Tips for Navigating the Philippines

March 2, 2016
Tips for Navigating the Philippines

Before I headed to the Philippines for the Lunar New Year, I did some research into resources that could help me get the most out of my trip. I was a young, single woman who had never traveled to the country before, although I am always up for a challenge and an adventure. I ended up having a very easy-going trip, thanks to these tips and some good planning. Here are my pointers for solo travel to the Philippines:

1. Get Filipino pesos (Php) before you enter the country

This is actually easy as pie. Simply walk into any bank where you hold an account and ask for the bank teller to change your currency to pesos. That way, once you arrive in the country, you are good to go! If you happen to get to the Philippines without pesos, don’t fret! The ATMs reads both foreign VISA and MasterCards. If you have either, you can definitely take money out; it’s just better to be hassle-free upon your arrival.

2. Download the ‘Hostelworld’ app is a hostel-focus online booking platform. You can use it for any country in almost any region. I used it several times in the Philippines, and found suitable, clean, and convenient accommodation.

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3. Download the ‘GrabTaxi’ app

You can do this before or after you arrive, but I recommend doing this once you get there. GrabTaxi is a Southeast Asian taxi booking app created by two Singaporeans. It is currently used in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Just like Uber, you can book your taxi wherever you are and insert your destination. Unlike Uber, however, it is not prepaid. With GrabTaxi you can choose to pay in-car by debit, credit or cash. There is always a 20% service fee added to your balance, but it is never very expensive.

4. Pick up a Filipino SIM card

You can do this before leaving the airport (and this is where having pesos beforehand comes in handy). There are differently priced SIM cards and they work with any phone. I was only staying in the Philippines for four days but I needed internet access and a usable phone number while I was there. With a 300Php SIM card I got both. While in the Philippines, I was calling local friends, updating social media, and surfing the web – all for three bucks!

Enjoy your trip, and go to the Philippines with smiles, a friendly attitude, an open mind, and an open heart.

About Iyanna James-Stephenson

Iyanna James-Stephenson is a recent graduate from Mount Holyoke College. Her academic passions include philosophy and law, which is what she has earned her Bachelor’s in. Her extracurricular interests include writing, speech, and dance. She has traveled to seven different countries and has lived in three, including South Korea were she is currently working as an English Instructor for an after-school academy. She hopes to travel the world, inspire others, learn different languages, absorb different cultures, and grow with every experience she has. She is 23.

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