautiful white sand shoreline and coral gardens.
  • Palawan offers beautiful beaches and coral reefs that are home to a large variety of creatures such as dugongs and manta rays. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park: a cave with beautiful rock formations as well as an underground river.
  • Puerto Galera, a favorite getaway for people during Holy Week because of its white sand shorelines and its amazing flora.
  • Sabang is a municipality in Puerto Galera, dive its beautiful waters and be amazed at the fauna that you will see.
  • Tagaytay, tired of the old scene of the noisy metropolis of Manila? or missing the cool weather? Head to Tagaytay, it provides a view of Taal Volcano, the weather is cool and often a getaway for Filipinos tired of warm tropical weather during the Holy Week.

Understand

History

The oldest human remains so far found in the Philippines are over 60,000 years old. The first settlers crossed shallow seas and land bridges from mainland Asia to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. These people are related to Melanesians (e.g.: Australian Aborigines and Papuans). Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Negros Oriental, northern Luzon and other areas. Today they are mostly up in the mountains, driven out of the prime coastal areas by later immigrants.

Several thousand years later, they were followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Balangay boats. This word is where the basic form of political institution, the barangay, came from. The Austronesian ethnic/linguistic group includes Malays, Indonesians and Polynesians, and is spread as far as Hawaii, Easter island, New Zealand and Madagascar. The majority of Filipinos are of Austronesian descent.

The origins of the Austronesian group are a matter of scholarly controversy. One widely held theory has them coming from Taiwan, and travelling south to the Philippines. Other theories put their origins in mainland Southeast Asia or even in China's Liangzhu Culture.

Having been a trading nation for thousands of years, a colony for several hundred and a destination for tourists and retirees for decades, the country includes descendants of many other ethnic groups. The largest group are the Chinese, mainly Hokkien speakers whose family origins are in Fujian province.

Pre-Spanish era

The early Austronesians of the Philippines traded with each other, and with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais, Arabs and other Austronesians from the Malay Peninsula and Nusantara (today's Malaysia and Indonesia) and Micronesia. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands, and a writing system called baybayin or alibata, as well as a social structure developed quickly, some of the traders stayed and married the natives. Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced by traders from India, Sumatra and Java. These two religions syncretized with the various indigenous animistic beliefs. Later, Arab, Malay and Javanese traders converted the natives in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam. The archipelago became a mix of the indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian people with some foreign influence from Arabia, the Malay lands and India.

Under Spanish rule

See also: Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation

When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly animist, with some Muslim and Hindu inhabitants mainly in the southern part of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate tattoos. Magellan was Portuguese, but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. Lapu-Lapu, a native chief of Mactan island, was against the Christianization of the natives; he then fought a battle with Magellan where Lapu-Lapu won while Magellan was killed. The Philippines was later named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. Some Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion.

The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol and this lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers which were represented by priests and civil leaders and required payment of excessive taxes and tributes. They also oppressed the Philippines' natives by subjecting them as slaves and sending them to prison for disobeying rules. The Manila Galleon trade made contact between the Philippines and Mexico as well as the whole of the Americas. Mayans and Aztecs settled in the Philippines and introduced their cultures which were then embraced by the Filipinos. The Philippines received heavy influence from Mexico and Spain and the archipelago became "hispanicized". Other Asians used the Manila Galleon trade to migrate to the West. During the Spanish rule, people such as the Dutch, Portuguese and British tried to colonize the country, however only the British did so and it lasted for a desultory 2 years in the modern-day capital: Manila. The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War.

American and Japanese occupation

The Filipinos declared independence on 12 June 1898 and resisted the American occupation and colonization for seven long, brutal years until surrender completed the colonization of the Philippines. The American presence remained until World War II when, in turn, Japan invaded the Philippines. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945 when General Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and "liberated" the country from the Japanese. In 1946, the Philippines was granted independence by the US, becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to gain independence from a colonial power, although the US continued to maintain a significant military presence, especially in the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. It was not until many years later in the early 1990s that the US bases were returned to the Philippines.

Pre-Modern Era

Up until the 1960s, the Philippines was widely considered to be the second most developed country in Asia after Japan. Several decades of misrule by the corrupt dictator Ferdinand Marcos then plunged the country into deep debt. Poverty became widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government. (This was called the EDSA Revolution since the majority of the demonstrations took place on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.) He was replaced by Corazon Aquino, widow of murdered opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.

Modern era

Before the 21st century, corruption became one of the main problems of the country. The country suffered slightly in the 1997 Asian financial crisis that led to a second EDSA revolt which overthrew President Joseph Estrada; the then vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (daughter of one of the former presidents), took his place. After her term ended in 2010, Benigno Aquino III (nicknamed "Noynoy" and "Pnoy"), son of Corazon and Benigno Aquino, Jr., was elected President. Growth in the Philippines is slow, but it is hopeful about catching up with its neighbours.

In mid-2016, a new president was elected, Rodrigo Duterte. He had previously been mayor of Davao, and earned the nickname "the punisher" by cleaning up the gang warfare that plagued that city in the 90s. Critics claim he did that largely by encouraging police and vigilantes to execute gang members without trial. In the presidential campaign, he vowed to clean up corruption and the drug trade (especially shabu, the local term for crystal methamphetamine, which is a serious problem in the country) and critics now accuse him of using similar tactics nation-wide. Western media sources put the death toll around 1,000 a month since he became president, though the numbers are neither precise nor undisputed. On September 30 2016, Duterte stated that he would like to emulate Hitler's Holocaust by exterminating 3 million drug users and dealers in the country, so it is safe to assume the killings will continue as long as he is in office.

Things have been improving slowly on the economic front, but this is still largely a poor country. An IMF report showed, as of 2009, 45% of the population living on under $2 US a day. One of the major exports is labor; something around 10% of Filipinos live abroad, either as immigrants or as contract workers, and remittances from those people account for around 10% of the nation's GDP.

People

As of 2012, the Philippines has a population estimated at 103 million making it the twelfth-largest nation on earth. Since the Philippines population is still growing rapidly, while that of Japan is declining, it will probably shortly overtake its northern neighbors to join the top ten.

From its long history of Western occupation - 300 years by Spain and 40 years by the US - its people have evolved as a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. Filipinos are largely Austronesian (more specifically Malayo-Polynesian) in ethnic origin. However, many people, particularly in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish and American mixtures. Those living in the provinces are mostly of Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in the Sulu archipelago near Borneo have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are: Chinese, Koreans, Indians and the Japanese. Also of significance are Americans, Indonesians and Arabs. Spaniards and other Europeans form a very small proportion of the country's population.

Filipino traits are a confluence of many cultures. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Austronesian forefathers. They observe very close family ties. Roman Catholicism comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos; at least 80% are Catholic today. The Philippines is one of only two countries in Asia with a majority Roman Catholic population (the other being East Timor).

The genuine and pure expression of hospitality is an inherent trait in Filipinos, especially those who reside in the countryside who may appear very shy at first, but have a generous spirit, as seen in their smiles. Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in South-east Asia. Guests will often be treated like royalty in Philippine households. This is most evident during fiestas when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to partake of the feast that most, if not all, households have for the occasion. At times, this hospitality is taken to a fault. Some households spend their entire savings on their fiesta offerings and sometimes even run into debt just to have lavish food on their table. They spend the next year paying for these debts and preparing for the next fiesta. At any rate, seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.

Filipinos lead the bunch of English-proficient Asian people today and English is considered as a second language. The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. While the official language is Filipino (which is basically a version of Tagalog) and whereas 76-78 languages and 170 dialects exist in this archipelago, still English is the second most widely spoken language in the country to varying degrees of comprehension but is a learnt language. Around 3 million still speak Spanish, including Creole Spanish, Chavacano plus Spanish has been reintroduced as a language of instruction at school level.

The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is defined by region, where each group has a set of distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal Ilocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the loving and sweet Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are likewise scattered across the archipelago.

It may seem peculiar for tourists to notice the Latin flair in Filipino culture. Mainstream Philippine culture compared to the rest of Asia is quite Hispanic and westernized at the surface. But still, Filipinos are essentially Austronesian and many indigenous and pre-Hispanic attitudes and ways of thinking are still noticeable underneath a seemingly westernized veneer. Indigenous groups, who have retained a fully Malayo-Polynesian culture unaffected by Spanish-influence, are also visible in cities like Manila, Baguio, Davao or Cebu, and can remind a visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.

Politics

The government of the Philippines is largely based on the political system of the United States. The President of the Philippines is directly elected by the people, and serves as both the Head of State and Head of Government.

The legislature is a bicameral congress, which consists of a lower house known as the Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan (House of Representatives), and an upper house known as the Senado (Senate). Both houses are elected directly by the people, though the country is divided into constituencies for the election of the lower house, while the upper house is elected by the country as a whole based on proportional representation.

Religion

The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia but also the world's third largest Roman Catholic nation. The Roman Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is still taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses still draw crowds, from the biggest cathedrals in the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most broadcast TV stations close down or operate only on limited hours and those that do operate broadcast religious programs.

The Catholic Church also still exerts quite a bit of influence even on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores are changing slowly, however; Filipinos are now slowly accepting what were previously taboo issues in so far as Roman Catholic doctrine is concerned, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows.?

The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos (Moros) who primarily live in Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practiced organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.

Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all accounts for 3% of the population of the Philippines. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu belief and culture are seen in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos as well. As with many things in the Philippines, religion statistics are never clear-cut and defined, and many Christians and Muslims also practice and believe in indigenous spiritual aspects (such as honoring natural deities and ancestor-worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers) that may in some cases contradict the orthodox rules of their religions.

Climate

The climate is tropical, with March to May (summer) being the hottest months. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls south-east of Manila (though the falls will get you wet regardless). The average temperatures range from 25°C (78°F) to 32°C (90°F), and humidity is around 77 percent. Baguio, branded as the summer capital of the Philippines, tends to be cooler due to its being located in mountainous regions with temperatures at night going below 20°C (68°F). During summer, the country experiences droughts, sometimes with extreme conditions, from March (sometimes as early as February) to May (sometimes extending to June). These water supply shortages mean that during summer, with many power plants being hydro-electric and air-conditioning demand being highest you'll be experiencing regular black-outs (locally known as brown-outs).

Holidays

The Philippines is a multicultural country having Christian, Muslim and Buddhist holidays aside from secular holidays. The year is welcomed by New Year's Day on 1 January. Being a predominantly Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Lent or months around March or April, Araw ng pagkabuhay or Easter Sunday is celebrated 3 days after Good Friday. Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, Boy scouts re-enact the march every 2 years in honor of this day that is also known as Bataan Day, they march as long as 10 kilometers, the Bataan Death March was part of the Bataan Battle which was also part of the Battle of the Philippines. The Bataan Death March was a 60 km march and the people who participated in this march were captured, tortured and murdered. All Saints Day is on 1 Nov and All Souls Day on 2 Nov. In recognition of the Muslim Filipinos, the Islamic feast of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa) is held after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is also a national holiday. This day changes year by year, as it follows the Lunar Calendar. Chinese New Year is also celebrated by the Chinese Community but dates vary according to the lunar calendar. Secular holidays include Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (12 Jun). 30 Aug is declared National Heroes Day. Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (30 Dec) and Andres Bonifacio (30 Nov) as well as Ninoy Aquino (21 Aug). Metro Manila is less congested during Holy Week as people tend to go to their home towns to spend the holidays there. Holy week is also considered part of the super peak season for most beach resorts such as Boracay and the most popular ones tend to get overcrowded at this time. Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is also where a lot of people spend the Holy Week break. Christmas is ubiquitously celebrated on 25 Dec.

Dates

  • New Year's Day: 1 January
  • Maundy Thursday: varies
  • Good Friday: varies
  • Easter Sunday: varies
  • Araw Ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor): 9 April
  • Labor Day: 1 May
  • Independence Day: 12 June
  • Ninoy Aquino Day: 21 August
  • National Heroes Day: Last Monday of August
  • All Saints Day: 1 November
  • All Souls Day: 2 November
  • Eid Ul Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa): varies according to lunar calendar
  • Eid Ul Adha: varies according to lunar calendar
  • Bonifacio Day: 30 November
  • Christmas Day: 25 December
  • Rizal Day: 30 December
  • Last Day of the Year: 31 December

Festivals

Culture

The culture of the Philippines is very diverse. There is the native Melanesian and Austronesian culture, which is most evident in language, ethnicity, native architecture, food and dances. There is also some influence from Arabia, China, India and Borneo. On top of that there is heavy colonial Hispanic influence from Mexico and Spain, such as in Religion, food, dance, language, festivals, architecture and ethnicity. Later influence from the US can also be seen in the culture.

Books

Filipino literature is a mix of Indian sagas, folk tales, and traces of Western influence. Classical books are written in Spanish as well as in Tagalog, but to this day most of Filipino literature is written in English. The Philippines, thus, is a multi-cultural country with its roots stretching from Asia to Europe and to the Americas.

History, Documentary
  • Red Revolution by Gregg R. Jones (ISBN 0813306442) - Documentary about the guerrilla movement; New People's Army (NPA), in the Philippines.
  • In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow (ISBN 0345328167) - Shares the story of European and American colonization in the archipelago as well as the restoration of democracy after the overthrew of Marcos.
Literature
  • Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal
  • El Filibusterismo by José Rizal
  • Dekada '70 by Lualhati Bautista (ISBN 9711790238) - A story about a middle class Filipino family that struggled to fight with other Filipinos during the martial law during the time of Marcos.
  • The Day the Dancers Came by Bienvenido Santos
  • Amazing Archipelago by John-Eric Taburada

Film

The Filipino film industry is suffering because of its main rival, the Western film industry. In this 21st century only 40 films are produced each year; down from 200-300 films a year in the 1990s.

  • Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Festival
  • Cinemanila International Film Festival
  • Metro Manila Film Festival — held annually during the Christmas season, showcasing local films released during the festival month.

Music

Western culture has also permeated the music industry in the Philippines; many songs written by Filipinos are in English. American rock-n-roll and, recently, rap and hip-hop are heard and performed. Traditional Filipino songs such as Kundiman (nostalgic/poetic songs) are still held dearly by the population but are, unfortunately, slowly losing influence among the younger generations.

  • Freddie Aguilar - Aguilar's "Anak" had been translated to many languages and topped the Billboard charts because of its popularity in both the Philippines and elsewhere. The song is about a boy who was loved by his parents so much who, as he grows old, later disrespects them. As the song ends the boy comes back to his parents' arms after realizing all his mistakes. Most listeners could relate to the song, with some emotionally breaking down simply by relating to the song. The song has an English version. It also tells us about Filipino parents, that even though children commit grave mistakes the parents are always there to forgive and help them.
  • Hotdog - The group's "Manila" was a popular song in the 1980s; it is about a man living abroad missing the bustling streets of Manila, its food, people and noise.
  • Check out other pop and rock groups such as The Eraserheads, Spongecola, Parokya ni Edgar, Gary Valenciano, Side A and Apo Hiking Society. Journey frontman Arnel Pineda is a native of Manila (and a former street kid).

Addresses

Barangays (abbreviated as Brgy.) are the lowest government unit of administration. Although some think the word came from the word Balangay (term used to refer to a boatload of settlers in the old days in Mindanao), the term linguistically originated from the Spanish term Barrio commonly used in the Visayas, which refers to a cluster of settlements in villages, until the term was legally adopted in local government law in the late 1970s.

A Barangay contains usually not less than 100 families. Barangays are then further divided into sitios, a term used to refer to a community (sub-village) especially in rural areas where settlements are scattered in far flung communities. In urban cities, most barangays no longer have sitios but contiguous residential subdivisions or communities. Basically, every street address in the Philippines belongs to a barangay or two or more opposite barangays where boundaries are delineated by streets cutting across. By comparison, a barangay in urban cities is somewhat different from barangays in rural towns. A barangay in urban cities such as capital Manila and neighboring Quezon City, could differ in terms of population density and territorial size when compared to barangays in Paracelis, which is a rural town. Imagine Manila with a population of 1,660,714 living in 38.55 km² distributed in 897 barangays compared to Quezon City with a population of 2,679,450 distributed in 142 barangays in 166.20 km² as compared to Paracelis with a population of 24,705 living in just 9 barangays over a land area of 553.25 km². The biggest barangay in Paracelis is even bigger than the entire Manila.

While getting a taxi or jeepney, Filipinos don't give the street's name; they give the address of a popular landmark near their destination instead; so when you get a taxi or jeepney, just give the popular landmark near your destination. In rural areas, it is not much harder to get to destinations since everybody knows almost everybody and you get to your destination just by knowing the name of the barangay and then the sitio.

Get in

Nationals from the vast majority of countries (147 at the last count), including all ASEAN and EU countries, can enter the Philippines without a visa for a period not exceeding 30 days. Nationals of Brazil and Israel may enter the Philippines without a visa for a longer stay not exceeding 59 days, while holders of Hong Kong and Macau SAR passports get 14 days. Holders of British National (Overseas) passports and Portuguese passports issued in Macau may stay in the Philippines no longer than 7 days without a visa.

All passengers arriving in the Philippines are required to fill out a disembarkation form and a customs declaration form (one per family). Visa-exempt nationals can enter the Philippines as long as they have a return ticket, as well as passports valid for a period of at least six months beyond the period of stay. While enforcement was previously lax, these requirements are now strictly enforced, and foreigners have been deported from the Philippines for not meeting the entry requirements.

Nationals of countries which are required to obtain a visa to enter the Philippines may obtain one upon arrival under the Bureau of Immigration's Visa Upon Arrival Program (VUAP). However, this authorisation must be pre-arranged with the BI before arriving in the Philippines. 59-day tourist visas (?3030) may also be applied for upon arrival by citizens of countries who are otherwise entitled to stay for only 30 days. If intending to stay beyond the duration of the 30-day visa, you may apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration's offices in most main cities and at the Manila and Cebu airports. Each visa extension is valid for one to six months, except the first extension which is for 29 days (which extends the original visa to 59 days), and are granted up to a maximum of three years. To avoid going to the BI to renew a tourist visa, it is also possible to apply for a tourist visa at a Philippine embassy or consulate, although nationals of visa-exempt countries who have a visa must present the visa to the immigration officer to avoid being stamped with the wrong visa.

If you overstay, you must pay on departure a fine of ?1000 per month of overstay plus a ?3,030 processing fee.

Under the "Balikbayan Program", former Filipino citizens who have been naturalized in a foreign country may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to one year. If eligible, you must prove your previous Philippine citizenship by presenting an old Philippine passport, birth certificate, or foreign naturalization documents. However, you may not have to present these documents to the immigration officer, as usually it is sufficient to speak a Filipino language, appear Filipino, and/or show the foreign passport if it indicates that you were born in the Philippines. If your Balikbayan status is granted, the immigration officer will annotate your passport for a one-year stay. Your spouses and children may also avail themselves of the Balikbayan privilege, as long as they enter and leave the Philippines together with you.

By plane

Although the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors arrive by plane. International airports are located in Manila, Angeles, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Kalibo.

Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, are the three airlines that fly within the Philippines.

If you plan to travel around the various islands, it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time back-tracking. Most common open-jaw ticket combinations fly into Manila and out of Cebu or vice versa. Local airlines also have regular "seat sales", advertising cheap fares for flights to domestic destinations. However, be aware of travel dates: some tickets booked during a seat sale may only be used on dates well after the duration of the sale (sometimes up to a year after the sale) and advertised fares usually exclude government taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you live in an area with a large Filipino population (such as London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei or Tokyo), check out travel agencies catering to overseas Filipinos which often have fares keener than those generally advertised.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Most visitors entering the Philippines will fly in through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) (IATA: MNL). The airport is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and the Domestic Terminal (also known as Terminal 4).

  • most international flights depart from Terminal 1 with a few exceptions:
  • Philippine Airlines international and some Philippine airlines domestic flights depart from Terminal 2,
  • some Philippine airlines domestic flights, all Cebu Pacific flights (international and domestic), and international flights on Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Delta, and Air Asia depart from Terminal 3.
  • Air Asia domestic flights depart from the Domestic Terminal 4.
  • Terminal 1 has recently been renovated. It now has fewer airlines and is far better than it used to be.
  • Terminal 3 is the best of all the terminals with many places to eat and shop.

Other airports

Some visitors who enter the Philippines choose to avoid flying through Manila, instead using other airports throughout the Philippines which have international flights.

