VISITING THE PHILIPPINES
In a country that is made up of over 7,100 islands and islets, travel has a lot to do with transportation. Rest assured that options are endless for getting around, some typical and others quite unique.
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as 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 (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered “Asia’s First Airline,” remains the country’s biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila.
The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB) entered the aviation industry on March 1996 and pioneered the “low fare, great value” strategy. It has since then flown 50 million passengers and counting. CEB currently operates a fleet of 24 Airbus (10 A319 and 14 A320) and 8 ATR 72-500 aircraft, the youngest fleet in the Philippines, and one of the youngest in Asia. It is the only 100% brand-new aircraft fleet in the country. Aside from its 16 international destinations, CEB also creates an extensive network across the Philippines with its 33 domestic destinations. It operates from four strategically placed hubs: Manila, Cebu, Clark and Davao. CEB offers the lowest year-round fares for all its flights. The airline remains to be the pioneer in creative pricing strategies as it manages to offer the lowest fare in every route it operates. Popular seat sales are the zero fare all-in and 50% off seat sales.
CEB, the leader in innovation and creativity in the country’s aviation industry, is the first local airline to introduce online check-in, E-ticketing, prepaid excess baggage, and seat selection in the Philippines. CEB also partnered with WWF-Philippines for a climate adaptation program, and various destination hotels, car rental service, travel insurance, and entertainment ticketing service to provide its passengers a more convenient travel experience. Customers have also learned to anticipate a uniquely upbeat flying experience with CEB, as this is the only domestic carrier that offers fun in the skies with its “Fun Games” on board, together with its entertaining in-flight magazine – Smile. For more info visit their site at www.cebupacificair.com
Other airlines that presently fly the Philippine skies are Air Philippines, South East Asian Airlines, Laoag International Airlines, Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit Airlines), and Pacific Airways – each serving popular tourist destinations at pocket-easy prices. For a more personal experience, chartered flights are available via small air companies such as Airspan Corporation (helicopters), A. Soriano Aviation, and Aerolift Philippines (small-to-medium-sized planes).
As the islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in travel. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.
WG&A Lines, a partnership between William Lines and the Aboitiz Group, has launched its SuperFerry Program, an affordable but convenient alternative to the usually crowded vessels of other ship lines.
Moving around the country by land is easy with national highways connecting the major islands and an extensive public transportation sytem, which includes the exotic Philippine jeepney. Trains, taxis, buses, jeepneys, and trikes are the main modes of public transportation. The calesa, a more elegant means of traveling in most major cities, is more commonly offered as a “fun ride” in many public parks across the country.
A land railway system operated by the Philippine National Railways, called the Metrotren, is recommended for long distance traveling. It reaches as far south as Carmona and Cavite, or as far north as Meycauayan, Bulacan. Within Metro Manila, the Light Railway Transit (LRT), which stretches from Caloocan to Baclaran, provides a fast alternative from the regular jeepney. LRT 2 traverses five cities in Metro Manila namely Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila) along the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda and Recto Avenue. The Metro Railway Transit (MRT) traverses the length of EDSA and connects North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, passing through the major arteries of Makati’s financial district.
Taxis provide the best means of transportation around the city, with a flag-down fare of PhP20 on the meter. For the steel-hearted, buses also tread the roads. A vast majority of city buses travel via Epifanio delos Santo Avenue (EDSA) while provincial bus lines have put up various terminals all across the country. The best means of short distance travel is the trike: the motorized version is called a tricycle, and the pedal-powered one is called a pedicab. Trike terminals are often found near a “palengke” or marketplace.
The undisputed “King of the Philippine Roads” is the jeepney. Since it first emerged after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, it has become a fixture in roads all over the country – so much so that it is now considered a symbol of national pride.
Jeepneys are adorned with colorful designs that distinguish them from one another, with themes ranging from the serious to the outright silly, but all uniquely Filipino.
Guidelines on the entry of temporary visitors to the Philippines
Nationals from countries who are travelling to the Philippines for business and tourism purposes are allowed to enter the Philippines without visas for a stay not exceeding twenty-one (21) days, provided they hold valid tickets for their return journey to port of origin or next port of destination and their passports valid for a period of at least six (6) months beyond the contemplated period of stay. However, Immigration Officers at ports of entry may exercise their discretion to admit holders of passports valid for at least sixty (60) days beyond the intended period of stay.
Upon Arriving: Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. Balikbayans have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.
It is illegal for any incoming or outgoing passenger to bring in or out Philippine Pesos in excess of P10,000.00 without prior authority from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Any violation of this rule may lead to its seizure and civil penalties and / or criminal prosecution. (BSP Circular 98-1995)
The transportation of foreign currency or monetary instruments is legal. However, the carrying of foreign currency in excess of US$10,000.00 or its equivalent in other foreign currencies must be declared to a Customs Officer or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Violation of this rule may lead to seizure and sanctions, fines and / or penalties.
NOTE: The source for this section is the Republic of the Philippines – Department of Tourism.