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Traveling to Manila soon

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to the Asian countries - China, The Philippines, Thailand, etc.

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Traveling to Manila soon

Postby American White Guy » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:38 am

Hey everyone,

I will be traveling to Manila soon on a trip that's half business and half pleasure. I am going to be staying at "The Fort" there though with some travel to Davao City and Cebu possible.

I had a few questions for you guys who live/frequent the Philippines.

#1. Hiring domestic helpers: where do you get one? I am thinking I would like someone to cook, clean, do laundry, etc.

I am going to be carrying some of my expensive electronics with me (iPad, iPhone, Macbook, etc.) and I'd prefer not to deal with anything being "lost" or stolen. Is there a trustworthy service for doing all these things or do people just hire individuals independently?

Or do I have to get paranoid and lock my valuables away somewhere when they visit to do the chores?

#2. Cell phone plans. I am going to be buying an unlocked iPhone. I was wondering if anyone can recommend a good carrier with a plan so that I can get a couple hundred mins, texts, and data (at least 2GB to 5GB per month). Also, what prices would I be looking at for such things?

I tried googling around but it seems like the plans aren't as straightforward as here. There seem to be a lot of options and different ways to calculate what you get for your money (or maybe the sites I looked at were just dumb?)

#3. Is it safe to drink/use tap water in area like The Fort? (I will be staying at a condo most likely) Also, are the stories of people getting ill after eating even restaurant food exaggerated or only applicable to off the beaten path places? Should I watch out for anything? Also, are things like Peptobismol available there or should I bring my own stash?

#4. Credit Cards. Are they widely accepted? Or should I make plans to bring cash? I have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so I would prefer to use that if possible over the ATM.

I am sure I will have more questions soon but if anyone can provide me with good answers I appreciate it.

Love the site and I hope to post a lot more soon. :-)
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby terminator » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:52 am

American White Guy wrote:Hey everyone,

I will be traveling to Manila soon on a trip that's half business and half pleasure. I am going to be staying at "The Fort" there though with some travel to Davao City and Cebu possible.

I had a few questions for you guys who live/frequent the Philippines.

#1. Hiring domestic helpers: where do you get one? I am thinking I would like someone to cook, clean, do laundry, etc.

I am going to be carrying some of my expensive electronics with me (iPad, iPhone, Macbook, etc.) and I'd prefer not to deal with anything being "lost" or stolen. Is there a trustworthy service for doing all these things or do people just hire individuals independently?

Or do I have to get paranoid and lock my valuables away somewhere when they visit to do the chores?

#2. Cell phone plans. I am going to be buying an unlocked iPhone. I was wondering if anyone can recommend a good carrier with a plan so that I can get a couple hundred mins, texts, and data (at least 2GB to 5GB per month). Also, what prices would I be looking at for such things?

I tried googling around but it seems like the plans aren't as straightforward as here. There seem to be a lot of options and different ways to calculate what you get for your money (or maybe the sites I looked at were just dumb?)

#3. Is it safe to drink/use tap water in area like The Fort? (I will be staying at a condo most likely) Also, are the stories of people getting ill after eating even restaurant food exaggerated or only applicable to off the beaten path places? Should I watch out for anything? Also, are things like Peptobismol available there or should I bring my own stash?

#4. Credit Cards. Are they widely accepted? Or should I make plans to bring cash? I have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so I would prefer to use that if possible over the ATM.

I am sure I will have more questions soon but if anyone can provide me with good answers I appreciate it.

Love the site and I hope to post a lot more soon. :-)


OMG you have definitely NOT travelled much before. Just wait until you get there and you'll soon see the answers. It's going to be a rude awakening for you in a poor country.
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Postby xiongmao » Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:12 am

Lol lol lol.

I've not been to the Philippines, but I've heard even the locals have to have days off from work for bad stomachs.

I never got hugely sick in China, but minor upsets are very common - take a load of immodium. For what it's worth my gf's out there had more problems than I did! Oddly enough the dirtiest restaurants gave me the fewest problems. Chinese style food is fairly safe since it's usually cooked at high temperatures.

Take cash to Asia - most hotel rooms have safes. Credit cards are accepted by hotels but I've never been able to use mine in shops (apart from in HK). I couldn't even take cash out with it in China - the machine asked for a 6 digit pin number, and my card only has a 4 digit pin!!!!

Don't drink the tap water.
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby American White Guy » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:13 pm

terminator wrote:OMG you have definitely NOT travelled much before. Just wait until you get there and you'll soon see the answers. It's going to be a rude awakening for you in a poor country.


No, I obviously haven't traveled in the 3rd world before (I was born in Europe, grew up in the US, and have gone to Australia but obviously all 1st world places).

