More friends are reporting airport cabs who are not using their meters. When a rider inquire on the reason, cab driver states that cab company has a new policy of centralized meters. Do not believe this! I would strongly recommend that you feign calling a friend or relative in the Department of Transportation and pretend to ask about centralized meters. For sure, cab will suddenly develop engine trouble and cab driver will ask you to just seek another ride.
So, from the start before you move a couple of meters away from the airport, insist to see driver turning on meter.
I attached a sample of an erring cab driver's plate number.
I am trying desperately to think how to write a tip which, as the title suggests, is rather a delicate one. Certainly I do not want to offend any of many many Philippino friends who were so good to me during my recent six month trip but for a first time visitor I think it needs to be flagged up.
Like many other places in Southeast Asia you will see European / American / Australian etc. men with "girlfriends" who are a lot younger than them. You will see bars which are obvious pick-up joints for prostitutes although these tend to be karaoke / videoke places and you will also see Philippino couples and even families on occasion in them which I found slightly odd. The girls in these places tend not to be pushy though and someone will politely ask you if you want company. A simple, "No thank you, I'm only here for a beer," and you will be left in peace, they do not seem to be pushy.
I am not making any moral judgements here and several expat friends of mine are happily married to Filipinas, indeed one got married to his long-term girlfriend when I was there. Many more are in long-term relationships.
Male visitors should also be aware of another potential problem, often carried out in collusion with the police. You will be offered female "company" by a girl who says she is 19 and may even produce papers to prove it. The age of consent in the Philippines is 18. Next day you have a visit from the local police saying that a complaint has been laid against you by the girl who turns out to be under 18. At this point you are looking at a long time in a Philippino jail which is not a prospect I would relish or, for a large sum of money and I mean very large,the girl's family will withdraw the complaint which means there can be no court case. I realise this is hearsay but I did hear of exactly such a case involving an Australian on the island of Cebu at the back end of last year.
I do not wish to present a negative side to a country and people that I have come to love deeply, I am merely pointing out to potential travellers what the scene is and possible pitfalls. If such things are not your scene, you will have difficulty avoiding seeing them but that is just part of the package.
It is no secret that I abolutely loved my six months in the Philippines, there is so much to like there not least the fantastic people. I wish that everyone could go there, however this is sadly not the case. Although thankfully able-bodied myself, I am minded of a quote from another VT member that "everyone is a potential wheelchair user" and this tip refers to people with disabilities. I am afraid I would have to suggest that it would be horribly difficult for travellers with disabilities, specifically mobility problems to get around in this country.
In some of the larger urban centres they have made some sort of desultory attempt to provide a little access but the second photo, taken in Manila, shows what a mobility impaired traveller would be up against namely someone parked on a wheelchair ramp. I could literally have taken hundreds of images like this. It is often tricky enough for me to move around with broken pavements with great unmarked holes in them, pavements used as carparks and a hundred other problems.
Acommodation options, shops and restaurants don't seem to do much better either. I don't remember seeing more than a handful of special toilet facilities in six months. Outside of Manila, I saw very few lifts (elevators) anywhere, only stairs.
On the plus side, the Philippino government seems to have adknowledged the problem as indicated here dating from June 2011 although I heard nothing about it in-country.
Sorry to post such a negative tip but I thought I should point out the potential problems.
Many dogs in the Philippines have not had vaccinations against rabies even though the city officials go from house to house providing free vaccinations, so no matter how cute a dog looks, stay away unless you know the owner.
Common sense Acommon Travel rules as to where ever you go.
#1. Don't go where you shouldn't go.
#2. Follow the rule of law in the country that you reside.
#3. Adhere to the rule of law from your home country.
#4. Respect and "pre-" read up on the culture(s).
#5. Gain some familiarity with the country's national language prior to your trip.
#6. Practice the local language with the locals.
#7. If concerned with lodging then don't do what isn't familiar to you.
#8. Eat what has been cooked.
#9. Drink bottled water that has a seal. Open it yourself.
#10. Know your coordinates (esp. North & South). Memorize the major cross-roads prior to taking your trip.
#11. Have a copy or two of your Passport in a safe place (either on you personally or in an emergency place).
#12. Go electronic (with back up paperwork) when you can.
#13. Be reluctant to share your full plans with strangers.
#14. Be flexible.
#15. How you handle "it" determines whether it'll be a good event or day or not. Understand that something weird, funny, or bad might occur.
#16. Watch your travel companions as they might just as well cause trouble by accident / unknowingly or on purpose.
#17. International travel is not a time for pranks. (Stay away from pranksters that want to travel with you)
#18. Just try to remember that "nothing" is for "free". (This goes for women too! Crazy partying guys should know this.)
#19. Silently meditate as to rehearse (or re-play) plans.
#20. Always be prepared for a back-up exit plan (... where ever you are (and check for exits)).
#21. Travel with flex travel time on the front end but esp. back end of your visit. This'll reduce your frustrations if there happen to be delays.
#22. Pack light while being wise.
#23. Be nimble. (physically)
#24. If you have good judgment with befriending people (anywhere) then be social with out giving away too much information.
