The Philippines has 80 provinces categorized into 17 regions with over 120 cities. Our guide divides it into 3 major island groups:
Regions of the Philippines
Luzon (Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol)
The northernmost island group, center of government, history and economy and home to the capital
Visayas (Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas)
The central island group, heart of the country’s antiquity, nature and biodiversity and the best beaches in the Philippines
Mindanao (Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga Region, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)
the southernmost island group, which showcases the Philippines’ indigenous and rich cultures
With seven thousand islands, the Philippines has many cities. Listed below are the nine most important cities for visitors, some of which are provincial capitals and centres of commerce and finance, as well as culture and history.
Manila – the national capital, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – with all of that implies in terms of pollution, crime, urban poverty and traffic jams – with few parks. However, the smiling, stoical and resourceful people themselves are its saving grace, rather than the relatively few surviving monuments, historical landmarks and sights widely scattered around the city and its surrounding metropolitan area of Metro Manila!
Iloilo City – is a tourist hub where the best restaurants, museums, hotels, shopping districts, and heritage sites in the city await. It is most known for the annual Dinagyang Festival. Apart from its own collection of tourist attractions, Iloilo serves as a gateway to Western Visayas region and a favored stopover for tourists heading to the beaches of Boracay and the nearby Guimaras , Antique, Capiz, Aklan,Bacolod , and Negros Occidental.
Baguio – the country’s summer capital because of its cool weather, it boasts well-maintained parks and scenic areas, as well as being the home of the “Igorot”, the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras.
Cebu – It is the first city founded by the West in the Philippines and is a major center for commerce, industry, culture and tourism.
Cagayan de Oro – known as the “City of Golden Friendship”, it is popular for whitewater rafting and is the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
Davao – one of the largest cities in the world in terms of land area, it is known for its durian and for being the home of Mount Apo, the Philippines’ tallest mountain.
Tagbilaran – known as the site of the Sandugo (blood compact) between Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and Rajah Sikatuna representing the people of Bohol.
Vigan – the capital of Ilocos Sur and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its well-preserved city center is the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Philippines. Declared as one of the new 7 wonders (cities)
Zamboanga- known as “La Ciudad Latina de Asia” (Asia’s Latin City), it is the melting pot between the Philippines’ Christian and Muslim cultures, boasting old mosques, grand churches and historic colonial structures.
Banaue, home to the 2000 year old Rice terraces. People are fascinated at how the Igorots have made this, hence the Filipinos calling it as the 8th wonder of the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Batangas, home to the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines boasting of world class dive sites and famous for its beaches. It’s accessibility by land about 2 hours from the Manila airport makes it a popular destination. It is home to Taal Volcano and the Taal heritage town.
Boracay is 10km island featuring white sands.
Camarines Sur has beautiful coral reefs, and shorelines of Black and white sands. Visit the Camarines Sur Watersport complex and go water skiing.
Coron is the place for wreck diving in the Philippines. Several Japanese ships were sunk here during World War II. Other dive attractions include nice reefs, good macro life, and a very unique geothermal lake dive. Island hopping is another popular activity here.
Donsol is the Whale Shark Capital of the world, dive and see whale sharks.
Malapascua Island just like other islands in the Philippines, the island features a beautiful white sand shoreline and coral gardens.
Palawan offers beautiful beaches that are often inhabited and waters which have coral reefs that are home to a large variety of fishes, not only coral reefs but also animals such as dugongs and manta rays. Not only white beaches and tranquil water but see the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park, a cave with beautiful rock formations as well as an underground river.
Puerto Galera, a favourite getaway for people during Holy Week because of its white sand shorelines and it’s amazing flora.
Sabang is a municipality in Puerto Galera, dive its beautiful waters and be amazed at the fauna that you will see.
Sagada is a small town in the mountain province of Luzon in the Philippines, famed for its cool and refreshing climate, beautiful caves, hanging coffins, and serene mountains.
Tagaytay, tired of the old scene of the noisy metropolis of Manila? or missing the cool weather? Head to Tagaytay, it provides a view of Taal Volcano, the weather is cool and often a getaway for Filipinos tired of warm tropical weather during the Holy Week.
Beware of airlines usurping the role of Immigration Officers
Technically you are supposed to have at least six months remaining on your passport on the date you are scheduled to leave the Philippines, even if you qualify for visa free entry. However, it’s almost unheard of for Philippines Immigration Officers at ports of entry to actually enforce this requirement (unless fishing for a bribe); indeed alien children of returning balikbayan have been known to have been granted permission to stay for the usual 12 months when only 4 months remained at entry on their passports.
However, since airlines are subject to heavy fines if one of their passengers are refused entry, many of them are far more vigilant in enforcement than the actual immigration officers! (This is known to be a particular problem when flying Cebu Pacific from Sydney to Manila, with a few passengers left behind in floods of tears on almost every flight.)
What to pay when leaving the Philippines?
When leaving the Philippines, departing passengers have to pay a passenger service charge, more commonly known as the terminal fee. This ₱550 fee is either already integrated into the ticket price (if departing from Manila), or is collected at other airports before entering immigration and is payable in Philippine pesos or US dollars. A stub is attached to your boarding pass to indicate that you have paid the fee.
In addition, most Filipinos and resident aliens. (any one who stays more than one year) leaving the country are required to pay a travel tax of either ₱2,700 (around US$60) if flying first class or ₱1620 (around US$36) if flying in business or economy class. This tax is collected at a designated counter before check-in if the ticket was purchased outside the Philippines or, in most cases, on-line. If the ticket was purchased at an airline ticket office or travel agency in the Philippines, the travel tax is most likely included in the ticket price; check first and ask before paying. Foreign nationals and balikbayans (former Filipino citizens) who are staying in the Philippines for less than one year are exempt from paying the travel tax, as are overseas Filipino workers, Filipino students studying abroad, infants of 2 years or less and employees of government or international agencies on official business. Reduced rates are available for minors (under 12 years), dependants (under 21 years) of Overseas Foreign Workers and journalists on assignment.
Nationals from the vast majority of 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.
Those who hold British National (Overseas) passports may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 7 days.
Nationals of China (PRC) traveling 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 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, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, 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. but only the (BI) offices in Manila, Cebu and Davao, can give give a 6 month visa extension. most BOI offices only give two months visa extensions. you can keep getting visa extensions up to a stay of (three years). after which foreign nationals wishing to stay longer must go out of the Philippines and then come back to start a new. The 1st visa extension got within the Philippines at a BOI office is from 30 days up to 59 days and cost 2130 =$42. you could also get a 59 day tourist visa from any Philippines Embassy around the world for $30/40. but you need to add on the costs of going to and from the Embassy two times as the visa take 2-3 working days to get.
If you overstay, you must pay on departure a fine of ₱1,000 per month of overstay plus a ₱2,020 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.
Because the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors arrive by plane. International airports are located in Cebu, Clark Freeport Zone, Angeles, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, Iloilo, Manila and Zamboanga.
A much more congenial airport to arrive at is Mactan-Cebu International Airport or Kalibo International Airport , which are both at the centre of the Philippine archipelago and outside the Typhoon belt.
Passengers departing the Philippines from Cebu, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo or Davao airports have to pay a International terminal fee. Clark has a terminal fee of ₱600. Cebu has a terminal fee of 750. Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo have a terminal fee of 700. it is paid before entering the immigration and pre-departure “air-side” area of the terminals.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) , Cebu Pacific , Air Asia  are the national carriers.
If you plan to travel around the various islands, it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time back-tracking. Most common open-jaw ticket combinations fly into Manila and out of Cebu. Local airlines also have regular “seat sales”, advertising cheap fares for flights to domestic destinations. However, be aware of travel dates: some tickets booked during a seat sale may only be used on dates well after the duration of the sale (sometimes up to a year after the sale), and advertised fares usually exclude government taxes and fuel surcharges. Also, be informed that Cebu Pacific is notorious for flight delays almost on a daily basis and short notice flight cancelations. Cebu Pacific also don’t provide passengers with free food or refreshments, accommodation or reimbursement of full airfare cost during flight delays.
If you live in an area with a large Filipino population (such as London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei or Tokyo), check out travel agencies catering to overseas Filipinos which often have fares keener than those generally advertised.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)  (IATA: MNL | ICAO: RPLL is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and the Domestic Terminal (also known as Terminal 4). All airlines use Terminal 1 or 3 with a few exceptions: Philippine Airlines uses Terminal 2, and Air Asia domestic flights use the Domestic Terminal.
Terminal 1, long regarded as one of Asia’s worst airport terminals, is currently undergoing renovation and several areas of the terminal have been renovated. The newer Terminals 2 and 3 are regarded as being far nicer than Terminal 1, with more amenities to boot.
Airlines and routes
Several airlines fly in and out of Manila, servicing various destinations.Philippine Flight Network provides updated information on all of the latest airline news, routes, and destinations.
North America: Delta Air Lines serves Manila from Detroit via Tokyo Narita. Passengers transit in Japan to other Delta flights to other east Asian or US cities. Philippine Airlines serves Manila from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and Honolulu. A popular option for passengers flying to the Philippines from North America is to fly via Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Hong Kong or Taipei.
Australia and Southwest Pacific: Philippine Airlines offers direct flights to Manila from Sydney, Melbourne as well as flies to Darwin and Brisbane, and Auckland, New Zealand while Qantas flies direct to Manila from Sydney from Brisbane. Air Niugini serves Manila from Port Moresby, while Jetstar Airways serves Manila from Darwin and Perth. Philippine Airlines also has flights between Manila and Guam, while United Airlines serves Manila from Guam and Koror (Palau). Cebu Pacific Airlines has direct flights from Sydney to Manila. Philippines airlines now also flies to New Zealand.
