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Manila Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +8

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used.

Language

The official language of the Philippines is Filipino, but English is widely spoken. Tagalog is the most predominant of the many dialects or local languages spoken throughout the islands.

Travel Health

No special vaccination certificates are required for the Philippines, except by travellers arriving from an area infected with yellow fever. Vaccinations are recommended for typhoid, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Those who will be spending more than a month in rural areas should consider a vaccination for Japanese encephalitis, and those who may be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination. There is a malaria risk in parts of the Philippines and visitors should seek medical advice before travelling; urban areas are generally considered risk-free. Dengue fever is a risk throughout the country; the best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Tap water is not safe to drink and ice in drinks should be avoided; cholera is a risk in the country and precautions are advised. Sea snakes can be highly venomous; travellers should be cautious in remote coastal waters, lakes and rivers, as anti-venom may not be readily available.

Medical care is good in Manila, although very expensive. Outside of the capital it can be very difficult to get medical attention. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised. Travellers should take along any prescription medication they require, in its original packaging, along with a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.

Tipping

Tipping is expected for most services in the Philippines. The standard practice is 10 percent of the total bill. Tipping is optional on bills that already include a 10 percent service charge.

Safety Information

Safety and security should be of paramount concern to any visitor to the Philippines. It is vital to be fully informed of threats and developments regarding crime, terrorism and kidnapping before and during a visit to the islands. Vigilance is vital throughout the islands, particularly in Manila, as opportunistic crimes are motivated by circumstances of poverty. Extremist groups have a history of kidnapping foreign tourists, and terrorist bombings have occurred in Manila and Mindanao, targeting transport and public places. Recent explosions in Mindanao have killed and injured many people. Security has been increased across the southern Philippines, and many foreign governments have issued warnings against travelling to Mindanao. Terrorist groups have also threatened to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, particularly those operating from Mindanao. The threat of terrorism and kidnapping is greatest in central, southern and western Mindanao, Basilan, Tawi Tawi, Jolo and the Sulu archipelago. The FCO, US Department of State and other governments advise against all travel to these areas, and care should also be taken in Palawan and at coastal resorts and tourist centres throughout.

There is a high incidence of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Philippine waters, and a risk of kidnappings at sea. It is believed that terrorists are continuing with plans to kidnap foreigners from the islands and coastal areas in the southern Philippines, putting all boats travelling to and from offshore islands in the Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, as well as at dive sites, at great risk. Safety standards on ferries are low, and rescue services are not very comprehensive. It is advisable to avoid travel off the beaten track, and to leave travel plans with friends, colleagues or relatives.

The area is prone to typhoons between July and November, when flooding and landslides can occur: Typhoon Fengshen in June 2008 resulted in flash floods, landslides and rough seas that caused hundreds of deaths.

Local Customs

The concept of 'shame' is very important in Filipino culture and visitors should avoid offending or embarrassing anyone in public while visiting the Philippines. Failure to live up to accepted standards of behaviour brings shame not only on themselves, but also on their family. Any food or drink offered should be accepted, as this is a sign of hospitality.

Business

Third party introductions are useful when conducting business in the Philippines and face-to-face communication is key. Emphasis is placed on building good working relations and getting to know each other. Business is conducted formally, and although punctuality is important, meetings may not begin on time. Dress should be conservative: suits and ties are the norm, although many Filipino men wear a shirt known as a barong tagalong, which is a far cooler option in the humid environment. English is widely spoken in business circles and business hours are usually from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Communications

The international access code for the Philippines is +63. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)2 for Manila. The major towns, cities and popular tourist spots are covered by GSM 900 and 1800 mobile phone networks. Internet cafes are available in Manila and the tourist resorts.

Duty Free

Travellers to the Philippines over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g pipe tobacco; and 2 litres of alcoholic beverages. Prohibited items include firearms or parts thereof, explosives and ammunition; printed material that contains subversive, obscene or pornographic content; drugs, gambling machines, lottery sweepstake tickets, or coin-operated video machines; gold, silver and other precious metals that do not have authentication of quality; non-identifiable brands of medicines or foodstuffs; coca leaves and any prohibited drugs; plants or parts thereof, fruits and vegetables.

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