Wait until you get there is not a very satisfying response. Obviously if I go there I will eventually learn for myself. The whole point of this forum I thought was to discuss things and ask questions so I figure if someone else has been there maybe they can tell me what's up so I can prepare myself and not fall for any scams or do things the dumb way when a better way exists.

I thought that was the main idea of a forum like this, to share best practices and such, so that someone like me (or other people in the audience) don't have to make rookie mistakes or come unprepared when they can learn from other people's experiences.

No matter what questions or concerns someone has they will obviously see the answers if they just go do things so why not just have everyone do that and close the site down?
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby davewe » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:41 pm

American White Guy wrote:Hey everyone,
I am going to be carrying some of my expensive electronics with me (iPad, iPhone, Macbook, etc.) and I'd prefer not to deal with anything being "lost" or stolen. Is there a trustworthy service for doing all these things or do people just hire individuals independently?
Or do I have to get paranoid and lock my valuables away somewhere when they visit to do the chores?
#2. Cell phone plans. I am going to be buying an unlocked iPhone. I was wondering if anyone can recommend a good carrier with a plan so that I can get a couple hundred mins, texts, and data (at least 2GB to 5GB per month). Also, what prices would I be looking at for such things?
#3. Is it safe to drink/use tap water in area like The Fort? (I will be staying at a condo most likely) Also, are the stories of people getting ill after eating even restaurant food exaggerated or only applicable to off the beaten path places? Should I watch out for anything? Also, are things like Peptobismol available there or should I bring my own stash?
#4. Credit Cards. Are they widely accepted? Or should I make plans to bring cash? I have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so I would prefer to use that if possible over the ATM.


1. Dont be paranoid but do be safe. Hotel rooms have safes which you should use with your valuables. I also use travel wallets and belts for my cash. This is not just true with the Philippines but a good idea in general while traveling.
2. If you have an unlocked phone, buy a local Sim card and install it and you will instantly have a local number. Much cheaper to use for calling back home and of course for local use. Smart and Globe are the major two carriers.
3. Only drink bottled water and brush your teeth that way also. I bring immodium when I travel just in case I get the runs. It isnt only bad food it is also what your system may be used to or not used to. Ask your doctor for more info.
4. Bring a little cash but ATMs are everywhere and that is the way most people travel. Credit cards are acceptable in some restaurants and certainly hotels in Manila or a mall, but I would assume you will mostlu use cash. See above for recomendations on getting a travel wallet or money belt.

Have fun and leave Manila if you can; it is a shithole. Davao and Cebu are nicer.
Last edited by davewe on Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby American White Guy » Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:11 pm

davewe wrote:1. Dont be paranoid but do be safe. Hotel rooms have safes which you should use with your valuables. I also use travel wallets and belts for my cash. This not just true with the Philippines but a good idea in general while traveling.
2. If you have an unlocked phone, but a local Sim card and install it and you will instantly have a local number. Much cheaper to use for calling back home and of course for local use. Smart and Globe are the major two carriers.
3. Only drink bottled water and brush your teeth that way also. I bring immodium when I travel just in case I get the runs. It isnt only bad food it is also what your system may be used to or not used to. Ask your doctor for more info.
4. Bring a little cash but ATMs are everywhere and that is the way most people travel. Credit cards and acceptable in some restaurants and certainly hotels in Manila or a mall, but I would assume you will mostlu use cash. See above for recomendations on getting a travel wallet or money belt.

Have fun and leave Manila if you can; it is a shithole. Davao and Cebu are nicer.


Thanks! I appreciate the advice.

1. I am not going to be using a hotel, but a condo. So if I have to get it cleaned I will have to arrange for myself those things. That is why I was wondering if this is something that I will have to do manually (as in find an individual and tell them what needs to be done) or go through a professional service (where the agency assigns someone to my place). That is why I am wondering if such services exist and if so, are they safer than individuals.

2. Any idea of what a plan costs there? Are the prices comparable to the US? I am looking for something where I'd get some minutes (wont need many) and texting, but mostly I am interested in bandwidth since I will use Skype over 3G and of course use my phone for email and surfing too.

Also, is the reception good? Are 3G speeds good?

3. Can you buy immodium or other drugs easily there? Also, even in a really high end place/area like the Fort the tap water is not even safe to brush teeth with?
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby davewe » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:39 pm

American White Guy wrote:Thanks! I appreciate the advice.

