TRAVEL TIPS - Resource Centre
There's so much information to place in this section its hard to know where to start. So I guess the first place to start is your arrival point in the Philippines.
Most international visitors will arrive at Manila's NAIA International Airport - Ninoy Aquino International Airport (pictured below,) which is located on the main island of Luzon. Luzon is home to more than half of all Filipinos throughout the 7,000 plus islands that comprises the Philippines archipelago.
There is also an international airport in Cebu (located on another island in the Visayas chain,) and a much smaller international airport recently opened in Davao City, located in the southern most island of Mindanao, about 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.
In any event for the first time visitor to the Philippines we'd recommend that you arrange for a hotel in Manila, at least for your first night's stay, BEFORE arriving in the Philippines. In addition it would behoove you to have the hotel arrange to meet you at the airport. The last thing one wants to do is to hassle with getting a hotel room, taking a taxi to an unknown location after a long haul flight.
For those brave and adventurous souls who wish to do it yourself, you can hire a taxi at the airport. However caveat emptor ! Hire a taxi immediately after exiting customs and the arrival terminal and you'll be charged an outrageous price, i.e. approximately 750 pesos or around US$15, even for a short ride. There's a monopoly on the airport taxi concessions throughout the Philippines and they charge you for it. Hiring a taxi at the airport may or may not be cheaper than having the hotel arrange to pick you up, but none the less it is one of my pet peeves about airport taxi's in the Philippines, as I dislike paying over the odds at any time and place. And you will pay over the odds if you hire an airport taxi, at least at the arrival area.
Your best bet is to go upstairs to the DEPARTURE area, where taxi's drop off passengers and grab a taxi there. Insist that they use their meter and tell them you'll give them a tip ($1 or 50 pesos is adequate.) A ride into Metro Manila shouldn't cost more than 100-150 pesos give or take depending on how bad the traffic is. And the traffic can be horrific! 200 pesos is the going rate (on the meter) to most parts of Quezon City, a little farther north of Manila. A small but reasonable tip is always appreciated, but not required. If traffic is bad or its rush hour, its not unusual for the cab driver to ask for a little more and that's okay. But at the airports, airport taxi's are an outright rip off in my opinion.
METRO MANILA HOTELS
As previously stated, you're better off booking your first night's stay in Manila BEFORE you arrive. Then after a good night sleep, you can head off to Tagaytay (about 90 minutes drive away), Boracay or where ever you desire or planned.
Manila offers a little bit of everything for everyone. It's a bustling metropolis of 12 million souls. Traffic can be some of the worse in the world and it is an experience, though you'd be wise to avoid it a second time ... if you can!
Manila's traffic is said to be amongst the worst in the world! The world famous Jeepney's are cheap and everywhere.
Dynamic and exciting Makati, the business centre, is called "Little New York". Manila's chinatown offers bargain basement prices on just about anything you'd want and the food is outstanding as well.
A decent hotel in the Ermita area of Metro Manila, not far from Roxas Boulevard where the American embassy is located, can be had for around US$25 per night, if you do your homework. You may want to try the Aloha Hotel at 2150 Roxas Blvd. Malate, not far from Ermita. The telephone number is (63 2) 521 2371-75. The rack rate is less than $50, but discounts are widely available and you can probably pick up a room for $25 to $35 per night, but you have to ask, ask, ask.
The Manila Pavillion Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) rack rate is a ridiculous US$155 per night for a standard room. However discounts are widely offered and you can usually pick up a room for around $50 to US$60 a night depending on the season. The 5 star hotels, located mostly in the Makati business district, can go for $200 and up per night. However be sure to have your travel agent check for specials, as we stayed at the 5 star Intercontinental Hotel in Makati once for US$50 per night for two, including breakfast; a real bargain not only in the Philippines, but anywhere in the world for a 5 star hotel.
For longer stays in the Metro Manila area, you'd be wise to try an apartelle, which is an apartment/hotel type room with a kitchen for self catering, etc.. Usually there is what the Filipino's call a "sari sari" , store nearby so you can stock up on groceries and drinks. Sari Sari roughly translates to mean "a little bit of everything", i.e. assorted food, drinks and goods as in a confectionary store.
Fersal Apartelle Tourist Inn's offer fully furnished, nice clean rooms at attractive daily, weekly and monthly rates. They have locations in Makati (the main business district,) Manila, Cubao and Quezon City. In fact friends stayed at their brand new and very impressive location in Quezon City (the one behind the Philippine Heart Center, not the one located on Kalayann Avenue,) and they were really impressed! For less than US$25 per night they had a VERY clean and spacious room that slept three with air-con, TV and telephone. A very good deal indeed for the three of them.
Fersal's locations and reservation telephone numbers are:
Makati- 107 Neptune St. (near Makati Ave.) 63 2 897-9123
Cubao - 245 P. Tuazon St. (near Araneta Center) 63 2 912-8000
Cubao - 49 Annapolis St. (near Aurora Blvd.) 63 2 912-5852
Diliman - 130 Kalayaan Ave. (near Quezon City Hall) 63 2 63 2 924-2689
Fersal Place Hotel - 131 Malakas St., Diliman (back of Heart Center) - 63 2 426-7308
Fersal Inn Manila - 1455 A. Mendoza St., Santa Cruz (near UST) 63 2 742-7292
Fersal Baguio - opening 2005
Fersal's facsimile number is (63 2) 913-6078. Their e-mail address is
firstname.lastname@example.org . Remember rates vary from location and some of their properties are older and shoddier than others. But for a longer term stay, discounts are given for a fair price.
Traveling within the Philippines is a breeze. There is excellent air transport and boat service as well. There are so many resorts, beaches and interesting places to visit it will be hard to decide where to go and what to do. Just remember that when you fly domestically in the Philippines, you use the Manila domestic airport, nearby, an "NOT" the NAIA International Airport.
