You’ve seen the pictures and read numerous travel blogs about the Philippines and you decided to visit the country. However, before you pack your bags, there are still a lot of things you need to know.
forgetting to do something like bringing important documents and items with you on your trip can really make you start your vacation on the wrong foot. It is so easy to lose the excitement when you need to spend more time rectifying a mistake that you could have prevented in the first place.
When traveling to the Philippines, you need to be prepared because as easy as it may seem, there are still some things that you need to take with you in order to ensure a smooth traveling. So, here is the most vital information you need to know before booking your ticket.
Visa Requirements and Travel Documents to Prepare:
The Philippines is one of the easiest countries to visit in terms of no-visa policy. Although the open-door policy is not universal, nationalities of more than 150 countries can enter the country for 30 days without a visa. Countries from the EU, Schengen, US, South East Asia, Australia and the UK. Passport holders from these 150+ countries are entitled to enter and stay in the country for up to 30 days without any necessity to secure a tourist’s visa provided that their passport is valid for at least six months after arrival. Unless they are married to a Filipino citizen or they have procured their own visa, all foreign visitors needs to show a proof of return or onward ticket.
Passport holders from India, Iraq and other countries not included in the 30-day no visa policy, need a tourist visa to enter the country which they have to process in their country of origin. Foreign visitors should also apply for a tourist visa extension if they intend to stay in the country longer than the number of days covered by the no-visa policy. Visa extensions are available in any Philippine consulate or embassy in your country. Here is the list of the documents required for visa application:
- Valid passport at least 6 months after arrival
- Duly accomplished visa application form
- 2 photocopies of airline ticket showing (2 way travel) with arrival and return date
- 2×2 ID picture
- Proof of financial capacity (latest bank statement, employment certificate with salary statement, pay slip, or latest ITR)
- Visa application fee
Vaccines required before traveling into the Country
Chances of catching anything are extremely slim, but it’s best you consult with your personal physician in any case. They can help you decide what medication is required. Diseases such as Malaria, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Japanese encephalitis are all prelevant. It is also advised to talk to your doctor regarding the effective period of the vaccine before coming to the Philippines to ensure your protection.
If you are coming from infected countries with cholera, small pox and yellow fever, you will need to secure first a medical/health certificate showing that you have been vaccinated against these diseases.
Book everything in advance
3-6 months before you arrive, make sure that accommodation, plane ticket, transportation and detailed sample itinerary have been prepared. The Philippines is an archipelago and traveling between islands would take a significant part of your vacation. Plan ahead in terms of domestic flights and accommodation especially in more popular destinations as they tend to get over-booked months in advance.
When considering your budget for the trip, you should also allocate at least 100 USD per day for living expenses. This amount should be enough to sustain a couple in the islands, while ensuring you get to enjoy the place and not have to cut back on any expense.
Invest in a comprehensive travel insurance
There will always be things beyond our control so before traveling to any country it is important to invest in a good travel insurance in case you get sick, need hospitalization, in case of accidents, loss of baggage, flight delays and cancellation, missed flights or any other unexpected incident.
Travel insurance helps in minimizing stress knowing that you have coverage for anything that might happen especially in places which are underdeveloped such as the Philippines. From our experience, the best route is to consult your local insurance provider and inquire about their vacation coverings. If you feel like their rates are too high or responsiveness is lacking, you could consider an online provider instead. Many of our clients used WorldNomads.com insurance plan with good results so that would be our top recommendation, but you can also first read this comprehensive guide and detailed reviews by consumeradvocate.org.
Pack your essentials
The Philippines doesn’t have everything that you have in your own country. Although it is relatively easy to find stuff like toiletries in the malls or supermarkets, it is still important to pack your own stuff especially if you are planning to go on more remote trips like camping, live-aboard diving or hiking. Here are some of the most important items you shouldn’t forget when packing:
1.Medicines: If you are on special medication, it is important that you bring your own supply with you as it may not be easy to find in the Philippines. If you intend to buy in the Philippines, make sure you have the prescription with you at all times.
2. Mosquito repellent: You can easily buy “Of” lotion in the Philippines but if you use other brands, it is better to bring your own especially when you have limited access to malls and supermarkets in your planned destination. Mosquitoes are everywhere in the country and so if you plan to be outdoors most of the time, it is best to get some protection.
3. Sunscreen: There are only limited brands of sunscreen in the country. Most common is Nivea and Banana Boat but if you prefer brands with more than 50 SPF, you cannot find it easily so it is best to bring one with you. It will also probably be cheaper in your own country as sunscreen tends to be fairly expensive in the Philippines.
4. Shades, hats and sunglasses: As a typical tropical country, it is mostly hot in the Philippines so to protect yourself from the sun, it is advised to bring sun protection apart from sunscreen like hats, sunglasses and shades.
5. Swim wear and beach sandals: Clothing and shoe sizes in the Philippines are generally smaller than the American and European average. If you are on the tall/big side, you will not be able to find your size in the country so make sure to bring your own.
