The Philippines are an archipelago with more than 7,000 islands. The island is divided into three geographical zones, Luzon in the north, Mindanao in the south and the Visayas in the middle. The Philippines shares no land boundaries, but Taiwan, Vietnam, Borneo, Indonesia are all located across seas from the Philippines. From pristine beaches and natural wonders to interesting historic sites, the Philippines pack many exciting things to see and do.
Blend of rich history combining Asian, European and American influence with Spanish colonization the Filipinos has rich culture. Known for their hospitality, the Filipinos are fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes. Rich culture, pristine beaches and good weather conditions makes Philippines a must-visit place.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: A tropical country, Philippines has a hot and humid climate with a wet season. There are different areas where the dry season and wet season alternate. From January to June, dryness prevails, and with slight variations depending on the area the rainy season is from July to December. Between May and November, the monsoon season can be intense with typhoons, with July and August the wettest months.
Temperature wise, the coolest is generally in January and the highest temperatures in May, however there is an average of around 25’C throughout the year. The best time to travel to Philippines is from January to May, since there are no typhoons. Ideally, March and April are good months when it is easier to move from one island to another with good conditions.
Visa: New Zealand citizens travelling on a New Zealand passport do not need a visa to visit Philippines for tourism purposes, provided their stay will not exceed 21 days. For information on non-tourist visas and travel on non-New Zealand passport contact your local embassy, or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements, or see your travel agent. It is your responsibility to make sure you have the correct documentation and all advice here is given in good faith.
Currency: The Philippine Pesco is the currency of Philippines. The currency code for Pesos is PHP. The Pesco come in notes denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. The most common coins are 1, 5, 10 and 25 centavos. ATM machines are widely available and credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Traveler’s cheques are safer to carry than cash; however you can only change them at a limited number of banks in Manila, Malate and Boracay. Banks are generally open 9am-3pm from Monday-Friday and all major branches have ATM machines and currency exchange. Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) are best established local banks.
Health: Although Philippines does not pose any particular health risk as long as you are careful about what you eat and drink and how long you spend out in the sun, one should not have any major health problems. Hospitals are generally of a good standard in cities and even in small towns and basic in the remotest barrios. Since doctors and nurses almost always speak English, it is best to deal with anything potentially serious in Manila. Furthermore, doctors in the major cities are likely to be well trained.
Food diseases are the most likely cause of illness in the Philippines. Although authorities in Manila claim tap water in many areas is safe for drinking, it is recommended to buy mineral water. To avoid any mosquito-borne diseases it is advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and a hat. Use an insect repellent and mosquito nets are hard to find therefore buy one before you travel.
Food and Drinks: Unlike a lot of Asian cooking, most Filipino food has a reputation for being one of Asia’s less adventurous cuisines, since dishes make only moderate use of spices, instead sour or vinegary flavors are more common. Throughout the country the diet is based around adobo (the richly marinated pork or chicken national dish) and rice is a staple and served with almost every meal. Noodles are also frequently used in Filipino cooking.
The two main national dishes are adobo and lechon based around chicken and pork. Being the world’s second largest archipelago, there are obviously a lot of seafood options, much of it fresher and tastier in the provinces than Manila. While swordfish, tuna, blue marlin, crab and lobster are all on seafood menu list, Filipinos also love smaller, humbler fish such as galunggong (round scab). One of the Filipino identities is that they eat using a folk and a spoon. It is believed that the use of a spoon and a folk is perfect for the way Southeast Asians prepare and cook their food.
Bottled water is cheap, costing between P20-30 in convenience stores. Fizzy drinks are available almost everywhere. Filipinos aren’t big tea drinkers, however coffee is popular and can be found anywhere, but the quality varies widely. Fresh milk is rare outside the cities and often you will be offered tinned or powdered milk with coffee or tea.
Popular beer in the Philippines is San Miguel, the local pilsner established in 1890s and dominating 90% of the domestic market. Limited ranges of foreign beers are available in bars and supermarkets, notably Heineken, Budweiser and Japanese brands. Wine is still very rare in the Philippines, while some restaurants stock Australian wines, they are quite expensive.
