PHILIPPINES This statement is absolutely true: After you've been to another destination in Micronesia, the Philippines will show you what you missed!
Pros: There are so many dive areas here that it would take the rest of the page to list them. Easy to get to, flights every day, no visa required. Prices are very low compared to other areas for the same # of days diving, etc. , more bang for your buck. Abundant marine life, many more species not found in Micronesia, superb reefs, great macro and little critter photography, different cultures and people. Go here after you've been to Palau or Yap.
Cons: Few big animals (except Malapascua, Tubataha) Different currency, airport taxes are irritating but not expensive.
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT THE PHILIPPINES? In 25 years of going there I've never had a problem except for an occasional pesky street vendor which are very easy to avoid.
Please remember that we are traveling through Manila to dive destinations that are definite tourist attractions. These areas recognize the positive affects that tourism has for them and go to great lengths to make everyone have a safe and enjoyable visit. We are definitely not off the beaten path and are also far away from the southern trouble spots.
If you are going to stay in Manila it could pose the same problems for you as any big U.S. city if you go to known problem areas within the city. Don't.
|Philippines Travel Tips (No particular order)|
PLANNING YOUR TRIP: GOING THERE: United flies to Manila every evening and returns in the late evening arriving back on Guam in the early am the next day. They also go to Manila on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings and return to Guam in the morning and you get back in the afternoon.
TIP: To avoid the expense of overnighting in Manila try and start your trip on the morning flight days. This way you can either connect through to your destination airport or get picked up and be at your destination in the afternoon. United flies the morning trip on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Philippine Airlines flies to Manila 5 days a week in the afternoon. This flight does not connect with any flights to the destination airports so an overnight in Manila is required. They return to Guam in the morning, which also requires an overnight to catch. This schedule is not very good if you are passing through Manila and not staying there.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP: COMING BACK: You have two choices. The first is to take the afternoon flight from the destination back to Manila and then come back on the evening flight. Note: there is no morning flight from anywhere in the PI that will connect with the morning return Guam United flights.
The second option is to plan your trip to return to Guam on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday on the late morning flight from Manila. This means you'll have to overnight in Manila. We use the Heritage hotel because it's very close to the Mall of Asia (which has over 1,000 shops and restaurants and there is a free shuttle from the hotel. Plus it's one of closest hotels to the airport and is fairly priced.
ARRIVING: There are 4 different airports in Manila all located in the same area. The international terminal (terminal 1) handles all international airlines except Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. If yoiu're flying there on United this is the teminal you'll arrive at.
Terminal 2 is all Philippine Airline flights and it's divided into international arrivals and domestic arrivals. This is the terminal you'll arrive at if you are on Philippine airlines.
Terminal 3 is PAL Express and Cebu Pacific. This is the terminal we use within the PI if you are traveling on these airlines.
FOOD: All of the terminals have quite a few vendors selling many different types of food and drinks. They are all in the departure areas.
THE ARRIVAL PROCESS: When you arrive you'll first go through immigration and then go and pick up your baggage. They have carts available at no charge. Once you get your luggage the customs area is very close. I've never had my luggage checked, or seen any other people coming from Guam get theirs checked in 20 years! After you go through customs keep the bags(s) on the luggage cart.
next: MONEY EXCHANGE: Although some resorts take US dollars the currency of choice is the Philippine Peso so I highly recommend that you convert some money to Pesos. You can always convert it back when you depart. (Note: at the time of this writing the current exchange rate is 44P=$1. Directly on the other side of customs are at least four money exchange banks. Make sure and bring either $50 or $100 bills to exchange into pesos. A "ballpark" amount if you're going on a dive tour and probably going to buy some shirts or mementos would be about $250.
GETTING TO THE OTHER TERMINALS: Keep you luggage with you and head outside the terminal. Depending upon what airline you are connecting to within the Philippines you will need to either catch the shuttle (about $.50) or catch a cab. The cab should be less than $2.50. It will take about 20 min. for the ride. The shuttle/cab area is directly outside the airport to the right.
TERMINAL FEES: Just about every airport in the Philippines has a departure tax. This usually varies between $1-$4. (30p-550P). Al cost all domestic airport is between 30-50P. When you leave from the intl airport to go back to Guam the fee is 550P.
