Thursday, September 7, 2023
Philippines travel guide - Travel S helper


travel guide

The Philippines, formally known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a sovereign island nation in Southeast Asia located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is made up of about 7,641 islands that are divided into three major geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, while Quezon City is the most populated city, both of which are part of Metro Manila. The Philippines has maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, and is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the southwest.

Because of its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire and near to the equator, the Philippines is prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but it also has rich natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. The Philippines has a land area of 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 square miles) with a population of around 100 million people. It is Asia’s seventh most populous nation and the world’s 12th most populous country. Another 10 million Filipinos reside in other countries, making up one of the world’s biggest diasporas. The islands are home to a diverse range of nationalities and civilizations. Negritos were among the archipelago’s first residents in ancient times. Following them came subsequent waves of Austronesian peoples. There were exchanges with Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Islamic nations. Then, different countries arose under the authority of Datus, Rajahs, Sultans, or Lakans.

Ferdinand Magellan’s landing at Homonhon, Eastern Samar in 1521 heralded the beginning of Hispanic colonialism. Ruy López de Villalobos, a Spanish adventurer, called the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain in 1543. The first Hispanic colony in the archipelago was founded in 1565, with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from Mexico City. For more than 300 years, the Philippines were a part of the Spanish Empire. As a consequence, Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion. During this period, Manila served as the western center of the trans-Pacific commerce, linking Asia with Acapulco in the Americas through Manila galleons.

As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, the Philippine Revolution, which gave birth to the short-lived First Philippine Republic, was quickly followed by the brutal Philippine–American War of conquest by US armed power. Aside from the time of Japanese occupation, the United States maintained authority over the islands until the Philippines was recognized as an independent country after World War II. Since then, the Philippines has had a turbulent relationship with democracy, including the toppling of a dictatorship via a nonviolent revolution.

Because of its huge population and economic potential, the country is classed as a medium power. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, and the East Asia Summit. It also serves as the Asian Development Bank’s headquarters. The Philippines is seen as an emerging market and a newly industrialized nation, with an economy moving from an agricultural to a service and manufacturing-based one.

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Philippines - Info Card




Philippine peso (₱) (PHP)

Time zone

UTC+08:00 (PST)


300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

Filipino - English

Philippines | Introduction

Tourism in Philippines

The travel and tourism sector is the main contributor to the economy, accounting for 7.1 percent of Philippine GDP in 2013 and providing 1,226,500 jobs, or 3.2 percent of total employment. 2,433,428 international visitors arrived between January and June 2014, a 2.22 percent increase over the same period in 2013. South Korea, China and Japan accounted for 58.78 percent, while America accounted for 19.28 percent and Europe for 10.64 percent. The Department of Tourism is responsible for managing and promoting the tourism sector.

The country’s rich biodiversity is one of the main tourist attractions with its beaches, mountains, rainforests, islands and places for diving among the most popular tourist destinations. Philippines is an archipelago with approximately 7500 islands with numerous beaches, caves and various other rock formations. Boracay is famous for its magnificent white sandy beaches and was named the best island in the world. The rice terraces of Banaue in Ifugao, the historic city of Vigan in Ilokos Sur, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Magellan’s Cross in Cebu and Tubbataha Reef in Vysayah are other attractions.

Weather & Climate in Philippines

The climate can be described as tropical, where March to May (summer) are the hottest months. The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with strong typhoons. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to late February being the best for cooler and drier weather. Locations directly exposed to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall throughout the year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls southeast of Manila (although the falls will still make you wet).

Average temperatures range from 25° C to 32° C, and humidity is 77 percent. Baguio, which is referred as the summer capital of the Philippines, has a tendency to be cooler because of its location in the mountains where night temperatures drop below 20° C. In summer, the country experiences droughts from March (sometimes as early as February) to May (sometimes as late as June), sometimes under extreme conditions. Due to this water scarcity, there are regular power cuts (locally known as brown-outs) in summer, as many power plants consist most of hydropower and air conditioning.

Geography of Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of about 7500 islands with a total land area, including inland waters, about 300,000 square kilometers. With 36,289 kilometers of coast, it is the country with the fifth longest coast in the world. Philippines is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, by the South China Sea to the west and by the Celebes Sea to the south. Borneo is located a couple of hundred km to the southwest and the island of Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are in the southwest and Palau in the east of the islands.

Most mountainous islands are covered by tropical rainforest and are of volcanic origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It reaches up to 2,954 meters above sea level and is situated on the island of Mindanao. The Galathea Depth in the Philippine Rift Valley is the deepest point in the country and the third deepest in the world.

The longest river is the Cagayan River in the north of Luzon. The bay of Manila, on whose shore the capital Manila is located, is connected by the Pasig with the Laguna de Bay, the largest lake of the Philippines. Subic Bay, the Gulf of Davao and the Gulf of Moro are other important bays. The Strait of San Juanico separates the islands of Samar and Leyte, but is crossed by the bridge of San Juanico.

The Philippines are located on the western edge of the Pacific ring of fire and are frequently exposed to seismic and volcanic activity. The Benham Plateau in the east of the Philippine Sea is an underwater region that is active in tectonic subduction. About 20 earthquakes are registered daily, but most of them are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the Luzon earthquake of 1990.

There are many active volcanoes like the Mayon volcano, Mount Pinatubo and the Taal volcano. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 led to the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Not all remarkable geographical features are so violent or destructive. A quieter legacy of geological disturbances is the underground river Puerto Princesa. The area represents a habitat for the conservation of biodiversity. The area also contains a complete ecosystem between mountain and sea and has some of the most important forests in Asia.

Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, there are abundant mineral deposits. After South Africa, the country is considered to have the 2nd largest gold reserves and one of the world’s largest copper resources. The country is also known for its rich reserves of nickel, chromite and zinc. Nevertheless, poor management, high population density and environmental awareness have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely unused. Geothermal energy is a product of volcanic activity, which the Philippines has exploited more successfully. The Philippines is the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world after the USA. 18% of the country’s electricity demand is covered by geothermal energy.

People in Philippines

As of 2012, the Philippines’ population is estimated at 103 million, making it the 12th largest country on Earth. As the Philippines’ population continues to grow rapidly and as Japan’s population shrinks, it is likely to soon catch up with its northern neighbors and make it one of the top ten.

Because of its long history of Western occupation – 300 years of Spain and 40 years of the United States – its inhabitants have become a unique combination of East and West in both appearance and culture. Philippians are mainly Austro-Polynesians (or Malay-Polynesians to be more precise) by ethnic origin. However, many people, especially in the cities of Luzon and Visaya, use mixtures of Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Spaniards and Americans. Those who live in the province are mostly of Austrian descent (known as ‘indigenous’). Many Muslims in the Sulu archipelago near Borneo have a mixture of Arabs, India and China. The four largest foreign minorities in the country: Chinese, Koreans, Indians and Japanese. Also important are the Americans, Indonesians and Arabs. Spaniards and other Europeans are a very small part of the country’s population.

Philippine character traits are a fusion of many cultures. The Philippians are famous for the bayanikhan or the spirit of kinship and camaraderie, borrowed from the Austro-Christian ancestors. They observe very close family ties. Roman Catholicism came from the Spaniards, who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith in the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and succeeded in converting the vast majority of Filipinos; at least 80% today are Catholics. The Philippines is one of two countries in Asia with a predominantly Roman Catholic population (the second is East Timor).

A true and pure expression of hospitality is an essential feature of Filipinos, especially those living in rural areas, who at first may seem very shy but have a generous spirit, as can be seen from their smiles. The hospitality that every Philippine shows makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. In Philippine families, guests are often treated as members of the royal family. This is most obvious during the holidays, when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to participate in a holiday that is organized by most, if not all, households. Sometimes this hospitality is mistakenly accepted. Some households spend all their savings on holiday offers, and sometimes even get into debt just to have plenty of food on the table. Next year they spend paying off their debts and preparing for the next fiesta. In any case, it is rare to meet such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their visitors. Probably because of their close ties with Spain, the Philippinians may seem to be very emotional and passionate about life, something that is rather Latin than Asian.

Today, Filipinos lead a group of Asian people who speak English, and English is considered a second language. The American occupation was responsible for teaching Filipinos English. Although the official language is Filipino (which is mainly a Tagalog dialect), and although there are 76-78 languages and 170 dialects in this archipelago, English is still the second most widely spoken language in the country with varying degrees of understanding, but is the language studied. Some 3 million people still speak Spanish, including Creole Spanish, Chavacano, plus Spanish has been reintroduced as a language of instruction in schools.

The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is determined by the region, where each group has a set of distinctive features and dialects – strong and thrifty Ilokans from the north, hard-working tagalogs from the central plains, loving and sweet Vichy from the central islands. As well as colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are also scattered throughout the archipelago.

Tourists may find it strange to notice the Latin flair in Philippine culture. The main Philippine culture, compared to the rest of Asia is quite Latin American and westernized on the surface. But still, the Filipinos are essentially Austro-Belarusians, and many views and ways of thinking of indigenous and pre-Hispanic peoples are still visible under the seemingly westernized shell. The indigenous groups that have preserved the entirely Malay-Polynesian culture, not affected by Spanish influence, are also visible in cities such as Manila, Bagio, Davao or Cebu, and may remind the visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.

Religion in Philippines

The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also the third largest Roman Catholic country in the world. The Roman Catholic faith remains the greatest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. There is still quite a serious perception of Catholicism in the Philippines. The masses still gather crowds, from the largest cathedrals of the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most TV channels close down or work only during certain hours, and those that work broadcast religious programs.

The Catholic Church also continues to have a significant influence even on non-religious affairs, such as those of the state. However, morals are slowly changing; Filipinos are now gradually accepting what used to be taboo on Roman Catholic doctrine, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex and the dissolution of marriage vows.

The largest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos (Moros), who live mostly in Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARM), but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Bagio or Cebu in the north and central part of the country. They account for about 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continuously practised organized religion in the Philippines, the first transformations took place in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila was a Muslim city when the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. Many aspects of this Islamic past can be seen in certain cultural traits that many major Christian Filipinos still demonstrate (such as food and hygiene etiquette), and they added to the melting pot of Philippine culture as a whole. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks and violent clashes between the Philippine army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslims and non-Muslims of the Filipinos in the rural areas in the south. However, Filipino Muslims are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam and, like Indonesian Muslims, tend to be more relaxed about topics such as gender segregation or the hijab (veil) than those of South Asian or Middle Eastern Muslims.

The Indian Filipinos, Japanese Filipinos and Chinese Filipinos are mainly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist, comprising approximately 3% of the Philippine population. This population had lived in the country for centuries before Spanish rule, and many aspects of the Buddhist and Hindu faith and culture can also be traced back to the main culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos. As in many cases in the Philippines, statistics on religion are never clear or definitive, and many Christians and Muslims also profess and believe in spiritual aspects of indigenous peoples (such as the veneration of natural deities and ancestor worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers), which in some cases may contradict the orthodox rules of their religion.

Ethnic groups in Philippines

In accordance with the census of 2000, 28.1% of all Filipinos are Tagalog, 13.1% are Cebuano, 9% is Ilocano, 7.6% are Visayans / Bisaya ( without Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray), 7.5% are Hiligaynon, 6% are Bikol, 3, 4% Waray and 25.3% as so called ”others”, that may be more widely split to give more distinct non-tribal communities including Moro, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Ibanag and Ivatan. In addition, there are also indigenous groups such as the Igorot, the Lumad, the Mangyan, the Bajau and also the tribes of Palawan.

Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups that are linguistically classified as part of the Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian speaking population. It is assumed that Austronesian-speaking Taiwanese natives have been migrated from Taiwan to the Philippines thousands of years ago, bringing with them a knowledge of agriculture as well as deep-sea sailing and then eventually displacing the former Negrito ethnic groups of the islands. Negritos like the Aeta and the Ati are among the earliest inhabitants of the islands.

The Philippines, located at the crossroads of East and West, is also home to migrants from countries as diverse as China, Spain, Mexico, the United States, India, South Korea and Japan. Two important non-indigenous minorities are the Chinese and the Spanish.

The Chinese, mainly descendants of immigrants from Fujian, China after 1898, number 2 million, although there are an estimated 18 to 27 million Filipinos, some of whom have Chinese ancestors and are descended from pre-colonial and colonial Chinese migrants. Mixed marriage between the groups is evident in the major cities and urban areas.

At least one third of the population of Luzon and some old settlements in the city of Visayasand Zamboanga in Mindanao have partly Hispanic ancestors (from different places of origin via Latin America to Spain). Recent genetic studies confirm this partly European and Latin American ancestry.

Other important non-indigenous minorities are Indians, Anglo-Americans, British and Japanese. Offspring of mixed couples are known as mestizos.

Language in Philippines

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is an artificial construct that no one actually speaks and is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay). It was originally intended to incorporate vocabulary and idioms from the many other indigenous languages in use in the Philippine islands, but this attempt died an early death. Mistakenly, many people today equate Filipino with Tagalog, which has been influenced by English, Spanish, Malay, Indonesian, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and many other languages, mainly from the Indian subcontinent and Europe. While Tagalog is an Austronesian language, like Malay, Indonesian and Javanese, the language was heavily influenced by other languages during the Spanish colonial period, especially Spanish, and to this day the language is dominated by Spanish loanwords. Therefore, many Filipinos can understand a little Spanish, while Spanish speakers would also recognise many Filipino words. Since Malay, Cebuano and Tagalog are closely related, speakers of Malay or Indonesian would also recognise many cognates in many languages of the Philippines.

Tagalog is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions, as well as in the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most commonly spoken language, while Kapampangan is widely spoken in Central Luzon. Further south of Metro Manila is the Bicol region, where Bicolano is used. In the southern islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most widely spoken language and until recently had the largest number of native speakers. Other languages in the south are 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 for locals. The use of English on radio and free-to-air television is not as widespread as it used to be, with only three television stations using it full-time. However, almost all major newspapers still use English. Tourists will have no problem speaking English when asking at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Tagalog will be useful when travelling to rural areas, where English skills are limited. Taglish is spoken by urban youth these days, but its use is discouraged by language teachers. It is a mixture of Tagalog and English, and an example is shown below:

Taglish:How are you na? Ok naman ako.

