Rice Terraces, Northern Philippines

Philippines Traveller's Information

People

The Philippines has a population of around approx. 90 million people and an annula growth rate around 2%, making it one of the most populous and fastest growing countries on Earth. 6 million of its 90 million population make up the so called cultural minority group. E.g. the Ifugao, Kalinga, Mangyan of Mindoro, T’Boli of the Mindanao Mountains or the Negrito (the original inhabitants, now numbering only about 30,000) throughout the country. From a long history of Western colonial rule, interspersed with the visits of traders, evolved friendly, hospitable people of a unique blend of East and West. Two third of the population is living mainly from fishing and agriculture.

Some 80% of the population is Catholic, 15 % Muslim. Especially in the South, Malay / Indonesian influences are strong. Malacanang Palace is the official residence of the Philippine President.

Club Noah in Palawan

 

 

Island Hopping in Palawan, Philippines

Nature

Relatively isolated from the Asian mainland, The Philippine Archipelago is made up of 7,107 islands. 2000 island of which are inhabited and 2500 are so small, they aren’t even named. From North to West the Philippines stretches for 1850 kilometers, from East to West 1100 kilometers.

You will find pristine white sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, coconut trees casting their quiet shadows and rainforests with rare plants and animals. Located on the Ring of Fire, The Philippines has 213 inactive + 20 active volcanoes. You will often notice flat coastal plains with the interior dominated by rugged ranges of mountains. Being one of the eldest and deepest waters in the world it also offers an abundant marine life. World’s deepest spot, The Philippine Trench, for example, runs down at the Pacific side of the islands to depths of over 10,000 meters, exceeding the altitude of Mt.Everest. In addition to the scenery, a trip to The Philippines is made memorable due to the lack of mass tourism and sincere hospitality in the Filipino character. There are 36 National Parks for you to discover. The largest peaks are Mt. Pulag (2.930 m) in the Cordillera Region, Mt. Apo in Mindanao and Mt. Isarog near Naga. Mount Apo, found on the island of Mindanao is the highest point in The Philippines. The height of this mountain is 2,954 . The oldest living primate in the world (!), The Tarsier, can be found in Bohol, The Philippines.

Diver Cathedral

Scuba Diving in The Philippines

(Scuba) Diving / Reefs

With over 7,000 islands, the Philippine archipelago offers a wide range of options and attracts thousand of divers annually to explore the underwater world’s untamed frontiers. E.g. a great number of sightings of the largest fish in the world, the whale shark, comes from here.And for most areas, if the horizontal visibility is not close to 00 feet, then it’s too murky… ! Foreign divers rave about the country’s variety of hard and soft corals that numbers to more than 800 species. Of the 100,000 known shellfish variety in the world, 20,000 can be found on 40,000 square kilometers of coral reefs in The Philippines.

As we are divers ourselves, having experienced the different PADI Diving Schools, we can propose you tailor made arrangements! 

Weather / Climate

Temperature in Celsius (Manila)
 
Rainfall in mm (Manila)

The Philippines is endowed with a great variety of climates, being completely different from one island to another, and sometimes even within one island.

In general the coolest, dry months are November to February (25 degrees Celsius). March until May are dry, sunny days of 30 degrees Celsius and above with high humidity. From June/July to October the Southwesterly winds prevail with temperatures between 23 –28 degrees Celsius and more rainfall. However, the rains are interspersed with periods of perfect vacation weather. You will notice that during this season the shoreline residents of smaller islands seek protection from the increased winds by installing wind barriers along the windward shore.

Humidity level is high (average 77%) all year ‘round.

Wear light casual clothing and comfortable shoes. Sandals / hats might come handy when Island Hopping. Bring a thin jacket. Wearing “beach attire” in rural places is still frowned upon. Filipinos place a high priority on appearance.

 

GoClick yellow symbol at the right to see interactive Google Map
Philippine Map - Click to view

Major Attractions

Delight your senses with an amazing variety! Remarkably free of the trappings of mass tourism, this is the ultimate country if you are flexible and believe exploring is fun. 

The 7,107 (!) islands of The Philippine Archipelago offer a remarkable range of land formations: world class limestone cliffs, a wide range of outdoor activities, superb diving, numerous hidden bays, white beaches, exotic coconut trees and bountiful opportunities for island hopping.

Village life still moves to different rhythms. Tribal cultures in the mountains are still alive, as their strong warrior tradition has helped keep outsiders from moving in.

Manila: various daytours available , e.g. to Taal Volcano , Mt. Pinatubo Volcano, Hidden Valley.See also “bargaining / shopping”. 

>> More information about destination Manila  

North Luzon: Banaue Rice Terraces. Take your time to trek Mt.Province (Bontoc, Sagada). Tribes. Spanish history at Vigan / Laoag. Kayaking / Rafting in Cagayan Valley.

>> More information about destination Northern Luzon

Boracay island: one of the finest white sand beaches in the world. Commercialized yes, but not touristy. Adjacent Panay island is worth to explore, also Guimaras Island

.>> More information about destination Boracay Island           

>> More information about destination Guimaras Island.

