Top events in Philippines

April
01

The annual Moriones Festival is a week-long religious event that begins on Holy Monday and ends on Easter Sunday. It is one of the most colourful...

April
06

Each Easter the town of Guagua in the Pampanga region stages a re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion. Approximately 10 people take part each year...

May
01

At first glance this seems to be a parade of beautiful Filipinas, but it is actually a religious procession commemorating Emperor Constantine's...

Manila Bay, Philippines
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Manila Bay, Philippines

© www.123rf.com / Antonio Oquias

Philippines Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles).

Population

105.7 million (2013)

Population density

352.4 per sq km.

Capital

Manila.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from the USA in 1946.

Head of state

President Benigno Aquino since 2010.

Head of government

President Benigno Aquino since 2010.

Electricity

220 volts (110 volts in Baguio) AC, 60Hz. 110 volts is available in most hotels. Flat and round two- and three-pin plugs are in use.

The other Southeast Asia, the Philippines is where Asia and Europe collide, over a sprawl of sand-circled tropical islands. Here, Catholic traditions meld with animist rituals and Islamic customs, creating a surreal melting pot that is unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

You can thank the Spanish for the European influence, tangible in everything from the names of towns and barrios (neighbourhoods) to restaurant menus, where roast pork and paella are as common as noodles and seafood. Later, the Americans imposed their own vision and values – you can thank the US for the fastfood chains, the love of pop music, and the rainbow-coloured jeepneys that serve as local buses, evolved from military jeeps left behind from WWII.

With 7,107 islands, it’s hardly surprising that many of the Philippines’ most stunning attractions can be found in or around the sea. Boracay and other islands are ringed by some of the world’s most immaculate beaches and the waters offshore are a diver’s paradise, with pristine reefs, astounding tropical fish, migrating whale sharks and wrecks from WWII.

There’s much more, though. Away from the beaches are jungles, mountains, volcanoes and hidden caverns ripe for exploration. The volcanic nature of the islands is highly obvious – natural hot springs bubble up across the Philippines and the pyramid peaks of live volcanoes such as Mount Mayon call out to trekkers who don’t mind living dangerously.

It can’t been denied that the Philippines has a seedy side – the sex industry grew up to service American GIs during the Vietnam War – but it’s easy to avoid this gloomy scene and find more wholesome nightlife, where live bands perform note-perfect covers of any song you could name and even the smallest, palm-thatched village has a karaoke bar.

This isn’t a country that stages dozens of phony cultural shows for tourists, and the islands’ vividly colourful festivals (of which there are many) are predominantly aimed at locals. So it’s down to individual visitors to strike up conversations and discover a country where East meets West and traditional culture meets the modern world in a crash of colour and confetti.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 February 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

There’s a high level of violent crime, including gun crime. Although British nationals are not normally targeted, they have been caught up in some incidents.

Criminal gangs sometimes use terrorist tactics like kidnapping. Explosions attributed to criminal organisations have caused fatalities.

There is a high incidence of street crime and robbery. You should take sensible precautions. Arrange to be met at the airport or use a hotel transfer service. Only use taxis from a reputable company. Some taxi drivers and their accomplices have robbed and harmed passengers. Avoid displaying cash or jewellery. Beware of strangers offering drinks or confectionery. They may be spiked.

Be particularly vigilant when travelling on public transport. Armed hold-ups have occurred on ‘jeepneys’ and buses. In some cases these have resulted in fatalities.

Local travel

Seek advice from local contacts, avoid travel to remote areas and always leave travel plans with friends, colleagues or relatives. Safety standards on taxis, buses and boats can be low. There have been 2 recent mass-fatality bus crashes.

You should take particular care during the rainy season when flash floods and landslides can occur.

If you intend to travel to the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental you should use air or sea routes.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) group have signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. However, other armed groups remain active and the situation could deteriorate with little warning. There are on-going clashes between the military and insurgent groups in the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. Clashes have also occurred on the mainland of Mindanao.

Air travel

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will be suspending all flights to Tacloban airport in Leyte Province from 3-4 September for emergency repairs to the runway. The CAAP say that flights for ‘turbo propeller aircraft only’ will resume on 4 September. The CAAP say that the runway will not be suitable for larger aircraft for some time to come. Check with your airline for further information.

A list of incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2009 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in the Philippines.

With the exception of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Air, all air carriers from the Philippines have been refused permission to operate services to the EU due to safety concerns.

Sea travel

Avoid travel on ferries if possible. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment, are not adequately maintained and have incomplete passenger manifests. Storms can develop quickly.

Major accidents, which involved ferries, and resulted in large loss of life occurred in 2008 and 2009. Two large ferries sunk in 2013, the most recent off the coast of Cebu City in August 2013. These incidents caused a substantial number of casualties and injuries.

There is a high level of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Philippine waters.

Maritime rescue services in the Philippines may be limited.

Political situation

Keep up to date with local and international developments, and avoid demonstrations or large gatherings of people. The Philippines Bureau of Immigration have specifically warned foreign nationals against participating in public protests and political rallies. Foreign nationals who participate in these activities may be detained and deported for violating Philippine immigration laws.

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