East Asia: Air China  and China Southern Airlines serve Manila from Beijing, while China Southern Airlines also serves Manila from Guangzhou and Xiamen. Air China has some of the best fares from Europe and North America to Manila. Cathay Pacific , Dragonair  and Hong Kong Express Airways  have several flights between Manila and Hong Kong. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines also have direct flights between Manila and Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Xiamen and Taipei. China Airlines  and EVA Air  serves Manila from Taipei, while China Airlines also flies to Manila from Kaohsiung. Korean Air , Asiana Airlines , Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific serve Manila from Seoul and Busan, while Jeju Air  serves Manila from Seoul. Several airlines fly between the Philippines and points in Japan. All Nippon Airways  flies direct to Manila from Tokyo-Narita, and is notably the only foreign airline to currently use Terminal 3. Japan Airlines  also flies to Manila from Tokyo. Philippine Airlines serves Manila from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, and Cebu Pacific serves Manila from Osaka. Delta Air Lines also operates daily flights from Nagoya and Tokyo-Narita.
Southeast Asia: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have extensive Southeast Asian networks. PAL and Cebu Pacific both serve Manila from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta (PAL has both direct flights and flights via Singapore) and Singapore, while Cebu Pacific also serves Manila from Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. Scoot Airways  fly to Manila daily from Singapore. Jetstar Asia Airways  and Singapore Airlines  have multiple daily flights to Manila from Singapore, while Thai Airways  has multiple daily flights from Bangkok. Malaysia Airlines  has a double-daily service between Manila and Kuala Lumpur, and Royal Brunei Airlines  flies to Manila from Bandar Seri Begawan.
Europe: Philippine Airlines provides nonstop service between London (Heathrow) and Manila daily. KLM has flights to and from Amsterdam with a stop in Taipei. Turkish Airlines flies non-stop from Istanbul (Atatürk Airport) to Manila
South Asia: Passengers flying to the Philippines from South Asian Countries frequently fly via Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong
Middle East: Philippine Airlines  serves Riyadh, Dammam, Abu Dhabi and Dubai from Manila. Emirates  and Cebu Pacific  serves Manila from Dubai, while Etihad Airways  serves Manila from Abu Dhabi. Gulf Air serves Manila from Manama (Bahrain), while Qatar Airways  serves Manila from Doha. Kuwait Airways  serves Manila from Kuwait City. Saudi Arabian Airlines  serves Manila from Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh.
Africa: Passengers from African countries can utilize Ethiopian Airlines which connects from Addis Ababa to Manila.
NAIA is famously known for being difficult to transit through, especially if your flight leaves from a different terminal and is a national embarrassment. However, airport shuttle buses now transport passengers between terminals. The shuttle is free and runs every fifteen minutes. Shuttle buses depart from the arrival area of all terminals and use main airport access roads, so make sure you have a visa if you require one to enter or transit the Philippines as you will be entering the Philippines if you will be connecting onto a flight departing from another terminal.
Passengers who are connecting to an Philippine Airlines flight and vice-versa may avail of a free airside shuttle service between Terminals 2 and 3.
If your flight departs from the same terminal, transfer counters are available before immigration at all terminals. Passengers who transit through Manila and do not transfer terminals do not need to undergo entry procedures and are exempt from paying the terminal fee.
Beware of laglag bala, a modus operandi of syndicate/s operating in Philippine airports where bullets are planted into your luggage/s to extort money from travellers, locals and foreigners alike.
There are no monorails connecting NAIA’s 3 terminals. NAIA is accessible by bus, taxi, train, jeepney and shuttle bus. If you have a connecting flight, make sure you allocate some time to shuttle from one terminal to another.
Taxi: Yellow airport taxis have a stand at the arrival area of all terminals. The flag down rate is ₱70, with an additional ₱4.00 surcharge for every 250 meters. At Terminal 3, you can hail a white city taxi from the departure area: just take the escalator or elevator up to the departures hall and exit to the departure ramp. Coupon taxis are special taxis with fixed rates according to the destination: inquire at the information desk for rates. Taxis taken from the airport are usually a lot more expensive than those hailed outside. If money is more important to you than time, walk to a public road and hail one there instead (and make sure they know where you want to go and that they will use a meter before you get in). Application based hailing taxi’s such Grab Taxi and Uber are also available and a more convenient and safer option.
Bus: Four city bus routes connect Terminals 1 and 2 with the rest of Metro Manila: Grotto-NAIA, NAIA-Malanday, Bagong Silang-NAIA and NAIA-Lagro. There are also two city bus routes between the airport and Bulacan: NAIA-San Jose del Monte and Norzagaray-Sapang Palay-NAIA. These buses have a “MIA/6-11/Tambo” signboard posted on the dashboard, and generally serve points along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and Commonwealth Avenue. Fares usually start at ₱10.
Train: The airport is served by two train stations: Baclaran LRT station near the Domestic Terminal, and Nichols railway (PNR) station near Terminal 3. Both stations however are 2-3 kilometers away from the airport proper. Jeeps which serve Terminal 3 and Villamor Airbase stop near Nichols station.
Shuttle bus: A shuttle bus connects Terminal 3 to the Taft Avenue MRT station. The fare is ₱20 and departs every 15 minutes.
Jeepney: Jeepneys which serve Terminal 3 will have “NAIA Terminal 3” or something similar written on the side route panel. Jeepneys which serve Terminals 1 and 2 will have “MIA” written on the route panel.
Hotel transportation: Major hotel representatives are available on arrival and have chauffeur services which you can book on advance. The cost is around ₱750-₱950.
Some visitors who enter the Philippines choose to avoid flying through Manila, instead using other airports throughout the country which have international flights.
Diosdado Macapagal (Clark) International Airport  (IATA: CRK | ICAO: RPLC) in Angeles City, Pampanga is 85km north of Manila. AirAsia  (flies from Kuala Lumpur. and Jin Air  (Seoul) are foreign low-cost carriers serving Clark. Cebu Pacific treats Clark as a hub, with flights to Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau. Scoot air  flies to Clark from Singapore. The legacy carriers which fly to Clark are Asiana Airlines, flying to Seoul and Emirates, which serves Dubai. and Qatar airways.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport  (IATA: CEB | ICAO: RPVM) in Cebu is the Philippines’ second-busiest airport and a major hub for visitors headed to points in the Visayas and Mindanao. Several of the airlines which serve Manila also serve Cebu. Low cost airlines Air Aisa from KL, Scoot airways from Singapore, Cebu Pacific from Singapore, Hongkong and Taiwan fly to Cebu. SilkAir (part of Singapore airlines), Emirates, Cathay pacific, Korean Air, Eva Air, Asiana airlines, Xiamen Air also fly to Cebu.
Francisco Bangoy International Airport (IATA: DVO | ICAO: RPMD) in Davao is served by SilkAir  and Cebu pacific with daily flights to and from Singapore. Air Asia also fly nonstop from Davao to Kuala Lumpur.
Kalibo International Airport (IATA: KLO | ICAO: RPVK) in Kalibo, Aklan (near Boracay) is a Air Asia hub, with flights to KL, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. Other airlines also have scheduled charter flights to Kalibo from points in South Korea, China and Taiwan.
Laoag International Airport (IATA: LAO | ICAO: RPLI) in Laoag, Ilocos Norte is served by Air Macau  with regular charter flights to Macau.
Iloilo International Airport (IATA: ILO | ICAO: RPVI) in Iloilo is served by Cebu Pacific, with flights to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Aleson Shipping lines operates a regular ferry service which connects Zamboanga City with Sandakan in Malaysia. the ferry departs Zamboanga every Tuesday and Friday at 17.00 pm and a one ticket cost around $65.
Since the Philippines is an archipelago, the easiest way to move between islands is by plane. Philippine Airlines (including sister carrier PAL Express), Cebu Pacific have significant domestic operations, linking many major towns and cities with Manila and Cebu, while Air Asia also serve secondary destinations. There are also several smaller carriers which serve resort destinations (such as Amanpulo in Palawan), as well as more remote destinations. While larger cities are served by jet aircraft, many destinations and less busy routes are served by propeller-driven planes.
Unlike most other countries, the terminal building is reserved only for passengers (as well as airport and airline staff). In order to enter, you need to present a print-out of the flight reservation. Security screening may be performed at the entrance to the terminal in addition to after check-in.
The route networks of most local airlines are heavily centered around Manila, Clark and Cebu: flying between two domestic points usually entails having to transit through at least one of these airports, and there are few direct flights between other major cities. Reaching Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by air is a special case: travelers must fly through Zamboanga City.
A significant majority of domestic flights in the Philippines are operated by low-cost carriers and are consequently economy-only: PAL is the only airline to offer business class on domestic flights. This does not mean however that fares are affordable: domestic seat sales are a common feature throughout the year, and all major airlines regularly offer promo fares on their websites. However, fares increase significantly during major peak travel seasons (particularly during Christmas, Holy Week and the last two weeks of October), and in places served by only one airline (such as Vigan or Marinduque), fares also increase during major provincial or town fiestas. Flights are frequently full during peak travel season, so it is advisable to book well in advance.
Passengers departing on domestic flights must pay a terminal fee prior to entering the pre-departure area, although the fee will be integrated into the ticket price starting August 1, 2012 (tickets issued before that date do not include the terminal fee and the fee must be paid at the airport). Fees vary, with most major cities charging ₱200, and smaller cities charging between ₱30 and ₱100. Fees are only payable in Philippine pesos except in Manila and Cebu, where U.S. dollars are accepted.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR)  currently operates two overnight intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, which resumed on June 29, 2011 after a five-year absence, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. Additional services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. Train service is comparable to (or slower than, due to delays) buses in terms of speed, but is more comfortable owing to the use of donated Japanese coaches for the service.
The Bicol Express and Mayon Limited are NOT non-stop services: from Tutuban, Manila’s main train station, the train calls at several points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur before arriving in Naga (and Albay before arriving in Ligao for the Mayon Limited). It is possible to travel between any two points served by the services, and fares are distance-based. Children under three feet may travel for free.
There are currently four classes of service on the Bicol Express:
Executive sleeper class features individual air-conditioned cabins. Each cabin has a bed, pull-down armrests so that a portion of the bed can be used as a chair, and a small table. Washrooms are available inside the coach.
Family sleeper class features four-bed air-conditioned cabins: two beds on each side, with one stacked on top of the other. Access to the top bunk is via a foldable ladder between both sides of the cabin, and cabins are separated from the aisle with a curtain. The PNR promotes this class for the use of families traveling together, although it is possible to book an individual bed.
