The following informations can not replace a real travel guide, they rather shall give some overview information about the Philippines. There are different decent travelbooks available. Highly recommended is the 'Philippines Travel Guide' by Jens Peters.

Geography and climate

The Philippines are made up of the Philippine Islands and forming in physical geography a part of the Malay Archipelago. Situated about 1,210 km (about 750 mi) east of the coast of Vietnam, the Philippines are separated from Taiwan on the north by the Bashi Channel. The republic is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the south by the Celebes Sea, and on the west by the South China Sea. The country comprises about 7,107 islands. The largest islands are Luzon (104,683 sq km, Mindanao (94,956 sq km), Palawan (14,896 sq km), Panay (12,327 sq km), Mindoro (10,245 sq km), Samar 9,949 sq km), Negros (9,225 sq km), Leyte (6,268 sq km), Cebu (5,088 sq km), Bohol (4,117 sq km), and Masbate (4,047 sq km). The total area of the Philippines is 300,000 sq km (about 115,831 sq mi). Manila is the capital and largest city of the Philippines.
There are more than 20 active volcanoes on the islands. Eruptions and earthquakes are fairly common in the Philippines. One of the most active volcanoes is the Mt. Mayon in southern Luzon, near Legaspi city. The Pinatubo, a vulcano north of Manila was dormant for 600 years when it broke out June 1991 with distructive results.

The Philippines are within the Tropics and have an average temperature of about 27°C (about 80°F). On higher altitudes it is cooler. Rainfall averages about 2,030 mm (about 80 in) a year in the lowlands. In most of the Philippine Islands the rainy season occurs during the summer monsoon, from May to November, when the wind blows from the southwest; the dry season occurs during the winter monsoon, from December to April, when the wind blows from the northeast. (The east coast of Samar and Mindanao are exceptions, here the dryseason occurs between April and July/August). From June to October sometimes typhoons hit the country and can cause great damage.

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Population

There are plenty of different ethnic groups in the Philippines. The native people of the Philippines are the Negritos und Aetas. The Igorot and the Ifugao, who are living in the central Cordillera in northern Luzon are well known for their centuries old rice terraces around Banaue.
The present Filipinos are principally of malay descent and are divided mainly according to language and religion. The most important numerically are the Visayans, living primarily in the central portion of the archipelago, and the Tagalogs, in central Luzon. The Ilocanos, the third most important group, live mainly in the Cagayan Valley on Luzon. The most important non-Malay groups are people of Spanish and Chinese descent. In the southern portion of the Philippines, particularly in western Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and southern Palawan Island, are Muslim groups. Mestizos, people of mixed Filipino and white or Chinese descent, form a small but economically and politically important minority.
The population has already reached more than 85.000.000 people and is still rising. The Philippines have one of the highest birth rates in Asia.

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Language

The both official languages are English and Filipino. Filipino is based on Tagalog, the language of central Luzon and Manila. English is widely understood and spoken, but the claim the Philippines would be the "third biggest english speaking nation in the world" is somewhat exaggerated. English is the most important language in business and higher education but actually many Filipinos have rather small knowledge about the language. In remote areas you even can find teachers who hardly understand english but actually have to teach it. Tagalog mixed with english is called 'taglish'.
Altogether more than 80 languages are spoken in the country. Filipino is getting more and more important but english is still used in communication between different groups.

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Religion

For long time the Philippines was the only christian nation in Asia, now with the independence of East Timor there is a second.
Roughly 83 % of the population are catholic, another 10 % belong to other christian churches and sects. Among them are the "Seventh Day Adventists", "The Church of the latter day Saints (Mormons)", "United Church of Christ", "Iglesia ni Cristo" and the "Bapist Church". Very popular is also the catholic "El Shaddai" movement from the successfull businessman Mike Velarde.
The muslim population (5 %) lives mainly on the southern islands like Mindanao and Sulu. In the highlands and very remote areas animistic and tribal religions still play an important role or influence the catholic faith. There are also some buddhists in the Philippines.

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Going there

Actually the only way to get to the Philippines is by air. The only exception is a connection by boat between Sandakan in Sabah (East Malaysia) and Zamboanga (Mindanao).
There are a couple of international airports in the country, the most important are Manila and Cebu. Cebu can be reached from Singapore, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Hongkong and some korean airports. Some "Budget Airlines" fly to the Philippines. Air Asia operates flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, Tiger Airways flies from Singapore. Both Airlines fly to Clark International Airport (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport), an 1.5 hours drive from Metro Manila. There is a Shuttle bus service with Philtranco between Clark and Manila. The philippine carrier Cebu Pacific offers now budget flights from Bangkok to Manila, Singapore to Manila, Kuala Lumpur to Manila, Jakarta to Manila, Hongkong to Manila and Singapore to Cebu.
Plenty of airlines offer flights from the main european airports to Manila. Arabian airlines like Saudi, Kuwait Air, Gulf Air or Emirates usually offer the best prices . You will always have a stop in the middle east for a couple of hours. Coming from Northern America consider the different airlines based in Korea, Micronesia Continental connects some Pacific Islands with Manila. For more informations check our Airline - Links.