English:How are you? I am fine.

Spanish is no longer widely spoken, although many Spanish words survive in 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 offering it as an elective subject in public schools. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their main language; however, there are about 3 million people who speak Spanish, and there is a daily radio programme Filipinas Ahora Mismo broadcasting in Spanish from Manila.

There are some other ethnic groups in the country, especially in more urbanised areas like Manila. The largest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Note, however, that since most of them come from Fujian province, they speak Hokkien (and not Mandarin) as well as Lan-ang; a language that is a mixture of Filipino and Hokkien, but they are also taught Mandarin in Chinese schools. Muslim Filipinos are taught to read the Qu’ran in Arabic in schools. Other groups include Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are institutions that speak Korean. Indian languages such as Hindi and Punjabi are also spoken by Indian communities, while Europeans speak their own languages.

Many Filipinos speak several languages. You should not be surprised to meet someone who speaks one or more regional Filipino languages (perhaps Waray and Cebuano) plus English, Tagalog and one or two languages learned while working overseas as a contract worker.

Internet & Communications in Philippines

Phone in Philippines

  • Fire, medical and police emergencies117 by voice or text message.

The National Emergency Network Philippines (ENP) is also called Patrol 117 and routes emergency calls originating anywhere in the Philippine archipelago to the appropriate one of the sixteen PSAPs located in various cities across the country.

When a Patrol 117 call is made from a mobile phone, this call is automatically forwarded to the nearest emergency call centre. However, 117 is not registered as an emergency number that can be dialled even without credit, roaming agreement or even SIM card on most mobile phone models or SIM cards. For this reason, the ENP also supports the dialling of 112 or 911 as an emergency measure. (These alternative numbers do not usually work from the fixed network!)

  • Philippine Coast Guard Action Centre: +63 2 527-3880
  • National Poison Control Line: +63 2 524-1078
  • Motorist Assistance’: 136 (Metro Manila only)
  • Tourist hotline: +63 2 524-1728 and 524-1660
  • Immigration hotline: 527
  • Directory enquiries: 187 or 114 (chargeable)

The country code for the Philippines is 63.
The international access code for an international call from Philippines is 00.
The area code for Metro Manila is 2.

Telephone numbers in the Philippines have the format +63 35 539-0605, where “63” is the country code, the next one, two or three digits are the area code and the remaining 7 digits are the “local” part of the subscriber number, which can be called from the respective area using speed dialling.

Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialled with all 11 digits (including a “0” preceding the “8nn” or “9nn” within the Philippines), regardless of where they are called from. The “8nn” or “9nn” is a mobile prefix, not an “area code” as such, and the second and third digits (the nn part) denote the mobile network originally assigned. As with most mobile numbers, they can also be called inside or outside the Philippines in international format: +63 996-202-4961.

Most toll-free numbers cannot be called from outside the Philippines, but can be dialled domestically using the format 1800-1855-0165.

You must dial a “0” before the geographic code if you are outside of that code (but still within the Philippines).

The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is via internet telephony (VoIP). There are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the best known is Vodini Telecom.

Most Philippine toll-free numbers cannot be called from outside the Philippines, so they are not listed in international format. e.g.: 1800 1855 0165

Mobile phones

Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialled with all 11 digits (including a “0” preceding the “8nn” or “9nn” within the Philippines), regardless of where they are called from. The “8nn” or “9nn” is a mobile prefix, not an “area code” in the strict sense, and the second and third digits (the nn part) denote the mobile network originally assigned. As with most mobile numbers, they can also be called inside or outside the Philippines in international format, as listed in our Philippines articles

There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe , Smart and Sun Cellular. Your home provider should have agreements with one of these, so check with them before you leave home. Roaming, as elsewhere, can be quite expensive. However, prepaid SIM cards from these networks are easy to purchase and cost as little as ₱30 and offer a cheaper alternative. If your device is tied to your home carrier, mobile phone repair shops in various shopping malls offer unlocking options (the typical unlocking fee is ₱300, but can be as high as ₱2,000 for certain devices like a Blackberry). If you don’t have a phone yet, you can buy a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM card for as little as ₱1,500. Phones that come with these offers are usually tied to a local network operator, and you would need to have it unlocked before you leave if you want to use it at home.

GSM mobile phones are widely used throughout the country. 3G technology is available through Globe and Smart, but is poorly implemented and often not functioning properly, especially outside urban areas. Cellular service will be available in most urban areas and in many resorts. Please note that Sun cellular does not work outside the main island of Luzon. The usual cost for an international long distance call to the US, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls cost ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law has been passed requiring per-pulse billing, i.e. per 6-second rate), but unlike other countries, you are not charged for incoming calls. Text messages usually only cost ₱1 and the Philippines is usually dubbed the “SMS capital of the world”. International text messages are charged at a higher rate of ₱15-25. Plans for unlimited calls and SMS are offered by networks, but are almost always limited to those to parties within the same network.

Recharging prepaid SIMs (known as “recharge/loading” or “top-up/topping-up” in other countries) is a breeze. Electronic charging stations (e-loads) are everywhere, from small corner shops to large shopping malls, where you simply give your mobile number and the amount you want to top-up (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their charging denominations you can choose from for e-loading). If you have a friend who uses the same mobile operator as you, you can top up with as little as a few pesos by having him/her pass on some of his/her credit to you. If you need hundreds of pesos worth of credit, you can buy prepaid cards, which are available in denominations of ₱100, ₱300 and ₱500.

Due to the widespread use of mobile phones, pay phones are becoming increasingly obsolete. They still exist in some shopping centres and public places and are usually either coin or card operated. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops that offer prepaid mobile phone charges and cards. Note that phone cards from one company cannot be used with card-operated phones from the other.

Internet in Philippines

Internet access with broadband speeds is plentiful in city centres, much less so outside cities, but it is growing rapidly. Internet prices depend primarily on where you surf and what medium you use (e.g. Wi-Fi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can be as high as 200 ₱/hour, but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as 10 ₱/hour. Public Wi-Fi services in the Philippines offered by and WiZ are likely to cost ₱100 for up to an hour. But if you want it cheaper, there is an internet café chain in SM malls called “Netopia” that offers a landline internet connection for about ₱20 per hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best as well as malls usually offer Wi-Fi service and some are free to use. The SM mall chain also offers free Wi-Fi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and use free Wi-Fi.

In addition, you can consider buying a mobile broadband modem from ₱995 if the service is also offered by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on the available infrastructure in your particular location, but generally 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 in both postpaid and prepaid varieties. To buy a modem and subscription, you need to go to one of the bigger cities – the small shops that only sell mobile phones and SIM cards are not able to sell mobile broadband. “Charging” often costs as little as ₱20 per hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower at certain times – especially in the evenings – due to heavy surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, the service is almost guaranteed to slow to a standstill then.

Wildlife in Philippines

The Philippine rainforests and their extensive coastline are home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals and marine life. It is one of the ten biologically most megadiverse countries. The Philippines is home to some 1,100 species of vertebrates, including over 100 species of mammals and 170 species of birds that are not believed to exist elsewhere. The Philippines has one of the highest discovery rates in the world with 16 new mammal species discovered in the last decade. For this reason, the endemism rate in the Philippines has increased and is likely to continue to increase.

In the Philippines, large predators are rare, other than snakes such as pythons and cobras, salt water crocodiles and raptors such as the national bird, the Philippine eagle, which scientists call the largest eagle in the world. The largest captive crocodile, locally known as Lolong, was captured on the southern island of Mindanao.

Other native animals include the civet cat, dugong, cloud rat and the Philippine tarsier associated with Bohol. With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country, 3,200 of which are unique to the islands, the Philippine rainforests offer a wide variety of plants, including many rare species of orchids and prize pools.

Philippine marine waters cover up to 2,200,000 square kilometers (849,425 square miles) and produce a unique and diverse marine life, an important part of the Coral Triangle. Overall numbers of corals and marine fish species in these waters have been estimated to be 500 and 2,400 respectively. New records and species discoveries continue to increase this number and underline the uniqueness of the Philippines’ marine resources. The Tubbataha reef located in the Sulu Sea has been declared a World Heritage Site in 1993. Pearls, crabs and algae are also cultivated in the Philippine waters.

Deforestation, usually the product of unauthorized logging, is a serious problem in the Philippines. Forest cover has decreased from 70% of the total land area of the Philippines in 1900 to about 18.3% in 1999. A number of species are threatened with extinction, and researchers say that Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, is facing a catastrophic 20% extinction rate to the end of the 21st century.

Economy of Philippines

The Philippine economy is the 33rd largest in the world, with an estimated gross domestic product (nominal) in 2016 of $310.312 billion. The main trading partners are the USA, Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Taiwan and Thailand. Their currency unit is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP).

As a newly industrialized country, the Philippine economy is in the process of moving from an agriculture-based economy to one more focused on services and manufacturing. From the country’s total labor force of approximately 40.813 million, its agricultural industry employs 30% and accounts for 14% of GDP. The industrial sector employs about 14% of the labor force and accounts for 30% of GDP. Meanwhile, the 47% of workers involved in the service sector are responsible for 56% of GDP.

The unemployment rate as of December 14, 2014 was 6.0%. Meanwhile, due to lower expenses of basic necessities, the inflation rate fell to 3.7% in November Gross international reserves in October 2013 are 83.201 billion dollars. The debt-to-GDP ratio continues to decline to 38.1% in March 2014 from 78% in 2004. While the country is a net importer, at the same time it is also a creditor nation.

After the Second World War, the Philippines was for a time considered the second richest in East Asia, after Japan. In the 1960s, its economic performance began to be surpassed. The economy stagnated under the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos, while the regime created economic mismanagement and political volatility. The country suffered from slow economic growth and periods of economic recession. It was only in the 1990s, with a program of economic liberalization, that the economy began to recover.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 affected the economy, leading to a persistent decline in the value of the peso and a decline in the stock market. The magnitude of its initial impact was not as severe as that of some of its Asian neighbors. This was largely due to the government’s fiscal conservatism, partly as a result of decades of International Monetary Fund (IMF) surveillance and fiscal oversight, compared with the massive spending by its neighbors to rapidly accelerate economic growth. There were some indications of progress since that time. In 2004, the economy grew by 6.4 percent and by 7.1 percent in 2007, its fastest rate of growth in three decades. The average annual growth of GDP per capita over the period 1966-2007 is still 1.45%, compared to an average of 5.96% for the entire East Asia and Pacific region.The daily income of 45% of the Philippine population remains below $2.

The economy depends heavily on remittances from overseas Filipinos, which exceed foreign direct investment as a source of foreign exchange. Remittances peaked in 2010 at 10.4% of the national GDP, and were 8.6% in 2012 and by 2014, the total value of remittances to the Philippines was US$28 billion. Despite the constraints, service industries such as tourism and business process outsourcing have been identified as areas offering some of the best growth opportunities for the country.

Goldman Sachs includes the country in its “Next Eleven” list, but China and India have become major economic competitors. HSBC also projects that the Philippine economy will become the 16th largest economy in the world, the 5th largest economy in Asia and the largest economy in the Southeast Asian region by 2050. The Philippines is a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Mandaluyong-based Asian Development Bank, the Colombo Plan, the G-77 and the G-24 among other groups and institutions.

Entry Requirements For Philippines

Visa & Passport

Nationals of the vast majority of countries (147 at last count), including all ASEAN and EU countries, can enter the Philippines without a visa for a period not exceeding 30 days. Nationals of Brazil and Israel can enter the Philippines without a visa for an extended stay not exceeding 59 days, while Hong Kong and Macau SAR passport holders are granted 14 days. Holders of British National (Overseas) passports and Portuguese passports issued in Macau are not allowed to stay in the Philippines for more than 7 days without a visa.

All passengers arriving in the Philippines must complete a disembarkation form and a customs declaration form (one per family). Visa-exempt nationals can enter the Philippines as long as they have a return ticket and a passport valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay. While enforcement used to be lax, these requirements are now strictly enforced and foreigners have been deported from the Philippines for not meeting the entry requirements.

Nationals of countries that require a visa to enter the Philippines can obtain one upon arrival under the Bureau of Immigration’s Visa Upon Arrival Program (VUAP). However, this approval must be arranged with the BI prior to arrival in the Philippines. 59-day tourist visas (₱3030) may also be applied for on arrival by nationals of countries otherwise entitled to only a 30-day stay. If you intend to stay beyond the 30-day visa period, you can apply for a visa extension at Bureau of Immigration offices in most major cities and at Manila and Cebu airports. Each visa extension is valid for one to six months, except for the first extension, which is valid for 29 days (this extends the original visa to 59 days), and is granted up to a maximum of three years. To avoid going to the BI to extend a tourist visa, it is also possible to apply for a tourist visa at a Philippine embassy or consulate, although nationals of visa-exempt countries must present the visa to the immigration officer to avoid being stamped with the wrong visa.

If you overstay, you will have to pay a penalty of ₱1000 per month of overstay plus an administration fee of ₱3,030 when you leave the country.

Under the “Balikbayan Programme”, former Filipino citizens who were naturalised abroad can enter the Philippines visa-free for up to one year. If you are eligible, you will need to prove your former Filipino citizenship by presenting an old passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalisation documents. However, you may not need to present these documents to the immigration officer as it is usually sufficient to speak a Filipino language, appear Filipino and/or present the foreign passport showing that you were born in the Philippines. If your Balikbayan status is granted, the immigration officer will note your passport for a one-year stay. Your spouse and children are also eligible for the Balikbayan privilege as long as they enter and leave the Philippines with you.

What do I have to pay when leaving the Philippines?

