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Practical Information to Know About the Philippines

Patrick
Written by Patrick

Essential Information

The following information is what you must know BEFORE traveling to the Philippines.

Visa

Most passport holders don’t need a visa to enter the Philippines.  As a tourist, you can visit the Philippines for 30 days.  You can extend your visa for an additional 30 days upon arrival at Manila and Cebu international Airports or any time within your first 30 days in the Philippines.

You can also extend your visa online via this website.

Use this website to verify that you are from a country which is eligible for a 30 day tourist visa. 

Best Time to Visit

It’s best to visit the country during the dry season. The dry season starts in late November and ends in May. The rainy seasons starts in June and lasts till October. September and October are often the typhoon season in the Philippines.

Christmas, like in most countries, is the busiest time of the year. It’s like a month-long celebration and traffic in big cities is usually worst. Big festivals in the Visayas take place every weekend of January.

The best time to beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May since it is summer in the Philippines. Booking for summer trips must be done as early as a month before the target schedule since resorts get fully booked early.

Being a tropical country, it is generally okay to visit all year round, however since the Philippine islands are within a typhoon belt, you may want to avoid the rainy season which is usually frequented by big typhoons.

READ MORE:  When & Where to Visit the Philippines: A Month by Month Guide

Climate

Climate in the Philippines could be tropical rainforest, tropical savanna or tropical monsoon and humid subtropical. It is characterized by high temperature, humidity, and plenty of rainfall.

READ MORE:  Climate in the Philippines:  Everything You Need to Know

Culture

The majority of Filipinos are Catholic.  Filipinos are very friendly and respectful.  Disrespectful behavior is not tolerated, especially towards the elderly.  Filipino are proud people, fun, easy going, and well known for their hospitality. 

READ MORE:  Cultural Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts in the Philippines

Language

English, the country’s official language along with Filipino (also referred to as Tagalog), is the medium of instruction in Philippine education so communication shouldn’t be hard since most Filipinos can understand English. In any case, it helps if you know a few Filipino words and phrases:

  • Yes = Oo
  • No = Hindi
  • None = Wala
  • Thank You = Salamat
  • No … Too much = ???
  • How are you? = Kamusta ka?
  • I love you = Mahal kita
  • I like you = Gusto kita

The use of “po” at the end of the sentence is often used to show respect to an elderly person you are speaking to. (Example: Salamat po!)

It is also worth noting that the country has over 180 dialects with every province or city having one or more dialects.

READ MORE:  What Languages are Spoken in the Philippines?

Money

The Philippines uses Philippine peso (P or PHP). To exchange your country’s currency to Philippine peso, you can have it done at the airport currency exchange, banks, foreign exchange counters of malls, and money changer kiosks found throughout the city.

READ MORE:  Money in the Philippines: Everything You Need to Know

Internet

Internet in the Philippines is expensive, in a sense you are not getting your money’s worth since it is usually intermittent, slow, or not working at all.

Smartphone users can buy prepaid SIM cards (Smart and Globe) with 4G data for P40 – P50. To use the SIM, you would need to purchase cellphone loads ranging from P1 to P1,000 to enable you to access the internet as well as make phone calls and send text messages. Loading stations are almost everywhere.

In case you are not keen on buying a new SIM card, most hotels, resorts and even restaurants and coffee shops provide free wifi for guests. Another option is to find an internet cafe available almost everywhere, even in small towns.

READ MORE: Internet & Phone Service in the Philippines

Additional Information

The following information is more practical information that is helpful to know BEFORE traveling to the Philippines.

Airports

Manila (MNL), Caticlan (MPH), Clark (CRK), Cebu (CEB), Davao (DVO), Iloilo (ILO), Puerto Princesa (PPS) are international gateways. Manila which is the main hub and served by more than 30 airlines for international flights.

Click here for detailed Information about each Airport in the Philippines

READ MORE: Frequently Asked Questions (with answers) About Air Travel in the Philippines

Business Hours

Business hours vary depending on the nature of business and local events. Businesses are normally open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 12 NOON or 3:00 PM Saturday and some are closed during Sundays with the exception of malls and restaurants which usually open at 10:00 AM and close at 9:00 PM. Some banks, especially in big cities, have varying schedules, as mentioned above, so it is best to check with the bank before going to the branch of your choice. With drug stores, some branches of bigger chains are open 24 hours.

