If you are coming from Asia, Europe or America, you may enter Manila without a visa provided that you have a passport that is valid for six months and either a ticket to another country or a return ticket to your homeland. You may continue staying in Manila for up to 21 days without a visa. You may renew your permit for up to 59 days by acquiring a Visa Extension from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration. If you have decided to stay longer prior to your trip, you must obtain a Visa Extension permit from the Philippine consulate or embassy in your country. To see the complete list of Visa Extension fees, visit http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=118&Itemid=43.
Upon arrival, you will be asked to submit a Baggage and Currency Declaration Form. The only vaccination needed is for yellow fever, that is, if you are coming from an infected area. Check with your travel agent for updates on other requirements. After claiming your luggage from the carousel, proceed to the customs office.
If you have someone to pick you up, he or she cannot enter the airport to meet you unless you have secured a special clearance. You can meet your greeters outside, across the street from the main entrance. If there is a private car waiting for you, you can locate the car by looking for the sign that indicates the first letter of your last name.
There is an airport tax of P200 for domestic flights and P700 for international flights. Depending on your visa status, you might also be required to pay a substantial amount each time you exit the country. You will be asked to show a Special Return Certificate (SRC) at the window where you will pay your exit fee. The SRC allows you to reenter and exit the country. You can get one from a local attorney.
Tourists are allowed to bring the following duty free: reasonable number of clothing, jewelry, toiletries, two tins of tobacco or 400 sticks of cigarettes, and two one-liter bottles of wine or other spirits. Those carrying more than USD3,000 must declare such amount at the counter of the Central Bank of the Philippines located in the customs area. Visitors are permitted to bring in unlimited amount of foreign money but are not allowed to bring in more than one currency.
If the airport has put your luggage on hold, go to the Interline Baggage Room (Tel. No.: +63 2 877-1109 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +63 2 877-1109 end_of_the_skype_highlighting local 3633) to claim your baggage. The fee is Php300 per day and per piece of baggage.
Upon leaving, you are required to present a clearance certificate from the National Museum if you bought antiques during your stay. You will not be allowed to take more than Php5,000 out of the country.
The currency in the country is the Philippine peso (international symbol: Php, local: P) and the centavo. P1 equals 100 centavos. Coin denominations are: 1,5,10 and 25 centavos, P1 and P5. Bill denominations: P10, P20, P50, P100, P500, and P1,000.
Credit cards and currency exchange
You may exchange your foreign currency in your hotel and in most of the major banks, department stores, and authorized money changers. It is illegal to exchange money anywhere else.
Major credit cards such as Visa’s, MasterCard and American Express are accepted in most large restaurants, stores, resorts and hotels. Travelers’ checks, preferably American Express, are accepted in big department stores and hotels. Personal checks from foreign banks are generally not accepted.
It is warm and humid all-year-round in Manila. Hence, upon arrival, it is advisable to wear comfortable clothes, preferably sleeveless tops or lightweight shirts, shorts and pants in cotton fabric. Pair them with sandals, flip-flops or open shoes. Bring shades and an umbrella, especially if you arrived during the rainy season.
It is easy to talk with Manilans because almost all of them speak both Filipino (the national language) and English (the second language). Those who speak Spanish might recognize familiar words in Filipino since 40 percent of the vocabulary is derived from Spanish.
Manila is relatively safe for tourists. Manilans usually give foreigners a warm welcome and are almost always ready to help anyone in need. Pickpockets and cellphone-snatching are prevalent anywhere in Manila, but police visibility is high, especially in tourist areas, where there are police cars frequently on patrol. Heinous crimes very rarely involve tourists, unlike in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. In Manila, locals are usually the victims of violent crimes.
As a general rule, avoid going to unlighted or narrow streets. If not robbers, you might fall victim to a stray dog.
Food and drink
It is not safe to eat street food or drink tap water in Manila. If you do, you might get sick with cholera or diarrhea. Hence, always go for bottled water and for food and drinks in hotels, restaurants and fast food chains.
Important contact numbers
Department of Foreign Affairs Philippines
Address: 2330 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Philippines
Tel. no.: (+632) 8344000
Bureau of Immigration Philippines
Department of Tourism Philippines
Address: T.F. Valencia Circle, T.M. Kalaw St., Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines
Tel. no.: (632) 523-8411