When departing the Philippines from Clark, Iloilo, Davao, Kalibo airports, departing passengers must pay a passenger service charge, better known as a terminal fee. This fee is collected at the airport before entry and is payable in Philippine pesos. Payment of the fee is recorded on the boarding pass. For Manila and Cebu airports, the terminal fee is now included in the ticket price.

In addition, most resident foreigners who have stayed in the Philippines for more than a year and leave the country must pay a travel tax of either ₱2,700 if flying first class or ₱1620 for 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, online. If the ticket was purchased from an airline or travel agent in the Philippines, the tax is most likely included in the ticket price; check and ask before paying. Foreign nationals and Balikbayans (former Filipino citizens) staying in the Philippines for less than a year are exempt from paying travel tax, as are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Filipino students studying abroad, young children and government or international agency employees on official travel. Reduced rates are available for minors (under 12), dependents of OFWs (under 21) and journalists on assignment.

How To Travel To Philippines

Get In - By plane

Although the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors arrive by air. International airports are located in Manila, Angeles, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Kalibo.

Philippine AirlinesCebu Pacific and Air Asia, are the three airlines that fly within the Philippines.

If you plan to tour the different islands, it is best to buy an open jaw ticket. This can save a lot of time flying back. Most common open-jaw ticket combinations fly to Manila and from Cebu, or the other way around. Local airlines also have regular “seat sales” advertising low prices for flights to domestic destinations. However, pay attention to the dates of travel: Some tickets booked during a seat sale can only be used on dates well after the duration of the sale (sometimes up to a year after the sale), and the advertised fares usually do not include government taxes and fuel surcharges.

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 with travel agencies that specialise in overseas Filipinos, as they often have cheaper prices than those generally advertised.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Most visitors coming to the Philippines fly in via Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) (IATA: MNL). The airport is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and the Domestic Terminal (also known as Terminal 4).

  • Most international flights depart from Terminal 1, with a few exceptions:
  • Philippine Airlines international flights and some Philippine Airlines domestic flights depart from Terminal 2,
  • while some domestic flights of Philippine airlines and all international and domestic flights of Cebu Pacific as well as the international flights of All Nippon AirwaysSingapore AirlinesKLMCathay pacificEmiratesDelta and Air Asia depart from Terminal 3.
  • Air Asia’s domestic flights depart from Domestic Terminal 4.
  • Terminal 1 has now been renovated. Terminal 1 now has fewer airlines and is much better than before.
  • Terminal 3 is the best of all terminals with plenty of dining and shopping options.

Other airports

Some visitors entering the Philippines choose not to fly via Manila, but use other airports in the Philippines that have international flights.

  • Diosdado Macapagal (Clark) International Airport (IATA: CRK) in Angeles City, Pampanga is located 85 km north of Manila and is a popular hub for low-cost carriers flying to Manila. Air AsiaTiger Air and Jin Air are now the three foreign low-cost carriers flying to Clark, from KL, Singapore and Seoul respectively. Cebu Pacific has flights to Hong Kong and Macau. Qatar Airways also has flights from Clark Airport to Doha.
  • Mactan-Cebu International Airport (IATA: CEB) in Metro Cebu is the second largest airport in the Philippines and a major hub for visitors travelling to points in the Visayas and Mindanao. Several of the airlines that fly to Manila also fly to Cebu. Air Asia flies to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Tiger Airways flies to Singapore. Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong.
  • Francisco Bangoy International Airport (IATA: DVO) in Davao is served by SilkAir and Cebu Pacific with flights to and from Singapore.
  • Kalibo International Airport (IATA: KLO) in Kalibo, Aklan (near Boracay) Air Asia, has flights to KL Malaysia, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. Cebu Pacific flies from Kalibo to Hong Kong. Other airlines also offer charter flights to Kalibo from points in South Korea, China and Taiwan.
  • Iloilo International Airport (IATA: ILO) in Iloilo is served by Cebu Pacific, with flights to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Passengers departing on international flights from Davao or Iloilo or Kalibo airports are required to pay a terminal fee of ₱700. For Clark airport, the fee is ₱650 in addition to the Philippine travel tax. this is done before entering the immigration and pre-departure area of the terminal. Terminal fees are payable in Philippine pesos only.

  • For Manila and Cebu airports, the terminal fee is now included in the ticket price.

Get In - By boat

  • WeesamExpress operates a regular ferry service connecting Zamboanga City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with Sandakan, Malaysia.
  • Aleson Shipping Lines also has a ferry from Zamboanga to Sandakan. Scheduled departure from Zamboanga every Monday and Thursday 12pm. Economy class ₱2700 each way. Cabin ₱3100 each way.

How To Travel Around Philippines

Get Around - By plane

As the Philippines is an archipelago, the easiest way to move between islands is by air. Philippine AirlinesCebu PacificAir Asia. have major domestic flights connecting many major cities. There are also several smaller airlines that fly to resorts (such as Amanpulo in Palawan), as well as more remote destinations. While most cities are served by jet aircraft, some destinations are served by propeller planes.

The route networks of most local airlines are heavily concentrated on Manila and Cebu: flights between domestic points usually mean flying through one of the two cities (sometimes both), although direct flights between other major cities are slowly being introduced. Reaching Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by plane is a special case: travellers must fly via Zamboanga City.

The vast 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. However, this does not mean that airfares are affordable: Seat sales on domestic flights are common throughout the year, and all major airlines regularly offer special fares on their websites. However, airfares increase significantly during peak travel periods (especially Christmas, Holy Week and the last two weeks of October), and in places served by only one airline (such as Calbayog, Camiguin or Siargao), airfares also increase during major provincial or city festivals. During the peak tourist season, flights are often fully booked, so it is advisable to book well in advance.

Passengers departing on domestic flights must pay a terminal fee before entering the area prior to departure, although the fee will be built into the ticket price from 1 August 2012 for flights departing from Manila and Cebu (tickets issued before this 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 payable in Philippine pesos only.

Get Around - By train

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) currently operates two night intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, which resumed on 29 June 2011 after a five-year hiatus, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. More services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. The speed of the trains is comparable to (or slower than) buses due to delays, but more comfortable as donated Japanese coaches are used.

The Bicol Express and Mayon Limited are not non-stop services: From Tutuban, Manila’s main station, the train calls at several points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur before arriving at Naga (and Albay before arriving at Ligao for the Mayon Limited). It is possible to travel between any two points served by the lines, and fares are distance-based. Children under three feet can travel for free.

The Bicol Express currently operates in four classes:

  • The Executive Sleeper Class has air-conditioned single cabins. Each cabin has a bed, extendable armrests so that part of the bed can be used as a chair, and a small table. Washrooms are available inside the coach.
  • The family sleeper class has air-conditioned four-bed cabins: two beds on each side, with one stacked over the other. Access to the top bunk is via a folding ladder between the two sides of the cabin, and the cabins are separated from the aisle by a curtain. The PNR advertises this class for use by families travelling together, although it is possible to book a single bed.
  • The air-conditioned Economy Class (or Deluxe Class) has air-conditioned reclining seats, two on each side of the cabin. In some coaches it is possible to turn the chairs so that passengers can face each other.
  • Economy Class (or normal class) is the cheapest class of service and has upholstered benches on each side that can seat up to three people. Ventilation is provided by ceiling fans mounted above the ceiling.

On the Mayon Limited, only the air-conditioned economy class with berths (“deluxe”) and the regular economy class are offered. Unlike the Bicol Express, however, the Mayon Limited operates 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 flights are entitled to a baggage allowance of 20 kg.

It is possible to pre-book seats on intercity trains by calling the PNR at +63 2 319-0044. It is recommended to book seats in advance during the peak travel season (especially Holy Week and September, during the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga), as trains can be full then. However, the PNR sends a second night train on certain days during the high season, consisting of economy trains only, if traffic demand justifies it. Timetables and fares for all services, including supplementary services, are announced on the PNR website and also on its official Facebook page.

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.

Get Around - By car

The Philippines’ road network is centred on Manila. Outside Luzon, the road networks of larger islands converge in the largest city or cities (e.g. Cebu City for Cebu Province, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have one road that circles the entire island. The Philippines has one highway that is part of the Asian highway network: the Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known as the Maharlika Highway. The highway starts in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, crossing Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. However, it is also the only highway in the Asian Highway Network that is not connected to any other highway: it is not possible to drive to the Philippines by car.

Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality, from the paved, multi-lane motorways on Luzon to the narrow dirt roads in remote mountainous areas that can make travelling by car difficult. Most major roads are two-lane and usually paved with asphalt or concrete, although multi-lane roads are common near major cities. Road atlases and maps are available in bookshops throughout the country and are very helpful when driving, especially if you are travelling alone.

Major international car rental companies such as Hertz [www] and Budget [www] have offices in Metro Manila, especially at the airport. Avis [www] and Europcar [www] are among the largest international car rental companies and have offices in several cities in the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car [www]. Regardless of the company, prices are reasonable in any case.

Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: However, some types of vehicles (e.g. vans) can only be rented with a chauffeur. In addition, some (mostly local) car rental companies only allow driving within the island where the place of rental is located: For example, it is possible to drive a rental car from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte), as this would require using roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to travel out of Luzon and into the offshore islands, Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice versa), make sure that the rental company’s conditions allow this.

Road networks

In addition to the existing network of national and local roads, the Philippines has two other road networks: an motorway network and the Strong Republic Nautical Highways (SRNH) system.

Luzon has an motorway network dominated by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). These are toll motorways with well-paved roads that are privately maintained, and the furthest toll booths cost no more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. Other motorways include the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (a 94-kilometre four-lane highway connecting Subic Bay and Tarlac) and the Bataan Provincial Expressway. The motorways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads that link the 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 that facilitates the connection of the Philippines’ major islands by road, thus reducing the cost of driving (and ultimately transporting goods between islands). The SRNH system starts in Luzon, runs north-south through the Visayas and finally ends in Mindanao. The SRNH is useful for travelling to tourist destinations outside Manila: For example, it is possible to travel to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. The SRNH routes are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism [www].


Foreign driving licences are valid in the Philippines for up to 90 days after arrival, after which a Philippine driving licence is required. It may also be a good idea to carry your passport showing that your last entry into the Philippines was less than 91 days ago.

Vehicular traffic in the Philippines is on the right and most road signs are in English. Most signs follow the design guidelines used in the USA.

Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Especially in the big cities (especially Metro Manila), traffic often comes to a standstill and honking is a common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless overtaking are regular occurrences, especially on lonely rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which crowd the pavements to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: The fact that bus and jeepney drivers’ salaries are based on passenger volume does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorbikes often weave through traffic, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, which were often ignored in the past, are now more strictly observed. Seat belts are only mandatory for people in the front seat.

Due to heavy traffic, 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 number plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but is also known simply as “number coding” or, earlier, “colour coding” (although it has nothing to do with the colour of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:

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 driving between 7am and 7pm on a given day of the week on most national (primary) and secondary roads, although implementation varies: In Metro Manila (except Makati and Pasay), there is a “window” between 10am and 3pm when the regulation is not enforced, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city centre and the regulation does not apply to the rest of the city. Generally, however, the UVVRP does not apply to side streets (mostly in residential areas) and these streets remain open to coded cars all day. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge to see if these rules apply to your vehicle, especially since driving foreigners can become targets for less scrupulous traffic enforcers.

Get Around - By taxi

Taxi fares
Most taxi drivers nowadays charge fares that are not based on the taxi meter, especially during peak hours. If you come across this, say “no” and tell them that the drivers have no right to give you a double fare that is not based on the taxi meters.

If this happens, get out of the taxi, threaten the driver that you will call the police hotline; PhilippineNational Police (PNP) +63 2 722-0650 and start dialing your mobile phone to make him think you are calling the police or either call the MMDA [www](Metro Manila Development Authority) hotline; 136 if you are inside Manila, you can also text the police to 2920 and your message must read as follows: PNP(space)(message), for your complaints.

Taxis are generally available within the major cities, but are not usually used to travel through the different provinces and regions. However, some FX (shared taxis) usually run on provincial routes. You can also call reputable taxi companies that can arrange pick-ups and transfers as well as airport trips.

If you hail a taxi in the cities, make sure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small banknotes, as drivers often claim not to have change in order to receive a larger tip! Please have coins ready. Also, don’t be surprised if drivers try to bypass the taxi meter during rush hour. Most taxis have a flag-down fare of ₱40 with each 300 metres costing ₱3.50, while Yellow Cab taxis are more expensive with a flag-down fare of ₱70 with each 300 metres costing ₱4.00.

You can book a taxi via GPS-enabled mobile apps such as “Grab Taxi” and “Easy Taxi” for a small fee. This is better than calling a taxi as you can see the number of taxis available and their location via GPS. Once you have a confirmed taxi booking, the name, photo, number plate number and phone number will appear on your mobile device and you can communicate with the driver to let him know exactly where you are. This is initially available in Metro Manila and Cebu.

Get Around - By bus

Apart from flying, buses are usually the way to go when it comes to travelling across the Philippines, at least from within the major islands. It is the cheapest way to get around, with fares as low as ₱300-₱500. Provincial bus companies offer trips from Manila to provinces in the north and south. Major provincial bus companies such as ALPS The Bus, Inc. [www], Victory Liner[www], Philtranco[www] operate in the country.

Get Around - With the boat

Although seafarers from the Philippines are employed worldwide and have a good reputation as skilled and dedicated crew, it is a sad fact that shipowners in the Philippines put profit before life, and the Philippines has the sad honour of having had some of the world’s worst shipping disasters in peacetime. (On 20 December 1987, the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector in Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. The tanker had more than 8,800 barrels of petrol on board and the resulting conflagration quickly spread to the Doña Paz, forcing passengers to jump into the burning water. There were later reports that the lifejackets on board the Doña Paz were locked away to prevent theft. This one incident left an estimated 4,341 dead, including all but 24 passengers on the Doña Paz and all but two of the Vector’s 13-member crew).

