The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Voice Over Internet Protocol, there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom (http://www.vodini.com/).
English newspapers are available throughout the country and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune (http://www.tribune.net.ph/), Malaya (http://www.malaya.com.ph), Manila Standard (http://www.manilastandard...), Manila Bulletin (http://www.mb.com.ph/), Business World (http://www.bworld.com.ph/), Philippine Daily Inquirer (http://www.inquirer.net/) and Visayan Daily Star (http://www.visayandailyst...) are some of the English newspapers.
WARNING: A heavy conflict is going on in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Basilan, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi between Muslim militias and the Philippine government. In 2009 this region was declared the world's most hazardous area for journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists, with 18 reporters dead in a massacre that claimed the lives of almost 60 people. Travelling to this region is dangerous and strongly discouraged. If it is necessary to visit, inform your embassy, remain cautious at all times and avoid public gatherings.
Use common sense when traveling to and around the Philippines, as with traveling to other developing nations. Although the people of these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, one must be aware of the prevalence of poverty especially in big cities and the things that, unfortunately, come with it. You must not flash your valuables especially Apple iPods and iPhones because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Carry small change and don't flash large bills. Pickpockets are common in the big cities. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the ativan scam is common practice. Don't expect any reprisal from the police and must also sometimes be wary of them as they can be easily bribed and might be entangled in their own scams. Do not enter alleyways and remote areas at night.
See also common scams and pickpockets.
See also: Travel topics -- Electrical systems
Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz mixed with the American and European plug. There is sometimes a ground in some areas. Americans will need a step-down transformer. It's best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.
3-phase voltage is 380v.
Downtown Baguio northern Luzon uses 110 V, and is also 60 Hz. This doesn't extend beyond the center of the city. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 100-127V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.
During drought seasons March to May, most of the power-plants are hydro-electrics as stated above in the climate section, regular black-outs happen during this time, ask if your hotel owns a generator.
Keep in mind that the Marcos years 1965-1986 can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in the south of Luzon take strong pride in the people's power or "EDSA" revolution that deposed the regime. Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion prior to approaching the topic.
There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe (http://www1.globe.com.ph/), Smart (http://smart.com.ph/) and Sun Cellular (http://www.suncellular.com.ph/). Pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ₱30 and provide a cheaper alternative to roaming charges. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking the typical fee to unlock is ₱300 but can go as high as ₱2,000 for certain units like a Blackberry. If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ₱1,500. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it back home.
GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country. 3G technology is available through Globe and Smart, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging but unlike other countries, you won't be charged for incoming calls. Text messages typically cost as low as ₱1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ₱15-25. Plans for unlimited call and SMS are offered by the networks are but are almost always restricted to those made to parties within the same network.
Reloading pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load E-Load stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading. If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of ₱100, ₱300 and ₱500 approximately US$2.20, US$7 and 12 respectively.
Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.
When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues. (http://www.trybpo.com/fil...)
Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used e.g. WiFi or wired. Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to â±200/hour approximately US$5 but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as â±15/hour approximately US$0.35. Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost â±100 approximately US$2 for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is a internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a landline internet connection for around 20P an hour about 0.46 US. Coffee shops like Starbucks (http://www.starbucks.com/...) and Seattle's Best (http://www.seattlesbest.c...) as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi. The SM chain of malls offer free wifi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless.
In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at â±995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on available infrastructure on your particular location, but in general Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new sim card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants. To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities - the small shops the sell cell phones and sim cards aren't able to sell mobile broadband. "Loads" often cost just P20 approximately USD0.45 an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times--especially in the evening--due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is guaranteed to slow down to a standstill.
A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences such as salamat po, call them also by TitoUncle, TitaAunt, ManongMr. or ManangMrs./Ms., Ate older sister or Kuyaolder brother words used to address people older than the speaker but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use "manong" and "manang" instead with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.
In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.
Although many Filipinos might not be able to afford tipping service workers, tipping is always accepted. Tips are customary, and in some instances, mandatory in the more high-end environments such as hotels and major restaurants.
eating and drinking
Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko young coconut juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary also of Buko juice vendors, some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia outdoor canteen is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot. If you must drink tap water it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag, water in Manila, Cebu City and other major cities, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages. Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled waters sold outside by the roads are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled. Be careful of drinking pampalamig cold drinks like Sago't Gulaman as some of the vendors might be using Magic Sugarformally called Sodium Cyclamate; an artificial sweetener, which has been banned by the Philippine Government because of its adverse effects on health such as higher risk of getting cancer by consuming Magic sugar, it has been used as an alternative to ordinary sugar as it is much cheaper, call 117 Philippine National Police if you encounter such situation. Streetfood isn't so safe to consume in the Philippines, hygienic standards aren't enforced much. It is better to eat streetfood as well as pampalamig inside malls and shopping centers than in streets as stalls in malls and shopping centers have better enforcement of cleanliness.
prostitution and drugs
Prostitution is thriving but officially illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer this service. EDSA and Makati in Metro Manila, and Angeles City are known hot spots for these activities. The age of consent is 18. The Philippine National Police treat sex-offenders, child-molesters and people involving in prostitution harshly, catching you in an act associated with prostitution and child sex abuse will result to long term jail sentences, penalties and deportation to your country.
Marijuana and shabu crystal methamphetamine are widely used in the country however it is also Illegal and Penalties are very harsh, you might very well get long jail terms and get deported back to your country.
CDC (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/trav...) advises that risk of malaria exists in areas below 600 meters, except for the provinces of Aklan, Bilaran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Masbate, northern Samar, Siquijor, and Metro Manila. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations. Dengue fever is common in the Philippines and cases rise every year, so it is advisable to apply anti-mosquito repellents and wear long sleeved clothes whenever possible. Rabies is also common among street animals in the country, so get a vaccination for rabies if you haven't already, and if you're traveling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible as they are of high risk of getting rabies because they tend to play more with animals. Hepatitis A and B is a high risk in the country. Get a vaccine if you haven't had one, as you can contract hepatitis through exposure to contaminated food or water, sexual contact, or contact with blood of infected people. If you plan to visit rural farming areas, Japanese encephalitis is common, and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in fresh water areas where you will have high risks of getting schistosomiasis unless they are chlorinated. Leptospirosis is often contracted from recreational water activities, such as kayaking, in contaminated water.
Also please note that tuberculosis is very common in the countryside, so try to avoid individuals who cough or look weak and be careful about staying too long in villages that may be high in contagious people.
Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea. Gatorade or other "sport drinks" might relieve you from fluid loss.Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure of the water, and always wash your hands.
Although the Philippines is a low HIV prevalence country, it still pays to take precautions. Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV.
gays and lesbians
Gays and lesbians will be fine here in the Philippines as some of the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but please use common sense ie: avoid public kissing as you may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 50 year old and up generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare but don't expect this.