Travel Guide Asia Philippines






Not quite an Asian country, but also not quite a Pacific island nation, the Philippines has had a hard time attracting tourists. Dodgy politicians keep the country in a state of political unrest, which is highly problematic when trying to draw overseas visitors.

Fortunately, however, the Philippines has enough islands (7,107) and beautiful beaches to make you forget about all its troubles. On Boracay are some of the finest beaches you're ever likely to find. Pristine waters and picturesque tropical scenery highlight the Philippines' rich potential to be a major tourist destination. Impressive but climbable peaks protrude from the country's landscape; many of these are active volcanoes, including the violently dangerous but scenic Taal Volcano. The experience of climbing these peaks is enthralling and rewarding. And at the end of the day you can unwind on the beach to the sight of a beautiful sunset with an ice-cold beer.

Warning: Travel to southwestern Mindanao (including the Sulu Archipelago, Bangsamoro, Soccsksargen, and the Zamboanga Peninsula) is unsafe because of terrorism threats.



Brief History

Main article: History of the Philippines

The Philippines had been inhabited 30,000 years ago when it was still part of the main continent of Asia. The last ice age 20,000 years later submerged most of Asia's southeast frontier that created higher grounds into islands. The first wave of migrants were the Aetas (aborigines) followed by Malays who came from the south. Early Malay settlers stayed on deltas and island shores where townships eventually developed. They further flourished on trade with the Chinese, Indians and Arabs as early as 100 BC.

Nearly each big island was ruled by a datu or chieftain, usually with the title Raja, Kaliph or Lakan. Islam was introduced by Arab traders to Southeast Asia in 700 AD. In the 15th century, European expeditions were sent by rivals Spain and Portugal for the lucrative spice trade with the Far East. The most famous was the western route taken by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer under the employ of Spanish King Charles I, whereupon he stumbled on the islands of the Philippines on March 17, 1521 but was eventually killed by the Muslim Malay Kaliph Pulaka (or Lapu-lapu), chieftain of Mactan island. The Europeans returned 44 years later led by the Adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, to conquer the islands in the name of Spanish King Philip II. Thus, started the Spanish rule of the islands for the next 333 years.

The Spaniards “lost” to the Americans in the Battle of Manila Bay, amidst the successes of the Philippine Revolution of 1898. The islands were ceded to the USA in the Treaty of Paris. Americans colonized the country for the next 40 years, interrupted by four years of Japanese occupation during the Second World War. The Philippines finally gained its “sovereignty” in 1946 with the condition that the USA maintained its huge military bases in the country.

Since then, the Philippines has moved to become one of the leaders in Asia. But on September 21, 1972, then president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law which lasted for 21 years. Those were trying years for Filipinos, suffering under a dictatorial regime that lasted until August of 1983, when Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, Marcos' rival, was shot dead at the tarmac of the old Manila International Airport after three years of exile. This started uprisings against the regime and then on February 25, 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and his family were ejected out of Malacañang Palace and exiled to Hawaii by the peaceful EDSA People Power revolution. Aquino's wife, Corazon Aquino was put to power and became the first Lady President.

After this, the Philippines became more industrialized and saw improvements in infrastructure. Even with the current political climate, the Philippines has tried to develop its economy and regain an influential position in the global market.




The Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands (could be a little less during high tide) that are clustered into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It lies in Southeast Asia bounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, West Philippine Sea to the west and the Celebes Sea to the south.

The archipelago lies in the region called the Ring of Fire, which is characterized by a number of active volcanoes found all over the country. Some of these notable volcanoes are Taal Volcano which is situated in the middle of Taal Lake, Mayon Volcano in Legazpi City which is considered to have the most perfect cone shape despite intermittent eruptions, and the dormant Mount Apo in Davao, the highest peak in the Philippines at 2,954 metres above sea level.

Islands, islets, reefs, atolls and shoals towards the western part of the archipelago, specifically those belonging to the Scarborough Shoal (about 220 kilometres west of Subic, Zambales province in Luzon island) and the Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratly Islands), which is only 25 kilometres off the shore of Balabac town, Palawan island, are all part of the territory of the Philippines. But other neighboring countries such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have aggressively laid claim to them, too, when US forces left their military bases in the Philippines in the 1990s. Ironically, these islands, islets, reefs and atolls being contested by other countries are all way too far from their own shores. Through geological research and studies, it is believed that these areas are rich in oil and gas deposits, estimated to contain 17 billion tons, compared to Kuwait’s 13 billion tons.

Sabah, located at the northern part of Borneo island, was a territory ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei in 1658 as compensation for the former’s assistance in repelling a rebellion. The Philippines had never ceased its claim on Sabah, maintaining that it is a property of the Sultan of Sulu, a Filipino citizen, and whose heirs continue to receive "padjak" (term used in the original contract) or lease payments for their property from the Malaysian government.

To the east of the largest island Luzon is Benham Rise, an extinct volcanic ridge underwater, that the Philippines has lodged a claim with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2009 and was finally approved by the same UN body in April 2012. Total area of Benham Rise is about 250 kilometres in diameter and rises to about 2,000 metres above the sea floor that is 5,000 metres deep.




