Where is it?
The Philippines is an archipelago bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east the Bashi Channel to the north the Sulu and the Celebes Seas to the south.
You can find us East of Vietnam, North of Indonesia.
The country is divided into the geographical areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Its capital, the City of Manila, is in Luzon. You can also enter through the cities of Cebu in the Visayas, and Davao in Mindanao.
Welcome to our isles.
We are made up of 7,107 islands. Some have grown into cities. Some are the epitome of tropical dreams. Some are just long enough to lay down on and get a tan.
Big. Small. Sandy. Sunny. Relaxing. Exotic. Beautiful. Our little clutch of islands make for one long stretch of beach – more than 15,500 kilometers. Here, no one is more than two hours away from a beach-side lounge chair — which explains why everybody knows how to smile and have fun!
- Capital – City of Manila
- Land Area – 300,780 square kilometers
- Population – 96 Million
- Average temperature – 78 degrees F/25 degrees C.
- Average humidity – 77%
- Currency – Philippine Peso (PHP)
- Government – Democratic Republic
- Head of State – President
- Religion – Predominantly Catholic. Muslim, Christian, Buddhist
- Electricity – 220 volts, A.C. 60 cycles. Though most hotels have 110-volt outlets.
- Water – Metropolitan Manila and many key cities and towns have ample supply of water. Bottled water is recommended for drinking purposes and is available pretty much anywhere.
What’s it like?
Every so often, you might come across an article about a new species of owl, fish or even lizard that’s just been discovered in the Philippines.
Our islands are hotbeds of life, with approximately 12,000 plant species, 1,100 land vertebrate species and at least 400 coral species.
And more are being discovered as you read this! We’re just shy of being 2,000 kilometers long from the tip of Luzon to the toe of Mindanao, but we are host to a lot of mosts. The island with the most volcanoes per square kilometer. The most mangrove species in the world. The most bio-diverse reef system. We have extensive mountain ranges to hike through, underwater landscapes to dive in, flat plains to drive across, cave systems to explore, waterfalls, rock faces, rivers, lakes – and, of course, much more.
If you want the bright & sunny, tropical glory of the Philippines, plan your trip between the summer months of March and May.
It will be hot and dry, but that’s what beaches, sunblock and straw hats are for! Want things a little bit cooler? Then November to February are best for you. We’d say avoid the rainy season from June to October, but a good traveler knows that off-peak season means lower rates in airfares, hotels, resorts — and maybe the beer too.
Just be forewarned that the months between July and September are characterized by typhoons. Some parts of the country such as Cebu and Davao, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year. For up-to-date weather information, visit the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Adminstration (PAGASA) website: www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph or call the PAGASA 24-hour hotline (632) 4338526.
What to Wear
Welcome to island life! All you’ll need are light, casual clothes. Typical outfit for the mall or sightseeing outdoors: Shorts, flip-flops & a shirt. Typical outfit for watching movies or going to churches or museums: Jeans/pants, a shirt, closed shoes.
For formal occasions, men are encouraged to wear the Philippine barong tagalog. Quentin Tarantino and Jeremy Renner have! But dinner jackets and ties will still do. For women, a more traditional look would incorporate butterfly sleeves a la Imelda Marcos. But cocktail dresses or long gowns are accepted and more contemporary.
A lot of establishments refuse entry to people in slippers or “sando” (men’s undershirts). Bring warming clothes if you’re traveling to the mountain regions. Quick-dry ones if you’re hitting the water or the beach. Good to have: Mosquito repellent or long-sleeved tops against bites. And of course, sunscreen against sun burns!
Welcome to the global capital for SMS and social media. Here, keeping in touch is definitely not a problem. Mobile phone sites are all over the country. We have 2 major mobile connectivity providers (Globe and Smart), plus three to four secondary ones. It’s fairly easy to pick up a new pre-paid SIM card and start texting or calling away.
Top-ups are widely available from most anywhere, usually in places with signs saying “LOAD DITO” (top-up here). “Load” is the common term for mobile connectivity credit. Internet & email services are widely available through most establishments, with more and more offering them for free. Free Wireless Fidelity (WIFI), in particular, is gaining popularity in commercial establishments, especially in Metro Manila and other cities. Just look for the Free WiFi sign on the door.
