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  • Overview

    More than 7000 islands make up the Philippines, where travellerscan lose themselves in any number of magical adventures. Lushlandscapes, sprawling cities, gorgeous beaches and underwatergardens are all on offer, meaning divers, hikers, sun-chasers andculture lovers will all find much of value.

    For their part, Filipinos are warm and welcoming to a degreethat more than justifies the country's tagline, 'where Asia wears asmile'. The same holds true throughout the Philippines, frombustling Manila to rural villages that lack running water.

    That said, travellers should consult current safety advicebefore visiting the country, which has suffered high-profileterrorism and kidnapping incidents, and has a reputation forpolitical turbulence. Tourists will also encounter unsafe ferries,poor infrastructure and dilapidated roads.

    Still, the mix of festivals, friendly people, glorious food,natural beauty and Spanish colonial architecture is irresistible.The destination is a must if travellers are cautious enough whenplanning their visits.

    Thousands of islands make up the Philippines, where bustlingcities, underwater gardens and lushly beautiful landscapes awaittravellers who seek a textured Southeast Asian adventure. Lovers ofsurfing, world-class dive sites and the perfect setting forcarefree, beach-flopping days can expect all of the above, alongwith the richest of cultural experiences.

    Manila is the gateway to the country, and is home to afascinating urban energy, as well as marvellous, Spanish-colonialbuildings and cathedrals. Visitors will also find wonderfulmuseums. Island hopping around the archipelago carries a storybookfeeling, brought on by the delight of sailing teal seas togorgeous, jungle-like beaches. The country's many remote, unspoiltregions have a different sort of magnetism, and will speak tohikers and adventure seekers.

    All things considered, the Philippines has much to offer, thoughtourists should follow the safety advice of travel experts whenvisiting.

    Intramuros

    Intramuros is one of the oldest parts of Manila. Located on thesouthern bank of the Pasig River, the walled Spanish enclave is afeast of historic buildings and churches, many of which are beingor have been restored. Tourists can enjoy several parks,restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops in the attractivearea. They may also find the area's history interesting. Forinstance, political prisoners were held, tortured and sometimesexecuted at Fort Santiago. Today, it is a lush park full of homingpigeons and flowering trees, where visitors can ride along thepromenade in a horse-drawn carriage. History lovers should stop atthe beautifully restored colonial residences in the Barrio San Luisas well. The area has a festive atmosphere and is full of streetartists and stalls selling food.

    Intramuros bus Intramuros bus Brian Evans
    Rizal Park

    Rizal Park is named for the Philippine writer, philosopher andanti-colonialist, Dr Jose Rizal, whose execution is 1896 sparkedthe Philippine Revolution. The country held its Declaration ofPhilippine Independence from American rule in the park in 1946, andhas always favoured the venue for political rallies. In many ways,it remains a symbol of Filipino pride and independence. It's alsoone of the largest parks in Southeast Asia, and a favourite outdoorvenue for Manila's residents. The area features a chess plaza, askating rink, a children's playground, an aquarium, a planetariumand many ornamental gardens. Visitors will also find some museumsand a miniature, recreated Philippine archipelago. A sound andlight exhibit of Dr Jose Rizal's martyrdom is displayed aftersunset. Martial arts classes and various fitness groups use thearea every morning, while Sundays involve a free concert in theopen-air auditorium. All in all, Rizal Park is a wonderful placefor tourists to soak up a little of Manila's everyday life, in alush and beautiful natural setting.

    Rizal Park Rizal Park Maynard Rabanal
    San Agustin Church

    San Agustin is Manila's oldest church and stands withinIntramuros. Completed in 1607, it has survived the ravages of timeand successive invasions. In fact, it was the only public buildingleft standing after a terrible earthquake in 1863, and it haswithstood a number of devastating tremors since then. Regarding itsdesign, the church has a Baroque pulpit, an 18th-century pipeorgan, and a magnificent and intricately-carved door. It's one offour churches in the Philippines to be designated a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site, and is also a National Historical Landmark. Visitorswill find a monastery alongside the church. It holds paintings ofsaints and other religious art. The Sacristy houses a collection ofrichly embroidered vestments, and Philippine notables are buried inthe crypt. San Agustin is an active church with regular servicesand is a very popular wedding venue. Visitors can view the interiorof the church for free during mass.