The islands of the Philippines are divided into three groups.

  • Luzon is a group of islands in the north of Philippines. It includes the island of Luzon, the Batanes and Babuyan groups and the main and outlying islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate, Romblon, Mindoro, and Palawan in the south. The nation's capital, Manila, is located on the island of Luzon.
  • The Visayas includes the major islands of Panay, Negros, Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The main city is Cebu.
  • Mindanao is an island group in the south, taking in the large island of Mindanao itself and several smaller outlying islands.



Major Cities

  • Manila is the nation's capital city and center to a massive metropolis of over 12 million residents.
  • Cebu is dubbed as the Queen City of the South and is the oldest city in the country which dates back to the 16th century.
  • Davao is the largest city in the country in terms of land size and is the center of commerce in the island of Mindanao.
  • Angeles is a city in Pampanga that played host to a US military air base, Clark Airfield, until their departure in the early '90s. Supplanting it is a network of highways linking Subic, Manila and Tarlac province to the new Diosdado Macapagal International Airport inside Clark. A robust local economy is supported by relocators of big multinational companies housed within a new export processing zone.
  • Bacolod is known as the City of Smiles and the center for commerce in the island of Negros.
  • Baguio is the summer capital of the Philippines, dubbed as the city of Pines. This city is located on the mountaintops of the Cordillera mountains.
  • Batangas is an important port city south of Manila and is the center of commerce of the Batangas province that is known for its beautiful dive sites.
  • Cagayan De Oro
  • Iloilo
  • Laoag is a major city in the northwest coast of Luzon and the capital of the Ilocos Norte province which is home to some historic architectures that dates back the Spanish period.
  • Makati is the main financial capital of the country where major banks, international companies and embassies are located.
  • Naga is a key city in the Bicol peninsula which is home to the virgin of Penafrancia.
  • Puerto Princesa is the capital city of the island province of Palawan which is dubbed as the Philippines' Last Frontier for maintaining its flora and fauna from being spoiled by development.
  • Quezon City is the country's most populated city. It is located within Metro Manila and has once been the capital of the Philippines during its commonwealth era. The city is named after one of the Philippines' former presidents and is also dubbed locally as the city of stars as most of the local TV personalities call this city their home.
  • Tagaytay City is a popular tourist destination south of Manila and situated on a plateau that it offers a spectacular view of the famous Taal Volcano and Lake.
  • Zamboanga is the center of the Zamboanga peninsula that is home to the colorful boats called Vinta.

Metro Areas

  • Metro Manila is the metropolitan region around the city of Manila which is also known as the National Capital Region.
  • Metro Cebu is the metropolitan region surrounding the city of Cebu in the Visayas.
  • Metro Bacolod is the metropolitan area comprising the city of Bacolod, Talisay and Silay in Negros Occidental.



Sights and Activities

Historical Sites

  • Intramuros is the Walled City of Manila. It was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century and became the center of Spanish rule for over three centuries.
  • Fort Santiago is part of the walls of Intramuros. Located on the northwestern part of the perimeter walls, this battle fortress guarded the mouth of Pasig River and the outlying Manila Bay.
  • Malacañang Palace - The official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Malacañang comes from the Tagalog term "may lakan diyan" or "a chief (or nobleman) lives there". It is situated in the Manila district of San Miguel, along the north bank of the Pasig River. At the turn of the 18th century, the place was a fashionable area for setting up manor houses of the elite. Built by Don Luis Rocha in 1802 as his summer residence, he sold this property to Col. Jose Miguel Formento of the Spanish Army. Later, it was again sold to the Spanish government in 1825 when it was looking for a residence for the Governor-General whose official residence, the Palacio del Gobernador inside Intramuros, was razed by fire.
  • Corregidor - A tadpole shaped island near the mouth of Manila Bay. This served as the first line of defense from invading ships or galleons going into Manila Bay since the Spanish period. This has been a site of several battles during WWII.
  • Rizal Park is a large park named after the country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal's monument marks the actual site where he was executed.
Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

© pau_p1

  • Vigan's Calle Crisologo is considered to have the oldest and most preserved Spanish colonial town in the country. This street at the centre of the city is lined with 16th century ancestral houses and cobbled stones roads. Alltogether, the historic town of Vigan is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Magellan's Cross belongs to the city of Cebu, this cross was erected by the explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan upon their arrival in the island of Cebu in the 16th Century.
  • Banaue Rice Terraces are 2,000-year old terraces of rice paddies carved out of the mountains in the province of Ifugao by the Ifugao people.
  • Baroque Churches from the Spanish era churches that are considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site litter the country. These are San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.


Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills

© pau_p1

  • Mayon Volcano is the iconic volcano of the Bicol region near the southeast end of Luzon island. It is relatively active and despite numerous eruptions, Mayon volcano still exudes a majestic, perfect cone. In a recent explosion, its bowels rolled over several barangays (small towns). The most notorius eruption happened in 1814 where whole towns along the path of its flowing lava got buried. An attraction is the town of Cagsawa, where only the town's church belfry remained exposed aboveground. Mayon volcano is nestled on the province of Albay.
  • Taal Volcano is a low lying active volcano that has a unique land formation. It has a lake within the volcano, while the volcano is within a larger lake in the island of Luzon. Tagaytay city offers the most scenic view of this beautiful volcano.
  • Chocolate Hills make up more than 1,200 perfectly-coned hills clustered in the town of Carmen on the central part of the island of Bohol. The hills turn brown during the dry season, mimicking the likes of Hershey Kisses Chocolates.
Juvenile barracudas

Juvenile barracudas

© monkyhands

  • Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a protected area located in the middle of Sulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls (named the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covering a total area of 97,030 hectares. It is located 150 kilometres southeast of Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan province. The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometres to the northeast of the reef. In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park as a World Heritage Site as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-metre perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.
  • Hundred Islands National Park is a colony of 123 vegetated islands and islets found off the coast of Alaminos town in Pangasinan province.
  • La Mesa Ecopark is a watershed northeast of the metropolis and serves as the primary source of drinking water to all of Metro-Manila’s 12 million residents. The reservoir occupies some 700 hectares, as 2,000 hectares of rainforest land protect and surround it. A vigorous campaign is now being drummed-up to protect the watershed from degradation. The ecopark is a popular picnic destination on weekends by the locals. Because of its romantic scenery, it is a frequent venue for photo shoots of would-be couples who will be tying the knot.
Underground river

Underground river

© Spinky

  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a protected area of the Philippines located about 80 kilometres north of the city centre of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The river is also called Puerto Princesa Underground River. The national park is located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the western coast of the island. It is bordered by St. Paul Bay to the north and the Babuyan River to the east. The City Government of Puerto Princesa has managed the National Park since 1992. The entrance to the subterranean river is a short hike or boat ride from the town Sabang. In 2010, a group of environmentalists and geologists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, which means that there are small waterfalls inside the cave. They also found a cave dome measuring 300 metres above the underground river, rock formations, large bats, a deep water hole in the river, more river channels, another deep cave, as well as marine creatures and more. Deeper areas of the underground river are almost impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation. On November 11, 2011, Puerto Princesa Underground River was provisionally chosen as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. This selection was officially confirmed on January 28, 2012.
  • Mount Apo National Park Rising to 2,954 metres above sea level on the island of Mindanao, the peak of Mount Apo is the highest in the Philippines. It hosts the sanctuary of the near-extinct Philippine Eagle (or Monkey-eating Eagle). One meter in height and having a very large wing span area, it is the world’s largest eagle.
  • Makiling Botanical Garden is a forested reserve popular as a hiking destination. Found on Mount Makiling, an inactive volcano, in the town of Los Baños 50 kilometres south of Manila. Mount Makiling abounds with hot springs. It was the site of the 10th World Jamboree of Boy Scouts in 1959.
  • Mount Pinatubo, once a dormant volcano until its major eruption in 1991, which was considered to be the second strongest eruption in the century. Now its crater lake has become an attraction to tourists looking for adventure.
  • Caramoan is better known for its very rugged terrain and enchanting chain of white-sand islands. Located at the extreme southeastern tip of Camarines Peninsula.
  • Donsol in the extreme southeast of Luzon is the Philippine capital of meeting the giant but friendly whaleshark (Butanding in local language). You can go swimming and snorkelling with them and although they have been seen in most months, the best season is from December to June with a peak from February to April.
  • The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are a Unesco World Heritage Site in the central north of the island of Luzon.
  • Camiguin is a tiny island in between Mindanao and Bohol and has some stunning scenery with volcanos and beaches. It is said to be the island with the highest density of volcanoes in the world!

Theme Parks

  • Enchanted Kingdom is the first year-round theme park in the country that features different rides and thrill activities. Located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province, about 36 kilometres south of the capital Manila. Weekend entry rates: P500 adult, P320 child. Weekdays: P400 adult, P250 child.
  • Zoobic Safari is a theme park inside the Subic Freeport that features encounters with Bengal tigers in secured enclosure. 120 kilometres northwest of Manila, Subic Freeport used to host the US Navy Pacific Fleet until 1991.
  • Ocean Adventure is a water theme park in Subic that features dolphin and whale performances in the open sea.
  • Manila Ocean Park - The first oceanarium in the country that features endemic marine creatures found in the archipelago. It is located at the back of Luneta Grandstand, Luneta Park. Entrance fee: 400 pesos for adults, 350 pesos for kids. Opened daily.