With a 3G+ network available, your own mobile phone can hook you into the web. Or you could do as most locals do and duck into an internet café. These are to be found in all shapes and sizes all over the country. Of course, the country is wired with international and national direct dial phone and facsimile service. You can access them in malls, restaurants, hotels, internet cafés, business centers, PLDT, Globetel or Bayan offices.
Aside from the postal system, worldwide express delivery service is available. LBC, FedEx, DHL, 2Go, are just some of the active couriers. Majority of national dailies are in English. You’ll find foreign publications at major hotels, malls and bookstores in Metro Manila and key cities.
Thanks to the Filipino love of food, visitors won’t run out of options for their meals. You get a buffet of options – first class restaurants with world-class chefs, world cuisine, family-style dining places, simple grilleries, “carinderias”, cafeterias and food court stalls. “Halal” and kosher food are available.
Healthful, natural and organic food products have also increased considerably. As a result, major supermarkets including selected dining establishments now carry a wide array of organically-grown fruits, vegetables, condiments, and grains to cater to the health-conscious.
Night Life and Gaming
Whether you’re in a party-packed street or shoreline, refreshments here are served almost everywhere. DJs come from all over the world to party with us. And it’s probably because of our sunny weather and good nature that we know how to have a good time.
Challenge a local to some karaoke and you’ll be singing till sunrise! Manila’s nightlife is one of the most vibrant in Asia. Get a taste of it at the different hotspots around the metro: Malate, Manila; Greenbelt, Glorietta, and Rockwell Center, Makati City; The Fort at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Resorts World Manila, Pasay City; Timog and Tomas Morato Avenues, and Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City; Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Clubs, bars, music lounges, pubs and sing-along bars feature Filipino bands and singers known for their exceptional musical talents. De luxe hotels offer a variety of live musical entertainment. And there’s always a concert or stage play to score tickets to.
For visitors who want to try their luck at the gaming tables, there are the large casino complexes at the Bay area or near NAIA Terminal 3. Apart from Metro Manila, you can try your luck in the cities of Angeles, Olongapo, Tagaytay, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, and Laoag.
What to Buy
Filipinos, you’ll find, are crazy about shopping. In fact, every capital of the country has a shopping center. So whether you find yourself in the city, in the middle of a beautiful island resort, or even relaxing in an outrigger boat, you can always go for some casual retail therapy. If you’re a professional shopper though, willing to spend whole days of “finding something to buy”, our malls are sure to keep you occupied.
Try SM Mall of Asia or SM North, two of the biggest in the world. For the more adventurous, try the Divisoria area and its 168 mall. This area is the backbone of Manila’s buy & sell trade — blocks and blocks of no-frills bargain-shopping. You will definitely find it hard to leave empty-handed. If you enjoy the bargain-hunting but would like to avoid the heat, try Greenhills shopping center in Mandaluyong City or Market Market mall in Taguig City.
What to Buy
There’s an exciting selection of great buys in a country known for export-quality items at reasonable prices: South Sea pearls, hand-woven cloths, embroidered fineries, terracotta and porcelain, coral and mother-of-pearl accessories. Pineapple fiber, prehistoric jars, native handicrafts, and handmade footwear are interesting items, too.
The Philippines also produces fine furniture, basketry, exquisitely crafted jewelry, and gift items made of shell, wood, and stone. Shop for handicrafts, antiques and souvenirs in Manila’s Quiapo district: ilalimngtulay (literally, “under the bridge”). The Ermita and Malate districts in Manila, Tiendesitas in Pasig City.
Market Market in Taguig, The Kultura shop in SM malls, and most department stores also stock up on a wide selection of excellent, local handicrafts and souvenirs. Of course, don’t forget to check out the souvenir center or central dry market of the particular province or town you’re in. Every region has its own particular craft, material or delicacy. And some, like our dried mangoes, are deservedly world-famous. For a start, you can browse some of our products at http://otopphilippines.org
Hospitals and clinics in the country are manned by highly skilled and competent doctors, nurses and health care workers, typically in demand all over the world. Together with modern equipment found in the best city hospitals, the Filipino brand of caring and compassion makes sure you’re well taken care of.