    Address: General Luna St, Manila, Metro Manila,Philippines.
    San Agustin San Agustin Ricardo C. Eusebio
    National Museum of the Philippines

    The National Museum and Art Gallery of the Philippines showcasesthe cultural, natural and historical heritage of the islands. Thelarge and comprehensive institution categorises its exhibits infive divisions, namely art, botany, zoology, geology andanthropology. Visitors will find the archipelago's oldest humanremains in the museum's collection. They can also view the remainsof the San Diego Spanish galleon, which sank in Philippine watersin 1600. Though reportedly short on funding, the institution isclean, well-kept and has good facilities. Photography is permitted,but not with flash. All things considered, the deeply interestingmuseum is a worthwhile stop for travellers of all ages.

    Address: Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila,Philippines.
    Malacañan Palace

    The Malacañan Palace is the seat of government and officialresidence of the Philippines head of state. Situated on the northbank of the Pasig River, the villa has been a noble residence sincethe 1800s, when it was built for a Spanish aristocrat. Before that,it was a humble place for fisherman. The Spanish Government boughtthe property as a summer house for its Governor General in 1825,though it later became the head of state's permanent seat. Today,visitors will find a museum in the palace. The institution featuresnational treasures, historical artefacts, and mementos from each ofthe Philippines' presidents, including the notorious Ferdinand andImelda Marcos, who ruled as authoritarian dictators. The buildingitself is very attractive and the rooms are furnished beautifully.Visitors can enjoy great views over the river from some of thewindows. Guided tours are compulsory and very informative.Photography is permitted, though visitors are obliged to registertheir cameras at the entrance. Also, the number of cameras pergroup is sometimes limited. Visitors may have to go throughsecurity checks.

    Address: Malacañan Palace, JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila,Metro Manila, Philippines.
    Opening time: Tuesday to Sunday, 8am until 6pm.
    Malacañang Palace Malacañang Palace LordAntagonist
    American Cemetery and Memorial

    Located near the Makati commercial centre, the American Cemeteryis a quiet oasis in bustling Manila. The hillside burial groundcontains thousands of white marble crosses, which mark the gravesof those who died in battle. A tour of the site will reveal acircular memorial, where visitors can read the names of people whowent missing in action, as well as mosaics depicting battle scenesfrom the Second World War. They will also find a small memorialchapel. Travellers who are interested in military history shouldnote that the cemetery has the world's largest number of Americanmilitary dead from World War II. Most of them died in New Guineaand the Philippines. The site's extensive maps and memorials willgive visitors some insight into the how the war unfolded in theregion. A staff member is always on duty during opening hours, andwill give tours, answer questions, and escort visitors toparticular graves and memorials. All things considered, thebeautifully landscaped memorial is rightly one of the most popularattractions in Manila.

    Address: Taguig City, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
    Opening time: 9am - 5pm, Monday to Sunday.
    Once were soldiers Once were soldiers donabelandewen
    Las Pinas

    Las Pinas neighbours Manila on Luzon Island, and is a popularstop among visitors to the Philippines. Its bamboo organ is one ofits best attractions. Housed in the charming San Jose Church, itsunique sound continues to draw international organists to thecity's annual Organ Festival. Travellers can also visit the SaraoJeepney Factory, where they can view these iconic vehicles beingassembled. Indeed, these gaudy, public buses have come to representPhilippine art and culture. Otherwise, Las Pinas is celebrated forbeing clean and eco-conscious, and is a fun area to explore.Visitors will find some fantastic guesthouses and restaurants inthe village.

    Las Pinas Las Pinas RioHondo
    Tagaytay City

    Tagaytay is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in thePhilippines. Located just south of Manila, the town's most famousattraction is the Taal Volcano, which sits on an island in a lake.The volcano has another lake within its vast crater. Filipinosregard Tagaytay as their 'summer capital', with many of themheading there to escape Manila's challenging summer heat. The areaprovides many recreational opportunities, and has some top hotelsand restaurants. Travellers can also visit the 'Palace in the Sky':an unfinished complex that was originally meant to be a home forformer president Marcos. Instead, it serves as a park andviewpoint. The area's huge flower farm is worth stopping at, too.Golfing, diving, horse riding, snorkelling and ziplining are amongthe activities on offer.

