Philippine Travel Tips
Are you travelling to the Philippines? Whether you are coming for work, for leisure or for an adventure, these travel tips might be able to help you prepare for the trip.
THINGS TO BRING (aside from nice, light, clothing, of course)
1. Insect Repellant
There are all sorts of insects that you should watch out for. Mosquitos can be found almost everywhere – so be sure to bring some Insect Repellant (or you can buy a local, organic bottle from Human Nature). This will save you from itchy bites which can be (not always) dangerous.
2. Swim Wear
The Philippines has so many beautiful beaches, waterfalls, natural springs, lakes and rivers. The humidity and heat are also intense, so a dip in a pool is always refreshing. Hotels, resorts and some tourist spots require proper swim wear (a bathing suit, trunks, etc.) – but don’t be surprised to find guests and locals alike, jumping into the ocean in whatever it is they are wearing.
3. Light Jacket / Sweater
Although the weather is quite hot, it would be good idea to bring a light jacket. You may catch yourself in the middle of the monsoon/typhoon season or in airconditioned rooms or vehicles. There are some buses that go from Manila to certain provinces that have their airconditioning on to the coldest temperatures (sometimes even a sweater isn’t enough).
It’s always a good idea to bring a small umbrella wherever you go. If you have one of those automatic umbrellas that open at a press of a button and (even better) close shut when you press a button – then you’ve got gold.
5. Black Pen
A pen will always come in handy – for writing notes, to signing forms (and who knows – maybe even to protect yourself).
Not all stores accept credit cards. Unless you are in a very urban area (like Metro Manila), be ready with cash (the local currency is the Philippine Peso). While taking public transportation, make sure your money is in smaller denominations (PHP 20, PHP 50, PHP 100) – it’s highly possible the driver may not have change for you if you give him a big bill (PHP 500 or PHP 1000)
Even if you aren’t going into the jungles of the Philippines or going camping in one of the far off islands, it is always a good idea to have a small flashlight with you. You never know when a power outage might hit (more often in the rural areas and in the provinces).
8. Hand Sanitizer
Find a small bottle of hand sanitizer that you can bring around with you. Not all bathrooms or comfort rooms may have soap, toilet paper, paper hand towels or even water.
BATHROOMS or COMFORT ROOMS
We all need to use the bathroom or toilet at some point (many points actually) of any trip. If you are on the road, at the mall or some touristy place, remember number 8 (referring to the hand sanitizer). Bring some tissue or toilet paper or even some pocket soap. You never know when you’ll need those. Or you can buy some at a local grocery or convenience store.
Going on a road trip? If you are anything like my family, we stop about 4 times on a 10 hour car ride from Manila to Bicol. The best stops for a toilet break are the gasoline stations (Petron stations are relatively clean). Again – they will most probably have no toilet paper and soap. Most of the time, there is water (but don’t be surprised if there isn’t any).
There are some shopping areas that have their regular comfort room and a pay lounge (which can range from PHP10 to PHP20). The pay lounge would have less people, probably cleaner and with soap, toilet paper, hand lotion, among other things).
Take note that the electrical outlets in the Philippines are 220V. That means, if you have your 110V appliance or gadget and plug it in, it may just get destroyed. Double check your phones, gadgets and whatever it is you plan on bringing and using. Most cellular phones now you can plug in either 110V or 220V – but it is always good to check and recheck.
Cash is always best when transacting with the small businesses. Unless you are at a shopping district in the metropolis, it’s possible that nobody will accept your credit card.
The shopping malls in Metro Manila have legit money changers that normally charge a fair price (better than the banks) if you are changing at least 100USD. The smaller the bills the exchange rate isn’t as great.
Not all banks will exchange currencies other than US Dollars.
As for the ATM – just make sure you’re ready for the service charge each time you withdraw (it depends on the arrangement between your bank and the local bank in the Philippines – but it can be as much as PHP200/transaction).
