Tips for the Philippines
My long term impressions of the Philippines include a LifeSaver ad filmed in the 1980s and the photographs of my grandparents which showed them on the LifeSaver life rafts and those funky buses in Manilla.
Like every destination, there are nuances, joys, challenges and frustrations in the first time visit. Here are my top five observations on just making things a touch easier for your customers when they visit the Philippines.
Beware of over friendliness
Across the board I just found people lovely to deal with. Sometimes it was a little bit over the top but there are worse challenges on a trip! But one must be careful to acknowledge that the Philippines is a no “wang wang” country.
The customs official who I ask this of, pointing to the sign as she stamped my passport who realised I legitimately did not know, explains that the Philippines is a country of “no solicitation”. Insert knowing glance.
Connecting flights meant quite a long outside wait and terminal change at Nimoy airport. I stepped from that cool, crisp, dry air into a blanket of humidity similar to that I had experienced hours before in Siem Reap. But there was a lot more taxi drivers here. The heat did not seem to bother them. I was asked quite literally 40 times inside the first 10 minutes if I wanted a taxi. Either know what you are doing or book a transfer. Have bottled water ready.
Airport VIP scam
I was able to laugh as the amounts of money were not crippling and made easier by the fact that I had kept some local currency for such events.
Some bad traffic on Saturday morning saw us getting to the airport later than we would have desired. There were approximately 300 people lining up through a single, slow-moving access point trying to make their domestic flights. My maths told me in that line, we would not.
Our driver recommended we get a porter which cost 100 pesos or about $3. The porter then spoke of VIP treatment “this way sir”. This involved effectively bypassing security, walking through the middle of the 300 people in line and straight into the airport and straight up to the Front Desk.
He then demanded 500 pesos for his efforts which I considered arguing about and then thought “I just got scammed out of $14 which in turn saved me 1.4 L of body fluids”. So basically the VIP treatment cost me $17, saved me 90 minutes and the bundle of sweat.
The lady at the check-in desk nodded knowingly. $17 in the scheme of the airfares wasn’t too bad. Actually, look for the scam with the words “Concierge” and “VIP” whilst rubbing fingers. Its like the joke about the guy having his wallet stolen at the topless car wash “i have been scammed Tuesday, Thursday, Friday…”
Airport fees and charges
It seems that the nonlocal’s paid a little more and a little more regularly. The first time we encountered this was at a small airport where the airport tax was 200 pesos or about $6 per person. Not the end of the world and I just paid.
The second time was after bag drop on the international leg when we were told we would need to pay 600 pesos each or $50 in total. Annoyingly the guy in front of me, who started well behind me, pushed in, had a laugh with the lady who stamped his boarding pass and on he went. I had the 600 pesos extracted from my ever thinning wallet and the same stamp.
The annoying part? You could actually reclaim this fee in charge 300 m beyond customs like a VAT or GST. Provided you had a receipt for the purchase of your air ticket a non-local workers contract. I don’t know about you but I don’t regularly carry these with me.
Typhoons wreak havoc with flight schedules
Yes the wet season can bring sunshine and we saw some rain. Then a storm. Then winds which had me doubting my own reassuring words of “I am sure the ferry will be fine”. Having seen the queues at other airports we opted to leave a little bit earlier to get to the airport for our first of three flights home.
Even with the longer drive to catch a ferry on the calmer side of the island, with a longer boat ride, we still got there with 2.5 hours to spare.
As we were checking in, including excellent service from the paid-up VIP service, he pointed to a plane on the tarmac that should have left at 7am.
“Would sir like to get on this plane as I think it’s the only plane leaving the airport today.” I think they held it for our departure and cancelled the others for later.
At moments like that the over kindness was well appreciated and the VIP scam worth every penny.