Other Activities

  • Beaches are stunning in Boracay, Puerto Galera, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Pagudpud, Camiguin, Bohol, Marinduque.
  • Scuba Diving that is some of the best in the world can be found in Anilao, Bohol, Boracay, Busuanga, Coron, Cebu, Malapascua, Puerto Galera, Tubbataha.
  • Surfing can be experienced on the island of Siargao in Surigao Province (Mindanao) and the coastal towns of La Union province in Luzon, 250 kilometres north of Manila.
  • White Water Rafting can be thrilling near to Cagayan De Oro, Pagsanjan, Kalinga.
  • Wakeboarding in CamSur Watersports Complex
  • Cultural Center of the Philippines - opened its doors in 1999. Located along Roxas Boulevard at the south end of Manila, it is a grand edifice that plays host to both local and international cultural performances, exhibitions, shows and concerts. It houses the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Folk Dance Company, and the world-known Madrigal Singers.
  • Museon Pambata - An interactive museum for children and the younger generation. Located on the southwest fringe of Rizal (Luneta) Park, beside the US Embassy. Entrance fees: P100 adult or child; open Tuesdays-Saturdays 8:00am-5:00pm and Sundays 1:00pm-5:00pm.



Events and Festivals

Pahiyas Festival 2008

Pahiyas Festival 2008

© pau_p1

Main article: Events and Festivals in the Philippines

  • Sinulog Festival is held every third Sunday of January in Cebu City. Distinguished by signature shuffling dance performed along the streets of the city as they celebrate in honor of the image of the Holy Child, the Santo Niño.
  • Moriones Festival is held during the Holy Week, which normally fall on the month of April. This is one of the most famous festival in the country held in Boac, Marinduque where locals dressed in Roman warriors reenact the life of Longuinus, the centurion who stabbed Jesus' side.
  • Flores De Mayo or the Santacruzan is held nationwide within the festive month of May. It's a parade of a town's beautiful ladies on procession to commemorate St. Helena's search for Christ's cross.
  • Pintados Festival is held every June 29th in the city of Tacloban, this wild fiesta centers on the imitating pre-Hispanic tattooed warriors. Reveller join in the celebration in painting their bodies.
  • Masskara Festival is the biggest annual event in the city of Bacolod happening every third week of October. It is a carnival themed festival featuring masked participants in colorful costumes dancing in the streets.
  • Siargao surfing festival - Started in 2010 and was added on to the international billabong pro that has been held on Siargao for over a decade, it also runs as the same time as the annual fiesta in General Luna. Two weeks of surfing, livebands, padgents, parades and amazing party's. It usually starts mid September every year.
  • Ati-Atihan Festival - A colourful street party held over the 3rd weekend of January in Kalibo, Panay Island. Groups of locals dress up in colourful outfits and are led by a group of drummers. The whole parade goes on throughout most of Friday, Saturday & Sunday and lasts well into the evening.




There are two seasons that characterize the country's year-round weather system: dry (December to May) and wet (June to November). During the wet or rainy season, the islands are frequently struck by typhoons (averaging 21 weather disturbances a year) from June to September and can extend up to the first week of December. The dry season is hot and humid and very balmy in coastal areas, ranging from 32 °C to a high 39 °C. It gets to be a gorgeous 20 °C to 28 °C from December until February. Elevated areas like the cities of Baguio and Tagaytay are 5 to 10 °C cooler than the lowlands year-round. The seasons on the Pacific side of Mindanao and Samar have a slightly different wet season, namely from January to March.



Getting There

By Plane

The primary international airport serving travellers to the Philippines is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila. Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (CRK) in Clark is servicing nearby Angeles City currently services low-cost airlines, but is set to overtake Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the near future as the country's primary international gateway. Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) is another major hub located in the island of Cebu which connects the southern islands to the rest of the region.

Smaller airports servicing international flights are located in Davao, General Santos, and Zamboanga in the island of Mindanao, Laoag in northern Luzon, and Kalibo, Bacolod, and Iloilo in the Visayan islands.

Philippine Airlines is the national flag-carrier of the Philippines and is Asia's oldest airlines. It has flights to and from destinations in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States. Cebu Pacific Air is the country's second flag carrier with flights to major cities in Southeast Asia and East Asia.

By Boat

There aren't many passengers ferries, so if you want to visit the Philippines without flying, try a cargoship or search for private yachts going there.
The only option are ferry services between Zamboanga Peninsula (Mindanao) in the southern Philippines and Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia with Aleson Shipping Lines, taking about 13 hours completing the journey.



Getting Around

By Plane

Here are some domestic airlines that serves the different islands. Most use Manila and Cebu as their hub of operation.

By Train

Currently the Philippine National Railways (PNR) line is the only operational railway system servicing the island of Luzon. This runs from the Manila to Legaspi City.

Within Metro Manila, 3 light rail transits service the metro.

  • LRT1 (yellow line) - Traversing south to north of Metro Manila on its western rim. 18 stations; starting with Baclaran on the south and ending at the Monumento station in the north. For one-time fare: P12 for first four stations, P15 for more than 4 stations. Stored Value tickets available. Service runs 6:00am till 11:00pm, weekdays. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.
  • LRT2 (purple line) - 13.8-kilometre-route distance traversing 5 cities of Metro Manila in a west-east direction. 11 stations, with Santolan station on the east-end, Recto station on the west-end. Fares start at P12, P15 for the whole stretch. Service runs 5:00am till 11:00pm.
  • MRT3 (blue line) - 13 stations traversing the length of the famous Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). Fares start at P10, P15 for the whole length of the route. Service runs 5:30am till 10:00pm. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.

