Monday, March 5, 2007

Visitor Information - What the Traveller Must Know

TIME ZONE - GMT plus 8 hours.

Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila is the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines which fly to different cities around the world.

The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore and Australia, as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau.

Philippine Airlines, the country's flag carrier, links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.

Valid passport. Except for stateless persons and those from countries with which the Philippines has no diplomatic relations, all visitors may enter the country without visas and may stay for 21 days provided they have tickets for onward journey. Holders of Hong Kong and Taiwan passports must have special permits. Visas and special permits may be obtained from Philippine embassies and consulates.

A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers coming from an infected areas.

Airport and Facilities:
Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is 7 kms. from the city center while the Manila Domestic Airport is one km. from the NAIA. The international airports have adequate traveler facilities: duty-free and souvenir shops, meet and assist personnel at the tourist information and assistance counters, hotel and travel agency representatives, car rental services, banks and automated teller machines, postal service, national and international direct dial telephone booths, medical clinics, and baggage deposit areas.

Facilities for the Physically-Handicapped: The airports are handicapped-friendly. Wheelchairs are available on request from the airline ground staff.

Customs: Visitors are advised to fill in the Baggage Declaration Form before disembarking to facilitate Customs examination. The following are allowed duty-free: reasonable quantity of clothes, jewelry, and toiletries; 400 sticks of cigarettes or two tins of tobacco; two bottles of wine or spirits of not more than one liter each.

Porterage: Baggage carts are available for free. Porter services are also free. Tipping is traditional.

Airport Transfers: Visitors are advised to avail of accredited fixed rate or metered taxis at the NAIA's Arrival Area. At the Manila Domestic Airport, accredited transfer services are available on pre-paid coupon basis. Other airports are served by metered taxis. All airports have counters for hotel transport and car rental service.

Airport Fees: P550 for international departure and P200 for local departure (paid in Philippine pesos only). Departing passengers for international destinations are advised to check with airport or tourist information counters (Tel. Nos 525-2000; 832-2964) for prevailing departure fees which may change without notice.

Automated Teller Machine: American Express

Duty-Free Shopping: Duty-Free Philippines near the NAIA is the country's largest duty free outlet carrying quality imported items and selected Philippine export products.

March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy. November to Februar is cool. Average temperatures: 78 F / 25 C to 90 F/ 32 C; humidity: 77%

Light, casual clothes are recommended. Warmer garments are needed for mountain regions. When visiting churches and temples, propriety dictates that shorts and scanty clothing be avoided. Formal occasions require dinner jackets and ties (or the Philippine barong tagalog) for men and cocktail dresses or long gowns for women.

Unit of currency: Peso (PhP) = 100 centavos. Bank notes: P10, P20, P50, P100, P200, P500 and P1,000. Coins: 5c, 10c, 25c, P1, P5, P10.

Tipping is expected for many services. The standard practice is 10% of the total bill. Tipping is optional on bills that already include a 10% service charge.

By air, Philippine Airlines (Tel. No. 855-9999), Air Philippines (855-9000), Cebu Pacific (636-4938) provided daily services to major cities and towns. Asian Spirit (851-8888), Laoag International Airlines (551-9729), and Seair (891-8708) service the missionary routes. There are also scheduled chartered flights to major domestic destinations serviced by smaller commuter planes.

By sea, interisland ships connect Manila to major ports. Ferry services connect the smaller islands.

By land, Philtranco connects Manila to Bicol in Southern Luzon to Samar and Leyte in the Visayas and Davao in Mindanao.

Metered and fixed rate taxis are widely available in key cities nationwide. Jeepneys and buses are inexpensive ways of getting around most places. In Metro Manila the fastest way of commuting is via the railway system. The Light Rail Transport or LRT connects the northern district of Monumento to the southern district of Baclaran with stations situated at major intersections.

The Metro Rail Transport or MRT traverses the length of LRT2 EDSA and connects North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, passing through the major arteries of Makati's financial district.

Filipino is the national language. English is the business language and widely spoken.

In Metro Manila, key cities and towns throughout the country, a wide selection of de luxe, standard, economy and pension-type accommodations is available. In island destinations, there is a variety of resorts ranging from de luxe to special interest category.

The Department of Tourism has a Homestay Program in several destinations outside Manila. The program offers visitors the comfort of modest homes and an insight into Philippine life. For information, contact the Tourist Information Center at Room 106, Department of Tourism Building, tel. nos. 524-2384 / 524-1703.

