Things you should know when you book your next diving holiday in the Philippines
To make life as easy as possible for all you weary travelers out there, we have compiled a list of things we think will make your holidays a bit more streamlined! Some of these things are pretty basic so please don’t take offence!
If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming trip to the Philippines please contact us and we will try our best to answer all your questions.
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%. Not many places will accept traveller’s checks.
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.
With 7107 islands creating the Philippines there are many places to visit and though they may look nice and close on a map, travelling from 1 place to the next usually takes 1 to 2 days. Instead of trying to cover the whole country in a few weeks, we recommend focusing on one region at a time and exploring it thoroughly.
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.
Seasons and weather
Each region has its own micro climate, but most tend to follow the simple pattern of summer during the months of May – September and then winter from October – April. It is a good idea to research the rainy season for each region before booking that beach holiday. Of course the weather is something that is ever changing, if you want on the ground info just contact us. After all it’s right out our window.
Dumaguete has 3 distinct seasons. Summer is from June – September. During this time air temperatures can exceed 30 degrees, with June and July being the hottest months. With the heat comes the thunderstorms! Normally August and September are very hot and dry and June and July can have amazing storms during the night. Winter is traditionally from October – January. This time of year the air temperature drops slightly to mid – high 20 degrees. The weather can be changeable with some lovely sunny days interspersed with some rainy days. The seas can be a little rougher at this time of year due to the change of wind direction. Spring is from February – May. This time of year the weather is normally perfect with clear blue skies, air temperatures in the mid – high 20 degrees and the occasional rainy day. Luckily diving is accessible and amazing all year!
The average maximum temperature for this region is 34 degrees Celsius with the lowest dropping to 23 degrees Celsius.
Typhoon season is officially from June to October and hits the northern end of the Visayan region. Being below the official typhoon belt Dumaguete does not tend to have a typhoon season.
Mosquitoes are a given anywhere tropical and tend to be most active at sunset. If you are prone to being eaten alive then it is advisable to stock up on ‘Off’ or ‘Deet’ or whatever your lotion of choice is. All these products can be bought here along with mosquito coils. Another easy way to avoid nasty bug bites is to simply wear long trousers and long sleeved tops at sunset! Luckily we do not have a big mosquito problem!
Certain areas carry the risk of Malaria and Dengue, although recent Philippine government statistics claim that Dumaguete is a low risk region. Just be prudent!
One of the most effective methods for avoiding the buggers is to bring along a friend that “always” gets eaten alive. Then just sit calmly as the mozzies flock to them leaving you alone.
There are lots of other weird and wonderful insects in the Philippines; most are harmless and more afraid of you than you are of them. The most prevalent is the gecko that will find a home in any room and trust us you want them in there as they eat the annoying mosquitoes!
Safety in the Philippines
The Philippines is a wonderful country with many fantastic places to visit. Remote beaches, stunning mountain ranges and world class diving are a few of the reasons tourists flock to the country yearly. However as with all third world countries there is an element of concern.
The local people of the Philippines are generally friendly, happy go lucky types who are welcoming of tourists and honored that you would take the time to visit their wonderful country. Please be aware that many locals have not got much and therefore we remind all tourist to be respectful and not flash around cash, fancy jewelry and cameras.
The current political situation has raised a number of questions around the world. The Philippines consists of 7107 island of which 1 is currently fighting against extremists. Avoiding this area would be advisable. However the other 7106 island are all currently rated as safe.
If you are concerned about any region that you plan to travel to, we advise you to contact the resort of your choice and ask them directly about the situation in their area.