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Just to get it out there, Manila isn’t the Philippines.
It’s where the main international airport is but I hope you don’t judge the country by its entrance (there are stories that they are spending billions to fix the international airport too, but I’ll wait until I see it).
After living in Sydney for eight years now, there are things that surprise me when I go back to visit family. Here are some realistic and practical tips when travelling to the Philippines – probably a guide that the tourism centre wouldn’t approve of.
Safe travel guides to the Philippines
- Have a trustworthy guide as much as possible. It helps if you know someone there because they know people who know people. Safe people. Maybe ask your hotel for a tour guide. But if you go on your own, ask the right people for information – hotel concierge, airport officials, information centres.
- Travel South. Get out of Manila to see what the country has to offer. There are popular tourist spots like Boracay, but personally, it’s too saturated with foreigners/tourists to be really culturally authentic. I suggest beautiful but quieter ones like Bohol, Camiguin, Palawan, Siquijor, Tagaytay, Baguio, or Vigan.
- Don’t travel too much South. Yes, kidnappings happen there. Yes, people will try to get as much money out of you. It’s a poor country, you knew that already. So don’t go where the trouble is – like where the rebels are, where most kidnappings happen, or where bombings mostly occur. Stick to the tourist-safe zones. Having said that, there are guides for journalists who want to see those “exciting” areas.
- Ask your hotel. If travelling in one area for a longer period, you can ask your hotel if they can recommend someone you can hire as a driver to take you around. If you ask, you can also find an assistant or a nanny to take with you for an agreed price. If you just want to use a cab, ask for the meter to be turned on instead of a flat rate because they might rip you off.
- IDs and uniforms. It is wise to check IDs and uniforms for services like porters, cab drivers, tour guides and so on. It’s much safer to get their details, or know their details. We usually hire a regular driver, assistant, nanny etc beforehand and agree on a specific payment during the duration of the stay — less headache with the travel arrangements.
- Have cash. The thing with secluded nature spots is that sometimes, there are no ATMs or credit card machines. It’s good to carry around cash, just don’t put it all in one spot, because yes, there are snatchers too. When travelling, don’t wave around your expensive cameras, phones and other gadgets. They’re easy targets for snatchers.
- Protect your tummy and health. Use bottled water for obvious reasons. Bring medicine around – panadol, diarrhea tablets, rash cream and so on. Insect repellent will also come in handy. It is humid, carry around a small towel because you will be sweating constantly.
Lastly, have fun. Although there are unscrupulous people around, generally Filipinos have a happy disposition and welcoming nature, and a hell of competitive streak in karaoke – just saying, you should be prepared.
Bio: Kristyn is the blogger behind MummyK. She is a journalist, photographer, and first time children’s book author. She is enjoying life with her IT consultant/musician husband and three year-old toddler in Sydney. She tweets as @mummyk.