In the Philippines are over 7,100
islands, there are white sandy beaches, black sandy beaches, palm
trees and deciduous forests, there is a thriving nightlife and party
scene, there are rice terraces, thousands of churches, absolutely
charming and friendly people, deserted coves and islands and
hedonistic beach resorts, volcanoes and mountains, clear blue seas
and skies, ridiculously cheap beers and local spirits, shaman and
old tribal customs, multi-coloured transportation, English is widely
spoken, jungle treks and hiking, historical landmarks, basketball,
cock fighting, some of the best shopping in the world, fantastic
food, immense grace, pristine coral reefs with diverse eco systems,
jeepneys, bikes and noise, solitude and tranquillity, spas, thermal
springs, sea journeys, adventures, kiteboarding and windsurfing,
easy access, value for money, great high end restaurants and
delicious street food, whale sharks, trikes, sunbathing, banca
boats, lots of different visitors, a huge range of accommodation
choices, surfing, golf and of course... Scuba Diving!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL?
The majority of tourists visit The Philippines between November and
May which is considered to be dry season. However, in December and
January you should still be prepared to see a little rain. February
through to May are generally warm, dry months with cooler night time
temperatures and make for a pleasant time to visit.
The average temperature ranges from 24 degrees centigrade (low) and
34 degrees centigrade (high).
2. IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL? ARE THERE PLACES TO AVOID?
Like any country in the world, The Philippines has its share of
touts, pickpockets and others happy to take advantage of travellers.
However, the problem is certainly no worse here than any other city
or country in Asia. If you take the usual sensible precautions such
as watching your valuables, not flashing around huge amounts of
cash, avoiding certain areas late at night and so on then you should
have no problems at all. Hotel and resort staff will always be able
to give you local advice. Incidentally, aside from the usual minor
hassles itís actually a very safe and easy place for women to travel
in. For families itís a joy as children are much loved and
3. WHAT ARE THE VISA REQUIREMENTS AND CUSTOM FORMALITIES?
Philippines allows visa free stays to most foreign nationals, but
all visitors entering Philippines must be in possession
of a valid passport or other internationally recognized
travel documents, endorsed for traveling in the Philippines
and with a validity period of at least six months beyond
the time of stay allowed in Philippines.
As regulations may change from time to time, it is advisable
to check with the nearest Philippines Embassy before your
4. DO'S AND DON'T'S?
Stick to bottled water - do not drink from the tap even in the most
luxurious resort. Bottled water can be bought all throughout the
country. Eat at established restaurants; traditional food stalls may
look inviting but unless your system is adjusted to the local food
preparation, they are best avoided. This is especially true for
peeled or cut fruit, raw fish and ice cubes. Also it is wise to
guard against sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion.
5. WHAT MONEY SHOULD I TAKE?
The unit of currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). The US dollar is
the most widely recognised foreign currency and there are many
places where you can change peso for dollar. You will find that some
resorts and centres will quote prices in dollars as well as pesos.
Within Metro Manila it is also easy to exchange British pounds,
Euros, Hong Kong dollars and so on.
We would advise that you always use
authorised banks or money changers. The majority of larger towns
have ATMís where you should be able to withdraw money. However,
facilities for money withdrawal or changing are far less widespread
away from the main centres of population. Always ensure that you
carry enough cash on you to cover taxis, food and drink and any
other sundries you may need whilst travelling.
Visa, MasterCard, and American
Express are accepted in all major establishments but again, in some
of the locations away from the city, you may be required to pay an
extra 5-8% surcharge for their use. It is possible to withdraw cash
on your credit or debit cards in some banks or tourist centres.
Travellers cheques are widely accepted and are an ideal way to carry
6. WHAT LANGUAGE WILL THEY UNDERSTAND?
Officially the national language of The Philippines is Filipino.
This language is based on Tagalog which is the most widely used of
the over 70 languages within the country, and we have listed some
useful phrases below.
When you listen closely to Tagalog you will recognise the evolving
nature of language as it contains both Spanish and Chinese words and
has many similarities to some Malay and Indonesian languages. This
is a reflection of both the migratory and colonial history of this
Fortunately for the
less linguistic, the use of English is also prevalent throughout the
country and especially in tourist destination. Signs are written in
English and the vast majority of labelling is also done in English.
This makes it a very easy country to travel and stay in.
You may well come across a kind of
combo-language (particularly in the cities) where people will speak
Taglish a combination of Tagalog and English. Incredibly you will
overhear conversations when the language is often switched backwards
and forwards mid-sentence!