  • Diosdado Macapagal (Clark) International Airport (IATA: CRK) in Angeles City, Pampanga is 85 km north of Manila is a popular hub for low-cost carriers serving Manila. Air Asia, Tiger Air and Jin Air are now the three foreign low-cost carriers serving Clark, flying from KL, Singapore and Seoul respectively. Cebu Pacific has flights to Hong Kong, Macau. Qatar airways also has flights from Clark airport to Doha.
  • Mactan-Cebu International Airport (IATA: CEB) in Metro Cebu is the Philippines' second-busiest airport and a major hub for visitors headed to points in the Visayas and Mindanao. Several of the airlines which serve Manila also serve Cebu. Air Asia fly to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Tiger airways fly to Singapore. Cathay Pacific fly to Hong Kong. Emirates fly to Dubai. Asiana Airlines fly to Seoul. Silk Air (part of Singapore airlines) fly to Singapore.
  • Francisco Bangoy International Airport (IATA: DVO) in Davao is served by SilkAir and Cebu Pacific with flights to and from Singapore.
  • Kalibo International Airport (IATA: KLO) in Kalibo, Aklan (near Boracay) Air Asia, has flights to KL Malaysia and Seoul & Busan South Korea. Tiger Air fly to Singapore. Cebu Pacific fly from Kalibo to Hong Kong and Seoul. Other airlines also have scheduled flights to Kalibo from points in South Korea, China and Taiwan.
  • Iloilo International Airport (IATA: ILO) in Iloilo is served by Cebu Pacific, with flights to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Passengers departing on international flights from Davao or Iloilo or Kalibo airports have to pay a terminal fee of ?700. for Clark airport, the fee is ?650 in addition to the Philippine travel tax. this is done before entering immigration and the pre-departure area of the terminal. terminal fees are only payable in Philippine pesos.

  • for Manila Airport the terminal fee is now part of the ticket cost.

By boat

  • Weesam Express operates a regular ferry service which connects Zamboanga City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with Sandakan, Malaysia.
  • Aleson Shipping Lines also has a ferry from Zamboanga to Sandakan. Schedule departs Zamboanga every Monday and Thursday 12 noon. Economy class ?2700 per way. Cabin ?3100 per way.

Get around

By plane

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, the easiest way to move between islands is by plane. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia have significant domestic operations, linking many major towns and cities. There are also several smaller carriers which serve resort destinations (such as Amanpulo in Palawan), as well as more remote destinations. While most cities are served by jet aircraft, some destinations are served by propeller-driven planes.

The route networks of most local airlines are heavily centered around Manila and Cebu: flying between domestic points usually entails having to transit either city (sometimes both), although direct flights between other major cities are slowly being introduced. Reaching Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by air is a special case: travelers must fly through Zamboanga City.

A significant majority of domestic flights in the Philippines are operated by low-cost carriers and are consequently economy-only: PAL is the only airline to offer business class on domestic flights. This does not mean however that fares are affordable: domestic seat sales are a common feature throughout the year, and all major airlines regularly offer promo fares on their websites. However, fares increase significantly during major peak travel seasons (particularly during Christmas, Holy Week and the last two weeks of October), and in places served by only one airline (such as Calbayog, Camiguin or Siargao), fares also increase during major provincial or town fiestas. Flights are frequently full during peak travel season, so it is advisable to book well in advance.

Passengers departing on domestic flights must pay a terminal fee before entering the pre-departure area, although the fee will be integrated into the ticket price starting August 1, 2012 for flights departing from Manila and Cebu (tickets issued before that date do not include the terminal fee and the fee must be paid at the airport). Fees vary, with most major cities charging ?200, and smaller cities charging between ?30 and ?100. Fees are only payable in Philippine pesos.

By train

See also: sleeper trains

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) currently operates two overnight intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, which resumed on June 29, 2011 after a five-year absence, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. Additional services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. Train service is comparable to (or slower than, due to delays) buses in terms of speed, but is more comfortable owing to the use of donated Japanese coaches for the service.

The Bicol Express and Mayon Limited are not non-stop services: from Tutuban, Manila's main train station, the train calls at several points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur before arriving in Naga (and Albay before arriving in Ligao for the Mayon Limited). It is possible to travel between any two points served by the services, and fares are distance-based. Children under three feet may travel for free.

There are currently four classes of service on the Bicol Express:

  • Executive sleeper class features individual air-conditioned cabins. Each cabin has a bed, pull-down armrests so that a portion of the bed can be used as a chair, and a small table. Washrooms are available inside the coach.
  • Family sleeper class features four-bed air-conditioned cabins: two beds on each side, with one stacked on top of the other. Access to the top bunk is via a foldable ladder between both sides of the cabin, and cabins are separated from the aisle with a curtain. The PNR promotes this class for the use of families traveling together, although it is possible to book an individual bed.
  • Reclining air-conditioned economy class (or deluxe class) features air-conditioned reclining chairs, two on each side of the cabin. On some coaches, it is possible to rotate the chairs so that passengers may face each other.
  • Economy class (or ordinary class) is the cheapest class of service, featuring upholstered benches on each side which can sit up to three people. Ventilation is provided via overhead ceiling fans.

On the Mayon Limited, only reclining air-conditioned economy class ("deluxe") and regular economy class are offered. However, unlike the Bicol Express, the Mayon Limited provides service using two different trains: the "deluxe" service operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the "economy" service operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Passengers on PNR intercity services are entitled to a free baggage allowance of 20 kg.

It is possible to pre-book seats on intercity trains by calling the PNR at +63 2 319-0044. Pre-booking seats is recommended during peak travel seasons (especially during Holy Week and in September, during the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga), where trains can be full. However, the PNR does send a second, all-economy supplementary overnight train on certain days during peak season if traffic demand warrants it. Timetables and fares for all services, including supplementary services, are announced on the PNR's website and also on its official Facebook page.

The PNR also operates the Commuter Express in Metro Manila, a once-daily commuter service between Manila and Biñan, Laguna (which is also part of the Commuter Express, but uses different trains), and the Bicol Commuter between Naga and towns in Camarines Sur and Albay.

By car

The Philippines' road network is centered on Manila. Outside Luzon, larger islands' road networks converge on the largest city or cities (for example, Cebu City for Cebu Province, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have a road circling the entire island. The Philippines has one highway which is part of the Asian Highway Network: the Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known locally as the Maharlika Highway. The highway begins in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, traversing through Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. However, it is also the only highway in the Asian Highway Network which is not connected to any other highway: it is not possible to enter the Philippines by car.

Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane expressways of Luzon to the narrow dirt roads of remote mountain areas, which may complicate travel by car. Most major roads have two lanes and are normally paved with asphalt or concrete, although multi-lane roads are common near major cities. Road atlases and maps are available at bookstores throughout the country, and are very helpful when driving, especially when driving alone.

Major international car rental companies such as Hertz [1] and Budget [2] have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. Avis [3] and Europcar [4] are among the largest international car rental companies, with offices in several cities throughout the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car [5]. Regardless of the company, prices are bound to be reasonable.

Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: some types of cars however (like vans) may only be rented out with a chauffeur. Also, some rental companies (mostly local ones) may only allow rentals to be driven within the island where the city of rental is located: for example, it may be possible to drive with a rental from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte) because it would entail the use of roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to drive out of Luzon and into the outlying islands, the Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice-versa), be sure that the rental company's terms and conditions allow it.

Road networks

In addition to the existing network of national and local roads, the Philippines has two additional road networks: an expressway network and the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) system.

Luzon has an expressway network dominated by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). These are tollways with good paved roads, are privately-maintained, and the farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. Other expressways include the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway connecting Subic Bay and Tarlac) and the Bataan Provincial Expressway. Expressways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads which connect to major cities and provinces.

The Strong Republic Nautical Highway system is a three-route network of national and provincial roads, bridges and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries which facilitates the connection of major islands of the Philippines together by road, bringing down the cost of driving (and, ultimately, lowering the cost of shipping goods between islands). The SRNH system begins in Luzon, runs in a north-south direction through the Visayas, and ultimately ends in Mindanao. The SRNH is useful for driving to tourist destinations outside Manila: for example, it is possible to drive to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. SRNH routes are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism [6].

Driving

Foreign driver's licenses are legally valid in the Philippines for up to 90 days after arrival, after which a Philippine driver's license is required. It may also be a good idea to carry your passport showing that your last entry into the Philippines was less than 91 days ago.

Vehicular traffic in the Philippines moves on the right, and the vast majority of road signs are in English. Most signs conform to design guidelines used in the United States.

Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Traffic often grinds to a screeching halt, especially in major cities (Metro Manila in particular), and the honking of horns is a very common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless passing happen on a regular basis, especially on desolate rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which jostle sidewalk curbs to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: the fact that bus and jeepney drivers' salaries are determined based on passenger load does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorcycles frequently weave through traffic, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, while frequently ignored in the past, are more strictly adhered to now. Seatbelts are mandatory only for persons in the front seat.

Due to heavy traffic congestion, Metro Manila and Baguio have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but it is simply known as "number coding" or, previously "color coding" (although it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:

Cities that enforce the UVVRP prohibit cars from being driven between 7AM and 7PM on a certain weekday on most national (primary) and secondary roads, although the implementation varies: in Metro Manila (excluding Makati and Pasay), a "window" exists between 10AM and 3PM where the scheme is not enforced, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city center, and the scheme does not apply to the rest of the city. In general however, the UVVRP does not apply to minor streets (mostly in residential areas), and those roads remain open to coded cars the whole day. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.

By taxi

Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, usually ply provincial routes. You can also call reputable Taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.

When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small denomination banknotes, as the drivers often claim not to have change in an effort to obtain a larger tip! Please do have coins ready with you. Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour. (Updated April 2011) Most taxis have the flag down rate of ?40 with each 300 meters cost ?3.50 while Yellow cab taxis are more expensive with a flag down rate of ?70 with each 300 meters cost ?4.00.

You may book a taxi using GPS enabled mobile apps such as "Grab Taxi" and "Easy Taxi" for a small fee. This is better than hailing a cab because you can see the number of available taxis and their location via GPS. Once you have a confirmed taxi booking, the name, photo, plate number and telephone number will appear on your mobile device and you can communicate with your driver to let him know exactly where you are. This is initially available in Metro Manila and Cebu.

By bus

Apart from flying, buses are usually the way to go when it comes to traveling across the Philippines, at least from within the major islands. It is the cheapest mode of transport when getting around, fares are as low as ?300-?500. Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south. Major provincial bus companies such as ALPS The Bus, Inc.[8], Victory Liner[9], Philtranco[10] operate in the country.

By boat

Although mariners from the Philippines are employed worldwide and have a good reputation as skillful and committed crew, it is a sad fact that shipowners in the Philippines put profit before lives and the Philippines has the sad distinction of having had some of the world's worst maritime disasters in peacetime. (On 20 Dec 1987, the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector in the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. The tanker had more than 8,800 barrels of gasoline on board and the resulting conflagration quickly spread to the Doña Paz so that passengers had to leap into burning waters. Subsequently, there were reports that the life jackets aboard the Doña Paz were locked away to prevent pilfering. This one incident left an estimated 4,341 dead which included all but 24 of the Doña Paz's passengers, and all but two of the Vector's 13-man crew.)

Metro Manila

Get around Manila with Pasig's Pasig Ferry Service, waterbuses are available in stations around the historical river of Pasig. Fares ranges from ?25, ?35 and ?45. For students and youth fares range ?20 regardless of distance.

Inter-island trips

Next to buses and some times low cost airlines, ships are the cheapest mode of transport when getting around the country as fares are as low as ?1,000 if it's a trip lasting a day or two and ?200 if it's only a one hour trip. 2Go Travel and a number of other companies operate interisland ferries. There is a convenient Friday overnight ferry trip to Coron, Palawan. This allows divers to spend the weekend in Coron and take the Sunday night ferry trip back to Manila, arriving around noon. You can also stay on a Cruise Ship that's exploring around the Coron area. The 7,107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of its private islands.

Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours, depending on distance. Other major ferry companies include: 2Go Travel Trans Asia Shipping Lines.

Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries throughout the Visayas at affordable prices. Schedule Information is difficult to obtain - newspapers often contain pages with ads on certain days, but, believe it or not, most people rely on word of mouth.

Be aware that while travelling by ferry is cheap, and relatively care-free compared to air travel, boat services can be unreliable. Ferries can sometimes be delayed anywhere between 24 to 48 hours because all the cargo and passengers has not yet boarded, or because of weather. If you need to make a deadline (such as an international flight), then fly instead of travelling by ferry.

Cruises

7107 Islands Cruise offers a cruises from Boracay to Puerto Galera to Boracay, prices range from ?2,000 - ?10,000, children below than 3 years old are free to travel who is accompanied by 2 adults, children from 5 to 12 years old are given a 50% discount, who are accompanied also by 2 adults while senior citizens can avail a 20% discount. The cruise will tour around the Philippines in islands such as Boracay and Coron Island.

Hans Christian Andersen Cruise will take you on an unforgettable voyage through the Philippines. They have set their sights on memorable experiences, empty beaches, local fishing villages, fantastic diving and snorkeling - the perfect way to explore the picturesque archipelagos of the Philippines. They offer a relaxed unpretentious holiday atmosphere and you won’t have to worry about dress code.

Sun Cruises has tour packages to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Prices range from ?2,000 for a day tour with a buffet lunch, to ?3,000 for an overnight stay at the island. The tour guides are very informative, and the island is steeped in history, particularly about the battles that raged there during World War 2. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.

By jeepney

Jeepneys are common throughout the country and are by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas. They generally run on fixed routes, have fixed fares depending on distance (often about ?8 for up to 4 km and an additional ?1 per km), and will stop if you wave at them. Usually there are signs on the side of the vehicle indicating the route.

Originally, jeepneys were based on jeeps left behind by the Americans after World War II; Filipinos lengthened the body and added benches along the sides to seat as many as 20 people; they often carry closer to 30 with people in the aisle or on the running boards. Today most new jeepneys are based on used vehicles imported from Japan, but some of the post war ones are still running.

Jeepneys are often quite crowded and sometimes there are pickpockets, but every visitor should try them at least once since they are definitely part of a "Philippines experience". For a budget traveler, they will likely be one of the most used transport options.

Within Manila and other major cities, you will find multiple jeepneys per route, for added convenience. In the provinces, jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more comfortable.

By tricycle

Traysikels are tricycles, motorcycle-and-sidecar rigs, usually with seating for four in the sidecar. In many of the smaller cities, these are the main means of transport within the town, and jeepneys are used only for longer journeys.

These may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as they are cramped and quite open to noise and weather. They are shared vehicles; expect to ride along with other people going approximately the same way and to take the odd detour as the driver diverts to deliver a passenger at his or her destination.

Fares range from ?3 up, depending on the distance of your destination. In some places the fare is legally regulated, for example in Dumaguete, it is ?8 anywhere within the town. Often, though, you will need to bargain over the fare, and some drivers will try to overcharge foreigners,

In many areas, pedicab refers to a pedal-powered vehicle, either a bicycle-and-sidecar rig or a cycle rickshaw with two seats in back and the rider pedaling up front. In other areas, "pedicab" is used for motorized sidecar rigs as well.

Talk

See also: Filipino phrasebook

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is a standardized version of the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay). While Tagalog is an Austronesian language like Malay, Indonesian and Javanese, the language has been heavily influenced by other languages, most notably Spanish, during the Spanish colonial period, and to this day the language is dominated by Spanish loanwords. Hence, many Filipinos can understand a little Spanish, while Spanish speakers would also recognize many Filipino words. In addition, as Malay, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Tagalog are closely related, speakers of Malay and Indonesian would also recognize many cognates in many of the languages of the Philippines.

Tagalog is the language spoken in the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila, as well as the Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions. In the northern provinces, Ilocano is the most common language used, while Kapampangan and Pangasinan are widely prevalent in the Central Luzon plains. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region, where Bicolano is the main native language.

The Visayas, forming the central section of the country, has its own language subgroup called the Visayan languages, which differ depending on the region. Cebuano is the most common Visayan language, and is mainly spoken in the islands of Cebu, Bohol and Negros (eastern part), and until relatively recently, had the largest number of native speakers. The second most-common one is Hiligaynon (also known as Ilonggo), which is widely spoken in the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros (western part). Waray-Waray is the third most-common and is widely spoken in the Leyte-Samar islands. The Visayan languages are also spoken in Mindanao, the southern part of the country.

English is an official language of the Philippines and is a compulsory subject in all schools, so it is widely spoken in the larger cities and main tourist areas. However, it is usually not the first language for most locals. The use of English isn't as widespread anymore on radio and free-to-air TV as it once was with only three TV channels using it on a full-time basis. However almost all broadsheet newspapers still use English. Tourists won't have problems using English when making inquiries at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Tagalog or any widespread regional language will come in handy when travelling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there. Taglish is spoken nowadays by the urban youth but its use is discouraged by language educators due to its improper form. It is a mix of Tagalog and English, and an example is shown below:

Taglish: How are you na? Ok naman ako. Tagalog: Kumusta ka na? Mabuti naman ako English: How are you? I'm ok.

Spanish is no longer widely spoken, though many Spanish words survive in the local languages. A Spanish based Creole language known as Chavacano is spoken in Cavite and in Zamboanga. The government is trying to revive Spanish by providing Spanish in public schools as an optional language. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language; however there are around 3 million people who speak Spanish and there is a daily radio program Filipinas Ahora Mismo which broadcasts from Manila in Spanish.

Other ethnic groups have brought new languages to the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. There are Chinese groups who migrated largely from Fujian province some time ago and typically can speak Hokkien rather than Mandarin or Cantonese. They also use 'Lan-ang'; a localized variant of Hokkien with influences from the native Philippine languages, particularly Tagalog and any Visayan language.

Many Filipinos speak multiple languages. You should not be surprised, for example, to meet someone who speaks one or more regional Philippine languages (perhaps Ilocano or Visayan) plus English, Tagalog and one or two picked up during stints as an overseas contract worker.

See

Like some countries in the world, the Philippines can also give you that tropical island experience of your life. Its beautiful sandy beaches, warm climate, century old churches, magnificent mountain ranges, dense rain forests, rich culture and smiling people are just one of the attractions that you must see and experience on this archipelago composed of 7,107 islands. You can experience the country's rich and unique culture in different ways like touring old Spanish churches, joining colorful fiestas (festivals) and by enjoying our exotic and tasty cuisine. But perhaps the greatest way to experience Filipino culture is by riding a jeepney.

Historical and Cultural attractions

Manila is the capital of the Philippines; it was established during the Spanish colonial era. Despite being a city with modern skyscrapers, Manila still has its rich historical and cultural heritage. Its old churches, colonial structures, neo-classical buildings and historical landmarks give this city its unique charm.

Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls') would be the perfect place for those who are interested in history; it is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. Intramuros is popular for being home to Manila's finest and oldest structures such as the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago. Despite being heavily damaged during World War II, Intramuros still has its Spanish colonial character.

The historic town of Vigan, located in the Ilocos Region, resembles a Spanish colonial town. Its Spanish colonial influence in architecture will make you feel like you are somewhere in colonial Spain or maybe somewhere in Europe. Vigan's unique colonial structures and cultural elements from Europe have combined to produce this World Heritage Site that you may not find elsewhere in the country and in Southeast Asia.

Cebu City is dubbed as the "Queen City of the South". Being the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, it has some of the country’s most iconic historical and heritage spots. The city's Sinulog Festival attracts thousands of tourists, it is one of the country's most popular festivals. Being a former Spanish colony for 300 years, baroque churches can easily be found around the Philippines, these churches will almost look like the churches that we see in Spain and in Europe.

Some of the most iconic churches in the country are the San Agustin Church in Manila; Miag-ao Church in Iloilo; Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte and the Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur. These churches were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Beaches and islands

Beaches and diving are among the best-known tourist attractions of the country; with 7,107 islands there is certainly enough choice. Many beaches have bright white sand, but beige, gray, black or even pink sand are also found. Most of the diving is around coral reefs; many are reachable by just walking into the water, or on a day trip by boat from one of the resorts. A few such as Coron feature wreck diving and some such as Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park involve longer trips on live-aboard boats.

Boracay is the country's best-known beach resort area, has been rated one of the best islands in the world by several magazines, and attracts thousands of international and local travelers every year. It has powdery white sand beaches and azure waters, and is a highly-developed area offering a range of activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, cliff diving and parasailing. After all of these activities, you can indulge in a relaxing massage right on the white sand beach or at one of the spas

If you want to avoid crowded beaches, head to Palawan. The beaches in the province are less developed, uncrowded and are well-preserved. The coastal town of El Nido is one of the best destinations that Palawan and the Philippines can offer. Its pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, steep limestone cliffs, stunning islets and diving spots can compete with any of the best in the world.

Coron Island boasts hundreds of limestone formations topped with dense rainforests. It is also popular for its exquisite beaches and World War II shipwrecks. Rent a kayak to paddle around the islands to see the beautiful and well-preserved seascape of Coron.