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Getting around

Most larger cities are served by one of the domestic airlines. For more informations see their websites, here you can find the links.
Plenty of ships of different sizes connect the different islands. Not all are safe, so have a closer look, especially at the smaller outriggers. The larger ships of the bigger shipping lines are usually OK.
Overland travel is done by bus or jeepney, some busses even run trips like Manila - Davao. Trips like this can be quite exhausting, it is recommended to limit the traveltime to 8 - 10 hours a day. In this time, depending on the road condition you can travel 300 - 350 km. Shorter trips are done by jeepneys. Prices are very reasonable but travelling can be quite slow and not always comfortable.
In larger cities taxis are available, however, only in Manila all taxis have a meter. You should insist that it's used. If the driver is not turning on the meter, just remind him to switch the meter on. If he refuses to use it, get off and take another taxi.
Most cities also have tricycles (motorbikes with sidecar carrying up to 6 passengers, sometimes even more) and pedicabs (a kind of rickshaw). Tricycles usually cost a flat fare per passenger, depending on the distance, mostly something about 5 Peso per ride. Fares for pedicabs usually have to be agreed on in advance.

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Safety

The Philippines are not more dangerous than the neighbouring countries. Exceptions are areas like Sulu and some areas of Mindanao.
Some rules should be heeded. It is not recommended to follow any stranger you just met by chance in Manila or any big city. Also think twice joining a drinking spree of Filipinos you don't know. Don't get involved into any kind of gambling, not even for drinks. Be especially wary in cities like Manila, Cebu City or Baguio. There are some common scams.
Also consider the mentality in the Philippines. Even the Philippines are located in Asia, you will rather encounter 'Latino' - asian mentality.
If you travel with open eyes through the country you should not encounter any problems.

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Visa and immigration

For a stay up tp 30 days no visa is required. From 30 days to 59 days of stay you need a visa. The visa cost is about 27,-- € (Germany). You can extend the visa in the country. You will get another 2 months or less if you wish. For the cost of the extension see the website of the Philippine Immigration. If you stay longer than 59 days in the country, you need to pay for an "Emigration Clearance Certificate", it is possible that you need to pay for this already together with your extension.
If you are married to a philippine national you can avail the "Balikbayan Privilege", but you need to enter the country together with your spouse. This visa is free of charge and valid for one year, you will get it on arrival at the aiport. If you are lucky to get this kind of visa you don't need to pay any additional fees.

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Money

The philippine currency is officially called 'Piso', but Peso is commonly used. One Peso is devided into 100 Centavos. You can find actual rates on Oanda.com.
In bigger cities you can find moneychanger, they usually offer better rates than banks, to change cash or Traveller cheques is also a lot faster at the moneychanger. A lot of banks demand to see the receipt of purchase of your traveller cheques. Also big shopping center usually offer money changing service. Creditcards or other ATM cards (Maestro, Cirrus) are other good possibilities to get some cash. Many ATM's accept Maestro or Cirrus cards.

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Helpful contacts

For embassies and consulates see the link site

Immigration Office
Commission of Immigration and Deportation(CID)
Magellanes Drive, Intramuros
METRO MANILA
Tel. (02) 5273265
http://www.immigration.gov.ph/

Post and Telefon
General Post Office
Liwasang Bonifacio, Intramuros
Metro Manila

Department of Tourism
Department of Tourism
T.M. Kalaw Street, Rizal Park, Ermita
1000 Metro Manila
Tel. (02) 5241703, Fax: (02) 7224673
http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph/

Tourist Police
Tourist Assistance Unit (TAU)
Department of Tourism Building
T.M. Klaw Street, Rizal Park, Ermita

 

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Map of the Philippines

Click to enlarge

 

Travelbooks about the Philippines::

 

Philippines Travelbook Lonely Planet Cover
Philippines Travelbook von Lonely Planet, 11th Edition
Mai 2012
ISBN: 978-1741796940
Travelbook,engl.


Philippines Travelguide from Jens Peters Cover

4th edition, June 2012
Travelbook, engl.
ISBN 978-3-923821-37-2

Deutsche Versionr