In 1 1/2 weeks we will be leaving for the Philippines (yeepeeee!)! I have compiled a not so usual list of things to bring, to have, to prepare and what not to prepare for my Italian friend who is coming with us. I know sometimes tourists have no idea whatsoever about what to expect of the Philippines, so I hope this list would make packing and preparation easier.
1. Good mood- If you are coming from US or Europe, you have to bring a lot of good mood. Life is slow and things won't always work out according to plan in the Philippines. Relax.
2. Flexibility- Don't make any concrete plans. Know where you want to go but be prepared that you may not arrive at your destination on the exact day and hour you planned.
3. Open-mindedness- As I mentioned many times in this blog, our culture is different, our body language is different, expect it, experience it,and live with it. The book "Culture Shock" explained it nicely when it mentioned that the Philippines innocently misleads westerners into believing that it is very western but deep down inside it is not. So, at the end westerners feel cheated and angry when they realize that they don't understand Filipinos at all. The thing is, when tourist go to Japan or China, they are mentally prepared that things would be different but when coming to the Philippines somehow they are misled into believing that things are familiar or similar to their own culture but actually everything is just western on the outside but very uniquely Filipino inside.
4. Vaccinations- I am not a doctor, so please consult your doctor about vaccinations. Based on experience though, I would suggest rabies shots. Rabies shots are not usually advised by doctors but in my experience it is necessary for animal loving westerners. There are lots of stray cats and dogs in the Philippines. My husband got bitten by a stray cat that he was foolishly feeding in a restaurant, my Austrian uncle also got bitten by a stray cat that he was also foolishly feeding in a restaurant and my daughter got bitten by a monkey. All three times we had to run around like nervous fools which could have been avoided if we had rabies shots.
5. Thermometer- Okay, maybe you don't have to bring one but please consult a doctor as soon as you get a slight fever. The Philippines is a tropical country so a slight fever could mean Dengue Fever, Typhoid, or other dangerous disease that manifests as a slight fever in its early onset.
6. Mosquito repellent- I prefer to buy mosquito repellent in the Philippines. I have this fear that our Filipino mosquitoes are immune to the repellents from abroad. =)
7. Not so sexy swim wear- Bring sexy bikinis for touristic places like Boracay but if you plan to backpack to the not so touristic areas maybe it's better if you also have a one piece swimsuit. Filipinos are very conservative.
8. Medicines- It's better if you bring your meds, although you can easily buy normal medicines from drugstores like Mercury drug. Contact lens products can also be found easily in big cities.
9. Travel insurance- For me this is a sign that I have become "Swissified". Imagine, I bought travel insurance to go home to my country where I lived for 25 years without any insurance.
10. Jackets- Okay, it is a tropical country but you would need a jacket if you plan on taking an air conditioned bus (to go to Banaue, Bagiuo or Legazpi). Swiss friends who took a bus to Banaue maintain that it was the only time in their lives when they were actually freezing to death.
11. Cash in Peso - Have cash ready when going to the provinces. In Manila you will have no problem at all in using your credit card but in the provinces it is another story. Change your money in Manila, as you may not get a good rate in the provinces. I change money at the airport upon arriving. There are 2 (or 3, I don't remember) banks changing money at the airport, compare the rates first before changing.
12. Travel guide- but remember if a place is not mentioned in the travel guide, it doesn't mean it is not worth going to.