Aside from Palawan, you can also try Bohol, it is an island province which is also home to majestic sandy beaches. One of Bohol's top beach destination is Panglao Island which is being promoted as an alternative destination for Boracay. The island offers a wide selection of both world-class and affordable resorts.

Mactan Island in Cebu; Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga; Pagudpud in Ilocos; Laiya Beach in Batangas and White Island in Camiguin are also other popular beach destinations in the Philippines that are really worth visiting for.

Landscapes

Sick of beaches? The Philippines has other offer stunning landscapes; aside from beautiful beaches, there are mountain ranges, dense jungles, majestic rice terraces, scenic lakes, picturesque waterfalls and hidden caves.

If we think of the Philippines, the usual things that goes into our mind are just group of islands with warm sunny days. The Cordillera Region is not the usual Philippine destination that we see on postcards and travel magazines. If you visit this mountainous region, take jackets and sweaters rather than just t-shirts, because this region is located in the cool highlands of the northern part of the country. Rice terraces are one of the most visited tourist attractions in the region, the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces and Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras can be found here. These rice terraces were built almost 2000 years ago by ancient Filipinos and still maintain their beauty. Nearby is the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Known for its hanging coffins and limestone caves, this town is an ideal destination for backpackers.

Being a mountainous country, the Philippines offers countless choices of mountains for hikers and adventure seekers. The best mountain climbing destination in the country is the scenic Mount Apo in the Southern Philippines. Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines, and one of the most diverse areas; it is home to over 272 bird species, 111 of which are endemic to the area. The mountain also has four major lakes, these lakes are famous mountaineers camping site and a stopover towards the peak. Another popular mountain climbing destination is Mount Pinatubo in Tarlac. This mountain made global headlines as the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Today, it is one of the country's top climbing destination due to it's canyons, 4x4 terrain and its scenic caldera lake.

Head to the island of Bohol to see the famous Chocolate Hills, and no they are not made out of chocolate, they are grass-covered limestone domes that turn brown during the dry season, hence their name. There are more than 1,268 hills scattered in the area. The Chocolate Hills are one one of the most iconic and popular tourist spots in the country. Another destination which is popular in Bohol is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, it is a 7.4-hectare forest sanctuary where over 100 tarsiers roam freely, here you can have a chance to get up close to the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world.

Learn

Scuba diving

See Scuba diving for more information

Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these have at least a handful of PADI-accredited diving schools where you can obtain your license. Costs (of both lessons and equipment) are likely to be cheaper here compared to places like Australia, the Caribbean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.

Martial Arts

Eskrima or Kali is a Filipino martial art that emphasizes using swords and sticks; it has been showcased in films such as Equilibrium. Training centers and schools that teach Eskrima are mostly found around Metro Manila.

Tertiary education

Many foreigners such as Europeans, Chinese, Americans and Koreans choose to study and finish university in the Philippines because compared to other countries, Universities here are cheaper and offer the same system the Americans apply (however most schools follow K-10, international schools follow K-12 standards), major schools such as University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University and Adamson University are just some of the major universities with many provincial branches in the country. Of these, the University of the Philippines is considered the most prestigious in the country.

There are many former members of the US military studying in the Philippines. The Veterans Administration will pay for this provided the university is on their approved list.

Other international schools in the Philippines are also found and usually operated by British and other European diplomats, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and American immigrants and diplomats.

Learning English

The country is also a hub for people seeking to learn English, mostly Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Transport from those countries, living costs and tuition are all much lower than for the major English-speaking countries and, with some exceptions like Hawaii or Queensland, the climate is much more pleasant as well. The Philippines is one of the largest centers for learning ESL in Asia.

There are many English learning centers around the country; many are in Metro Manila (especially Taguig City), Bacolod, and Cebu, but there are some in all the major cities and in some of the resort areas.

There are some jobs for foreign teachers in these places, though they mostly use Filipino teachers and generally will not offer high salaries to foreigners. See Teaching English.

Do

  • Aerial Sports - An annual Hot Air Balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga, other than Hot Air balloons on display, people gather in this event to do sky diving, many activities are also held other than sky diving and hot air balloons. The Festival is held between January and February.
  • Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, don't miss the PBA and UAAP basketball tournaments.
  • Bentosa and Hilot are Filipino alternative ways of healing, Bentosa is a method where a cup cover a tea light candle then it flames out and it drains out all the pain on the certain part of the body, Hilot is just the Filipino way of massaging.
  • Board sailing - Waves and winds work together making the country a haven for board sailors. Boracay, Subic Bay and Anilao in Batangas are the main destinations.
  • Casinos: Metro Manila has a wide collection of casinos and entertainment destinations. Explore the Resorts World Manila, the country's first luxurious casino integrated resort, and the newly opened Solaire Resorts and Casino. The Entertainment City will be home to four integrated casino resorts. This development is expected to attract millions of rich Asian tourists and rival Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.
  • Caving - The Archipelago has some unique cave systems. Sagada is one popular destination for caving.
  • Dive - Blue, tranquil waters and abundant reefs make for good diving. Compared to neighboring countries, diving in the country is cheaper.
  • Festivals - Each municipality, town, city and province has their own festival, either religious or in honor of the city or a historical reason.
See also: Festivals in the Philippines for more information.
  • Golf - Almost every province has a golf course, it is a popular sport among the elite, rich and famous.
  • Medical tourism - The Philippines supplies the world with many medical professionals with large numbers leaving the country every year for a better future abroad. This is indicative of the quality of medical education and medical tourism is on the rise too. Most come from America and Europe as compared to their home countries, healthcare here is much cheaper; as much as 80% less than the average price abroad. Most of the hospitals suggested for medical tourism are in Metro Manila. Alternative medicine is also popular with spas, faith healing and other fringe therapies widespread throughout the archipelago.
  • National parks - National parks number around 60-70, they include mountains and coral reefs.
  • Mountain biking - The archipelago has dozens of mountains and is ideal for mountain bikers. Bikes are the best mode of transportation in getting around remote areas. Some options include Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, Banaue, Mount Apo and Guimaras.
  • Rock climbing - Apo Island, Atimonan, El Nido, Putting Bato, Wawa Gorge have the best sites in the archipelago for rock climbing.
  • Sea kayaking - Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Palawan, Samar and Siargao are popular.
  • Spas are popular, with many options, Spas are found near beaches, financial capitals etc.
  • Trekking - Mountain ranges and peaks offer cool weather for trekking and it might give you a sight of the beautiful exotic flora and fauna of the country. Mt. Kanlaon and Mount Pulag are good trekking spots.
  • Visita iglesia - (Visita is Spanish for Visit, Iglesia is Spanish for Church = Visit Churches) done by mostly Filipino Roman Catholics to Churches, holy sites, shrines, basilicas etc. If you are religious try this, if you love art and architecture, churches are the best way to define what Filipino architecture.
  • Whitewater rafting - There is good whitewater rafting in Mindanao, both in the north around Cagayan de Oro and in the south near Davao.

Work

Under Philippine law, any foreigner working must have an Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor. The paperwork is in general handled by the prospective employer and the employee picks up the relevant visa at a Philippine Embassy or Consulate. Working without a permit is not allowed and does not give you any labor protections. Furthermore, visas are checked upon departing the Philippines. Those who have overstayed without permission are subject to fines and, in certain cases, even jail.

It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money while staying in the Philippines, especially in Manila and other bigger cities in provinces. These may include temporary teaching in schools, colleges and other institutions; and working in bars and clubs. Temporary work may also be available as an "extra" on the set of a film or television series. Fluency in English is very important in jobs while knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low. Recently as of late 2010, the Philippines has overtaken India in the call center industry, and many international companies hire English fluent workers.

Most establishments pay monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.

Buy

Money

The Philippine peso, denoted by the symbol "?" (ISO code: PHP) is the official currency and in almost all cases the only currency used for normal transactions. US dollars and euros may be accepted in some circumstances, but don't count on it.

Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. There are 2 versions of each bill with the newer version in circulation since December 2010 (albeit it is still rare to find them). The newer notes have similar colors to their old counterparts, have the same people at the front (eExcept for the 500-peso note which also features former President Aquino) but rather than historical sites at the back, these newer notes feature Filipino natural wonders and species unique to the country. The older notes will remain legal tender until 2014.

Money changers are not common in the Philippines outside some touristy areas. A rule of thumb: the more currency you wish to exchange, the more favorable the rates can be. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount (usually around USD100.00) and have limited hours of operation, usually from 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays and you may enjoy their air conditioning during the long wait. The notable exceptions are Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco De Oro (BDO) which may have longer operating hours in some locations.

Don't exchange money in stalls along the streets as some of them might be exchanging your money for counterfeit money, contact Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) if you suspect the money you've been given is counterfeit. Money changers do exist at department stores, supermarkets and hotels but needless to say the rates are highly unfavorable to customers and some will only exchange into pesos.

Be aware that no person is allowed to enter or leave the Philippines carrying more than ?10,000 of coins and banknotes without prior authorization by the BSP. Those without prior authorization will have to declare the excess money at the customs desk. Importing any amount of foreign currency is legal, but anything in excess of US$10,000 (or its equivalent) must be declared.

ATMs and credit cards

Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, however Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 10,000 pesos. HSBC ATMs in Manila , Cebu and Davao let you take out ?40,000 per transaction with no fee. Citi Bank ATMs in Manila and Cebu. Lets you take out up to p15.000 per Transaction but now Citi Bank has a ?200 fee per use on Overseas cards. BPI (Bank of the Philippine islands) lets you take out only ?10,000 from any of their ATMs for a ?200 fee. =2%. Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards can withdraw funds or ask for cash advances at ATMs that display their logos. The most prominent MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers by BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers by Banco de Oro. PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a complement by itself, but instead it is available along with Cirrus. Prominent examples include the Fasteller by BDO Bank and the Electronic Teller (ET) by Metrobank. Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.

Credit card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many commercial locations in the Philippines but merchants would usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. Cardholders of China UnionPay credit cards can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (particularly of Metrobank) but cannot use their cards in point of sale transactions at the moment. Credit cards are generally not accepted for government-related transactions.

In 2010, Philippine banks started to charge ?200 per transaction for using foreign cards in their ATM machines, in addition to cash withdrawal and exchange fees already imposed by your bank. Considering small transaction limits, this adds at least 2-4% to the amount withdrawn.

Try to use a HSBC Bank ATMs as the HSBC Banks ATMs are the only ones without a php 200 fee for Overseas cards. your find HSBC Banks ATMs in Manila. Cebu. and Davao cities.

Tipping

Tipping is not required in the Philippines, except when the customer wants to show appreciation for services rendered. However, tipping is becoming more common especially in service-oriented places (spa, salon). In some restaurants and hotels, "Service Charge" (8%-12%) is included in the bill when issued; thus, a customer has the option to give an additional tip or not. In taxis, it is common to add 20-50 pesos on top of the fare.

Costs

Traveling in Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.) For example a stay in a Pension house, tourist inn or Lodge can cost as low as ?300 a night for a fan room or 500 a night for a air-conditioned room. A flight to Cebu from Manila and vice-versa will cost as low as ?999. a flight from Manila to Davao and vice-versa can cost as low as 1595. Transportation is low as ?7.00 for the first 4km in a Jeepney. Bus fares are around 1.5 peso per km for a air.con bus and 20% less for a non air.con bus. Using the internet for an hour in an internet cafe ranges from ?10 to ?20 depending on the Internet Cafe's location, a can of coke costs as low as ?20 while a copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ?70 and Economist as low as ?160. In most restaurants, there is 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) usually included in the unit price but service charge is often excluded and computed separately.

Shopping

It isn't hard to find shopping malls in the Philippines: The country is home to a large number of shopping malls, from large to small and from modern to traditional, you can find it all here in the Philippines. It's a fact consumerism has been part of a Filipino's life, even things they don't need but are in sale and discount they'll buy it. The reason why the country hasn't been affected much by recent financial crisis is because of the circulation of money, even if Filipinos are broke they'll find a way to buy something at least in a week for themselves.

As stated above, living in the Philippines is cheap and shopping in the country is also cheap compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Sales tend to happen during pay day and lasts for 3 days and also during the Christmas season (in the Philippines Christmas season extends from September to the first week of January) in Department stores like SM Department Store[11].

In the Philippines, Metro Manila is a great place for shopping. It is the main shopping hub of the country and is home to an extensive range of shopping centers. Metro Manila offers different types of shopping centers which are scattered around the metropolis, from modern and glittery shopping malls to traditional and busy markets, its all in Metro Manila. The Philippines is one of the ideal destinations for bargain shopping. Here you can find cheaper items that are sold at flea markets and open markets like Divisoria, Market! Market! and Greenhills, these markets are definitely the right place for a shopper who seeks bargains and cheap buys. But if you prefer buying luxurious and expensive clothes, bags, watches and jewelery, then the Ayala Center would be the right place for you, here you can find a variety of high-end shopping centers. The place is often compared to Singapore's Orchard Rd and Bangkok's Siam Square. From entertainment to shopping, they have it all there. Not far from Makati is the Bonifacio Global City, it is one of the growing business and shopping districts of the metropolis. It is home to several shopping malls, including Serendra, it is a Piazza that offers lifestyle and luxury shops and often called the Luxury lifestyle center of Metro Manila. The piazza features modern architecture that will make you think you're somewhere near the world of Star Wars. Stare, drool and be amazed at the public art displayed there. Coffee shops and tea shops are found around this area, as well as furniture and clothing stores. The 4 largest mall operators in the country are SM, Robinson's, Ayala and Gaisano with branches around the archipelago.

  • Antiques: Antique Porcelain plates are found around Manila after the Filipino-Chinese trade however be careful when you buy antiques. Antique Santos or Saint statues including Jesus and the Virgin Mary are also sold. Streets of Makati, Ermita and Vigan (in Ilocos) mostly sell antiques
  • Brass ware: Muslim Gongs are popular in the Philippines, jewel boxes, brass beds are other brass ware products. Just like antiques, tourists are advised to be careful in purchasing brass ware.
  • Books and Stationary: Filipino literature is amusing to read, English versions of Filipino novels are available in National Bookstore[12] and Power Books [13], books tend to be much cheaper in the country compared to other countries. Stationary items are sold at a very low price as low as ?10, however be careful as some items may contain high lead content.
  • Clothes: Bargain clothes as low as are available in flea markets and Ukay-Ukays. Ukay-Ukays sell second-hand clothes from other countries at a cheap price. If you prefer branded clothes, Metro Manila has a lot of foreign brand shops scattered around the city predominantly in the business district of Makati.
  • Comics: Komiks or Comics in English is one of the most popular forms of literature in the Philippines and can be bought as cheap as P10. It is so popular that TV and Film adaptations are often found. Carlo J. Caparas and Mars Ravelo are two famous comic authors. They're available in newsstands and most of them are unfortunately in Tagalog, you might be lucky if you find an English version of it.
  • Embroidery: Embroidery is a best buy because the most of the national dresses are embroidered from pinya (Pineapple) leaves and other raw material. Handmade ones tend to be more expensive than machine-made ones.
  • Food: Buy Dried mangoes, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon has pastries and sweets such as Polvoron are also good to purchase. Native specialties are sold at Pasalubong centers. Aside from Pastries and sweets, buy condiments such as Banana Ketchup, Shrimp Paste as both of which are hard to find outside Asia. Don't miss the chocolates of the Philippines; Chocnut and Tablea, Chocnut is like a powdered chocolate with a sweet taste and often sticky once it sticks to your gums, Tablea are chocolate tablets used for making hot chocolate.
  • Jewelery: Silver Necklaces and Pearls are popular in the Philippines, however it is discourage if you buy jewelery made out from endangered animals and corals as corals are slowly disappearing. Handmade jewelery made by indigenous tribes of the Philippines are available, jewelery made from wood is also sold.
  • Mats: Pandan leaves are weaved and made into a mat, mats tend to be different in each region in the Philippines, Mats in Luzon tend to be simple while in Visayas they're multi-colored while in Mindanao tribes weave complex and difficult designs that often have meaning.

Big Supermarkets

  • SM Save More & Walter Mart the biggest supermarket group in the Philippines with over 300 stores. Sm and Walter mart are in Partnership.
  • Pure Gold and S & R the 2nd biggest supermarket chain with over 250 stores.
  • Robinsons the 3rd biggest supermarket chain with over 200 stores.
  • Gaisano the 4th biggest supermarket chian with over 100 stores.
  • Shopwise, Rustan's and Wellcome all part of Dairy farm International the biggest supermarket group in Asia.

Convenience stores

  • 7-Eleven the Biggest convenience store group in the Philippines with over 1600 stores.
  • Mini Stop part of Robinsons has over 700 stores.
  • Family Mart now have over 150 stores.
  • All Day convenience stores have over 150 stores.

Eat

Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history; it is like Southeast Asian cuisine but with Spanish influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbours, such as that of Thailand and Vietnam, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Filipino food is bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and when done properly is often what brings out the flavor of the food as, opposed to a healthy dose of spices.

The limited use of spices, possibly due to US influence, has to an extent hobbled the cuisine and the current penchant for fast food militates against the "painstaking preparations" that were once the hallmark of the cuisine. There are small movements to revive traditional Filipino cuisine but they may not succeed on a larger scale for a couple of reasons:

  1. They are too late. The corporations that drive the food and food processing market are way ahead of them and far too influential. They have won the battle of hearts and minds decades ago to the point that new babies each day are born thinking that the processed foods they are nourished on, and the magic monosodium glutamated spice mixes that flavor all their meals are actually examples of good food. Their exposure to real traditional cooking is likely to be extremely limited.
  2. The pantry that makes up filpino cuisine is by now so small that no matter what dish gets created, it only has about 3 to 5 ingredients. This has to change and the "old" ingredients must be reclaimed like herbs, spices and so forth. They were in use centuries ago and were just as common as what is seen today in Thailand etc, but they were gradually removed from the diet by foreign influences. It is useless to cling to the idea that Filpino cuisine is anywhere on par with its neighbors. No one but Filipinos actually believe that! It is way behind and should seek to catch up, it must make changes on a national level. The influence of balikbayans is critical in this area as they have seen both sides of the story and have been more exposed to international cuisines.

Kamayan, literally means Eating with Hands. Some Filipinos who were born and raised in rural provinces still eat with their hands, mostly at their homes during mealtimes. They would often say that Kamayan makes food taste better. Wash your hands clean before attempting this to avoid illnesses. Almost all Filipinos in the urban areas though use spoons, forks and knives. Eating with hands in public is not uncommon however if you're eating in a mid-range and splurge restaurant this may be considered rude.

To experience how the Filipinos eat in a budget way, Carenderias (food stalls) and Turo-turo (meaning Point-point, which actually means you point at the food you want to eat in the buffet table) are some of the options. Mains cost less than $1. Carenderias serve food cooked earlier and it may not always be the safest of options.

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn but elsewhere Filipinos would generally have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50kg sacks but can be bought by the kilogram at the wet market or at neighborhood rice dealers. Single servings of rice are readily available at fastfood restaurants or eateries.

Filipino diet

The word diet is non-existent in the vocabulary of Filipinos or has never existed, as mentioned before they are laid-back people, they love to eat as much as they can as if there is no tomorrow. They spend most of their money on food, and a Filipino teenager might at least enter a fastfood chain two or three times a week, during fiestas in a city, town, barangay, purok or subdivision Filipinos would have big parties and it would last from noon to midnight when some of the people would end up being drunk, you can ask if you can join a fiesta in a home and some might welcome you as this is a tradition.

If you're visiting the Philippines, it is the best time to cut your so called diet and eat to your heart's content. The Filipino diet is sometimes a lot more similar to the west than the east, with Filipinos eating less fruits and vegetables, more oil, meat and sugar than people in neighboring nations; many Filipinos aren't health conscious. Cancer and heart-related diseases are the leading causes of death here. However if you visit rural areas, they use more fresh produce (i.e. vegetables, fruits, grains, etc.) and less meat and practice old Filipino medicine. In coastal areas, fish and many sorts of seafood are usually served and eaten.

Etiquette

Some Filipinos strictly use the serving spoon rule, sharing the belief with Indians that offering utensils or food that had come contact with someone's saliva is rude, disgusting, and will cause food to get stale quickly. Singing or having an argument while eating is considered rude, as they believe food is grasya/gracia or grace in English; food won't come to you if you keep disrespecting it. Singing while cooking is considered taboo because it will cause you to forever be a bachelor or a widow for life, another belief shared with the Indians. Conservative Filipinos share another belief with the Chinese that not finishing your food on your plate is taboo and rude, you'll often see Filipino parents scolding their children to finish their food or they'll never achieve good academic performance. Filipinos Usually say a prayer before food is served, furthermore wait till the host invites you to start eating. Also, it is rude to refuse food that the host offers or leave the dining table while someone is still eating. While eating in front of Chinese/Japanese/Korean-Filipinos don't stick your chopsticks vertically upright into a bowl of food (refer to China, Japan, South Korea eat sections for more information).