By Jeepney and Bus

Manila Jeepney

Manila Jeepney

© moutallica

The jeepney is the most popular public transportation around the country. Hundreds of US military jeeps were left behind by the Americans after WWII and some enterprising Filipinos converted them for public transport, adorning it as well with lots of colors, paintings, buntings and other native decors. Eventually, the chassis and bodies were extended to accomodate more passengers. Jeepneys run different routes in and between every city of the country. Routes are written on their bodies' side panels and the front. Buses ply the longer routes and wider roads and their fares are a tad higher than the jeepneys.

By Car

Car rental is available at least at the major international airports and bigger cities, with companies like Hertz and Avis having many offices throughout the country. You need a national driver's licence as well as an international driving permit. There are highways on the Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon island groups and many other roads are under construction. Driving can be a little chaotic, but apart from driving at night on minor and rural roads, it is not overly dangerous.

By Boat

Being an archipelago, ports for commuter ships, ferries and jetties are available on all over the country. An organized network of highways and vehicular ferry routes, called the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, is in place that interconnects each island from Luzon, to the smaller islands of Visayas up to the island of Mindanao.

Here are some of the major sea carriers that ferry passengers from island to island:



Red Tape

Nationals from most countries, including all ASEAN countries, can enter the Philippines without a visa for up to 30 days, or obtain a visa on arrival for up to 59 days, as long as they have a return or onward ticket as well as passports valid for a period of at least six months beyond the period of stay. Exceptions to this rule are as listed below:

  • Nationals of Brazil and Israel may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 59 days.
  • Nationals of Hong Kong and Macau - including permanent residents of Macau who hold Portuguese passports - may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 14 days.
  • Nationals of the People's Republic of China travelling as tourists and holding a valid visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United States or a Schengen Area state may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 7 days.
  • Nationals of Taiwan holding passports with National ID numbers or Resident Certificate may apply for the eVisa.
  • Nationals of India holding a valid tourist, business or resident visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States or a Schengen Area state may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 14 days.
  • Nationals of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China (PRC), Cuba, East Timor, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tonga, Ukraine and Yemen need to apply for a visa at a Filipino diplomatic mission prior to departure.

If intending to stay beyond the duration of the 30-day visa, you may apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which have offices in most main cities and at Manila and Cebu airports . Extensions are granted up to a maximum of six months per time. You can keep getting visa extensions up to a stay of 3 years, after which foreign nationals wishing to stay longer must go out of the Philippines and then come back to start anew, or apply for permanent resident status at home. At Cebu airport it costs ₱3000 to get a 29 day visa extension and takes less than 5 minutes.

The 1st visa extension got within the Philippines at a BOI office is from 30 days up to 59 days and cost ₱3130. The cost of a 29 day visa extension at Cebu airport is ₱3000. You could also get a 59-day tourist visa from any Philippines Embassy around the world for US$30/40, but you must go to the embassy twice as the visa take 2-3 working days to get.

If you overstay, you must pay on departure a fine of ₱1000 per month of overstay plus a ₱2020 processing fee.

Airlines may refuse to let you check in if you only have a one-way ticket to the Philippines due to immigration requirements. Cebu Pacific Air will require a printed copy of an onwards "itinerary receipt" at check in. If you want to risk not having an onwards ticket, try to check in early to allow yourself time to buy a ticket at an Internet cafe or ticket desk in the airport if the airline refuses to check you in.

All visitors are given arrival and departure cards presented to immigration.

Travellers intending to stay in the Philippines for the long term (i.e. applying for residence) must register for an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) card. ACR applicants will go through fingerprinting, photo identification, and submission of police clearance (not required for tourist visa holders). Foreigners retiring in the Philippines can apply for a retiree visa, but those planning to stay longer must apply for an immigrant visa and permanent residence, which requires at least $10,000 (₱600,000) deposited in a local bank and no criminal record. The Philippines regulates the number of immigrants to 50 persons per country, with exceptions outlined in local immigration legislation. In addition, you must go through additional paperwork at the barangay of residence by applying for a Barangay Certificate of Residence within 24 hours of your arrival.

Under the "Balikbayan Program", former Filipino citizens who have been naturalized in a foreign country may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to one year. If eligible, you must prove your previous Philippine citizenship by presenting an old Philippine passport, birth certificate, or foreign naturalization documents. However, you may not have to present these documents to the immigration officer, as usually it is sufficient to speak a Filipino language, appear Filipino, and/or show the foreign passport if it indicates that you were born in the Philippines. If your Balikbayan status is granted, the immigration officer will annotate your passport for a one-year stay. Your spouse and children may also avail themselves of the Balikbayan privilege, as long as they enter and leave the Philippines together with you. If you choose to reside permanently, you can reacquire Filipino citizenship by taking the Philippine oath of allegiance, and your children (under 18), including illegitimate or adopted children, will automatically acquire Filipino citizenship.




See also Money Matters

The local currency is called the Philippine Peso (PHP). Peso is spelled as Piso in Filipino language. One Peso is divided into 100 centavos (Filipino: sentimo).