If you are accustomed to pedestrian lanes and drivers being cautious while driving through pedestrian crossings, it would be good to know that in the Philippines, you may need to be more alert. Unfortunately, the metropolis does not have a lot of public walking spaces (sidewalks, parks). Unless you are in the business district in Makati, it may be a challenge to walk around without bumping into people, stores, motorcycles or bikes. Always ALWAYS look both ways before crossing (and don’t expect a vehicle to stop for you).
2. Keep close watch over your things
You can never say this too many times – never leave your bag (or camera or phone) unattended. This is not to say that locals are thieves and will grab your bag at any opportunity – but anywhere in the world, you should be careful. It also is a source of temptation to those who may really just be hungry or in need. Some areas may be more prone to pickpockets than others – just always stay alert and don’t call too much attention to yourself by bringing things that you really don’t need anyway (i.e. flashy jewelry). Keep your other important things in your hotels safe (like your passport! bring around a photocopy of your passport though).
3. Going out at night
If you are in the busy business district or in a place where all the restaurants and bars are at – then just be careful and alert like in any place. Don’t go scampering off into the dark alleys of random cities or towns though. You may find good people – but you can also find a group of not-so-good people (or not so sober people).
4. Use Your Front Pockets
Put your money or cellular phone in your front pocket. It is easier for a pickpocket to grab things from behind. If you have a belt bag or a money belt you can use that too – anything that will allow you to feel or see anything suspicious.
FOOD AND WATER
1. Drinking Water
Don’t drink the tap water. It may be best to buy bottled water for you to drink. Consider asking restaurants not to put ice in your soda. If you’re in town for just a few days, it may be best not to be too adventurous with doing what the locals do so it doesn’t ruin your vacation. Give your stomach some time to get used to whatever is there if you really want to accept what is given (i.e. house water or tea).
2. Street Food
This is one of the most authentic experiences one can get when visiting any country. This Philippines has it’s own share of great tasting street food. Just remember that most of these food carts are not registered and most probably have no sanitary permits. It’s good stuff – but just be cautious about which food cart you choose.
Get ready for rice. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is normally a set of steamed rice and a meat, fish or vegetable dish. We love rice. Don’t forget to try the different “kakanin” (rice cakes) that you can have for snacks.
Compared to the United States, Canada and Europe, the Philippines has cheaper cigarettes. That doesn’t mean you can smoke anywhere though. Bring nicotine patches or chewing gum to help you through long flights or bus rides. If you are under the age of 18, most stores will not allow you to buy cigarettes. Take note of no-smoking establishments and cities (yes, there are local governments in the Philippines that do not allow smoking in public areas or the sale of cigarettes).
There are different modes of transportation and it would be best to have a whole article or page dedicated to this. But just so you know, you can choose from the following:
This works like any taxi around the world. Some areas may have a taxi queue though, where everyone is lined up waiting for their turn for the next taxi to come up.
There are the buses that run through the city and the buses that go from the metropolis to the province. You can choose between the airconditioned buses and the regular (non-airconditioned) buses.
3. Boat / Ferry
The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, so it makes sense that travelling via the sea would be an option for getting around as well. Some ferry’s (called RORO’s – for Roll-On Roll-Off) allow vehicles to roll on, and then roll off at the destination.
There are several domestic carriers in the Philippines for you to choose from – PAL (Philippine Airlines and PAL Express) and Cebu Pacific. You can book flights online (with a credit card) or at ticketing agents office.
5. Pedicab (also known as a Padyak)
This is a bicycle with a sidecar. Most small towns (actually, even cities) have these lined up at the curb, waiting for customers that need to get somewhere.
This is a motorcycle with a sidecar. Just like the pediab, the tricycles are lined up at the curb (or you can flag them down) waiting for people that need a ride. Be ready to share the sidecar or sit behind the driver on the motorbike.
My personal favourite among the modes of transportation in the Philippines is the jeepney. The jeepney, like the bus, follows a specific route (which you can find painted on the sides). You can flag them down (or you will get flagged down by their barkers trying to get you into their jeepney) and shout “Para” when you’re ready to get off. Pass your payment to the front with the help of the other passengers (and your change will be sent back).
Other source for travel tips in the Philippines: