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Traveling to the Philippines

One of the readers commented on me writing about traveling to the Philippines. Most of the readers talk about coming to the Philippines or Davao to visit a lady they met online. Most ask about Visas, Accommodations and Budget.

Tourist Visa:

As an American and most other countries, all you need is a passport and a return plane ticket. Once you arrive, you will receive a 21 day Visa stamped into your passport. If you intend to stay longer, all you need to do is go to the nearest Bureau of Immigration and file for an extension for 59 days. If you plan to stay longer, before your extension expires, all you need to do is return to Immigration and file again for another 59-day extension. You can continue to extend your visa for 16 months. This can be extended to 24 months, but you need to visit the Immigration office approximately one month before your 16th month expires and they can send a letter to Manila to get you approval for the increased extension.

At this point, if you want to continue your stay you must leave the country and return. At that point, your passport will show an exit stamp and a new entry stamp and you can stay again 16 or 24 months. Cost varies for each extension but it is somewhere around 3000 pesos ($65 USD). At the six-month extension, there is a higher fee and then if you plan to leave the country and return, you need to get an exit visa.

There are many choices of stay in Davao and the rest of the bigger cities in the Philippines. I can only talk about Davao because I have not spent much time out of the city.

For a visitor to the city the available accommodations vary in quality and cost. One of the cheapest is a boarding house. These places are small and have little in what a foreigner would find desirable. The rooms are small and most times shared. A room for four would have two bunk beds. There is usually only one CR for the house and consist of a non-flushing toilet and a faucet to fill a pail of water to bucket shower.

Next is a Pension House. The amenities vary, some have air conditioners and some do not. Most have a shared CR. Prices range from around 695 pesos a night ($15 USD). I have never seen the insides but they cleanliness will probably vary with price.

There are many hotels here from the basic to the high end, 5 stars. The prices vary too and many times, you can get a discount from some of the booking sites. Since prices vary, I am not going to list them. Many of the hotels offer free wifi in the rooms, some charge.

There are also many Apartelles here, which are small rooms. They are clean and come furnished with hot water showers, TV’s, wifi. Some come with small kitchens. One I know of even has a pool and a small restaurant/bar if you do not want to travel and do not want to cook. These places cost around 1000 pesos ($22 USD) a day and for extended stay of over a month will give some discounted rates.

For longer stays, there are furnished and unfurnished houses and apartments available.

Lately there have been more restaurants opening with a more international choice of foods. Again, prices vary. For a visitor, most of these higher end restaurants have cheap prices. Those on a budget can still find decent foods. If you want to be more native, there are little roadside Caranderias. At these places, you can get a meal for as little as 20 pesos ($0.50).

For high-end cuisines, you can eat for 1500 pesos ($30 USD) including a Black Angus steak. However, there are many restaurants where you can eat well for a third of the price.

There are many restaurants in Davao I enjoy that are not high priced and some higher end restaurants I do not frequent because of cost. My favorites are:
Boyd’s Pizza/pasta house on Palma Hill, Obrero,
Red Knight Gardens, in Guadalupe Village, Lanang
Coco’s on F. Torres, Bajada
Bigby’s Grill on Jacinto Ext., corner of F. Torres, Bajada


The basic transportation here is the Jeepney. It looks like an extended jeep that can sit approximately 18 passengers. It is open-air vehicle with vinyl windows that will be rolled down during rainstorms. This is to the Filipinos as a local bus in the States. An average ride costs 8 pesos ($0.17 USD). That is to cover a trip not more than 4 kilometers. After 4 KM, there is an additional 1-peso fare per KM. On the sides of the Jeepney their route is painted, which streets they travel and areas they travel too. For someone that does not know the city, it might be best to take a taxi.

Here in Davao most taxis are air-conditioned. There are still some non-aircon taxis but they are slowly being eliminated. The taxis are metered; the meter starts at 30 pesos for aircon and 26 peso for non-aircon.  Then the charge is 2.50 pesos per KM. Usually you can get to most places in town for around 100 pesos.

For short distances or in areas not covered by Jeepneys there are various types of vehicles powered by a motorcycle welded to a sidecar or a little van type size which can seat approx 8 passengers. There are also little 2-4 seat sidecar powered by a bicycle.

It is hard to explain a budget since some live large and some are conservative. Then you have to look at how much you will travel around town, if you are going to the beach resorts on Samal or how you will spend your time and with who.

Some of the things you need to discuss with your girlfriend before you visit is who will be joining you for meals or activities or if you will be visiting her family. Many times a Filipina will ask to invite a friend or relative to join them. Other times I have seen foreign visitors at a restaurant with 10 Filipinos at the table.

Even if you explain to your girlfriend your limited budget for your visit, in many Filipinos mind foreign men are rich and can afford their every whim. You need to discuss this before you travel here and set your boundaries. I know we all want to impress and to treat our lady well, but you need limits.

If you are coming with no lady in mind to visit and just play the field, you will need more money. A date usually includes their transportation fees to meet you and their return trip, of course by taxi, meals, drinks and going to Karaoke or clubs. If you bring one of these ladies you meet to go back to your hotel, most will expect a monetary gift. I am not saying they all are prostitutes or whores, but many Filipinas use private time with a foreigner as a way to earn money.

In future articles I will try to discuss courting and visiting “The Family”

I encourage comments from past visitors experiences and questions from future visitors.

20 Responses to “Traveling to the Philippines”

  1. Icejon says:

    Thanks for the informative post! Being 26 and adventurous I do enjoy the street food like fried, breaded eggs and fresh puto. I also love the barbecue chicken joints. My favorites are Mang Inasal and Banoks. It’s very cost effective for about 100-120 pesos you can eat a quarter chicken with unlimited rice. There are also tasty extras like grilled chicken butt “isol”.

    I find the 1000 php a night accommodations to be the most convenient for my 1-2 week stays. I have stayed in only 2 of the top 5 hotels (Waterfront Insular and Grand Regal), and I would say the overall value doesn’t match the dramatic increase in price. However, if safety, or convenience of an attentive staff or hotel shuttles are needed, the top 5 hotels would be exactly suited.

    • Bruce says:

      You are more adventurous than me, first I do not like hard boiled eggs so the breaded eggs or Balut I would never try. As for the Barbecue I have eaten in many and I do enjoy Banoks. The only thing I do not like about the native chickens they use is there is so little meat. That is why they have unlimited rice, so you can fill your stomach.

      For accomadations, you are right, for 1000 to 1200 pesos you can find a comfortable place including A/C, hot water showers and internet access.

      • Icejon says:

        When I was a kid, I had the opportunity to travel in Malaysia and some other parts where this type of natural chicken is common. There’s something about native free running chicken. The meat is kinda lean and there isn’t much there, you’re right. This leanness doesn’t affect the taste which I find is more flavorful than a fatty chicken.

        Could you recommend a restaurant that’s romantic? I’ve been to Dencios/Jack’s Ridge, and my girlfriend wants to go to Gardena Fresca. I’m looking for something air-con as well.

        • Bruce says:

          The problem I have with the native chicken is there is so little meat. I guess, quick to market instead of raising them to be more plump.

          For romantic restaurants, for seating I would say the buffet at Apo View Hotel, there is subdued lighting and some curved banquet seating. For less money, lower lighting and good food, I like Spireli in Damosa.

  2. roger says:


    Yes, another Aussie. Never mind, this is a good blog or site or whatever the term is. Never quite made it to Davao but now that I see there are expats around and the info you glean from this and others sites, think i will give it a whirl.
    Keep up the good work at spreading the news. I have a couple of good mates that are maarried to pinays for long time in Oz and I am nostalgic, if thats the correct word, for the musical sound of their voices.

    • Bruce says:


      Thank you for enjoying my site or blog. hahaha
      I will try to continue, I would like some ideas for articles from the readers to help find subjects.