    Taal Volcano Taal Volcano Vadim
    Subic Bay Freeport Zone

    Subic Bay is located on the site of a former United States Navalbase. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 buried the area inash, and it has since been transformed into a buzzing eco-tourismand commercial hub. It's only five minutes away from thePhilippines International Airport. Dense forests cover most of thearea, which is enclosed by a security fence. Visitors will findforest trails and unspoiled beaches, and can explore shipwrecks andcoral reefs in the bay's dive sites. They can also enjoy sportsfacilities and duty-free shopping centres. The area's attractionsinclude Ocean Adventure, which is an open-sea marine park wheretourists can scuba dive and swim with dolphins, Pamulaklakin Forestand the wildlife-rich Zoobic Safari Forest Adventure Park.

    Website: www.sbma.com
    Subic Bay Subic Bay TauchSport_Steininger
    Basilica Minore de Santo Nino

    The Basilica Minore de Santo Nino (Basilica of the Holy Child)houses an icon of the infant Jesus. Distinguished as the country'soldest religious relic, it has miraculously survived fire andnumerous catastrophes since the Portuguese explorer FerdinandMagellan first presented it to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521. Thechurch itself was originally built in 1565, and rebuilt in 1602after a fire. Its façade is a striking blend of Romanesque,neo-classical and Islamic architecture, while its interior issumptuously decorated. Visitors will find the Santo Nino in thechapel. They can also purchase souvenirs and religious articles ata small shop, and view church artefacts in a small museum, which islocated in the Pilgrim Center's basement.

    Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu Philippines Department of Tourism
    Fort San Pedro

    Located in Cebu City's wharf area, Fort San Pedro was the centreof the country's first Spanish settlement. Established in 1565, itbegan as a single triangular bastion, and was expanded andfortified over the next 200 years. The fort has also served avariety of purposes, seeing use as a watch-tower to counter pirateattacks in the 1700s, a prison for local rebels during thePhilippine Revolution, and a US army barracks. Today, the fort hasbeen turned into a museum park, where visitors can encounter theisland's history. The small, well-preserved site often hostscultural events, and student guides are usually on hand to showtravellers around and provide background. Tours are free, thoughtips are appreciated.

    Fort San Pedro Fort San Pedro Ramirez72
    Jumalon Museum

    The late lepidopterist, Professor Julian Jumalon, created thisprivate institution, which is part museum, art gallery andminiature nature reserve. It houses his impressive butterflycollection, as well as the art he produced. Visitors usuallygravitate towards the collection of unusual mosaics, which are madeup of butterfly wings and depict scenes and people from Cebu. Thatsaid, the outdoor section is ordinarily rated as the attraction'shighlight, where many live specimens flit about. The garden is fullof plants that attract butterflies. Some species have been releasedinto the grounds, while others have been bred in captivity.Travellers will find guides on hand. Tours are free, though tipsare appreciated.

    Citrus Butterfly Citrus Butterfly George Parrilla
    Casa Gorordo Museum

    The Casa Gorordo Museum was originally the home of the firstFilipino Bishop of Cebu. Four generations of the Gorordo familylived in the house between 1863 and 1979. Today, the restored abodeis a recreation of a typical, well-off Filipino home of themid-to-late 19th century. Its furnishings include paintings,household items, antique furniture, and religious relics. Almosteverything is authentic to the period. Most items lack labels,though this actually deepens the sense that visitors are exploringa genuine home, rather than a museum. Guided tours are sometimesavailable at the museum, but visitors should arrange their own ifthey'd enjoy a guide's commentary and they want guarantees. Thatsaid, just wandering the old house is fascinating. Visitors can buysmall souvenirs on site.

    Casa Gorordo Casa Gorordo Joe Coyle
    Beaches

    Travellers can easily reach a number of beaches and islets fromthe Cebu metropolitan area. Mactan Island is one of the bestoptions. It links to Cebu City via a bridge and is home to manyresorts, most of which offer full scuba services and watersportsfacilities. Divers will relish exploring Kansatik's underwatermountain, and should also try Sogod and Moalboal, which areworld-renowned dive destinations. Kalanggaman Island andCapitancillo Islet have tremendous coral reefs as well. Travellersshould certainly visit Argao's picture-perfect beaches, given thatthey're only around two hours' drive outside Cebu. Animal loverscan venture to the sea-snake breeding ground, Gato Islet.Travellers should note that while the snakes are not aggressive,they are highly venomous. They should seek immediate attention ifbitten. Bird watchers will enjoy Olango Island's pristine whitesandy beaches.

