Insider Tips and Treats for Your Philippine Sojourn

If you’re travelling to Asia and the Philippines is on your itinerary, your trip will be a blast if your are  equipped with the right tools and information. Outlined with white sands and pristine beaches, studded with green coconut and palm trees, warm loving hospitable people, and the raw native island air insinuates fun and adventure. The Philippine Islands are indeed worth a visit!  Before you embark on your journey, let me suggest a couple of items for your checklist that can guarantee your stay is memorable, pleasant and comfortable.

Weather

The climate in the Philippines is basically humid and warm all year round. From June to October are the two wet and rainy seasons. It is hot and dry from November to May.

The Philippine archipelago offers one of the best diving spots in the world; there marine life still retains its natural beauty and splendor. To be spared the seasonal low pressure points and typhoons and to enjoy the country’s favorable beaches and diving spots is from the beginning of December to May.  From January to February, you will enjoy an unusually cool breeze as the snow from China and Japan gradually melts and emits refreshing air throughout the archipelago.

If possible, avoid traveling during the Christmas season; though it is fun and festive, its also very busy! Aside from the seasonal tourist who trickle their way into Asia, there is an onslaught of “Balikbayans” from all over the world coming home to their families and loved ones. Balikbayans refers to the returning residents of the Philippines, who permanently live abroad.

Dealing with the homebound traffic at the gateway, Manila International Airport can be daunting. There you might be greeted by hungry custom officers, who hint at Christmas presents like vultures, and may confiscates your wares as souvenirs.

During the Christmas season, be cautious not to drown in the hustle and bustle of the shopping frenzy and pressure of the holidays! Needless to say, it as a month where crime rate is high, and thieves are rampant, lurking in every corner. Beware!

I like to avoid the city during the holidays and opt to explore the countryside and rural areas for a more genuine holiday experience. Why not slow down and enjoy the beauty of nature rather than the fever pitched consumer based holiday of the city?

April and May can be unbearable in the summer heat. You’ll be continually bathing in your own perspiration even if you’re standing still! Bring a compact face towel with you at all times, as well as extra pair of t-shirts or clothes. I find it favorable to hang around the coast, so I can have a quick dip, when the extreme heat bites, and you can enjoy the sea breeze rather than the muggy air of the city. Or cool off at the malls where air-conditioning is turned up to the max. Please don’t forget to bring your winter coat, just kidding, a light sweater will suffice.

What to Wear

The Philippines has a variety of climates which can change on a dime. If you don’t wear the appropriate attire you’ll be far from comfortable. Due to the high humidity, it is advisable to wear light and loose clothing if you decide to spend some time in the city. However, don’t forget to bring a light jacket due to air-conditioning that often adjusted to the highest temperature especially inside malls, movie houses or buildings. Casual jackets and jumpers are sufficient for the mountainous regions. They’ll also protects you from the scorching heat of the sun, UV and Ozone rays. Don’t forget to bring your hat, sun screen and sunglasses.

Thongs and flip-flops are comfortable footwear to tread on the beach. Philippines have a large selection of local stylish comfortable shoes at a bargain, although the quality depicts its price. Don’t be surprised to lose the heel of your shoes while walking, leaving you with an awkward but funny unforgettable moment.

Business Hours

Shopping centers, supermarket and department stores are usually open from 10 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.  Outside the city, shops are open from 8 am to 8 pm or depending on the store owners.

Government offices are open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Private offices are usually open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm. Times may varies.  Bank establishments are open from 9 am to 4:00 pm. You can get best rates of exchange from Money Changers rather than the banks.

Also it is advisable to use your ATM/debit cards to avoid all the steep bank or exchange rate surcharges.

In the provinces, don’t be surprised to see a quiet office filled with sleeping staff especially if you come around noontime. The locales still maintain their siesta hours, a favorite habit they have acquired from the four hundred years of Spanish sovereignty.

Transportation

When traveling on short distances by land, the popular means of transportation for Filipinos are Jeepneys, Multicabs and Tricycles.  The tricycle is a motorcycle with an attached passenger seat.  The advantage of riding a tricycle is that it will bring you to your desired location at a faster speed and it’s open, thus allowing cooler wind air.  Jeepney and Multicab have fixed routes.  For long distance land trip, an air-conditioned buses and non-air-condition buses or vans are available.

In cities, taxis are available for short and long distance trip. In some places like Cebu or usually in the provinces, they are usually controlled and honest. It is always beneficial to note their plate numbers for your own safety.

When riding a jeepney, multicab or tricycle, it is advisable to leave your valuables in a safe place, or avoid wearing authentic jewelries.  Due to the dire poverty of the country, public transportation is not immune to hold-ups or robbery.

Jeepneys evolved from the period when the US armies ran the country. They’re an offshoot of the military army jeeps. Jeepneys are an object of attraction; Filipinos have made them their own by painting them colorful unique folk art and decorating them with religious relics and paraphernalia.

Food:

It is advisable to avoid salads because the warm climate is a haven for bacteria to breed and it is safer to eat cooked or boiled vegetables or lightly steamed. Drink bottled water and avoid ice on drinks. Just in case, make sure you keep laxatives or Anti-diarrhea tablets with you at all times.

Public Toilets:

It is rare to find clean public toilets especially in the rural areas. Take a roll of toilet paper, with you at all time and if possible, hand sanitizer. Most hotels don’t offer hot water unless you go to 4-5 star hotels, although when you take a shower during noon time, the water is usually warm anyway because of the natural solar heat.

Tipping:

Tipping is usually expected in the Philippine for services rendered, usually for the amount of $1-5.00 is acceptable.

I have many tips and secrets to share with you, but these top my list and should make your visit unforgettable.

Til’ then, Bon Voyage!

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