Safety and Security: While most of the Philippines is friendly and beautiful, there are areas that are unsafe. Due to risk of terrorism, the military is an ever-present force in the Philippines. Terrorism is perhaps the biggest threat and for them reasons, travelers are advised to stay away from south. The areas of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula are all considered extremely dangerous.
Although there is negative news about the country, the regions that are unsafe are very far from the tourist destinations. Although vigilance is recommended, it is also advisable to seek advice from local contacts or travel bureau before making any travel arrangements. Avoid travelling to remote areas and always leave travel plans with friends, colleagues or relatives.
Natural event such as typhoons are common occurrence in Philippines, therefore it is recommended to monitor local media such as the Philippines state weather agency and the Philippines Disaster Rick Reduction and Management council. There are also a number of active volcanoes in the Philippines. For reports on volcanic activity, travelers should seek advice from the Philippines institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
In whole, it is advisable to keep up to date with local and international developments. Also, avoid taking part in any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. The Philippines Bureau of Immigration has specifically warned foreign nationals against participating in any political rallies and public protests.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. Philippines have strict laws and penalties for importing and using illegal drugs.
Clothing: Traveling to Philippines and knowing what clothes to pack is important for comfort and also everything you wear should depend on when and where you go. Philippines moderate weather means you can pack lightly depending on the time of the year you are traveling. During the summer months from April to May it is advisable to bring light and loose cotton clothes. The weather tends to be humid during June and October – during the monsoon season therefore pack portable umbrella, water proof shoes and light jackets.
Beachwear is acceptable and also pack cap, hat or anything to protect your scalp from the scouring sun. Also pack sunscreen and sunglasses to protect from the heat. If you plan to hike on mountains then carry sweater or a jacket. When visiting churches, wear outfits that cover your shoulders and legs since sleeveless and shorts are highly discouraged.
Language: Due to a history of multiple settlements in Philippines, more than 170 languages are spoken and only 2 of them are official in the country: Filipino and English. The official language was Spanish for many centuries, and later English was introduced into schools and in 1935 English was added as a national language. In 1937, Tagalog language, which was developed as a national language based on one of the existing native languages was chosen and become joint official language along with English.
Filipino is almost exclusively composed of Tagalog as spoken in the Manila region. Nearly a third of the population speaks Tagalog as a first language. English is taught in schools; therefore most Filipinos especially in urban areas can speak decent English. Apart from Tagalog and Enligh, over 170 indigenous languages of Malay-Polynesian origin coexist in the Philippines, and the most widely spoken are: Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano and Samereno. There are different dialects found in the Philippines, and while there are many native speakers of these dialects, most Filipino speak English or mix of both.
Gratuities: Tipping is a relatively new concept and not quite as common as other neighboring countries. Having said, tipping is becoming increasingly common with Western influence. In restaurants that are catered to westerners, you will be expected to tip. Generally service charge is indicated by SC, however if service charge is not included then 10% is normally added to the bill to cover tipping.
Airport Tax: Foreign visitors do not pay Travel Tax. All passengers departing from the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) are expected to pay the Airport Terminal Fees of PHP750, which is included with your flight ticket. Check with your travel agent for further details.
Internet: Wi-Fi is becoming common in cafes and hotels throughout the country. Major cities have internet cafes and the cost of getting online at an internet café starts at around P40-60 per hour in the cities and P15-20 per hour in provinces.
Telephone: Philippines country code is +63 from New Zealand. While calling New Zealand from Philippine, you will need to dial +64. There are four mobile networks: Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Talk’N Text and Sun Cellul and it would be cheaper to buy a local SIM card, which are available at mobile-phone outlets in malls. Please note, that your phone must be unlocked in order to use a foreign SIM card.
Time Difference: The Philippines is 4 hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 5 hours from October to March.
Photography: Taking photos in the Philippines is fine however, when taking photos of the locals always ask their permission first. Sensitive government buildings can prohibit photography if it is deemed a threat to national security.
Electricity: Electricity in Philippines is delivered at 220 volts, similar to Australia, Europe and most of Asia except in some rural areas where you may come across 110 volts. Power cuts are common especially in the provinces.
Religion: The Philippines is a predominately Christian nation and it is estimated that 81% of the population is Roman Catholic. Filipino Muslims make up about 5% of the national population. Other religions are widely practiced.