#25. Know your money. Where it is. How much is on you. Denominations in order. Minimize coins if possible (don't need to be heard walking around jiggling).
#26. When driving a rental car ... pay the extra for full coverage. (Take it from a guy that has had 2 separate flat tires and locked up engine all in the same trip. Can you guess where?)
#27. Walk like you know where you are going even when you get lost. The best way to not get lost again is to remember where you were when you were lost.
#28. You are not a "stick" in the mud if you choose to stay away from the "loud" crowd.
#29. Avoid traveling during the host country's elections.
#30. Be aware of political and labor union protest. Don't accidently get caught up.
#31. Never walk away from your open beverages and/or food. Once you've stepped away then pass on further consumption as to be cautious.
#32. Ladies and guys, know that you will meet lots of wonderful people plus some not so. Don't be fooled by "beauty" or a "handsome" face. Danger lurks. If you have a bad judgment of character domestically then it is not going to get any better outside of the country.
#33. If you're not considered "HOT" back home then don't be fooled when you are abroad. Money matters. It isn't really your looks.
#34. The money train gets you access but it can also generate trouble.
#35. Make certain Taxis / Limos drivers happen to be locked into the price and directions prior to departure.
#36. Know the weather conditions prior and during your trip.
#37. Read the local newspapers / journals prior to arrival. (seek to understand cultural, social, economic, etc topics of the day)
1.)Always carry small change;saves you being annoyed by reply, "sorry no change"
2.) Ask someone about taxi or jeepney, tricycle fares before you get
in. Pay & walk away. NEVER ask "How much?" because the price goes
up the more you talk. A moving taxi is busy so tends to be an honest
taxi vrs parked taxis waiting 4 victims. Tip the taxi driver P10
to P20 reward him for not hassling you. Good Karma ALWAYS REWARDS you.
3. ) Never change money on the street/ inside a restaurant. You
will ALWAYS lose & usually almost half your money. Money
change scam artists R very good & show U the hand is quicker than the eye.
4. ) Never gamble with Filipinos not pool, cards, chess or any game
for money & even for drinks. It's safer not to gamble. It's one
example in life where when you win you lose & when you lose you lose.
5. ) Never raise your voice at a Filipino away from your own
neighborhood. Never call a Filipino "STUPID". They are very sensitive
about it. If you do get angry & make the mistake. Please leave the
place as soon as possible .Go Away Fast cause you are in more
DANGER than you realize. Filipinos do not like to fight & "fair
fights" are not the custom, "fight to kill" is.
6. ) Forget about the 2 words "WHY" & "SHOULD" or you get constant
headache trying to understand why things happen like they do in places
outside your own country, especially the Philippines. Acceptance is
the preferable attitude. There are too many things for you to
question, so it's better for you not to start. So just relax/ enjoy
the positive aspects of living in the Philippines with a sense of humor.
7. ) Expect everything to be late and slow. Life stops at LUNCH.
Schedules change & the weather is unpredictable. Telephones,
electricity, and water - sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
8.) Never accept drinks, candy, or fruit from strangers, especially
young women, in Manila. In the past few years a few of our guests have
been drugged using the above methods after being met in Rizal Park,
shopping malls, the open markets & even on the bus. We have never
heard about this happening in other parts of the Philippines.
9.) Always wear a cloth type money belt which is worn around your
waist under your clothes instead of those leather or vinyl pouch waist
bags with several zippered pockets because psychologically they appear
as you are advertising your valuables. It may seem a bit awkward to
reach under your pants to get your money or travelers checks at a bank
but it's MUCH SAFER. Even when you drink too much your money is much
safer closer to your - - - -.
10. ) DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY!!
Hello, while I can't say that is true for all of Mindanao, I was cautioned when I was there about 12+ years ago but, it was a business trip to National Steel and had to go. It was not comfortable at all from the drive to the plant from the airport and the airport was another story. My Philippine business associate was also quite uncomfortable about the trip and we flew in and out in on the same day for safety considerations. The US and other engineers and technicians lived across from the plant in a compound. In this case compound meant a fortified walled enclosure with barbed electric wire. The gate of the compound and the steel plant was guarded by machine gun carrying military looking guards. Security was tight. Weather to go or not is a personal choice and if one is taller than say 5'-3" (1.6m) tall you will "stick out like a sore thumb". A 6 foot (1.8+m) tall European or American is immediately recognized, my point is caution! When we drove to the plant from the airport and return we were low key our chauffeured car was driven by a non-descript local and the car was a bit worn, possibly 15 years old. Security at the plant was tight and had no problems whatsoever for the whole trip.
Also our associate knew which local restaurant (very very basic) to use and he advised what to eat and, "don't drink the water".
The trip was unforgettable and educational. Driving in the countryside between the Cagayan de Oro airport, Iligan-City and the plant there were many people mainly women and many children walking along the road carrying containers. After observing more closely, I realized that they were carrying water to their homes from central wells that seemed to be quite a distance from the occasional home/structure. Their homes were mainly small frame buildings on stilts with no windows, just openings. To be sure the homes had no electricity or running water. Consider how fortunate we are. The Philippine people that I met at the National steel plant and in locals in Manila are quite open, friendly and intelligent. Would I go again to the Philippines?, yes to Manila.