Reclining air-conditioned economy class (or deluxe class) features air-conditioned reclining chairs, two on each side of the cabin. On some coaches, it is possible to rotate the chairs so that passengers may face each other.
Economy class (or ordinary class) is the cheapest class of service, featuring upholstered benches on each side which can sit up to three people. Ventilation is provided via overhead ceiling fans.
On the Mayon Limited, only reclining air-conditioned economy class (“deluxe”) and regular economy class are offered. However, unlike the Bicol Express, the Mayon Limited provides service using two different trains: the “deluxe” service operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the “economy” service operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Passengers on PNR intercity services are entitled to a free baggage allowance of 20 kilograms.
It is possible to pre-book seats on intercity trains by calling the PNR at +63 (2) 319-0044. Pre-booking seats is recommended during peak travel seasons (especially during Holy Week and in September, during the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga), where trains can be full. However, the PNR does send a second, all-economy supplementary overnight train on certain days during peak season if traffic demand warrants it. Timetables and fares for all services, including supplementary services, are announced on the PNR’s website and also on its official Facebook profile .
The PNR also operates the Commuter Express in Metro Manila, a once-daily commuter service between Manila and Biñan, Laguna (which is also part of the Commuter Express, but uses different trains), and the Bicol Commuter between Naga and towns in Camarines Sur and Albay.
The Philippines’ road network is centered on Manila. Outside Luzon, larger islands’ road networks converge on the largest city or cities (for example, Cebu City for Cebu, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have a road circling the entire island. The Philippines has one highway which is part of the Asian Highway Network: the Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known locally as the Maharlika Highway. The highway begins in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, traversing through Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. However, it is also the only highway in the Asian Highway Network which is not connected to any other highway: it is not possible to enter the Philippines by car.
Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane expressways of Luzon to the narrow dirt roads of remote mountain areas, which may complicate travel by car. Most major roads have two lanes and are normally paved with asphalt or concrete, although multi-lane roads are common near major cities. Road atlases and maps are available at bookstores throughout the country, and are very helpful when driving, especially when driving alone.
Major international car rental companies such as Hertz  and Budget  have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. Avis  and Europcar  are among the largest international car rental companies, with offices in several cities throughout the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car  and Altcatcars . Regardless of the company, prices are bound to be reasonable.
Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: some types of cars however (like vans) may only be rented out with a chauffeur. Also, some rental companies (mostly local ones) may only allow rentals to be driven within the island where the city of rental is located: for example, it may be possible to drive with a rental from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte) because it would entail the use of roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to drive out of Luzon and into the outlying islands, the Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice-versa), be sure that the rental company’s terms and conditions allow it.
In addition to the existing network of national and local roads, the Philippines has two additional road networks: an expressway network and the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) system.
Luzon has an expressway network dominated by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). These are tollways with good paved roads, are privately-maintained, and the farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. Other expressways include the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway connecting Subic Bay and Tarlac) and the Bataan Provincial Expressway. Expressways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads which connect to major cities and provinces.
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway system is a three-route network of national and provincial roads, bridges and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries which facilitate the connection of major islands of the Philippines together by road, bringing down the cost of driving (and, ultimately, lowering the cost of shipping goods between islands). The SRNH system begins in Luzon and run in a north-south direction through the Visayas and ultimately end in Mindanao. The SRNH is useful for driving to tourist destinations outside Manila: for example, it is possible to drive to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. SRNH routes are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism .
International driving licences are valid in the Philippines for up to 30 days after arrival, after which an International Driver’s Permit or a Philippine driving licences are required. Vehicular traffic in the Philippines moves on the right, and the vast majority of road signs are in English. Most signs conform to design guidelines used in the United States but all units used are metric. Filipinos mainly use manual transmission in their cars; however, if you’re visiting the Philippines, and you’re used to driving an automatic transmission, automatic transmission is available for rental cars, though, it’s typically more expensive.
Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Traffic often grinds to a screeching halt, especially in major cities (Metro Manila in particular), and the honking of horns is a very common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless passing happen on a regular basis, especially on desolate rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which jostle sidewalk curbs to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: the fact that bus and jeepney drivers’ salaries are determined based on passenger load does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorcycles frequently weave through traffic, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, while frequently ignored in the past, are more strictly adhered to now. Seatbelts are mandatory only for persons seating in the front seat.
Due to heavy traffic congestion, Metro Manila and Baguio have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle’s license plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but it is simply known as “number coding” or, previously “color coding” (although it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:
Number Coding Day Plate number
Monday 1, 2
Tuesday 3, 4
Wednesday 5, 6
Thursday 7, 8
Friday 9, 0
Weekends and Holidays No coding
Cities that enforce the UVVRP prohibit cars from being driven between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm on a certain weekday on most national (primary) and secondary roads, although the implementation varies: in Metro Manila (excluding Makati and Pasay), a “window” exists between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm where the scheme is not enforced, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city center, and the scheme does not apply to the rest of the city. In general however, the UVVRP does not apply to minor streets (mostly in residential areas), and those roads remain open to coded cars the whole day. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.
Most of the taxi drivers nowadays charge people with fares not based on the meters, especially during peak hours. If you encounter this say “no” and say that drivers don’t have a right to give you a fare that is double and not based on the meters, this is usually encountered by tourists as well as middle class-elite class Filipinos. If this happens get out of the taxi, threaten the driver you will call the police hotline;Philippine National Police (PNP) tel:(+632)722-0650 start dialing your cellphone to make him believe you are calling the police or either call the MMDA(Metro Manila Development Authority) hotline; 136 if you’re within Manila, you can also text the police at 2920 and your message must be as follows; PNP(space)(message), for your complaints. In 2009, some taxis have installed meters which give out receipts, ask for a receipt if they have one.
Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, usually ply provincial routes. You can also call reputable Taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.
When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small denomination banknotes, as the drivers often claim not to have change in an effort to obtain a larger tip! Please do have coins ready with you. Moreover, don’t be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour. (Updated April 2011) Most taxis have the flag down rate of ₱40 with each 300 meters cost ₱3.50 while Yellow cab taxis are more expensive with a flag down rate of ₱70 with each 300 meters cost ₱4.00.
Application based hailing taxi’s such Grab Taxi and Uber are becoming more popular and more convenient and safer option. These application can accept cash or credit/debit option.
Buses are usually the cheapest way to go when it comes to traveling around the Philippines, at least from within the major islands with fares as low as ₱300-500.
Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south. Major provincial bus companies include ALPS The Bus, Inc., Victory Liner, Philtranco
Get around Manila with Pasig’s Pasig Ferry Service, waterbuses are available in stations around the historical river of Pasig. Fares ranges from ₱25, ₱35 and ₱45. For students and youth fares range ₱20 regardless of distance.
Next to buses and some times low cost airlines, ships are the cheapest modes of transports when getting around the country. fares can be as low as ₱1,000 but some times as high as 3000. from Manila to Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Butuan, Cagayan de oro, Iligan, Ozamiz or Dipolog a trip can last a day or two 2GO operate interisland ferries out of Manila. There is 2 Go Ferry which has convenient overnight ferry trips to Coron, Palawan. 2 Go Ferry operates between Manila and Coron, Puerto Princesa several days of the week. You can also stay on a Cruise Ship that’s exploring around the Coron area. The 7,107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of its private islands.
Other major ferry companies which go out of Cebu Port include: Trans Asia Shipping Lines, Cokaliong Shipping lines, Lite ferries, George & peter Shipping lines
Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries throughout the Visayas at affordable prices – except for taking small scooters or motorcycles where their prices are outrageously expensive. Schedule Information is difficult to obtain – newspapers often contain pages with ads on certain days, but, believe it or not, most people rely on word-of-mouth.
Sun Cruises  has tour packages to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Prices range from ₱2,000 for a day tour with a buffet lunch, to ₱3,000 for an overnight stay at the island. The tour guides are very informative, and the island is steeped in history, particularly about the battles that raged there during World War 2. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.
By jeep and rickshaws
Jeepneys are the most known transportation to all Filipinos. They are the most affordable transport in the Philippines. Costing about ₱7 per 4 km and additional ₱1 per km, they are by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas.. They stop if you wave at them. The jeepney is remnants of the Jeep used by the American troops during World War II, the innovative Filipinos modified the jeep (by lengthening the body and adding horizontal seats) to seat as many as 20 people (10 per side). Within Manila, you will find multiple Jeepneys per route, for added convenience. In the provinces, Jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more comfortable.
Also worthy of mention are the traysikels and the pedicabs or in other words Rickshaw; however, this may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as these are cramped and quite open to traffic. These means of transport are usually used for very short distances. Traysikels are different from Pedicabs; they are motorized while pedicabs are manually used with the help of bicycles. Fares range from ₱7 or even higher, depending on the distance of your destination.
Tagalog written in a Filipino Comic; Zsa Zsa Zaturnah
While English in the Philippines is largely based on American English, there are a few terms and expressions peculiar to Filipino speakers:
aircon – air-conditioner or air-conditioning unit
comfort room or CR – toilet/restroom/water closet (WC)
course – in higher education, this can either refer to individual subjects (used mainly by faculty, academics or school officials) or an entire degree programme (used mainly by students or outsiders)
entertain – to attend to someone else, particularly for transactions
for a while-wait a moment
high-blood – angered easily
load – can refer to remaining balance or prepaid credits; re-load means to refill or top-up current balance
lowbat – cell phone battery low
number two – a mistress
ref – shortcut for refrigerator; fridge refers to the freezer part
rotunda – roundabout or circular road
Xerox – a verb which means to photocopy
The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay). It has also been influenced by English, Spanish, Malay, Indonesian, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and many other languages mostly from the Indian subcontinent and Europe. While Filipino is an Austronesian language like Malay, Indonesian and Javanese, the language has been heavily influenced by several other languages through trade with other countries and during the Spanish colonial times, and to this day the language is dominated by Spanish loanwords which is helpful for some Spanish people and which is also the reason why some Filipinos understand a little Spanish. In addition, as Malay and Filipino are closely related, speakers of Malay would also recognise many cognates in the Filipino language. Generally, somebody who speaks Malay and Spanish would be able to understand the conversations of locals to a certain extent, and might just be able to get by.