  • Banknotes: P20, P50, P100, P200, P500, P1,000.
  • Coins: 1 centavo, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 25 centavos, P1, P5, P10.

As at 2 March 2012, the exchange rates against world's major currencies are approximately USD1 = PHP42.80, EUR1 = PHP57.10, JPY100 = PHP52.80, AUD1 = PHP46.00.




Under Philippine law, any foreigner working must have an Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor. The paperwork is in general handled by the prospective employer and the employee picks up the relevant visa at a Philippine Embassy or Consulate. Working without a permit is not allowed and does not give you any labor protections. Furthermore, visas are checked upon departing the Philippines. Those who have overstayed without permission are subject to fines and, in certain cases, even jail.

It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money while staying in the Philippines, especially in Manila and other bigger cities in provinces. These may include temporary teaching in schools, colleges and other institutions; and working in bars and clubs. Temporary work may also be available as an "extra" on the set of a film or television series. Fluency in English is very important in jobs while knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low. Recently as of late 2010, the Philippines has overtaken India in the call center industry, and many international companies hire English fluent workers.

Most establishments pay monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.




University of Santo Tomas

University of Santo Tomas

© pau_p1

A number of good quality colleges and universities may be found all over the country. Here are a few:




Filipino is the national language of the Philippines. It is mainly a derivative of the Malay language widely spoken in the region, comprising the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo.

Most of the Filipino vocabulary comprise of the Tagalog dialect and words hailed from its influences in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese and other local dialects.

There are about 170 different dialects that are spoken within the archipelago. Some of the major dialects include Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bicolano, Tboli, Tausog, Ivatan, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Panggalatok. The dialect Chavacano, spoken in Zamboanga, is very close to the Spanish language.

English is considered the second language and is the medium of instruction in all schools.
Nearly 98% of Filipinos are bilinguial, and 60% trilingual. Follow the link for the Filipino (Tagalog) phrasebook.




Common Dishes

  • Adobo - Using pork or chicken meat or both, simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and black pepper, Adobo is one of the most common Filipino dishes. It is finished-off with the addition of laurel leaves.
  • Sinigang - A soup dish that contains fish or meat and a variety of vegetables and is generally simmered in tamarind broth. Sour but tasteful, this is also cooked using different meats, including pork, beef, chicken, fish, and shrimp. Some varieties use broths of guava, miso, or kamias which gives a different sour taste.
  • Lechon - Roasted pig on bamboo, gently roasted over low fire until its skin turns reddish-brown. Usually served in fiestas and parties. Leftovers are further cooked into another dish called pinaksiw na lechon, which is a caserole cooked in vinegar and liver sauce.
  • Pinakbet - A salty mixture of native vegetables boiled in a local fermented fish-sauce called bagoong, usually added with slices of dried pork called bagnet. This dish is native to the Ilocos region (northern part of Luzon island), although it is prepared in various ways in other parts of the country.
  • Bulalo - Another soup dish containing beef (with bone-in) mixed with local lettuce called Pechay Tagalog, black pepper and potatoes.
  • Kare-kare - A mixture of vegetables with ox tail, beef and tripe boiled to tenderness. Dish is dressed in thick peanut sause with herbs. Served with spicy shrimp paste.

Exotic Food

  • Balut - A common partner for beer, this delicacy is boiled duck egg with a still unfertilized chick inside was featured as one of the freakiest food in the world.
  • Ginataang Kuhol - Snails sautéed in garlic, onions, pepper and ginger with coconut milk. Hot chilis and a leafy swamp vegetable called kangkong are topped to finish the simmer.
  • Halo-halo - is a favorite local snack during summer. It is a mixture of purple yam, sweet potates, jackfruit, coconut meat, nata de coco, sugar palm, sweet beans, sago and gulaman in crushed ice, milk and sugar. Served in a tall glass. This is similar to the ice chi kang of Singapore and Malaysia, except that it has less ingredients and served in a bowl.
  • Sisig - Boiled pork ears, cheeks, snout, brains and liver - mixed with garlic, onions and pepper, marinated in a spacial sauce with vinegar, and finally grilled on a hot plate.

Fast Food

  • Jollibee is the Philippines' most famous hamburger food chain. Its menu includes its famous ChickenJoy, hamburgers, sweet spaghetti, and rice meals.


  • Mangoes - The Philippines produces some of the best, if not the best, mangoes in the world. Philippine mangoes come in different varieties, but the most popular is the Kalabaw variety. Attempts by some neighboring countries to duplicate its cultivation and production (more recently, Mexico), but none could approximate the taste and texture of those grown in the Philippines, specially the produce from Guimaras Island, Iloilo province.
  • Bananas - Several varieties abound. The Cavendish variety, long and nice yellow blemish-free peeling, is grown for export and mainly cultivated and produced in Bukidnon province in Mindanao. The Saba variety is popular for making local snacks, and to some extent, is included as an ingredient in some native dishes. The smallest variety, Senorita, which is as short as your fingers, are popularly grown in the uplands of Cavite province, esspecially in Tagaytay. Other varieties include Latundan, and Lakatan - a popular variety served in feasts.
  • Coconut - These are bountiful everywhere and the juice is at its prime taste when freshly harvested from the tree. Nata de coco is a chewy, transluscent food product produced by the bacterial fermentation of the coconut juice. This had been the latest food craze among yuppies in Japan. But locally, it is used as an ingredient in one of the favorites snack during summer: the halo-halo.
  • Pineapples - One of the best pineapples in the world is grown on the fields and hills of Bukidnon province in the island of Mindanao where Del Monte and Dole have huge plantations. Both produce nearly 2 million metric tons of pineapples annually.