    Sunset Sunset Roy Chan
    Philippine Eagle Centre

    The Philippine Eagle (also known as the monkey-eating eagle) isone of the world's largest and most powerful eagles. Tragically,it's also one of the rarest and is critically endangered. The onlyremaining members of the subspecies soar above the mountains ofeastern Luzon, and the heavily forested areas of Mindanao. Animallovers should visit the Philippine Eagle Center. Located inMalagos, which is near Davao City, the centre is home to a fairnumber of eagles, as well as mammals, reptiles and other birdspecies. The animals live in a simulated tropical rainforest. Thecentre is popular with tourists and allows them to see these rareand impressive creatures in their natural environment. Visitorsmust pay an entrance charge, though guided tours are free. Theyshould also call ahead and book in advance, as the centre sometimeshosts large school groups.

    Philippine Eagle Philippine Eagle Harrybalais
    Samal Island

    A short ferry ride separates the island of Samal from DavaoCity. The destination is part of an archipelago of islets, whichtogether provide a getaway from city life. Its calm waters, coralreefs and lovely beaches draw crowds of tourists, though the islandhas managed to retain its charm despite the influx. Visitors willlong remember its sunsets, sunrises, rolling hills, mangrove swampsand tiny fishing villages. The island also has some gorgeouswaterfalls and natural swimming pools. Regarding activities, hikersand spelunkers will find lots to keep them occupied. Tourists canenjoy a variety of watersports as well.

    Samal Island Samal Island burgermac
    Lake Sebu

    Travellers who seek 'off the beaten track' eco-adventures shouldhead to Lake Sebu. Located on the island of Mindanao, thedestination is surrounded by rolling hills and forested mountains,and is home to the T'boli: a highland tribe famous for theircolourful costumes and intricate beadwork. Visitors will alsoencounter the Tasadays, who are a cave-dwelling people. The area'ssprings, waterfalls and natural caves are a delight. Thrill seekersshould visit the Seven Falls Zipline too, as it's said to be thehighest zipline in Southeast Asia. It takes travellers high abovethe region's thick jungle and beautiful waterfalls. Visitors whoprefer to stay on the ground can choose from many wonderful hikesaround the lake and to the falls. There are also many enticing boattrips, which allow travellers to explore the picturesque area andsee how the locals live.

    Young Divers Young Divers surnibaby
    Camiguin

    Situated on the north coast of Mindanao, the tiny island ofCamiguin is renowned for the friendliness of its people. It's alsodistinguished for having more volcanoes than municipalities.Regarding its attractions, the destination is a relaxation seekersparadise, where hot springs and stunning beaches are the order ofthe day. Visitors can climb Mount Hibok-Hibok, and snorkel througha sunken cemetery too, reading gravestones that were submerged in avolcanic eruption. Culture lovers should stop at some of theisland's remaining colonial homes, buildings and churches. SantaRosario Church in Sagay, and the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church inMambajao are among the island's best churches.

    Transport: There is regular sea and air transportation availablefrom Cebu
    Camiguin Camiguin Allan Donque
    The Chocolate Hills

    The Chocolate Hills are Bohol Province's most famous touristattraction, and are widely regarded as one of the top 10 things tosee in the country. Nature lovers will enjoy the area's conicalhills, which number somewhere between 1200 and 1800. The geologicalmarvels were formed from grass-covered limestone and turnchocolate-brown near the end of the dry season (April or May). Atthis time, they start to resemble enormous molehills. The UNESCOWorld Heritage Site is among the most alien landscapes travellerswill encounter on earth. An excursion to the Chocolate Hills is amust for anyone on holiday in the Philippines. Travellers shouldnote that climbing up to the viewing platform means scaling a steepstairway, which may be tiring for the unfit or the elderly. It'swell worth the effort, though. The hills are particularly lovely inthe early morning hours or at sunset.

