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The Top Ten Things That You Need To Go To The Philippines For A Visit
Visit The Philippines - More Than The Usual
Visiting The Philippines
Every now and then I come across common questions from tourists, travelers, Filipino Immigrants, Filipino-Americans born in the USA or those who have renounced their Filipino Citizenship and are now American Citizens.
And this is because I normally hang out at the Travel Philippines Section at the Yahoo Answers Forum.
Now among the most common questions is this one:
What do I need to go the Philippines for a vacation?
Most times I try to answer them as best as I can but I almost always find myself writing the same things over and over and over again.
And in the last three and a half years, I have at least repeated myself dozens of times already. So here, once and for all are my answers to this and other similar questions pertaining to travelling to or travelling back to the Philippines--the only Hispanic, Hollywood, Oriental and Everything Else In-between Island Paradise In That Part of The World.
Things You Should Have When Travelling To The Philippines
Remember one US dollar is more or less 50 Philippine pesos
Preferably but not necessarily lots of US dollars, Australian dollars, British pounds or Euros. Me and my wife and kid were in the Philippines in the (US) Summer of 2009 (last year) and on the average we used up US$100 a day, everyday.
Where to exchange your foreign currency? The Filipinos made it so convenient because they love to shop, all the shopping malls all over the country probably have their own Foreign Currency Exchange Counter, quick, easy and as I have said convenient.
And in case you didn't get the memo--Three of the Top Ten Largest Shopping Malls in the World Are All Within Metro Manila (the Capital City), and add one small or medium-sized mall every few blocks, overly helpful sales staff and bargain prices and you'd know they really want you to spend your money there.
Preferably but not necessarily VISA and Mastercard Credit cards. But please call your card provider first and inform them that you are intending to use them while you are in the Philippines in the actual dates that you would be there.
And ask about possible charges in case you actually do use them. This is important because Identity Theft is all around us and any activity out of the ordinary such as charges made half-way around the world or purchases made of exotic things might make your card provider to issue a hold on your card and then you will not be able to use it yourself.
3. Light Clothing and Footwear
Yes when in Rome… wear what the Romans wear. But Manila or the Philippines is not Roma, Italia.
Now being in a hot and humid tropical island paradise, you will really have no need for your UGG Boots, your heavy, chunky and knitted scarves and gloves or your Trench Coat.
Now it does rain a lot in most areas and without warning, so it would be wise to bring a light and light colored jacket, a windbreaker or a hat. And you would need great walking footwear. And think about a balance between keeping your feet safe (from uneven pavement, rough road and slightly flooded, muddy or littered paths) and keeping your feet from being sweaty and smelly.
Now this is important or might save you from a lot of trouble, do not wear clothes that will make you stand out (like a sore thumb or a rich and gullible tourist). Avoid wearing a camera on your neck or lugging expensive videotaping equipment everywhere you go and wear much of the same clothes (fashion, style, brand, etc.) that the common Filipino crowd wears and for the right occasion. If you physically do not look anything like the locals, then at the very least you wouldn’t look like somebody who just got off the 747. If you aren’t local then try to appear more like the common expat or a spouse or a child of one. And it is wise to appear like someone who had been actually living, working or studying there for some time.
Also don’t forget your sunglasses. Umbrellas are useful too, both for the rain and to protect from the hot sunlight. I would advise wearing Sun Block too.
4. Mosquito and Other Insect Repellants
Now flying, buzzing, annoying and worse biting insects (stinging too) are all over the islands. And if you aren’t used to any of them, you probably need to get used to them fast. Now here is a word of advise, the Philippines has only two distinct seasons, the dry or the wet season. Okay, you can add the warm or the warmer seasons.
The cooler and normally drier months are November to February. The driest and hottest months follow that, from March to May. Then the really wet months follow, June to October.
But as I have said flash floods and short downpours can come at any moment, so be prepared for that at all times.
Now when it rains many areas are hotspots for Dengue (not all but quite a few). And the dengue-causing-mosquitos that generally bite during the daytime and multiply anywhere there are normally clean but stagnant waters are the main cause of these mini-dengue-outbreaks. So be well advised.
One thing that seemed to work at least for me the last time we were there was we stuffed all our pants (and shirts) pockets with the Bounce Dryer Sheets. And well for anything else, you will always smell freshly laundered.
5. Stomach Flu Meds
Now, for your sake, do not drink tap water. Do not drink anything you have no idea what the source is. Do not take any drink with ice cubes, especially if you do not know where the ice was made from.
When in doubt drink boiled water, yes for coffee, teas and all hot beverages. And if you can help it, drink only those that are canned or bottled and only those brands that you are familiar with. Coke, Pepsi, Bud Light, etc.
6. Shots That Your Doctor Might Recommend You Should Get
Now this should be done well ahead of your planned visit. Call or advise your doctor or your care provider of your trip so you can ask if you need any shot. And yes, this depends on the time of the year and where you will be going.
Have Blue Will Travel
7. Valid Passport
Now, if you are a US Citizen then that should be your Blue US Passport. If you are a citizen of any other country then of course, you should have your country’s passport.
But if you are a Filipino Immigrant, then you are still a Filipino so you should use your old (whatever color it might be) passport.
Now there are many rules on this, but just to be sure check to see if your passport is valid at least over 6 months upon reaching or leaving the Philippines. Yes, just to be in the safe side. Check here to find the Philippine Embassy in the United States and all the Philippine Consulates: http://philippines.visahq.com/embassy/United-States/
Okay, some of you Filipino families might be travelling using different passports, such as those born in the US, will have US Passports and those who are Filipino Immigrants using their Filipino Passports. Then just be aware that when passing through the Immigration Counters, you might need to go to two separate counters, one for the US Citizens and the other to the non-citizens. Just so you know.
8. If You Aren’t a US Passport Holder, Then Going Back Stateside, You would need your Valid Green Card (or your immigrant visa)
Yes, don’t forget. I know you might have the US Visa Stamp on your passport but still, do not take chances by not having your green card with you coming back.
9. One (or two) Other Valid Identification(s)
Normally you will not need any other ID but it also will not hurt if you bring along a secondary id to your passport, just in case you lose it, your Drivers License or State ID would be perfect. No, don’t bring your Social Security Card. Now always have the contact information on you of your country’s embassy while you are in the Philippines. You’d never know when you might need to contact them, yes like when you do lose your passport, which I pray you won’t. Keep them in a safe place at all times.
10. Lastly, Do not forget to bring all of the following:
Your Guts, Your Sense of Adventure, Your Common Sense and Common Sensibility, Your Sense of Humor, A Little Humility and Your Thick Skin.
Now if you can arrange for it, have someone to pick you up at the airport and fix your accommodations, even your itinerary.
If you don’t have someone you trust picking you up, then have them arranged before you arrive.
If you are booked to a hotel, have them arrange vehicles or their hotel taxis to pick you up. As this is most probably the worse complaint of any visitor to the Philippines, that nightmare at the International Airport.
Remember there are lots of well-meaning, friendly and hospitable Filipinos but if it really looks too good to be true, it probably is not. You have those types anywhere around the world.
Most of all bring along your smile and use it as often as you can and most of all enjoy your trip.
Need A Driver?
Now if all else fails. Then you can always contact me and cover me my travel and accommodations and I'll be glad to help you out. Or I'll try to call a friend or two in Manila to watch your back.
But (seriously) if you really need a good driver to move you in and around the maze that is Metro Manila, if you really need to rent a car or a van to go with it, or if you really need a trustworthy person to shuttle you in and around Metro Manila and nearby suburbs? Then just send me a message and I'll hook you up.
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