Accommodations are available for all budget levels in major cities. Smaller towns and cities offer modest facilities and as the traveller goes farther to remote barrios and the outlying islands, he/she should expect to be a cowboy and enjoy the night under the starry sky if he did not bring along camping gear and provisions. There is a lot of choice regarding budget accommodation and Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses in the Philipines. You'll find some great luxurious hotels and 5-star places in the bigger cities and along the beautiful beaches of islands like Cebu.




Due to the tropical climate of the Philippines, chilled drinks are popular. A stand selling chilled drinks and shakes are common especially on shopping malls. Fruit Shakes are served with ice, evaporated or condensed milk, and fruits such as mango, watermelon, pineapple, strawberry and even durians. Various tropical fruit drinks that can be found in the Philippines are dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durian, guyabano (soursop) mango, banana, watermelon and strawberry, these are available at stands along streets, as well as at commercial establishments such as food carts inside malls. They are often served chilled with ice. Buko juice (young coconut) is a popular drink in the country, the juice is consumed via an inserted straw on the top of the buko or young coconut.

Sago't Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin is also a popular drink among Filipinos. Zagu is a shake with flavors such as strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls.

The main beer of choice all over the Philippines is San Miguel beer and costs from around 25 pesos and upwards, depending on the type of establishment you go. If you are after something stronger but still very cheap go for the local rum Tanduay. A small bottle cost called a JR cost around P27, senior P45 and the 700ml, also known as long neck cost around P65. So cheap you might wonder what it contains but it does the job.

Salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, is an iced or hot tea made from lemon grass and pandan leaves or brewed from ginger root. Kapeng barako is a famous kind of coffee in the Philippines, found in Batangas, made from coffee beans found in the cool mountains. Try the Filipino hot chocolate drink, tsokolate, made from chocolate tablets called tableas, a tradition that dates back the Spanish colonial times. Champorado isn't considered a drink by Filipinos, but it is another version of tsokolate with the difference of added rice. Records say that chocolate was introduced by the Aztecs to the Filipinos during the Manila-Acapulco trade.




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to the Philippines. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering the Philippines) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to the Philippines. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue sometimes occurs as well.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also Travel Safety

Since the return to democracy, the Philippines suffers from crime, corruption, and ongoing insurgencies. While foreign governments and the media exaggerates the threats, the country is, by and large, peaceful except for some regions experiencing low-level insurgencies. Crime levels in major cities are relatively comparable to those in American cities.

The country has one of those having the most deaths from natural disasters known to humankind: earthquakes, tropical cyclones (typhoons), floods, and tropical diseases.

The Philippines is quite low-income: unskilled jobs generally pay US$100-200 a month and even many good jobs are under $500. More or less all travelers will be perceived as rich by local standards. This makes you a prime target for thieves, scammers, prostitutes and corrupt officials. Do not make it worse by displaying a Rolex, an iPhone and a Nikon or by pulling out a stack of ₱1000 notes when you pay a restaurant bill.

Crime, along with impunity and corruption within the police force, has increased since the return to democracy, and while the rate is relatively high by Western standards, they mostly happen within crowded or rough areas of large cities. Most common are pickpocketing, bag snatching, and hold-up robbery; flaunting high-denomination bills, designer bags, or personal gadgets puts you at risk for those. Beware of the budol-budol scam, where victims are hypnotized to follow the robbers' demands; it is common around Manila, but foreigners are rarely targeted. Getting involved in a crime might introduce you into the slow Filipino justice system.

Smash-and-grab theft on parked cars (the basag-kotse modus operandi) is common, even in guarded parking areas, so do not leave anything valuable inside the car, especially on the dashboard.

Distraction theft is uncommon, but they happen; such cases often involve dropping a coin (the laglag-barya scam), or intentionally sticking a piece of used chewing gum to a bus seat. In restaurants, one common scam involves staged beverage spills.

Bag-snatching by motorcycle riders, especially those riding in tandem, is common. Sometimes, they will pull the bag along with the person for a few meters. Be careful when carrying expensive bags, as it may catch the attention of snatchers. Avoid wearing jewelry, especially earrings or rings, when going into crowded areas.