    Chocolate Hills Chocolate Hills edward musiak
    Binondo (Chinatown)

    Binondo is the world's oldest 'Chinatown', and remains one ofits largest, most authentic and culturally intriguing. The Spanishestablished it at the end of the 16th century, when they gavetax-free land outside Manila to Catholic Chinese immigrants, alongwith self-governing privileges. The immigrants were mostly fromChina's Fujian Province, and soon established a bustling community.Today, Binondo is among Manila's most vibrant areas, where visitorscan shop for a range of goods, and sample exotic cuisine. Foodiesshould definitely stop at the enclave's converted movie theatres,which now house fine, traditional Chinese restaurants. On acautionary note, visitors should watch out for bag snatchers andpick pockets as they explore the crowded district.

    Bohol

    The island province of Bohol lies southeast of Cebu and is oneof the loveliest destinations in the Visayas island group.Travellers will find tremendous natural attractions, such as theworld's rarest seashells. Animal lovers should look out for thetarsier, which is a huge-eyed, insect-eating monkey. When fullygrown, it's roughly the size of a fist. Visitors will also enjoythe world-famous Chocolate Hills. The surreal series of between1200 and 1800 hills resembles scoops of chocolate ice-cream and isBohol's greatest natural attraction. The weathering of coraldeposits formed it many millennia ago, when the land was stillbeneath the sea. Otherwise, visitors can look forward to theregion's glorious beaches and top-class scuba-diving sites. Indeed,Panglao Island frequently graces lists of the world's top tendiving destinations.

    Coconuts on Bohol Coconuts on Bohol georgeparrilla

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The country's tropical climate divides clearly into a rainyseason and a dry season. The summer monsoon brings heavy rains tomost of the country from May to October, and the winter monsoonbrings cooler and drier air from December to February. The hottesttime of year is April and May, although there is little variationin temperature all year round. Manila and most of the lowland areasare hot and dusty from March to May, when temperatures can rise toaround 99°F (37°C).

    However, there are variations in climate according to region,such as along the eastern seaboard, where the rainy seasongenerally runs from December to March. Also, it's generally drywhen the rest of the country is at its wettest. Average sea-leveltemperatures rarely drop below 80°F (27°C) so swimming is possibleyear-round, providing the ocean is calm. Tropical storms andtyphoons are possible between July and October.

    The best time to visit the Philippines is between November andApril. However, this is also the peak tourist season, meaningflight and accommodation prices will be higher. The country isparticularly crowded during Easter. Travellers should note thatweather has become less predictable in the Philippines in recentyears.

    Ninoy Aquino International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated eight miles (13km) south of thecentre of Manila.
    Time: GMT +8.
    Transfer Between Terminals: A free airport shuttle bus runs between terminals for passengerscatching connecting flights. However, reports suggest that thisservice can be unreliable. As a result, travellers may have to payfor a cab between terminals.
    Getting to the city: The Metro-Rail Transit station is near the airport, and trainsrun regularly. Travellers should disembark at EDSA-Taft station,where they will find an airport shuttle that operates between theairport and the station. Also, a city bus service leaves fromoutside the arrivals areas of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. A jeepneycan take passengers to Terminal 3, or they can make use of theairport shuttle service.
    Car Rental: Car rental is available from Europcar, Avis and National desks,among others.
    Airport Taxis: Yellow metered taxi cabs leave from the stands outside eachterminal. Regular, white cabs are now available in addition tonewly introduced ride-hailing services like Grab.
    Fascilities: Passenger services at Manila airport include bars, shops andrestaurants, ATMs, banks with currency exchange, left-luggage andpostal services.
    Parking Parking is available near all terminals for approximately PHP300 per night.
    Money:

    The currency of the Philippines is the Peso (PHP), which isdivided into 100 centavos. Major credit cards are widely acceptedin cities and tourist destinations. ATMs are available in the majorcities and in main centres on some islands. US dollars are widelyaccepted in Manila and other tourist areas, and are the easiestcurrency to exchange. Otherwise, euros and pounds sterling can alsobe exchanged in banks and hotels. Most banks in the Philippines areopen from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but their ATMs are open 24hours. It is best for travellers to carry pesos when travellingoutside of major centres.

    Language:

    The official language of the Philippines is Filipino (astandard variant of the Tagalog language), but English is widelyspoken. Tagalog is the most predominant of the many dialects orlocal languages spoken throughout the islands.

    Electricity:

    Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flatblade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used, with roundtwo-pins being the most common.