  • Banks: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Post Office: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Private Businesses: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Government Offices: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Malls: 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Restaurants: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • National Museums: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Clubs & Bars: 6:00 PM – 12:00 or 2:00 AM

NOTE: During events like Christmas and New Year, business hours are usually extended to cater the rush and shortened during Holy Week.

Camping & Permits

The Philippines is lenient when it comes to camping permits since most mountains, beaches, and other camping sites do not require it. As long as you’ve settled the environmental fee and other mandatory fees, you’re good to go. Permits are usually required in protected or potentially risky areas only.

Car Hire

Hiring a car (chauffeured car) to take you to your target destinations makes for a convenient and comfortable trip. Some hotels or resorts have cars available for rent while some can help you arrange with car rental companies. Rental fee starts at P3,000 per day depending on the type of car.

Clothing (What to Wear)

It is best to wear comfortable clothes such as cotton T-shirts and blouses, lightweight pants, shorts, and sundresses. Generally, wearing shorts is not prohibited but you may want to avoid, along with other flesh-blaring clothing when visiting sacred places and worship houses. Flip-flops (sandals) are common footwear in the Philippines.

Cost Index

The cost of living in the Philippines is low so it’s a great destination for budget travelers. Moreover, there are luxury resorts and hotels as well for those who consider splurging.

Alcohol

  • Beer (330ml bottle)
    • Local and convenience stores – P35 – P50
    • Bars, clubs and restaurants – P45 – P60
  • Cocktail: P150 – P500

Gallon Gas: P196-P215/gallon | P52-P57/liter

Taxi

  • Metered (WHITE) Taxi
    • Flagdown (including the first 500 meters) – P40
    • Succeeding kilometer afterward – P13.50
    • Every minute of waiting on the road – P2
  • Airport (YELLOW) Taxi
    • Around 30% higher than metered taxi
  • Fixed Rate (COLORED) Taxi
    • Charges the highest but usually negotiable

Hostel/Hotel

  • Budget: P300 – P500 (shared or dorm-type), P600 – P1,500 (private)
  • Mid-range: P1,500 – P3,000
  • Luxury: P3,000+++

Crime & Safety

It is relatively safe to explore the Philippines, however, tourists should be cautious and are encouraged to avoid the hotspots. Kidnapping as well as clashes between the army and rebels likely to occur in the provinces of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao, Saranggani, Lanao and the cities of General Santos and Iligan. Just be vigilant and stay updated on the current situation and travel advisories.

Robbery, swindling and other crimes happen more frequently in big cities, so take measures to discourage such experience and secure your safety. Best to avoid wearing expensive jewelry and using your gadgets in the street especially the crowded one.

The following are several articles to help you avoid crime and stay safe while in the Philippines: 

Cultural Considerations

Filipinos are known for being hospitable and they tend to be tolerant of others especially of guests. However, tourists need to remember these do’s and don’ts to avoid offending anyone.

Dos

  • Be respectful especially to elders. Elders are given priority at all times like when paying at the counter and getting in a public transpo. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are often used to address people. The terms Tito (uncle), Tita (Auntie), kuya or manong (brother) and ate or manang (sister) are used in a less formal setting. Saying “thank you” and “please” can work to your advantage too.
  • Filipinos are naturally friendly people. They give the warmest smiles and willing to help, even strangers. Flashing a smile back when they give you theirs can gain you friends quickly. Waving and nodding back are equally desirable gestures.
  • Be understanding of their traditions and religious beliefs.

Don’ts

  • Filipinos are proud people. Do not insult them or their country.
  • Filipinos can be particular with the concept of shame or “hiya”. They try to behave in ways acceptable by society. If possible, don’t correct, more so, humiliate or embarrass a Filipino in public.
  • Don’t refuse food especially when effort has been done in cooking. But do not start eating until the host asked to do so. It is also important to remember to avoid calling a woman hosting the dinner “hostess”. The term has a different meaning in the Philippines.