The country boasts of a wide variety of medical healthcare groups to choose from. There are private as well as government-run medical facilities, hospitals and clinics. Most hotels and resorts have medical assistance protocols ready. Towns and cities have health centers that provide emergency medical attention.
As a pioneer convention city in Asia, Manila has hosted its share of prestigious international events. The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the country’s convention showpiece, was built to accommodate 4,000 delegates in the Plenary Hall and 5,700 persons in the Reception Hall.
Other venues of varying sizes and facility grades can be found throughout Metro Manila, like the World Trade Center or the SMX Convention Center. While Subic Bay, Cebu city, Davao City and Baguio city – with their own convention centers and large hotels – also regularly host large delegations.
For more information regarding holding a convention in the Philippines, email the Tourism Promotions Board through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I stay?
Happy with just a hammock? Or can’t live outside a hotel suite?
Want to be steps away from the beach? Or right on the water?
Prefer cool mountain temperatures to air-conditioned city rooms?
From rustic to ritzy, quaint to boutique, the Philippines has as many types of accommodations as it has islands. Most popular destinations will give you options that run up (or down) the budget scale.
You can easily book your preferred accommodation through your favorite travel booking websites, your preferred travel agents or directly through the accommodation websites. If you don’t have an advanced booking, the local Tourism office can easily find a place for you. They’ll even help you to the door if they’re free. Instant friends!
When choosing a place to stay, it’s best to check for DOT accreditation. DOT uses the standard international 5-star system, so it’s easier for you to compare.
Homestays. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has a Homestay Program for cultural destinations in the country. These let you experience our way of life while getting to know our people up close.
To inquire about a homestay, email email@example.com.
Electrical Current. 220 volts, 60 Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used. A transformer is necessary for appliances with electrical current of 110 volts. Most places will have extra transformers for their guests. Feel free to borrow one!
How can I get around?
Fly within the country on our local airlines. You’ll find information on flight schedules, destinations, booking, and on-line ticketing on their websites:
Cebu Pacific – www.cebupacificair.com
Interisland Airlines – www.interislandairlines.com
Philippine Airlines (PAL) – www.philippineairlines.com
Air Philippines – www.airphils.com
SEA Air – http://flyseair.com/
Zest Airlines – www.zestair.com.ph
You can also take a chartered flight to major domestic destinations and island resorts.
If you prefer traveling by boat, try the roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ships between Manila and the country’s major ports.
To and from smaller islands, take fast sea crafts and other ferry services. Resorts also offer island hopping by banca (small, local boat), or fishermen and other locals offer their boats for hire. The Visayas region in particular, has a robust network of inter-island boats.
For commercial options, tickets are available through ticketing and travel agents. Schedules are published in dailies and the Buy & Sell publication.
It is possible to travel by air-conditioned bus from Manila to nearly all major destinations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. There is also a National Railway, that, sadly, only really transects Southern Luzon. Some of the trains have recently been replaced or refurbished though, so if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a viable way to get from Manila to Legazpi. Within Metropolitan Manila, take the Light Railway Transit (LRT). It’s the fastest and most economical way to travel throughout the metropolis: LRT Line 1 – to go to and from the Roosevelt in the north to Baclaran in the south. LRT Line 2 – to go to and from Recto Avenue to Santolan St. in the eastern part of the metropolis. The Metro Rail Transport (MRT) Line 3 – to go through Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), Metro Manila’s main circumferential road. Stations are located at major intersections of Makati City, Ortigas, and Cubao.
If there are no LRT lines where you’re going, take a bus or metered taxi. You’ll find taxis in Manila and major parts of Metro Manila, and they can usually be flagged down right where you’re standing. For short distances within the city, try taking a public utility jeepney (PUJ) or a tricycle.
You can also download various mobile applications to help you get a cab or car. Depending on these mobile apps, passenger may pay by credit card or cash.
