Welcome to the Philippines
For most travelers, the Philippines isn’t as mysterious as other southeast Asian countries. However there are some cultural aspects to be aware of. The following are the dos and don’ts when visiting the Philippines, especially for the first time.
1 | Be polite
The people of the Philippines are friendly, helpful, and polite.
2 | Approach your visit with the desire to explore and participate
Open your mind to the Philippines’ diverse cultures and traditions.
Bridging the Cultural Gap
3 | Interact with people
Interact with the people in a respectful manner. Look for cultural exchange and respect the diversity you encounter.
4 | When in the Philippines, do as Filipinos do
Treat your hosts as you would like to be treated in your own home. For example, in the Philippines it is customary to remove shoes before entering a house.
5 | Public displays of excessive emotion
Public displays of excessive emotion, whether prompted by anger or by love, are frowned upon.
6 | The people of the Philippines love festivals and celebrations
Join the celebrations at Cebu for their Sinulog Festival or Dinagyang in Iloilo, for example. Both take place in January and attract thousands of visitors due to diverse activities such as street parties, music festivals, and food festivals. Check our annual festivals calendar.
7 | Learn the names of guides and hosts, and perhaps some words of the local language
People will be delighted to meet visitors who are trying to immerse themselves in the language. Although most Filipinos speak English, Filipino is the official national language.
8 | Body language speaks (Your hands)
And lips too! Most Filipinos point with their lips so don’t mistake it for something else when they do that.
Be Mindful of the Current Situation
9 | Review travel restrictions
Review travel restrictions and stay away from restricted areas. Some regions are off-limits for personal safety.
10 | Visitors may experience electricity outages
Please be patient if you experience a power outage … catch a breeze, read a book, or simply take a stroll and relax in the streets. Everyone is in the same situation … join in the cheers when the power comes back on!
Engage in Better Communication
11 | Smile
Encourage conversation with local people and try to learn about their life. Educate yourself about culture, geography, customs, and the history of the destination.
12 | Interact!
Even those who cannot speak English proficiently will always spare a moment of their time to answer your question when you ask.
13 | Hire a Local Tour Guide
Get your nose out of the guidebook, put your phone away, and hire a local guide. No one knows a destination better.
14 | Bargaining is OK … but keep it reasonable
Bargaining is part of Filipino culture. It is about respect so that no one loses face during the transaction.
15 | Tipping
Tipping is not expected in the Philippines but tips are warmly welcome for a job well done.
Cultural and Religious Heritage
16 | Don’t remove any cultural artifacts
Removal of cultural artifacts is a threat to the local culture. Do not buy protected historical and archeological artifacts or accept them as gifts. The Philippines loses its heritage every time antique items are taken out of the country.
17 | Don’t climb on any historical structures
Don’t go climbing over the fragile ruins to get the perfect picture.
18 | Ask for permission before
Show respect towards historical sites and ask for permission before accessing local archeological, culturally, and spiritually important areas. For example, nearly all villages have certain items that ought not to be touched, climbed, or sat on. Show your respect for these restrictions.
19 | Religious sites are subject to strict dress codes
Keep shoulders and knees covered, and remove shoes and socks before entering any shrine, church, or monastery.
Be Aware … Be Caring
20 | Practice responsible photography
Always ask before taking photos or videos of people, especially of children, homes, ceremonies or sacred sites. Respect locals and remember not to simply treat them as subjects for your holiday pictures.
21 | Be a child-safe visitor
Children are not tourist attractions, so don’t treat them like they are. A good way for tourists to support vulnerable children and their families is through vocational training and community based initiatives.
22 | Think before you give
Contribute to communities not to individuals. Giving directly to children encourages them to skip school and continue begging, locking them into a cycle of poverty.
23 | Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation, regardless of age, is against Philippine law.
24 | Using drugs is illegal in the Philippines
Set a good example. Don’t drink excessively and don’t sell, buy, or use drugs. The penalties for selling, buying, or using drugs are extreme in the Philippines, up to and including death, so DON’T DO DRUGS in the Philippines!
25 | Buy locally produced food, products, and services
The money you spend makes an important contribution to the community. Spend on fresh produce at daily wet markets, purchase locally produced handicrafts, get a haircut, or buy a newspaper from the corner store.
26 | Reduce waste
Bring your own reusable water bottle to help reduce plastic waste.
Turn down plastic bags if offered when shopping.
Set an example to the communities that you visit … dispose of rubbish in waste bins, or if not available, take it away with you.
27 | Try alternative modes of transport
These are sustainable and benefit the locals.
28 | Water is a limited resource
Some areas face moderate or severe water shortages. Inquire if there is sufficient water as your activities should not limit the availability of water to local communities.
29 | Protect Philippine wildlife
Help protect Philippine wildlife by refusing to purchase such products. Buying or consuming products from endangered species destroys the environment and encourages illegal wildlife trade.
30 | Experience wildlife in the natural environment
Be sure to always keep appropriate distance. Do not feed monkeys or other wild animals. Take part in active eco-tours that do not disturb nature and wild animals. Look for encounters that promote animal welfare and where experts work permanently.
Relax and enjoy your travels in the Philippines!
Have a nice trip.
If you care to learn more, and/or ensure you enjoy your travels in the Philippines, the book Dos & Don’ts in the Philippines is a light hearted but practical guide to this dynamic country may be of interest to you.