NOTE: If a boat appears to be overloaded, do not board. Always check the latest weather reports before travelling by ferry, as some captains are prepared to sail even if a typhoon is approaching. Bringing your own life jacket is strongly recommended (but does not replace common sense). Travelling by boat should not be considered safer than travelling by air.

Metro Manila

Get around Manila with the Pasig Ferry Service. The water buses are available at stations around the historic Pasig River. Fares range from ₱25, ₱35 and ₱45. For students and youth, fares are ₱20, regardless of distance.

Inter-island travel

Besides buses and sometimes budget airlines, boats are the cheapest means of transport to travel around the country, with fares as low as ₱1,000 if it’s a trip that lasts a day or two, and ₱200 if it’s just a one-hour journey. 2Go Travel and a number of other companies offer ferries between the islands. There is a convenient Friday night ferry trip to Coron, Palawan. This allows divers to spend the weekend in Coron and take the ferry back to Manila on Sunday evening, arriving around noon. You can also stay overnight on a cruise ship exploring the Coron area. The 7,107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and to some of its private islands.

Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours depending on the distance. Other major ferry companies are: 2Go Travel Trans Asia Shipping Lines.

Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries across the Visayas at affordable prices. Timetable information is hard to come by – newspapers often contain pages of adverts for specific days but, believe it or not, most people rely on word of mouth.

Be aware that while travelling by ferry is cheap and relatively carefree compared to air travel, shipping can be unreliable. Ferries can sometimes be delayed by 24 to 48 hours because not all cargo and passengers are on board yet, or because of weather. If you have a deadline to meet (e.g. an international flight), you should fly instead of travelling by ferry.


7107 Islands Cruise offers a cruise from Boracay to Puerto Galera to Boracay, prices range from ₱2,000 – ₱10,000, children under 3 years travel free when accompanied by 2 adults, children from 5 to 12 years receive 50% discount when also accompanied by 2 adults, while senior citizens receive 20% discount. The cruise will travel around the Philippines to islands such as Boracay and Coron Island.

Hans Christian Andersen Cruise takes you on an unforgettable journey through the Philippines. They aim for unforgettable experiences, empty beaches, local fishing villages, fantastic diving and snorkelling – the perfect way to explore the Philippines’ picturesque archipelagos. They offer a relaxed, unpretentious holiday atmosphere and you won’t have to worry about dress codes.

Sun Cruises offers 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 on the island. The tour guides are very informative and the island is steeped in history, especially about the battles that raged there during World War 2. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.

Get Around - With jeepney

Jeepneys are common throughout the country and are by far the cheapest way to get around most major cities. They usually follow fixed routes, have fixed fares depending on the distance (often around ₱8 for up to 4 km and an additional ₱1 per km) and stop when you wave to them. There are usually signs on the side of the vehicle indicating the route.

Originally, jeepneys were based on jeeps left behind by the Americans after World War II; the Filipinos lengthened the body and added benches on the sides to seat up to 20 people (10 per side). Today, most new jeepneys are based on second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, but some of the post-war jeepneys are still in service.

Within Manila and other major cities, you will find several jeepneys per route for added convenience. In the provinces, jeepneys also connect the cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more convenient.

Jeepneys are often quite crowded and sometimes there are pickpockets, but every visitor should try them at least once as they are definitely part of a “Philippines experience”. For a budget traveller, they will probably be one of the most used transport options.

Get Around - With the tricycle

Traysikels are three-wheeled, motorbike and sidecar carriages, usually with seating for four people in the sidecar. In many of the smaller towns, these are the main means of transport within the town, and jeepneys are only used for longer journeys.

These may not be to the taste of most foreigners as they are narrow and quite open to traffic. They are usually used for short distances and are shared vehicles; expect to ride with other people going roughly the same way, making a diversion or two when the driver turns to deliver a passenger to their destination. Fares range from ₱3 upwards, depending on the distance of your destination. In some places the fare is regulated by law, for example in Dumaguete it is ₱8 within the city. However, you often have to negotiate the fare and some drivers try to take advantage of foreigners,

In many areas, “pedicab” refers to a pedal-powered vehicle, either a bicycle sidecar team or a bicycle rickshaw with two seats in the back and the driver pedalling in the front. In other areas, the term “pedicab” is also used for motorised sidecar vehicles.

Destinations in Philippines

Regions in Philippines

  • Luzon (Metro Manila, Bicol, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa). The northernmost archipelago, centre of government, history, economy and home of the capital city.
  • Visayas (Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas)
    The central archipelago, heart of the country’s antiquity, nature, 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 archipelago showcasing the indigenous and rich culture of the Philippines
  • Palawan (Palawan Island, Calamian Islands, Cuyo Islands).
    West of the other Philippine islands, stretching down to Borneo. Less densely populated than the rest of the country, with some good diving.

The administrative system of the Philippine government consists of three top-level regions, as described above, with the exception that Palawan belongs to Luzon. Below these are 18 subordinate regions, 80 provinces, 120 cities and many rural municipalities. The lowest level of government is the barangay – a rural district or urban neighbourhood – and addresses or directions in the Philippines often include the name of the barangay.

Cities in Philippines

With more than 7000 islands, the Philippine archipelago has many cities. Below are some of the most important cities for visitors, some of which are provincial capitals and centres for trade 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 that entails in terms of pollution, crime, urban poverty and traffic congestion – with few parks. However, the smiling, stoic and resourceful people themselves are its saving grace, rather than the relatively few surviving monuments, historical landmarks and landmarks scattered far and wide in the city and surrounding metropolitan area of Metro Manila!
  • Bacolod – known as the “City of Smiles” because of the annual MassKara Festival (Máscara in Spanish) held on 19 October, is one of the gateways to Negros Island and home to the famous Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
  • Baguio – the summer capital of Luzon because of its cool weather, offers well-maintained parks and scenic areas and is home to the “Igorot”, the indigenous people of the Cordillera.
  • Cebu – the “Queen City of the South” was the first Spanish base in the Philippines and is an important centre for trade, industry, culture and tourism. Metro Cebu is the second largest urban area in the country, after Metro Manila. Consider flying into its botch-free and little-used airport as a more central and pleasant alternative to Manila – regularly named the world’s dirtiest major airport – if your goal is tourism.
  • Cagayan de Oro – known as the “City of Golden Friendship”, it is popular for white water rafting and is the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
  • Davao – the largest city in the world by area, is known for its durian fruit and as the home of Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines.
  • Tagbilaran – known as the site of the Sandugo (blood pact) between the Spanish conqueror 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 city centre is the best example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Philippines. Visit between 03:00 and 05:15 to enjoy some of the well-preserved cobbled streets and not the stench and noise of two-stroke engines.
  • Zamboanga – known as “La Ciudad Latina de Asia” (Asia’s Latin City), is the melting pot between the Christian and Muslim cultures of the Philippines, with ancient mosques, large churches and historic colonial buildings.

Other destinations in Philippines

  • The 2000-year-old rice terraces of Banaue are called the eighth wonder of the world by Filipinos and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People are fascinated by the immense amount of work the Igorots do to produce these.
  • Batangas is the birthplace of diving in the Philippines with world-class dive sites and beaches. Its accessibility by road, about 2 hours from Manila airport, makes it a popular destination. It is home to Taal Volcano and Taal Heritage Town.
  • Boracay is a 10 km long island with white sandy beaches.
  • Camarines Sur has beautiful coral reefs and coastlines of black and white sand. Visit the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex and go water skiing.
  • Donsol is the whale shark capital of the world, dive and see whale sharks.
  • Malapascua Island, like other islands in the Philippines, offers a beautiful white sand coastline and coral gardens.
  • Palawan offers beautiful beaches and coral reefs that are home to a wide variety of creatures such as dugongs and manta rays. Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park: a cave with beautiful rock formations as well as an underground river.
  • Puerto Galera, a popular destination for people during Holy Week because of its white sandy beaches and amazing flora.
  • Sabang is a municipality in Puerto Galera. Dive in the beautiful waters and be amazed at the wildlife you will see.
  • Tagaytay, tired of the old scene of the noisy metropolis of Manila? or do you miss the cool weather? Head to Tagaytay, it offers a view of Taal Volcano, the weather is cool and often an escape for Filipinos tired of warm tropical weather during Holy Week.

Accommodation & Hotels in Philippines

  • Tourist accommodation options include hotels, resorts, condotels, flats, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses.
  • Hotels and resorts are usually for the upmarket traveller, although prices – even for four-star facilities – are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominiums rented for long or short-term stays, apartamentos are set up for both short and long-term stays, and a guesthouse is usually simpler and less expensive.
  • There are considerable differences in the facilities offered. Cheaper accommodation often has only fans instead of air-conditioning and no private toilet or shower. Even if you get a private shower, it may not have hot water, but this is not a big problem in a hot country. As everywhere in Asia, bathtubs are rare in both private homes and upscale hotels.
  • Motels, inns and lodges also provide accommodation but have a reputation for being meeting places for illicit sex. A unit is usually a small room with an attached carport, hidden behind a high wall that ensures clandestine comings and goings. They can be distinguished by their hourly rates, while more reputable establishments usually have daily rates.

Things To See in Philippines

Like some other countries in the world, the Philippines can offer you the tropical island experience of a lifetime. The beautiful sandy beaches, warm climate, centuries-old churches, magnificent mountain ranges, dense rainforests, rich culture and smiling people are just some of the attractions you must see and experience in this archipelago consisting of 7,107 islands. You can experience the country’s rich and unique culture in a variety of ways, such as visiting ancient Spanish churches, participating in colourful fiestas (festivals) and enjoying our exotic and tasty cuisine. But perhaps the most beautiful way to experience Filipino culture is to take a ride on a jeepney.

Historical and cultural attractions

  • Manila is the capital of the Philippines; it was founded during the Spanish colonial period. Although it is a city of modern skyscrapers, Manila still has its rich historical and cultural heritage. The old churches, colonial structures, neoclassical buildings and historical landmarks give this city its unique charm.
  • Intramuros (Spanish for “within the walls”) would be the perfect place for anyone interested in history; it is the oldest district and historical core of Manila. Intramuros is known to house Manila’s most beautiful and oldest buildings, such as Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago. Although Intramuros was heavily damaged during World War II, it still retains its Spanish colonial character.
  • The historic town of Vigan, located in the Ilocos region, resembles a Spanish colonial town. The Spanish colonial influence in the architecture will make you feel like you are somewhere in colonial Spain or perhaps somewhere in Europe. Vigan’s unique colonial structures and cultural elements from Europe have combined to create this World Heritage Site, which you may not find anywhere else in the country or in Southeast Asia.
  • Cebu City is known as the “Queen City of the South”. As the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, it has some of the most iconic historical and cultural sites in the country. The Sinulog Festival in the city attracts thousands of tourists and is one of the most popular festivals in the country. As the city was former Spanish colony for 300 years, you can find baroque churches all over the Philippines that look almost like the churches we see in Spain and Europe.
  • Some of the most famous churches in the country are San Agustin Church in Manila, Miag-ao Church in Iloilo, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte and Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur. These churches have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO under the collective title “Baroque Churches of the Philippines”.

Beaches and islands

  • Beaches and diving are among the country’s best-known tourist attractions; with 7,107 islands, there is certainly plenty to choose from. Many beaches have brilliant white sand, but you can also find beige, grey, black or even pink sand. Diving is mainly on coral reefs; many are accessible only by walking into the water or on a day trip by boat from one of the resorts. A few, like Coron, offer wreck diving and some, like Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, involve longer trips by boat.
  • Boracay is the country’s most famous beach resort, rated by several magazines as one of the best islands in the world and attracting thousands of international and local travellers every year. It has powder-white sandy beaches and azure waters and is a highly developed area offering a range of activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, kite surfing, cliff diving and parasailing. After all these activities, you can pamper yourself with a relaxing massage right on the white sandy beach or in one of the spas
  • If you want to avoid crowded beaches, go to Palawan. The beaches in the province are less developed, uncrowded and well maintained. The coastal town of El Nido is one of the best destinations Palawan and the Philippines have to offer. The pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, steep limestone cliffs, stunning islets and dive sites rival the best in the world.
  • Coron Island boasts hundreds of limestone formations crowned by dense rainforests. It is also known for its exquisite beaches and World War II shipwrecks. Hire a kayak and paddle around the islands to see Coron’s beautiful and well-preserved seascape.
  • Besides Palawan, you can also try Bohol, an island province that also has majestic sandy beaches to offer. One of Bohol’s top beach destinations is Panglao Island, which is promoted as an alternative destination to Boracay. The island offers a wide range of both world-class and affordable resorts.
  • Mactan Island in Cebu; Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga; Pagudpud in Ilocos; Laiya Beach in Batangas and White Island in Camiguin are other popular beach destinations in the Philippines that are really worth a visit.


The Philippines has other breathtaking landscapes to offer; besides beautiful beaches, there are mountain ranges, dense jungles, majestic rice terraces, picturesque lakes, scenic waterfalls and hidden caves.

When we think of the Philippines, the usual things that come to mind are just a group of islands with warm sunny days. The Cordillera region is not the usual Philippine destination we see on postcards and in travel magazines. If you visit this mountainous region, bring jackets and jumpers rather than just T-shirts because this region is in the cool highlands of the northern part of the country. Rice terraces are one of the most visited tourist attractions in the region, the world famous Banaue Rice Terraces and the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera are found here. These rice terraces were built almost 2000 years ago by the ancient Filipinos and have retained their beauty to this day. Nearby is the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Known for its hanging coffins and limestone caves, this town is an ideal destination for backpackers.

Being a mountainous country, the Philippines offers countless mountains for hikers and adventure seekers. The best destination for mountain climbing in the country is the picturesque Mount Apo in the southern Philippines. Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and one of the most diverse areas; it is home to over 272 species of birds, 111 of which are endemic to the area. The mountain also has four large lakes, these lakes are famous mountaineering campsites and a stopover on the way to the summit. Another popular mountaineering destination is Mount Pinatubo in Tarlac. This mountain made headlines worldwide as the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. It made the headlines at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, it is one of the country’s top climbing destinations due to its canyons, 4×4 terrain and picturesque Lake Caldera.