For more info on the Philippine National Railway – http://www.pnr.gov.ph/
The Light Railway Transit (LRT) – http://www.lrta.gov.ph/
The Metrotren (MRT) – http://www.dotcmrt3.gov.ph/
Some helpful blogs for getting around Manila
Better yet, ask a local for directions. It’ll be fun!
If you’d like to try our roads, an international driver’s license is valid for up to three months. There are car rental services available in major cities, just ask your hotel to assist you. It might be easier to go around with a local driver, so you won’t have to worry about navigation and local traffic rules. Off-roading is popular in the Philippines though, so if you’re into that, there are local 4WD groups in most adventure destinations.
Underbone motorcycles are also available for rent in most of the cities. If your hotel can’t help you and you don’t spot a “Motorcycle for rent” sign anywhere, just approach any tricycle driver for a lead.
Want to know more about our 7,107 islands? Join a tour. Day trips to five-day programs will help you discover as much about the country as you want.Go scuba diving, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, trekking, spelunking, or game fishing. Whether it’s a safari or a round of golf you’re into, you can do it here. In one day, you can hike through a valley of volcanic ash to jump into a crater-turned-lake in a volcano (Mt.Pinatubo). In three days, you can learn to dive and drop in on world-class reefs (Puerto Galera or Anilao). In five, you can go from tribe to tribe along the longest mountain range intersecting the Philippines’ largest land mass (Sierra Madre-Kalinga).There are a variety of itineraries to fill your days! And subsequent visits!
For information on tours you may contact:
Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) PTAA
Address: Secretariat 12-1G EGI Rufino Plaza Taft corner Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue Pasay City, Philippines
Tel No: (632) 5520026 to 29
Fax No: (632) 5520030
Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA)
Address: 1717 Cityland 10 Tower 1 H.V. dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Tel No: (632) 8124513
Fax No: (632) 8174608
How do I get to the Philippines?
The international airports are located in Cebu, Clark, Davao, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Manila, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals 1, 2 and 3 in Manila are the premier gateways.
They serve more than 30 airlines that fly to different cities around the world. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in Lapu-Lapu City handles regular flights from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Doha and China as well as chartered flights from the United States, and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport (also known as Francisco Bangoy International Airport) handles flights from Singapore and other chartered flights.
The DiosdadoMacapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City, Pampanga currently services low-cost or budget airlines and chartered flights while Subic in Olongapo City services both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services flights from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Philippine Airlines (PAL), the country’s flag carrier, flies to and from 14 cities in eight countries. www.philippineairlines.com.
The younger Cebu Pacific Air, also a flag carrier, is known for its budget flights and frequent seat sales. www.cebupacificair.com. Apart from international flights, major cruise liners also stop at the port of Manila.
You’ll find these travel facilities at the international airports: Duty-free and souvenir shops Tourist information and assistance counters with meet-and-assist personnel Hotel and travel agency representatives Car-rental services Medical clinics Baggage-deposit areas Free to use luggage carts Police Prayer Rooms and Chapel NAIA in particular, has banks, postal service, a medical clinic, a pharmacy, chapels, salon, sauna and massage services. Airports are handicapped-friendly. For wheelchair assistance, just ask any of the airline ground staff for one.
You’ll find counters for hotel transport and car rental services at all the airports, just past the Arrivals gates. Metered taxis and rent-a-cars, even van rentals, are readily available at the international airports for transportation to the city proper or beyond. Hotel transport can be arranged with hotel representatives at designated counters at the arrival lobby of the airport
As of writing (September 2012), the airport fee for international departures is Php 550.00, but it is scheduled to increase to Php 750 before the year ends. NAIA has a Php200 fee for domestic flights, but it is already included in your ticket fare. Domestic terminals around the country charge their own fee. Though preparing Php100-200 should cover it. Children under two (2) years of age, transit passengers are exempt from airport fees. Please note that fees may change without prior notice.
Baggage carts and porter services are available free of charge. Tipping is optional though traditional.