Kanin at Kakanin (Rice and Rice cakes)

Kanin means Rice in Tagalog while Kakanin means Rice cakes.

  • Sinangag is fried garlic rice, often mixed with vegetables, dried shrimps, dried fish strips, hotdogs or Chorizos.
  • Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg, it originates from Indian cuisine.
  • Puto - Soft white rice muffins.

Other kinds include Biko, Cuchinta, Pichi-Pichi, Sapin-Sapin, etc. The towns of Calasiao in Pangasinan and Binan, Laguna are famous for their puto

Pansit/Pancit (Noodles)

Pancit/Pancit or Noodles, an influence from Chinese cuisine and believed to give long life because of its length, often eaten in celebrations such as Birthdays and New Year. Below listed are some popular Filipino noodle dishes

  • Pancit Batchoy/La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup usually made from pork organs, crushed crunchy fried pork rind, shrimp, vegetable, chicken stock, chicken, beef and especially noodles.
  • Pancit Bihon, sautéed noodles along with vegetables, pork and shrimp.
  • Pancit Molo is a Filipino wanton soup however it doesn't have noodles in it.
  • Pancit Palabok' noodles boiled then topped with atchuete also known as annatto seeds, shrimp, crushed crunchy fried pork.
  • Pancit Hab-hab' Stir fried Rice noodles, served in a banana leaf. Eaten without utensils by placing directly to the mouth. The signature noodle dish of Lucban Quezon.

Silog and pankaplog

Usually eaten at breakfast, this is the Filipino version of a typical American breakfast of egg, bacon and pancakes. Silog is an contraction of the words Sinangag(fried rice) and Itlog(egg). They are not only sold in Filipino eateries and stalls but also in restaurants and fastfood chains such as McDonald's.

  • Adosilog has Adobo
  • Longsilog has longganisa or local pork sausage
  • Tapsilog has tapa or cured beef
  • Tocilog has tocino or cured pork
  • Pankaplog A slang term for a breakfast that mainly consists of Pande Sal(bread), kape(coffee) and itlog

Ulam (Main dishes)

Ulam means Mains in Tagalog.

  • Adobo - chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base. It is arguably the national dish of the Philippines.
  • Bopis - pork innards, usually served spicy.
  • Burong Talangka - Filipino caviar, it is taken from Talangkas or Crabs.
  • Calamares - fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breading.
  • Camaron Rebusado - the Filipino version of tempura.
  • Chicken Curry - A lot different from other curries because it isn't spicy unlike other curries. Aside from chicken, Crab curry and other varieties are also available.
  • Dinuguan - a dark stew of pig's blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.
  • Daing na bangus - fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
  • Kare-kare - peanuty stew of vegetables and meat simmered for hours on end, usually beef with tripe and tail and eaten with a side of shrimp paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crabs, squid and shrimp instead of beef.
  • Lechon de leche - slow-roasted baby pork, usually served during larger occasions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part that is consumed.
  • Lengua - roasted beef tongue marinated in savory sauce.
  • Nilaga - literally means "boiled", can be beef which in certain places is served with its marrow (bulalo), pork or chicken.
  • Pakbet - a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.
  • Paksiw - fish or vegetables cooked with vinegar, ginger, garlic and chilli picante.
  • Sinigang - soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • Tinola - chicken in ginger soup.

Western cuisine

Spanish, Portuguese, Mexicans, Americans and other European and Mediterranean people introduced their cuisine to the locals and just like they did to the Chinese, they embraced it. While the Spanish occupied the Philippines, connections of the Mexicans and the Aztecs with the Filipinos started in the Manila-Acapulco trade, the people introduced to each other their native cuisine. American influence came during the American colonization.

  • Arroz Caldo - Rice porridge, topped with egg, chicken liver and grind chicharon.
  • Arroz de Valenciana - Paella; Filipino style.
  • Biscocho - Sweet biscuit.
  • Caldereta - Pork or Beef tomato soup with sausages and vegetables.
  • Champorado - Introduced by the Mexicans but eventually in years the recipe changed by adding rice, sweet chocolate rice porridge. It is kind of like hot chocolate but with rice on it.
  • Empanada - Stuffed pastry.
  • Ensaymada - Sweet bread topped with cheese and butter.
  • Leche Flan - Creme brulee (Custard Pudding).
  • Menudo - Pork Stew.
  • Spaghetti - Possibly brought to the Philippines by the American-Italians during the American colonization, this is a must try for pasta lovers not because they love it, but because it is so different from the Italian spaghetti. Unlike the Italian version, Filipino spaghetti is sweet, its ingredients include sugar and condensed milk. The Filipinos are meat lovers who obsessively add meat to their spaghetti, including hotdog, Spam (this is what ham is called in the Philippines as Spam is so popular) and corned beef/pork or minced beef/pork.

Filipino-Chinese cuisine

The Filipinos and Chinese traded with each other in the early times, then the Chinese finally began settling in the Philippines and introduced their cuisine and culture, the Filipinos embraced the Chinese heritage and started adapting it in their lives including food. Most of the dishes found below are served in Chinatown and Filipino-Chinese fast food chains and eateries.

  • Pansit Bihon' (??) - Stir Fried noodles with either prawns or pork in it.
  • Hopia (??) - Mooncake; a sweet pastry dough with a filling inside it either yam, mung beans etc.
  • Kiampong (??) - Fried Rice.
  • Tikoy (??/??) - Sticky rice cake, often eaten in New Year's Eve, believed that it would keep family ties strong.
  • Lumpia (??) - Spring Rolls.
  • Taho (??) - Fresh tofu with brown sugar and vanilla syrup and pearl sago (pearl tapioca)
  • Siomai (??) - Dim Sum.
  • Siopao (??) - Steamed buns with meat filling inside it.
  • Mami (??) - Noodle Soup.
  • Lugaw (?) - Congee made from Coconut milk and glutinous rice.

Fast food chains

America's influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you'll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Taco Bell. Filipino fast food chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Filipino taste buds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of local fast food chains that have branches all around the Metropolis, and in many cases around the country.

  • Jollibee. Jollibee is McDonald's rival in fast food in the country, it has over 1000 stores around the world. Yum Burger, Chicken Joy, Spaghetti, and Palabok. has meals from php39.00 $1-$2 per serving.
  • Greenwich Pizza. The second of Jollibee corps' trifecta of fast food chains, Greenwich Pizzas are your typical fare, but once again with the slightly sweeter than usual tomato sauce. Some seasonal offerings may be on offer though, like the sisig pizza, so check the menu. $2-$3 per serving.
  • Chowking. The Filipino version of Chinese food, also owned by Jollibee. For good sampling of their food, try the Lauriats, which feature a viand (beef, pork, chicken), rice, pancit (fried noodles with meat and veggies), siomai (dumplings), and buchi (a sweet rice ball covered with a sesame based coating. $2-$3 per serving.
  • Tapa King. Tapaking is where you get the ubiquitous tapsilog (fried beef strips, fried garlic rice, and egg), along with other local delicacies. $2-$3 per serving.
  • GotoKing. This where you go to get the localized version of congee called goto and lugaw, with different kinds of toppings like chicken, roasted garlic, egg, etc.
  • Mang Inasal. A relative newcomer, Mang Inasal actually brings a variety of barbecue called "inasal" into Metro Manila from the city of Iloilo. They offer other grilled meats, as well as soups like sinigang (a sour, tamarind based soup). $1-2$ per serving.
  • Goldilocks. The place to go for your baked treats and sweets like mamon (a spongy round cake), polvoron (a tighly packed powdery treat) ensaymada (bread baked with cheese and sugar), and host of other delicacies for those with a sweet tooth.
  • Red Ribbon. This is where you will find different variety of cakes, rolls, pastries, and even different pastas like spaghetti, carbonara, and palabok.

Street food

Arguably Filipino streetfood is one of the best however it may not be as clean as the ones you find in Singapore. Streetfood vendors have been criticized because of their unhygienic practices as well as unhealthy options but praised by many especially the youth because of its affordability and taste, nowadays streetfood is also found in malls but the traditional way of street vending still hasn't died out. Items are sold for as low as P5. Street food is usually enjoyed with beer, soda, juice or even Gulaman (Pearl Shakes) and is usually eaten during the afternoon till night.

  • Adidas - More edible than the popular shoe, Adidas is actually a slang used by the locals to refer to barbecued chicken feet. It is called Adidas as feet is associated with shoes.
  • Adobong Mani - Salted roasted peanuts, usually sold in small paperbags by vendors.
  • Betamax - Again people don't cook betamax and eat them-- it's another slang for pigs blood that has been barbecued. It is called betamax because its shape is cube-like and resembles a betamax player.
  • Barbecue - Either pork or chicken, barbecue remains one of the favorites. It isn't only eaten as street food, but sometimes with rice as a main during dinner.
  • Balut - is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, baluts are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. Boiled and usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.
  • Banana cue - a popular street food made of saba (Plantain) bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
  • Chickenballs - Chicken version of fishballs.
  • Fishball - Something smells fishy? As the name suggests it is the fish version of meatballs, just like meatballs it is also deepfried.
  • Ice Candy - Ice candy is like a popsicle stick, it comes in different flavours such as mango which is actually the most common and popular. Sold in tiangge (small convenient stores in barangays) as well as in the streets. It is the common refreshment for locals during the summer.
  • Inasal - The best Inasal would be found in Bacolod, it is usually like grilled chicken but the sweet juicy version.
  • Isaw - Chicken intestines barbecue.
  • Kikiam - Originally from the Chinese, it is pork meat with vegetables which is wrapped in bean curd sheets.
  • Kwek-Kwek - Quail eggs and chicken that had been battered in egg then fried, it is orange in colour.
  • Penoy - same as balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.
  • Squidballs - Squid version of fishballs.
  • Sorbetes - The Pinoy version of sorbet/ice Cream. Sold in different flavours notably; ube, vanilla, chocolate, mango, coconut, cheese and sometimes durian. Filipinos like to play with their food-- you'll see people dipping french fries in ice cream floats or people eating ice cream with bread. Don't leave the Philippines without trying some of the more unusual flavors. They are kind of exotic and perhaps weird, but tasty.
  • Tenga - Tenga is Filipino for ear, it is pig's ear that has been barbecued.

Snack and baked goods

  • Pan de Sal - Spanish for "salt bread", they are small buns usually made fresh in the morning, an alternative to rice for breakfast. They are usually eaten with a cup of coffee. Some people prefer to dip their pandesal in coffee.
  • Chicharon - crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig skin. If you don't eat pork or have dietary restrictions there is chicken chicharon and sometimes fish chicharon.

Fruits & desserts

Tropical fruits abound in the Philippines. Most of the countryside produce finds its way to the metro areas and can be easily bought in supermarkets, such as:

Fruits

  • Coconut - Although it's familiar, you should try the coconut of the Philippines, the country is the largest exporter of coconuts in the world.
  • Durian - smells like hell but supposedly tastes of heaven, most common in Davao but can usually also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.
  • Green Mangoes, Ripe Mangoes, Dried Mangoes - Don't leave Philippines without trying Green Indian mangoes with Bagoong(shrimp paste), tasting ripe mangoes and buying Dried mangoes as a Pasalubong.

Sweet treats

  • Banana chips - Unlike the ones eaten in India, the Filipino version is a lot thicker and sweeter, try dipping it in ice cream.
  • Buko Pie - Pie with scraped coconut as filling.
  • Cassava Cake
  • Egg Pie - Pie with sweet, flan like filling
  • Halo-Halo - Halo-Halo means mix-mix in Filipino, is another refreshing dessert which is a mix of sweetened beans and fruits, such as sweetened bananas, red and white beans, sago, crushed ice and milk and topped off with leche flan and ube jam and/or ice cream.
  • Ice scramble - Crushed ice with condensed milk.
  • Mais con Hielo/Yelo - A dessert of fresh sweet corn served in a glass mixed with crushed ice and milk.
  • Sampaloc candy - salted and sweetened tamarind fruit.
  • Turon' - Saba(Plantain) bananas in wrappers and fried and then topped with condensed milk or sugar.
  • Turron - Originally from Europe, a bar of cashew nuts with a white wafer.

Condiments and salads

  • Achara - Pickled Papaya salad, it actually originates from South Indian cuisine.
  • Banana Ketchup - During World War II, stocks of tomato ketchup ran out and people started complaining. So due to the high production of bananas, Filipinos thought of using banana instead of tomato. Don't worry: it doesn't taste like banana at all; it is kind of like sweet and sour ketchup. Try it with chicken, pork chops or spaghetti.
  • Bagoong (shrimp paste) - Shrimp paste is popular throughout Southeast Asia. Some people get allergies from shrimp paste, but they still consume it despite the itchy skin problems it causes. Fish is used instead sometimes.
  • Patis - Fish sauce.
  • Radish salad - Salad based on radish, onion and sugar, enjoyed with fish.

Dietary restrictions

Muslims will find it hard to find Halal food outside predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines even though the country is one of the fastest emerging markets in exporting certified halal products. Ask if there is pork in the dish before eating it. Seventh Day Adventists would possibly find some vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, mostly lurking in the commercial, financial and provincial capitals, and most of them use tofu instead of meat, Sanitarium products may be found in Seventh Day Adventists or Sanitarium hospitals. Hindus will find Indian restaurants which serve some vegetarian options around Metro Manila. Vegetarians and vegans will find it difficult to find a Filipino dish which is wholly vegetarian as most of the Filipinos love to add meat in every single dish they eat. Jews will also find it hard to find Kosher meals. However rabbis in the Philippines suggest some stores which sell Kosher food, visit Kosher Philippines for advice.

Smoking

Filipinos like to smoke as a pastime, and also as a social activity (especially along with drinking alcohol or gambling), and especially for men. Cigarettes (sigarilyo, or colloquially, yosi) in the Philippines are mostly cheap. For example, Marlboro are about ?55 for a pack of twenty in a supermarket, 70 or 80 in a bar or a convenience store. Many of the local sari-sari stores also sell them by the stick, usually for ?4. Local brands are cheaper and cigars are available as well.

On the streets, people walking or standing with a lighted cigarette and groups of men, especially drivers, smoking while talking, are common sights, along with vendors selling cigarettes as well as candies, drinks, and snacks. Despite laws regulating tobacco use, smoking is still common, especially outdoors. Smoking is prohibited in indoor public places, public transport, restaurants, gas stations, and even in bars, except for smoking areas. Trying to light a cigarette or to smoke on places where smoking is prohibited or on a non-smoking area may cause you to be fined or forced to go outside. However, enforcement is sometimes lax. You can see drivers of jeepneys or tricycles smoking while driving.

Filipinos also like smoking, especially outside or even on work, and no smoking signs are sometimes ignored, along with not very strict enforcement of no smoking ordinances. Vendors of cigarettes can be seen on traffic jams or even on the sidewalks. Advertisements of cigarettes are common on sari-sari stores, which are mainly family-owned. Cigarettes are mostly cheap,and commonly sold by stick or pack. Popular brands of cigarettes includes Marlboro, Winston, and Pall Mall, as well as several local brands, like Fortune (either Fortune International or Fortune Tribal) and Mighty. Cigarette packs are used to place text warnings (like "Government Warning: Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health."), but since March 2016, graphic warnings are started to be used. Those newer warnings contain gory pictures of premature babies, cancerous lungs, mouths, and throats, and patients suffering from emphysema.

The smoking and purchase age is 18, and law prohibits sale of tobacco products to minors. Cigarette packs must print messages like "NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS", or rarely "NO SALE TO MINORS". Convenience stores (like 7-Eleven) and large supermarkets strictly implement the prohibition on selling tobacco products to minors and requires photo ID verification for people looking like a person below 18 years of age. Sari-sari stores, however, do not verify the age of persons purchasing tobacco, so, children can buy cigarettes as an errand by their smoking parents.

Streets are commonly littered with cigarette butts. Many garbage cans do not ashtrays or butt trays, so, you may be tempted to throw them anywhere, on the sidewalk, the street, or even on grass. However, you may better find a trash can with an ashtray it is better to find a trash can with an ashtray that to throw your cigarette butts on the street or directly on the trash can.

Smoking bans are imposed on several cities and municipalities, like in Davao City, where it is completely banned. Yet, enforcement of smoking bans are mostly not overseen. Respect signs and ordinances on smoking bans, rather that to be caught and fined.

Drink

Chilled drinks and juice

Due to the tropical climate of the Philippines, chilled drinks are popular. A stand selling chilled drinks and shakes are common especially on shopping malls. Fruit Shakes are served with ice, evaporated or condensed milk, and fruits such as mango, watermelon, pineapple, strawberry and even durians. Various tropical fruit drinks that can be found in the Philippines are dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durian, guyabano (soursop) mango, banana, watermelon and strawberry, these are available at stands along streets, as well as at commercial establishments such as food carts inside malls. They are often served chilled with ice. Buko juice (young coconut) is a popular drink in the country, the juice is consumed via an inserted straw on the top of the buko or young coconut.

Sago't Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin is also a popular drink among Filipinos. Zagu is a shake with flavors such as strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls.

Tea, coffee and chocolate

Salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, is an iced or hot tea made from lemon grass and pandan leaves or brewed from ginger root. Kapeng barako is a famous kind of coffee in the Philippines, found in Batangas, made from coffee beans found in the cool mountains. Try the Filipino hot chocolate drink, tsokolate, made from chocolate tablets called tableas, a tradition that dates back the Spanish colonial times. Champorado [14] isn't considered a drink by Filipinos, but it is another version of tsokolate with the difference of added rice. Records say that chocolate was introduced by the Aztecs to the Filipinos during the Manila-Acapulco trade.

Alcoholic drinks

Filipinos (except for observant Muslims) love to drink (and get drunk).

Metro Manila is home to many bars, watering holes, and karaoke sites. Popular places include Makati (particularly the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortigas Metrowalk, and Eastwood in Libis. Other big cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have areas where the nightlife is centered. Establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks typical of bars elsewhere.

Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol by itself. They would normally have what is called as "pulutan" or bar chow alongside their drinks which is like the equivalent of tapas. At the least, this would consist of mixed nuts but selections of grilled meats and seafood are not uncommon food alongside the customary drinks. When having a party, Filipinos enjoy drinking round-robin style using a common glass. One is supposed to drink bottoms-up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as "tagayan" and one person usually volunteers to pour the drink.

Beer is perhaps the most common form of alcohol consumed in bars. San Miguel Beer is the dominant local brand with several variants such as Light, Dry, Strong Ice and their flagship variant Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona can also be found in upscale bars. Rum and ginebra which is the local form of gin are commonly available forms of hard liquor. Indigenous forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba which are both derived from coconut sap. Tuba is fermented from the coconut sap and though tuba itself can be drunk, it is also distilled to take the form of lambanog. Lambanog is now being marketed widely both locally and internationally in its base form as well as in several flavored variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.

Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines, and one of the cheapest in the whole of Asia. A bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-Eleven or Mini-Stop costs about ?20-?30. Regular bars will offer it for ?50-60, and even in top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would cost about ?100-200. A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket will cost about ?750.

The most popular local rum, for both Filipinos and expats, is Tanduay. Their most popular rum is about ?70 for a 750 ml (26 oz) bottle in a supermarket. When ordering rum and coke in a bar a double is often cheaper than a single because the rum is actually cheaper than the mixer. Tanduay also make several other rums, up to about ?250 for Tanduay Premium, plus brandy, gin, vodka, whiskey and some flavored spirits. They have several competitors in about the same price range.

Rum fanciers may want to try Don Papa, from a company started by a former Remy-Cointreau employee and located in Negros Occidental, a province which produces much sugar. This is a premium product in a whole other price class, ?1500 and up, but some aficionados consider it well worth it. It can be found in some of the larger supermarkets and in duty-free stores at major airports.

Sleep

Housing options for tourists include hotels, resorts, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.

Hotels and resorts are usually for the higher-end traveller, although rates--even for four-star establishments-- are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominium units rented out for long or short term stays, apartelles are set up for both short and long term stays, and a pension house is usually more basic and economical.

There is considerable variation in facilities offered. Cheaper places often have only fans instead of air conditioning, and no private toilet or shower. Even if you get a private shower, it may not have hot water, but this is not a big problem in a hot country. As elsewhere in Asia, bathtubs are rare both in private homes and in any but top-end hotels.

Motels, inns, and lodges also serve lodging purposes but have a reputation as meeting places for illicit sex, a unit being usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these by their hourly rates, while more reputable institutions usually have daily rates.

Stay safe

Use common sense when traveling to and around the Philippines, as with traveling to other developing nations. Although the people of these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, one must be aware of the prevalence of poverty (especially in big cities) and the things that, unfortunately, come with it.

