Philippine beaches caught my eye when i came across the photos of beautiful Boracay beaches, they were absolutely gorgeous. As i explored more i was amazed by the beauty of beaches in Philippines, there are loads of them and they are gorgeous. Philippines gets lots of typhoons between June to November, so best time to travel is between December to February when chances of typhoon are less and weather is quite pleasant.
Philippines is a group of more than 7000 islands and hopping across islands is a challenge as mostly you need to travel by air. There are not a lot of options to travel by sea on ferry or boat if it’s a long journey. This makes planning a bit challenging and you have choose between planning well in advance about destinations or costlier air tickets. There are few airlines to choose from, mainly Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Air Swift. Out of these Air Swift offers flights to some remote locations where no other airline goes for example Manila or Boracay to El Nido, but then you need to book well in advance as they fly small aircrafts and prices go up quite fast.
Once you land in Manila, you will find long immigration queues and luggage collection are is quite cramped. As you approach towards exit gate, you will find ATM and booth for sim card. I would strongly advise to get a sim card at airport itself. I took SIM card of GLOBE which is what i see most people recommend but on few islands, i saw SMART sim was having signal but not globe. Also i found that GLOBE has better data plans. As soon you get a sim install “Grab” mobile app, it’s very very useful especially for booking cabs. I took yellow cab from airport to my accommodation and the cab meter ran faster than wheels, i ended up paying double the amount. But then i was prepared for it, it takes time to get use to Grab.
Manila traffic can be very bad on weekdays, i heard stories like travelling few miles taking hours during rush hours. I planned in a such a way that i was catching my flights in and out of Manila over weekend and faced no traffic. This is very important to consider else you might risk missing your flight.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan then be prepared for some tough time. It is not easy to get vegetarian food in Philippines, you should be able to eat at least chicken or cook on your own.
Few things one must carry along while travelling to Philippines are sun screen, sun glasses and Aqua shoes. Philippines has lots of places with coral reefs and they are beautiful but if step over them then you will injure your foot for sure. I injured my foot and it troubled me throughout the journey. Also when you buy aqua shoes ensure that they are of good quality and have holes in the sole for water to seep out else you need to take off shoes from time to time to remove water.
Indian traveller do need a visa to travel to Philippines but process is a but cumbersome and its not managed by VFS, you need to directly visit consulate even for queries. Website is not very clear on visa charges which need to be paid in form of Demand draft. There are exceptions as well, so if an Indian national holds a valid visa to any of these countries then you are allowed 14 day visa free travel to Philippines which can extended to 21 days : “United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom and Schengen”.
In my case whole visa process became a bit complicated. I was having a valid Japanese visa, so i was allowed 14 day visa free travel but my trip was for 16 days, so i needed extension as well. Firstly there were no articles about how visa free travel works and then how extension works. So i thought it will be safer to apply for Visa rather than facing issues while travelling. But Philippines embassy didn’t took my visa application stating that i had Japan visa and was entitled for visa free travel. So i had no option but to discover how all this works. I boarded Thai airways flight to Manila from Delhi via Bangkok. First i had to explain to immigration officer in Delhi that its Visa free travel for me as i have Japan visa then i had to explain same thing at Bangkok airport to Thai officials who held up my flight boarding as they got whole thing clarified. All the while i was carrying printouts from Philippines embassy website, just in case required. Luckily immigration officer in Manila knew about visa free travel and he told me the visa extension process. Visa extension was like a sword hanging on my head all the while, main issue was that i was travelling all the while to small islands. Now as i went for Visa extension, i was told that offices were closed for almost 4 days due to Christmas and New year holidays, a real bad situation to be in. In my final leg of journey to Boracay, i finally was able to apply for extension. And they told me that Visa extension is not free and costed me more than actual Visa 🙁 , it took 2 days to get my passport back with extended visa. My advise is that never go for extension unless it really needed, better adjust the trip. Another thing to note is that while extending visa they provide some papers where they do background checks, always keep those papers with you. While leaving Philippines, immigration officer asked for those papers almost taking me by surprise, luckily i had them handy in my bag.
Planning to trip to Philippines is a bit tricky but i would say worth it. It’s a beautiful place to visit and people are quite welcoming.