READ MORE: Cultural Etiquette in the Philippines

Custom Regulations

The following are free import for all passengers 18 years old and above:

  • 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of pipe tobacco
  • 2 bottles of alcoholic beverages not exceeding 1 liter per bottle
  • 1 non-consumable item with a maximum value of $200 USD

Prohibited

Firearms, explosives and parts, gambling paraphernalia, marijuana, cocaine and other prohibited drugs, endangered species, pornographic materials, and items violating the Intellectual Property Rights (DVDs, VCDs and other imitation products).

Restricted

  • Plants and animals: Must have a permit to import
  • Currency: Amount exceeding $10,000 USD must be declared

Discounts & Deals

There are various travel discounts and deals you can find online. Sites such as MetroDeal.com and even Lazada.com offer a wide array of packages be it all-in package complete with flight booking, tours and accommodation, or tours or accommodation only. Most packaged tours are group tours so it is not for people who are not comfortable touring with others they just have met. Packaged tours are usually charged per person (also referred to as per pax) with a minimum number of persons availing the tour.

NOTE: Make sure to read and understand the fine print so you know what to expect. If you have questions … ASK!

When booking direct and on the spot for tours, transportation, or guides, haggling is acceptable as it is a common practice in Filipino culture.

Drinking & Drug Laws

The current administration is serious about their campaign against illegal drugs so you better not do anything that could trigger the police to haunt you. The Republic Act No. 9165 can get you into prison for 12 to 20 years and a fine ranging from P300,000 to P400,000 for the possession of less than 300 grams of marijuana or less than five grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, and other prohibited drugs.

Drinking laws, on the other hand, are generally lenient. As long as you are of legal age (18 years and above), it is alright to drink as much as you want. Traditionally, Filipinos used to drink in the streets and other public places but the government banned the practice to maintain peace and order.

Driving

A foreign tourist needs to hold a valid driver’s license from their home country in order to drive in the Philippines for up to 90 days after they set foot in the country. Driver’s license must be in English though. Drivers sit on the left side inside cars in the Philippines and drive on the right side of the road.Driving in the Philippines can be stressful. Roads are often crowded and chaotic. In most cases, it is less expensive, safer, less risky, and more desirable to use public transportation. Taxis or tricycles are almost always an option. In rural areas, renting a motorbike is usually the preferred method of travel.

Electricity

Almost all Filipinos have access to electricity, however, power interruption lasting from 15 minutes to one hour is a common occurrence in the country. Most hotels and resorts have power generators, though, so there is really nothing to worry about. Sockets commonly take the type A plug (North and Central American plug). Take a power plug adapter with you if your appliance has a plug that is not type A. Standard voltage is 220V so if your country has a standard voltage of 100V – 127V, you may need to use a voltage converter.

Embassies & Consulates

There are a total of 127 foreign embassies and consulates in the Philippines. Most are in Manila and there are some in Cebu.

Click here for a directory of Embassies & Consulates in the Philippines.

Emergencies

Using the following numbers in case of emergency or to report an issue:

  • Philippine National Emergency: 911
  • Public Complaint: 8888
  • Philippine National Red Cross: 143
  • Each province, city, or town has local numbers for emergencies as well.

Festivals & Events

The Philippines is known for its vibrant festivals showcasing their culture, history, and products. Every province and city has their own festival so you can literally find one happening almost every month. Religious in origin, most celebrations have evolved into what they are now … street dancing, eating, drinking and more!

The following are the most popular festivals & events, and as a result, the biggest:

  • Ati-Atihan, Kalibo – Second Week of January
  • Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo- Last Week of January
  • Chinese New Year, Nationwide  Mid-February
  • Panagbenga Flower Festival, Baguio – Month of February
  • Moriones (Holy Week), Marinduque – March or April
  • Flores de Mayo May, Nationwide –  Month of May
  • Independence Day, Nationwide – Mid June 
  • Masskara Festival, Bacolod – Last Week of October
  • Kadayawan, Davao City – Third Week of August 
  • Pahiyas, Lucban – Month of May
  • Giant Lantern Festival, San Fernando – Mid-December
  • Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark – Between January and February

Most festivals last a week, some last the entire month.