Mindoro Oriental: a good combination for divers and non divers travelling together. Active nightlife in Puerto Galera and Sabang.
>> More information about destination Mindoro 

Cebu: primarily a destination for travelers from Asian countries due to its direct international flights and luxury Mactan Island business hotels. Starting point for Dive Safaris (West coast) and independent travelers who like island hopping the Western Visayas region.

>> More information about detsination Cebu. 

Palawan: this is the largest province in The Philippines. Numbers over 1700 islands. Cradle of two World Heritage Sites. Rainforest, Wreck Diving / Watersports on Busuanga Island. Explore the impressive limestone cliffs around El Nido.

>> More information about destination Palawan.

Bohol: Chocolate Hills in combination with quiet Panglao Island. Chance to spot dolphins and whales. Home of the endangered “Tarsier”.>> More information about destination Bohol.

Negros: Unexplored, old sugar cane plantations, hop off to beautiful Apo- and Siquijor Island.

>> More information about destination Negros.

>> More information about destination Siguijor 

>> More information about destination Apo Island

South Luzon: Whale sharks of Sorsogon. Mayon Volcano.

>> More information about destination South Luzon

Mindanao: Unexplored, large and nature lover’s paradise. Home to our highest peak (2,954 m) Mt.Apo. Hop off to Camiguin island and surfers haven Siargao.

>> More information about destination Mindanao.

Festivals (''Fiestas")

We love feasts ! Many occasions are an opportunity to celebrate. We now celebrate a Saints Birthday on dates formerly associated with animistic rituals. Our festivals, we call them ''Fiestas'', are colorful with often an inventive use of materials. Nearly each island has its festival, so we only noted the most remarkable ones for you.Visitors are welcome.

>> Philippines Festivals detailed Calendar 

 

 

 

Getting There

Friends enjoying falls in The Philippines

Northern Luzon is close to Taiwan, Southern Mindanao close to Indonesia.
From North to West the Philippines stretches for 1850 kilometers, from East to West 1100 kilometers ! Getting around these travel distances is half the challenge…

Although car rental companies are represented, it is not common to opt for self-drive. Local public transportation is cheap, and avoids you the safety risk of the hazardous local drive style.

There are limited (tourist shuttle) bus transfer services to/from the airports, as offered in other countries. If you wished to be picked up from the international or domestic airports, we would be pleased to assist you. Just e-mail us at info@filipinotravel.com.ph

Most public transportation systems in The Philippines don’t work exactly on schedule. A network of air-conditioned air-, ferry- and land transportation is in place to go from point to point, but still in its early stages of growth with difficulty of moving around fast. Rail travel is limited till Luzon between San Fernando and Legaspi. Fast ferry interisland connections are common in Western Visayas region. Land transportation is by metered taxi (affordable), bus and / or “Jeepney” in and between the major cities. In the provinces you will encounter extra local transportation means, for example by motorized outrigger boat (“banca”), “pedicab” or motor with sidespan (“tricycle”).
They leave when full. Depending on your size, quite interesting to try out!

If you wish to hire transportation for groups, like a van, coaster or bus (with driver only, no self drive), check out this link : Transporation rental

Schedules and routes frequently change.

Not all destinations have daily flights. Plan your trip well ahead, especially if you intend to travel during Peak seasons such as Christmas, (Chinese) New Year, Easter and Philippine Summer vacation (April, May).

For airlines flying within The Philippines with Instant confirmation, check out our Domestic Airlines page

If you wish to hire transportation for groups, like a van, coaster or bus (with driver only, no self drive), consult Philippine transportation rental.

Health

No immunization is obligatory for The Philippines. Yellow fever vaccination is required if you come from infected areas. Ask your doctor for advice about malaria prophylaxis. It is recommended only for a few isolated islands.

Common pre departure preparations, like health insurance and a good medical kit incl. mosquito repellant are advised. The more you go off the beaten track, the more necessary it is to take additional precautions. Hospitals are available in Manila, Puerto Princessa and Cebu. Ladies bring your sanitary supplies as only “napkins” are available locally.

More information? Visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/philippines.aspx or
The International Society of Travel Medicine’s (www.istm.org) list of of travel clinics worldwide.

Safety/Security

Continuous negative news abroad has its impact on one’s safety perception of The Philippines.
Filipino Travel Center, however, wishes to put the tragic, but often isolated, incidents in the right perspective. The Philippines is a rather safe country for travellers. Life threatening incidents seldom occur. Visitors, however, should be aware that there continues to be a risk of politically motivated violence in parts of the country. Travel to some portions of Mindanao, in the Southern Philippines, should therefore be avoided. In particular: Sulu archipelago, Basilan, Lanao del Sur/Norte, North Cotabato, Maquindanao and parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Most of the precautions you can take are common sense: don’t get involved with drugs, don’t entertain people approaching you, especially for drinking sessions, lock away valuables in a Safety Deposit Box, do not walk around late at night in dark areas (especially if alone), beware of petty theft and tricks being played e.g. with your drinks.

Try to hold a passing taxi rather than those waiting in touristy places.

Do not argue or criticize and avoid public scenes.