    Entry Requirements:

    United States citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. Novisa is required for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extendedby 59 days multiple times, for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    British citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. No visais required for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extended by59 days multiple times for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    Canadians must have a passport valid on arrival. No visa isrequired for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extended by 59days multiple times for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    Australians must have a passport valid on arrival. No visa isrequired for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extended by 59days multiple times for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    South Africans must have a passport valid for six months afterdate of arrival. No visa is required for a stay of up to 30 days.Stays can be extended by 59 days multiple times for a maximum stayof one year. No visa required for former nationals of thePhilippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (oldPhilippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalizationpapers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stayof 1 year.

    Irish citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. No visa isrequired for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extended by 59days multiple times for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    United States citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. Novisa is required for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extendedby 59 days multiple times, for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    New Zealand nationals must have a valid passport. No visa isrequired for a stay of up to 30 days. Stays can be extended by 59days multiple times for a maximum stay of one year. No visarequired for former nationals of the Philippines with proof offormer Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birthcertificate or foreign naturalization papers showing formerPhilippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Everyone entering the Philippines must have a passport that isvalid for at least six months beyond the date of arrival in thecountry. All visitors must have return or onward tickets, documentsnecessary for further travel, as well as sufficient funds. A visais not required for a stay of up to 30 days provided thesecriterion are met. Extensions for visas are possible and should bemade with the Bureau of Immigration. Visas may be issued on arrivalfor stays of up to 59 days for a fee, and multiple extensions up toone year total are possible.

    Travel Health:

    No special vaccination certificates are required for thePhilippines, except by travellers arriving from an area infectedwith yellow fever. Vaccinations are recommended for typhoid,hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Those who will be spending more thana month in rural areas should consider a vaccination for Japaneseencephalitis, and those who may be at risk of animal bites shouldconsider a rabies vaccination.

    There is a malaria risk in parts of the Philippines and visitorsshould seek medical advice before travelling. Urban areas aregenerally considered risk-free. Dengue fever is a risk throughoutthe country; the best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Tapwater is not safe to drink and ice in drinks should be avoided.Cholera is a risk in the country and precautions are advised. Seasnakes can be highly venomous. Travellers should be cautious inremote coastal waters, lakes and rivers, as anti-venom may not bereadily available.

    The Philippines is now also a risk area for contracting the Zikavirus, meaning pregnant women should avoid travel to thePhilippines. Travellers should also take steps to avoid contactwith the virus through sexual interaction and mosquito bites.

    Medical care is good in Manila, although very expensive, whileoutside of the capital it can be difficult to receive adequatecare. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised. Travellers shouldtake along any prescription medication they require, in itsoriginal packaging, along with a signed and dated letter from adoctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.

    Tipping:

    Tipping is expected for most services in the Philippines. Thestandard practice is 10 percent of the total bill, although in somecases it can be only PHP 20-50. Tipping is optional on bills thatalready include a 10 percent service charge.

    Safety Information:

    The Philippines is a big country and most of it is perfectlysafe for travelling. Filipinos are also among the world's mosthospitable people. Visitors should be wary of certain regions,though, as they host criminals and terrorist groups.

    Cebu City and Manila are big cities where travellers mayencounter scams and petty theft. Hold ups and violent crimes arerare. Central and southern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago haveless government control, and are consequently more open to crime,kidnappings and a terrorist presence. Travelers should avoid theSulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula in particular.Southern Palawan can also be risky, though the rest of the islandis safe for travelling.

    Local Customs:

    The concept of 'shame' is very important in Filipino culture andvisitors should avoid offending or embarrassing anyone in publicwhile visiting the country. Failure to live up to acceptedstandards of behaviour brings shame not only on themselves, butalso 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 inthe Philippines and face-to-face communication is key. Emphasis isplaced on building good working relations and getting to know eachother. Business is conducted formally, and although punctuality isimportant, meetings may not begin on time. Dress should beconservative: suits and ties are the norm, although many Filipinomen wear a shirt known as a barong tagalog, which is a far cooleroption in the humid environment. English is widely spoken inbusiness circles and business hours are usually from 8am to 5pm,Monday to Friday.

    Communications:

    The international access code for the Philippines is +63.Pre-paid sim cards can be bought at the airport and at conveniencestores. However, different networks have better coverage on certainislands so visitors are advised to choose a network best suited totheir destinations. Wifi access is increasingly common, even on theislands.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers to the Philippines over 18 years of age do not haveto pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco, and 2litres of alcoholic beverages.