Head to Bohol Island to see the famous Chocolate Hills. No, they are not made of chocolate, but grass-covered limestone domes that turn brown in the dry season, hence the name. There are more than 1,268 hills scattered around the area. The Chocolate Hills are one of the most famous and popular tourist spots in the country. Another popular destination on Bohol is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, a 7.4-hectare forest reserve where over 100 tarsiers roam freely. Here you have the opportunity to observe the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world, at close quarters.

Things To Do in Philippines

  • Air Sports – An annual hot air balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga. Aside from the hot air balloons on display, people gather at this event to go skydiving, with many activities other than skydiving and hot air balloons also taking place. The festival takes place 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 healing methods, Bentosa is a method where a cup covers a tea light candle which then flares and lets out all the pain on a certain part of the body, Hilot is simply the Filipino way of massaging.
  • Board sailing – waves and wind work together to make the country a paradise for board sailors. Boracay, Subic Bay and Anilaoin Batangas are the main destinations.
  • Casinos: Metro Manila has a great selection of casinos and entertainment destinations. Discover Resorts World Manila, the country’s first luxury integrated casino resort, and the newly opened Solaire Resorts and CasinoEntertainment City will be home to four integrated casino resorts. This development is expected to attract millions of wealthy Asian tourists and rival Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.
  • Caving – The archipelago has some unique cave systems. Sagada is a popular destination for caving.
  • Diving – Blue, calm waters and abundant reefs make for good diving. Diving in the country is cheaper compared to neighbouring countries.
  • Festivals – Every municipality, town and province has its own festival, either religious or in honour of the town or for a historical reason.
  • Golf – Almost every province has a golf course, it is a popular sport among the elite, the rich and famous.
  • Medical Tourism – The Philippines provides the world with many medical professionals, with a large number leaving the country every year to find a better future abroad. This is an indication of the quality of medical education and medical tourism is also on the rise. Most come from America and Europe as medical care is much cheaper here compared to their home countries; up to 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 common throughout the archipelago.
  • National Parks – The number of national parks is about 60-70, they include mountains and coral reefs.
  • Mountain biking – The archipelago has dozens of mountains and is ideal for mountain biking. Bicycles are the best means of transport to get to remote areas. Some options are Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, Banaue, Mount Apo and Guimaras.
  • Climbing – Apo Island, Atimonan, El Nido, Putting Bato, Wawa Gorge have the best places in the archipelago for climbing.
  • Sea kayaking – popular are the Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Palawan, Samar and Siargao.
  • Spas are popular, with many options, spas can be found near beaches, financial centres, etc.
  • Trekking – Mountain ranges and peaks offer cool weather for trekking and it might give you a glimpse of the beautiful exotic flora and fauna of the country. Mt Kanlaon and Mount Pulag are good trekking spots.
  • Visita iglesia – (Visita is Spanish for visit, Iglesia is Spanish for church = visit churches) 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.
  • White water rafting – There are good white water rafting opportunities in Mindanao, both in the north around Cagayan de Oro and in the south near Davao.

Food & Drinks in Philippines

Food in Philippines

Filipino cuisine has evolved from the different cultures that have shaped its history; it is like Southeast Asian cuisine but with Spanish influences. Although Filipino cuisine is not as well known as many of its neighbours, such as those of Thailand and Vietnam, it still stands out as probably the least spicy of all Southeast Asian cuisines. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Filipino food is bland, though. It’s just that Filipino cuisine relies more on garlic, onions and ginger instead of spices to add flavour to dishes. Careful preparation and long cooking time are also a feature of most Filipino dishes, and when done right, it is often what brings out the flavour of the food, as opposed to a healthy dose of spices.

The limited use of spices, possibly due to US influence, has hampered the cuisine to some extent, and the current preference for fast food militates against the “careful preparation” that was once the hallmark of the cuisine. There are small movements to revive traditional Filipino cuisine, but they will not succeed on a larger scale for several reasons:

  1. They are too late. The corporations that control the food and food processing market are way ahead of them and far too influential. They won the battle for hearts and minds decades ago, so every day new babies are born who think that the processed foods they are fed and the magical monosodium glutamate spice mixes that flavour all their meals are actually examples of good food. Their exposure to real traditional cuisine is likely to be extremely limited.
  2. The pantry that makes up the Filpino kitchen is now so small that no matter what dish is created, it only has about 3 to 5 ingredients. This has to change and the “old” ingredients like herbs, spices and so on have to be reclaimed. They were used centuries ago and were as common as what you see in Thailand etc. today, but they have gradually been removed from the menu by foreign influences. It is pointless to cling to the idea that Filipino cuisine is anywhere on par with its neighbours. No one except Filipinos really believes that! It is far behind and should try to catch up, it needs to make changes at the national level. The influence of Balikbayans is crucial in this area as they have seen both sides and have been exposed more to international cuisines.

Kamayan literally means “eating with the hands”. Some Filipinos born and raised in rural provinces still eat with their hands, mostly at home during meals. They would often say that kamayan makes the food taste better. Wash your hands beforehand to avoid illness. However, almost all Filipinos in urban areas use spoons, forks and knives. Eating with your hands in public is not uncommon, but if you are eating in a middle-class or high-class restaurant, it may be considered rude.

To experience how Filipinos eat in an inexpensive way, carenderias (food stalls) and turo-turo (which means “dot-dot”, pointing to the food you want to eat at the buffet) are some of the options. Main dishes cost less than $1. Carenderias serve food cooked earlier and it may not always be the safest of options.

As in the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food in the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn, but elsewhere Filipinos generally eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50-kg bags, but can also be bought by the kilo at the wet market or from neighbourhood rice vendors. Single portions of rice are readily available in fast food restaurants or eateries.

Philippine diet

The word diet is non-existent or has never existed in the vocabulary of Filipinos, as mentioned before they are relaxed 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 goes to a fast food chain at least two or three times a week, during fiestas in a town, barangaypurok or subdivision, Filipinos have big parties that last from noon to midnight where some of the people are drunk, you can ask if you can join a fiesta in a house and some will welcome you as it is a tradition. When you visit the Philippines, it is the best time to break your so-called diet and eat to your heart’s content. The Filipino diet is much more similar to the West than the East, with Filipinos eating fewer vegetables, more oil, meat and sugar than people in neighbouring countries; most Filipinos are not health conscious. Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death here. However, if you visit rural areas, they use more vegetables and less meat and practice ancient Filipino medicine.

Dining etiquette in Philippines

Some Filipinos strictly adhere to the serving spoon rule as they share the belief with Indians that it is rude and disgusting to offer utensils or food that has come into contact with someone’s saliva and that it will quickly make the food stale. Singing or arguing while eating is considered rude as they believe the food is grasya/gracia or grace in English; the food will not come to you if you continue to treat it disrespectfully. Singing while cooking is considered taboo because it causes you to remain a bachelor or widow forever, another belief shared with Indians. Another belief that conservative Filipinos share with the Chinese is that it is taboo and rude not to finish the food on your plate. You will often see Filipino parents scolding their children to finish their food or they will not perform well in school. Filipinos usually say a prayer before the food is served, plus they wait until the host asks them to start eating. It is also rude to refuse food offered by the host or to leave the dining table while someone is still eating. When eating in the presence of Chinese/Japanese/Koreans, do not put your chopsticks vertically into the bowl of food (see the sections on eating in China, Japan and South Korea for more information).

Kanin at Kakanin (rice and rice cakes)

Kanin means rice in Tagalog, while kakanin means rice cake.

  • Sinangag is fried garlic rice, often mixed with vegetables, dried shrimps, dried fish strips, hot dogs or chorizos.
  • Bibingka – rice cake with cheese and salted egg, it originates from Indian cuisine.
  • Puto – Soft, white rice muffins.

Other species are bikocuchintapichi-pichisapin-sapin, etc. The towns of Calasiao in Pangasinan and Binan, Laguna are famous for their puto

Pansit/Pancit (noodles)

Pancit/Pancit or noodles, an influence from Chinese cuisine and said to give long life because of their length, are often eaten during celebrations such as birthdays and New Year. Below are some popular Filipino noodle dishes

  • Pancit Batchoy/La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup usually made with pork organs, shredded crispy fried pork rind, prawns, vegetables, chicken broth, chicken, beef and most importantly noodles.
  • Pancit Bihon, sautéed noodles together with vegetables, pork and prawns.
  • Pancit Molo is a Filipino shanty soup, but it does not contain noodles.
  • Pancit Palabok’ noodles cooked and then topped with atchuete, also known as annatto seeds, prawns and crispy fried pork.
  • Pancit Hab-hab’ Fried rice noodles served in a banana leaf. Eaten without utensils by bringing them directly to the mouth. The typical noodle dish of Lucban Quezon.

Silog and Pankaplog

Usually eaten for breakfast, this is the Filipino version of a typical American breakfast with egg, bacon and pancakes. Silog is a 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 fast food chains like 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 consisting mainly of pande sal(bread), kape(coffee) and itlog.

Ulam (main dishes)

Ulam means Mains in Tagalog.

  • Adobo – chicken, pork or both, served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as the base. It is probably the national dish of the Philippines.
  • Bopis – pork giblets, usually served spicy.
  • Burong Talangka – Philippine caviar, it is made from talangkas or crabs.
  • Calamares – fried prawns/squid wrapped in breadcrumbs.
  • Camaron Rebusado – the Filipino version of tempura.
  • Chicken curry – Is very different from other curries because, unlike other curries, it is not spicy. Besides chicken, crab curry and other varieties are also available.
  • Dinuguan – a dark stew made from pig’s blood mixed with the pig’s innards. Usually served with a large green chilli and best eaten with puto.
  • Daing na bangus – fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
  • Kare-kare – stew of vegetables and meat cooked for hours, usually beef with tripe and tail, eaten with crab paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crab, squid and prawns instead of beef.
  • Lechon de leche – slow-roasted baby pork, usually served on larger occasions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part to be eaten.
  • Lengua – roasted beef tongue marinated in spicy sauce.
  • Nilaga – literally means “cooked”, can be beef served with its marrow (bulalo) in some places, pork or chicken.
  • Pakbet – a traditional dish of mixed vegetables, usually containing sliced tomatoes, minced pork, ladyfingers, aubergines, etc.
  • Paksiw – fish or vegetables cooked with vinegar, ginger, garlic and chilli picante.
  • Sinigang – soup, usually soured with tamarind (but can also be with guava or kamien), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or prawns.
  • Tinola – Chicken in ginger soup.

Western cuisine in Philippines

Spaniards, Portuguese, Mexicans, Americans and other European and Mediterranean peoples introduced their cuisine to the natives and just like the Chinese, they adopted it. While the Spanish occupied the Philippines, the Mexicans and the Aztecs began to connect with the Filipinos through the Manila-Acapulco trade, people introduced their native cuisine to each other. The American influence came during the American colonisation.

  • Arroz Caldo – rice porridge topped with egg, chicken liver and ground chicharon.
  • Arroz de Valenciana – Paella; Filipino style.
  • Biscocho – Sweet biscuits.
  • Caldereta – Pork or beef tomato soup with sausages and vegetables.
  • Champorado – Introduced by the Mexicans, but eventually over the years the recipe changed by adding rice, sweet chocolate rice porridge. It’s kind of like hot chocolate, but with rice on top.
  • Empanada – Filled pastry.
  • Ensaymada – Sweet bread topped with cheese and butter.
  • Leche Flan – Creme brulee (custard made from vanilla pudding).
  • Menudo – pork stew.
  • Spaghetti – Possibly brought to the Philippines by the Americans-Italians during the American colonisation, this is a must 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 and its ingredients include sugar and condensed milk. Filipinos are meat lovers who obsessively add meat to their spaghetti, including hotdog, spam (the name given to ham in the Philippines because spam is so popular) and corned beef/pork or ground beef/pork.

Filipino-Chinese cuisine

The Filipinos and Chinese traded with each other in the early times, then the Chinese eventually started to settle in the Philippines and introduced their cuisine and culture, the Filipinos embraced the Chinese heritage and started to adapt it in their lives including food. Most of the dishes listed below are served in Chinatown and Filipino-Chinese fast food chains and eateries.

  • Pansit Bihon’ (米粉) – Fried noodles with either prawns or pork in them.
  • Hopia (好餅) – Moon cake; a sweet dough with a filling inside, either sweet potato, mung beans, etc.
  • Kiampong (鹹飯) – Fried rice.
  • Tikoy (年糕/甜粿) – Sticky rice cake often eaten on New Year’s Eve because it is believed to 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.
  • Mummy (肉麵) – noodle soup.
  • Lugaw (粥) – Congee made from coconut milk and glutinous rice.

Fast-food chains in Philippines

The American influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a mall that doesn’t have McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and even Taco Bell. However, Filipino fast food chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Filipino taste buds, and they can be a safe place for the tourist to try local cuisine. Below is a list of local fast food chains that have branches all over the metropolis and in many cases all over the country.