Filipino is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions as well as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the Northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most common language spoken while Kapampangan is widespread in Central Luzon. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bicolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.
English is an official language of the Philippines and is a compulsory subject in all schools, so it is widely spoken in the larger cities and main tourist areas. However, it is usually not the first language of locals. English, though, is in widespread use as many signs are printed in English and there are even 3 TV channels using it on a full-time basis. Almost all broadsheet newspapers use English as well. Tourists won’t have any problems using English when making inquiries at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Filipino will come in handy when traveling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there. Taglish, which involves code switching between Tagalog and English, is spoken nowadays by some urban youths, Below is an example:
Taglish:Kumusta ka? Ok naman ako.
English:How are you? I’m ok.
Spanish is no longer widely understood, though many Spanish words survive in the local languages. A Spanish based Creole language known as Chavacano is spoken in Cavite and in Zamboanga. The government is trying to revive Spanish by providing Spanish in public schools as an optional language. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language, however there are around 3 million people who speak Spanish plus there is daily radio programme “Filipinas Ahora Mismo” which broadcasts from Manila in Spanish.
There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The largest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Take note however that since most of them come from Fujian province, they speak Hokkien (rather than Mandarin), but they are also taught Mandarin in Chinese schools. Muslim Filipinos are taught Arabic in schools to read the Qu’ran. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans use their native language as their first language. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are establishments catering to Korean speakers. Indian languages such as Hindi and Punjabi are also spoken by the Indian communities while Europeans speak their own languages.
Crisologo Street in Vigan
Historical and Cultural
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: See the spectacular Banaue Rice terraces in Batad and be fascinated at how it was built, see the only successful laid out plan of a European colonial town in Asia; Vigan. The Baroque churches (the Inmaculada Concepción in Manila, Nuestra Señora in Ilocos Sur, San Agustín in Ilocos Norte and Santo Tomás in Iloílo) of the Philippines will amaze you about the European Baroque architecture.
Churches and religious sites: See the Basílica de San Sebastián in Quiapo; the only all steel church or basilica in Asia. A visit to a city’s cathedral is worth it.
Historical Sites: Intramuros, Rizal Park and Blood Compact site in Bohol are worth seeing and will give you a glimpse of the history of the country.
Metro Manila offers plenty of Museums worth visiting and is considered among the bulwarks of culture in the Philippines.
Beaches: Swim through the blue waters of Boracay and El Nido, sunbathe at the beaches of Puerto Galera and Pagudpud or on the remote and very picturesque beaches of Botolan, Zambales.
Coral reefs: Dive the Tubbataha Reefs National Park and see the spectacular collections of marine life and corals. Anilao also offers good options. Best time to dive is late March – June
Wildlife and Plants: Rare animals that can only be found in the Philippines and most of them are endangered and threatened. Philippine Monkey Eating Eagle; The largest eagle, Tarsier; a small animal that looks like an alien and can be found in Bohol, Carabaos and Tamaraws; water buffaloes only endemic in the Philippines, aside from these animals, some species of rats, bats and water pigs are also endemic in the Philippines. Endemic plants like orchids like the Waling-Waling one of the rarest flowers in the world as well as one of the most expensive in the world. Visit the website of PESCCP (Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project) for more information.
Eco tour and sustainable tourism: There are various organizations offering that kind of trips. Be aware that because the trip name contains words like Eco/sustainable or responsible do not mean it should be more expensive. It should even be cheaper, considering the fact that local products and services should be promoted. Before booking such trips it is recommended to call the promoter/agency to know where the money go and how local products and services(e.g Local tour guides) are involved. There are various trips organized around the Philippines such as: International Coastal Clean-up, Bataan Pawikan Conservation, Culion & Coron Island Hopping & Clean-up, Sagada Coffee & Eco Tour, Banaue Volunteer & Eco Tour.
Adventure and Others
Malls and Shopping: The bustling urban streets of Metro Manila, have fair options of bargain centers and malls, shop in the second and fourth largest malls of the world; SM City North EDSA and SM Mall of Asia.
The Resorts World Manila is a luxurious casino integrated resort in Newport City, Manila.
Hawksbill Turtle in Sabang
See Scuba diving for more information
Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these have at least a handful of PADI-accredited diving schools where you can obtain your license. Costs (of both lessons and equipment) are likely to be cheaper here compared to places like Australia, the Caribbean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.
Eskrima or Kali is Filipino martial art that emphasizes in using swords and sticks, it was used in films such as Equilibrium, training centers and schools that teach Eskrima are mostly found around Metro Manila.
Known as Arnis, or arnes–Spanish for armor–, this ancient martial art is the national sport of the Philippines. Its focus includes hand to hand combat, weapon disarming, and blade wielding. Derived from Eastern Asian war mythology, Arnis is the practice of harnessing destruction, preservation, and creation. Contrary to modern warfare, which is brute force intensive, Arnis is a process of cohesive physics–using your opponents energy as your own. Taught by priests and mystics, this ancient form of engagement was passed down through the generations. Arnis has become quite popular in modern culture, particularly in cinematography. From Enter the Dragon (1973 to Taken (2008) professional choreographers, trained in the arts of Arnis, depict the swift and deadly movements of this ancient technique. According to the Republic Act No. 9850, as of December 11,2009, the Congress of the Philippines declares Arnis as the national sport and martial art of the nation. Because of this law, Arnis is a pre-requisite of most P.E. classes in college.
Tertiary education and ESL
Many foreigners such as Europeans, Chinese, Americans and Koreans choose to study and finish university in the Philippines because compared to other countries, Universities here are inexpensive and offer the same system the Americans apply (however most schools follow K-10, international schools follow K-12 standards), major schools such as University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo University, Far Eastern University and Adamson University are just some of the major universities with many provincial branches in the country. The country is also a hub for people seeking to learn English mostly Chinese and Koreans, there are many English learning centers around the country predominantly around Metro Manila, Iloilo City, Bacolod, Cebu, Baguio and Taguig City, as well as all significant financial, commercial and provincial capitals. It is one of the largest hubs in learning ESL in Asia. Other international schools in the Philippines are also found and usually operated by British and other European diplomats, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and American immigrants and diplomats.
Aerial Sports – An annual Hot Air Balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga, other than Hot Air balloons on display, people gather in this event to do sky diving, many activities are also held other than sky diving and hot air balloons. The Festival is held between January and February.
Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, don’t miss the PBA  and UAAP  basketball tournaments.
Bentosa and Hilot are Filipino alternative ways of healing, Bentosa is a method where a cup cover a tea light candle then it flames out and it drains out all the pain on the certain part of the body, Hilot is just the Filipino way of massaging.
Board Sailing – Waves and winds work together making the country a haven for board sailors. Boracay, Subic Bay and Anilao in Batangas are the main destinations.
Caving – The Archipelago has some unique cave systems. Sagada is one popular destination for caving.
Dive – Blue, tranquil waters and abundant reefs make for good diving. Compared to neighboring countries, diving in the country is cheaper. You can explore either on SCUBA or just snorkeling and freediving.
Festivals – Each municipality, town, city and province has their own festival, either religious or in honor of the city or a historical reason. See also: Festivals in the Philippines
for more information.
Golf – Almost every province has a golf course, it is a popular sport among the elite, rich and famous.
Medical Tourism – The Philippines supplies the world with many medical professionals with large numbers leaving the country every year for a better future abroad. This is indicative of the quality of medical education and medical tourism is on the rise too. Most come from America and Europe as compared to their home countries, healthcare here is much cheaper; as much as 80% less than the average price abroad. Most of the hospitals suggested for medical tourism are in Metro Manila. Alternative medicine is also popular with spas, faith healing and other fringe therapies widespread throughout the archipelago.
National Parks – National parks number around 60-70, they include mountains and coral reefs.
Mountain Biking – The archipelago has dozens of mountains and is ideal for mountain bikers. Bikes are the best mode of transportation in getting around remote areas. Some options include Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, Banaue, Mount Apo and Guimaras.
Rock Climbing – Apo Island, Atimonan, El Nido, Puting Bato, Wawa Gorge have the best sites in the archipelago for rock climbing.
Sea Kayaking – Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Palawan, Samar and Siargao are popular.
Spas are popular, with many options, Spas are found near beaches, financial capitals etc.
Trekking – Mountain ranges and peaks offer cool weather for trekking and it might give you a sight of the beautiful exotic flora and fauna of the country. Mt. Kanlaon and Mount Pulag are good trekking spots.
Visita Iglesia – Visita Iglesia (Visita is Spanish for Visit, Iglesia is Spanish for Church; Visit Churches) is the practice done by mostly Filipino Roman Catholics to Churches, holy sites, shrines, basilicas etc. If you are religious try this, if you love art and architecture; churches are the best way to define what Filipino architecture.
Volunteering The Philippines and their diverse ecosystem offer many different opportunities for volunteering and giving back, such as marine and wildlife conservation. There are many ways to get in contact with the desired volunteer project, one of which is a comparison platform. On Volunteer World, . for example, you can search and compare all volunteering options in the Philippines. edit
Whitewater Rafting – One of the best, if not the best, whitewater rafting experience can be had in Cagayan de Oro City, a city in the northern part of Mindanao. Also, Davao is emerging as the Whitewater rafting capital in Mindanao, if not in the Philippines.
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.
Exchange Rates for the Philippine Peso
US dollar USD1 – ₱50.2
Euro €1 – ₱52.3
Pound sterling GBP1 – ₱62.40
Saudi rial SAR1 – ₱13.4
Japanese yen JPY1 – ₱0.45
Australian dollar AUD1 – ₱38.6
South African rand ZAR1 – ₱3.86
Hong Kong dollar HKD1 – ₱6.45
Singapore dollar SGD – ₱35.5
The Philippine peso, symbolised locally and throughout our Philippines guides as ₱ and internationally as PHP is the official currency and in almost all cases the only currency recognised for normal transactions. The only other currency that would be recognised in rare cases would be the US dollar, which is typically used in duty free outlets, internet transactions and overseas travel products sold in the Philippines.
Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. There are 2 versions of each bill with the newer version in circulation since December 2010 (albeit it is still rare to have them). The newer notes have similar colours to their old counterparts, have the same people at the front (Except for the 500-peso note which also features former President Aquino) but rather than historical sites at the back, these newer notes feature Filipino natural wonders and species unique to the country.
UPDATE – Do not accept ANY of the older version (pre-December 2010) banknotes. They are now worthless.
Money changers are not so common in the Philippines outside some heavily touristed areas. A rule of thumb: the more currency you wish to exchange, the more favourable the rates can be. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount (usually around US$100) and have limited hours of operation, usually 09:00-15:00 on weekdays. The notable exceptions areBank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco De Oro (BDO) which have longer hours of operation. Don’t exchange money in stalls along the streets as some of them might be exchanging your money for counterfeit money, contact Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) if you suspect the money you’ve been given to be counterfeit. Money changers do exist at department stores, supermarkets and hotels but needless to say the rates are highly unfavourable to the customers and some will only exchange into ₱. If you need to change back into foreign currency, you need to fill-out paperwork and can only exchange in certain denominations (usually $100, €100, £100).
Be aware that no person is allowed to enter or leave the Philippines carrying more than ₱50,000 (since september 2016) of coins and banknotes without prior authorisation by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Those who have not gained prior authorisation will have to declare the excess money at the customs desk. However bringing-in any amount in foreign currency is legal but anything in excess of USD10,000 (or its equivalent) must be declared.
ATMs and credit cards
Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, however Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are limited to 10,000 pesos. only the HSBC ATMs in Manila. Cebu and Davao let you take up to P40,000 per transaction without a 200-250 fee. Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards can withdraw funds or ask for cash advances at ATMs that display their logos. The most prominent MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers by BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers by Banco de Oro. PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a complement by itself, but instead it is available along with Cirrus. Prominent examples include the Fasteller by BDO Bank and the Electronic Teller (ET) by Metrobank. Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.
Credit (and debit) card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many commercial locations in the Philippines but merchants would usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. Cardholders of China UnionPay credit cards can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (particularly of Metrobank) but cannot use their cards in point of sale transactions at the moment. Most credit card machines in stores are capable of reading chip-and-pin cards and you should be to enter your PIN to process a transaction just as you do in your home country. However because entering a PIN is not yet a norm in most locally-issued credit cards, merchants may nonetheless also require your signature on the transaction slip. Credit cards are generally not accepted for government-related transactions.
In 2010, Philippine banks started to charge ₱200 per transaction for using foreign cards in their ATM machines, in addition to cash withdrawal and exchange fees already imposed by your bank. Notable exception is HSBC , which does not charge (September 2017) this fee; however, their ATMs are available only in a larger cities Manila, Cebu, and Davao. Considering small transaction limits in many ATMs, this fee easily adds 2-4% to the amount withdrawn – thus, bringing in cash and exchanging it to peso in the bank generally will be cheaper (please be aware though of customs regulations). Check your home bank to see if special arrangements exist to lower withdrawal fees imposed by foreign banks.
Traveling in Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.) For example a stay in a Double Fan room with own bathroom and cable TV in a Lodge or Pension house or Tourist inn could cost as low as $10 a night. a A.c double room with own bathroom and Cable TV can cost as low as $15 a night. a flight to Cebu from Manila and vice-versa can cost as low as $25 or ₱1175. or a flight from Manila to Davao and vice-versa can cost as low as $40. Transportation is low as ₱7.00 for the first 4km in a Jeepney. a bus ride in a A.c bus cost about 1.5 per km. 20% less for non A.c buses. Using the internet for 1 hour in an internet cafe range from ₱10 to ₱20 depending on the Internet Cafe’s location, a can of coke costs as low was ₱20 while a copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ₱70 and Economist as low as ₱160. In most restaurants. There is 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) usually included in the unit price. Service charge is often excluded and computed separately but you only need to pay this for eat-in or delivery orders, not take-aways.
What’s a Pasalubong?
A pasalubong is a tradition practiced by Filipinos for a long time, a Pasalubong is something you bring to your friends and family as a souvenir, keepsake or gift from a place you have recently visited, nowadays Filipino immigrants from abroad as well as Filipinos who work outside their hometowns but within the Philippines bring pasalubong or send them mostly during Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, Holy Week and during the summer and winter vacations. Try this tradition if you’re planning what to buy as a souvenir from the Philippines, Filipinos tend to be not selfish even co-workers, friends and neighbours as well as their co-worker’s family, their friend’s friends and their neighbour’s neighbour (try giving pasalubongs to your enemies also, even the meanest person to them they’d also give them pasalubongs), it’s funny but that’s how Filipinos are. A Pasalubong consists the following, Food; usually delicacies and sweets, T-shirts, Souvenirs such as key chains, bags etc. they usually put all their pasulubongs into one box. This may be hard for you but as they say it’s better to give than to receive, get tips from locals for what a typical pasalubong consists.
The World in SM Mall of Asia It isn’t hard to find malls in the Philippines; the 3 largest malls in the world are found here. It’s a fact: consumerism has been part of a Filipino’s life, even things they don’t need but are in sale and discount they’ll buy it. The reason why the country hasn’t been affected much by recent financial crisis is because of the circulation of money, even if Filipinos are broke they’ll find a way to buy something at least in a week for themselves.
As stated above, living in the Philippines is cheap, shopping there is also cheap. Sales tend to happen during pay day and last for 3 days and also during the Christmas season (in the Philippines Christmas season extends from September to the first week of January) in Department stores like SM Department Store. Cheaper items are sold at flea markets and open markets where you can bargain the price like Divisoria, Market!Market!, Greenhills in Metro Manila. Ayala Center is often compared to Singapore’s Orchard Rd, from Entertainment to shopping, they have it all there, located in the Financial district of Makati. Not far from Makati is Serendra, a Piazza that offers lifestyle and luxury shops and often called the Luxury lifestyle center of Metro Manila. The piazza features modern architecture that will make you think you’re somewhere near the world of Star Wars, stare, drool and be amazed at the public art displayed there. Coffee shops and tea shops are found around this area, as well as furniture and clothing stores and is located in Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The 4 largest mall operators are SM, Gaisano, Ayala and Robinson’s with branches around the archipelago.
Antiques: Antique Porcelain plates are found around Manila after the Filipino-Chinese trade however be careful when you buy antiques. Antique Santos or Saint statues including Jesus and the Virgin Mary are also sold. Streets of Makati, Ermita and Vigan (in Ilocos) mostly sell antiques
Brass ware: Muslim Gongs are popular in the Philippines, jewel boxes, brass beds are other brass ware products. Just like antiques, tourists are advised to be careful in purchasing brass ware.
Books and Stationery: Filipino literature is amusing to read, English versions of Filipino novels are available in National Bookstore and Power Books , books tend to be much cheaper in the country compared to other countries. Stationery items are sold at a very low price as low as ₱10; however be careful as some items may contain high lead content.
Clothes: Bargained clothes as low as $3 are available in flea markets and Ukay-Ukays. Ukay-Ukays sell second-hand clothes from other countries at a cheap price. If you prefer branded clothes, Metro Manila has a lot of foreign brand shops scattered around the city predominantly in the business district of Makati.
Comics: Komiks or Comics in English is one of the most popular forms of literature in the Philippines and can be bought as cheap as P10. They are so popular that TV and Film adaptations are often found. Carlo J. Caparas and Mars Ravelo are two famous comic authors. They’re available in newstands and most of them are unfortunately in Tagalog; you might be lucky if you find an English version.
Embroidery: Embroidery is a best buy because the most of the national dresses are embroidered from pinya (Pineapple) leaves and other raw material. Handmade ones tend to be more expensive than machine-made ones.
Food: Buy Dried mangoes, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon has pastries and sweets such as Polvoron are also good to purchase. Native specialties are sold at Pasalubong centers. Aside from pastries and sweets, buy condiments such as Banana Ketchup, Shrimp Paste as both of these are hard to find outside Asia. Don’t miss the chocolates of the Philippines; Chocnut and Tablea. Chocnut is like a powdered chocolate with a sweet taste and often sticky once it sticks to your gums, while Tablea are chocolate tablets used for making hot chocolate.
Jewellery: Silver Necklaces and Pearls are popular in the Philippines. However you should not buy jewellery made from endangered animals and corals as corals are slowly disappearing. Handmade jewellery made by indigenous tribes of the Philippines are available, and jewellery made from wood is also sold.
Mats: Pandan leaves are woven and made into a mat, which tend to be different in each region in the Philippines. Mats in Luzon tend to be simple while in Visayas they’re multi-colored and in Mindanao tribes weave complex and difficult designs that often have meaning.
Shoes and Bags: The Philippines made a mark in the industry of shoes and bags after former first lady Imelda Marcos had thousands of pairs of shoes. Marikina, Rizal, is known to be the shoe and bag capital of the Philippines and you can order custom made shoes if you tend to stay longer.
Woodcarving: Wood carved products are available handmade by indigenous tribes. Most of the carved products are rice granaries, god carvings and animal totems.
Shells: Can be found on tiangees
Be aware of import/export laws, particularly when leaving the country, as some items like food may be confiscated at the airport. If you bought a pet, be sure it has the right papers that will be accepted in your destination. It is wise to declare your souvenirs to Customs officials to avoid future trouble.
What’s in your menu?
