Electricity

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.

Language

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.

Money

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

Tipping

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.

Health

No special vaccination certificates are required for the Philippines, except by travellers arriving from an area infected with yellow fever. There is a risk of malaria and dengue fever in more rural areas, while tap water is not safe to drink and ice in drinks should be avoided. There is also a risk of cholera and the Zika virus.

Medical care is good in Manila, although expensive. Comprehensive travel 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.

Safety

The Philippines is a big country and most of it is perfectly safe for travelling. Filipinos are also among the world's most hospitable 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 may encounter scams and petty theft. Hold ups and violent crimes are rare. Central and southern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago have less government control, and are consequently more open to crime, kidnappings and a terrorist presence. Travelers should avoid the Sulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula in particular. Southern Palawan can also be risky, though the rest of the island is safe for travelling.

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 country. 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.

Doing 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 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.

Duty free

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.

Communications

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. Wifi access is increasingly common, even on the islands.

Passport & Visa

Everyone entering the Philippines must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of arrival in the country. All visitors must have return or onward tickets, documents necessary for further travel, as well as sufficient funds. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 30 days provided these criterion are met. Extensions for visas are possible and should be made with the Bureau of Immigration. Visas may be issued on arrival for stays of up to 59 days for a fee, and multiple extensions up to one year total are possible.

Entry requirements

United States citizens must have a passport valid on 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

British citizens must have a passport valid on 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

Canadians must have a passport valid on 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

Australians must have a passport valid on 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

South Africans must have a passport valid for six months after date 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

Irish citizens must have a passport valid on 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 stay of one year. No visa required for former nationals of the Philippines with proof of former Philippines nationality (old Philippines passport, birth certificate or foreign naturalization papers showing former Philippines nationality), for a maximum stay of 1 year.

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

Useful contacts

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

911 is the new national emergency number, along with 8888 for public complaints.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Philippines Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 467 9300.

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

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

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

Philippines Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 346 0451.

Philippines Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 890 3741.

Embassies / consulates in Philippines

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

British Embassy, Manila: +63 2 858 2200.

Canadian Embassy, Manila: +63 2 857 9000.

Australian Embassy, Manila: +63 2 757 8100.

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

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

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

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