    Prohibited items include firearms or parts thereof, explosivesand ammunition; printed material that contains subversive, obsceneor pornographic content; drugs, gambling machines, lotterysweepstake tickets, or coin-operated video machines; gold, silverand other precious metals that do not have authentication ofquality; non-identifiable brands of medicines or foodstuffs; cocaleaves and any prohibited drugs, plants or parts thereof; as wellas fruits and vegetables.

    Useful Contacts:

    Philippine Department of Tourism, Manila: +63 2 459 5200 orwww.tourism.gov.ph

    Philippines Embassies:

    Philippines Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 4679300.

    Philippines Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsiblefor Ireland): +44 20 7451 1780.

    Philippines Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 1121.

    Philippines Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 3460451.

    Philippines Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 2535.

    Philippines Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 8903741.

    Foreign Embassies in Philippines :

    United States Embassy, Manila: +63 2 301 2000.

    British Embassy, Manila: +63 2 858 2200.

    Canadian Embassy, Manila: +63 2 857 9000.

    South African Embassy, Manila: + 63 2 889 9383.

    Australian Embassy, Manila: +63 2 757 8100.

    Honorary Consul of Ireland, Manila: +63 2 896 4668.

    New Zealand Embassy, Manila: +63 2 234 3800.

    Philippines Emergency Numbers : 911 is the new national emergency number, along with8888 for public complaints.
    Philippines
    Corregidor

    Shaped like a tadpole, this small island is a memorial andopen-air museum that commemorates the Filipino and American troops'victory against Japanese forces. Corregidor is also the largest ofseveral islands at the entrance to Manila Bay, and lies off the tipof the Bataan Peninsula. Its strategic position made it a goodlocation for the last stand against the Japanese in the PacificWar, and its land remains littered with the detritus of battle.Travellers can arrange guided tours through the CorregidorVisitor's Information Centre, as well as many tour operators inManila. Attractions include the Pacific War Memorial, the JapaneseGarden of Peace, the Filipino Heroes Memorial and the MalintaTunnel, where visitors can view an audio-visual presentation of theisland's history.

    Transport: There are regular ferry services available fromManila.
    Corregidor Island Corregidor Island cisc1970
    Palawan

    The island of Palawan stretches from Luzon towards Malaysia.Thickly forested and accented by coves, beaches, lagoons andlimestone cliffs, the gorgeous region is a must for nature lovers.Puerto Princesa is the primary gateway to the island. Mosttravellers head north after arriving in the coastal city. Thatsaid, the Puerto Princesa area has many hiking and spelunkingopportunities, and the underground river near Sabang is certainlyworth visiting. Travellers will find El Nido in the north. Thesmall, lively beach town is Palawan's most popular destination, andis geared towards island hopping. It also has plenty of places toeat out and buy local handicrafts. From El Nido, travellers canchoose to take a boat to the neighbouring island of Busuanga andthe town of Coron. They will find fewer niceties than on Palawan'smain island, but can explore the island's gorgeous aquamarinelakes, and experience some of the best scuba diving in the region.Indeed, the island's Tubbataha Reef is extremely important to thePhilippines from an ecological point of view, given that it's afeeding ground and nursery for marine life. The area isarchaeologically significant too, as palaeolithic remains have beendiscovered on the island. They date back approximately 22,000years.

    Dos Palmas, Palawan Dos Palmas, Palawan denAsuncioner
    North Luzon

    The northern reaches of Luzon Island draw travellers who craveadventure and an authentic taste of traditional Filipino culture.Lush, mountainous terrain characterises the region, though much islacking by way of infrastructure. Still, its intriguing tribes andunspoilt landscapes are worth the extra effort needed to reachthem. Banaue is one of the most popular tourist stops in northernLuzon. Visitors will encounter a string of villages around themunicipality, where people still live according to age-old tribaltraditions. The area's main attraction is the Banaue Rice Terraces.Constructed about 3000 years ago, the UNESCO World Heritage sitecomprises terraces that start from the base of the CordilleroMountains and extend upwards for thousands of feet. They'recleverly irrigated by channelled springs and streams. Nature loverscan also enjoy nearby waterfalls, natural pools, and scenic hikingtrails. The region's little town of Sagada is something of abackpacker's haven. Caving and hiking are among the area'sdrawcards, though its main attraction is a series of ancient burialcaves in the mountainside. Travellers will see the remarkable'hanging coffins' perched on limestone outcrops. Visitors willreach the coffins via a hike through jungle.

