Plan Your First Trip to the Philippines
So you are ready to go to the Philippines? Fantastic, you are going to have a wonderful time! But it is important to plan out your trip.
First, how are you going to get there? You need to plan your flights and prepare for the long journey across the Pacific Ocean.
I have used different ways to find flights over the years to many different countries. My current favorite way to find and compare flight is with JustFly. You simply input your departing airport and arriving airport and your dates of travel. The website then goes through all the flights for those and closely surrounding dates and gives you from cheapest to most expensive all of the available flights.
It also lets you look at each suggested ticket to see how long the flights are and what your layover is on each leg of your journey. This is important because you do not want to save $100 and have a 6 hour layover in Korea and a 5 hour layover in an American city on the way there or the way back!
The site lets you know what airline or airlines will be transporting you for each leg of the trip. It also organizes the list so that you see the least expensive flights first.
My suggestion is to always choose an Asian airline over an American airline as they provided much better service and a better experience. My personal two favorites that I have flown are Korea Air and All Nippon Airways.
The major airport for international travel servicing the Philippines is in Manila. The airport code is MNL. Simply type that in to JustFly or whatever website you are booking on and it should auto populate the correct airport which is, Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Tip: If your final destination is a smaller airport such as Davao or Cebu, it can be much cheaper to book your passage to Manila through JustFly and then book your tickets round trip from Manila to the smaller airport directly with either Cebu Pacific or Philippines Airlines.
Prepare for your long haul flight across the Pacific.
Prepare for your long haul flight across the Pacific Ocean to Asia
Ok you have your tickets and are ready to board your flight across the Pacific to Asia. Now you have to survive. It is going to be a long time before you get the Philippines; it is one of the longest transits in the world. So how to you make it with your sanity intact?
Make sure you bring some type of tablet that is preloaded with movies and work. I use an Ipad for this and generally load up 10-12 hours of content for the trip there and back. This is a mix of movies, tv shows that I want to watch and article content. I am a full time blogger so I try to get some work done on the trip.
Most good airlines have current movies on their view screens that you can watch, but they usually are a limited selection and you can get board really fast. I like to make sure that I have alternative content on my Ipad that I can watch if I don’t find any shows that I am interested in on their on demand content. I generally find that I watch about half of the airlines stuff and about half my own.
Make sure that you walk around the cabin every two hours or so. I get up from my seat about every two hours and go to the bathroom and stretch. I go to the area between the bathrooms and the stewardess areas and bend my knees and perform stretching exercises. It really makes the trip more bearable. You will get up from the trip more refreshed if you do this, I promise!
One trick that I do is to make sure that I book a widow seat or an aisle seat on the airline, preferably near the back of the aircraft. Out of several trips to Asia from the United States all but two I have had the entire row to myself. As you can imagine this makes it much easier to sleep. It also makes it much more private and enjoyable. On trips to Europe I normally end up beside someone that speaks English and I have some enjoyable conversation, not so when I travel to Asia, Usually the person I am stuck with has very bad English and is not in the mood to talk.
Truthfully the best strategy I have had for making sure that I have no company on my trip across the pond is to book a rear seat that is on the aisle. It may have been luck, but it seems to work especially on the Japanese airlines.
The standard operation on most airlines is to go to cruising altitude and then serve the first meal. As soon as you finish your meal you should head to the bathroom and change into something more comfortable. I being a man usually change into a tee shirt and some sweatpants. I then take my shoes off and kick back for the night.
Try and get as much sleep as possible on the flight. I usually bring a comfortable neck pillow, some eye covers, ear plugs, and then I take my shoes off.
This helps especially when some idiot opens the shade to see the scenery below while you are flying over Alaska.
You are going to spend over half a day on the plane so if you cannot sleep at least try to make the most of it by watching movies or working.
I also take a keyboard linked up with Bluetooth to my ipad so that I can work if I am unable to sleep.
Try to stretch at every opportunity by walking around the cabin. I really cannot express how much this helps! You should also drink plenty of water and avoid at all costs any alcohol.
So you now have your tickets to the Philippines so where are you going to stay?
I have found two websites to be the most helpful when searching for hotel accommodations in the Philippines and booking. I have used others and have been disappointed in the past.
The First website to book hotels is Agoda which seems to be more widespread in Asia. It was especially helpful at times I booked at smaller hotels in the provinces.
The Second website that I used in larger cities was Hotels.com
With either of these you need to print out your confirmation page and take it with you on your trip. With Agoda you will also need to print out your Voucher.
You should also plan out what activities you would like to do while you are in the Philippines. The best way that I have found to do this is to search the city that you will be spending time in and checkout websites like Travelocity to see what is recommended. Most of the times that I have been those recommendations have provided good guidance on what to expect at different places.
I strongly recommend drinking bottled water anywhere in the country. Some cities have potable water, but you do not want to spend several days on your vacation in bed and sick.
I also highly recommend avoiding street food, unless you are with a local who knows that the vendor is safe and has purchased from them before. I have had some wonderful street food and very cheap prices, but I have always been with a local who was familiar with the vendor.
Believe it or not the money exchanges at the airport in Manila are not all that bad compared to most countries. It is a little more expensive than you can get elsewhere but not terrible. I have also found that Western Unions in the malls are not terribly expensive. Yes you will lose a little more in the exchange, but these are very safe.
I have also found that going to major banks in the provinces are both safe and not overly priced. There are better rates from merchants on the streets but you can get counterfeit bills or ripped off. I only use those when I am with a local who knows the people or establishment.
You should also notify your credit card company that you will be in the Philippines and the dates that you will be there. The country is high on the fraud list and your credit card may not work when you get there unless you have notified them ahead of time.
Finally, I hope that you have a wonderful trip and stay safe!
P.S. If there is more that you would like to know or if you would like to see a more in depth article on a topic, let me know in the comments section.