As ever, when speaking English to
those around you, please remember that it may not be someoneís first
(or even second) language so please speak slowly and coherently. And
remember, always with a smile.
7. HOW ABOUT MY HEALTH?
Before coming here please check with your Doctor or health
counsellor about any inoculations you may need. Malaria is only a
potential problem in a few remote rural areas, again check with
health professionals for latest advice.
There are pharmacies throughout The
Philippines and most have the usual medicines available, if you have
very specific requirements then you should bring them with you.
The climate is hot and sunny so
wear sun block, do not spend too long in the sun and drink lots of
water and non-alcoholic liquids.
Unless otherwise advised do not
drink tap water. Mineral water is cheap and available everywhere.
8. WHAT FOOD WILL I FIND?
Given the history of the country it is not surprising that
Philippines food is a blend of Eastern and Western influences. Like
its Asian neighbours rice is the staple food and is served with most
meals, however the use of chillies and hot spices is not widespread
and the food is a little gentler in flavour.
Philippines food tends to be quite
simple with the emphasis on delicious fresh grilled or fried fish
and shellfish, grilled and stewed chicken or pork. Seasonings and
flavours usually come from vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic,
onions, black peppercorns pepper, fish sauce and coconut.
You are likely to see the following
at some stage on local menus:
Adobo: a stew made from
chicken, pork or squid
Kare-kare: oxtail or chicken in gravy sauce
Lumpia: vegetable spring rolls
Sinigang: a slightly sour soup, flavoured with tamarind,
served with rice
Siopao: steamed savoury filled buns
Kilawin: raw fish marinaded in coconut, calamnsi juice and
vinegar (and our favourite!)
Lechon is probably the national dish and is served at fiestas and
special occasions. Lechon (or Litson) is a suckling pig slowly
roasted over coals and tastes exceptionally good.
Step into any supermarket or market
and you will see a huge range of tropical fruits and vegetables.
Needless to say, the mangoes are superb but you will find bananas,
pineapples, melons, apples and citrus. Different seasons bring
avocados, rambutans, lychees, guava and papaya. Strawberries and
raspberries can even be found and are grown in the cooler hill side
areas around Baguio. Popular vegetables include spinach, celery,
okra and potatoes.
All around the country you will see
bake shops filled with locally made breads, cakes and pastries.
Street food is very popular for locals and tourists alike and head
of the list is probably small bbq sticks of chicken, pork or
kidneys. Cooked on the spot and costing very little these are a
great on the move snack.
Finally halo halo is an ice based
drink / dessert which comes complete with jelly, beans, sweet corn,
sugar, colouring and just about anything else!
With all the fresh fruits available
juices and shakes are a common feature on all menus, are good value
and very refreshing Ė particular favourites include mango shakes,
water melon juice and buko (fresh coconut milk) juice.
The major brewery here is San
Miguel and it is practically a national institution. San Miguel
produce several types of beer and it is cheap and available
everywhere. Needless to say, it finds a fair degree of support
within the tourism sector.
The large amount of sugar cane
production throughout the islands means that like the Caribbean, the
spirit of choice is rum. For many people the perfect way to end the
day is to sip on a rum based cocktail and watch the sun go down over
9. HOW IS THE SHOPPING AND WHAT DO I TIP?
Manila is a huge bustling
cosmopolitan Asian city with a large array of shops, malls,
restaurants, clubs and bars. Manila is composed of quite
distinctive areas; Intramuros is the old walled area of the town
and it is still possible to walk along the walls and visualise
how this historical part of the city once looked. Binondo
contains Chinatown, the streets and alleys of this area provide
a fantastic experience for food lovers. Malate and Ermita
districts are popular for students and tourists and run on to
the Bay of Manila. Makati is perhaps the heart of the city and
contains the Central Business District and the best hotels,
restaurants and nightlife.
Greenbelt, located in Makati, is
one of the finest malls in Asia and has a good number of
excellent wining and dining establishments Ė most of which have
outdoor seating. International cuisine available includes
Filipino, Thai, Greek, Japanese, Korean, French and Spanish. For
night owls there are a wide range of bars and clubs that play
great music and stay open until the small hours. Neighbouring
Glorietta Shopping Mall is also excellent for buying food,
clothes, books, and electronics.
Within Makati there are also a
number or cinemas, theatres, museums, parks, hospitals and