SOCIETY & ETIQUETTE: Very few Philippine business customs will surprise anyone accustomed to doing business in the US or other Western markets. Handshakes are standard for both men and women, while the exchange of business cards is fairly informal. However, if meeting with a high-ranking government official or well-established businessman, as a sign of respect it is best to present and receive the business card with both hands so the card is readable to the recipient. One should be cognisant of academic, professional and honorary titles that are used frequently in conjunction with a person’s surname. The most noticeable difference in conducting business is that text messaging is a completely acceptable means of carrying out formal communication in the Philippines.

DRESS: It is common to find Filipino businessmen and government officials wearing the native barong

VISAS: Most nationalities can easily obtain a tourist visa on arrival in the country that is good for a 21-day stay, and obtaining a one- to two-month extension is relatively easy and entails presenting the proper paperwork and roughly $60 to the Bureau of Immigration. Those who wish to obtain a visa overseas may do so for $35, but the length of stay is usually two months.

CURRENCY: The Philippine peso (P) is the country’s currency and is divided into 100 centavos. Notes are found in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. The Philippines is still a cash-centric economy, and credit cards are generally only accepted at major hotels, shops, restaurants and resorts. It is best to carry small bills when possible, as it can be difficult to find change. The current rate of exchange is about P1: $0.02.

ELECTRICITY: The Philippines uses the 220-volt AC system with two flat-pin plugs so most visitors, except those from North America, will require adaptors.

TIPPING: The tipping culture in the Philippines depends on the situation and the individual. While many locals proudly proclaim that they never tip, the practice is becoming more widespread, and service charges of at least 10% can be expected in upscale restaurants and bars. For taxi drivers using the meter, it is common to simply round up to the nearest multiple of 20 pesos.

HEALTH: The same precautions that are taken in most tropical climates should also be followed before travelling to the Philippines. Although instances are rare, vaccinations for yellow fever, typhoid fever and hepatitis are all recommended. Malaria is sometimes reported, but dengue fever is of greater concern. Outside of major urban centres, medical facilities do not meet international standards, and the tap water is not potable.

TRANSPORT: Manila is rather infamous for its endless traffic jams, and during peak hours travel around the city can be extremely difficult. Although there are two metro lines and one rail line serving commuters, with additional expansions planned, their reach is currently geographically limited. Taxis are plentiful, affordable and generally honest, but it is best to insist on the meter.