Quite a stranger amongst its Southeast Asian neighbours, the Philippines offer quite a change to the weary traveller. Monks are replaced by priests, the usual tuk-tuk by jeepneys and long-tail boats turn into pump boat with outriggers on their sides. From North to South, the Philippines offer a variety of landscapes, from rice terraces to sandy white beaches.
Over seven thousand islands are part of the archipelago of the Philippines. Located in South-East Asia, the Philippines is a fusion of many local cultures and ethnic groups, with the foreign influences of the colonial Spanish Empire. It is composed of three main regions, from North to South : Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
From treks through rice terraces of Banaue to scuba-diving in the blue waters of Boracay, the country offers a variety of activities to discover and enjoy. However, one thing to be aware of is the situation in some parts of the country such as Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. Please check with your embassy for up-to-date information.
Money and ATM
There are many ATMs scattered around the country and it should be no problem to withdraw money in the Philippines. However, note that some ATMs will charge you a transaction fee. As another option, you may wish to exchange foreign currency for Pesos.
Although foreign exchange counters are not so numerous, you will be able to change foreign currency in banks. Be aware of banks’ operating hours, generally from 9am to 3pm, weekdays only.
Visa and Embassies
Most country nationals may enter the Philippines without a visa for up to 30 days. Just be sure to present a passport valid at least 6 months after your departure date and a return or onward ticket. Be aware that you may not be able to check into a flight to the Philippines if you cannot present such return or outbound ticket.
If you wish to stay longer, you may apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration to obtain an extra 29 days in the country. If you wish to obtain 59-days stay straight away, you may directly apply for a visa at any Embassies of Philippines before your trip.
Health in the Philippines
Most of the diseases in the Philippines are spread by mosquitoes or water. Although you may be exposed to malaria, but dengue fever is the most common illness. There is no preventative drugs nor any cure, only be sure to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by applying mosquito repellent and wearing long-sleeve clothing. Similar in symptoms to the flu, dengue fever will have you confined in bed for a week. If you plan on trekking in rural areas, get vaccinated against the Japanese encephalitis.
Tap water, other than in the big cities such as Manila, is usually not safe to drink. Be sure to boil it first, or only consume bottled-water. Most tourists will get, at some point, the “traveler’s diarrhea”. Worst case scenario, you may get infected with hepatitis A and B.
Best time of year in Philippines
Although some slight variations may be observed from region to region, in general, a year can be split in two : dry season in the Philippines starts in January and ends in June, monsoon season lasts from July to December. In this latter part of the year, avoid in particular the period from May to November when typhoons in the Philippines are most common.
Temperatures in the Philippines are generally quite pleasant. Expect around 25°C (77°F) all year round.
How to get there?
There are many international airports in the Philippines, although you will most likely fly into Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. From there, you may catch domestic flights in the Philippines out to Cebu, Clark or Davao, amongst others. It may be interesting to book an open jaw ticket, so you won’t have to go back to the capital to fly out. Check out Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines or Tiger Air !
Be aware that you will be required to pay a departure tax, around 15USD. Please check whether this is already included in your ticket when booking.
Divers of all levels can discover the local home reef directly from the shore, or hop on a boat for a day tour or a liveaboard. Recently certified divers will appreciate the easy waters of Boracay. This is the spot to dive with manta rays. Many WWII ships await wreck divers in Coron, in Palawan region. This may also be an opportunity to try diving in geothermal hot lake. Near Legazpi, whale sharks can be spotted while diving in Donsol. Turtles, eagle rays and barracudas are to be seen in Puerto Galera. Dumaguete caters to more experienced divers attracted to small sea creatures such as nudibranches and transparent shrimps.