Crime

Petty crimes, like pickpocketing or snatching, are common, especially in crowded areas. You should not flash your valuables (especially Apple iPods and iPhones) because that risks theft. Carry small change and don't flash large bills. Pickpockets are common in the big cities. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the budol-budol style of robbery, where the victim is deceived or sometimes, hypnotized, to steal money or electronic gadgets, is a common practice. Don't expect any reprisal from the police and must also sometimes be wary of them as they can be easily bribed and might be entangled in their own scams. Women are advised to travel in large groups and must use caution when out at night. Do not enter alleyways and remote areas at night.

See also common scams and pickpockets.

Snatching is prevalent also. Many cases of snatching are done by motorcycle riders (especially those in riding-in-tandem), and they mainly target people with shoulder bags. Sometimes, they will pull the bag along with the person for a few meters. Be careful when carrying expensive bags, as it may catch the attention of snatchers. Avoid wearing jewelry, especially earrings or rings, when going into crowded areas.

Women travelers should take caution when traveling by taxi, as there are several cases of drivers who spray chemicals on the air-conditioning and the passenger falling asleep, and awaking with her bag and other valuables stolen. There were reports of women, especially call center agents, being robbed and raped by taxi drivers, who actually drive a stolen ("carnap") taxi. Be sure that the taxi has a driver ID, and be wary of suspicious drivers: when seeing something suspicious with a taxi or its driver, do not ride his taxi.

Prostitution

Prostitution is thriving but officially illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other fronts abound which offer this service. EDSA and Makati in Metro Manila, and Angeles City are known hot spots for these activities. The age of consent is 18. The Philippine National Police treat sex-offenders, child-molesters and people involved in prostitution harshly; catching you in an act associated with prostitution or child sex abuse will result in a long prison sentence, penalties and deportation to your country.

Child pornography

Child pornography is also common, especially on the Internet, where it targets foreign customers, and Filipinos are known to browse on pornography sites for long times. Being caught possessing child pornography results to you imprisoned, fined, and deported.

From January 2017, some pornography sites, like PornHub, are blocked in violation of anti-child pornography laws, and when opened, a notice of blocking will appear, though some internet service providers (ISPs) do not block the sites, allowing access to porn content.

Drugs

Marijuana and shabu (crystal methamphetamine) are widely used in the country; however, they are also illegal and penalties are very harsh: you might very well get a long prison sentence, followed by deportation. Chinese drug dealers are common, as they do business in the Philippines to avoid China's death penalty for drug possession.

Authorities routinely raid drug dens and laboratories, especially those who produce, possess and sell shabu. Under new (2016) President Duterte, shabu dealers are being shot in the streets; it is not clear to what extent other people involved with drugs may be at risk.

The Philippines does not have the famously high-grade weed found in nearby Thailand; much of what is available is not worth its price, let alone the risk.

Methamphetamine ("speed" or shabu) is a powerful stimulant and a remarkably nasty substance, best avoided for many reasons. An overdose can kill and prolonged use tends to burn out the over-stimulated body, especially the heart. As the song says, "Speed kills!" Moreover the stuff is highly addictive. Then there are the legal risks and the health risks from the needles often used to administer it. Perhaps worst of all, the drug changes the personality of heavy users, giving them a pronounced tendency toward paranoia and aggressiveness.

Gays and Lesbians

Gays and lesbians will be fine in the Philippines as some of the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but you should not be too indiscreet – a pair kissing in public may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 60 year old and older generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare.

Stay healthy

Eating and drinking

Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary of Buko juice vendors; some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia (outdoor canteen) is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot.

If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag), water in ManilaCebu City and other major cities is usually OK, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages.

Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled water sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled.

Be careful of drinking pampalamig (cold drinks like Sago't Gulaman) as some vendors might be using Magic Sugar (Sodium Cyclamate), an artificial sweetener, which has been banned by the Philippine Government because of its adverse effects on health such as higher risk of getting cancer. It has been used as an alternative to ordinary sugar as it is much cheaper; call 117 (Philippine National Police) if you encounter such a situation.

Street food isn't so safe to consume in the Philippines; hygienic standards aren't enforced much. It is better to eat street food as well as pampalamig inside malls and shopping centers than in streets as stalls in malls and shopping centers have better enforcement of cleanliness.

Diseases

CDC advises that a risk of malaria exists only in non-urban areas below 600 meters on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro and Palawan. The Visayas are free of Malaria. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines due to strains resistant to this drug. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations.

Dengue fever is common in the Philippines and cases increase every year, so it is advisable to apply mosquito repellents and wear long sleeved clothes whenever possible. A vaccine is now available, three shots six months apart. Watsons are a pharmacy chain with stores all over the country; most of their location offer dengue vaccine at ?4000 per shot.

Rabies is also common among street animals in the Philippines, so get a vaccination for rabies if you haven't already, and if you're traveling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible as they are of high risk of getting rabies because they tend to play more with animals.

Hepatitis A and B and C are a high risk in the country. There are vaccines for A and B, recommended for all travellers; there is not yet (mid-2015) a vaccine against C. Avoid contact with other people's blood — shared needles or even personal care items like razors or toothbrushes — since that is the main means of transmission for both B and C.

Japanese encephalitis is common, and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in fresh water areas where you will have high risks of getting schistosomiasis (unless they are chlorinated). Leptospirosis is often contracted from recreational water activities, such as kayaking, in contaminated water.

Tuberculosis is very common in the countryside, so try to avoid individuals who cough or look weak and be careful about staying too long in villages that may be high in contagious people.

Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea. Gatorade or other "sport drinks" might relieve you from fluid loss. Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure of the water, and always wash your hands.

Healthcare

The quality of healthcare in the Philippines varies widely. While modern hospitals and clinics with well-trained doctors are certainly available in the major cities, the quality of healthcare often leaves much to be desired in smaller cities and rural areas. While Filipino citizens are covered by a universal government-funded health insurance scheme, this scheme is not available to foreigners, and hospitals will often require you to make payment upfront before they will commence treatment. The vast majority of Filipino doctors and nurses are able to speak English, with many having received their training in the US, so communication is generally not an issue for English-speaking foreigners.

Public hospitals in the major cities are usually of a decent standard, though they may not be as comfortable as what Western expatriates are used to back home. Private hospitals, on the other hand, provide excellent standards of care, though you will be paying a steep premium for their services. Nevertheless, they are still reasonably priced by Western standards, so most expatriates opt for private healthcare whenever possible.

HIV

Over the last seven years the rate of new HIV cases in the Philippines has been going up by around 20% per year. Through to the end of January, 2017, there were 40,466 known cases of HIV in the Philippines, the Philippines Department of Health has said they could be 133,000 people in the Philippines living with HIV by 2022. The Philippines has a low rate of people going for HIV tests and a low rate of condom use. There are now 37 HIV treatment hubs around the Philippines, which provide free antiretroviral drugs.

Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV. There are social hygiene clinics (STD clinics) in most City Health ofices all over the Philippines.

Cope

Electricity

See also: Electrical systems

Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz with mixed usage of both the American and European styles of plug. Most outlets do not include a ground, and multi-standard outlets, usually permitting both American and European plugs, are common. Americans will need a step-down transformer, as 120 (or 110) volt appliances may be destroyed when plugged in a Philippine outlet, but Europeans can plug their appliances in Philippine outlets, if it is "multi-standard"(except for British plugs, that will require an adaptor, unless the outlet is an "universal" type), but, in some places, outlets only allow US style plugs, an adaptor is needed. It's also best to bring items that work universally such as electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60Hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.

Electricity lines on poles (called locally "poste") are an ubiquitous sight on many roads, even those on city centers, but may be an eyesore on scenic spots, so, on new privately-developed areas, like Bonifacio Global City, electricity lines are placed underground for aesthetic reasons. Electricity distributed on small residences and apartments are single phase, either using a two-wire (220 V line and neutral) or three-wire distribution (two 220 V lines and neutral) system, supplied from a transformer placed on a pole beside a road. Pole-mounted transformers are designed like US-style ones, being like a rounded tank. Hotels or condominiums (multi-storey residences), four-wire three-phase (three 220 V lines and neutral), usually used on commercial establishments, from an indoor substation or roadside transformer, is used instead.

Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110V, and is also 60 Hz. This doesn't extend beyond the center of the city. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 100-127V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.

During the dry season (March to May), since most of the power plants are hydro electric (as stated above in the climate section), frequent black-outs occur; ask if your hotel has a generator.

Television and video

Television and Video is in NTSC, but in 2020, NTSC will it be replaced by digital TV standard ISDB, used in Japan. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (Southeast Asia), though virtually all Filipino movies are region free. Major Networks that operate are - ABS-CBN, GMA, and TV5, all operate in Filipino, which all compete for ratings making network wars part of Filipino culture from the corner of the street to your hotel reservations desk there would always be an argument which stations airs the best telenovelas (TV Drama Series). The three major stations air TV Series to Newscasts. ABS-CBN and GMA have regional substations who operate in their own major regional languages. ETC, operates in English with exceptions of Filipino, airs Foreign TV Series in English as well as franchised TV shows like Project Runway while Chase purely airs in English and its content is just Foreign TV Series in English. S&A (ABS-CBN Sports+Action, formerly Studio 23) is ABS-CBN's free-to-air channel which targets sports fanatics and action film fans. All 6 Channels operate free-to-air, most of the channels which operate purely in English are available on Cable TV alone - SkyCable and Global Destiny Cable are the best-known cable operators in the country while Dream is the country's sole satellite TV operator. Almost all hotels and major commercial centres have cable or satellite TV. Channels such as BBC, CNN, Bloomberg. ABS-CBN's News Channel, ANC, provide 24/7 news headlines, updates, travel, business and lifestyle programs, almost always in English except the early morning news show originating from ABS-CBN.

Embassies and Consulates

Several embassies and consulates are open in the Philippines, for a full detailed list of embassies visit EmbassiesAbroad.com

Respect

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking in Filipino to people who are old enough to be your parents or grandparents, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences; e.g.: salamat po. You can also use Tito (Uncle), Tita (Aunt), Manong (Mr.) or Manang (Mrs./Ms.), Ate (older sister) or Kuya (older brother) for people older than yourself but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use "manong" and "manang" instead) with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.

In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.

Work

When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues. [15]

Street children

In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. In most cities, it is discouraged to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative. At times, when children go up to foreigners they won't go away until you give something. To counter this, avoid swearing and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and might call on their friends to bug you even more.

Political topics

Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilocano population view the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in the south of Luzon take strong pride in the people's power or "EDSA" revolution that deposed the regime. Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion before approaching the topic.

Homosexuality

The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, although home to a large Gay and Lesbian community. Discretion is advised, as it is considered immoral by some to show public displays of affection between members of the same sex.

In the Visayas, "Bayots" (or "Bayuts" – the Pilipino equivalent is "bakla") are flamboyant male homosexuals and are often very much in demand in occupations such as hairdressing, interior design and beauty therapy.

Connect

Phone

  • Fire, Medical and Police Emergencies: 911 (formerly 117) by voice or text message.

The national Emergency Network Philippines (ENP) is 911, formerly called Patrol 117, and routes emergency calls originating anywhere in the Philippines' archipelago to the appropriate one of sixteen emergency call centers located in various cities throughout the nation. The 911 system is first used in Davao City, and soon became the national emergency number from August 2016 by Rodrigo Duterte, replacing "Patrol 117".

When a 911 call is made from a mobile phone, that call is automatically routed to the nearest emergency call center. However, calling 911 from a mobile phone or cell phone has additional credit depending on the mobile network subscribed, and 911 is plagued also by dropped calls or prank calls, that disrupt response to emergency calls.

  • Philippine Coast Guard Action Center: +63 2 527-3880
  • National Poison Control: +63 2 524-1078
  • Motorist Assistance': 136 (Metro Manila only)
  • Tourist hotline: +63 2 524-1728 and 524-1660
  • Immigration hotline: 527
  • Directory assistance: 187 or 114 (fee applies)

The country code for the Philippines is 63. The International dialling prefix to make an overseas call from the Philippines is 00. The area code for Metro Manila is 2.

Phone numbers in the Philippines have the format +63 35 539-0605 where "63" is the country code, the next one, two or three digits are the area code and the remaining 7 digits are the "local" part of the subscriber number that can be called from within that particular area code using abbreviated dialing.

Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialed with all 11 digits (including a "0" prefixing the "8nn" or "9nn" within the Philippines), no matter where they are being called from. The 8nn or 9nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits (the nn part) denotes the original mobile network assigned. As is the case with most mobile numbers, they can also be called within or outside the Philippines using the international format: +63 996-202-4961.

Most toll-free numbers can not be called from outside Philippines but can be dialed using the format 1800-1855-0165 domestically.

You need to dial "0" in front of the geographic area code from outside that particular area code (but when still within the Philippines).

The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Internet telephony (VoIP). There are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom [16].

Most Philippines toll-free numbers can not be called from outside the Philippines, so they are not listed in international format. eg: 1800 1855 0165

Mobile phones

Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialed with all 11 digits (including a "0" prefixing the "8nn" or "9nn" within the Philippines), no matter where they are being called from. The 8nn or 9nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits (the nn part) denotes the original mobile network assigned. As is the case with most mobile numbers, they can also be called within or outside the Philippines using the international format as listed in our Philippines articles

There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home. Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ?30 and provide a cheaper alternative. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking (the typical fee to unlock is ?300 but can go as high as ?2,000 for certain units like a Blackberry). If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ?1,500. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it back home.

GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country. 3G technology is available through Globe and Smart, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational especially outside urban areas. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. Please note that Sun cellular did not work outside the main island of Luzon. Globe or Smart is a much better choice.The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ? 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging) but unlike other countries, you won't be charged for incoming calls. Text messages typically cost as low as ?1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ?15-25. Plans for unlimited call and SMS are offered by the networks are but are almost always restricted to those made to parties within the same network.

Reloading (known in other countries as recharge/recharging or top-up/topping-up) pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading). If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of ?100, ?300 and ?500.

Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.

Internet

Internet access at broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet prices depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. Wi-Fi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to ?200/hour but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ?10/hour. Public Wi-Fi services in the Philippines provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ are likely to cost ?100 for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is an internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a land line internet connection for around ?20 an hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle's Best, as well as malls, usually carry Wi-Fi service and some are free to use. The SM and Ayala chain of malls also offer free Wi-Fi for up to , so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless.

In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at ?995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on the available infrastructure in your particular location but, in general, Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new SIM card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants. To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities - the small shops just selling cell phones and SIM cards aren't able to sell mobile broadband. "Loads" often cost just ?20 an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times--especially in the evening--due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is then almost guaranteed to slow down to a standstill.

Mail

In order to send items via post, you will need to physically visit a post office and present your items to a teller as there are no postage boxes. Check out the Philippine Postal Corporation's (PHLPOST) website to find the post office(s) that serve your destination. Alternatively, you may be able to ask your hotel's staff to send your posts together with theirs, and in some provinces, some stationery stores also offer to sell postage stamps and receive posts.

Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available. Postal mail from abroad is often "lost", so don't send anything valuable.

Newspapers

English newspapers are available throughout the Philippines and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune, Malaya, Manila Standard, Manila Bulletin, Business World, The Philippine STAR, Philippine Daily Inquirer [17] and Visayan Daily Star [18] are some of the English language newspapers.

The Amateur Traveler talks to Ivan Hernares, an award winning Philippines travel blogger, about his home country of the Philippines. Ivan leads us on a virtual tour of the 7107 islands of the Philippines archipelago starting in ManilaManila has the walled city of Intramuros that reflects its Spanish colonial heritage as well as its asian heritage in Binondo (its chinatown where we can pick up some Lumpia or a winter-melon cake ). There are inexpensive places for backpackers to stay in the Malate neighborhood. Polish up your layup if you want to meet locals since the unofficial national sport is basketball. Then we head south to the power white sand beaches and nightlife of Borocay, the oldest city in the Philippines which is Cebu, the chocolate hills of Bohol and the underground river of Palawan. We explore the rice terraces of Ifugao (a world heritage site) and the WWII historic sites at Corregidor and Bataan. Ivan talks about unique architecture such as the Philippine Baroque churches and the vahay na bato” stone houses. Ivan loves a good hike up Mount Pinatubo or Mount Pulag in the Cordilleras. And if you go to the Philippines don’t forget to pick up some dried mangoes.

Hear about travel to the region around Island of Cebu as the Amateur Traveler talks to Tommo & Megsy from fivedollartraveller.com about their vacation in Visayas, the central group of islands in the Philippines. They visited the islands of Bohol, Cebu and Negros. 

Hear about travel to the Philippines as the Amateur Traveler talks to Julie Longland about her travel to the Cordilleras mountain region and the island of Palawan which was just named the "Best Island in the World".

Welcome to my newest series, The Wanderland Guide to Travel Planning. This is the final post in a six-part series! Many thanks to Capital One for sponsoring this post.

Part Six // Packing, Paperwork and Other Practicalities

You’re pretty much all set. Destination picked. Flight booked. Itinerary setaccommodation settled, and activities and entertainment planned. All that’s left is to pack up and go! But first, check on a few of these practicalities and make sure you’re ready for takeoff.

How to Afford Travel

Packing

For longer trips — and ever shorter ones — I often start packing quite early so that I can plan accordingly if I need a special piece of gear (going trekking? Might need to bring replacement mouthpieces for my Camelbak. Going on a rainforest safari? Might want to consider upgrading my zoom lens.)

My first step is typically to select what type and size of bag I’m going to be using, based on my destination and length of my trip. Then, I set aside an area where I can start laying out what I want to pack well ahead of time and do a little editing every day until take off. If it’s a long trip and I’ll be packing a lot, I might do one section at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed – clothes, toiletries, electronics, etc. If it’s a shorter trip, I might try to roughly plan out outfits for each day based on my activities so that I don’t waste space on frivolous times. Usually I double-check myself with a check list to make sure I’m not forgetting something small but essential.

Read more packing posts and lists here.

What to Pack for Bonaire

Paperwork and Practicalities

• Visas: If you’re traveling internationally, US citizens can check the State Department list for visa requirements, while the website Do I Need A Visa For? will give you a quick glance no matter where you hail from. Note that these websites are geared towards those going on shorter trips and thus don’t often go into the details of options available for longer stays — you’ll probably have to go digging a bit for that (for example, both websites briefly explain that visas aren’t necessary for US citizens staying 30 days or less in Thailand, but don’t mention that visas for longer stays are available and can be relatively easy to obtain.) Visas can be confusing but in general as a US citizen I am very grateful for how little red tape stands in my way while traipsing around the world. (Brazil, my next big trip, is turning out to be a major exception.)

If you’re not super web savvy (or the country you want to go to has an embassy website that makes your eyes bleed), check if your credit card has a Pre-Trip Assistance service.

• One-Way Tickets: I touched on this in my guide to booking flights, but some countries will require proof of exit in order to enter. If you’re planning to prance in on a one-way ticket, read this first.

How to Book Flights

• Vaccines: If I’m heading to a new region of the world, I’ll check guidebooks and the CDC website for a general idea of recommended vaccines and then call my doctor to get her opinion on which I actually need. The big vaccine that many travelers (especially those heading to Africa or Latin America) will wrestle with is yellow fever, as there are several countries that require you to show vaccination if you’ve traveled to other high-risk countries (for example, you must show proof of vaccination in order to enter Brazil from, say, Peru).  Plus, you know, there’s no cure — and it’s fatal.

Health insurance rarely covers travel-specific vaccines. If you’re stateside, you can find clinics offering the yellow fever jab on the CDC’s Yellow Fever directory. The priciest option (for all vaccines) will be to go to a private travel clinic, where a yellow fever vaccine will set you back about $300. A cheaper alternative is to call your local County Health Department — I paid $130 for mine in Albany, New York (I did have to get a prescription from my general practitioner first, but I was able to do so over the phone.) The bargain option would have been to do it abroad — you can safely and comfortably get yellow fever and other important travel vaccinations in cities like Lima and Bangkok for around $30-40. Just look up international hospitals and clinics in your arrival city and shoot them an email (I’ve found the hospitals and clinics in Thailand respond to emails within hours!), and make sure the incubation period will have passed before you head into high-risk areas.

• Health and Health Insurance: I am currently on the hunt for a US health plan that will cover me internationally, or a travel plan that will fill in the gaps. Suggestions are welcome! In the meantime I will be paying out of pocket for care here in Thailand, which is incredibly affordable and comprehensive. Before I rolled off my health insurance, I did final check ups for my teeth and eyes, and had a new Implanon birth control implant put in (in my opinion, the absolute best choice for women road warriors).