Avoid getting into fights or confrontations with locals. Filipinos are generally smaller than Westerners, but being outnumbered by a group of three or even a mob is absolute trouble. Police, despite being able to communicate in English by and large, will not intervene on behalf of a foreigner in an altercation with locals. Getting into a fight with locals is a common cause for foreigners to be deported from the Philippines. Also avoid raising your voice; some simple arguments ended up with murder for causing the person to lose face and turn violent. Drunken locals can get violent and run amok, and bar fights are not uncommon, especially with East Asians. Filipinos are generally peace-loving people; showing hiya (saving face, literally "shame") and settling the issue diplomatically is better than getting into trouble.

Filipino organized crime syndicates are almost never a threat to the ordinary traveler, and mostly focus on drugs, human trafficking and contract killing. Entering a run-down neighborhood of a large city, you could be assaulted by thugs in unprovoked attacks, but this is generally unlikely unless you look like a Filipino.

Corruption is a serious issue in the country, and the kotong ("bribe") culture, also helped by the meager wages of officials, widespread red tape, and patronage, is prevalent within the police and the Philippine bureaucracy. The situation is not as bad as back in the 1980s and 1990s, but some forms of corruption continue to persist.

Beware of immigration scams at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Immigration officers might welcome you with a "Merry Christmas", even as early as August, and then ask you for "gifts" or a tip. More serious is the hold-departure order scam: a corrupt immigration official will tell you cannot leave the country because you were placed on an immigration blacklist for a crime you did not commit, and airport security will then come and hold you at their office until you bribe them. This rarely happens to foreigners, but might happen with returning Filipinos. Clarifying that a part of your name (especially the middle name) does not match those in the blacklist can help avoid this scam.

While not as bad as before, Philippine law enforcement is infamous for street-level corruption. Police officers or traffic police are known to extort bribes. Fines for minor infractions are very easy to get around, ranging from ₱300-500, but cops may even ask for outrageous amounts, or threaten you to go to their station and talk with their superior. Police may even ask you for a bribe before filing a formal complaint, but this is no longer common. Have your phone camera ready so you have evidence against those who extort bribes; a dashcam is also a must if you are driving.

Philippine bureaucracy is also plagued with corruption. Acting polite, asking for a receipt, smiling and saying thank you will avoid any problems. Consider calling the civil service complaint hotline 8888 or writing a polite complaint letter if you run into trouble with the bureaucracy.

Carry your passport, or a photocopy of both the identification page and your visa at all times as random checks by police or immigration are not uncommon.

The Philippines has been struggling with insurgent groups such as Islamic separatists in Mindanao and Communists, under the New People's Army (NPA), throughout its history.

Non-essential travel to western Mindanao, which includes the Sulu Archipelago, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the mainland provinces of Bangsamoro, is discouraged as the security situation is far worse due to terrorism, piracy and Islamist insurgencies. While the situation has somewhat improved since the Marawi siege and the 2019 plebiscites, bombings and kidnappings continued to happen sporadically in 2020.

The rest of Mindanao remains safe, but some countries still have advisories discouraging travel to the rest of the region due to violent crime and terrorism, and travel insurance or consular assistance may be limited if you travel there. The sparsely populated region of Caraga (which has Siargao island) is far safer than the rest of mainland Mindanao, but the jungle also harbors Communist rebels and is also one of the poorest regions in the country.

Elsewhere in the country, Communist rebels, under the New People's Army (NPA) are a problem inland. They set up illegal checkpoints along rural roads and extort money from passing motorists, but they do not bother ordinary travelers, and are mostly targeting buses and cargo trucks.

Terrorist acts targeting tourist destinations are rare, but there have been several high-profile attacks, usually bombings, in the past, like the 2000 Rizal Day bombings, the 2004 SuperFerry bombing, the 2005 Valentine's Day bombings, and the 2016 Davao City night market bombing. Since then, there has been no major bombing, except for sporadic incidents within Mindanao. While security has been increasingly invasive in light of those incidents, with airport-style procedures when entering malls, public transportation terminals, and the like, there's no need to be paranoid.



Keep Connected


There are a number of internet service providers nationwide: PLDT-Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms, BayanTel and Sun Cellular and each have their signal strengths in various locations. Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. WiFi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to ₱200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ₱15/hour (approximately US$0.35).

Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by and WiZ is likely to cost ₱100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is a internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a landline internet connection for around 20P an hour (about 0.46 US). Coffee shops as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi. The SM chain of malls offer free wifi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless.


See also International Telephone Calls

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company commonly known as PLDT is the leading telecommunications provider. It is also the largest company in the country. There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home. Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ₱30 and provide a cheaper alternative.
If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ₱1,500.The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls.

Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.


The Philippine Postal Corporation, or PhilPost, is the provides the postal service throughout the Philippines. PhilPost is pretty reliable, but one can hardly call it fast services. It is fine for sending postcards and letters though, both domestically as well as internationally. Prices for sending postcards or letters within the country start at around P7, while most international post costs at least P20. For sending parcels to and from the Philippines it might be wise to use companies like FedEx or UPS. The opening hours of post offices in the Philippines differ from one place to another. Usually, post offices are open from 8:00am to 12 noon and from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on weekdays. And for those that operate on Saturdays, the business hours are from 8:00am to 1:00pm.



  1. 1 August 2007 estimate, National Statistics Office, Philippines

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