DIRECTORY:  Annual Festivals & Events in the Philippines

Gay (LGBT+) Scene

LGBT are usually accepted in Filipino society. The country is in fact recognized as one of the most gay-friendly countries in Asia. Same-sex relationship is not illegal, but public displays of affection is discouraged as some locals, especially the elders, are religious and conservative. Same-sex marriage is not recognized by law, but there are anti-discrimination ordinances in some local government.

READ MORE: The Gay (LGBT+) Scene in the Philippines

Health & Medical Care

The Philippines health care system is divided into two; public health care (free, government-provided) and private health care (paid). Considering the population and the shortage of supplies, facilities, and manpower, the public health care may not be able to provide quick and extensive treatment. Private health and medical facilities, on the other hand, provide a better quality of service than public ones.

There are so many private hospitals all over the country that it is not hard to set an appointment with a doctor especially in big cities. Doctor’s consultation fee costs P350 to P500 and emergency room visit range from P2,000 to P3,000. Remote islands may only have small health centers, and may not have a drug store, so best to pack your medical supplies and medicine.

TIP: Be certain to have an emergency supply of medicines in your carry-on bag and daypack.

Laundry Services

Most hotels and resorts provide laundry service. Additionally, you can find a laundromat, drop-off laundry services, as well as dry cleaning services around major cities and popular tourist destinations. For laundromat (locally called coin-operated laundry shop), price starts at P50 per load maximum of 10 kilos. For drop-off (they facilitate the washing and you get to pick up the next 1-3 days), prices start at P25 per kilogram for a minimum of six kilograms.

Media

Broadcasting (radio and television) is commonly in Filipino but there are English news affairs channels such as CNN Philippines and ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel).

Print media is in English, Tagalog, and in the dialect of the province/city where it is based.

Phone Services

While no longer widely used because of the popularity of mobile phones, landlines are still being used by a lot of businesses up to this day. Telephone providers in the Philippines include Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT), Globe, and Bayantel. The international dialing code for the Philippines is +63. Telephone numbers are fixed at seven digits while area codes could be one or two digits.

For Smartphone users, you can buy a local SIM you can temporarily use to call and send text messages while in the country. For iPhone users whose swapping of SIM is not an option, you can buy cheap phones as low as P1,000 in the malls. SIM cards could be Smart, Globe, Talk-n-Text, and Sun. Most of these companies have unlimited texts or calls promo. Cellphone loads come in various denominations and loading stations are available almost anywhere, even in small stores in the village. Mobile phones are in 10 digits (Example: +63-XXX-XXX-XXXX)

READ MORE: Internet & Phone Service in the Philippines

Police

The Philippines National Police (PNP) is under the branch of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Police officers are usually deployed in popular tourists spots.

  • DILG: +63 917 627 9627
  • PNP Hotline: 117
  • Emergencies: 911

READ MORE:  The Philippines Police & Military

Post & Shipping

Intra-province (deliverable within the same province) postage fee for 01-50 grams starts at P35. Inter-land (deliverable to different province) is at P41 and inter-air (deliverable to different city or province by air) starts at P46. International mails start at P115 for Asian countries and P125 for Europe and US destinations. The use of zip code is required.

Public Holidays

Regular holidays are as follows:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Maundry Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) – April 9
  • Labor Day – May 1
  • Independence Day – June 12
  • National Heroes Day – August 27
  • Bonifacio Day – November 30
  • Christmas Day – December 25
  • Rizal Day – December 30

Special non-working holidays are as follows:

  • Chinese New Year
  • EDSA People Power Anniversary – February 25
  • Black Saturday
  • Ninoy Aquino Day – August 21
  • All Saints’ Day – November 1
  • Christmas Eve – December 24
  • New Years Eve – December 31

Holidays without exact date vary every year. Special non-working holiday means it is either enacted by Congress or declared by the president.

