Filipino is the official language of the Philippines. English is the most common other language and is widely understood across the nation. English is taught in schools and many businesses use it as the common language. Many signs are in English, as well as in Filipino. English speaking tourists should have little difficulty communicating with the locals, particularly in cities and tourist areas.
The official currency of the Philippines is the Philippine peso (PHP), which is made up of 100 centavos. Travelers can exchange currency at banks and exchange agencies in the major cities, and will usually be expected to present a passport. Never should change money on the street at non-officially designated locations. ATMs are widely available in cities, large towns and tourist areas, but are not common in rural areas or smaller islands. All major credit cards are generally accepted, but cash is often the only form of payment accepted in rural areas. Travelers’ checks in USD only can be exchanged at banks and are accepted at some larger hotels and restaurants..
The Philippines is in the Philippine Time (PHT) Zone which is eight hours ahead of GMT.
The Philippines uses electricity at 220V/60Hz with type A, B, or C plug sockets. Visitors with electrical appliances that use a different voltage will need a transformer, while appliances with different plugs will need a plug adaptor. American devices tend to use type A plugs and will work here without needing an adaptor or transformer.
The international dialing code for the Philippines is +63 and area codes are in use. The main mobile operators are Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular. To use the GSM networks here, most travelers will need a quad-band or tri-band mobile phone. Dual band phones for Europe/Asia should work, but North American dual-band ones generally will not. VOIP is the cheapest way to make international calls to or from the Philippines with Vodini Telecom a popular provider. Internet cafés and Wi-Fi are plentiful in cities, but much less common in rural areas. Some places like Starbucks are free and others, particularly in hotels and malls, are very expensive so it is best to check before connecting.
Duty-free alcohol and cigarettes are available to international passengers ages 18 and older who are entering the Philippines. Duty-free purchases are limited to 400 cigarettes or 250gm of tobacco, two bottles of alcohol at a maximum size of one liter each. Overseas arrivals may take advantage of duty-free shopping for 48 hours, which is validated through the visitor’s passport, ticket and boarding pass. The special Fiesta Duty Free Mall is accessible to international arrivals only and offers a wide variety of local and imported products which shoppers can purchase duty-free, up to the Government stipulated limits. Normal local taxes are applied to purchases over and above those limits.
The Department of Tourism (DOT): +63-2-524-2345 or http://www.tourism.gov.ph/.
Embassies and Consulates in the Philippines
US Embassy, Manila: +63-2-301-2000 Australian Embassy, Manila: +63-2-757-8100 Embassy of Canada, Manila: +63-2-857-9000 Consulate of Canada, Cebu: +63-32-256-3320 Embassy of New Zealand, Makati: +63-2-891-5358 Embassy of the United Kingdom, Taguig: +63-2-858-2200
Emergency services: 117