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With the exception of parts of western Mindanao in the south of the country, Philippines is generally a safe travel destination, provided one is careful.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE...
When you arrive by air, there will (at least at Manila NAIA) be a bank between immigration and customs or after both. Obtain a small supply of low value P20 and P50 notes, as these are invaluable for tips and taxis.
Hire a yellow taxi (P70 flagfall) to get to Manila (Ermita or Malate - Manila Bay area), Makati, Quezon City, Ortigas Center, Fort Bonifacio Global City (Taguig), Pasay City for Mall of Asia or any other metropolitan destination. Most drivers are pretty good: if yours is not, keep the slip you received when you stood in the taxi line and report the driver.
TAXIS AT MANILA NAIA AIRPORT -
There are 3 ways of taking a taxi from Manila airport
1) Most expensive - Take the white pre paid cab. First line on the right of exit. A trip to Makati or Ermita will cost you 500-600 pesos
2) Medium expensive - Take the yellow Airport taxi - Second line on far right side of exit. A trip to Makati will cost you 200-250 pesos.
3) Take the escalator to the upper Departure level of the airport (4th floor) and exit. Join the line for the normal white coloured regular taxis. This is the cheapest and will cost you 160 pesos to Makati.
Always keep all taxi doors locked. If drivers refuse to switch on the meter, bail out and catch another taxi. This is a common ploy taxi drivers in Manila indulge in with foreigners.
Changing USD, AUD, EU money and currency notes of other countries is very easy all over Philippines. The best rates are available at smaller private money changers in shopping malls like Robinsons, Greenbelt, etc. The worst rates are given at hotels, airports and banks.
Some money changers suggested by TA members are - Edzen (0800 - 0200 daily), in A. Mabini Street , about 10 minutes' walk from Robinsons Place Mall in Ermita. Sheena moneychanger is associated with Edzen.
(See the Internal transport page for better details and travel maps)
Manila's three line LRT/ MRT elevated railways are a travel bargain at P12 to P15 a trip. While they don't go everywhere, an indirect trip via Taft and EDSA stations (connecion is via an overhead footbridge then through Metropoint Mall) is a good way to avoid a taxi clogged in slow traffic.
Philippine National Railways has one surface rail line between Tutuban Center and Alabang. Trains run half hourly during peak periods, but otherwise hourly. As of September 2014, the rail line to Naga / Legaspi has been closed for more than 12 months due to required bridge repairs. It does not appear that PNR has the necessary funding.
BUSES are the de facto means of internal transport in Philippines. Ferries are the second most common.
There are about 30 private bus companies that run these buses. For short distances upto 12 hours, buses are recommended. For anything longer, flights and ferries are recommended.
Websites of Domestic flights -
For enquiring on ferry schedules, see this website - http://schedule.ph/
In busy cities, always ask for a higher floor room to minimise traffic noise transmission. At smaller hotels, make sure you are not next to a neighbour's rooster!
TA has extensive restaurant listings. Use them. The range of food has improved enormously in the last 20 years.
Try to interact with the friendly Filipino people. However, do not accept any offers to go to someone's house to play in a 'card game.' You will inevitably lose. The friendliness may disappear.
If visiting nightclubs, do not 'walk home.' Take a taxi: they are cheap and plentiful and will deliver you safely.
Shopping in Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao,Cagayan de Oro and General Santos City is often great. Take a spare suitcase up with you. Don't miss SM or Robinsons Department stores, Greenhills in San Juan (Metro Manila) for some bargains and the larger shopping centres like Robinsons Place Ermita, SM Mall of Asia on Manila Bay, Megamall in Mandaluyong City or Ayala Center in Cebu City.
Look out for discounts on so-called 'coupon' websites, but also consider locally advertised special offers. For instance, some non-hotel buffets can be good value for money.Websites like www.asiatravel.com, www.agoda.com and www.booking.com give some good deals that are lower than hotel rack rates.
Travel on a jeepney and if you must on a calesa (available only in Intramuros Manila and Heritage City of Vigan) briefly to experience these modes. Have small money (preferably coins) for the jeepney. Mind your head and don't lose sight of your belongings. Agree on a price for the calesa before hopping on - write it down and get the calesa coachman to initial it to save the inevitable 'Sir, I said XXX pesos' later.
Above all else, take a friendly attitide as you see the attractive scenery outside the big cities, see the numerous white sand beaches (Siquijor Island, Bantayan Island, Malapascua Island, Samal Island, Alona Beach on Panglao Island or Glan near General Santos are a few of the many available), the Banaue rice terraces, the hill cities of Baguio or Tagaytay or relax at a larger resort or small city hotel. The land of 7107 islands will reward you with numerous smiles from its inhabitants, as corny as that may sound.