PORTER FEES: There are porters everywhere but you don't have to use them. When you arrive at any Manila terminal there are luggage carts outside for you to put your luggage on. This does not apply to any other airport in the Philippines except Cebu and there will be porters there to assist you. Again, it's your choice but if you do use them please don't pay more than P 25 per bag.
ANILAO / PUERTO GALERA ONLY: if you are going here we will make arrangements for your pickup to be directly outside the airport across the street by the duty free store. It's a short walk and you can use the luggage carts. The trip to Anilao is by van and takes about 3-31/2 hours. The trip to Puerto Galera takes the same time but you'll be going by van and the boat. Plan your trip for a morning pickup at the airport.
ARRIVING AT THE DESTINATION AIRPORT: One you get your luggage head outside and look for your van driver holding up a sign with your name on it. If you're going to Bohol or Dumaguete the ride will take about 25 min. If you're going to Malapascua, Sipalay, or South Leyte the ride will take about 3-4 hours,. On the longer runs there will be a "comfort room" stop about half way. There is also a 35 min boat ride to Malapascua.
DEPARTING THE PHILIPPINES: is almost the exact opposite of when you arrived. If you are traveling from a domestic airport you'll catch the shuttle to terminal 1 (the international terminal).
Make sure that you have your E-ticket ready to show the guard because they will check this before you can enter the terminal. The Manila international Airport is old and tired. It's also huge with over 90 ticket counters inside. The United counters are on the right in the far corner. Make sure you get there at least 2 1/2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave.
Once you get your tickets you'll walk a short distance to pay the departure tax (P550) and then you'll go directly to immigration. Once through immigration you'll go through the first of 2 security checks. The next one will be at the gate you'll board the plane from. This is a very thorough security check.
Don't be a "that's not the way WE do it where I come from" traveler! In other words, keep a low and smiling profile and don't draw attention to yourself. You are traveling to experience other islands, countries, culture and traditions. Coping an attitude is the fastest way to make your life miserable and very possibly all the others that are traveling with you.
PHONE NUMBER: Make sure and get the phone number of the resort that you are visiting. It will be on their website. SIM cards in the PI are cheap but make sure you get one that covers the area you are going.
WHEN YOU GET TO YOUR DESTINATION AIRPORT: go directly outside the terminal and look for a sign with your name on it or the name of the group you're with. Then it's just getting in the van and enjoying the van ride which can take from 35 min to 4 hours depending upon your destination.
Note: if your van ride is going to be longer than 2 hours make sure you ask your driver to stop at a "comfort room" somewhere along the way. Tell your driver that you buy him some ice cream and that will guarantee a stop.
Q: What to bring? Remember that you're going to a warm climate.
-A light weight jacket that you can use as a raincoat also. If you get sun burned you'll appreciate this on the boat or at night. When it rains and you're on an open boat you'll get cold.
-If you're a coffee, tea, or soup drinker, bring along a heater coil (you can get em on Ebay) or a small coffee pot/water heater along with a packet or two of your favorite thing to heat up. Make sure it can handle the the voltage 220-240V 50hz.)
-If you have a tender stomach bring something to keep it calm and peaceful. Nuff said
-Lots of T-shirts and shorts. A hat. Sun glasses.
-mask defogger and sudafed.
-A blow up travel pillow. Dirt cheap on Ebay.
-Baby or some type of powder to keep the sensitive areas dry.
-A few large and small trash bags. Very useful for packing clothes in dive bags and storing smelly things when returning. These also make emergency rain jackets (island style rain coats) by making holes for your head and arms.
-A bag of individually wrapped chocolates to give some to the room and service staff. Does wonders.
Q: Do you have to have a passport? Absolutely. There are NO other options and they must be valid for 180 days after your trip return. Make sure, REPEAT, make sure that the name on your travel tickets exactly matches your passport and you're picture looks like you now. Some have been sent back because their names didn't match.
Q: Can you use Frequent Flier Miles? You may be able to use your frequent flyer miles IF you book far in advance. This is something you have to do personally. Check with the airline.
Q: What about weight restrictions? This totally depends upon what airline you are using, what class your flying in and what their luggage policies are. Most airlines now charge for an additional bag and they also have a weight restriction on bags.
Cebu Pacific and PAL Express airlines no longer have sports allowance programs. On PAL Express As long as you don't book the cheapest (Fiesta Deal Budget) class therre is a 10KG (22lb) limit as of March 14, 2014.