I do pay for DAN diver accident insurance, which starts at $30 per year and is a must for scuba enthusiasts (standard health insurance and travel insurances do not cover decompression chamber visits, which could both save your life and wipe your savings in a matter of hours.)

Bumungrad

• Travel Insurance: There are a dizzying number of options out there for travel-specific insurance. Personally, I don’t use any of them. Instead, I insure my electronics on my parent’s homeowner’s insurance for a reasonable annual fee (I highly recommend going this route if possible as the coverage is more comprehensive and the rate generally lower than travel-specific insurance) and rely on benefits provided by my credit card.

Most credit card holders are not aware of all the benefits they receive– for example, as a Capital One Venture cardholder, I’m entitled to Visa Signature security and convenience benefits, which include both complementary auto rental insurance and insurance on checked and carry-on baggage, among other things.

Staying Healthy on the Road

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and having a strong body is the best defense! I covered finding healthy food and gyms in a previous post. But here are a few extra ways to avoid illness and injury on the road.

Getting Healthy in Albany

• Avoiding food borne illness: Many travelers deny themselves the joy of street food out of concerns over food-borne illness. That’s a shame! Check out my friend Jodi’s guide to eating street food safely.

I’m frequently asked if I avoid ice and/or fresh fruit and vegetables due to concerns over tap water. Nope. For those on short international trips I can understand wanting to avoid any risk of getting sick, but for long term travelers I think it’s best to just slowly introduce that local bacteria into your system and enjoy all the local produce you can get your hands on! I drink tap water from a Clearly Filtered bottle everywhere I go.

• Avoiding mosquito borne illness: Due to the extended time I spend malaria zones each year and the detrimental side effects and risks of long-term use, thus far I have chosen to avoid all preventative malarial drugs and focus instead on preventing mosquito bites in high-risk areas. Again, I can see how the choice might be different for a short-term traveler less concerned over the long-term risks of those drugs.

Personally, I simply wear bug spray when necessary (bring your own from home if you want to use natural varieties or you’re concerned over DEET levels – it’s pretty unregulated in much of the world).

Staying Safe

• Preventing injury: For the most part, this is just luck. But be very careful when renting motorbikes – in Southeast Asia, it’s a popular way to get from point A to point B. It’s also the leading cause of death among travelers. Don’t let statistics alone stop you from renting one, but be realistic about if you’re comfortable driving on poor roads, in heavy traffic and up steep hills.

• If you do get ill or injured: Did you know that your credit card may offer travel and emergency assistance services? With my Capital One Venture, I have access to a Benefit Administrator who can connect me with local emergency and assistance resources twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Driving a Scooter in Bermuda

Managing Money on the Road

I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by using great banking products and sticking to a well-researched system.

• Avoid foreign transaction fees – and build points: I signed up for my Venture Card by Capital One in 2009 in anticipation of my first big trip, and it’s been my primary credit card ever since. First off, it has zero transaction fees – an absolute must for me. Second, it offers double miles on every purchase – miles that are redeemable on any travel related expense, a flexibility that airline-based cards and programs just can’t compete with. In my first year as a cardholder, I snagged a free flight to Hawaii worth $560. These days, I make everything from Uber rides to hotel rooms disappear from my bill with the click of a button.

• Research your card benefits carefully: Recently, I discovered that I’m eligible to pretty top-notch benefits at some of the world’s best hotels – perks like 3pm checkout, automatic upgrades, free wifi, $25 in dining credit, and more — simply by holding a Venture Card by Capital One. I’m kicking myself for not knowing about it sooner – I spotted several hotels I’ve stayed in over the last year on their roster.

New Haroula Hotel, Santorini

• Avoid ATM fees: For point building purposes, it is best to put as many purchases as possible on credit cards. However, in some destinations around the world that’s easier said than done. Use ATMS rather than currency exchanges to get cash when needed (they have far better rates) and find a debit card that refunds ATM fees. Then, carry small amount of cash (my preference, in case of theft or scatterbrain) and visit the ATM often without fear of racking up huge fees.

• Have backups: Personally, I’ve found customer service at the credit cards I love and have stuck with, like Capital One, to be top notch – they’ll do their darndest to get you a new card and emergency cash wherever you may be in the shortest amount of time possible should yours become lost or stolen, or should you lose access to one of your accounts. (I had to call them just this week and had the sweetest conversation with Tami in Tampa.) But don’t get stranded. Carry your primary credit card and debit card in one place, and stash a backup of each somewhere completely different in your luggage. Better safe than sorry!

• Track your spending: I use online banking tools to monitor my accounts and Trail Wallet to track my daily spending. Splitwise is another great app for when you’re traveling as a couple or group. Trail Wallet let’s me set a daily budget for myself, make my own categories, and make entries in both a home and local and currency. Taking note of every sol I spend will not only help me write posts about my daily budget like I did for Honduras and the Philippines, but also help keep realize when I’m splurging too much on smoothies or when I have wiggle room in my budget for the VIP bus seats.

Read more posts on budgeting here.

Money

Ready for takeoff yet? I truly hope you enjoyed this series. Let me know if I missed any of your favorite travel planning tips in the comments. Bon voyage!

Kate in Senggigi

What does budget travel mean to you?

For some of my friends, it means downgrading to a three-star hotel instead of a luxury property. For others, it’s giving up their private rooms for hostel dorms.

Budget travel is unique to everyone. The broadest definition of budget travel is being financially conscious during your travels.

I asked my Facebook fans a question: how low-budget would you go? Hostel dorms? Couchsurfing? Never eating in a restaurant, ever? They had a lot of great answers and I’ve included them throughout this post.

Leon Nicaragua

Extreme Budget Travel

I define extreme budget travel — or what I like to call traveling “on the hobo” — as traveling while spending the least amount of money possible.

“I had some Couchsurfers come stay with me that are doing a long term trip with a $0 budget for accommodation. If they can’t find CS hosts they camp. One was sleeping in temples in Myanmar. He said his average is $5/day but oftentimes only spends $3. They also only hitchhike everywhere.” –Nathan

Accommodation? Free only. Couchsurfing or camping in their own tent or van. Possibly sleeping in churches, temples or mosques. Free lodging via working gigs. Hostel dorms if there’s no other option.

Transportation? Free or very cheap only. Hitchhiking or traveling in their own vehicle. If anything, an occasional bus ride or public transit.

Food? Cheap only. Supermarket fare or cheap street food. No restaurants, ever. Maybe an occasional takeaway kebab.

Attractions? Free only. In cities, walking around and taking photos, enjoying free museums and attractions. In the countryside, hiking and exploring. Forget about paying for a ticket.

How to get by? Working from time to time. WWOOFing, Workaway gigs, working in hostels or bars, busking, random gigs along the way.

And while there are occasional exceptions, the above is largely how extreme budget travelers spend their time on the road.

Here are some examples:

We Visited Over 50 Countries In Our Van Spending Just $8 Per Day

This is How a Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 Per Day

I just came back from a 5-months travel. I’ve done hitch-hiked over 15 000km, and have been living as a homeless for pretty much 4 months.

Amman Skyline

The Pros of Extreme Budget Travel

Travel longer. See more. The less you spend, the more time you have to see everything the world has to offer. The price you would pay for a midrange two-week trip could grow into a multi-month extravaganza when traveling on the hobo.

Enjoying the same sights at a fraction of the price. Nobody charges you to walk through the piazzas of Florence, nor do you pay anything to enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay. It feels awesome to look around and know that you paid far less than everyone else!

Expensive destinations aren’t off-limits. One thing I noticed was that extreme budget travelers don’t shy away from expensive countries. You find just as many extreme budget travelers in Norway and Australia as you do in Laos and India.

“Curiously enough it’s easier to spend less in expensive countries. It’s easier to say no to a $25 hotel room and camp, than to say no to a $5 hotel room and camp. In Europe I’d go camping and couchsurfing all the time out of necessity, but here in Asia I’d happily pay for accommodation, because it’s cheaper. But of course that adds up and in the end I pay more. I remember spending 6 months in the US and Canada and I spend $0 on accommodation. :D” –Meph248 on Reddit

Having more local experience. You’ll get to know locals more intimately, whether it means couchsurfing in locals’ homes, working with locals, hitchhiking with locals, or shopping at the local markets. Plenty of travelers will pass through the same town without having a conversation with someone who wasn’t a waiter or hostel employee.

The time of your life — on very little cash. You’ll have great stories to tell your kids someday!

“I did $5 a day while touring the Balkans for a month. I managed! -Free lodging and food by volunteering at a hostel (even had my own room at the top floor) -Free private beach access through a guy I was seeing -Free drinks every night at the bar across the street because the owner swore I was Serena Williams

That about covers all bases! Lol” –Gloria, The Blog Abroad

The possibility of extending your trip indefinitely. If you pick up enough paid gigs in between, you can keep on traveling forever. This especially works well if you pick up gigs, either officially or under the table, in high-paying countries like Australia.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Pitfalls of Extreme Budget Travel

Reduced safety. If you don’t have funds allocated for accommodation or private transportation, what happens when none of the Couchsurfing hosts in town appeal to you? What happens if your bus is delayed, you show up in Tegucigalpa late at night, and you can’t afford a cab to your accommodation?

Not having money for instances like these sacrifices your safety.

“I would never want to absolutely rely on couchsurfing for the whole of my trip. I couchsurf where I can but when I can’t find a decent host I book a hostel. I think when you get too desperate to couchsurf you end up pushing the safety limit a bit and staying with dubious people.” –Britt, Adventure Lies in Front

Just how bad can the result be? Read this heartbreaking post by Trish on Free Candie.

Missing cool activities and social events. You meet a cool group of fellow travelers and they’re all going whitewater rafting. They want you to join — but you can’t do that. And sure, you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge if the $300 Bridgeclimb is out of your price range, but would you go to Leon, Nicaragua, and skip $30 volcano boarding? What about a $5 wine tasting in a Tuscan town? And even if it’s just a $4 hostel shuttle to the beach, which all your friends from the hostel are taking, you’re stuck on the much longer 25-cent local bus.

Less exposure to local cuisine. Yes, there’s fresh produce and markets and supermarkets can be their own adventure, but if you’re making pasta in the hostel every night, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling — the food.

“As a student in EU having a long-term schengen visa on a third-world passport, I think I have hit the bottom after sleeping at airports, night buses, railway stations, common areas of hostels. taking pictures of food in local markets and then coming back to cook pasta in hostel kitchen :-(” –Anshul

No backup savings. In the event of an emergency — say, you need to fly home for the funeral of a dear friend — you don’t have the cash to do so. Most of the time, travel insurance will only reimburse you if it’s a member of your immediate family.

Isolation and discomfort. If you’re not comfortable in your accommodation, you have fewer options and may be far from the city center or tourist zone. If you’re limited with money, you can’t just pick up and leave — you might need to stick it out for at least a night.

“Ive couchsurfed once and they tried to convert me to their religion so i just left.” –Christipede

No alone time. If you’re a natural extrovert, this probably won’t be an issue, but traveling on the hobo requires you to socialize with lots of people on a daily basis, especially if you’re couchsurfing. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have difficulties carving out alone time to relax your mind. (Camping solo is one way around this, however.)

Mooching off others. Conversely, depending on others day after day can wear away at you. Sure, you can help cook and clean, or play music, and you know you’ll pay it back to other travelers someday, but you might get uncomfortable having strangers host and feed you for free on a regular basis.

“It’s funny. I’m open to going extremely low budget. As long as I can be self-reliant about it. Meaning I’d rather sleep (legally or semi-legally) on an abandoned beach or in a corner of a park than ask for someone’s couch. This is strange, I know, since the spirit of travel is tied so intrinsically into the good will of others. I guess I’d rather rely on others for their company (and their rum!) and then slip off to my tent for the night.” –Bring Limes

Resentment. Is this the trip you had in mind? Is this even the kind of trip you’d want? Wouldn’t you rather be in a nice hotel room, eating in restaurants, doing cool activities, and not having to work every now and then? After weeks of depriving yourself, over and over, you could end up feeling resentful. It might not be worth the savings.

“I feel like [extreme budget travel] would detract from the travel experience itself. If I was wrapped up in my head worrying about money and a budget the whole time it would take away from experiences. I certainly don’t travel luxuriously, but I choose to travel within my means without missing out on things.” –Megan, Forks and Footprints

Blue Night Shadows

A Lot of People Think They Can Do This

I’m an avid Redditor but don’t comment often. What makes me comments are posts like these:

“Me and my cousin are going on a trip in 2015 for 16 months around SE Asia. we plan on visiting 19 countries in that time: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri lanka, Tawain, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan

We dont really know what months to go to the different countries and theres not much info online about it, so im asking you we kind of want summer all the time around. Also what places should we see in different countries? Im thinking that 12k USD will be enough for this trip? no including air fare, is that close to accurate?”

Oh God.

First of all, no, $12K will not be nearly enough. I really hope he meant $12K each, because even $24k for two would not be enough for a trip like that, especially with countries like Bhutan and Japan on the list. The only way it would be possible would be through extreme budget travel, and just the idea of traveling that way for 16 months makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

I get emails all the time from travelers who want to travel as long and as much as possible, so they squish their budget down to the bare minimum. They tell me that yeah, they really want to see as much as possible, so they’re going to couchsurf and camp and they’ll be able to stretch their trip to as long as possible. I give them advice, wish them luck, tell them to buy travel insurance.

Some of them end up traveling this way — and have a fabulous, life-changing trip. Others end up miserable and return home much sooner than planned.

My worry about these travelers is that they won’t end up enjoying themselves on what should be the trip of a lifetime. I believe that far more people think they can handle long-term extreme budget travel than can actually handle this style of travel on a long-term basis.

It doesn’t help that traveling on the hobo is romanticized in popular culture, complete with scenes of waking up on a farm in Provence, harvesting olives all day, then having huge dinners with wine every night before hopping on a train to the next idyllic destination.

In short, it’s fun to travel on the hobo if you’re doing it for fun. It’s not so fun if you’re doing it because you can’t afford anything else.

Bike Lady in Ferrara

Special Concerns for Women Travelers

I feel like there needs to be an asterisk when talking about extreme budget travel as a woman. Just like there needs to be an asterisk with almost every kind of travel.

If you haven’t read Why Travel Safety Is Different For Women, please read it now.

In that piece, I talk about how women are attuned to the risk of sexual assault every minute of every day. It never leaves our minds, and each day we make dozens of micro-decisions for the sake of self-protection. For that reason, we need to be extra careful when it comes to extreme budget travel.

“extreme budget travel is a luxury that men can have I think. as a woman, I always need to have a little extra to get myself out of a bad guesthouse or take taxis rather than walk. I’m sure some women have managed it, but i wouldn’t feel safe on a low low budget. I usually budget $50/day with an extra $500/month of travel, although I rarely use it all. it gives me enough cushion to get a single room rather than share a dorm with just one man, etc.” –Lily

Camping alone or sleeping outside leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Staying in a sketchy guesthouse with a badly locking door leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Hitchhiking with strangers leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Taking public transportation in a rough city at night leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Accepting food and drinks prepared by Couchsurfing hosts leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

That doesn’t mean that women can’t do extreme budget travel — I know women who do it and love it. I know that some take extra precautions, like carrying pepper spray and a knife. And even then, many of them have done so safely; most of them have only had a few scary but ultimately non-dangerous incidents, like I have.

But it doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. You need to evaluate that risk closely.

Kyoto Apartment

It’s Not For Everyone

If you want to try out extreme budget travel and you think you would enjoy it, go for it! I’m happy for people to travel in any way they’d like, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

There are plenty of people for whom extreme budget travel is a great choice. And they’re a surprisingly diverse group of people.

My issue with it is that I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to live this way on a long-term basis. In short, it’s not for as many people who think it’s for them. So many people attempt it, burn out, and leave their trip with regrets.

Costa Brava Mountains

Short-Term Extreme Budget Travel

What if you only did the extreme budget travel thing for a shorter time? Say, for a two-week trip or just for a month or two out of a yearlong RTW trip? What if you just did it when you traveled in Australia and went back to spending more money in Southeast Asia?

I think that’s actually a very smart idea. This way, you get to try it out, reduce costs in the most expensive destinations, and see if you are interested in doing it long-term.

“I don’t mind dorms for cheap travel, although a few weeks is the max I could do that without at least a few nights in a private. I’m planning to couch surf and WWOOFing a lot in Japan, since I want to go for a while without spending thousands and thousands. I can’t live on that low though- it’s boring to only have enough to eat and stay in the hostel!” –Alexandria

Marigolds in Pienza

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Traveling on the Hobo

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Walking a mile out of the way for loaves of bread that cost 20 cents less is the definition of insanity. Instead, reduce your big expenses like accommodation and transportation, or stick to cheap countries.

Travel slower. Spending more time in fewer destinations will majorly cut down your costs. When you spend longer in a destination, you’ll get to know the cheaper places, you’ll spend less time sightseeing, and your transportation costs will be lower.

Stick to cheaper regions — not just cheaper countries. Most people consider Thailand a cheap country but don’t take into account that the beach resorts in the south are MUCH more expensive than the rest of the country. Stick to rural, less-visited areas for lower costs. In Thailand, you’ll find the cheapest prices in the north.

Set up a separate bank account for splurges. Use it for special activities like seeing Angkor Wat, getting scuba certified, or having a restaurant meal in a fabulous food region.

Plan on getting private accommodation every few weeks or so. Just a few days in a room to yourself will make you feel so much better, especially if you’re an introvert.

Have a re-entry fund saved up and don’t touch it. This is money to cushion your return home. How much do you need? Depends on your situation. Some people like to have enough to secure a new apartment and pay for a few months of frugal expenses; others just need a thousand dollars or so. The choice is yours.

Don’t scrimp on travel insurance. Even if you’re committed to spending as little as possible, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you weigh your health against saving money. Not to mention that it will save your ass financially in the event that you get severely injured and need an air ambulance to another country. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Leaving the Generalife

One Last Tip: Check Your Privilege

When you’ve been traveling on the hobo for awhile, there will be dark days. You’ll be down to your last few dollars and unable to eat anything but rice and pasta. You’ll be tired. You’ll be lonely. You’ll be treading water and you won’t know when you’ll earn enough to leave town.

This happens to all travelers. We all go through tough times, but extreme budget travelers are additionally vulnerable because of their lack of money.

Even when you’re at your lowest, it’s important to remember that you hold enormous privilege. You’re living this lifestyle by choice, and you’ve experienced far more than the vast majority of the world will ever be able to.

Don’t refer to yourself as poor. Don’t take food donations meant for the needy. And for the love of God, don’t compare yourself to the homeless.

Instead, practice gratitude each day. Be kind. Use what you’ve learned to create a better life for everyone you meet, both on the road and at home.

And if you choose to settle down for some time — whether it’s just for a few weeks or something more permanent — open up your home to vagabonds like yourself. Feed them, give them a place to sleep, show them your favorite spots in town. It’s time to repay the kindness that you’ve been gifted on your journey.

Have you ever tried extreme budget travel? Did you enjoy it?The truth about extreme budget travel

Kate in a href=

Now that I’ve settled down in New York after five years of travel, one of my goals is to travel more within the U.S. I have a lot of cities I want to visit this year: Austin, Nashville, Portland. But the biggest goal of all? Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was a priority for late February. Or sometime in March. After growing up in New England, that’s been the most frustrating time of year, when you’ve been dealing with winter for months and months and just can’t take it anymore.

I started planning — but it wasn’t going to happen. I spent a lot more on home furnishing expenses than expected, I couldn’t find any flights with my miles, and I didn’t know any receptive hotels. Puerto Rico would have to wait, I decided sadly.

Then the most perfectly timed invitation landed in my inbox from Puerto Rico Tourism. Four days exploring the island in late February and early March. Would I like to join the trip?

Would I like to join the trip?! Of course I would!

I ended up having a wonderful time in Puerto Rico and I was surprised at just how much it has to offer.

Boat off Culebra

It’s So Easy

Normally, I have no qualms about traveling internationally. That said, I appreciated how much less work I had to do in order to travel to Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory. If you’re an American, here’s why it’s easy:

  1. You don’t need your passport — a license or ID is all you need to fly.
  2. The currency is the U.S. dollar.
  3. While Spanish is the main language of the island, English is widely spoken and everyone in the tourism industry speaks English.
  4. Your U.S. phone plan will work normally without having to get a SIM card or paying roaming charges.

Additionally, there are direct flights to Puerto Rico from all over the U.S. (but especially on the East Coast). I was also surprised to see that you can fly direct to Puerto Rico from as far away as Frankfurt and London!

Puerto Rico Beach

The Perfect All-Around Island

Plenty of people fly to Puerto Rico and never go beyond the confines of their resort. Not my thing, but I get it. Sometimes you need a getaway where you do nothing.