Adobo/Inadobo – Cooked in soy sauce
Tostado/Tostadong – Toasted
Guisa/Ginisa/Ginisang – Stir fried
Torta/Tinorta – Omelette
Asado/Inasado – Grilled
Tapa/Tinapa – Dried or smoked, tinapa usually is dried fish while tapa usually refers to “beef tapa”
Lechon/Nilechon – Roasted
Laga/Nilaga/Nilagang – Boiled
Prito/Pritong/Piniritong – Fried
Paksiw/Pinaksiw – Cooked in vinegar
Nilasing – Cooked in alcoholic beverage, from lasing meaning drunk
Sariwa/Hilaw – Fresh
Daing/Dinaing – Dried fish
Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history. As such, it is a melange of Indian, Chinese, Malay, Spanish, European and American influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbours, such as that of Thailand and Vietnam, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Filipino food is bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and when done properly is often what brings out the flavor of the food as, opposed to a healthy dose of spices. Kamayan, literally means Eating with Hands. Some Filipinos who were born and raised in rural provinces still eat with their hands, mostly at their homes during mealtimes. They would often say that Kamayan makes food taste better. Wash your hands clean before attempting this to avoid illnesses. Almost all Filipinos in the urban areas though use spoons, forks and knives. Eating with hands in public is not uncommon however if you’re eating in a mid-range and splurge restaurant this may be considered rude.
To experience how the Filipinos eat in a budget way, Carenderias (food stalls) and Turo-turo (meaning Point-point, which actually means you point at the food you want to eat in the buffet table) are some of the options. Mains cost less than $1. Carenderias serve food cooked earlier and it may not always be the safest of options.
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn but elsewhere Filipinos would generally have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50kg sacks but can be bought by the kilogram at the wet market or at neighborhood rice dealers. Single servings of rice are readily available at fastfood restaurants or eateries.
The word diet is non-existent in the vocabulary of Filipinos or has never existed, as mentioned before they are laid back people, they love to eat as much as they can as if there is no tomorrow. They spend most of their money on food, a Filipino teenager might at least enter a fastfood chain two or three times a week, during fiestas in a city, town, barangay, purok or subdivision Filipinos would have big parties and it would last from noon to midnight when some of the people would end up being drunk, you can ask if you can join a fiesta in a home and some might welcome you as this is a tradition. If you’re visiting the Philippines it is the best time to cut your so called diet and eat to your heart’s content. The Filipino diet is a lot more similar to the west than the east, with Filipinos eating less vegetables, more oil, meat and sugar than people in neighboring countries; most Filipinos aren’t health conscious. Cancer and heart-related diseases are the leading causes of death here. However if you visit rural areas they use more vegetables and less meat and practice old Filipino medicine.
Some Filipinos use a rather strict interpretation of the serving spoon rule and believe that offering utensils or food that has come into contact with someone’s saliva is rude, disgusting, and will cause food to get stale quickly. Singing or having an argument while eating is considered rude, as they believe food is grasya/gracia or blessed in English; food won’t come to you if you keep disrespecting it. Singing while cooking is considered taboo because it will cause you to forever be a bachelor or spinster. Conservative Filipinos share another belief with the Chinese that not finishing your food on your plate is taboo and rude; you’ll often see Filipino parents scolding their children to finish their food or not they’ll never achieve good academic performance.
Usually, before a meal starts or before food is served, Filipinos say a prayer; wait until the host invites you to start eating. Also, it is rude to refuse food that the host has offered or to leave the dining table while someone is still eating. While eating in front of Chinese/Japanese/Korean -Filipinos, don’t stick your chopsticks vertically upright into a bowl of food.
Filipinos usually serve at least one main course accompanied by rice for lunch and dinner. At times you would have two with a vegetable dish accompanying a meat dish. On special occasions such as fiestas, several main dishes would be served, a Filipino party or a Fiesta wouldn’t be complete without Spaghetti, Pasta, Fruit Salad, Ice Cream, Rice, spring rolls, cake or rice cakes and soda. Soups are also often the main course apart from being a starter. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to douse their rice with the soup and eat the meat that came with the soup alongside.
Kanin at Kakanin
Kanin means Rice in Tagalog while Kakanin means Rice cakes.
Sinangag is fried garlic rice, often mixed with vegetables, dried shrimps, dried fish strips, hotdogs or Chorizos.
Bibingka – rice cake with cheese and salted egg, it originates from Indian cuisine.
Puto – Soft white rice muffins.
Other kinds include Biko, Cuchinta, Pichi-Pichi, Sapin-Sapin, etc. The towns of Calasiao in Pangasinan and Binan, Laguna are famous for their puto
Pancit/Pancit or Noodles, an influence from Chinese cuisine and believed to give long life because of its length, often eaten in celebrations such as Birthdays and New Year. Below listed are some popular Filipino noodle dishes
Pancit Batchoy/La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup usually made from pork organs, crushed crunchy fried pork rind, shrimp, vegetable, chicken stock, chicken, beef and especially noodles. It is best eaten at the batchoyan (batchoy stalls) in La Paz Market in Iloilo where it originated.
Pancit Bihon, sautéed noodles along with vegetables, pork and shrimp.
Pancit Molo is a Filipino wanton soup which originated from Molo district in Iloilo City however it doesn’t have noodles in it.
Pancit Palabok’ noodles boiled then topped with atchuete also known as annatto seeds, shrimp, crushed crunchy fried pork.
Pancit Hab-hab’ Stir fried Rice noodles, served in a banana leaf. Eaten without utensils by placing directly to the mouth. The signature noodle dish of Lucban Quezon.
Silog and pankaplog
Usually eaten at breakfast, this is the Filipino version of a typical American breakfast of egg, bacon and pancakes. Silog is an contraction of the words Sinangag(fried rice) and Itlog(egg). They are not only sold in Filipino eateries and stalls but also in restaurants and fastfood chains such as McDonald’s.
Adosilog has Adobo
Longsilog has longganisa or local pork sausage
Tapsilog has tapa or cured beef
Tocilog has tocino or cured pork
Pankaplog A slang term for a breakfast that mainly consists of Pande Sal(bread), kape(coffee) and itlog
Ulam means Mains in Tagalog.
Adobo – chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base. It is arguably the national dish of the Philippines.
Bopis – pork innards, usually served spicy.
Burong Talangka – Filipino caviar, it is taken from Talangkas or Crabs.
Calamares – fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breading.
Camaron Rebusado – the Filipino version of tempura.
Chicken Curry – A lot different from other curries because it isn’t spicy unlike other curries. Aside from chicken, Crab curry and other varieties are also available.
Dinuguan – a dark stew of pig’s blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.
Daing na bangus – fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
Kare-kare – peanuty stew of vegetables and meat simmered for hours on end, usually beef with tripe and tail and eaten with a side of shrimp paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crabs, squid and shrimp instead of beef.
Lechon de leche – slow-roasted baby pork, usually served during larger occasions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part that is consumed.
Lengua – roasted beef tongue marinated in savory sauce.
Nilaga – literally means “boiled”, can be beef which in certain places is served with its marrow (bulalo), pork or chicken.
Pakbet – a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.
Paksiw – fish or vegetables cooked with vinegar, ginger, garlic and chilli picante.
Sinigang – soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp.
Tinola – chicken in ginger soup.
Spanish, Portuguese, Mexicans, Americans and other European and Mediterranean people introduced their cuisine to the locals and just like they did to the Chinese, they embraced it. While the Spanish occupied the Philippines, connections of the Mexicans and the Aztecs with the Filipinos started in the Manila-Acapulco trade, the people introduced to each other their native cuisine. American influence came during the American colonization.
Arroz Caldo – Rice porridge, topped with egg, chicken liver and grind chicharon.
Arroz de Valenciana – Paella; Filipino style.
Biscocho – Sweet biscuit.You can’t leave a Philippine town without bringing home some souvenirs. That’s part of the country’s pasalubong culture. In Iloilo, just like in many other towns in the country, pasalubong or souvenirs are not limited to practical or novelty items like keychains or shirts. You can (and you should!) also take home delicious food finds because you might not find them anywhere else in your hometown.
Caldereta – Pork or Beef tomato soup with sausages and vegetables.
Champorado – Introduced by the Mexicans but eventually in years the recipe changed by adding rice, sweet chocolate rice porridge. It is kind of like hot chocolate but with rice on it.
Empanada – Stuffed pastry.
Ensaymada – Sweet bread topped with cheese and butter.
Leche Flan – Creme brulee (Custard Pudding).
Menudo – Pork Stew.
Spaghetti – Possibly brought to the Philippines by the American-Italians during the American colonization, this is a must try for pasta lovers not because they love it, but because it is so different from the Italian spaghetti. Unlike the Italian version, Filipino spaghetti is sweet, its ingredients include sugar and condensed milk. The Filipinos are meat lovers who obsessively add meat to their spaghetti, including hotdog, Spam (this is what ham is called in the Philippines as Spam is so popular) and corned beef/pork or minced beef/pork.
America’s influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds,KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Taco Bell. Filipino fastfood chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Filipino tastebuds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of fastfood chains that have branches all around the Metro, and in many cases around the country.
Jollibee, . Jollibee is McDonald’s rival in fastfood in the country, it has 300 stores around the world. Yum Burger, Chicken Joy, Spaghetti, and Palabok. $1-$2 per serving. edit
Greenwich Pizza, . The second of Jollibee corps’ trifecta of fastfood chains, Greenwich Pizzas are your typical fare, but once again with the slightly sweeter than usual tomato sauce. Some seasonal offerings may be on offer though, like the sisig pizza, so check the menu. $2-$3 per serving. edit
Chowking, . The Filipino version of Chinese food, also owned by Jollibee. For good sampling of their food, try the Lauriats, which feature a viand (beef, pork, chicken), rice, pancit (fried noodles with meat and veggies), siomai (dumplings), and buchi (a sweet rice ball covered with a sesame based coating. $2-$3 per serving. edit
Tapa King, . Tapaking is where you get the ubiquitous tapsilog (fried beef strips, fried garlic rice, and egg), along with other local delicacies. $2-$3 per serving. edit
GotoKing, . This where you go to get the localized version of congee called goto and lugaw, with different kinds of toppings like chicken, roasted garlic, egg, etc. edit
Goldilocks, . The place to go for your baked treats and sweets like mamon (a spongy round cake), polvoron (a tighly packed powdery treat) ensaymada (bread baked with cheese and sugar), and host of other delicacies for those with a sweet tooth. edit
Mang Inasal, . A relative newcomer, Mang Inasal actually brings a variety of barbecue called “inasal” into Metro Manila from the city of Iloilo. They offer other grilled meats, as well as soups like sinigang (a sour, tamarind based soup). ₱45-140 per serving. edit
Siomai with Calamansi
The Filipinos and Chinese traded with each other in the early times, then the Chinese finally began settling in the Philippines and introduced their cuisine and culture, the Filipinos embraced the Chinese heritage and started adapting it in their lives including food. Most of the dishes found below are served in Chinatown and Filipino-Chinese fast food chains and eateries.