Balut. Ok, locals will often try to get you to eat this. Be informed, balut is a duck egg with a duck embryo formed. depending on the # of days old the egg is, it can have a beak and feathers. i never tried this, but for what it's worth, a friend did and she quite liked it.
If you're planning to do a lot of shopping and walking around Manila (or anywhere in the Philippines) avoid wearing outlandish clothes that scream "tourist"...and keep the accessories to a minimum. Don't ever flaunt too much jewelry so as not to attract unwanted attention from criminals.
In general the Philippines are completely safe, much more so than London or New York. However, there are a handful of small, isolated areas that should be avoided. They are so far from anywhere that tourists are likely to go that it is almost not worth mentioning, but here I go anyway. Also, ask locals before trekking into any remote or mountainous area, they will know the exact situation at the time.
Mindanao - some of the Sulu islands such as Jolo have Islamic extremist groups and should not be visited. Others such as Tawi-Tawi are completely safe. Also mainland Mindanao's interior has MILF groups (anti-government rebels who are much more dangerous than NPA) hiding out. Other areas such as Barangay Ned have sever tribal warfare. In mainland Mindanao you will never get to any of these places anyway because locals simply will not let you go.
Palawan - further south than Sicud is the territory of pirates. Abu Sayyaf also hide out in the jungles, but again locals will never take you anywhere near them.
Interior Panay - tribal warfare in a few parts. Locals will not take you to these areas even if you want to.
Mindoro - NPA rebels throughout the interior. They have never kidnapped any tourists and are much more likely just to ask for a "donation". Again, locals will not allow you to go anywhere near them.
Kalinga - tribal warfare unlikely to affect any tourists. Weapons very visible everywhere in areas such as Tanudan but absolutely not in Tinglayan (more touristy but still culturally interesting area).
This is not a comprehensive list of areas you should not visit, just the ones I know about and can give details about from my travels. Even so, these areas are SO remote and SO small and SO far away from anywhere you are likely to go as a tourist that there is really no need to even think about them.
I have read of many warnings about travel on the island of Mindanao. I spent 5 weeks there in 2009 travelling from Dipolog up to Camigian Island and staying near Sindangan. I saw no evidence of any problems which do exist further south in Zambonga City. Mindanao is a big island and is not all affected by the muslim rebels. The people were very friendly, accomadations spartan, but clean and acceptable. So don't cross this beautiful part of the Philipinnes off your list. Just plan your travelling with an educated mind. It also helps to have a local travelling with you.
Religion is a big thing in the Philippines and asking what religion you are will nearly always feature in a locals top 10 list of questions for you. If religion is not your thing then be prepared for some questioning......but try to avoid getting into a heated debate.
There is a "delicacy" in the Philippines that the locals will try to convince you to try... It is Balut. I've been told that generally speaking, it is only available from street vendors and only after dark. While this should make anyone naturally suspicious, I had heard how wonderful this "delicacy" is. So naturally, my Filipino friends knew that they could sucker the American in to eating this..... ahem.... treat.
Sooo..... the last night we're in the Philippines, our "mentors" all get their Balut and just eat it all down. That definitely gives us Gringo's some confidence as we've heard what it is and can't imagine that it is a tasty, yummy treat used to reward all the good little children who score well on their schooling. But our hosts obviously relish the treat.
I'm still not quite sure which happened here.... As I don't speak Tagalog and never saw the ACTUAL transaction, I'm still undecided if our hosts swapped out theirs for something a bit less unsavory. It was either that or they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the entertainment that was about to ensue in the gringos eating their "delicacy".
I guess this is the time to describe what Balut is so you'll know where I'm coming from. Balut is a duck egg that has been fertilized and has been developing in an incubator for between 15 and 18 days. Obviously, the 15 day will not be as developed and identifiable as a duck as the 18 day eggs are. The eggs are boiled and served piping hot. I believe that this is a tactic to scorch the victim.... er.... customers throat so they focus on the pain rather than the tiny little chick that they have just bitten in half. Now to give an idea of how far along the bird has developed, it only takes 21 days for the little beasties to decide to come out of their shell and join the bigger world. So yes, there are feathers, beaks and bones.... the latter two are still soft so just give a bit of resistance rather than the crunch one might expect.
Anyhow, I'm still not sure if my hosts swapped their eggs out for a regular hard boiled egg or if they really did want to watch us entertain them that they were willing to eat it as well....
In any case, I must say that I am pleased to have accomplished this rite of passage. One of the people on the trip wasn't able to accomplish this feat. I'm just extraordinarily pleased that it was dark out and I had plenty of time to digest the "feast" before I saw pictures.....
(please note: It actually didn't taste that bad, it was just weird and mentally disturbing to eat an egg that wasn't a fresh egg and wasn't yet a duck. This is under warnings and dangers as a light hearted way of introducing balut.)
For overstaying travelers, it is always best, and safer to do things legit than thru some fixer, so as not to jeopardize your status.
You'll find all possible answers to your questions on visa extension on the following links:
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