  • Jollibee. Jollibee is McDonald’s competitor in fast food in the country, it has over 1000 outlets around the world. Yum Burger, Chicken Joy, Spaghetti and Palabok. has meals ranging from php39.00 $1-$2 per serving. edit
  • Greenwich Pizza. The second of Jollibee Corps’ three fast food chains, Greenwich Pizzas are your typical fare, but again with a slightly sweeter tomato sauce than usual. Some seasonal offerings, like the Sisig pizza, may be on sale, so check the menu. $2 – $3 per serving.
  • Chowking. The Filipino version of Chinese food, also owned by Jollibee. Try the lauriats (beef, pork and chicken), rice, pancit (fried noodles with meat and vegetables), siomai (dumplings) and buchi (a sweet rice ball with a sesame coating). $2 – $3 per serving.
  • Tapa King. Tapaking is where you get the ubiquitous tapsilog (strips of fried beef, garlic fried rice and egg) along with other local delicacies. $2 – $3 per serving.
  • GotoKing. Here you can get the localised version of congee, called goto and lugaw, with different toppings like chicken, roasted garlic, egg, etc.
  • Mang Inasal. Mang Inasal is a relative newcomer, bringing a grilled variety called “Inasal” from the city of Iloilo to Metro Manila. They also offer other grilled meats, as well as soups like sinigang (a tamarind-based sour soup). $1-2 per serving.
  • Goldilocks. The place to go for baked treats and sweets like mamon (a spongy, round cake), polvoron (a thickly wrapped, powdery treat), ensaimada (bread baked with cheese and sugar) and many other delights for those with a sweet tooth.
  • Red Ribbon. Here you will find different types of cakes, rolls, pastries and even different types of pasta such as spaghetti, carbonara and palabok.

Street food in Philippines

Filipino street food is arguably some of the best, although it may not be as clean as Singapore’s. Street food vendors have been criticised for their unhygienic practices and unhealthy options, but praised by many, especially the youth, for their affordability and taste. Nowadays, street food can also be found in malls, but the traditional way of selling street food has not yet died out. Items are already being sold for P5. Street food is usually enjoyed with beer, lemonade, juice or even gulaman (pearl shakes) and is usually eaten in the afternoon into the night.

  • Adidas – More edible than the popular shoe, adidas is actually slang used by locals to refer to grilled chicken feet. It is called adidas because feet are associated with shoes.
  • Adobong Mani – Salted, roasted peanuts usually sold in small paper bags by vendors.
  • Betamax – Again, people don’t cook Betamax and eat it – it’s another slang for pig’s blood that has been barbecued. It is called Betamax because its shape is cube-shaped and resembles a Betamax player.
  • Barbecue – Whether pork or chicken, barbecue remains one of the favourites. It is not only eaten as street food, but sometimes also with rice as the main course at dinner.
  • Balut – is a fertilised duck egg with an almost developed embryo inside, which is cooked and eaten in its shell. In popular belief, it is considered an aphrodisiac and a high-protein, hearty snack. Baluts are usually sold at night by street vendors in the regions where they are available. Cooked and usually eaten with a little salt and vinegar.
  • Banana Cue – a popular street food made of Saba bananas (plantain) deep-fried in very hot oil with a caramelised sugar coating. Saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
  • Chickenballs – chicken version of fish balls.
  • Fish balls – Something smells fishy here? As the name suggests, these are the fish version of meatballs, and just like meatballs, they are deep-fried.
  • Ice Candy – Ice candy is like a popsicle, it comes in different flavours such as mango, which is actually the most common and popular. It is sold in tiangge (small shops in the barangays) as well as on the street. It is the usual refreshment for locals during the summer.
  • Inasal – The best inasal is found in Bacolod, it’s usually like grilled chicken, but the sweet, juicy version.
  • Isaw – Grilling chicken casings.
  • Kikiam – Originally from the Chinese, it is pork with vegetables wrapped in bean curd leaves.
  • Kwek-Kwek – quail eggs and chicken meat breaded in egg and then fried, it has an orange colour.
  • Penoy – like Balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.
  • Squid balls – squid version of fish balls.
  • Sorbetes – The Pinoy version of sorbet/ice cream. They are sold in different flavours such as ule, vanilla, chocolate, mango, coconut, cheese and sometimes durian. Filipinos like to play with their food – you will see people dipping chips in ice cream or eating ice cream with bread. Don’t leave the Philippines without trying some of the more unusual flavours. They are kind of exotic and maybe strange, but delicious.
  • Tenga – Tenga is Filipino for ear, it is a pig’s ear that has been grilled.

Snacks and baked goods in Philippines

  • Pan de Sal – Spanish for “salt bread”, they are small rolls 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 – crispy snacks made from deep-fried pork skin. If you don’t eat pork or have dietary restrictions, there is chicken chicharon and sometimes fish chicharon.

Fruits & Desserts in Philippines

Tropical fruits are abundant in the Philippines. Most of the rural produce finds its way to the metropolitan areas and can easily be bought in supermarkets, such as:


  • Coconut – Even if it looks familiar, you should try the coconut of the Philippines, as the country is the largest exporter of coconuts in the world.
  • Durian – smells like hell but supposedly tastes heavenly, most common in Davao but can also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.
  • Green mangoesripe mangoesdried mangoes – Don’t leave the Philippines without trying green Indian mangoes with bagoong (crab paste), tasting ripe mangoes and buying dried mangoes as pasalubong.

Sweet treats

  • Banana chips – Unlike those eaten in India, the Filipino version is much thicker and sweeter, try dipping them in ice cream.
  • Buko Pie – pie with coconut flakes as filling.
  • Cassava cake
  • Egg Pie – pie with sweet, pie-like filling
  • Halo-Halo – Halo-Halo means “mix-mix” in Filipino and is another refreshing dessert that is a mixture of sweetened beans and fruits, such as sweetened bananas, red and white beans, sago, crushed ice and milk and topped with leche flan and ube jam and/or ice cream.
  • Ice Scramble – Crushed ice with condensed milk.
  • Mais con Hielo/Yelo – A dessert made from fresh corn, served in a glass, mixed with crushed ice and milk.
  • Sampaloc sweet – salted and sweetened tamarind fruit.
  • Turon’ – Saba(plantain) bananas wrapped and fried and then sprinkled with condensed milk or sugar.
  • Turron – Originally from Europe, a bar made from cashew nuts with a white wafer.

Spices and salads in Philippines

  • Achara – Pickled papaya salad, it actually comes from South Indian cuisine.
  • Banana ketchup – During the Second World War, supplies of tomato ketchup ran out and people began to complain. Due to the high production of bananas, Filipinos came up with the idea of using banana instead of tomato. Don’t worry: it doesn’t taste like banana at all; it’s a kind of sweet and sour ketchup. Try it with chicken, pork chops or spaghetti.
  • Bagoong (crab paste) – Crab paste is popular throughout Southeast Asia. Some people get allergies from crab paste, but they consume it despite the itchy skin problems it causes. Sometimes fish is used instead.
  • Patis – fish sauce.
  • Radish salad – salad based on radish, onion and sugar, enjoyed with fish.

Dietary restrictions in Philippines

Muslims will have a hard time finding halal food outside the predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines, even though the country is one of the fastest emerging markets for the export of certified halal products. Ask if there is pork in the dish before eating. Seventh-day Adventists may find some vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, mostly in commercial, financial and provincial capitals. Most of them use tofu instead of meat, Sanitarium products may be found in Seventh-day Adventist or Sanitarium hospitals. Hindus will find Indian restaurants serving some vegetarian options around Metro Manila. Vegetarians and vegans will find it difficult to find a Filipino dish that is completely vegetarian, as most Filipinos love to add meat to every single dish they eat. Jews will also find it difficult to find kosher dishes.

Drinks in Philippines

Chilled drinks and juice in Philippines

Due to the tropical climate in the Philippines, chilled drinks are very popular. A stall selling chilled drinks and shakes is common, especially in shopping malls. Fruit shakes are served with ice, evaporated or condensed milk and fruits such as mango, watermelon, pineapple, strawberries and even durians. Various tropical fruit drinks found in the Philippines include dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durianguyabano (sorrel), mango, banana, watermelon and strawberry, which are available at stalls along the streets, as well as in commercial establishments such as food carts in malls. They are often served chilled with ice. Buko juice (young coconut) is a popular drink in the country, the juice is drunk through an inserted straw at the tip of the buko or young coconut.

Sago’t Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin is also a popular drink among Filipinos. Zagu is a shake with flavours like strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls.

Tea, coffee and chocolate in Philippines

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

Alcoholic beverages in Philippines

Filipinos (with the exception of observant Muslims) love to drink (and get drunk).

There are many bars, pubs and karaoke venues in Metro Manila. Popular places are Makati (especially the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortiga’s Metrowalk and Eastwood in Libis. Other major cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have nightlife areas. The establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks that are common in other bars. Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol alone. They usually have something called “pulutan” or bar chow with their drinks, which is something like tapas. These consist at least of mixed nuts, but grilled meat and seafood are also not uncommon dishes, along with the usual drinks. When having a party, Filipinos like to drink in a round with a shared glass. People are expected to drink with their heads up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as “tagayan” and a person usually pours the drink voluntarily.

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 Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona are also found in upscale bars. Rum and Ginebra, the local form of gin, are the most commonly available forms of hard liquor. Local forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba, both made from coconut juice. Tuba is fermented from the sap of the coconut and although Tuba can be drunk by itself, it is also distilled to take the form of Lambanog. Lambanog is now marketed both locally and internationally in its basic form as well as in different flavoured variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.

Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines (and one of the cheapest in all of Asia). A bottle of San Miguel in a 7-Eleven or Mini-Stop costs around ₱20-₱30. Regular bars offer it for ₱40-50, and even in top bars and clubs, a bottle costs around ₱100-200. A 750 ml bottle of Absolut Vodka costs around ₱ 750 in the supermarket, and a popular local rum (especially among knowledgeable expats), Tanduay, costs just under ₱ 70 in a 24-hour shop in Makati (The Financial District).

Smoking in Philippines

Filipinos like to smoke as a pastime, but also as a social activity (especially together with alcohol consumption or gambling), especially for men. Cigarettes (sigarilyo, or colloquially, yosi) are usually cheap in the Philippines. For example, Marlboro cost about ₱55 for a pack of twenty in a supermarket, 70 or 80 in a bar or convenience store. Many of the local sari-sari shops also sell them by the piece, usually for ₱4. Local brands are cheaper and cigars are also available.

On the streets, people walking or standing with a lit cigarette and groups of men, especially drivers, smoking while talking are a common sight, along with vendors selling cigarettes as well as sweets, drinks and snacks. Despite laws regulating tobacco use, smoking is still widespread, especially outdoors. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, public transport, restaurants, petrol stations and even bars, except in smoking areas. Attempting to light a cigarette or smoke in places where smoking is prohibited, or smoking in a non-smoking area, can result in you being fined or forced to go outside. However, enforcement is sometimes lax. You may observe drivers of jeepneys or tricycles smoking while driving.

Filipinos also like to smoke, especially outdoors or even at work. No-smoking signs are sometimes ignored, as is the not very strict enforcement of no-smoking ordinances. Sellers of cigarettes can be seen in traffic or even on the pavements. Cigarette advertising is common in sari-sari shops, which are mainly family-owned. Cigarettes are usually cheap and sold by the carton or pack. Popular cigarette brands include MarlboroWinston and Pall Mall, as well as some local brands such as Fortune (either Fortune International or Fortune Tribal) and Mighty. Cigarette packets usually carry text warnings (such as “Government Warning: Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.”), but since March 2016, graphic warnings have also been used. These newer warnings include gory images of premature babies, cancerous lungs, mouths and throats, and patients suffering from emphysema.

The smoking and purchasing age is 18 and the law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors. Cigarette packs must have notices such as “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS” or, rarely, “NO SALE TO MINORS” printed on them. Convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven) and large supermarkets strictly enforce the ban on the sale of tobacco products to minors and require photo ID verification for anyone who looks like a person under 18. However, sari-sari shops do not check the age of people buying tobacco products, so children can buy cigarettes as an errand for their smoking parents.

The streets are often littered with cigarette butts. Many bins do not have ashtrays or butt trays, so you might be tempted to throw them anywhere, on the pavement, the street or even on grass. However, it is better to find a bin with an ashtray than to throw the cigarette butts on the street or directly on the bin.

Several cities and municipalities have smoking bans, including Davao City, where smoking is completely prohibited. But enforcement of smoking bans is usually not monitored. Respect signs and ordinances on smoking bans instead of getting caught and punished.

Money & Shopping in Philippines

Money in Philippines


The Philippine peso (₱) is the official currency and in almost all cases the only currency used for normal transactions. In extreme cases, US dollars and euros are also accepted, and their daily exchange rate is widely known. In April 2015, one US dollar traded at 44.4 ₱; the rate has fluctuated a little in recent years but has always been in the low 40s.

Peso notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equal to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo varieties, in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. There are 2 versions of each note, with the newer version in circulation since December 2010 (although it is still rare to find them). The newer notes have similar colours to their old counterparts, have the same people on the front (except for the 500 peso note, which also features former President Aquino), but instead of historical sites on the back, these newer notes feature Philippine natural wonders and species unique to the country. The older notes will remain legal tender until 2014.

Money changers are not common in the Philippines outside of some heavily tourist areas. As a rule of thumb, the more currency you want to exchange, the cheaper the rates can be. Banks, on the other hand, are widely available to exchange money, but usually require a minimum amount (usually around US$100.00) and have limited opening hours, usually from 9am to 3pm on weekdays, and you can enjoy their air conditioning during the long wait. The notable exceptions are Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco De Oro (BDO), which have longer opening hours.

Do not exchange money at the street stalls as some of them may change your money into counterfeit. Contact Bangkok’s Sentral ng Pilipina(Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) if you suspect that the money given to you is counterfeit. Money changers are available in department stores, supermarkets and hotels, but needless to say, the rates are very unfavourable to customers and some only change in pesos.

Be aware that no person may enter or leave the Philippines carrying more than ₱10,000 in coins and notes without prior authorisation from the BSP. Those without prior authorisation must declare the excess money at the customs counter. Importing any amount of foreign currency is legal, but anything in excess of US$10,000 (or its equivalent) must be declared.

