The government declared different levels of lockdowns and social distancing measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As in many countries, the strictness of the measures varies according to the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases at the time. Entry may also be restricted depending on the purpose of the trip. As such, visitors must check the travel conditions and requirements set by the local authorities prior to departure. Additionally, precautions taken before travelling in many tropical climates should be followed by visitors to the Philippines, including vaccinations for yellow fever, dengue, typhoid fever and hepatitis.
Filipino, the national language, is the standardised form of the Tagalog language spoken in Central Luzon. The 1987 constitution also recognises English as an official language, and as such the nation has a high level of English proficiency. A further 168 languages are spoken throughout the archipelago, often by small communities. Despite nearly four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, very few people speak Spanish.
Society & Etiquette
Business customs are similar to those of many North Atlantic countries, where handshakes and the exchange of business cards are considered courteous in professional environments. While government agencies maintain a degree of protocol, personal business relations are usually relaxed, especially in the private sector. In order to build confidence and strengthen personal and professional ties, visitors may be invited to a range of social events to interact with local businesspeople.
The country uses a 220-V, AC system with both flat-pin (Type A) and round-pin (Type C) outlets, and it is recommended that visitors carry adaptors.
Shops tend to open six days a week between 9.00am and 11.00am, and close between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. Public and private offices are typically open Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 5.00pm. Banks and embassies usually operate on weekdays from 9.00am to 3.00pm and 9.00am to 1.00pm, respectively.
The barong tagalog, a lightweight, embroidered shirt usually made from indigenous fruit fibres, remains popular among local businesspeople. Although Western-style suits are also widely worn, dress codes are generally casual, especially in the private sector.
The Philippines is one of two majority-Christian countries in South-east Asia. Approximately 86% of the population is Roman Catholic, and Christian holidays such as Christmas and Holy Week are widely celebrated and may alter the business calendar. Visitors may find Catholic symbols in both businesses and government offices, but Filipinos are generally open-minded and are likely to feel comfortable working with people from a range of different backgrounds.
Metro Manila is one of the most congested capitals in the world, and moving around the city during peak hours can be time-consuming. When travelling by taxi, it is recommended that visitors request the use of an electronic meter. The local bus and jeepney networks can be challenging to navigate: some routes are unnumbered, signs can be handwritten and passengers ask to get on and off at informal stops. Motorcycle taxis are also available in specific areas of Manila but operate without fixed fares. The principal ride-hailing app is Grab, though the service did not include motorcycles as of November 2020. Additionally, three mass rapid transit lines are in place in Metro Manila and several more projects are under way, including the Manila Subway, but the system is not expected to launch for several years.
No visa is required for tourist stays shorter than 30 days. Obtaining extensions of one, two or six months is straightforward, requiring a $30-68 payment to the Bureau of Immigration. Foreigners must present an outbound ticket upon arrival at the port of entry. Those who wish to obtain a visa while abroad may do so for $35, though the length of stay is usually restricted to two months. Visa conditions are subject to change depending on Covid-19 pandemic-related restrictions.
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