There is a new program that will allow you to purchase an additional weight allowance so check with Miriam at ITSA Getaways (645-4871). If you're booking on line DON'T book the cheapest fares. These are non refundable if you want to cancel. Go one level up.
NOTE: Make sure your bags are clearly marked with your name and address with something else beside the luggage tag. A lot of bags look alike so make your's distinctive.
Q: Should you take your gear or rent it at the destination? If you have your own gear I'd take it cause you're comfortable with it and know that it works. A dive vacation is not the place to be familiarizing yourself with rental gear. However, most of the rental gear I've seen has been pretty good.
Don't take your weights unless you have some weird sized ones that fit your super customized private weight belt.
Q: Are there any extra costs that you should expect? Yes, but these will vary between destinations. Some charge dive permit fees, a specific activity fee (like whale shark expeditions) and some airport fees. If you're going to the Philippines you'll be hit up for domestic departure fees, airport use fees, and intl departure fees. Bring peso's to cover these. And shopping. Almost everyone shops.
Q: What's the water temperature? Each island has its own special features that make it unique. Diving in the west pacific region is known for its abundance of marine life and the diversity of species, cultural appeal and usually have warm tropical temperatures ranging from 76 to 85 degrees. BUT you can also encounter lower temperatures down to 72 degrees. At every island the water temps are lower from Dec-March so make sure you ask the dive operator that you're booking with what they are.
A skin (.5mm wet suit) or rash guard will usually do the trick for water temps above 80 degrees. For any temps between 76-80 a 2-3mm suit will keep you warm, but I'd also bring alone a slip over rash guard or something similar. Below that think 5mm. You DON'T want to get cold diving. Consider that you'll be making multiple dives in a very short time frame so KEEP WARM! Most dive operators also rent wet suits.
Q: What are "no seeums"? Diving in plankton rich waters has it's side effects. "No seeums" are very tiny, almost invisible, stinging organisms that you'll occasionally run into. If you are diving with only a swim suit your exposed skin areas are very susceptible. I highly recommend at least a skin suit or rash guard even if you don't get cold.
Q. What is the policy for "tipping" the guides and hotel staff? Tipping is up to each person and your personal experience at the location. No destinations in the Philippines require that you tip anyone. Some hotels or dive operators already have a built in gratuity in their price, particularly food, so it's best to ask the hotel manager or their rep what the policies are.
I recommend $7-10 per day for your boat crew and this includes the dive guide. The main reason I say this is that you'll see the boat staff work their butts off before, during and after the dives while the divemasters or guides only work during the dives and conducting the briefings. It's customary to put your tip into an envelope and give to their supervisor prior to leaving the resort. You can get envelopes at the front desk.
At most places hotel staff tips are divided equally. Feel free to ask the front desk if you have any questions.
Q. What about bringing prescription medicines or alcohol into a country or island? For medicines there is usually no problems. A good tip is to label everything you have and what it's for on a separate piece of paper to show customs if they have any questions. Some areas ban bringing in alcohol or cigarettes, however dive bags are rarely checked if you are going to a primary dive destination.
Q. What about bringing camera gear into a country or island? Again, there is usually no problem with this if you are not a professional photographer or videographer. If you are a professional at some areas you can expect to pay a "duty" or "photographers permit fee". It will be high.
Specifically in Asian countries, don't look like a photographer. A point and shoot is fine, but anything bigger could draw attention to you. Don't walk around any airport and take a lot of "general" pictures. Hi mom and dad shots are fine. Make a list of all cameras and lenses that you have along with their serial numbers. Put rechargeable batteries in your checked luggage, not in your hand carried bags. Wrap them in a zip lock bag.
Bring back up batteries as most smaller islands do not have everything you may need. Come prepared.
Q. What about the voltage and chargers? The Philippines uses the same wall outlets that we have here, but there is no 3rd ground plug (that's the round one) so if you have a 3 prong cord then you can easily buy an adapter at any hardware store.
The PI operates on 220-240V. Almost all electronics will operate on 220-240 but look at the label on them to verify this. NOTE: A 120v charger strip will last about 2 seconds if you plug it into a 240v wall plug. You'll smell it when it happens! Most resorts in the Philippines have special adapters or charging areas that you can use at no charge.
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