1. I am not going to be using a hotel, but a condo. So if I have to get it cleaned I will have to arrange for myself those things. That is why I was wondering if this is something that I will have to do manually (as in find an individual and tell them what needs to be done) or go through a professional service (where the agency assigns someone to my place). That is why I am wondering if such services exist and if so, are they safer than individuals.
2. Any idea of what a plan costs there? Are the prices comparable to the US? I am looking for something where I'd get some minutes (wont need many) and texting, but mostly I am interested in bandwidth since I will use Skype over 3G and of course use my phone for email and surfing too.
Also, is the reception good? Are 3G speeds good?
3. Can you buy immodium or other drugs easily there? Also, even in a really high end place/area like the Fort the tap water is not even safe to brush teeth with?


1. Dont know but assume there must be services. Contact whomever you are renting the condo from.
2. In this case you might want to just buy a local phone. Calling and texting rates are cheap. The speed is not gonna be what you are used to in the West. I use my ipad over wifi for internet and skyping.
3. Bring what you need medicine wise - dont waste your time trying to find it while abroad in a 3rd world country - even in a big city like Manila.

Do not drink the tap water!!! Even the residents there drink bottled water. Why ruin your trip by risking it? BTW, I would make that same recommendation for 2/3 of the countries in the world; hell there are places in the US you shouldnt drink the tap water. Do NOT chance it!
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Postby Jester » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:12 pm

xiongmao wrote:I couldn't even take cash out with it in China - the machine asked for a 6 digit pin number, and my card only has a 4 digit pin!!!!

Don't drink the tap water.


Thanks for posting this info.

btw, this info exists precisely f***ing nowhere else on the entire f***ing web, except here on HA -- and here only thanks to you.

In other countries -- Europe and LA -- apparently a FOUR digit secret f***ing code is what's needed.
Last edited by Jester on Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby Jester » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:15 pm

American White Guy wrote:
terminator wrote:OMG you have definitely NOT travelled much before. Just wait until you get there and you'll soon see the answers. It's going to be a rude awakening for you in a poor country.


No, I obviously haven't traveled in the 3rd world before (I was born in Europe, grew up in the US, and have gone to Australia but obviously all 1st world places).

Wait until you get there is not a very satisfying response. Obviously if I go there I will eventually learn for myself. The whole point of this forum I thought was to discuss things and ask questions so I figure if someone else has been there maybe they can tell me what's up so I can prepare myself and not fall for any scams or do things the dumb way when a better way exists.

I thought that was the main idea of a forum like this, to share best practices and such, so that someone like me (or other people in the audience) don't have to make rookie mistakes or come unprepared when they can learn from other people's experiences.

No matter what questions or concerns someone has they will obviously see the answers if they just go do things so why not just have everyone do that and close the site down?


+1
Well said.
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Postby smallcheese » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:32 am

If you're hiring someone to come in once in awhile to clean your place, you're better off being paranoid and locking your electronics away. Even Filipinos don't trust fellow Filipinos (and that includes their own extended family members). To find someone to clean, you can talk to condo association who will definitely know people. You could easily hire someone on your own as many Filipinos will take any job that they can find.

Smart and Globe are the 2 biggest carriers so they are good to use. I guess what you buy depends on how long you're staying there. If short term then a prepaid card might be better for you instead of subscribing to some monthly plan. I was in the Philippines in early summer and bought a prepaid card from Sun, another carrier. With 200 minutes on it already and the service needed to shorten the SIM card to fit in my iPhone, it cost me about 1000 pesos. With these cards you basically pay as you go so if you need more minutes, you can go almost anywhere to add load to the card. For widest coverage, I would choose either Smart or Globe. The reception is usually good except if you travel outside the major city centers, e.g. provinces, where the coverage might be a lot less. 3G speeds are slow compared to the U.S. but most people use them for just calling and texting. If you go to any major mall in Manila (SM Mall in Makati, Mall of Asia), you will find plenty of stores that can help you out and explain the different plans to you.

It is not safe to drink any tap water. Always drink bottled water and stick to the name brands that you know. I don't even trust the local bottled stuff. You should definitely bring your own stash of Pepto Bismol, Immodium, etc. as those OTC medicines may not even be sold there depending on where you go.

Credit cards are widely accepted in the good hotels and restaurants and supermarket chains (like Hypermart). But if you eat more locally, then you will need pesos to pay. The major malls have many choices in terms of ATMs but if you're in the Fort, there should be plenty of choices there too. If you opt to exchange American dollars for pesos, bring $100 USD bills with you. Those get the best exchange rate. They actually will charge you more if you try to exchange smaller USD bills. Shop around to find the best exchange rates. It changes all the time and the malls and supermarkets usually have better rates than the banks. Also, don't bring more than $10,000 USD into the country or more than $10,000 pesos into the country as you are asked to declare it on your customs form coming in. They like the USD, hence the higher amount allowed in, but they don't like you bringing in your own pesos.

