Geography - Bounded by the Pacific on the East Coast and by the South China Sea on the west. 1.5 hours by air from Hong Kong, the Philippines consist of over 7,000 diverse islands.
Time zone is GMT + 8.
History - Malay in origin, with early Chinese, Indian and Arabian trading influences. Colonized by Spain in search of spices and religious converts in 1521, for 327 years, with a brief spell of British in the mid 17th century, and by the U.S.A. for 41 years giving birth to the adage “300 years in the convent & 40 years in Hollywood”. This place is FUN!
Climate – Forget the winter (&summer blues) Tropically Hot! Divided into 3 seasons - Hot Dry (March – June) Cool Dry (October – February) and Rainy.
Exchange – Small moneychangers give the best rates, Banks are OK & hotels are a rip. Be careful of street touts claiming unbelievably good rates – they are unbelievable & will cheat you.
Beware of “friendly” locals who claim to know you, they will try to cheat you. - Do not get involved in street gambling.
Try to behave like you do at home. Manila and Angeles are a lot safer than most capital cities, but take care of your security. Use hotel safety boxes, and never carry more than you can afford to loose.
Filipinos are shy, conservative, very hospitable, kind and helpful. The key words are shy & conservative, so beware of total strangers who are overly friendly and approach you on the street, at best they are trying to get into your wallet, at worse they may apply a Mickey Finn (knock out drug), and kidnap for ransome is not uncommon.
Pick-pockets and snatchers work jeepney routes that are patronised by tourists & expats, and generally work in groups of three or four. The first alarm should sound when one squeezes next to you (Philipinos are shy towards foreigners, and will leave you some space) and covers their lap with a folder or flat bag (to hide their hands), while one of the accomplices will try to distract you.
With the current climate, you should be aware of the need to be security conscious at all times.
Credit Cards PCI/Equitable banks have cash machines that work on Visa & Master Charge cards, and give credit card cash advances.