Before travelling to places off the beaten track, take time to find out about your destination.
More information? Contact your Embassy / Consulate for an updated travel advice.

Important telephone numbers :
Department of Tourism Tourism Security Section Tel.Nos (+632) 524 - 1660 / 524-1728 or 522-4372
Emergency Number : 117

Communication

The official national language is Pilipino, in which you might recognize some Spanish words. A variety of more than hundred dialects exist. The most widely used dialect is “Tagalog”. Filipinos also use various gestures and motion of face. As Filipino’s must learn English as a second language, English will get you through most situations. However, locals will be pleased if you speak some words in their language. Remember that Filipino’s are reluctant to say “NO”. Do not argue or criticize. Avoid public scenes. Filipino’s are fun-loving and will not miss the chance to ask you some (rather direct) questions.

Phone numbers frequently change. Call for directory assistance in Manila 114 or 112 in the provinces.
There are 2 major cell phone providers: Globe and Smart. Both are available in cities and major tourist places such as Boracay Island, Mactan Island (Cebu), Puerto Galera (Mindoro Or.), Panglao Island (Bohol) and some places in Palawan. Internet cafés are recently being opened throughout the country. They still tend to be slow. Radio is still a common way of communicating between the islands with no phone line / provider, so getting a response is not always quick.
Local time is GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) + 8.

Relaxation during a long deserved holiday

Food & Drinks

Filipino dishes are mild. In the rural areas the diet consists of rice and meat / fish three times a day. In between snacks, called “Merienda”, are consumed. Vegetables are not served in abundance. The bigger cities offer a variety of American (fast)food. Since quite some Europeans settled down, you often encounter European food in the least expected places. Local beer / gin / rum is cheap. Uncontested favorite Filipino dish is roasted piglet called “Lechon”.

Entry Formalities:

For entry regulations into The Philippines, visit  the website of the Bureau of Immigration, Philippines : http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=80

Most visitors may stay up to 21 days (*), receiving a Tourist Visa upon arrival, provided:  

1) your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in The Philippines   AND

2) you present a return or outward bound ticket to your country of origin or to a next country of destination.

Extensions must be arranged with the Bureau of Immigration. Tourist visa from 21 to 58 days are also available at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in your country.

For a recent story on this subject, we recommend you read this thread  : http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2235979

(*) NEW Pursuant to the Bureau of Immigration’s Memorandum Circular No. RADJR-2013-006:

Starting August 1, 2013, nationals from 151 countries may enter the Philippines without a visa and stay for a maximum of thirty (30) days, provided they meet the entry regulations above. Chinese Nationals, including citizens for Hong Kong and Taiwan, will need a special permit.

Customs:

For Passenger guidelines regarding Customs regulations and Duty-Free allowance, visit the website of Philippines Bureau of Customs www.customs.gov.ph

Money matters

The Philippine currency is the Peso denoted as PHP. It is divided up in 100 Centavos. The US Dollar is the most recognized foreign currency. Upon internationally arriving in Manila, the airport offers Foreign Exchange.

Banks are open from 9 am- 3 p.m., 5 days a week. Automatic Teller Machines are only available in the major cities. There are no ATM accepting international cards in Boracay, Puerto Galera and Palawan (except Puerto Princessa). The Tourist Center over there accepts to withdraw cash from your card.
Money changers are open nearly 24 hours in the big cities. American Express Traveler checks (lower exchange rate) and credit cards (with charge) are accepted. A proof of identity will be required.

Tipping

Tips of 10% of the billing amount are common practice. Whether or not to tip is a personal decision. Taxi drivers will for example try to wangle it from you by saying they have no change. For portage average Php 5 per item. In most restaurants and hotels, however, a 10% service charge is already included in your billing statement.

Electricity

220 Volts, 60 Hz. Luxury hotels in Manila and Cebu also have 110 Volts. You will need an adapter for European appliances. Power fluctuations are common in The Philippines. Black outs do occur, so bring your flashlight.

Bargaining / Shopping

 

A visit to a busy and bustling Shopping Mall (e.g. Ayala Center,SM Megamall, Shangri-La Plaza or Greenhills Shopping Center) is worth the experience. Opening hours 10 am-8 pm. Prices here are set, same as in Department stores. When shopping in a public market (e.g. Chinatown, Baclaran, San Andres Fruit Market ) bargaining is usual. Like else where in the world, in places which deal mainly with tourists, quoted prices tend to be inflated. Our headoffice is located in the heart of Ermita, Manila. M.H. del Pilar (parallel to Roxas Blvd) and Mabini Street provide rows of shops that offer wooden Igorot carvings, tribal clay items , religious figures, dried fruits, hand made guitars, excellent local cigars and woven pineapple/banana fabrics from Visayas.

Travel Insurance

Our solid recommendation to any traveller planning a trip to The Philippines is: make buying a general travel insurance policy a part of your planning before you depart-- don't leave home without it as generally liabilities and insurance coverages are basic and limited here in The Philippines. If you do not have one of your own, Filipino Travel Center offers Travel Insurance to those who travel from The Philippines to another country.

 


 


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