General Information about the Philippines
Things to see and do
Dining anywhere in the Philippines is an experience travelers can never forget because it is one of the greatest pleasures of the Filipino people. The exotic dishes spread on the Filipino table are a blend of Oriental, Spanish and local culinary dishes. There are also a number of restaurants which specializes in different cuisine suitable to the distinguishing taste buds of any travelers.
Whether a traveler is looking for places to shop, the Philippines is a shopper's happy hunting ground, not just for designer goods with familiar names and signature logos that can be found in the fashion capitals of New York, London and Paris, but more especially for handmade goods, skillfully crafted by local townsfolk and natural beauties such as the South Sea pearls.
Diving in the Philippines, is simply the best in the world. The beauty and variety of the country's coral reefs and underwater topography are among the best that diving enthusiasts can explore and undercover. Fishing has also become a popular sport for adventure anglers in the country.
A photo safari tour in the Philippines provides a novel adventure and the opportunity to visit a game refuge center to observe wildfire and capture this on film. Other activities that interest a number of adventurers are the spelunking expeditions, mountain trekking and bird watching. Golf in the country is also an activity one can not do without.
Philippine Airlines, the country's flag carrier, links Manila to 26 cities and in 19 countries worldwide. It also provides regular service to and from 43 local destinations. Major international carriers and cruise liners likewise serve Manila.
Manila's strategic location makes it a vital point on major international routes. There are 28 international airlines presently servicing Manila. Daily flights from United States West Coast and the Midwest are serviced by four airlines. United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines and Philippine Airlines.
A number of airlines also fly from Europe to Manila such as Air France, Swissair, Lufthansa and from Asia-Pacific, the following airlines service Manila: Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, etc. The least expensive tickets from Europe can be had on Qatar Airlines or Kuwait airlines, as they stop over in their host countries for 4 to 6 hours with a change of plane involved. Allow at least 3 hours to check in as the planes are packed due to the cheap prices.
From the United States Northwest Airlines offers the best all around deals, at least from the east coast and mid west.
Naturally always check the discount travel companies for the latest offers and deals and sometimes you can really be some great bargains.
Visitors must hold a valid passport. Except for the stateless persons and those from countries with which the Philippines has no diplomatic relations, all visitors may enter the country without visas and may stay up to 21 days provided they have tickets for onward journey. If you wish to stay longer you can obtain a 59 day visa from the Philippines consulate in your country, or extend your visa in the Philippines. Both methods cost more than we feel its worth, but you'll find the same problem in most Asian countries.
There are three methods of extending your visa during your stay in the Philippines:
- Go direct to the immigration office in downtown Manila. They are even open Saturday's where there are far less lines. Get there early and use the "express" service and you'll get your visa extension the same day. No use noting the cost as this fluctuates all the time, but a do it yourself method will cost you in the neighborhood of $30 to $40.
- Use a travel agency to fall in line for you at the immigration office. And during weekdays, the lines can be awful. Add $10 to $20 for their service fee on top of actual costs. It may seem high, but could save you a lot of headaches. There is a proliferation of travel agents at the Midtown Arcade, Midtown Hotel, Ermita, Manila. One such travel agency that does a decent job is: InterIsland Travel & Tours, Inc. Suite 12, Manila Midtown Arcade, Adriatico, Ermita, Manila, Telephone (632) 523-8723
- The third and final way is when leaving the Philippines at Manila's NAIA Airport, you can pay a penalty and get your exit visa there at immigration, after checking in and before arriving at the departure lounge. This method is NOT recommended but it can be done and in fact is done all the time, though we never cease to hear the howls of protest at the cost from those who didn't heed our sound advice. Allow an extra 20-30 minutes for this service.
Holders of Hong Kong and Taiwan passports must have special permits. Visas may be obtained from Philippine embassies or consular offices abroad as for stays longer than 21 days is recommended.
A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required for those coming from infected areas. Children less than one year old are exempted but may be subject to isolation when necessary. Visitors must check with their travel agents before departure as regulations may change without notice .
To facilitate customs examination, visitors are advised to fill in the Baggage and Currency Declaration Form before disembarking. Visitors are allowed to bring in the following articles duty free: reasonable quantity of clothes, jewelry and toiletries, 400 sticks of cigarettes or two tins of tobacco and two bottles of wine or spirits of not more than one liter each.
