Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Philippines is the fourth largest English speaking country in the world. It can accommodate budget travelers. If you are not on a budget, you can have the very best for a reasonable price. The Philippines is the only country in the world that welcomes foreigners from all other countries. It is one of the very few you can enter without a visa. You will need to get one after 21 days if you stay that long.
Get low airfare in the off season, May through October. You can even come over and back on a courier flight, any time and it's very cheap.Book your hotel in advance since the good hotels sometimes fill up quickly. You can always find a good "pension house", to accommodate you in the $35-$50 range. These will have private bath, cable TV, air conditioning and hot water most of the time.Travel by land since it is inexpensive. A ride across a large city like Cebu in an air conditioned taxi is about $2.40 US and the ride to most airports not much more than that. Most airports are close into town.
Jeepney fares, are Peso 6 - 7, about 10 cents us, the main mode of transportation for most people. They are colorful and fun except when it is raining, they do leak.If you want to tour around Manila in a much cheaper and faster long distances destinations, ride the LRT (Manila Light Rail Transit System) and the MRT (Manila Metro Rail Transit System) with fares ranging from 10-15 pesos (25-35 US cents) or a stored-value (multiple-use) ticket ranging from 100 to 200 pesos (2.50-2.80 US dollar). Eat out. American and other international foods are available. Fast food places from Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald's to their own, Jollibee, abound and prices are cheaper than in almost every country in the world. Visit the nightlife. The Philippines is always voted as best in night life by the expats in Asia, and the prices are the best too.Go shopping. There are many local handicrafts to buy. Do not overlook the silver, handmade in Baguio City, in the north of the main island Luzon, famous for years. Baguio is one of the cooler places to go too, in the mountains, the City of Pines. Don't tip. Tipping is the exception, not the rule. If you want to be given preferred treatment, even without making a reservation, give a hefty tip immediately and discreetly. With that, you can almost expect to be treated like a king. Filipinos are avid practitioners of The Golden Rule. Get sporty. Golf and other entertainments abound. Japanese tourists fly from Japan stay two nights at a first class hotel, play two rounds of golf on the weekend, have a caddie and umbrella girl and a nice room and food for the price of one round of golf in Japan. See the movies. First run movies are about 3.00USD or less and sometimes are in the cinemas before they hit larger countries. Enjoy the friendliness of the people. The most valuable and least expensive thing of all is the Filipino smile. It is free and every where. Filipinos are happy people, they are fun and will make you happy, great entertainers and hosts. And do not be surprised if you call 1-800 and the operator is a Filipino. Almost all major US companies outsource their customer service and help desk in the Philippines.
Read the newspapers with a grain of salt. Problems with terrorism is worse in the United States and many other countries. The Philippines gets a bad rap from the newspapers who print the worst, never the best. To know for sure, find expats living in the Philippines. They will tell you that the Philippines is one of the safest places in the world. If you are planning to have a vacation in one of the beaches here, it is suggested that instead of going to the overrated and infamously known Boracay Island destination opt for a less crowded spots such as the island of Palawan that was rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and South East Asia region in 2007, and the 13th best island in the world having incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. For shoppers, you cannot miss visiting SM Mall of Asia which is the largest shopping mall in the Philippines and is the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world in terms of Gross Leasable Area according to Forbes Magazine. If you wish to enjoy some of Philippines's beaches, try the famous Boracay Island! Remember to bring sandals, suntan, umbrellas and sunglasses!!
It is better to have a Filipino friend or a travel guide with you. Don't leave personal belongings unattended. There is very little violent crime but plenty of petty thieves, or snatchers, in the cities. These are non-existent in the countryside. They are after cell phones, good ones, and gold jewelry. Consider a smaller city like Cebu City or Baguio City. Manila is very large, not ready for prime time yet. It is a great place to shop and do business, but a bit much for the first time traveler.Do not use drugs here. Prescription drugs are available. But one marijuana cigarette is punishable by 12 years imprisonment in a bad jail with horrible living conditions.Both alcohol and cigarettes are so inexpensive and sold 24/7 so no reason not to kill yourself with a legal drug, the worst. Filipinos do no usually have drinking problems of the proportion and frequency of those from most developed countries. Women have only recently started to drink and smoke and it is still not consider good taste or wise for a woman to indulge in vices. Men get away with just about anything. It is not like the US here. If you are looking for equality, the liberated woman, better go to a developed country. Filipinas, female Filipinos, unless they are professional "entertainers," will not get intoxicated with you. And even the "pros", have little interest in alcohol.
Things You'll Need:
Not much you cannot buy here cheaper. Do buy a cheap local cell phone, about $100 US. Best to get prepaid phones. Very convenient and easy to buy credits. Texts are US two cents, calls are about US 18 cents per minute. Most people text.