Philippine Travel Requirements

Exploring this tropical paradise, with its pristine beaches, vibrant cities, and rich cultural heritage, promises to be a journey like no other. As you set out to traverse our diverse archipelago, remember to do so with confidence, armed with the knowledge and insights shared throughout this article, from Philippine travel requirements to responsible tourism.

Written by Marijim Dy Timkang | Edited by Bianca Versoza

The Philippines has always been a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. With its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse culture and cuisine, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to this tropical paradise year after year. In fact, the Philippines’ Department of Tourism reported 2.7 million visitors from January to June alone. 

But before you plan your dream vacation in the Philippines, you must become familiar with the country’s travel requirements. In this article, I’ll share the documents needed for entry into the Philippines as well as any other important information travelers should be aware of. So read on if you are ready to plan your Philippine getaway.

Philippines Travel Guidelines

Traveling to the Philippines is an exciting experience, but one that requires planning and understanding of the country’s requirements. Knowing what to expect before you arrive can help make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Visa and entry requirements

One of the major Philippine travel requirements is a Visitors International Stay Admission (VISA). However, not everyone is required to have it. It actually depends on a tourist’s home country.

Nationals of countries included under Executive Order No. 408 are allowed for a visa-free stay, which shall be stamped to their foreign passport upon arrival. This includes all ASEAN and European Union nationals as well as those from Canada and the United States. The number of days ranges from 14 to 59 days, depending on which country the passport was issued from.

Subsequently, for those countries not included, they must apply for a 9A visa online and pay the visa fee.

The requirements to travel here are generic and are listed below:

  • Passport valid no less than six (6) months beyond the stay in the Philippines.
  • Have a return or outbound ticket to their country of origin or next destination.

Health and vaccination guidelines

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the national government and local governments have implemented safety guidelines, including social isolation, submitting a negative COVID-19 test result, and showing a vaccination card or certificate when crossing local borders.

Following these guidelines will lower your risk of contracting the disease. Masks are mandatory in Philippine airlines.

Fully vaccinated travelers and their children below 15 years old are exempt from the testing requirements. For those partially or not vaccinated, a negative laboratory-based antigen test result obtained within 24 hours of departure is required.

If you opt for a special lane in health safety check, you may register the form via within 72 hours prior to your arrival.

Currency and financial considerations

The peso is the currency of the Philippines. You can find out how much any bill is worth in Philippine pesos by checking the exchange rate online.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has guidelines stipulated in their Manual of Regulations on Foreign Exchange Transactions per money-laundering law. A person can only bring in or take out physical or electronic money amounting to no more than PHP 50,000 or USD 10,000.

As such, you’ll have to fill out the Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form to declare any excess. Take note that the BSP has the right to seize any excess money without their authorization.

Travel insurance and emergency contacts

For foreigners planning to visit the Philippines, I highly recommend getting travel insurance. This covers medical expenses, lost luggage, and other unexpected costs that may come up while you’re abroad.

It also helps to have your emergency contacts ready in case you need assistance. You may also want to find a local contact who can help you during emergencies while traveling.

Let me share a story: Recently, a friend of mine helped a 19-year-old woman from the UK who got involved in a motorcycle accident in Moalboal, Cebu. The woman suffered critical head injuries and had to be rushed to a Cebu City hospital, which had better facilities than the one in the town.

My friend, Chris, ended up helping the woman because the latter’s parents were a friend of a friend of her sister-in-law’s sister’s husband. Basically, they ended up getting connected because the parents had to inform multiple people about their daughter’s accident.

Then, they had to fly here to Cebu to take care of their daughter. If it weren’t for Chris, the woman wouldn’t have been able to get into a good hospital with the right facilities for her intensive care.

While nobody ever wants anything untoward to happen to them while on vacation, it’s really helpful to be prepared and cover potential scenarios, especially if you’re traveling alone. Make sure you have emergency contacts and travel insurance that will help you in case of an emergent situation.

Packing essentials and clothing tips

The Philippines is a tropical country, so you’ll want to make sure you pack light and airy clothing that will keep you cool. Here are a few tips for what to bring:

  • Lightweight, breathable fabrics like linen or cotton
  • A hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun
  • Comfortable shoes suitable for sightseeing and walking
  • Loose-fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites

Additionally, don’t forget to pack items that will help you stay safe, like sunscreen and insect repellant. Of course, you can find these in most pharmacies and supermarkets in major cities in the Philippines. If you’re planning to go to provincial towns, though, you’ll want to make sure you bring enough of your own supplies.

Preparing for Your Trip

Regardless of whether you’re a first-time traveler to the Philippines or a seasoned tourist, it’s important to give yourself enough time to prepare for the trip. Consider these factors as you make your plans:

Researching your destination

Read up on various online resources about the Philippines. First, check the visa and passport requirements, as well as any other documentation you may need. Also, take note of any immunizations or vaccinations that are recommended for your stay in the Philippines.