Visitors carrying more than US$3,000 are to declare the amount at the Central Bank of the Philippines counter situated at the custom area. Foreign currency taken out upon departure must not exceed the amount brought in. Departing passengers are not allowed to bring out more than PhP 1,000 in local currency.
Travel tips on clothing
Lightweight cotton and linen tropical clothing are ideal for city. Light sweaters are recommended for mountain trips. An umbrella will suffice during the rainy season.
The Philippine has a tropical climate with relatively abundant rainfall and gentle winds. There are three pronounced seasons: the wet or rainy season from June to October; the cool, dry season from November to February; and the hot, dry season from March to May.
Stretching 1,840 kilometers north-to-south off the southeast coast of Asia, the Philippines has a total land area of 300,000 sq. km. or 115,600 sq. miles, slightly larger than the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Capital is Manila
There are about 82 million Filipinos as of the last census conducted in 2001, 25 percent greater than the figures ten (10) years ago. Population growth is estimated as 2.7 percent annually, and the number of Filipinos is expected to top 100 million by the year 2010. Luzon, the largest island group accounts for more than half of the total population. Male dominated female with the ratio of 1:2. However today, 2003, the unofficial figures make the real Filipino population exceeding 100 million!
The Philippines is the world's second largest English-speaking country, after the United States and ahead of the United Kingdom. While there are over 100 regional dialects, the national language is Filipino, better known as Tagalog [sounds like ta-ga-low.] English is widely used in commercial and legal transactions.
The dominant religion in the Philippines is Catholicism, though a significant number are Protestant and a very small percentage of Moslems, mostly in the southern islands of the Philippines.
Situated on the crossroads of Asia, on the eastern rim of the China Sea, the Philippines has hosted voyagers, migrants and traders since the dawn of history. Early trade with China and Japan can be traced on the archaeological relics left behind by traders in the banks of major hubs of the country.
Our first western tourist arrivals were from Spain in 1521. Fascinated by the beauty of our archipelago, they decided to return in 1565 and established a Spanish base in the town of Manila, the Philippines' Capital.
In 1898, the Philippines won independence after 327 years under Spanish rule, but found themselves controlled by the Americans from 1900-1942, and the Japanese from 1942-1945. The Americans brought over their educational and legal systems and introduced their style of government. With the end of the Japanese occupation in 1946, the Philippines regained democracy as a Republic.
True democracy was fully achieved by the Filipinos after the "People Power Revolution" in 1986 which led to the downfall of the reigning dictatorship of the infamous former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Still one of the strongest democracies in Asia, the current president is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who stated publicity that she will NOT run for re-election in 2004.
The Philippines like most other countries nowadays, used the metric system. However many still use feet and inches, pounds and ounces, so everyone should feel right at home about using either system here.
Most residents and business centers in the Philippines are using 220 volts a/c. However, a number of major hotels also have 110 volt a/c outlets.
The Philippines is basically light industry and agriculture, the chief products being rice, corn, coconut, pineapple and sugar. It is also rich in copper, cobalt, nickel, silver, iron and gold deposits. A number of food processing, textiles, clothing and home appliance industries are available, with a fast growing aquaculture, microcircuits and furniture sectors.
The significant structural reforms, initiated by the present leadership, which liberalize almost all sectors of the economy, have pushed the Philippines into the mainstream of economic development in the heart of the fastest-growing region in the world. - the Asia-Pacific. Further enhance by its strategic location as a gateway to the most economically dynamic part of the world, the Philippines development pathways for the future are clear...a newly industrializing country (NIC) status in the year 2000.
However w hen I first visited the Philippines in 1967, the Philippines was the second wealthiest nation in Asia, second only to Japan. Sadly today, the Philippines is the second poorest nation in Asia, with only Bangladesh below them at the bottom. Years of corruption, cronyism and plunder from government, business, the police and military has destroyed the economy of this great nation. In essence this country has been raped, plundered and pillaged by those entrusted to run government and business. As we have repeatedly stated throughout this web site, we sincerely believe that the best way for the Philippines to economically recover is by both domestic and international tourism. This web site is dedicated to that end.
The Philippines' monetary unit is the peso, divided into 100 centavos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at any hotels, most large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops accredited by the Central Bank of the Philippines. International credit cards such as Visa, Diners Club, Bank America rd, Master Charge and American Express are accepted in major establishments. The rate of exchange drops monthly, but so long as you have hard currency like the dollar, pound or euro, you're money will go a long ways in the Philippines.