Airport/Security Checks, Manila
I travel through Manila's international airport - Terminal 1 - regularly on business travel. Twice in the last two months I have had valuables stolen from my checked bags. I am not sure who to contact about this but I would highly recommend that all valuables remain on your person when traveling through the airport in Manila. There are complaints about this issue at the airport but the management does not seem to respond which means they are likely involved. I wont leave anything of value in checked bags again as a result.
When I was going out of Manila, I brought with me two bottles of Strawberry Jam which I bought from an infamous brand in Baguio. After carrying it around me for 2 days (1 day from Baguio and a day of rest before going to NAIA), I carried it in my handheld luggage. I entered the NAIA Terminal and passed the entrance scanner without ado, however, when I got to the scanner near the lobby (where many shops are aligned) I stopped to put on my handheld luggage on the scanner.
As the Strawberry jam was passing, the man behind the scanner told me to stop, and called a nearby officer, a "Pulis ng maynila"-so called because of their huge bellies-and told him to check my luggage. I opened it without worrying, because it's just a few clothes and the jam, when he picked up the jam bottles and told me in a harsh voice, "Bawal po ng ganito sa eroplano, sir. (This is not accepted on the airplane). I, however, looked to my left and saw a foreigner zipping up his luggage and seeing a can of cologne, coke, and a water bottle in his backpack.
I was about to point this out to the fat officer when he said that I come with him, and I walked along the lobby, thinking that he'll take me to his office. However, we stopped at a shop and all the while he kept saying "Happy Valentine's sir", with a devlish smile. I, in a loud voice, uttered the same. This caught the attention of the store attendant. However, I knew fully well that a bribe is needed to get my jams.
However, I sweet-talked my way out of there, involving my skills as a lawyer, and showed him my work ID (a law office) but apparently the police officer was already nervous by this point, and he handed me my bag with the jams back, while saying "Sir! SIge, pasiyensya sa abala (Sir, sorry for the inconvience) and left hurriedly.
While I was picking up the bag, the store attendant, a young lady, told me a story similar to mine, but he ended up paying 500 pesos to get his jams back. I thanked her and eventually got on my flight, with my jams safe in my luggage.
I had extended my stay and didn't realize after buying the extension from my airlines there would be a fee to stay a few days past the 21 days. (I am an unreported dual citizen) I called Immigration at the airport and 3 different people were consistent with the fee: P3008 when I go through.
So I decided to experiment that day leaving NAIA. With money prepared and still in my wallet I just said Kumusta and handed over my passport. A minute and a half later he stamps my passport and hands it over. No fee asked. (Also didn't even say thank you, his next word was "Next!")
This could've been a lucky shot, so this may not be typical. But there is a chance you too can get away with it.
First, I'm a long time airline employee that is very well traveled...Manila airport is a challenge. Pay attention!
I didn't have a problem twice thru here, but again, pay attention. Take a few minutes to observe what is happening, read signs, and get familiar with how they do things here...which is different from any that I've been to around the world. There is a "Terminal Fee" which you must pay before going thru to the gates.
If you have to transfer between terminals, there is a free airport shuttle bus that goes between terminals. Pay the driver a tip for handling bags (not different from any other airport). There are lots of people outside security that want to help you with bags, hotels, taxi......Know before you go! Be aware that if your hotel has a airport shuttle, like any other city, it will be marked with that hotel on the van/shuttle....but their are people that will try to get you in a taxi or other shuttle which will cost you money. Common sense should prevail and go with extreme caution as you should question everything anyone says. Now, it sounds worse than it is, but I'm just trying to convey, be aware. I was never threatened in any way, but bad people will notice if you are paying attention to your surroundings, no matter where you travel in the world. Oh, and the international departure terminal for Philippine Air is the best/nicest portion of the whole airport.
I recently came back from a what was a wonderful visit to families and friends in Manila but was muddied up by a very weird and what I think is "anti-Filipino" security rule at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) ... "no canned goods in hand-carried luggage". The spirit of bringing back some pieces of the wonderful Filipino experience to my families & friends in the US was dampened by the Security officers at NAIA.
To non-Filipinos it might sound unusual but to us who have been transplanted citizens (in my case, 25 years of living in the US), it is always sweet and calming to extend your holiday by taking home some of the goodies that always remind us of "home" (where you grew up). I have traveled around the world and only in the Philippines have I been stopped for having canned goods in my hand carried luggage. The more surprising really is the way the airport security officer was so aggressive in ensuring that those canned goods are confiscated. It almost felt like those canned goods are being taken away so they can take them home for themselves. Reaction was definitely way over the top. No explanation, no recourse given...and the officer expressed unnecessary "anger". Yes...all for 8 cans of food.
I also call this "anti-Filipino" rule as this tradition is most common to Filipinos. How can the Philippine govenrment think that having canned goods in hand carried luggage be a security treat?? I have gone thru the airports of the world (France, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Taipei, Hongkong, Narita, among others) and only the Philippines does not allow something that they know their own people usually take with them in their luggage. This is terrible.
One of the first glimpse of the tight security, other than those that were observed at the airport, was on the streets mentioned at the airport, saw soldiers pretty much hanging around, weapons loaded, I believe.
You know that you'll have to be vigilant at all times as well.
Is Philippines at war? Technically, Yes. As they have been fighting the terrorists based largely in the southern islands.
I had just crossed the security checks and have cme out of the immigration area. So as any good tourist would do, I whipped out my camera to take some pictures of the airport. After one click, a guard at the airport shook his finger at me. He was like 2o metres away and thus he did not say a word. ut his fingers definitely spoke. No more photos from me.