By reading this guide, you’re already well on your way to planning a wonderful trip to the Philippines. Additionally, look for supplemental information on everything about the Philippines. Social media is a great way to get even more information from fellow travelers. YouTube also has a wealth of videos that can give you a great insight into the country and the city or province that you plan on visiting.

Booking flights and accommodations

Whether you choose to fly directly to your destination or take a connecting flight, make sure you book your tickets well in advance for the best deals.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are two of the popular carriers that offer domestic and international flights. Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, EVA Air, and Korean Air are some of the major international airlines that fly to the Philippines.

When it comes to accommodations, you have a lot of options – from luxury resorts and hotels to budget-friendly hostels. For those looking for an affordable option, booking through online platforms such as Airbnb or Agoda is highly recommended.

Creating a travel itinerary

Creating a detailed travel itinerary is one of the most important steps you should take when planning your trip. A travel itinerary can help you stay organized and ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the attractions or activities you want to experience.

When creating your itinerary, make sure to include accommodations, transportation options (like planes, trains, buses), attractions, and activities, as well as important contact information for each destination.

Budgeting for your trip

Although the Philippine Peso to the dollar or pound exchange rate is favorable for tourists, budgeting for your trip is essential to ensure you make the most of it. Consider how much money you will need for accommodation, meals, and transportation in addition to any activities or sightseeing trips you want to take part in during your visit.

You should also factor in additional costs such as souvenirs and tips. This way, you can create a realistic budget and make sure you’re not overspending during your vacation.

Packing smart and light

Making sure you have everything you need for your trip to the Philippines is important. However, don’t overpack! Consider the climate of your destination and pack accordingly. If possible, bring items that can be easily layered so that you are prepared for any temperature changes while traveling. Lightweight and wrinkle-free fabrics will also help reduce packing stress.

Packing light is especially crucial if you have multiple destinations within the Philippines. You don’t want to be lugging around heavy bags while you’re trying to explore the country.

Staying healthy while traveling

Before you embark on your journey, make sure you have all the necessary vaccinations and medications needed for travel in the country. Additionally, familiarize yourself with common illnesses that are present in Southeast Asia, such as Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR), and take steps to protect yourself. This could include avoiding contact with animals, drinking only bottled water, and not eating uncooked foods or street food.

It’s also wise to prepare an emergency medical kit containing items such as:

  • Allergy medication
  • Antiseptic cream or ointment
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Bandages and dressings
  • Pain relief medicine
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen

Moreover, don’t forget to bring any prescription medication if you need them for maintenance. They might not be available in Philippine drug stores.

Communicating and navigating

Fortunately, most Filipinos can speak basic English, which can make communication easier for international travelers. However, learning some basic Tagalog phrases is an excellent way to show respect and appreciation for the local culture.

Additionally, having a map of your destination city or town will help you find your way around and get the most out of your trip. Maps of major cities and towns are now in Google Maps, so you can access them easily from your smartphone or laptop.

Just make sure you’re connected to the internet by enabling international roaming for your phone, purchasing a local SIM card, or finding public Wi-Fi hotspots. Note that local SIM cards now must be registered. As such, buy them from official Globe, Smart, or DITO outlets in the malls.

Notifying your home country

It’s best to contact your home country’s embassy or consulate in the Philippines to notify them that you will be traveling to the country. Make sure to provide complete details, such as your itinerary, passport information, and any other relevant documents before your trip. This can help to ensure that you have the necessary support in place should any issues arise while traveling.

Philippine Immigration and Customs

As a form of safety net for both travelers and settlers, the Philippine Bureau of Customs supervises and controls the entry of clearance vessels and commercial aircraft.. Every passenger must submit themselves to the officers in charge before staying on the Philippine premises.

Immigration clearance upon arrival

The Bureau of Immigration requires a BI Clearance Certification for any passenger who wishes to enter the Philippines. This is to document those who legally enter the country and avoid illegal activities.

Custom regulations and declarations

Within 48 hours before arrival at NAIA Terminal 1, you will need to fill out a Declaration Form. The officers will give you a physical copy if you arrive at a different terminal. There is only one form provided to each family, whether related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Prohibited and restricted items

Prohibited goods are as follows:

  1. Films, printed texts, paintings, drawings, and other media with obscene or immoral representations
  2. Materials encouraging rebellion, insurgency, or sedition against the Philippine government
  3. Abortion paraphernalia
  4. Adulterated or misbranded food or drugs
  5. Counterfeit goods like bags, shoes, etc
  6. Goods manufactured in whole or in part of gold, silver, or other precious metals or alloys, and the stamp, brand, or mark does not indicate the actual fineness or quality of the metals or alloys. Jewelry is allowed as long as they are not in commercial quantity and the material quality was indicated.