But if you want more than just a beach, Puerto Rico has it all. If you’re visiting for just a few days, like I was, you can easily fit in beach time, adventure time, culture time, and yes, even hanging-out-at-the-pool time.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Beautiful Beaches

Of course, if you’re going to the Caribbean, you want to see some beaches!

Culebra island, east of the main island of Puerto Rico, is home to Flamenco Beach, which is frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world in travel magazines and on sites like TripAdvisor.

Meh. I’ll believe it when I see it, I thought. Could this beach really compete with the tropical beaches of the Philippines, the white sands of the Florida panhandle, the unreal urban beaches of Sydney, the raw and untamed beaches of South Africa’s Eastern Cape?

OH, DID THIS BEACH EVER DELIVER.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto RicoFlamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto RicoFlamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Flamenco Beach is easily one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen. Perfect sand, bright clear water, and even though I visited in the heart of high season, it wasn’t too crowded.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that the neighboring island of Vieques has even better beaches. I can’t wait to check those out! Caroline from Caroline in the City wrote a great guide to Vieques.

Amanda Ziplining in Puerto Rico

Adventure Galore

Zip-lining is a popular adventure activity in resort destinations, and for good reason: it’s easy and requires no skill. I got to experience zip-lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, in the mountainous center of the island, and it’s the most beautiful and dramatic place I’ve ever zip-lined in my life. (Not gonna lie — it was also the scariest. I kept my eyes shut a lot.)

My trip coincided with the opening of the new longest zip-line in the world: The Monster! The Monster has a total distance of 1.5 miles, or 2.5 kilometers, or 28 football fields. You do it while on your stomach, like Superman, and can achieve speeds up to 93 mph (150 kph).

(I know a lot of places claim to be the longest or the biggest or the highest zip-lines in the world, but this one is absolutely the longest. The Guinness Book of World Records people were there to certify it.)

IMG_4190Orocovis, Puerto RicoKate and Javier Ziplining

Plus: if you get stuck on the line, Javier will come out and rescue you, dragging you back between his thighs.

If you’re up for adventure, there’s far more than just zip-lining: Lillie from Around the World L wrote about visiting El Yunque Rainforest, and Cam and Nicole from Traveling Canucks wrote about doing a bioluminescent kayak tour in Fajardo.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Legendary Culture

Puerto Rico isn’t just a pretty island devoid of personality — there is so much history and culture and art. While there are lots of cultural options all over the island, San Juan is the epicenter and an easy place to explore.

San Juan, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto Rico

If you’re looking to maximize your time, head to Old San Juan. Here, you’ll find the island’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site (La Fortaleza, or the three forts that protect the bay) as well as colorful buildings in the old town and a handful of museums.

If you time your visit to one of Puerto Rico’s legendary festivals, you’re in for a treat. Here are some of the better known ones.

Puerto Rican Food

Food

I had no idea what Puerto Rican food was before arriving on the island — but I left having having experienced so many different flavors.

Some dishes to try:

Mofongo — A popular dish where a dome of mashed plantains (or cassava or breadfruit) surrounds a variety of fillings.

Lechón — The ultimate roasted pork! Piggy heaven.

Tostones — Mashed plantains formed into patties and fried.

BacalaítosBacalao, or salted cod, is popular here; bacalaítos are fried bacalao patties.

Morcilla — Every culture has its own blood sausage. This one is Puerto Rico’s.

Arroz con gandules — Rice and beans. With Puerto Rican spices.

Rum — Puerto Ricans love their rum! Try some Don Q.

Puerto Rican food is delicious — but be warned, it’s also very heavy. I don’t know how Puerto Ricans don’t all weigh 400 pounds. You might want to balance out your feasts with lighter meals. I waved a white flag and ordered ceviche on my final night.

Next time, I’d love to drive the pork highway, written about in this post on Twenty-Something Travel.

Ponce, Puerto Rico

Off the Beaten Path Destinations

There isn’t much in Puerto Rico that hasn’t been discovered — but there are plenty of lesser-visited corners.

With a packed four-day trip, I didn’t get too far afield, but I did get to enjoy the city of Ponce in the south. From the moment I saw it, I was entranced. It reminded me of Granada, Nicaragua, mixed with a little bit of New Orleans.

Ponce, Puerto RicoPonce, Puerto RicoPonce, Puerto Rico

An added bonus? Ponce and the south have a wonderfully dry climate, a major change from humid San Juan.

Santaella San Juan

Nightlife

One of my favorite parts of our trip was the final night in Placita, a collection of open-air bars in San Juan. (I was also thrilled my Puerto Rican buddy, Norbert of Globotreks, was in town and came to join us!) We went on a Thursday night and it was hopping, though Norbert told me it really gets going on Friday and Saturday.

If you go, be sure to check out Santaella. It’s one of the fancier places in Placita. My Puerto Rican friends say this place has the best bartenders in San Juan and they made me a delicious tamarind margarita.

The casual bars are equally fun and you can get local Medalla beers for around $2.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

San Juan is the perfect base for a trip to Puerto Rico — it’s close to the airport, the city is fun, there are lots of nice beaches, lots of tour providers will pick you up from hotels there, and it’s easy enough to get all over the island within a few hours’ drive.

On this trip I stayed at two Hilton properties in San Juan: the Hilton Caribe and the Hilton Condado Plaza.

Here are photos of the room, view, and grounds of the Hilton Caribe:

Hilton Caribe, a href=Hilton Caribe, a href=Hilton Caribe, a href=

Here are photos of the room, view, and grounds of the Hilton Condado Plaza:

DSCF4359Hilton Condado Plaza, a href=Hilton Condado Plaza, a href=

Both hotels are solid options — each has beautiful rooms, a nice outdoor space, ocean views, and beaches with calm, clear Caribbean water. But between the two of them, I greatly preferred the Caribe. It had much better pools, beachfront, and outdoor grounds, plus two Starbuckses on the premises (including one on the beach!). The Caribar has excellent tapas — I especially loved the ropa vieja arepas. That said, the rooms were better at the Condado Plaza.

Now — if you’d like something even more upscale, resort-like, luxurious, and secluded, check out El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, on the east coast. This is a Waldorf Astoria property and it’s the largest resort in Puerto Rico. They even have their own private island!

El Conquistador, Puerto RicoEl Conquistador, Puerto RicoChocolate Cake and Champagne, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico

I didn’t stay overnight here, but I got to explore it one afternoon. And while I normally can’t stand hotel visits on press trips (“Look at this amazing hotel…but you can’t stay here. Please blog about us?”), I enjoyed my visit here so much that it left an enormously positive impression on me. I need to stay here on my next trip!! Also, the desserts at Chops are unreal, especially their mile-high chocolate cake and piña colada cobbler.

If El Conquistador strikes your fancy and you’ve got the cash, go for it. It’s a special place.

Puerto Rico Beach

The Takeaway

I can’t believe it took me 31 years to get to Puerto Rico! I honestly had no idea it had so much to offer until I got to see it for myself.

Between the ease of visiting and how much there is to do, I know this is only going to be the first of many trips to Puerto Rico in my future.

Essential Info: Puerto Rico has public transportation, but the best and most efficient way to get around is by renting a car. You can get anywhere around the island within a few hours. It was just 90 minutes from San Juan to Ponce on the south coast.

I visited Culebra on a one-day Culebra Snorkel Trip with East Island Excursions. The trip includes a snorkel stop next to the island and a two-hour stop at Flamenco Beach, plus a simple lunch, some snacks, and alcoholic beverages. The cost is $99 for adults and $79 for children under 12.

Personally, I think the snorkel trip is a little bit expensive for what you get, compared to similar activities I’ve done in similarly priced destinations, and not enough time is spent on the beach, but it’s a fun, fast, and easy way to experience Culebra for a day.

Do note that on this trip, you can only get to Flamenco Beach by swimming from the boat. This means that if you want to take photos on the beach, you’ll need a dry bag for your camera. They sell some smartphone-sized dry bags at the dock; instead, I recommend that you buy a high quality bag before your trip. This is a good dry bag that will fit a DSLR camera and it comes with a bonus smartphone bag. The crew will assist you if you can’t swim.

If you choose to visit Culebra independently, there are ferries from Fajardo, but it’s quickest and easiest to fly from the mainland.

I went zip-lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis. An eight-line zip-lining tour costs $85; The Monster costs a supplemental $175. There’s also a shorter version of The Monster, called The Beast, which costs a supplemental $65.

Rates at the Hilton Caribe start at $179. Rates at the Hilton Condado Plaza start at $179. Rates at El Conquistador Resort start at $199. These are all low-season rates; rates increase sharply in high season.

I visited Puerto Rico on a campaign with Puerto Rico Tourism. All opinions, as always, are my own. Special thanks to Amanda of A Dangerous Business for taking several photos of me for this post.

Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? What’s your favorite all-around destination?Puerto Rico has it all! (Seriously.)

Photo: Stacie

While I’m WAY past that crucial hostel target market age, I still love to stay at nice ones to meet people and get travel tips. However, when I’m traveling to more remote places where hostels are not an option, Airbnb has saved me! I hear complaints all the time and after having so many great experiences in multiple countries, don’t get it. SO, here are my best recommendations for finding an Airbnb rental that will bring you over to “The Dark Side.”

1. Research which neighborhoods are safe and focus on those first.

This helps narrow things down. How far are these from your transport hubs? If you want to experience the local nightlife, do these locations factor in? Airbnb allows you to zoom in on areas to see what listings are located, how much they are, and whether they are Instant Book ones.

2. Book well in advance.

If you know your destination and dates and want a good Airbnb, I strongly suggest booking two months in advance. You’ll have more options to choose from, increasing your chances of staying closer to or exactly where you want without having to break the bank or stay some place not-so-safe.

3. Know your peak seasons.

These, along with, special events will fluctuate prices as well as expedite the best places filling up. For example, check when major festivals or national holidays are so you won’t be surprised if you come across many listings with minimum night stays. August is peak in Europe and February is peak in New Orleans due to Mardi Gras. Also, double check the weather patterns and seasons. Despite the low rates, I personally wouldn’t recommend the Philippines during typhoon season

4. What type of experience do you want?

Filter for “Entire home” if you want privacy and some guarantee of a creep-free environment. Filter for “Private room” if you want to get to know your host (and are okay with rolling the dice on the situation being potentially sketchy), and have a more fulfilling cultural experience.

5. Superhost?

Look for a tiny gold medal logo with a blue and red ribbon to indicate a Superhost. These hosts have a crazy number of reviews along with very high quality reviews. I stayed with a Superhost in Brazil and she’d only been listing on Airbnb for about 8 months. If the host and listing rock, this gives them extra credit and it’s a guaranteed winner. Relatedly, when you see a cost approximation on Airbnb for example, for two nights, it may say, “This is a rare find. X’s place is usually booked.” This is another excellent sign that you probably want to book this listing ASAP.

6. Do not skimp on reading the reviews!

Read them all to a.) ensure you’re not staying in a dump and b.) to check that the host isn’t going to go nuts if there’s some sort of mishap or miscommunication. Do have a look at the One-stars. Some visitors may be whiny, but if there are one or no-stars for something that’s a red flag that you should read and judge for yourself.

7. How communicative is the potential host?

Airbnb shows how quickly hosts and guests reply to messages through the site. The faster and more frequent, the better, especially when you’re sorting out arrival details and making sure you can get into the accommodation without a problem. Also, look for the lightning bolt symbol for instant book — this usually denotes a professional operation.

8. Look for photos with Airbnb’s verification watermark.

This reveals that a professional Airbnb photographer took the snapshots and what you see is what you get. The more photos, the better, as they can allow you to see how clean the accommodation is. Keep an eye out for fresh plants in the apartment. This often suggests that the place is lived in and isn’t some under-the-radar hotel operation. Is the bed made in the photo? Do the photos feature the same room and appear to have been taken with some old flip-phone? Does the listing have absolutely zero pictures of the interior? These are additional red flags.

9. How is check-out going to work?

Discuss this with your host when you’re picking a place. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because no one is checking in right after you. Other times, it does and it requires coordination of cleaning, baggage storage, etc. Afterwards, be conscientious about your own review, pointing out that hosts can give you bad ratings, and that this will impact your future ability to get nice rooms.

10. Make a wish list!

If you can’t decide on a place but have found a bunch you like, make a wish list in your account and label it with your destination, like “San Diego” or “Barcelona.” You can also share these wish lists with anyone joining you on the trip so they can weigh in on the final decision. Lastly, when you look at a listing page, you can see how many other people added it to a wish list.

It’s all about managing expectations here. If you do your due diligence in picking a place and utilize the tools Airbnb provides you (yes, this may take some time), you’re more likely to book a listing you’ll be happy with. Happy Airbnb hunting! More like this: Airbnb is great for travelers -- but it might be causing huge problems for locals.

Proof Of Onward Travel Tips

How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel

Travel Tips

Planning to travel internationally on a one-way ticket? You might have a problem. Some airlines and countries require proof of onward travel. Here’s how you can get it.

“Before you can board this flight, I need to see your proof of onward travel.” What?! But I’m traveling on a one-way ticket!

I remember the first time it happened to me. I was checking in at Boston’s Logan Airport for an international flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

Excited to visit Southeast Asia for the first time, and planning to spend a few months living in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad. I was flying one-way because, you know, I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay.

One month? Three? Would I even go back to the United States? Maybe I’ll travel to a different country after Thailand… overland. I simply hadn’t planned that far ahead yet.

However due to my American privilege, and my inexperience with international travel, it never once crossed my mind that this would be a problem.

Can’t I just buy another ticket when I’m ready to leave? Nope.

Proof Of Onward Travel Tips

How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel

What Is Proof Of Onward Travel?

Basically, some countries want to make sure you aren’t attempting to move there on a tourist visa and never leave. It happens all the time here in the United States, and other countries too. They are trying to prevent illegal immigration.

Government officials need to see proof that you plan on flying out eventually, respecting the rules of their tourist visa. They want proof of onward travel to another destination.

So while you can technically travel on a one-way ticket, they also need some kind of official return ticket confirmation showing that you are leaving the country eventually.

They won’t necessarily care where that ticket goes, just as long as it’s out of their country.

Ticket Confirmation

Example Ticket Confirmation from FlyOnward.com

Airline Requirements

Many countries actually pass this responsibility on to airlines, meaning that it’s the airline check-in desk who will ask to see proof of your onward travel before they let you board the flight.

Because if they don’t check, and allow you on the flight with a one-way ticket, but immigration officials refuse to let you in, the airline will be responsible for the costs of flying (deporting?) you back to your home country, along with possible fines.

Some airlines are very strict about the proof of onward travel rule.

If you can’t provide proof, you won’t be allowed to board your flight. Or they’ll ask you to buy a return ticket from them right then and there — which can often cost hundreds of dollars.

Onward Travel Rules Suck!

I feel your pain. Why can’t they just make it easy and allow me travel on a one-way ticket, trusting me when I tell them I plan to leave in two months?

Some of us prefer to travel spontaneously, without plans!

Most long-term travelers are on a tight budget, trying to make their money last as long as possible. Or they aren’t exactly sure which country they want to visit next. Or they want to travel overland by bus.

Buying round trip tickets just isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Don’t take it personally though. These are their rules, and we have to respect them. We have the same laws for foreigners attempting to visit our country.

Luckily there are a few easy (and legal) ways to get around this proof-of-onward-travel requirement, so you can travel on a one-way ticket, and not be forced to pre-plan your entire trip down to the last detail.

Proof Of Onward Travel

Rent A Ticket Confirmation!

How To Get Proof Of Onward Travel

If you think you may need proof of onward travel during your adventure, there are a few legal ways to get around the rules without having to buy round trip tickets everywhere you go.

Buy A Cheap Ticket

Extreme budget airlines around the world can have some amazing flight deals. While the airline itself might not be the best, if you don’t plan on actually using the ticket, who cares!

Find the cheapest one-way ticket to a major city in the country next door, and eat the cost. Maybe $50 or $100.

This works best in cheaper areas of the world, like Asia or Latin America. Some examples of budget airlines include EasyJet, AirAsia, Volaris, etc. Click here for a full list.

Use FlyOnward To Rent A Ticket

My favorite option these days is to use the online service FlyOnward.com. For about $10, this company will go ahead and purchase a refundable airline ticket in your name, on their dime.

The ticket will then be automatically canceled after 24 or 48 hours.

While it’s active, you’ll be able to view a REAL flight reservation under your name, and show it to the airline check-in agent or immigration officer, “proving” your onward travel. Simple, fast, and cheap.

You can see an example of what the confirmation looks like here.

Purchase Your Own Refundable Ticket

If you don’t mind waiting (sometimes months) to receive your refund, then buying a fully refundable, second one-way ticket is possible too.

To make it work, you’ll need to buy that second ticket before you leave for your destination.

Once you’ve entered the country, cancel your exit ticket, and wait for the refund. Just make sure to read the fine print — because some airlines charge cancelation fees, or only refund tickets using flight vouchers instead of cash.

Use Your Airline Miles

If you are a travel-hacking whiz and have accumulated a ton of points or miles on your travel rewards credit cards, you can use those points to book a one-way return flight and cancel it later.

Most of the time you’ll find that points are refunded right away, making it a no-brainer.

Which Countries Require Proof?

Many countries technically require proof of onward travel, however they don’t always enforce the rule. To reduce your chances of them asking, it’s wise to avoid dressing like a bum/hippie with no money.

Business casual works best at airports if you want to avoid questions.

A few countries definitely require documented proof of onward travel. They include New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, and the Philippines.

However depending on the airline you use, you might also get asked for proof before visiting countries like Thailand, Mexico, and Panama. Do your own research beforehand, just in case.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard!

Even though this rule might seem ridiculous, if you are a long-term traveler who prefers to travel on one-way tickets, you will eventually get asked for proof of onward travel.

I’ve probably been asked at least 10 times over the past few years.

Luckily there are legal loopholes around it. You just need to remember to get everything sorted in advance, before you find yourself stuck arguing with the airline check-in agent, about to miss your flight. ★

READ NEXT: How To Find Cheap Flights

Have any questions about proof of onward travel? Have you ever been asked? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Photo: Unsplash

Many of us have taken planes, and have gone to exotic places outside of where we grew up and live. Be it a backpacking trip to India, a short weekend holiday spent in Bali, or a work-related trip to Johannesburg, the act of going somewhere outside of our personal zone of familiarity and comfort is often seen as an opportunity offering some form of inner transformation.

Indeed, the act of exposing ourselves to the foreign and unknown can evoke a plethora of new feelings in us. Sometimes, this experience leads us to new perspective, or even new decisions about ourselves and our lives.

Don’t be mistaken though, not all journeys that we take will lead us to a new self at the end of the road.

More often than not, we return home as the same person as we were before, just with a few more stories to tell and a few more memories to reminisce about during our mundane 9-to-5 job.

So, you may ask, what differentiates a trip that leaves us unchanged, from a travel experience that can potentially transform us from the inside out? How can I make my travels mean more? How do I get more out of them?

Well, there is no one way to achieve it, that’s for sure. We are all different individuals, from different backgrounds and with our own interpretation of the world.

Having said so, we are all similar in so many ways too. A genuine smile, a simple greeting, or an act of kindness may be all it takes for two persons separated by their backgrounds and languages to relate and connect with each other.

Hear someone out. Listen to their story.

To travel is not just to see and to experience, but also to listen. I think many people missed out on that, and therefore, on a great learning opportunity. To listen is to try to empathise, to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

By listening to the stories of the strangers we meet on the roads, about their lives, about their view of what’s happening in the world, about their dreams for the future, we gain not just the knowledge and viewpoint of another human being, but also learn of the value and validity of our own pre-existing views and beliefs.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” — Maya Angelou

That’s how we gain human perspective I think — not by looking at the endless Himalayan mountain range, or the ebb and flow of the sea by the beach. You’ll never know, sometimes it’s the most unexpected persons who impart us with the most valuable lessons in life.

Also, tell your story.

I often hear people say that they travel to feel free again. They explained that traveling helps them escape temporarily from the realities back at home — their old problems, burdens and responsibilities. True enough, being in a foreign land where nobody knows anything about you does have its unique liberating quality. You can be anybody, and you can be nobody. There, I think, is where you find your most authentic self, and then be it.

“… sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that? Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón

How do you start? Well, relax. Don’t overthink it. Instead, try to enjoy the process of letting go of your insecurities, your fears and inhibitions. What better ways to get things off your chest than to confide in a stranger whom you know you’ll never meet again? There! You just save yourself a costly trip to a therapist.

Jokes aside, it does take time and a few tries before you learn to open yourself up, not just to strangers, but to the world as a whole. But trust me, once you’ve reached that point, you will begin to see the world in a more fearless and unprejudiced manner.

Last but not least, leave your mark.