My experience of Manila International Airport (MIA) was one of comparative ease. Having read some negative reports regarding how long it takes to get out of MIA after arriving, I was totally surprised to find it took me all of 5 - 10 minutes, and that is from leaving the aircraft. Of course, I understand that I may have been fortunate, in that there may not have been more than one international flight landing at that time (2.45pm), and that I did not have to wait to collect baggage as I only had carry-on luggage. Therefore when I got to immigration there was no queues to speak of, one person in front of me, same at customs. I had filled in the immigration card and customs card prior to landing (like everyone should) and it was a breeze. Departing MIA was not much different, queue for immigration was only 5 - 6 minutes, and that was it. Check in with airline is the same whichever airport you use ,so that is neither here nor there in my book.
As I say, I might have been extremely lucky time-wise, but in my experience, albeit only once, I think MIA has been given a rough deal. Perhaps it was different a few years ago, but it seemed a pretty slick operation to me. Perhaps next time I will have to eat my words!!
After clearing immigration & claiming your checked-in baggage, be prepared to show your baggage tags (a little sticker they normally stick to your air-plane ticket when you check-in your baggage) to a lady who stands waiting just after the customs clearance.
If you can't produce the tag, she will hold you there until you do.
The airport is simply chaotic. At the departure hall, you need to line up to scan all your luggage (hand carried as well as checked in luggage). I'm not sure what they are checking because amidst the chaos, who is really looking at the monitor, I can't tell!!
I had to put my cabin bag onto the conveyor, and also my lap top bag, my handbag and one shopping bag. The people in front of me were very slow to remove their belongings so all my bags started stacking up one on top of the other and my lap top bag fell off the conveyor onto the floor on the other side.
It was simply chaotic. Being alone, I didn't know which bag to grab first!
Fortunately, the check-in counter was less chaotic-as I was using MAS, which is not as popular here, as Cathay Pacific or some of the other US & Filipino airlines.
Remember not to spend all your pesos the night before and do hang on some local currency.
This is because there is a departure tax of 750 pesos (approx US$18) upon leaving the airport. You'll have to pay it before you get to the immigration counter.
Shoddy & Small waiting area
This airport has really seen better days. The waiting area is very small and contains only a handful of souvenior shops, a couple of cafes (very limited seating) & a couple of duty free shops. There were also two Japanese foot reflexology and shoulder massage area-which I was told by a colleague was very good-but I didn't have any time to try it out.
There were a number of attendants trying to usher us to the airport lounges upstairs but I didn't check them out-probably you'd need to pay something-which to my mind is unreasonable.
If you are leaving Manila, regardless if it is from terminal 1 or 2, you must pay a departure terminal fee at the airport.
If you are flying international, the fee is currently 750 pisos or $18.50 USD.
It is highly recommended that you have either of these currencies in exact change when departing.
If you have any other currency, exchange it previous to arriving at the airport. The kiosks at the departure halls of the airport and particularly the one after the initial security check (immediately before the fee counter) have unprecedentedly outrageous exchange rates.
The worst case scenario would be if you had to pay in Korean won... they buy it at 50% the rate they sell.
Some have already written about the possible, lengthy security check-in prior to departure.
I'd like to add one more tip to save departing travellers some aggravation:
Don't put any liquids or gels in your hand-carry, such as shampoos, especially on flights bound for the US and its territories.
After passing thru the metal detector before Duty-free, you'll notice a cabinet display of confiscated items.
If you are adamant on bringing liquids/gels, make sure you pack them securely in your luggage.
Also, I suggest visiting the TSA website below to check for further banned items.
If you don't give yourself at least three hours to navigate the maze of lines and security checks at Manila's Beningo "Ninoy" Aquino Airport, you're risking a missed flight. We showed up at the airport for a 6:50 a.m. flight at 4:30 and barely made it on the plane.
Manila airport, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways:
1. A line to get into the airport, where they check tickets and passport.
2. A short line to x-ray all of your baggage.
3. A VERY long line inside the terminal to ask security questions and check your tickets and passport.
4. a line for check in.
5. A line to pay your departure tax.
6. A VERY SLOW line for immigration/emigration
7 A line to make you stand on a box and wand you (separated by sex).
8. A line to check tickets, passport, x-ray your carry-on and frisk you (also separated by sex. but on the other side of the corridor so you have to cross).
9. Another line to x-ray your carry-on.
That all adds up to about 2 hours 45 minutes. If you haven't had your body consumed by tumors at this point, you can get on the plane now.
Of course, the terrorist threat in Manila is very real. A Philippine Airline plane was bombed in the early 1990's and the plot to blow up 12 jets over the Pacific and fly one into CIA headquarters was hatched here. Additionally, the Philippines is host to a number of dangerous terrorist groups, so you can't blame them for wanting security. But couldn't they be a bit more efficient?
The danger of bombs going off in Manila is quite real, with terrorist groups such as the Communists and the Islamic Fundamentalists all hanging around trying to go for a bang. Regardless of whether you are entering a shopping mall, a hotel, taking rides on the MRT and LRT or simple entering an office building, your bags will be searched by security stationed at the doors and entrances. You will be asked to open your bags and the security folks will either rummage through or poke around the contents with a metal rod before waving you through. Bare with it - this is everyday life in Manila!
There are all kind of risks in Manila. From kidnapping, armed robbery, pickpocketing, drugged drinks. My hotel , the most luxurious one in Manila, had metal detector door to go through and everyone entering the hotel was frisked, bags searched. That should give you an idea.
Be aware that if you are planning to carry a weapon in Manila, for some strange reason many establishments (and especially the airport) will not let you in! ;)