ATMs and credit cards

Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw money or apply for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNetMegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, such as PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, with Cirrus being more prevalent than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 10,000 pesos. HSBC ATMs in Manila , Cebu and Davao allow you to withdraw ₱40,000 per transaction without incurring fees. Citi Bank ATMs in Manila and Cebu. You can withdraw up to p15,000 per transaction, but Citi Bank now charges a fee of ₱200 per transaction for cards from abroad. BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) will only let you withdraw ₱10,000 from one of their ATMs for a fee of ₱200. =2%. Visitors holding a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus card can withdraw money or apply for a cash advance at ATMs bearing their logo. The best known MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers of BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers of Banco de Oro. PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a stand-alone addition, but only in conjunction with Cirrus. Prominent examples are BDO Bank’s Fasteller and Metrobank’s Electronic Teller (ET). Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.

Credit card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards at many business locations in the Philippines, but merchants usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. China UnionPay credit cardholders can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (especially Metrobank), but cannot currently use their cards for point-of-sale transactions. Credit cards are generally not accepted for government-related transactions.

Since 2010, Philippine banks have been charging ₱200 per transaction for using foreign cards at their ATMs, on top of the cash withdrawal and exchange fees already charged by your bank. Considering the low transaction limits, this means a surcharge of at least 2-4% on the amount withdrawn.

Try to use an HSBC Bank ATM, as HSBC Bank ATMs are the only ones that do not charge a Php 200 fee for overseas cards. You can find HSBC Bank ATMs in Manila. Cebu. and Davao cities.


Tipping is not required in the Philippines unless the customer wishes to show appreciation for services rendered. However, tipping is becoming more common, especially in service-oriented establishments (spa, salon). In some restaurants and hotels, the “service charge” (8%-12%) is already included in the bill, giving the customer the option to tip extra or not. In taxis, it is customary to add 20-50 pesos to the fare.


Travelling in the Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and also in the rest of the world). For example, a stay in a guesthouse, inn or lodge can cost as low as ₱300 per night for a fan room or 500 per night for an air.con room. a flight to Cebu from Manila and vice versa will cost as low as ₱999. a flight from Manila to Davao and vice versa can cost as low as 1595. Transportation costs as low as ₱7.00 for the first 4 km in a jeepney. Bus fares are around 1.5 pesos per km for an air-conditioned bus and 20% less for a non-air-conditioned bus. An hour of internet at an internet café costs between ₱10 and ₱20 depending on the location of the internet café, a can of Coke costs only ₱20, while a copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ₱70 and the Economist ₱160. In most restaurants, the 12% value added tax (VAT) is usually included in the unit price, but the service charge is often not included and is charged separately.

Shopping in Philippines

It is not difficult to find shopping malls in the Philippines: The country hosts a large number of shopping malls, from big to small and from modern to traditional, you can find it all here in the Philippines. It is a fact that consumption is a part of Filipinos’ lives, even things they don’t need but are on sale and discounted, they will buy. The reason why the country was not so badly affected by the recent financial crisis is the circulation of money. Even when Filipinos are broke, they find a way to buy something for themselves at least in a week.

As mentioned earlier, living in the Philippines is cheap and shopping in the country is also cheap compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. The sale usually takes place on payday and lasts for 3 days and also during the Christmas season (in the Philippines, the Christmas season stretches from September to the first week of January) at department stores like SM Department Store.

In the Philippines, Metro Manila is a great place to shop. It is the country’s main shopping centre and is home to an extensive range of malls. Metro Manila offers different types of malls scattered around the metropolis, from modern and glitzy malls to traditional and bustling markets, it’s all in Metro Manila. The Philippines is one of the ideal destinations for bargain shopping. Here, you can find cheap items for sale at flea markets and open markets like DivisoriaMarket! Market! and Greenhills. These markets are definitely the place to be for a shopper looking for bargains and cheap buys.

However, if you prefer to shop for luxurious and expensive clothes, bags, watches and jewellery, then Ayala Centre would be the place for you, here you will find a variety of high-end shopping malls. The place is often compared to Singapore’s Orchard Rd and Bangkok’s Siam Square. From entertainment to shopping, it has it all. Not far from Makati is Bonifacio Global City, one of the metropolis’ growing business and shopping districts. It houses several shopping malls, including Serendra, it is a piazza that offers lifestyle and luxury shops and is often referred to as the luxury lifestyle centre of Metro Manila. The piazza features modern architecture that makes you think you are somewhere in the world of Star Wars. Stare, drool and marvel at the public art on display there. Coffee and tea shops can be found in this area as well as furniture and clothing shops. The 4 largest mall operators in the country are SMRobinson’sAyala and Gaisano with outlets around the archipelago.

  • Antiques: Antique porcelain plates can be found around Manila after the Philippine-Chinese trade, but be careful when buying antiques. Antique santos or statues of saints, including Jesus and the Virgin Mary, are also sold. Antiques are mostly sold in the streets of Makati, Ermita and Vigan (in Ilocos)
  • Brassware: Muslim gongs are very popular in the Philippines, jewellery boxes and brass beds are other brass products. Just as with antiques, tourists are advised to be careful when buying brassware.
  • Books and stationery: Filipino literature is amusing to read, English versions of Filipino novels are available at the National Bookstore, and Power Books, books are much cheaper compared to other countries. Stationery is sold at a very low price of only ₱10, but be careful as some items may have high lead content.
  • Clothing: Cheap clothing available at 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, especially in the Makati business district.
  • Comics: Comics or comics in English are one of the most popular forms of literature in the Philippines and can be bought for as little as P10. They are so popular that there are often TV and movie adaptations. Carlo J. Caparas and Mars Ravelo are two famous comic book authors. They are available in newsstands and most are unfortunately in Tagalog, you may be lucky to find an English version of them.
  • Embroidery: Embroidery is a good buy because most of the national dresses are embroidered from pinya (pineapple) leaves and other raw materials. Handmade dresses tend to be more expensive than machine-made ones.
  • Food: Buy dried mangoes, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon has pastries and sweets like Polvoron are also good to buy. Local specialities are sold in pasalubong centres. Besides pastries and sweets, you should also buy condiments such as banana ketchup and crab paste, as both are difficult to get 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 when it sticks to the gums, Tablea are chocolate bars used to make hot chocolate.
  • Jewellery: Silver necklaces and beads are very popular in the Philippines, however, buying jewellery made from endangered animals and corals is discouraged as the corals are slowly disappearing. Handmade jewellery made by indigenous tribes of the Philippines is available, jewellery made of wood is also sold.
  • Mats: Pandan leaves are woven and made into a mat. The mats are different in each region of the Philippines. Mats in Luzon tend to be simple, while in Visayas they are multi-coloured, while tribes in Mindanao weave complex and difficult designs that often have meaning.

Large supermarkets

  • SM Save More & Walter mart the largest supermarket group in the Philippines with over 300 shops. SM and Walter Mart have entered into a partnership.
  • Pure Gold and S & R the second largest supermarket chain with over 250 shops.
  • Robinsons the third largest supermarket chain with over 200 shops.
  • Gaisano is the 4th largest supermarket in China with over 100 shops.
  • Shopwise & Rustans & Wellcome are all part of Dairy Farm International, the largest supermarket group in Asia.

Convenience Stores

  • 7-Eleven is the largest convenience store group in the Philippines with over 1600 shops.
  • Mini Stop is part of Robinsons and has over 700 shops.
  • Family Mart now has over 150 shops.
  • All Day Convenience Stores have over 150 branches.

Festivals & Events in Philippines

Holidays in Philippines

The Philippines is a multicultural country with Christian, Muslim and Buddhist holidays alongside secular holidays. The year is welcomed with New Year’s Day on 1 January. As the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are celebrated during Lent or in the months of March and April, Araw ng pagkabuhay or Easter Sunday is celebrated 3 days after Good Friday. Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valour, Scouts re-enact the march every 2 years in honour of this day which is also known as Bataan Day, they march up to 10 kilometres, the Bataan Death March was part of the Battle of Bataan which was also part of the Battle of the Philippines. The Bataan Death March was a 60 kilometre march and the people who participated in this march were captured, tortured and murdered. All Saints’ Day is on 1 November and All Souls’ Day is on 2 November. In recognition of Muslim Filipinos, the Islamic festival of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa), celebrated after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is also a bank holiday. This day changes from year to year as it follows the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year is also celebrated by the Chinese community, but the dates vary according to the lunar calendar. Secular holidays are Labour Day (1 May) and Independence Day (12 June). 30 August is declared National Heroes’ Day. Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (30 December) and Andres Bonifacio (30 November) and Ninoy Aquino (21 August). Metro Manila is less crowded during Holy Week as people tend to go to their hometowns to spend the holidays. Holy Week is also considered part of the high season for most beach resorts like Boracay and the most popular resorts are crowded during this time. Due to the cool mountain weather, Baguio is also where many people spend the Holy Week break. Christmas is ubiquitously celebrated on 25 December.

  • New Year’s Day: 1 January
  • Maundy Thursday: varied
  • Good Friday: varied
  • Easter Sunday: varied
  • Araw Ng Kagitingan (Day of Bravery): 9 April
  • Labour Day: 1 May
  • Independence Day: 12 June
  • Ninoy Aquino Day: 21 August
  • National Heroes Day: Last Monday in August
  • All Saints’ Day: 1 November
  • All Souls’ Day: 2 November
  • Eid Ul Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa): varies according to lunar calendar
  • Eid Ul Adha: varies according to lunar calendar
  • Bonifacio Day: 30 November
  • Christmas Day: 25 December
  • Rizal Day: 30 December

Traditions & Customs in Philippines

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes to a fault. Take the time to smile and say “thank you” and you will get much better responses. You will get an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as “salamat”, which means “thank you”. When speaking in Filipino to people old enough to be your parents or grandparents, it will be much appreciated if you include “po” in your sentences; for example: salamat po.

You can also use “Tito” (uncle), “Tita” (aunt), “Manong” (Mr) or “Manang” (Mrs/Mrs), “Ate” (older sister) or “Kuya” (older brother) for people who are older than you but not old enough to be aunt or uncle. Older speakers tend to use “manong” and “manang” instead) to address you by your name. If you have a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. If you get angry or push yourself to the fore, you won’t get far and you will lose respect.

In the countryside and in some urban houses, you have to take your shoes off when you enter a house, although an exception can be made for foreigners. The key is to look around before you enter a house. If you see shoes outside the door, it is most likely customary for the family to remove their shoes before entering. If you are wearing socks, you do not have to take them off.

Work in Philippines

When working with people in the Philippines, it is important to remember that they often bring cultural influences to the workplace that do not always mesh well with your business culture. When you meet another business person for the first time, it is important to address them by their title as well as their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often hierarchical and it is important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. In addition, the Filipino value of “social harmony” does not always allow for direct address on sensitive issues.

Street children in Philippines

In many of the larger cities, extreme poverty is widespread. It is illegal to give money to beggars or to the street children who walk around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative. When children approach foreigners, sometimes they do not go away until you give something. To counteract this, avoid swear words and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and may call their friends to annoy you even more.

Political issues in Philippines

Remember that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarising issue within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilocano population sees the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in southern Luzon are very proud of the People Power or “EDSA” revolution that deposed the regime. Either way, it is best to assess the speaker’s opinion before approaching the subject.

Homosexuality in Philippines

The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but there is a large gay and lesbian community. Discretion is advised as it is considered immoral by some to show public displays of affection between members of the same sex.

In the Visayas, “bayots” (or “bayuts” – the Pilipino equivalent is “bakla”) are flamboyant male homosexuals and often in high demand in professions such as hairdressing, interior design and beauty therapy.

Culture Of Philippines

Filipino culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines has aspects found in other Asian countries with Malay heritage, but its culture also shows a significant number of Spanish and American influences.

Traditional festivals known as barrio fiestas (neighbourhood festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron saints are common. These community festivals involve feasting, music and dancing. The Moriones and Sinulog festivals are some of the best known.

However, some traditions are changing or gradually being forgotten due to modernisation. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been praised for preserving many of the various traditional folk dances in the Philippines. They are famous for their iconic performances of Filipino dances such as the Tinikling and the Singkil, both of which involve beating bamboo sticks together.


One of the most visible Hispanic legacies is the prevalence of Spanish first and last names among Filipinos; however, a Spanish first and last name does not necessarily imply Spanish ancestry. This peculiarity, unique among the peoples of Asia, is the result of a colonial edict by Governor General Narciso Clavería y Zaldua, who ordered the systematic distribution of surnames and the introduction of Spanish nomenclature among the population. The names of many streets, towns and provinces are also in Spanish. Spanish architecture has left its mark in the Philippines, as many cities were designed around a central square or Plaza Mayor, but many of the buildings that had this influence were demolished during World War II. Some examples remain, mainly among the country’s churches, government buildings and universities. Four Philippine Baroque churches are on the UNESCO World Heritage List: San Agustín Church in Manila, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Santa María) Church in Ilocos Sur and Santo Tomás de Villanueva Church in Iloilo.

Vigan in Ilocos Sur is also known for the many Hispanic-style houses and buildings preserved there. In Iloilo, many of the colonial buildings from the time of the American occupation of the country can still be seen. Commercial buildings, houses and churches from this period are abundant in the city and especially on Calle Real.

However, certain areas of the country such as Batanes have slight differences as the Spanish and Filipino lifestyles adapted differently due to the climate there and limestone and coral were used as building materials. Idjangs or Ivatan castles were the primary protection of the people from the Spanish conquest of the entire Philippines.

The general use of the English language is an example of American influence on Filipino society. It has contributed to the ready acceptance and influence of American pop cultural trends. This affinity is evident in Filipinos’ preference for fast food and American movies and music. Fast food outlets can be found on many street corners. American global fast food chains have entered the market, but local fast food chains such as Goldilocks and especially Jollibee, the country’s leading fast food chain, have also emerged and compete successfully with their foreign rivals.


Filipino music has developed rapidly due to the various influences stemming from colonialism among other countries. Before the Spanish conquest of the islands, most music was based on or strongly influenced by nature. Some examples of this tribal music are Koyu No Tebulul by the T’boli and Ambo Hato by the Ifugao. This genre is often accompanied by gong music and a well-known instrument is the kulintang.

