Planning a trip to the Philippines
You want to see the Philippines? You have heard about the beautiful beaches, the diving grounds, the water falls and all the other fantastic natural wonders? Now you want to see all this? Or you are suddenly married to a beautiful Filipina woman, and sure you want to see her home country? Of course, when you are an old time traveler, you do not need any advice. But for the first time traveler there always are a lot of questions. This little page should help to answer as many of these questions as possible. In case your need more answers, do not hesitate to contact me via my contact page.
Coming around, car rental
Packing your luggage
Arriving in the Philippines
Manila International Airport (Aquino Airport)
Taxi, Downtown transfer
Airport Pickup, Meeting of your friends
The first days in the Philippines
Shopping in the Philippines
Other Philippine Information
Looking for a Filipino doctor or
dentist? Click here
Ok folks, this page is under development, so the above index shows you what you can expect shortly in Lhiza's Corner, but in the moment that is all what is available.
Of course you have to arrange a few things before you start your trip. When you have a travel agency organizing your vacation for you this solves a lot of problem already. You do not need to check for the flight and the hotel for instance.
Ok, the timing: Typically in the European summer time there is the rainy season in the Philippines, the best time to fly would be beginning October until April.
The flight: There are quite a lot of airlines flying via various stop-over to the Philippines. There are two international target, Manila and Cebu. Typically the Arabic airlines are fairly cheap, but can take up to 20 hours of travel time. Malaysian Airlines are quite cheap as well, flying via Kuala Lumpur, and of course the Star Alliance airlines like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa or Thai Airways. These are the most expensive ones, but Lufthansa for instance is the only one to have direct flights to Manila. Other airlines flying to Manila are Swiss Airlines, British Airlines, KLM or Air France, all of them requiring a stop over in their respective home country.
Important is when you are already married to a Filipina and you are flying together with her, you can apply for a special "Balikbayan" Tariff which is always cheaper and allows more luggage. The best is to surf the internet and check the various travel agents. But do not be surprised, many do not know the Balikbayan tariff.
Once you got your flight details you can start to reserve your hotel or resort. A lot of these are in the Internet already and can be booked directly. It is recommended in any case to have at least the first night be reserved already, because after a more than 12 hours flight you might not be in the mood to search for a hotel.
Sure you need some money. Normally traveler checks would be the best solution, only outside Manila or the major tourist areas these are not accepted. The same applies for credit cards. So depending where you will be staying you need to take quite a lot of cash. Again the best exchange rates you will get in Manila, and the area with most of the money changers (on this competition) is in the Mabini area. But the money changer in the SM/Landmark in Makati offers very good rates as well. When you bring more than the equivalence of USD 3000 you have to declare this money in the arrival hall. And remember, no may not leave the country with more than 1000 Pesos, but this usually is never checked.
The typical way to travel in the Philippines is by bus, jeepney or by taxi. Taxi is recommended within the Manila area, they have aircon, and they are not too expensive (even when you will pay twice the amount a Filipino would pay!) . Driving a car in Manila requires good nerves, a lot of courage and the police will be watching you carefully. Normally people rent cars with drivers, this saves quite some problems. Again, there are a few car rental companies in Manila in the internet, so reservation can be made beforehand already.
There are quite a few travel guides available. You should have one which describes the area and the sights of the place you are planning to spent your vacation, and the other one is the book: Culture Shock Philippines. You can get this online from Amazon books. This describes a lot of rules how to behave correctly in the Philippines.
One thing which is quite important if some health insurance. This should be no problem for you to get one (the typical illnesses your will get are "Montezuma's Revenge", and the flu (too much aircon)). In these cases a foreign country health insurance, which is typically valid for w whole year for multiple trips can help cover the costs. There might be a problem when you are traveling with your Filipina wife. Many insurance companies have a special clause in their contract which specifies that people returning to the country where they are citizen are exempted for the insurance. This clause is illegal, there have been several courts already clarifying this, so you should ask them to remove that clause.
The typical injections might might want to have are protection against Malaria and Hepatitis B. Actually the Malaria shot is not that important if you stay out of the jungle areas and use a good mosquito repellent, but the Hepatitis shot might make sense. You have to talk to your doctor.
What to pack: You will not believe its, but you should pack a lot of tiny little presents. Filipinos love presents (Pasalubong), and you can make fast friends when you can give them a little memory from your home country. And do not be surprised, not only the kids want that, but everybody. Chocolate would be a good choice, but this can become quite heavy in your luggage, and it has the tendency to melt in the hot temperatures of the Philippines. Little lighters, pens, etc can do the trick as well. Otherwise you will need:
Arriving in the Philippines
Typically you will arrive in the International airport of Manila, called: Aquino International Airport. As this is your first entry into the Philippines you will need to go through passport control (where you get a 21 one day visa stamped into your passport, but when you travel with your Filipina wife, you should present your wedding certificate and ask for a Balikbayan visa. This would be valid for one year. Unfortunately this might not work in all cases, as the program has been discontinued, but a 500 Peso bill in your passport might work wonders), then you will get your luggage. Please have your ticket with the luggage tags ready, they will be checked on exit to make sure that you got only your luggage. And do not be surprised when some beautiful but uniformed lady with a dog on a leash walks up to you and lets him sniff on your luggage. They check for drugs. After the customs control, which is usually quite cooperative you will end up in the reception area. Unfortunately this area is only used by hotel agents and travel agents. Normal people are not allowed in that area (They have to have a passport and they have to pay a fee to be allowed inside). But here you would be able change some little money to be able to pay your taxi. Do not change too much, the exchange rate is bad. But they all take traveler checks.
So you go outside, of course you will be shocked by the hot and humid air. And when you are lucky, it is not raining. Now you will cross a road to go down to the open reception area. Here your will find stalls where people offer you rides with a taxi to your hotel. The prices are in the range of 400-500 Pesos, and they are safe. But when you are hoping that your pen friend will take you in her arms, you will be disappointed. She will be waiting on the other side of another road behind a big iron fence. There are hundreds of them, and when you believe you would recognize your beautiful Filipina because she had sent you so many pictures, forget it. There are so many Filipina waiting there, all beautiful, all with long black hairs and all with dark eyes, you will not find your lady. So you go to the sign with the letters of your name and hope that she will recognize you. When you see somebody on the other side hopping up and down and waving to you, this probably is she.
Once you have identified your friend you can cross the road, take her into your arms, give her a kiss and tell her how happy you are that you have finally can hold her in reality. Then you are in for the next surprise, the big parking lot just next to the fence is not allowed for taxi, so you will have to walk in that hot temperatures with you heavy luggage (the carts are not allowed anymore, if you do not deposit your passport to the security guy) to the parking lot of the taxi (ca 400 meters). Once you are there, you can relax for the next one to two hours again, depending where your hotel is and on the traffic in Manila. The traffic is always bad, but sometimes worse....