      • Icejon says:


        I have some 2 cents about topics I would love to read about when I get home:
        – Safety and security in Davao with some subtopics (Why do they sell guns in the mall? Who can buy guns?, “Death to Drug Dealers”, Vigilante killings, Who is “the Punisher”, Why is Davao so safe)
        – Transportation some subtopics (The ins and outs of Buses, Jeepneys, tricycles
        – Religions and cultural groups some subtopics (M.I.L.F, Abu-Sayef, Catholic holidays and festivals)
        – Things to do on Samal Island
        – Fruits some subtopics (Durian, Marang, Santol, Lanzones, Mangosteen, Native varieties)
        – Bangherohan and Matina market and what is safe to buy

  3. Steve says:

    Hi Bruce,
    I’ve been following your website (or blog as said) for sometime -full of interesting facts & good advice and it helps me keep tabs on Davao. I visited just before Christmas to meet a girl I’d chatted to on-line. I’m so glad I read up on their customs beforehand as it was no surprise on the 1st day when a male chaperon turned up (their cousin) and all her sisters! Any future courting advice you can give would be great for first time travelers.

    • Bruce says:

      I do not know how to write about courting advice since most of the time both parties have video chatted for months. I will try to write about the edict here, customs and what to possibly expect and setting boundaries which I mention often.

  4. Randy says:

    My wife and I own our fully furnished 2 bedroom condo at Ecoland 4000 that we rent as a vacation rental when we are not in the Philippines.
    We charge P2000 per day, P12,000 per week or P40,000 per month.
    water and cable tv is included but electric is charged extra.
    We have stayed at various places in davao before we bought our condo including the Vijeros apartelle, Jogues Apartelle, Waterfront Insular (where we also got married) and the Grand Regal hotel.
    Personally I would recommend jogues for location and cleanliness.
    Of course I do believe the best choice is to rent a condo.

    • Bruce says:

      I do not know about Jogues Apartelle. Where is it located so maybe I can visit.
      I had visited the condos by SM and my impression was they are so small and ok for short term but not to live if your used to more room. Some of the newer Condo projects comming up are offering larger units.

  5. Randy says:

    Jogues Apartelle
    509, Manga Street, Juna Subd. (end of Loreto St.)
    Matina,Davao City, Philippines
    Contact Number +63(82)299-0926
    Telefax +63(82)297-4683
    Mobile Number (+63)917-7024658,0,13463017380631614716&ei=aGh9S6zPCJOl8Aa2hezBBQ&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CA0QnwIwAA

  6. Jay D. says:

    I see you talk about visa and extensions if you plan on staying longer then 16 months. I am looking at retiring in Manila or nearby with future plans of getting married soon. Do you have to keep leaving for the exit stamp? Or is there some way to file for permanent resident status? Also if you have to leave do you have to travel back to the US or do you just need to any place then come back and start the process all over again?

    • Bruce says:

      Jay D.,
      First, you can stay for one year is you request the extension before you reach your 16th month of stay. Once your married here you can apply for a 13(a) residency visa. First you get a one year temporary visa and before that expiration you reapply for a permanent status. Then you only have to visit Immigration between January first and February 28 for the yearly audit. If your not married, or if you do not want your wife control over your residency you can apply for a Retirement Visa. With a 13(a) your wife submits a petition for your residency. If at any time she wants to remove the petition, you lose your 13(a) and back on tourist visa status. With a Retirement Visa you have to invest an amount of money into a time deposit, condo or even a golf club membership. I think if your over 60 and receiving a pension the amount is $10k USD. If you ever remove the investment you lose your visa.

  7. Hi again Bruce, I’m really enjoying your blogs about the things happening and the places to see here in the Philippines. You posted a very informative facts and just wanted to thank you for that coz’ many foreigners will be able to appreciate the Philippines just by reading your posts. I can see that you really love the Philippines and I do hope that you would enjoy more of the things while staying here.

    • Bruce says:

      I am glad you enjoy my site and hope you will tell your friends. There are many wonderful things about the Philippines, most of all, the people. But there are difficulties for an Expat living there too.

  8. noel says:

    Hi Bruce ,just a small correction on your information -if staying for more than 21 days -u get extension for 38 days and not 59 days -21+38=59 day visa

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