Make your travel different and more meaningful by contributing to the local cause. And no, I’m not talking about volunteering here. Neither am I talking about donating old clothes, books and stuff that people might not really need.

By contributing, I mean helping locals who want to help themselves. By aiding them in creating a positive outcome that is both tangible and sustainable. That’s what I think a real positive impact entails. That’s how we truly help.

Some local businesses may be starting up or in the process of renovation and need some funding. One easy way to get in touch with these people — the entrepreneurs, designers or small business owners living/working in the area you’re traveling to — is through online crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which have thousands of projects coming in from all across the globe.

To skip the hassle of searching through the tons of projects which may not be relevant to your needs, you can also try TravelStarter, a travel-specific crowdfunding platform with a growing array of travel and tourism business projects from different parts of the world.

Want to help a Croatian instructor rebuild his sailing boat and be rewarded with a sailing course? Or help a New Zealander living in the Philippines rebuild his Con-Fusion Cafe after typhoon Yolanda destroyed the restaurant? Or are you headed down to San Diego anytime soon? Help a new B&B at Pacific Beach in their funding raising efforts to refurnish the hostel. For a contribution of $80, you will be rewarded with a two-night stay, a three-hour whale watching tour and also a brewery tour!

With the help of platforms like TravelStarter, travelers are encouraged and enabled to engage in more locally instigated experiences.

That’s not only a good way to help somebody, it’s probably the best way to make a local friend too. Definitely an experience that’s worth more than what you fork out of your pocket.

At the end of the day, or at the end of your life, you will realise that it’s not the places you have seen, the crazy adventures you have gone through, or the pictures that you have taken that matters the most. It’s the people that you have met along the way — those whom you have helped, those whom you have loved, those whose lives you have touched — that really mean the most. They are what made you a true traveler of life.

Lastly, always remember:

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” — Tim Cahill

This article originally appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.

More like this: 6 reasons millennials are the best travelers

Photo: Scott Sporleder

With 7,107 islands, endless sunshine, perfect waters, and countless days of exploring to do, it begs the question: Why aren’t we all in the Philippines right now?

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Tagbilaran Airport

 Tagbilaran Airport (TAG)Tagbilaran City, PhilippinesFlying over the Philippines is simply magic! Over 7,000 islands to see and the water is stunning!

Arriving into the Philippines is sure to leave you speechless. Make sure and request a window seat so you can see how beautiful the water and islands are from above.

2. Philippine Eagle Centre

 Philippine Eagle CentreDavao City, PhilippinesVisiting the beautiful Filipino Eagles is a must when in Davao! They are simply majestic and seeing how beautiful they are up close is truly incredible

Visit the Philippine Eagle Centre to see the endemic birds. Sassy and with a beautiful head of hair, you won’t be able to do anything other than smile.

3. Manila Bay

 Manila BayRosario, PhilippinesCatch a sunset in Manila!

Catch a sunset, even if it’s during a typhoon. The trees light the sky up over Manila Bay.

4. The Loboc River

 Loboc RiverSevilla, PhilippinesRiver cruise along Loboc in Bohol, Philippines

Take a cruise down the Loboc River in Bohol.

5. El Nido

 Small LagoonEl Nido, PhilippinesFull day tour with Binibini Travel doing Tour A. Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan

6. Hijo Plantation

 Hijo PLatation, Inc.Davao City, PhilippinesI loved going on a safari and driving through all the palm trees. They went on for days.

Visit the Hijo Plantation and go on a safari through their jungle to see the monkeys and wild boar.

7. Pearl Farm Beach Resort

 Pearl Farm Beach ResortIsland Garden City of Samal, PhilippinesDine like a king outside.

Eat grilled beef and veggies — on a private beach at Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

8. Payong-Payong Beach

 Payong-Payong BeachEl Nido, PhilippinesVisiting a private beach on Tour A, island hopping in El Nido for lunch!

Visit the private island of Payong-Payong Beach while on Tour A in El Nido

9. The Fairmont

 Fairmont MakatiMakati, PhilippinesGrab a Singapore Sling from the Fairmont Makati and hang out by their pool.

Grab a Singapore Sling at the Fairmont in Manila.

10. Sunset in Bohol

 The Peacock Garden BoholBaclayon, PhilippinesTake in a sunset in Bohol! The colors are out of this world.

Take in a different kind of sunset in Bohol at the Peacock Garden overlooking a range of mountains and the ocean.

11. Big Lagoon, El Nido

 Big LagoonEl Nido, PhilippinesVisit the Big Lagoon while island hopping in El Nido, Palawan.

Swim in the Big Lagoon in El Nido.

12. The jungle in Davao

 Philippine Eagle CentreDavao City, PhilippinesTrek through the jungle at the Eagle Centre.

Walk through the jungle in Davao at the Philippine Eagle Centre.

13. Hijo Plantation

 Hijo PLatation, Inc.Davao City, PhilippinesEat Maruya, a banana fritter!

Eat Maruya -– a fried banana in coconut oil with coconut flour at the Hijo Plantation, where they have their own banana farm.

14. Bungalow over the water, Davao

 Pearl Farm Beach ResortIsland Garden City of Samal, PhilippinesStay in a hut over the water in Paradise!

Stay in a bungalow over the water in Davao at the Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

15. The Sofitel, Manila

 Sofitel Philippine Plaza ManilaManila, PhilippinesEnjoy a day at the pool that overlooks Manila bay.

Hit the pool at the Sofitel in Manila.

16. Chocolate Hills, Bohol

 Chocolate Hills National MonumentCarmen, PhilippinesVisit the Chocolate Hills – they weren’t chocolate colored in October but beautiful.

Visit the Chocolate Hills in Bohol -– they aren’t chocolate colored year round but they are still magnificent.

17. Bacuit Bay

 Bacuit BayEl Nido, PhilippinesIsland hop in El Nido on these wooden boats is so much fun. You visit many islands and they cook food for you on the boat and eat at a private island.

Catch a boat in Bacuit Bay to take an island hopping tour in El Nido.

18. Manila

 Ninoy Aquino International AirportPasay, PhilippinesView Manila from the sky. The traffic can be challenging in the city but from up above the city is peaceful.

View Manila on your way back home -– it certainly looks different from the sky.

Lonely Planet Philippines (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to the Philippines*

Lonely Planet Philippines is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Swim at secluded beaches in the Bacuit Archipelago, take part in a colourful fiesta, dive remote reefs and magnificent walls at Apo Island or Balicasag; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of the Philippines and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Philippines Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, etiquette, people, culture, politics, environmental issues, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine. Over 90 maps Covers Manila, Corregidor, Luzon, Zambales Coast, Lingayen Gulf, Ilocos, the Cordillera, Batanes, Bicol, Masbate, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Mindoro, Boracay, the Visayas, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Samar, Mindanao, Palawan and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Philippines, our most comprehensive guide to the Philippines, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Michael Grosberg, Greg Bloom, Trent Holden, Anna Kaminski and Paul Stiles.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to The Philippines. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA, February 2014-January 2015

The Philippines: A Visual Journey

Elizabeth V. Reyes

This beautifully photographed travel pictorial captures the people, art, architecture, food and landscapes of the Philippines.The Philippine Archipelago with its 7,100 islands is culturally diverse and unique in Southeast Asia, and renowned for the splendor of its coastal beaches and terraced mountains. Seventy million Filipinos have been nurtured by both tropical environment and unique historical development—through 300 years of Spanish Chistianization and 40 years of American modernization—and have emerged as an attractive blend of East and West, soul and style. The island country is perhaps best known for the friendliness of its people and their natural sense of song, dance and hospitality. The archipelago is also called "Pearl of the Orient". With over 150 photographs and a detailed map, Exciting Philippines is an essential book for expats or tourists traveling to the Philippines.

Philippines: An Expat's Travel Guide To Moving & Living In The Philippines

Alex Johnson

Are you or someone you know contemplating or making plans to live in or move to the Philippines? If you or someone you know would like to avoid the pitfalls, silly mistakes, and challenges that many expats face when moving abroad then this book is for you!

Here are the facts, tips, and steps you should take if you are planning to move to the Philippines in one easy to read travel guide!

Get your questions answered and learn: What important documents do you need to take with you? What kinds of residency programs are available? What educational opportunities are available? Where are the best places to stay? How much money will you need to live comfortably? How to save money on flights, transportation, accommodations, dining, and shipping costs. And much more!

You will also learn: What are the common things you will need to get used to when living in the Philippines? What are exciting things to do for fun and leisure? What kinds of jobs are available?

Unlike most travel and country guides, this book is written in an engaging, informative, and enjoyable tone that makes this book a fun and easy read.

The Philippines Sex Vacation Guide: (get the best sex vacation ever!)

Ron Mcballs

Beautiful beaches, cheap beer and and sex with beautiful women - that sums up Philippines. If you're visiting Philippines - or thinking of visiting - then this book will be your guide to getting cheap sex and fun times. Inside this guide, you'll learn: everything you need to know on getting paid sex and FREE sex in Philippines; secret tourist spots you should visit! How to save $1000+ on ticket flights and hotels. How to have a stress free vacation. Hilarious sex vacation stories that will make you laugh. How to create easy side income, so you can get a sex vacation every year!. How to get a girlfriend in the Philippines. Everything you need to know when visiting Philippines. And so much more I invite you to read this book now because you'll be entertained and educated on getting lots of free and paid sex in the Philippines. What's the old saying? "Good times await those who are visiting Philippines". ** contents adult content. You must be 18 or over to read this.

A Gentleman's Guide To The Philippines

The Gambler

I was living the normal American dream when an earthquake, divorce, turned the dream into a nightmare. Trying to wake from this bad dream took time, determination, allot of experimenting and some luck. After a couple of years filling my time by drinking and chasing women, I was introduced to the game of Texas Holdem. Never having gambled a day in my life, I spent the next few years learning how to make money as a gambler and traveling the US doing so. In and out of casinos, dark rooms behind bars and literally underground in a basement was the scene where most of my waking hours were spent. My passion for the game was only succeeded by my passion for beautiful women. With cash in hand now was the time to take my passion for my newest business venture abroad and some interesting places it certainly took me. Having honed my skills of seduction and my passion not waning at all, I make a stop in the Philippine Islands to meet the Asian Goddesses men dream of, and what a stop it turned out to be! There was no time for gambling with the lovely ladies of the Islands keeping me distracted day and night. Join me, a man resurrected from the rubble of a shattered life, on a journey that most men only dream about.

The Philippines: 100 Travel Tips

Rissa Gatdula-Lumontad

AMAZON BESTSELLER

The Philippines: 100 Travel Tips is the Best Selling Travel Guide to The Philippines

The Philippines: 100 Travel Tips is an insider's guide to exploring the best of the Philippines.

Co-authored by a Filipina who has worked in the Philippines travel industry for over 15 years and a world traveler, this book covers all you need to know to visit the Philippines.

The Philippines, one of the gems in Southeast Asia, is becoming a very popular tourist destination. The Philippines has 7,107 islands and so many provinces scattered across the western Pacific Ocean - and each has its own culture. But where to start your travel planning?

This insider's guide covers when to visit, what you need to enter, how to get there, what you can and should bring, cultural reminders, language, what to wear, getting around, accommodations, dining, health and safety, family travel, shopping, must-see attractions, top sports activities, locals' favorites and recommendations, and more. The book is filled with beautiful photos by professional Filipino photographers - showcasing the magic and wonder of these islands in Paradise.

Here are just some of the topics covered:

The best months to vist the Philippines and which dates you should avoid

Money Saving Tips

Depending upon where you are traveling you may choose renting a car, taking the taxi, the bus, or the train. You will know the right form of transportation to choose based on where you're going, the cost, and level of comfort you desire

Traveling between the islands? Know when to take the plane vs. a boat or ferry

When it makes sense to book your stay with a condo or an apartment vs. a hotel

Other forms of accommodations you may not have heard of...if you are looking for a more adventurous stay

Traditional, delicious Filipino dishes you should request when you dine

Shots and vaccinations you should have if you are traveling to certain areas

A list of the Things you should Never Do

Tips for traveling with your children

The Philippines is a Shoppers Paradise...You'll discover the best places to shop

A detailed list of the places you Must See

And so much more...

With 7,107 islands, it's hard to decide what to see and do. You will discover the top attractions, along with off the beaten path things not to miss. From extreme sports to luxurious spas, there are so many things the Philippines has to offer that you may want to make it an annual destination.

Allow us to help you through your journey to discovering why "It is more fun in the Philippines."

Philippine Girl

Rose Cuzzion

My name is Rose Cuzzion and English of course is not my first language or my second language and I hope you will all forgive any small mistakes I have made within these pages. I know Tagalog, Cebuano, English and just a little Korean and German. I live in a small province not far from the great city of Cebu in the wonderful Philippines. I enjoy sex and mostly practise safe sex. Tales of poor unfortunate girls run riot in what I have read on some blogs and so forth, but for many myself included we know the risks. This is not too be saying we do not enjoy the attention, passion and act of love making.So having worked in hard to get occupations in retail, dancing in bars, dating foreigners and being a freelance girlfriend for sex tourists I would like to share short stories with you, based around some of what I have done or heard from my many girlfriends and girls I have worked with. Maybe I would like to be a writer but only time will tell and if you have comments I would dearly like to see them on amazon so I can get better. Love Rose

Philippines Dive Map & Coral Reef Creatures Guide Franko Maps Laminated Fish Card

Franko Maps Ltd.

Side one features an overview map of The Philippines with major dive areas shown. Side two is an identification guide to the fish and other reef creatures you'll see when diving or snorkeling. The card features sturdy lamination and a hole for lanyard. 5.5" x 8.5"

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and vicinity (see Advisory)

There is a serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnappings in this region. Since September 9, 2013, clashes have been occurring in parts of Zamboanga City between Philippine Armed Forces and the Moro National Liberation Front.

On August 24, 2013, the Government of the United Kingdom advised its citizens of a credible and imminent threat of abduction of foreigners in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. On August 31, the Embassy of the United States in Manila informed its citizens of an increased threat of violence toward and abduction of foreigners in the Zamboanga Peninsula. In early July, the United States embassy halted all staff travel to Davao City, Cotabato City and Zamboanga City until further notice.

Dozens of people have been killed or injured by bombings in (but not limited to) Cotabato, Kidapawan, Zamboanga CityGeneral Santos CityIligan City, Jolo, Isabela City and Davao City. On September 12, 2013, and October 10, 2013, the Embassy of the United States in Manila informed its citizens of a credible threat against foreigners in southern Mindanao. Public shopping malls and western-based cafés in the region are thought to have been monitored, as potential targets of interest, by individuals affiliated with extremist groups. On September 16, two bombs exploded in Davao City, one at SM City Davao Cinema and the other at Gaisano Mall Cinema. On August 5, a bomb exploded in Cotabato City, killing eight people and injuring more than 30 others. On July 26, a bomb attack in Cagayan de Oro City killed eight people and wounded 45. The threat of terrorist attacks remains high in major centres in the region.

A state of emergency was declared in Cotabato City and the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in November 2009 due to election-related violence. The state of emergency remains in effect.

Review your security situation and take appropriate precautions if you are visiting or living in this region, particularly when visiting places frequented by foreigners. 

Terrorism

The threat of terrorist activities exists, particularly in Mindanao. Westerners and Western interests could be targeted. Bomb attacks could occur at any time in Manila and other key cities, and could target places frequented by foreigners. Bombs have exploded on public transportation, at airports and port facilities, and in shopping malls, convention centres, places of worship and other public areas. Further explosions are possible anywhere in the country. Expect to be subject to frequent security checks at public and private facilities, including shopping malls and public transportation stations.

Bombings and crime-related shootings have occurred in Mindanao, Manila and other parts of the country. Explosive devices continue to be discovered by security authorities. Be vigilant and comply with all security procedures.

Kidnapping

Be alert to the danger of kidnap-for-ransom in the Philippines, particularly in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and surrounding areas (see Advisory). Kidnappings have occurred throughout the country, and some cases have resulted in the death of the victim. 

Crime

Both petty crime and violent crime, sometimes involving guns, are a serious concern, especially in urban areas. Avoid showing signs of affluence or carrying large sums of money, and keep valuables in safekeeping facilities. Criminal gangs are active in Manila, including the Makati central business district, and have drugged and robbed unsuspecting tourists. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Do not accept transportation from strangers. Bystanders have been hit by stray gunfire during armed robberies and subsequent pursuit of the perpetrators by authorities. Avoid disturbances. Violent incidents may increase around election periods.

Demonstrations

Avoid protests, demonstrations, political rallies and large gatherings. These events can turn violent without notice. You could face detention and deportation if you attend a demonstration, even as an observer.

Transportation

Avoid travel outside urban areas and tourist centres after dark.

Driving conditions are poor. Roads are crowded and many drivers do not follow safe driving practices. Stay on national highways and paved roads.

Exercise caution when using public transportation, including buses and the light rail system, due to safety and security concerns. Incidents of taxi drivers using threats to extort money from passengers have been reported. Arrange to be met at airports, use hotel transportation or use the taxi booking services in arrival halls. Use officially marked taxis only and do not share them with strangers.

Ferry accidents are not uncommon due to overloading and poor maintenance of some vessels. Do not board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Emergency services

Dial 117.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Southeast Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In Southeastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Southeastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Good medical care is available in major cities. Care is limited in rural and more remote areas and islands. Most hospitals will require a down payment of estimated fees at the time of admission and may require that progress payments be made during hospitalization.

Decompression chambers are located in Manila, Cebu, Batangas, Subic and Palawan.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Attending any protest, demonstration or political rally may lead to detention and deportation.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can face life imprisonment for certain drug-related crimes.

A lifetime sentence is also often imposed for rape.

Conviction for "swindling" or "bad debts" can result in sentences of up to 20 years.

Penalties for pedophile activity are strict. Under Philippine law, a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. Locals with children may befriend single male tourists and then accuse them of child abuse in order to extort money from them.

Foreigners are required to carry identification. A photocopy of the identification page of your passport is acceptable.

An International Driving Permit is recommended. However, apply for a local driving permit if you wish to remain in the Philippines for a lengthy period.

You may travel with over-the-counter medicines, but only in quantities sufficient for the duration of your stay. Bring a letter from your physician if you are carrying prescription drugs, stating the dosage and the condition for which you are receiving treatment. If you are travelling onward to another country, a separate quantity of prescription drugs should be sealed and declared again before departing the Philippines.

Money

The currency is the Philippine peso (PHP). Credit cards are accepted in major establishments. Credit card and bank card fraud is common. Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others during payment processing. U.S. dollar traveller's cheques can sometimes be exchanged in certain banks and hotels. Verify with the issuing authority in Canada before purchasing them for use in the Philippines. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are available in larger cities.

Climate

Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) hit the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, causing severe damage in Leyte Province, Eastern Samar Province, Northern Samar Province, Samar Province, the northern portion of Cebu Province, and parts of Panay Island (including Northern Iloilo and Capiz). Transportation routes, medical services, electricity, telecommunications and sanitation systems, as well as water, food and fuel supplies have been heavily impacted in some areas.

A state of national calamity has been declared by Philippine authorities, as the storm caused thousands of deaths and injuries, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Damage to infrastructure is widespread and some regions remain inaccessible.

Although power and telecommunications have been re-established in many areas, it may take considerable time to be restored in all affected regions. You can obtain situational reports and other useful information from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

All commercial airports in the affected regions are operational; however Tacloban airport operations remain limited. If you choose to remain in or travel to affected areas, you should prepare to be self-sufficient and follow the advice of local authorities.

Typhoon and monsoon season

The typhoon and monsoon season extends from May to December, but storms can occur throughout the year. The Philippines experiences around 20 typhoons per year, usually between June and November. These storms can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Heavy winds and rains make flash-flooding and landslides a significant threat. Telecommunications and transportation (air, sea and land) can also be affected. Avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

Flooding is frequent following heavy rains, even in central Manila. Be careful when moving around cities during extreme weather conditions as roads can quickly become flooded and impassable.

For local weather forecasts, consult the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH). Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.

Seismic and volcanic activity

The Philippines is located in an active seismic zone and is prone to volcanic activity and earthquakes. 

An earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale struck near Carmen, Bohol (Central Visayas) on October 15, 2013, resulting in significant damage to infrastructure and loss of life. The provinces of Cebu and Bohol have been declared ‘states of calamity’. Transportation routes and telecommunications services may be affected. Monitor local news, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Familiarize yourself with earthquake security measures in public and private buildings, and follow the advice of local authorities in the event of an earthquake. The Government of Canada provides helpful tips on what to do during an earthquake.

There are a number of active and potentially active volcanoes in the Philippines. Pay careful attention to all warnings issued, avoid restricted areas and follow the advice of local authorities in the event of an eruption. Consult the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology for current information on earthquakes and volcanoes.