1 Philippine Peso (Php) = 100 centavos.
Bank notes: Php20, Php50, Php100, Php200, Php500, Php1,000. Coins: 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, Php1, Php5, Php10. Foreign currency may be exchanged at most hotels, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Feel free to tip waiters, drivers, porters, housekeepers, salon staff, barbers, and other service providers. A tip of 10% of the total bill is the usual practice. But if the bill already includes a 10% service charge, tipping is optional.
Business and Banking Hours
Private and government offices are usually open between 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Most banks close by 4:00 p.m. But ATMs – some with Cirrus, Citi and Maestro tie-ups for international withdrawals – are common in most cities and major towns. Most shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with hours extending until 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. They usually stay open until 11pm during peak Christmas season.
You can also watch out for the Midnight Sales, when they stay open until, well, midnight. Thanks to the Philippines’ fast growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, more and more establishments in major cities have 24/7 service. Apart from convenience stores, fast-food outlets like McDonald’s and Jollibee can serve up your burger while your body clock’s still adjusting.
Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, American Express & JBC and other credit and debit cards are widely accepted at major stores, restaurants, and hotels.
Foreign Exchange and Regulations
It is illegal for any incoming or outgoing passenger to bring in or take out Philippine Pesos in excess of P10,000.00 without prior authority from the BangkoSentralngPilipinas. Any violation of this rule may lead to the money’s seizure and civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution. (BSP Circular 98-1995)
The transportation of foreign currency or monetary instruments is legal. However, the carrying of foreign currency in excess of US$10,000.00 or its equivalent in other foreign currencies must be declared to a Customs Officer or the BangkoSentralngPilipinas. Violation of this rule may lead to seizure and sanctions, fines and / or penalties. For more information about Bureau of Customs Passengers Guidelines, visit http://www.customs.gov.ph/bustravel.php
The Philippines has been experiencing a lift in its credit rating & general economic health. The Peso is currently stabilizing in the lower Php40s. For the latest exchange rate, check BangkoSentralngPilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) http://www.bsp.gov.ph
You can have your currency exchanged at most hotels, malls, banks and money exchange facilities.
Visa and Entry Information
Starting August 1, 2013, nationals from 151 countries including the United States and Canada may enter the Philippines without a visa and stay for a maximum of thirty (30) days, provided they are holders of a passport valid at least six (6) months beyond the period of stay in the Philippines, and present a return or outward bound ticket to their country of origin or to a next country of destination.
Pursuant to the Bureau of Immigration’s Memorandum Circular No. RADJR-2013-006. For the list of 151 countries, please click here. Chinese Nationals, including citizens for Hong Kong and Taiwan, will need a special permit.
The Philippines is fortunate to be free from epidemics. The country remains safe from bird flu and foot-and-mouth diseases. If you’re coming from an area where yellow fever has been reported, you’ll need a certificate of vaccination. For more information, visit http://www.doh.gov.ph/
Before leaving the plane, you will be asked to fill out the Baggage Declaration Form. The following items are allowed duty-free:
- A reasonable quantity of personal clothes, jewelry, and toiletries
- Two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco
- Up to two (2) liters of alcohol
The following items are prohibited:
- Dangerous Drugs
- Pornographic Materials
The following items are regulated:
- DVDs and VCDs
- Controlled chemicals/substances/precursors
The following items are restricted and require prior import permits and health, sanitary or phytosanitary certificates:
- Foreign agricultural products, such as animals, plants, wildlife
- Their products and by-products, such as meat, eggs, fruit
- Endangered species
“Balikbayans” have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their current residence.
Foreign Exchange Regulations
It is illegal for any incoming or outgoing passenger to bring in or take out Philippine Pesos in excess of P10,000.00 without prior authority from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Any violation of this rule may lead to the money’s seizure and civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution. (BSP Circular 98-1995). The transportation of foreign currency or monetary instruments is legal. However, the carrying of foreign currency in excess of US$10,000.00 or its equivalent in other foreign currencies must be declared to a Customs Officer or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Violation of this rule may lead to seizure and sanctions, fines and / or penalties.
For more information about Bureau of Customs Passengers Guidelines, visit http://www.customs.gov.ph/bustravel.php