Legally allowed goods are as follows:

  1. Philippine and Foreign Currency or any Monetary Instrument not exceeding PHP 50,000.00 and USD 10,000, respectively;
  2. Gambling paraphernalia with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s approval;
  3. Cosmetics, skincare products, food supplements, and medicines not exceeding for personal use;
  4. Dangerous or synthetic drugs with import permit/clearance from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency;
  5. Firearms, ammunition, and explosives with import permit/clearance from Firearms and Explosives Office, Philippine National Police;
  6. Alcohol and/or tobacco products in commercial quantities with import permit/clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for alcohol or National Tobacco Administration for tobacco products;
  7. Foods, fruits, vegetables, live animals, marine and aquatic products, plants and/or the product and their by-product with import permit/clearance from the National Plant Quarantine Services/National Veterinary Quarantine Services);
  8. Phones, radios, and other gadgets for personal use, and radio communication equipment with import permit/clearance from the National Telecommunications Commission; and
  9. Cremains, human organs, or tissues with clearance from the Bureau of Quarantine

Duty-free allowances and tax exemptions

Each traveler is entitled to duty and tax (VAT and Excise) exemptions by bringing products stated previously with their corresponding permits/clearances.

Visa extensions and overstaying

It is crucial to file a visa extension before the expiration date to avoid legal consequences. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) in Pasay City has opened its new 24/7 one-stop-shop at the Government Clearing Center of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 to cater to foreign passengers in need of visa extensions.

Extending a visa before its expiration will only require visa fees. The fines for overstaying in the Philippines vary. Generally, it is PHP 500 or approximately USD 9 per month, and a motion for reconsideration fee for the same price.

Transportation within the Philippines

Being an archipelago, the Philippines has diverse travel spots for travel. Here are the most common ways you can go around the country’s numerous cities and towns:

Domestic flights and air travel

The Philippines has four major trusted airlines and over 70 airports. These carry the greatest number of both international and domestic flights in the country. I recommend booking your flights a few months earlier to avoid paying hefty fares and set your travel plans to motion.

Ferry and boat travel

The Philippines has over a thousand islands, and traveling by sea would be one of the highlights of visiting the country. The Philippines has an average of 821 commercial ports.

You may choose to ride various sizes of boats, ranging from a simple bangka to commercial ships. Note that traveling by sea takes slower than traveling by air, but the picturesque view and waves will amplify your experience.

Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT)

In Metro Manila, you may travel across different cities by train (the LRT or MRT lines). Both are useful for getting directly to the city you want to visit. Most of the time, though, these transits are packed with commuters.

Buses and V-hires

You may also choose to travel by riding buses and V-hires, which are available in different terminals 24/7. This travel option can also take you across islands, although the trip could last for a few hours. As such, it is best to empty your bladder before going inside the vehicle. The last thing you would want is to be uncomfortable with a full bladder.

Jeepneys, tricycles, and motorcycles

Filipino jeepneys have become somewhat of a Philippine icon. Complete your experience by riding these vibrant and colorful public transportation vehicles at least once.

My one piece of advice is to bring coins to pay, especially if you’re commuting in the morning. Some drivers just started their day, and they might not have enough change for bigger bills.

Renting cars and motorbikes

If you plan to spend a vacation at a countryside resort, you may want to rent cars or motorbikes. They are accessible and negotiable. Just a friendly tip: have the vehicle pre-checked before traveling to make sure that you’re not getting one’s that are damaged and end up paying for repairs.

Popular Accommodations in the Philippines

You can find different types of accommodations in the country:

Beachfront resorts and luxury hotels

One of the best places to stay in the Philippines would be beachfront resorts and luxury hotels. You may want to experience sleeping above the waters in Coron Underwater Garden Resort or book a hotel room with an aquarium view.

These establishments offer a great overall experience. However, you’ll have to shell out a bit of money for it.

Eco-lodges and nature retreats

Other options are eco-lodges and nature retreats. The country provides mountain view hotels like Camp John Hay in Baguio. This place has a cool breeze and is known for its luscious strawberries.

Boutique hotels and heritage accommodations

Boutique hotels also abound in major cities. Additionally, you can stay in ancestral homes in the country. These places offer accommodations for travelers and a rich historical experience.

Hostels and budget-friendly lodgings

The Philippines has budget-friendly lodgings for any traveler to stay. You can do a quick search online to find the best deals.

Vacation rentals and homestays

If you are looking for an exclusive vacation rental for you and your family, you can opt for vacation rentals and homestays. These offer more space, which gives you more bang for your buck since they can accommodate a lot of people.

Staying Safe During Your Trip

Safety is of utmost importance when traveling. Before heading to the Philippines, it’s crucial that you check the travel advisories from your home country and familiarize yourself with local laws.