    Banaue Rice Terraces Banaue Rice Terraces Magalhaes
    Villa Escudero

    Villa Escudero is an old colonial plantation owned by theEscudero family. Located just south of San Pablo on Luzon Island,the property spans three municipalities in two provinces. DonArsenio Escudero converted the original sugar cane plantation intoa coconut plantation in the early 20th century, after inheritingthe land from his father. The plantation went on to become hugelyprofitable and featured the Philippines' first hydroelectric powerplant (to power the coconut factory). For their part, the Escuderosbecame pivotal to the battle for Filipino independence, as theirwealth and resources allowed them to aid many independence fightersby way of shelter and supplies. The family's fortune also financedthe construction of beautiful colonial-style Filipino haciendas,which Escuderos still live in. Visitors will find a museum on theproperty as well. It houses a fascinating collection of antiquesand natural finds - the legacy of Escudero men, who travelledwidely and were renowned for pursuing a variety of interests.

    Address: Villa Escudero, Km 91, Tiaong, Quezon.
    Transport: Take a bus to San Pablo from the Buendia Bus Terminal inManila. This should cost around PHP180, which you can pay to theconductor once you board.
    Vigan

    Vigan is said to be Asia's best-preserved example of a plannedSpanish colonial town. The charming destination ranks amongUNESCO's World Heritage Sites for this reason. Visitors willencounter cobblestone streets and buildings that fuseSpanish-Colonial architecture with Filipino and Oriental designs.Its list of attractions include the hugely impressive Baroque-styleSt Paul's Cathedral, a horse-drawn-carriage ride through thecobbled streets, and the chance to spend a night in one of thegrand colonial houses in the city's 'Mestizo' district. Many of thestreets are lined with shops selling clothes, trinkets, andsouvenirs. January is the best time to visit, as the annual Fiestacelebrations bring parties, beauty contests, variety shows, and acarnivalesque atmosphere to the streets.

    Vigan City Vigan City Obra19
    Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

    The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is locatedin the province of Palawan, and lies about 36 miles (58km) north ofPuerto Princesa. Regarded as one of the New Seven Wonders ofNature, the underground river sees a significant number of touristvisits. Travellers can choose from many tour operators. Thewell-maintained National Park is part limestone karst mountainlandscape, and the famed river follows a five mile (8km) coursethrough a large cave complex. Ultimately, it merges with the SouthChina Sea. Visitors will enjoy a guided boat ride through the cavecomplex, which includes fascinating rock formations and a livelybat population.

    Underground River Underground River Mike Gonzalez
    Boracay

    Located in the western Visayas, the tiny, butterfly-shapedisland of Boracay is a major hotspot for international sun-lovers.Its powder-white, palm-studded beach is said to glow at night.Holidaymakers will appreciate the island's unspoilt beauty, alongwith its hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and fun nightlife. Theycan also enjoy an array of water sports, such as cliff diving,kiteboarding, snorkelling, windsurfing, and scuba diving. Boracayhas rightly won multiple awards and deserves its place among theworld's top beach resort destinations. The best time to visit isduring the Amihan season (between October and May), when there islittle to no rain, and the prevailing wind blows from the east,leaving the island's western region (the main tourist area) calmand sheltered.

    Boracay beach Boracay beach Magalhaes
    Puerto Galera

    Located on the island of Mindoro, Puerto Galera began as arefuge for Spanish traders in the 16th century. Today, the 'Port ofGalleons' consists of several towns and beach resorts, whichtogether form one of the country's largest urban areas. A UNESCOprogramme declared Puerto Galera a protected area in the 1970s.This put the area on the tourist map and helped the cause of itscoral reefs and marine life - which had been suffering because ofdynamite fishing. Puerto Galera is now one of the most sought-afterscuba diving locations in the world. Travellers will find manysites within 10 minutes of the three main beaches, where they canexplore wrecks, deep trenches and vibrantly colourful reefs. Sabangand White Beach offer an active nightlife. Visitors who want aless-crowded experience should head to one of the island's smallercoves or beaches.

    Puerto Galero Puerto Galero puertogalero.org