Area : 115831.0 km2
Population : 91983000 inhabitants
Between 15 hrs (with Air France) and 19 hrs depending on route chosen by the airline. Manila is 6,808 mi from London.
Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located 4 miles from Manila's centre. A regular taxi picked up at the airport will cost anywhere from PHP 150 depending on which 'scenic route' you find yourself on. If you do this, insist that the driver turns on the metre. But for better peace of mind, jump into one of the yellow metred cabs that are regulated; it will cost you a little more, around PHP 200 but it will avoid any nasty surprises once at your destination. You can also take a prepaid coupon taxi (large, spacious air conditioned vehicles) which again saves you the hassle of bargaining with the driver, however these are much more expensive at around PHP 575. For your return flight, make sure you have PHP 750 for the international departure airport tax. The domestic departure tax is currently at PHP 200.
Petty theft and money changing scams are common but with a bit of common sense you should be able to enjoy a wonderful holiday. This means being discreet with your money (money belts are handy in this case) and valuables, never leaving these out of sight and using only trusted money exchange offices.
Since the terrorist attacks in Bali in 2002, international terrorist action in the region is still possible, especially in crowded public places. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to south west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to ongoing terrorist activity.
However, around 70,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year and most visits are trouble free, and should be by using your street smarts.
The FCO advise against all travel to south-west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of on-going terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.
Filipino is the official language of the Philippines while English is also an official language and widely spoken. There are also many dialects spoken such as Tagalog (the basis of Filipino), Ilocano, Visayan and Bicolano.
For European citizens, a visa is not necessary for stays of under 21 days. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return date. For further information on visas for stays of longer than 21 days, contact the Philippine embassy.
The Filipino population is made up of 81% Roman Catholics, 9% Protestants, 7% Muslims, 2% Animists and lastly 1% Filipinos belong to Christian sects and Buddhism.
The Philippine peso (PHP) is the currency of the Philippines and is subdivided into 100 centavos.
The national carrier is Philippine Airlines which flies to all major cities and islands. The country has also succumbed to the low-cost trend and has its own low-cost carrier called Cebu Pacific Air which flies to many destinations in the Philippines and south east Asia. Tickets can be very affordable when booked in advance online.
For shorter island hopping trips, the local outrigger boats known as bangkas, are ideal. Meanwhile, avoid taking the large boats from island to island as often they are overloaded with passengers causing fatal accidents. Best to stick to the trusted high speed catamarans such as those that you'll find making the crossing between Cebu and Bohol.
Some roads, especially in the northern mountain regions, can be very rocky, which means a 200 mile journey can take hours and hours however crossing them is part of the adventure! Between major cities you might have the option of taking a comfortable, air conditioned coach that is usually a non stop service, therefore shaving hours off the journey time.
For shorter distances, the jeepneys, which are such a huge part of the Philippine landscape, are great fun to ride in; each one is different, painted and decorated to within an inch of its life! However, there are rarely any schedules so they leave when they are full. This means being flexible and patient! The tricycles are also handy and a very cheap way of getting around, but make sure to negotiate the fare before setting off.
Traffic is also a huge problem, especially in the large cities like Manila, where there are no rules, just a lot of honking and beeping. An international driver's licence is necessary to hire a car. Car rental agencies are in Manila and at all major airports.
No particular vaccines are officially required. However, it is preferable to be vaccinated against diphtheria, polio, typhoid and hepatitis A and B.
It is always recommended to practise good hygiene, as you would anywhere but pay attention to what you eat and drink; ensure meat is well cooked, do not drink the tap water, do not eat fruit or salads that have been washed in tap water and only take ice with your drinks if it has been filtered.
Malaria: an antimalaria treatment is recommended for those wishing to travel to isolated islands and jungle such as areas in Palawan and Mindanao.
Only drink bottled water or water that has been purified. Pack your own pharmacy kit: antidiarrheal medication, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, paracetamol and anti-malaria tablets.
Makati Medical Center (Manila), (63) (2) 8888 999
Electricity is 220 V and 110 V. Bring an adaptor for US plugs and a flashlight is always handy since 'brown outs' (scheduled power cuts) are frequent.
Most products are taxed at 20%.
Tips are welcome for any assistance.
In hotels and restaurants, a tip of 10% is often included in the bill.
The country code of the Philippines is 63, so when calling from the UK dial 00 + 63 before the main phone number (drop the initial 0 if there is one).
To call the UK from the Philippines dial 00 + 44 before the main phone number (drop the initial 0 if there is one).
Some useful information: the telephone network is far from excellent and is at times saturated.
However, local SIM cards are inexpensive, as are the prepaid vouchers that go with them. Best to buy either a Smart or Globe SIM.
6-8 Suffolk Street
Telephone: (020) 7451 1800
The British Embassy in the Philippines
120 Upper McKinley Road,
McKinley Hill, Taguig City 1634
Telephone: (63) (2) 858 2200
Fax: (63) (2) 858 2237