During the Spanish era, rondalya music, using traditional mandolin-type string orchestra instruments, was widespread. In the Philippines, rondalya refers to any group of stringed instruments played with a pick or plectrum. The Filipino instruments are made of native Filipino wood; the picks or plectrums are made of tortoise shell. Other stringed instruments that make up the standard Filipino rondalla are the 14-string bandurria, found only in the Philippines, the laúd, the octavina, the twelve-string guitar, the ukulele, the bajo de uñas or double bass, the guitarrón mexicano, and other instruments made in the Philippines that were modelled on the guitar. Harana and kundiman are widely used in this period, with these songs often used in courtship rituals

Marcelo Adonay (organist), Simplicio Solis (organist), Diego C. Perez (pianist), Jose Conseco (pianist) and Doña Dolores Paterno (composer) were some of the recognised musicians during this era. Nowadays, American pop culture has a strong influence on Filipinos, evolving from the Spanish period when the American occupation took place. Together with Korean pop, these two dominate the current music scene in the media. However, the revival of Spanish-influenced folk music has been through the various choral groups here and abroad such as the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

Visual arts

Pottery and weaving are among the very earliest art forms to show artistic design in the Philippines and are found in cave dwellings throughout the country. Among them are mainly anthropomorphic clay vessels dating from about 5 B.C. to 225 A.D. Weaving was mainly done by women who used fibres from abaca, pineapple, cotton and bark to make clothes, carpets and hats. Baskets were mainly used to transport grain and other foodstuffs.

Early Filipino sculpture is characterised by frontal nudity. One of the earliest forms are the bulols of the Ifugao people, which serve as promises of rich harvests. The original function of these sculptures is related to the ceremonies and beliefs of the tribes that created them. Arab and Russian missionaries also brought bevelled carvings in the shape of Okkil. The beginnings of this type of sculpture started with the Islamisation of Sulu. The Spanish colonisation of the country did not stop Filipinos from creating sculptures for objects of worship. During this time, sculptures of deities and saints were used to teach Christian doctrines to Filipinos. During American colonialism, believers were not discouraged from creating sculptures to decorate churches.

Filipinos first came into contact with painting when Spain conquered the Philippines, and it was used as religious propaganda and often displayed in churches. However, as education progressed and wealth increased, more and more artists began to move away from traditional religious motifs to a more secular pattern of imagery.

Paintings by early modern painters such as Damián Domingo often still had a religious reference, but the art of Juan Luna and Félix Hidalgo showed a trend towards political statements. The first Filipino national artist Fernando Amorsolo used postmodernism to create paintings that illustrated aspects of Filipino culture, while other artists such as Fernando Zóbel used both realistic and abstract techniques.

In the modern period, the integration of architecture happened in the Art Deco style. Many of these examples can be seen in statues throughout the country, especially in public parks and squares.


As a general description, Filipinos’ distinct value system is rooted primarily in personal covenant systems, especially those based on kinship, commitment, friendship, religion (especially Christianity) and commercial relationships.

Filipino values are largely focused on maintaining social harmony, motivated primarily by the desire to be accepted within a group. The main sanction against deviating from these values are the concepts of “Hiya“, roughly translated as “sense of shame”, and “Amor propio” or “self-esteem”. Social recognition, acceptance by a group and belonging to a group are important concerns. Concern about what others will think, say or do strongly influences Filipinos’ social behaviour.

Other elements of the Filipino value system are optimism about the future, pessimism about present situations and events, concern and care for others, the presence of friendship and kindness, the habit of being hospitable, religious character, respect for self and others, respect for the female members of society, fear of God and abhorrence of fraud and theft.

Internationally, the Philippines has been well documented for its success in beauty pageants. While in most parts of the world the popularity of formal female beauty pageants has declined, in the Philippines they remain both popular and widespread. The country’s recent surge in the Miss Universe pageant in the 2010s alone marks the renewed interest of not only the Philippines but also the rest of Asia as a whole in international beauty pageants against their rivals in Latin America. Binibining Pilipinas is an event closely followed throughout the country, along with other major national pageants such as Miss Philippines Earth and Miss World Philippines. The Philippines has won one Miss World, three Miss Universe, five Miss International and three Miss Earth, making it the third country in the world (after Brazil and Venezuela, and the first country in Asia) to win all four major international beauty pageants.


Just like the development of Filipino music, dance was also subject to constant change. Before colonial rule, the Philippines had a variety of ethnic dances from different tribal groups. This is mainly due to the fact that the Philippines is an island, which is how the different types of dance developed. Both Luzon and Visayas were initially more similar to tribal movements until the Spanish arrived. Mindanao represents more of a set of Muslim-inspired dances and the Spanish influence was minimal in the Zamboanga region.

Universal dances are found in the Philippines at social functions such as rituals, mimicry, life cycle and parties. During the Spanish era, most dances were accompanied by rondalya music, usually with 14-string bandurrias invented by Filipinos or with other stringed instruments that also evolved locally in the culture.

A well-known dance is the Tinikling, which involves a band of Rondalya musicians playing along to the percussive beat of the two bamboo poles. It usually begins with men and women playing a scene about how the rural people “mix”. The dancers then roam around beating the bamboo poles together, which are held on opposite sides. The end shows the paired bamboo poles crossing each other. The Muslim version of this, which also uses bamboo poles, is called singkil. Nowadays, in modern and post-modern times, dances vary from graceful ballet to the more street-oriented styles of break dancing, to name a few.


Filipino cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malay Polynesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American and other Asian influences adapted to local ingredients and the Filipino palate to create distinctive Filipino dishes. Dishes range from very simple dishes like fried salted fish and rice to elaborate dishes like paellas and cocidos created for fiestas.

Popular dishes include lechónadobosinigangkare-karetapa, crispy patapancitlumpia and halo-halo. Some common local ingredients used in cooking are calamondins, coconuts, saba (a type of short, wide plantain), mangoes, milkfish and fish sauce. Filipino taste buds tend to prefer strong flavours, but the cuisine is not as spicy as neighbouring countries.

Unlike many of their Asian counterparts, Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks but with Western cutlery. Possibly due to the fact that rice is the primary staple food and a large number of stews and main dishes with broth are popular in Filipino cuisine, the main pairing of utensils seen at the Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork.

The traditional way of eating with the hands, known as kamayan (bringing the food to the mouth with the washed right hand), used to be seen more in the less urbanised areas. However, with the various Filipino restaurants introducing Filipino food to people of other nationalities as well as Filipino city dwellers, kamayan quickly became popular. This new trend sometimes includes the “Boodle Fight” concept (as popularised and coined by the Philippine Army), where banana leaves are used as giant plates on which rice portions and Filipino foods are placed for a childlike, friendly and/or communal kamayan feast.


Various sports and pastimes are popular in the Philippines, including basketball, boxing, cockfighting, volleyball, football (football), American football, both rugby sports, badminton, karate, taekwondo, billiards, bowling, chess and sipa. Motocross, cycling and mountaineering are also becoming more popular. Basketball is played at both amateur and professional levels and is considered the most popular sport in the Philippines. In 2010, Manny Pacquiao was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s (decade) by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). The country’s national martial art and sport is Arnis, Eskrima or Kali in some regions.

The Philippines has participated in the Summer Olympics since 1924 and was the first Southeast Asian country to participate and win a medal. Since then, the country has participated in every Summer Olympics except for the US-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. The Philippines is also the first tropical nation to participate in the Winter Olympics, making its debut in 1972.


Traditional Filipino games such as Luksung BakaPatinteroPiko and Tumbang Preso are still played mainly as children’s games among the youth. Sungka is a traditional indigenous Filipino board game. Card games are popular at festivals, with some, including pusoy and tong-its, used as a form of illegal gambling. Mahjong is played in some Filipino communities.

Sabong or cockfighting is another popular entertainment especially among Filipino men and existed before the arrival of the Spaniards. Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler of Magellan, first documented this pastime in the Kingdom of Taytay. The yo-yo, a popular toy in the Philippines, was introduced in its modern form by Pedro Flores, the name coming from the Ilokano language.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Philippines

Stay Safe in Philippines

Use common sense when travelling in and around the Philippines, as you would when travelling to other developing countries. Although the people on these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, be aware of the widespread poverty (especially in the big cities) and the things that unfortunately come with it.


Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and robberies, is common, especially in busy areas. You should not show your valuables (especially iPods and Apple iPhones) as they are a risk for pickpocketing. Carry small change and do not show large notes. Pickpocketing is common in big cities. Manila is not a violent place for pickpocketing, but scams involving ativan (drugging someone to steal from them) are common practice. Do not expect retaliation from the police and be careful as they are easily bribed and can get involved in their own scams. Women are advised to travel in groups and to exercise caution when going out at night. Do not enter alleys and secluded areas at night.

Thefts by robbery are also common. Many cases of robbery are committed by motorcyclists (especially tandem riders) and are mainly directed against people carrying shoulder bags. Sometimes they drag the bag with the person a few metres. Be careful when carrying expensive bags as this may attract the attention of thieves. Avoid wearing jewellery, especially earrings or rings, when in busy places.

Women should be careful when driving taxis as there are several cases of drivers spraying chemicals on the air conditioner and the passenger falling asleep and waking up with their bag and other stolen valuables. There have been reported cases of women, especially call centre agents, being robbed and raped by taxi drivers who are actually driving a stolen taxi (“Carnap”). Make sure the taxi has a driver’s ID and beware of suspicious drivers: if you see anything suspicious about a taxi or its driver, do not take the taxi.


Prostitution is thriving but officially illegal in the Philippines, although there are hostess bars, massage parlours and other fronts offering the service. EDSA and Makati in Metro Manila and Angeles City are well-known hotspots for these activities. The age of consent is 18 years old. The Philippine National Police take strict action against sex offenders, paedophiles and those involved in prostitution. If you are caught prostituting or sexually abusing children, you face a long prison sentence, fines and deportation to your country.


Marijuana and shabu (crystal methamphetamine) are widely used in the country; however, they are also illegal and the penalties are very harsh: you could very well be sentenced to a long prison term, followed by deportation. The authorities regularly raid drug dens and labs, especially those that manufacture, possess and sell shabu. Chinese drug traffickers are not uncommon, as they do business in the Philippines to avoid the death penalty in China for drug possession. The Philippines does not have the famous high-quality weed from neighbouring Thailand; most of what is available is not worth the price, let alone the risk.

Gays and lesbians

Gays and lesbians will do well in the Philippines as part of the tolerant younger generation is very open-minded, but you shouldn’t be too curious – a couple kissing in public may be stared at or even insulted. In the countryside and among the over-60 generation, they are also likely to condemn it. But Filipinos still have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare.

Stay healthy in Philippines

Food and drink

Drink easily accessible bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe unless they have added local ice. Beware of sellers of buko juice; some simply add sugar to the water. Buy and eat fruit that has not yet been cut. Food cooked in a karenia (open-air canteen) is acceptable if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept warm.

If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/held in a small or medium-sized plastic bag), water from Manila, Cebu City and other major cities is generally good, but it is recommended to boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere, you should drink bottled water. In the countryside, there is always a risk of contracting amoebiasis from drinking tap water. This also applies to the ice cubes that are usually added to drinks.

It is best to buy bottled water in protected shops and restaurants. Bottled water sold outdoors (by the roadside) is most likely a used bottle that has been filled with tap water, sealed and then refrigerated.

Be careful with pampalamig (cold drinks like Sago’t Gulaman) as some sellers use Magic Sugar (sodium cyclamate), an artificial sweetener that has been banned by the Philippine government because of its harmful effects on health, such as an increased risk of cancer. It has been used as an alternative to regular sugar because it is much cheaper; call 117 (Philippine National Police) if you encounter such a situation.

Street food is not so safe in the Philippines; hygiene standards are not very enforced. It is better to eat both street food and pampalamie in malls than on the street, as the stalls in malls are better kept clean.


CDC says there is a risk of malaria only in non-urban areas within 600 metres on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro and Palawan. The Visayas are malaria-free. Chloroquine is no longer recommended for malaria prophylaxis in the Philippines, as there are strains that are resistant to this drug. In general, malaria is not very common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of Southeast Asia, and about half of the approximately 40,000 cases per year occur in a few specific locations.

Dengue fever is widespread in the Philippines and cases are increasing every year. It is therefore advisable to apply mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved clothing whenever possible. A vaccine should be available in some areas, including the Philippines, by mid-2016.

Rabies is also common among street animals in the Philippines. If you haven’t already, get vaccinated against rabies, and if you are travelling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible, as they are at high risk of contracting rabies as they tend to play more with animals.

Hepatitis A, B and C are a high risk in the country. There are vaccines for A and B recommended for all travellers; there is no vaccine for C yet (mid-2015). Avoid contact with other people’s blood – sharing needles or even personal hygiene items such as razors or toothbrushes – as this is the main route of transmission for B and C.

Japanese encephalitis is common and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in freshwater areas where there is a high risk of schistosomiasis (unless chlorinated). Leptospirosis is often contracted during recreational water activities, e.g. kayaking, in contaminated water.

Tuberculosis is very common in rural areas. Therefore, try to avoid people who cough or look weak, and be careful not to stay too long in villages where the number of contagious people can be high.

Take anti-diarrhoea medication with you, as there is a high risk of travellers’ diarrhoea in unhygienic conditions. Gatorade or other “sports drinks” can help compensate for fluid loss. Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure and always wash your hands.


Over the past seven years, the rate of new HIV cases in the Philippines has increased by about 30 percent annually. At the end of July 2016, there were 35,765 known HIV cases in the Philippines. The Philippine Department of Health has stated that 133,000 people could be living with HIV in the Philippines by 2022. The Philippines has a low rate of people getting tested for HIV and a low rate of condom use. There are now 37 HIV treatment centres in the Philippines that provide antiretroviral drugs free of charge.

Other sexually transmitted diseases are more widespread than HIV. There are social health clinics (STD clinics) all over the Philippines.



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