Philippines Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used, with round two-pins being the most common.
The official language of the Philippines is Filipino (a standard variant of the Tagalog language), but English is widely spoken. Tagalog is the most predominant of the many dialects or local languages spoken throughout the islands.
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.
The Philippines is now also a risk area for contracting the Zika virus. As a result, pregnant women should avoid travel to the Philippines and travellers should take steps to avoide contact with the virus through sexual interaction and mosquito bites.
Medical care is good in Manila, although very expensive, while outside of the capital it can be difficult to receive adequate care. 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 is expected for most services in the Philippines. The standard practice is 10 percent of the total bill, although in some cases it can be only PHP 20-50 . Tipping is optional on bills that already include a 10 percent service charge.
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 visits 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.
The sourthern Philippines, constituting the Mindanao area, is now under martial law following clashes between armed forces and local terrorist groups affiliated with ISIS. Tourists should avoid all travel to the south and take care in the rest of the country by monitoring alerts and news, while keeping their country's embassy abreast of their whereabouts. There is also a high incidence of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Filipino waters (specifically in the southern islands), and risk of kidnappings at sea.
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.
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.
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 tagalog, 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.
The international access code for the Philippines is +63. Pre-paid sim cards can be bought at the airport and at convenience stores. However, different networks have better coverage on certain islands so visitors are advised to choose a network best suited to their destinations. Internet cafés are available in major cities and tourist resorts. Wifi access is increasingly common, even on the islands, but travellers should be warned that it is mostly painfully slow.
Travellers to the Philippines over 18 years of age do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g 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; as well as fruits and vegetables.
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