Determining the safety and security of your destination

You should know that the Philippine government keeps track of travelers through its Bureau of Immigration, which maintains records of visitors’ arrivals and departures from the country. The Philippine government also works with the Department of Tourism to provide travelers with up-to-date information about safety and security conditions in various destinations.

Aside from knowing these branches of the government, it is also important to do your own research on safety and security measures in the Philippines. The best way to do this is through online sources such as websites that provide information about travel advisories and warnings issued by foreign governments on your specific destination.

Take a look at the safety and security of the city or town where you’ll be staying. Does it have a high crime rate? Are there areas that are off-limits to tourists due to terrorist activity or political instability? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision on your travel plans.

Secure handling of travel documents and valuables

Keep your travel documents with you at all times. Take extra measures to secure your passport, credit cards, and other important documents in a safe place, such as a hotel safe or locked suitcase. Make sure that you have photocopies of all your important travel documents stored separately from the originals just in case of loss or theft.

It is also advisable to keep some emergency cash and traveler’s checks on hand for any unexpected expenses or emergencies that may arise during the trip. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid sharing personal information with strangers.

Being mindful of personal belongings in public areas

You may also be already aware of how you should be mindful of your personal belongings in public areas. Pickpockets and thieves are not uncommon, so be sure to keep your passport, money, and other valuables close. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you; instead, use a credit or debit card for purchases if you’re in major cities and towns.

While it’s not my intention to scare you or drag my country down, I feel that it’s my duty to let you know that there will always be people who make a living out of taking advantage of unsuspecting travelers. As they say, every port has its thieves. So, always be vigilant to protect yourself and your belongings.

Nonetheless, don’t be too paranoid that it would prevent you from fully enjoying your trip. The Philippines is still a relatively safe country to visit, and the people are friendly and hospitable.

It’s important to listen to your gut and practice common sense when traveling. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places like markets or tourist spots, and avoid any suspicious activities. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable at any time during your trip, trust yourself and leave the area immediately. Your safety should always come first.

Understanding local laws and customs

Major cities and towns have adapted to modern tourism, but more rural areas may still have certain laws or customs that differ from those of your home country. It’s important to learn about local laws and customs before visiting the Philippines so you can stay safe while traveling there.

For example, you may want to learn about the dress code in certain parts of the Philippines. In some rural areas, it is considered inappropriate for men and women to show their shoulders or wear shorts above their knees.

You should also be aware that there are strict penalties for drug possession and use in the Philippines. If caught with illegal drugs, even recreational marijuana, you could face a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

Additionally, taking pictures inside government buildings and military sites is prohibited unless they’re specifically for tourism. If you’re found taking pictures of such places, you could get in trouble.

Preparing for emergency situations

Again, having travel insurance is highly recommended in case anything unexpected happens while abroad. You should also keep key contact information with you at all times, including the numbers for your local embassy or consulate. Make sure to research what medical care is available in the area before making plans, and be prepared with a list of hospitals that provide quality care.

Responsible Tourism in the Philippines

When visiting any country, it’s recommended to know the basic responsibilities of a visitor. It is only appropriate to show and practice basic courtesy during your stay.

Understanding responsible tourism

Responsible tourism means respecting your destination country’s cultures, traditions, and environment. When staying in a hotel, diving in the ocean, hiking the mountains, or even eating in a restaurant, it is important to respect nature and the people helping you have an amicable stay. 

Basic courtesy is simply being polite to hotel and restaurant staff. It also entails being mindful of your actions to avoid harming the environment.

Supporting local communities and economies

You may also find Filipino vendors in tourist destinations. They typically sell local food and merchandise. You can purchase their goods to help them support their families by adding to their daily earnings.

Engaging in ethical wildlife experiences

The Philippines is one of the world’s most important conservation sites in that it houses over 700 threatened species. When visiting places that house wildlife, make sure to follow the guidelines and avoid doing anything that may harm the animals.

Supporting environmental conservation

The Philippines has created 17 sustainable development goals, two of which are for marine and land life. As a visitor, you can help the country achieve these goals by avoiding actions that may harm and destroy locals and nature.

Respecting local culture and traditions

The Philippines is rich in various cultures and traditions and is also home to 110 Indigenous people. Even with the modernization of the global world, many still practice their unique and most treasured practices. Laws such as Section 5, Art. III of the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act 8371 protects and recognizes the importance of these practices.

While it might be impossible for you to learn all the rules and traditions, you must make sure to practice basic courtesy and be mindful of what other people may consider sacred.

Explore the Philippines with Confidence

Exploring this tropical paradise, with its pristine beaches, vibrant cities, and rich cultural heritage, promises to be a journey like no other. As you set out to traverse our diverse archipelago, remember to do so with confidence, armed with the knowledge and insights shared throughout this article, from Philippine travel requirements to responsible tourism.