Religion

More than 80% of the Filipino population is Catholic making Catholicism the largest religion in the country. Every city and town in the Philippines have at least one Catholic church and even the smallest and remotest villages have a chapel. The remaining of the population belong to various nationalized Christian factions, Protestant denominations, and Islam.

Seasons

The Philippines has two seasons: the rainy season and dry season. Rainy season happens from June to November while dry season is from December to May. Dry season is subdivided further into cool dry season (December to February) and hot dry season (March to May).

Tourist Seasons

  • High:  December-April
  • Shoulder:  May & November
  • Low:  June-October 

Shopping

From ultra-modern shopping malls to street markets, there are many shopping venues in the Philippines. 

At least one shopping mall can be found in every city of the Philippines in addition to street markets. 

Most malls provide just about every service from grocery shopping to medical and dental services.  Malls also offer a wide range of food & drinks and things to see and do. 

The following are articles about shopping in malls …  a very common form of shopping in the Philippines:

Smoking Ordinances

The government bans smoking in all public places all over the Philippines. Minors are prohibited from smoking nor should they be allowed to buy, sell, distribute, deliver, and/or promote tobacco products.

Smoking is banned in government buildings, schools, workplaces, food establishments, hotels, hospitals and health centers, transportation terminals, churches, and shopping centers. An establishment may designate a smoking area provided rules are applied.

A fine when caught smoking in public ranges from P500 – P1,000 for the first offense.

Time Zone

The Philippines is 8 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC +8). The country does not observe Daylight Saving Time.

Tipping

Tipping is becoming common in the country but it’s not always expected. A tip is usually given only if you are happy with the service rendered, otherwise you can leave without tipping and not offend the staff. Additionally, most establishments charge customers with 10% service fee, so you may opt not to give a tip. However, if you believe the person deserves a tip, P20 – P50 is usually enough.

Tourism Resources

Transportation

Understanding transportation in the Philippines is no longer as hard as it was a few years ago.

Airplane

There are four commercial airlines in the Philippines – AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and SkyJet Airlines. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly to more than 20 domestic destinations, while AirAsia only flies to five destinations including Cebu, Davao, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, and Tagbilaran. SkyJet, on the other hand, flies to Batanes, Coron (Palawan), and Boracay via Caticlan Airport.

Bus

Getting around by bus is fairly common in the Philippines, thus there are bus terminals in almost every city. You can even travel from Luzon to Visayas or Mindanao by bus through RoRo.

Car Rental

Renting a car and driving it yourself is possible … but not recommended.

Ferry

Ferry is a common mode of transportation in the Philippines especially for long haul trips since it is cheaper compared to airplane.

Habal-Habal

The Habal-Habal is one of the basic modes of public transportation used in the provinces of the Philippines. Basically, it is a motorcycle that is modified to seat more than two persons. It is an alternative mode of transportation in places where tricycles and jeepneys cannot traverse. Due to its reliability and affordability, it has become a popular ride not only for locals but also for tourists who would like to try it out.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is not common in the Philippines, but there are tourists who have tried. If you want to try for yourself, don’t go solo and be cautious and alert.

Jeepneys

Sometimes called simply jeeps, are buses and the most popular and low-cost means of public transportation ubiquitous in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a widespread symbol of Philippine culture and art.

Motorcycle & Scooter

Motorcycle or scooter is a common mode of transportation especially in remote villages and islands and provinces like Boracay, Bohol, Camiguin, Dumaguete, and Siquijor.

Taxi

Taxis are widely used in major cities in the country. Some popular tourists spots, like Boracay, Panglao in Bohol, and Siquijor have no taxi service.

Train/Subway

Train is only used within Manila and Laguna.

Tricycle

Motorized tricycles, or simply tricycles, are an indigenous form of the auto rickshaw and are a common means of public and private transportation in the Philippines. These public utility vehicles either follow a set route or are for-hire like taxis.

READ MORE: Transportation in the Philippines

Units of Measure

Metric system and combination of Spanish units and indigenous units are used in the country. One sack of rice is 50 kg.

Weather

It is always hot and humid in the Philippines, more so during summer. Warmer months start from March until October. Strong typhoons usually occur from June to November. Cooler air can be felt from November to February.

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About the Author

Patrick

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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