Filipino food is an exotic, tasteful blend of Oriental, European, and American culinary influences. There is a wide variety of fresh seafood and delectable fruits. First class restaurants offer gourmet specialties as well as Filipino cuisine.

Metro Manila is the center of entertainment and cultural activities. The premier venue for the performing arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, features world-class performances by local and international guest artists. Museums located in Manila and in some parts of the country offer a glimpse of Philippine history and culture. Art galleries exhibit the works of the country's leading and promising visual artists.

Manila's nightlife is one of the most vibrant in Asia, reflecting the Filipino's love for music. The hubs of nightlife activities are the Remedios Circle in Malate, Ayala Center and The Fort at Bonifacio Global City in Makati, Timog and Tomas Morato Avenues in Quezon City, Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong and Pasig Cities, and Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City. Clubs, music lounges, pubs, and sing-along bars feature Filipino bands and singers known for their exceptional musical talent. De luxe hotels offer a variety of live musical entertainment. Concerts and stage plays form part of the country's entertainment scene.

For visitors who want to try their luck at the gaming tables there are casinos in Metro Manila and in the cities of Angeles, Olongapo, Tagaytay, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, and Laoag.

Visitors can choose from an exciting selection of great buys in a country known for export-quality items at reasonable prices: South Sea pearls, handwoven cloths, embroidered fineries, fashionable ready-to-wear and haute couture clothes, terra-cota, porcelain, coral and mother-of-pearl home accessories. Artifacts, pineapple fiber shirts, prehistoric jars, native handicrafts, and footwear are interesting items, too. The Philippines also produces fine furniture, basketry, fresh and processed fruits, exquisitely crafted jewelry, and gift items made of shell, wood, and stone.

Big malls are located in major cities of Metro Manila, while handicraft, antique and curio shops abound at the Ermita District in Manila and in other nearby towns in the metro's environs.

Private and government offices are open either from 8 am to 5 pm or from 9 am to 6 pm. Some private companies hold office on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon. Most shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets are open from 10 am to 8 pm daily. There are 24-hour convenience stores and drugstores.

Banks are open from 9 am to 3 pm, Mondays to Fridays, with automated teller machines (ATM) operating 24 hours.

International credit cards such as Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, and American Express Card are accepted in major establishments.

220 volts, A.C. 60 cyles. Most hotels have 110-volt outlets.

Water in Metro Manila and in key cities and towns is potable and safe for drinking. Bottled water is available in many hotels, restaurants, resorts, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

The country has international and national direct dial phone and facsimile service, mobile phone sites, internet and e-mail facilities, and worldwide express delivery service. The postal system is efficient.

Most national dailies are in English. Foreign publications are sold at major hotels, malls, and bookstores in Metro Manila and key cities. 7 national television stations broadcast mainly in Filipino. Cable TV is available in many hotels in Manila and in many parts of the country.

Manila, the pioneer convention city in Asia, has played host to a number of prestigious international events. The Philippine International Convention Center is equipped with modern convention facilities and services. It can accommodate 4,000 delegates in its Plenary Hall and 5,700 persons in its Reception Hall. The World Trade Center near the PICC can hold huge exhibitions and events. Smaller meetings can be held in hotels and other establishments. Out-of-town hotels and resorts are alternative convention sites.

Hospitals in the country are equipped with modern facilities to meet any medical need. In some remote towns and cities, clinics and health centers provide emergency medical attention. Most hotels and resorts provide medical assistance. Hospitals are listed in the "Yellow Pages" of the local telephone directory.

Tour packages, from day trips to five-day programs, are special ways of discovering the Philippines and its wealth of culture. Special interest activities include golfing, game-fishing, diving, white-water rafting and other aquasports, trekking, spelunking, and safari trips.

Information on tour itineraries may be obtained from the following:

Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa)
Tel. (632) 812-4513 / 893-0284

Philippine Travel Agent Association (PTTA)
Tel: (632) 552-0026 - 29

Hotel & Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP)
Tel: (632) 816-2421 / 816-2405 / 816-2422

The Philippine Hotel Federation, Inc.
Tel: (632) 818-5160

DOT Tourism Information Center
Rm 106 Ground Floor, DOT Building, TM Kalaw St., Mla
Tel: (632) 524-2384
Fax: (632) 524-1703o
Website: /