MacArthur memorial of his WW2 return - Leyete
The great American General and Philippine hero who kept his word when he said " I shall return ," Douglas MacArthur, has a WW2 landing memorial of his return on Leyte Island, in the Visayas Region Provinces! It's just a short flight from Manila and Tagaytay . It's worth a visit, especially if you are an American as there a lot of historical sights and things to see.
Naturally there is the MUST SEE Tagaytay . The Taal volcano (pictured below) and surrounding serene atmosphere should be on everyone's itinerary. Plan on staying at least two to three nights. Click here for more details about Tagaytay .
Taal volcano shots taken from different points on Tagaytay ridge. The best hotel views are similar to these photographs, courtesy of Roger Herrera and Jo Jo.
Boracay, just an hours flight from Manila, has to be, in my opinion, the absolute best beach, with the whitest sand in the world. Bear in mind I've been to nearly a hundred countries during the last 39 years and visited all the best beaches. Boracay is heads and shoulders above the rest. Plan on staying at least three nights and four days. There is a proliferation of travel agents offering package deals to Boracay, notably in the Midtown Hotel Arcade, Ermita, Manila.
Boracay, the absolute best beach in the world, bar none!
However one obscure travel agency located in the basement of a shopping arcade offers outstanding travel packages at knock down prices. Jonmark Domestic Ticketing offers two nights and three days at one of the best, if not the best hotel in Boracay, The Regent Hotel. The package includes roundtrip airfare, pick-up and return from the airport, hotel for two with breakfast included for around $190 per person, including taxes. This, and I trust you'll agree, represents very good value for your money.
In addition they have incredibly cheap international packages as well. For instance cheap trips to Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, all offering pick-up and return from the airports, hotel rooms, breakfast and in some cases, city tours.
Jonmark Domestic Ticketing is located in the Isetann Recto area of Manila, Lower ground Floor/Food Court (beside Isetann Supermarket), Isetann Cinerama Complex, C.M. Recto, Manila. Telephone number (63 2) 736 3568. They sell domestic air and sea tickets plus travel packages to various resorts in addition to Boracay . The Maribago Bluewater Resort in Cebu , is one of their offerings, and a very good one indeed. But if it's your first visit to the Philippines and you can only visit one resort, make it Boracay .
Cebu's Maribago Bluewater Resort. A typical Philippines sunset.
In the event you elect to travel to Cebu , and by all means do so if you have the time, you may want to check out the Chocolate Hills on Bohol Island, an island not far from Cebu .
They say if you want to see the real Philippines, go to Bohol Island and check out the chocolate hills.
The Chocolate Hills are some 1268 hillocks, ranging from 20 to 50 meters in height, which dominate the landscape for miles around. In summer months, their grass covering dries out, turning them a 'Chocolate' brown, hence their name.
At the pricier end of the resort market are several resorts in El Nino, Northern Palawan. They are absolutely outstanding and first class all the way. You just have to pay for it. Both Miniloc and Lagen Resorts offer a veritable raft of activity options: beach picnics, island hopping, hikes, hobie cat sailing, kayaking and dives, including an introductory dive for beginners. I did my first ever dive and was hooked and you will too. My spouse, who couldn't swim, did her first dive, with the help of an expert instructor, and it became one of her fondest travel memories.
You are also given options as to whom you do these with: fellow guests, your friends, your partner or even on your own. With so many unfrequented islands in the bay, there is no trouble finding a private beach, especially for honeymooners who might wish to be alone.
Our personal favorite was the older Miniloc Resort. We stayed in one of the cottages ON THE WATER , ( picture below right ,) quite an experience if I say so myself. The pictures (below) are a sample of what's in store for you in the Philippines and in Northern Palawan in particular. All activities and meals are included, and you can even take a free boat trip to the other resort for dinner. If you go to either resort, do have dinner one night at the other resort. The night trip over and back (about 30 minutes each way,) exposed the stars like I've never seen them before. They were so brilliant and seemed so close that you could reach out and touch them. We had an absolutely cracking time and you will too.
Picture on the left above is the view at the Lagen Resort. On the right, rooms on the water at Miniloc
InterIsland Travel & Tours, Inc. located at the Midtown Arcade, Manila has special packages for either of the above resorts, as well as other resort destinations. Their telephone number is: (63 2) 522-1405.
One of the man made wonders of the world, the Banaue rice terraces. View from Baguio city (picture to the right.)
Banaue's is at an altitude of approximately 1200 meters. It offers spectacular rice terraces (above picture) in Ifugao valley and the interesting local Ifugao tribes people (see picture below left.) Located about a nine hours bus ride from either Manila or Baguio City, its taken the Ifugao people over 2,000 years to create this incredible landscape. It's one of the man made wonders of the world. If time permits, it is most certainly worth a visit as you can see from the picture above and the two pictures directly below.
Ifugao tribes woman and the Banaue rice terraces, 2,000 years in the making
City , is nestled 5,000 feet above sea level atop the
Grand Cordillera Mountain Range. Baguio City, the highest
City in the Philippines, is located in the heart of Benguet
Province, about a six hour bus trip (one way) from Manila.
It's the summer capital of the Philippines. There is air service
to Baguio. A visit to Baguio is recommended if time permits.
Banaue rice terrace, one of the
man made wonders of the world!
All in all there is so much more to show and
see, as we said at the beginning of this page, its hard to
place everything essential at this url. Click here for a recommended
places to visit during your stay in the Philippines.
[Pictures above Left to right.] Sunrise over Taal Volcano. Delicious fresh fruits at the City market and sunset over Lake Taal.