Customs: Filipino culture is unique, with reflection of great and complex history. Filipinos are one of the most hospitable people, where foreign visitors are treated with the utmost respect. This trait is usually witnessed during fiestas and holidays where many Filipinos are giving their best to entertain their visitors. The Filipino people are very religious as well. Therefore, there are quite a lot of culture, customs and traditions.
Every town and city in the Philippines has a fiesta, whatever time of the year it is, there’s sure to be a fiesta going on somewhere. These fiesta often take months of planning and preparation and reflect on Spanish influence with elaborate masks, makeup, headdresses and costumes.
Cities of Interest:
Manila also known as the Pearl of the Orient is located in the Southern Luzon. The city is the centre of the country’s economic, political, social and cultural activity. Manila became capital of the newly independent Republic of the Philippines in 1946. In 1948 suburban Quezon City was chosen as the new national capital, but in 1976 Manila again became the capital and the permanent seat of the national government. People of Manila speak Tagalog but most are also fluent in English. Manila was the central location of the nation’s battles for independence from Spain and America. Colonized by the Spanish and later governed by the Americans, Manila shows the signs of foreign influence in the widespread Roman Catholicism and education system similar to Americans.
Manila is the main entry point into the Philippines for international travelers. Manila has developed immensely and the town around grew with it. Although they were part of Laguna, Rizal and Pampanga provinces they soon became cities. The Metro Manila is a grouping of 16 cities and one town. Each city has its own adventure. Explore the Spanish old town (Intramuros), or visit Binondo – the worlds’s first Chinatown or take a ride around on a Jeepney.
One of the nine towns of Ifugao Province, Banaue is a town of the cordillera mountain range located in the north of island of Luzon. World Heritage listed, Banaue is mainly visited for its Rice Terraces. A hiker’s paradise, visitors have an outstanding view of the countryside, surrounded by mountains and tribal villages. Apart from the breathtaking mountain ranges, visit the village represent the native Ifugao.
Located in the Central Visayas, Bohol is the 10th largest island of the Philippines. Bounded by Cebu in the east, Bohol Strait in the west, Camotes sea in the north and Mindanao Sea in the south. The southern part of the island is mountainous and the northern section has alluvial valleys and low-lying hills. Bohol is a quick ferry journey away from Cebu. Bohol is the main island of the Bohol Province which has 75 minor surrounding islands making it one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the Philippines. A tropical haven of natural beauty, Bohol has white sand beaches and the island provinces is promoted widely through images of cute bug-eyed tarsiers and Chocolate Hills and while both are major highlights, island is also known locally as a paradise for divers and snorkelers.
Boracay is a tropical island popular for its beaches. Just an hour’s flight from Cebu or Manila, Boracay has stunning white sand beaches. The perfect stretch of sand lined from one end to other completes with hotels, bars and restaurants. There are many beaches in Boracay and White Beach is the most popular and where most of the action is located. White Beach is divided into three boat stations; these are Station 1, 2 and 3. At Station 1, you can find most of the high-end hotels and resorts. Station 2 is located in the middle of White Beach is the most convenient and the busiest area. Station 3, is located in the less-developed part of White Beach.
After the sunset, party starts with live music and fire dancers twirling their batons. Apart from its white sand beaches, Boracay is emerging among the top destination for tranquility and nightlife and is famous for being one of the world’s top destination for relaxation.
Cebu is a province, consisting of the main island itself and 167 surrounding islands. Cebu city crowded as the ‘Queen City of the south”, is one of the most popular destination in all of the Philippines. Cebu has white sand beaches as well as historical sites that reflect its cosmopolitan past. Cebu Island and the nearby smaller islands has an abundance of beauty. The island is a natural wonder, from the central mountains to the coral sands.
The city of Puerto Princesa is located in the western provincial island of Palawan. Puerto Princesa showcases palm-lined beaches and coastal scenery. Also known as the ‘city in a forest’ Puerto Princesa city’s attractions are mainly natural wonders. The most famous landmark is the subterranean river which is the longest navigable underground river in the world. Island hopping is another popular activity in Puerto Princesa.