Entering and Visas
In order to enter the Philippines you have to have proof of onward travel. This can be in the form of either an air ticket or a much cheaper ferry ticket. (and yes, we actually have seen people miss flights into the Philippines for not having this)
Upon entering you will receive a tourist visa that lasts for 30 days. It is possible to extend this visa at any time. There is an immigration office in Dumaguete City which is open Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm.
Visa extensions are easy to get. The first extension is for 38 days and costs Php3870. The second extension is for 60 days and costs Php5500. For any tourist staying in the country longer than 2 months it is now required to purchase an I-Card, which is a temporary form of official ID that lasts for 1 year and costs US$50. This is automatically done whenever a second visa extension is processed. Prices may vary and processing fees are not included, they are normally around Php500. For any tourist staying in the country longer than 6 months an exit visa is required. This takes up to 5 days to process and can be only be done in Cebu or Manila, prices vary depending on length of stay from Php2000-9000.
(prices may have increased since writing)
Language, money and general info
The main spoken language throughout the entire country is Tagalog, however most people also speak English. In Dumaguete and the surrounding islands, Tagalog gives way to Visayan. If you learn a few basic phrases such as please (palihug) and thank you (salamat) the locals will treat you like a long lost friend.
The main currency is Philippine Peso, though many of the larger establishments will accept US dollars and Euros. Always have a handful of small notes or coins as making change anywhere can be a chore! If you choose to pay using a credit card most places will have a surcharge of anything from 2-6%.
Travelling from one destination to the next is pretty easy and normally free of hassle. Expect every now and then to pay a ‘tourist tax’, if you research the regular fares beforehand then you can judge for yourself how much ‘tax’ you are happy to pay.
Tipping is not customary though it is greatly appreciated. There is no real protocol for this and certainly no % amount. Use your own judgment on how much you like to tip but on average 30-100php in a restaurant is always good; 20-50Php for a taxi driver on long distance; 5-10php for a porter and 20-50php for any type of spa/hair or massage treatment.
Philippine people are generally very nice, helpful and calm. It takes a lot to anger a local and to be honest, you shouldn’t need to. A calm head will see you through most situations you might find frustrating much more effectively than letting it get to you. Most locals take pride in their work and if you criticize them about it they will take that as a personal affront. Strangely, try not to take offense if a local calls you fat or makes other such observations about your appearance, it’s not personal.