Pansit Bihon’ (米粉) – Stir Fried noodles with either prawns or pork in it.
Hopia (好餅) – Mooncake; a sweet pastry dough with a filling inside it either yam, mung beans etc.
Kiampong (鹹飯) – Fried Rice.
Tikoy (年糕/甜粿) – Sticky rice cake, often eaten in New Year’s eve, believed that it would keep family ties strong.
Lumpia (潤餅) – Spring Rolls.
Taho (豆花) – Fresh tofu with brown sugar and vanilla syrup and pearl sago (pearl tapioca)
Siomai (燒賣) – Dim Sum.
Siopao (燒包) – Steamed buns with meat filling inside it.
Mami (肉麵) – Noodle Soup.
Lugaw (粥) – Congee made from Coconut milk and glutinous rice.
Fishball and Kikiam
Arguably Filipino streetfood is one of the best however it may not be as clean as the ones you find in Singapore. Streetfood vendors have been criticized because of their unhygienic practices as well as unhealthy options but praised by many especially the youth because of its affordability and taste, nowadays streetfood is also found in malls but the traditional way of street vending still hasn’t died out. Items are sold for as low as P5. Street food is usually enjoyed with beer or soda, usually eaten during the afternoon till night.
Adidas – More edible than the popular shoe, Adidas is actually a slang used by the locals to refer to barbecued chicken feet. It is called Adidas as feet is associated with shoes.
Adobong Mani – Salted roasted peanuts, usually sold in small paperbags by vendors.
Betamax – Again people don’t cook betamax and eat them– it’s another slang for pigs blood that has been barbecued. It is called betamax because its shape is cube-like and resembles a betamax player.
Barbecue – Either pork or chicken, barbecue remains one of the favorites. It isn’t only eaten as street food, but sometimes with rice as a main during dinner.
Balut – is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, baluts are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. Boiled and usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.
Banana cue – a popular street food made of saba (Plantain) bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
Chickenballs – Chicken version of fishballs.
Fishball – Something smells fishy? As the name suggests it is the fish version of meatballs, just like meatballs it is also deepfried.
Ice Candy – Ice candy is like a popsicle stick, it comes in different flavours such as mango which is actually the most common and popular. Sold in tiangge (small convenient stores in barangays) as well as in the streets. It is the common refreshment for locals during the summer.
Inasal – The best Inasal would be found in Bacolod, it is usually like grilled chicken but the sweet juicy version.
Isaw – Chicken intestines barbecue.
Kikiam – Originally from the Chinese, it is pork meat with vegetables which is wrapped in bean curd sheets.
Kwek-Kwek – Quail eggs and chicken that had been battered in egg then fried, it is orange in colour.
Penoy – same as balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.
Squidballs – Squid version of fishballs.
Sorbetes – The Pinoy version of sorbet/ice Cream. Sold in different flavours notably; ube, vanilla, chocolate, mango, coconut, cheese and sometimes durian. Filipinos like to play with their food– you’ll see people dipping french fries in ice cream floats or people eating ice cream with bread. Don’t leave the Philippines without trying some of the more unusual flavors. They are kind of exotic and perhaps weird, but tasty.
Tenga – Tenga is Filipino for ear, it is pig’s ear that has been barbecued.
Snack and baked goods
Pan de Sal – Spanish for “salt bread”, they are small buns usually made fresh in the morning, an alternative to rice for breakfast. They are usually eaten with a cup of coffee. Some people prefer to dip their pandesal in coffee.
Chicharon – crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig skin. If you don’t eat pork or have dietary restrictions there is chicken chicharon and sometimes fish chicharon.
Fruits & desserts
Mangoes and Bananas
Buko Pie anyone?
Tropical fruits abound in the Philippines. Most of the countryside produce finds its way to the metro areas and can be easily bought in supermarkets, such as:
Coconut – Although it’s familiar, you should try the coconut of the Philippines, the country is the largest exporter of coconuts in the world.
Durian – smells like hell but supposedly tastes of heaven, most common in Davao but can usually also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.
Green Mangoes, Ripe Mangoes, Dried Mangoes – Don’t leave Philippines without trying Green Indian mangoes with Bagoong(shrimp paste), tasting ripe mangoes and buying Dried mangoes as a Pasalubong.
Banana chips – Unlike the ones eaten in India, the Filipino version is a lot thicker and sweeter, try dipping it in ice cream.
Buko Pie – Pie with scraped coconut as filling.
Egg Pie – Pie with sweet, flan like filling
Halo-Halo – Halo-Halo means mix-mix in Filipino, is another refreshing dessert which is a mix of sweetened beans and fruits, such as sweetened bananas, red and white beans, sago, crushed ice and milk and topped off with leche flan and ube jam and/or ice cream.
Ice scramble – Crushed ice with condensed milk.
Mais con Hielo/Yelo – A dessert of fresh sweet corn served in a glass mixed with crushed ice and milk.
Sampaloc candy – salted and sweetened tamarind fruit.
Turon’ – Saba(Plantain) bananas in wrappers and fried and then topped with condensed milk or sugar.
Turron – Originally from Europe, a bar of cashew nuts with a white wafer.
Condiments and salads
Achara – Pickled Papaya salad, it actually originates from South Indian cuisine.
Banana Ketchup – During World War II, stocks of tomato ketchup ran out and people started complaining and demands for ketchup were high, due to the high production of bananas; Filipinos thought of using banana instead of tomato. Don’t worry it doesn’t taste like banana at all, it is kind of like sweet and sour ketchup. Try it with chicken, pork chop as well as spaghetti.
Bagoong (shrimp paste) – Shrimp paste is popular throughout Southeast Asia. Some people get allergies from shrimp paste, but they still consume it despite the itchy skin problems it causes. Fish is used instead sometimes.
Patis – Fish sauce.
Radish salad – Salad based on radish, onion and sugar, enjoyed with fish.
Muslims will find it hard to find Halal food outside predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines even though the country is one of the fastest emerging markets in exporting certified halal products. Ask if there is pork in the dish before eating it. Seventh Day Adventists would possibly find some vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, mostly lurking in the commercial, financial and provincial capitals, and most of them use tofu instead of meat, Sanitarium products may be found in Seventh Day Adventists or Sanitarium hospitals. Hindus will find Indian restaurants which serve some vegetarian options around Metro Manila. Vegetarians and vegans will find it difficult to find a Filipino dish which is wholly vegetarian as most of the Filipinos love to add meat in every single dish they eat. Also vegetarianism is often unheard of in the country and is often ridiculed.
Jews will also find it hard to find Kosher meals. However rabbis in the Philippines suggest some stores which sell Kosher food, visit Kosher Philippines for advice.
Sunset during Happy Hour on Boracay
Tropical fruit drinks made from dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durian, guyabano (soursop) mango, banana, watermelon, strawberry and many more 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.
Sago’t Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin, and taho, a sweet, warm snack made from sago pearls, soft tofu and carmelized syrup, are worth trying. They are affordable and sold in stalls along streets or by vendors around the a common area as well as in malls. Zagu is a shake with flavors such as strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls. Another famous drink is ‘buko juice, the juice is consumed via an inserted straw on the top of the buko or young coconut.
Tea, coffee and chocolate
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.
Metro Manila is home to many bars, watering holes, and karaoke sites. Popular places include Makati (particularly the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortigas Metrowalk, and Eastwood in Libis. Other big cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have areas where the nightlife is centered. Establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks typical of bars elsewhere. Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol by itself. They would normally have what is called as “pulutan” or bar chow alongside their drinks which is like the equivalent of tapas. At the least, this would consist of mixed nuts but selections of grilled meats and seafood are not uncommon food alongside the customary drinks. When having a party, Filipinos enjoy drinking round-robin style using a common glass. One is supposed to drink bottoms-up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as “tagayan” and one person usually volunteers to pour the drink.
Beer is perhaps the most common form of alcohol consumed in bars. San Miguel Beer is the dominant local brand with several variants such as Light, Dry, Strong Ice and their flagship variant Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona can also be found in upscale bars. Rum and ginebra which is the local form of gin are commonly available forms of hard liquor. Indigenous forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba which are both derived from coconut sap. Tuba is fermented from the coconut sap and though tuba itself can be drunk, it is also distilled to take the form of lambanog. Lambanog is now being marketed widely both locally and internationally in its base form as well as in several flavored variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.
Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines (and one of the cheapest in the whole of Asia). For a bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-11 or Mini-Stop, a bottle would costs about ₱30-₱40 (about US$0.65). Regular bars will offer it for ₱40-50, and even in top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would cost about ₱100-200. A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket will cost about ₱750, and a popular local rum (especially amongst knowledgeable expats) tanduay costs just below ₱70 at a 24 hour convenience store in Makati (The Financial District).
Housing options for tourists include hotels, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns/bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.
Hotels are usually for the higher-end traveller, although hotel rates–even for four-star establishments– are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominium units rented out for long or short term stays, apartelles are set up for both short and long term stays, and a pension house is usually more basic and economical. These all vary in terms of cleanliness, availability of air conditioning, and hot water showers. Motels, inns, and lodges also serve lodging purposes but have a reputation as meeting places for illicit sex, a unit being usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these by their hourly rates, while more reputable institutions usually have daily rates.
The Oriental Bataan, Freeport Area of Bataan Compound Brgy. Malaya, Mariveles Bataan, Philippines, . edit
Use common sense when travelling to and around the Philippines, as with traveling to other developing nations. It is wise to have Filipino friends as they will give you genuine advice on how to get by. Although the people of these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, one must be aware of the prevalence of poverty (especially in big cities) and the things that, unfortunately, come with it. You must not flash your valuables (especially expensive smartphones) because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Carry small change and don’t flash large bills. Pickpockets are common in the big cities. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the ativan scam is common practice. Don’t expect any reprisal from the police and must also sometimes be wary of them as they can be easily bribed and might be entangled in their own scams. Do not enter alleyways and remote areas at night.
