Travel in the Philippines is completely unique when compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. Use these Philippines travel essentials to be better oriented before you hit the ground!
- Read a little about food in the Philippines to know what you will be eating.
- Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
- Time: UTC + 8 hours
- Country Phone Code: +63
- Capital City: Manila (population: 21.2 million urban area per 2010 census)
- Languages: Tagalog, English, Spanish, and many regional dialects
- Primary Religions: Roman Catholicism (90%); Islam (5%)
- Drives on the: Right
Philippines Visa Requirements
American citizens, as well as those from many other nations, typically receive a 30-day visa upon arrival at the Philippines. You'll need proof of an onward ticket (have it printed and ready to show) when you enter the country.
If you wish to stay longer, you can easily extend your visa an additional 60 days by paying a fee at one of many visa extension offices located throughout the country. Immigration offices in smaller towns may be a better bet than Manila for speedy, hassle-free turnaround. You'll need photocopies of your passport as well as your entry stamp into the Philippines. Passport photos are typically not necessary for the extension.
As with many countries, visa requirements often change on a whim. Check with the official immigration website before planning your trip.
- Read more about travel visas.
Money in the Philippines
- Official Currency: Philippine peso (PHP)
- Also Accepts: US dollars (USD)
- ATMs: Found in most tourist areas. ATMs dispense local currency.
- Credit Cards: Some hotels, malls, and dive shops accept credit cards, however, you'll often be charged an additional fee for using one.
- Tipping: Leaving small tips for people who deserve it is acceptable in the Philippines; labor wages are painfully low. Tip congenial drivers by rounding up the fare and adding a little extra.
Use these resources to better manage your travel funds:
Electricity in the Philippines
- Power: 220-volt / 50Hz
- Outlets: American-style, flat-pronged outlets prevail in the Philippines.
Power disruptions and brownouts are common throughout generator-powered islands in the Philippines. Carry a flashlight on smaller islands for unexpected blackouts and beware of leaving electronic devices connected while you are away from the room.
Many smaller resorts -- even those on popular islands such as Boracay -- may rely on a generator and only have electricity for part of the day.
- Read more about the voltage in Asia.
- See how to protect electronic devices from power surges and sags.
Getting Around in the Philippines
Long-haul transportation (e.g., buses and jeepneys) is incredibly cheap in the Philippines, however, you'll often find the cheapest public transportation very crowded.
The local method of transportation in many cities and towns is the 'jeepney' -- a rugged, half-bus, half-jeep. Jeepneys are a unique Philippine creation and a symbol of national pride. To catch a ride, simply hail a jeepney in the direction you need to go and climb into the back. Payment is based upon the honor system, typically only a few coins; ask a fellow passenger how much you should pay at the end of the ride.
- Learn more about jeepneys in the Philippines.
Along with jeepneys, you'll find plenty of taxis and motorcycle trikes -- the Philippine version of the tuk-tuk. You'll need to negotiate with trike drivers before getting inside. Always ensure that taxi drivers turn on the meter before getting inside. If a driver refuses, don't encourage the behavior; simply wait for a more honest driver to come along.
- See more about getting around Southeast Asia.
Communicating in the Philippines
Filipinos speak a bewildering array of languages and dialects, often combining slang from several languages into a single sentence! The good news is that pretty much everyone you encounter will speak decent, if not excellent, English.
Spanish is also widely spoken throughout the Philippines and Spanish numbers are common in everyday use. The national language of the Philippines is Tagalog, spoken primarily in Luzon and metro Manila.
- See this guide for saying hello in Asia.
When to Go
With more than 7,000 islands spread over a large geographical area, you'll pretty much find both dry and monsoon weather in the Philippines at any given time.
The winter months are typically the driest for most areas, particularly after January. Many islands and regions experience no real distinct seasons; the rain may pop up at any time. You'll always be warm -- if not sweating -- in the Philippines assuming that you aren't at higher elevation in one of the many mountainous regions.
The biggest concern for deciding when to visit the Philippines is typhoon season. The country is hit annually by typhoons between the months of July and December, especially the eastern side of the Visayas and Luzon. Many smaller tropical depressions and storms also affect weather as seasons change. Global climate change has caused typhoon season to drag on later each year. The storms are largely unpredictable and avoiding them requires being in the right place at the right time.
- Check the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration website for the latest on potential storms.
The Philippines become incredibly busy during Christmas and Holy Week -- the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Expect masses of travelers to clog up transportation and accommodation during both holidays.
Popular Places to Visit
Hands down, a bulk of visitors to the Philippines end up on busy Boracay Island. The long, narrow island has the best sand in the country but unfortunately, it's no longer a secret. Prices and crowds are the highest that you'll find in the Philippines.
One great alternative to Boracay are the islands of the Visayas -- a popular and quieter place to visit. See these five great island destinations in the Philippines.
Palawan is popular with budget travelers interested in island hopping.