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El Nido Island
The Republic of The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The country has a tropical climate and one of the richest biodiversities in the world. It is the 12th most populous nation on the planet with about 94 million people.
The Philippines can be divided into four groups: Luzon is the largest and northernmost island and home to the capital city, Manila. At the southern end of the archipelago is Mindanao Island. The group of island in the middle are known as the Visayas. To the west lies the province of Palawan.
Despite the country’s natural beauty, tourism has developed more slowly than in other Asian countries. In 2010, there were just 3.5 million foreign arrivals (compared with over 10 million in the city of Kuala Lumpur alone).
There are no laws against homosexuality in The Philippines. The age of consent is 18 and applies to everyone. Same-sex partnerships are not recognised.
Recognition and acceptance of the LGBT community has grown over the past few years driven by higher visibility, education and political activism. Notable developments include the lifting of a ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the Philippines armed forces and the establishment of Ang Ladlad – an LGBT political party. Ang Ladlad was initially barred by the country’s Election Commission on the grounds of ‘immorality’ but the ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
Asia’s first-ever gay Pride march took place in Manila in June, 1994. Since then, the LGBT Pride parade has become an established event, with more than 1,000 people taking part in 2011.
Metro Manila is the headquarters of the gay nightlife in The Philippines. The majority of Gay Bars & Clubs in Manila and Gay Saunas and Massage Spas can be found in Manila City, Quezon City and Pasay, although the numbers are few.
Those who have little interest in drinking and dancing in Manila head for the beautiful islands and sandy beaches in Boracay or Palawan, both of which are popular holiday destinations with gay travellers.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila (MNL) has four terminals. Most airlines use Terminal 1, except Philippine Airlines (Terminal 2) and Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express and All Nippon Airways (Terminal 3). Terminal 4 is for domestic flights.
If you have connecting flights from Manila, allow at least 3-4 hours for transit (and if possible, choose flights that leave from the same Terminal), as domestic flights are often delayed and traffic between Terminals can be congested.
There is an airport shuttle bus that operates between Terminals. The fare is ₱20 and runs about every 15 minutes. Airport taxis and and metered taxis (cheaper) are also available.
Departing passengers have to pay a terminal fee of ₱750 ($16) for international flights. This is paid in the pre-departure area before entering immigration. US dollars are accepted.
It can be no big surprise to learn that the easiest way to travel is by plane. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Airphil Express operate domestic flights linking the most popular tourist destinations. All have internet booking systems. Other small operators provide services to specific resort destinations. Prices are usually cheap but many planes are turbo-prop with limited luggage allowances.
The Philippines has a complex mix of tropical rain forest, tropical monsoon, and humid sub-tropical weather. Travellers can expect relatively high temperatures, lots of humidity and either plenty of sunshine or rainfall or both. There are two seasons – the wet season and dry season – although some areas have rain all year round.
The Summer monsoon runs from May to October, brings lots of rain and the annual onslaught of dangerous typhoons between July and October. Weather-wise, the best time of year to visit Manila is from late December to April. Boracay is best to visit between October and April.
Most tourists can enter the Philippines without a visa for 21 days (your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and you must hold a return ticket).
Notable exceptions are holders of Hong Kong SAR passports, British National Overseas (BNO) passports, Portuguese passports issued in Macao and holders of Macao SAR passports who can only enter for up to 7 days without a visa.
There are two official languages – Filipino and English. Filipino, based on Tagalog, is the national language but English is also widely spoken.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and Centavo. One hundred Centavos equals one Peso. Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, bank or authorised money shops (including some in larger department stores).
Exchanging money elsewhere is illegal. Credit cards and debit cards including American Express,Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted.
Using foreign cash cards at ATM’s can be expensive as local banks charge ₱200 per transaction. We recommend you take as much cash as you feel comfortable carrying and exchange once in the country.
WiFi is widely available in shopping malls and hotels. GSM mobile phones work in the Philippines and 3G is widely available. If you are planning to use your phone a lot, we suggest buying a local prepaid SIM card – particularly if you have an iPhone or similar and want cheap data access for Grindr.
Water supply in metro Manila is considered drinkable but travellers may wish to stick to bottled water.
220 volt 60 Hz throughout most of the country using either an American and European style plugs.