See also common scams and pickpockets.
Both Christian and Muslim areas of Mindanao have traditionally been home to organized criminal groups. Groups active in the drug and weapons trade, gambling or armed robberies aren’t very likely to harass tourists. However, kidnappings especially in Muslim Mindanao regularly occur.
Drive-by shootings are very common in Muslim Mindanao as well, and as of the 2010’s rebels and criminal groups are resorting to more drive bys than kidnappings. So be careful being out in public, as these drive bys happen in broad daylight than at night.
Prostitution and drugs
Prostitution is thriving but officially illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer commercial sex services. EDSA and Makati in Metro Manila, and Angeles City are known hot spots for these activities. The age of consent is 18. Rightfully, the Philippine National Police treat sex-offenders, child-molesters and people involved in prostitution harshly. Acts associated with prostitution and child sex abuse will result in you being jailed long term and then deported.
Marijuana and shabu (crystal methamphetamine) are, in fact, illegal. Penalties for drugs are very harsh and resisting the police may result in death. President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged both citizens and police to kill suspected drug dealers and drug users and thousands of alleged drug dealers and drug users, including non-Filipinos, have been killed by citizens, police, and the military since his inauguration. If you want a high, stick to alcohol.
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but is home to one of the largest LGBT or “bayut” communities in Asia. Gays and lesbians will be fine in the Philippines, but please use common sense (eg: avoid public kissing) as you may get stares or even verbal profanity. But, nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare, but there are many words for “gay” and “lesbian” that are thrown around in media and in culture – usually in a negative context.
Eating and drinking
Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary also of Buko juice vendors, some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia (outdoor canteen) is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot. If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag), water in Manila, Cebu City and other major cities, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages. Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled waters sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled. Be careful of drinking pampalamig (cold drinks like Sago’t Gulaman) as some of the vendors might be using Magic Sugar(formally called Sodium Cyclamate); an artificial sweetener, which has been banned by the Philippine Government because of its adverse effects on health such as higher risk of getting cancer by consuming Magic sugar, it has been used as an alternative to ordinary sugar as it is much cheaper, call 911 (Philippine National Police) if you encounter such situation. Streetfood isn’t so safe to consume in the Philippines, hygienic standards aren’t enforced much. It is better to eat streetfood as well as pampalamig inside malls and shopping centers than in streets as stalls in malls and shopping centers have better enforcement of cleanliness.
CDC advises that risk of malaria exists in areas below 600 meters, except for the provinces of Aklan, Bilaran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Masbate, northern Samar, Siquijor, and Metro Manila. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations. Dengue fever is common in the Philippines and cases rise every year, so it is advisable to apply anti-mosquito repellents and wear long sleeved clothes whenever possible. Rabies is also common among street animals in the country, so get a vaccination for rabies if you haven’t already, and if you’re traveling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible as they are of high risk of getting rabies because they tend to play more with animals. Hepatitis A and B is a high risk in the country. Get a vaccine if you haven’t had one, as you can contract hepatitis through exposure to contaminated food or water, sexual contact, or contact with blood of infected people. If you plan to visit rural farming areas, Japanese encephalitis is common, and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in fresh water areas where you will have high risks of getting schistosomiasis (unless they are chlorinated). Leptospirosis is often contracted from recreational water activities, such as kayaking, in contaminated water.
Also please note that tuberculosis is very common in the countryside, so try to avoid individuals who cough or look weak and be careful about staying too long in villages that may be high in contagious people.
you can buy for a low cost anti-diarrheal drugs in the Philippines, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler’s diarrhea. Gatorade or other “sport drinks” might relieve you from fluid loss. Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure of the water, and always wash your hands.
Over the last five years the rate of new HIV cases in the Philippines has been going up by over 20% per year. by the end of May 2017 there were 44,010 people who knew they had HIV in the Philippines. the Philippines Department of Heath has said by the end of 2022 there could be 133,000 people living with HIV in the Philippines. so it pays to take precautions. there are now 37 HIV treatment Hubs around the Philippines which provide free Antiretroviral drugs. Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV.
Get discounts on buses up to 20% and on any entrance tickets when showing your student card, even if not ISIC one.
See also: Travel topics — Electrical systems
Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60Hz mixed with the American and European plug. There is sometimes a ground in some areas. Americans will need a step-down transformer. It’s best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.
3-phase voltage is 380v.
Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V, and is also 60 Hz. This doesn’t extend beyond the center of the city. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 100-127V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.
During drought seasons (March to May), most of the power-plants are hydro-electrics (as stated above in the climate section), regular black-outs happen during this time, ask if your hotel owns a generator.
Television and video
Television and Video is in NTSC. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (Southeast Asia), though virtually all Filipino movies are region free. Major Networks that operate are – ABS-CBN, GMA, and TV5, all operate in Filipino, which all compete for ratings making network wars part of Filipino culture from the corner of the street to your hotel reservations desk there would always be an argument which stations airs the best telenovelas (TV Drama Series). The three major stations air TV Series to Newscasts. ABS-CBN and GMA have regional substations who operate in their own major regional languages. ETC, operates in English with exceptions of Filipino, airs Foreign TV Series on English as well as franchised TV shows like Project Runway while Chase purely airs in English and its content is just Foreign TV Series on English. Studio 23 is ABS-CBN’s free-to-air channel which targets sports fanatics and the young population. All 6 Channels operate free-to-air, most of the channels which operate purely on English are available on Cable TV alone – SkyCable and Global Destiny Cable are the best-known cable operators in the country while Dream is the country’s sole satellite TV operator. Almost all hotels and major commercial centres have cable or satellite TV. Channels such as BBC, CNN, Bloomberg. ABS-CBN’s News Channel, ANC, provide 24/7 news headlines, updates, travel, business and lifestyle programs, almost always in English except the early morning news show originating from ABS-CBN.
Embassies and Consulates
Several embassies and consulates are open in the Philippines, for a full detailed list of embassies visit EmbassiesAbroad.com
A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say “thank you”, and you’ll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as “salamat”, which means “thank you”. When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences such as salamat po, thought it also commonly used in formal situations between age peers and brings out the smiles. For older persons call them also by Tito(Uncle), Tita(Aunt), Manong(Mr.) or Manang(Mrs./Ms.), Ate (older sister) or Kuya(older brother) (words used to address people older than the speaker but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use “manong” and “manang” instead) with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.
In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family’s practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don’t have to remove them.
Although many Filipinos might not be able to afford tipping service workers, tipping is always accepted. Tips are customary, and in some instances, mandatory in the more high-end environments such as hotels and major restaurants.
When working with people in the Philippines, it’s important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don’t always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it’s important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it’s important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of “social harmony” doesn’t always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues. 
In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is illegal to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative. At times, when children go up to foreigners they won’t go away until you give something. To counter this, avoid swearing and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and might call on their friends to bug you even more.
Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while metropolitan areas in the Bicol region take pride in the “EDSA” Revolution (Note: The Bicolanos are left-leaning, while the Ilokanos are conservative). Either way it is best to assess the speaker’s opinion prior to approaching the topic.
Please note the Duterte Drug War (2016-Present) is also a highly sensitive topic.
The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2. To make a overseas call, include the prefix 00.
Police, Medical and Fire: 117/112/911. 117 may also be texted from cellphones.
Motorist Assistance’: 136 (Metro Manila only)
Tourist hotline: (+63)2-5241728;5241660
Immigration hotline: 527
Directory assistance: 187 (fee applies)
The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom .
English newspapers are available throughout the country and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune , Malaya , Manila Standard , Manila Bulletin , Business World , Philippine Daily Inquirer  and Visayan Daily Star  are some of the English newspapers.
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 your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking (the typical fee to unlock is ₱300 for relatively old basic phones but can go as high as ₱2,000 for high-end smart phones). 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. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it elsewhere.
GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country. 3G technology is available through Globe, Smart and Sun, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational especially outside urban areas. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. Please note that Sun cellular did not work outside the main island of Luzon. Globe or Smart is a much better choice. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe or other major countries is US$0.40 per minute (converted to ₱ at the prevailing rate). Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 to 7.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging) but unlike other countries, you won’t be charged for incoming calls. Take note that ringing a user in the same network as you (as well as affiliate networks) will cost less than ringing a user on a different or unaffiliated network. Text messages typically cost as low as ₱1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the “texting capital of the world”. International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ₱15-25. Bundles for cheaper/unlimited calls, SMS and/or mobile data are offered by the networks are available; but for call packages, the lower-cost minutes are almost always allocated to those made to parties within the same network and their affiliates. Affiliate networks of SMART include Talk ‘N Text, its parent company PLDT and in some cases Sun Cellular; whilst for Globe, its main affiliate is Touch Mobile. To help you identify the network the other party is using for purposes of estimating costs, please refer to the following table:
Globe, Cherry Prepaid, TM 0905-0906, 0915-0917, 0926-0927, 0935-0937, 0994-0997
Smart, TNT, 0907-0910, 0912, 0918-0921, 0928-0930, 0938, 0939, 0946-0949, 0989, 0998-0999
Sun 0922-0923, 0932-0934, 0942-0943
Reloading (known in other countries as recharge/recharging or top-up/topping-up) pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading). If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of ₱100, ₱300 and ₱500 (approximately US$2.20, US$7 and 12 respectively).
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.
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 Airborneaccess.net 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 like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best as well as malls usually carry WiFi service, some of which 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.
In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at ₱995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on available infrastructure on your particular location, but in general Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new sim card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants. To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities – the small shops the sell cell phones and sim cards aren’t able to sell mobile broadband. “Loads” often cost just P20 (approximately USD0.45) an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times–especially in the evening–due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is guaranteed to slow down to a standstill.
Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available. Postal mail from abroad is often “lost”, so don’t send anything valuable.