6. Light and thin clothing: The Philippines is warm and even in colder months (November to February) the temperature is still warm for western standards. Never bring thick jackets, just a thin sweatshirt and comfortable, breathable clothes will do. Still, we do advise you each bring 1 light jacket, just in case you get cold during flights or bus drives.
7. Charger and Adapter: Charger is easy to find but a universal adapter may be a bit difficult. Do not forget to bring your own charger and adapter for all your gadgets to ensure that you can easily plug and connect your gadgets everywhere.
8. Extra-flash drive: When you need to print out some documents and you have no access to a direct printer, the only option is to go to a computer shop and have your documents printed by someone else. The most common option is via USB. It is not easy to use Bluetooth or share-it through Wi-Fi when you need to print out documents or pictures especially when you are traveling for business.
9. Local sim card: There are currently 3 major cellular networks operating in the country namely: Globe, Smart and Sun. If you want a practical way of getting in touch, the local sim card will be very useful. You can easily reload it and register to numerous promos that suit your budget and usage capacities. You can enjoy unlimited calls and text as well if you have many local contacts and browse the internet for a very affordable price when you can’t connect to a Wi-Fi. Click here for a full guide of local sims and how to use them.
Prepare your Baggage
Once you have packed and arranged all your travel essentials inside your suitcase, the next thing to do is to check the weight limit of your luggage. Depending on the kind of ticket you booked, each passenger of an international flight is entitled to one free checked-in baggage allowance plus one carry-on. Weight limit usually does not exceed 24-30 kilos so it is still advised to check the baggage policy of each airline before the day of your flight to prevent you from paying excess luggage.
For domestic flights (within the Philippines), each passenger can check-in one luggage with weight not exceeding 20 kilos for ATR flights and 30 kilos for Airbus flights via Cebu Pacific. With Philippine Airlines, baggage allowance policy depends on the service class of your ticket. If you have economy class, you can check-in from 10-20 kilos and for business class, it is 30-40 kilos. Excess baggage will be charged a fee.
Carry-on bags should not exceed 7 kilos and size must be not more than 45 inches. It should fit in the overhead bin and under the seat.
Set your expectations on Accommodation
Compared to other countries in SEA, the Philippines is still relatively underdeveloped in terms of accommodation, amenities and services. Lower your expectation a little bit especially in rural areas as majority of the accommodation options provide only basic items and necessities. What to expect in some hotels and resorts are:
- Not all hotels and resorts provide hot water for the guests
- Some hotels and resorts do not provide toiletries and towels (especially AirBnB places) so you need to bring your own
- Some hotels and resorts do not have 24-hour reception
- Not all accommodations have generator and so when in the rural area, power outages may be common
- Breakfast are not always buffet-style and coffee is not always brewed but instant coffee in sachets
- Wi-Fi is commonly intermittent
- A lot of hotels and resorts in the provinces do not have the facilities for credit card payments on site so always bring cash with you
- Standard amenities typcially include: bar and restaurant, swimming pool, reception desk, security, TV and fridge in the rooms, hot and cold shower and in-room safe. Gym and fitness center is only available in more upscale resorts and hotels.
For these reasons, a big part of the value we offer comes with our hands-on experience with hotels throughout the country. We’ll make sure to fully understand your expectations when it comes to accommodation and make sure to find a suitable option within your budget. Admittedly, the hotels here still have a long way to go in order to reach world class international standards, but still there are lot of wonderful all inclusive resorts you can choose from.
When traveling on tours, do not forget your travel kit essentials
Going on tours can be fun but it can also be stressful when you forget to bring your essential stuff for the journey. Some of these stuff include: sunscreen, hotel information (address and contact number in case you get lost), your mobile phone and portable charger, waterproof re-sealable bags for your smartphone, first aid kit, enough cash with smaller bills so you can easily give some tips if you like and some face towels or handkerchief as it can get really humid.
While tour operators usually provide free water and snacks, it is always wise to bring a large bottle of water just in case. Similarly, even though snorkeling gear is always provided during island hopping tours it would be much better if you can bring your own. That way everything will fit perfectly and you won’t have to spend precious time repeatedly adjusting the mask and trying to be comfortable.
Prepare financially by bringing enough cash, foreign currency and credit cards
Major credit cards like MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in the Philippines and a lot of big resorts, hotels and restaurants accept credit card payments. You just need to ensure that you set your cards internationally so you can use it at any ATM outposts in the country for withdrawals.
That said, many places do not offer credit card processing, especially in the more rural areas. For that reason, you should always carry a decent amount of cash on you, already in the local currency. In some places, such as Moalboal for example, there’s only one ATM and it often breaks down or simply runs out of cash. For that reason, we strongly advise you bring some cash with you as you leave the urban areas and travel deeper into the islands.
Furthermore, ATMs charge a 250P (5$) fee for each transaction and withdrawals are limited to 10000P (200$) each time. So, relying on these can substantially increase your expenses. Instead, we recommend you bring foreign currency with you and exchange as much as you feel comfortable carrying on you in Manila already where the rates are the best.