When you land in Manila, make sure you get your own bag and don't let someone else get it for you. Then go outside and find the white metered taxis and make sure the meter is turned on. There are always agents out there looking to overcharge unsuspecting tourists on cab rides. In Manila, always make sure that the driver turns on the meter first.

Because you're a white guy, you will attract a lot of attention, many times the type that you don't want to attract. Be street smart when you're in Manila and you should have a good time. Have fun! :D
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Re: Traveling to Manila soon

Postby terminator » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:49 am

American White Guy wrote:
terminator wrote:OMG you have definitely NOT travelled much before. Just wait until you get there and you'll soon see the answers. It's going to be a rude awakening for you in a poor country.


No, I obviously haven't traveled in the 3rd world before (I was born in Europe, grew up in the US, and have gone to Australia but obviously all 1st world places).

Wait until you get there is not a very satisfying response. Obviously if I go there I will eventually learn for myself. The whole point of this forum I thought was to discuss things and ask questions so I figure if someone else has been there maybe they can tell me what's up so I can prepare myself and not fall for any scams or do things the dumb way when a better way exists.

I thought that was the main idea of a forum like this, to share best practices and such, so that someone like me (or other people in the audience) don't have to make rookie mistakes or come unprepared when they can learn from other people's experiences.

No matter what questions or concerns someone has they will obviously see the answers if they just go do things so why not just have everyone do that and close the site down?


Can't you take a joke? You should be happy guys have answered your questions - although I don't know why you can't wait and shop around for a phone-plan when you arrive. Even outside the airport arrival doors there'll be many phone shops! How could I know if your maid would be any good? She could be married to some gangster who'd duplicate your keys and do a home invasion for all I know.
Last edited by terminator on Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby xiongmao » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:17 am

Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention the unofficial taxis - they're everywhere in Asia. Actually, the locals use them a lot, but if you're a newbie then it's best to plan your journey from airport to hotel in advance.

I'm still confused about taking money out in Asia. I need to look into this, especially if I'm going to live there for a while.

You can get cellphones in airport arrivals halls. I got a Chinese SIM card - my gf's at the time helped me procure one but it's pretty easy - just a question of pointing at the phone number you want and putting money on the phone. This should be much easier in English speaking Manila.

Travelling light is also a good idea. The only thing you need to take is any medicine you could conceivably need. Asian pharmacies are pretty mysterious.
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Postby Mr S » Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:35 am

#1 You can hire domestic helpers from local agencies but they will be a bit more expensive then getting one by word or mouth or someone you know. They usually don't steal big shit but little shit hoping you won't notice, that's if they choose to steal. It's a 50/50 chance that's why locals go through so many until they find a keeper.

#2 You can just get a prepaid card from either Globe, Smart or Sun. I use Globe. They are cheap and you can control how much you spend. No need for a plan.

#3 You can generally brush your teeth with water but I wouldn't consume it. Basically what you may get in your mouth taking a shower or brushing your teeth is about the most you can get away with. Some of the locals can maybe drink a bit of tap water and not get affected but they are used to it and have built up a tolerance. The food poisoning situation isn't really that bad here in comparison to other Asian countries. As long as you stick to major restaurants and avoid street food you should be ok most of the time. I occasionally get the shits but it's usually due to food not being cooked good enough or something like that. You can buy most drugs easily enough and much cheaper than in the West, plus you generally don't need a prescription as long as you know the name of what you are looking for. They do NOT sell Pepto Bismol in the Philippines for some reason so if you like that stock up and bring it with you before you leave. You can get Immodium easy but sometimes its a bit strong and plugs you up longer then you want.

#4 You can pretty much use credit cards in all major stores for the most part so I wouldn't worry about that. Use cash in local places or bars.

BTW I don't know why some people rave and rant about Davao being so great, personally I think it's boring as f**k and totally lame if you're single. I would visit Cebu or Negros Occidental area such as Bacolod and Dumagette, it's 100% much more fun over those areas and the women are way hot looking and better attitudes too.

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Postby davewe » Sat Sep 08, 2012 5:37 pm

Mr S wrote:
BTW I don't know why some people rave and rant about Davao being so great, personally I think it's boring as f**k and totally lame if you're single. I would visit Cebu or Negros Occidental area such as Bacolod and Dumagette, it's 100% much more fun over those areas and the women are way hot looking and better attitudes too.


Everyone has their own notion of fun. For me Davao is a relative clean and safe city with plenty to do during the day. But for clubbing, bars or bar girls - not so much. But considering the OP is new to foreign travel, talked about renting a condo and was concerned about safety - Davao would be nice for him. And meeting attractive girls there is certainly not hard.

Cebu has more night life and I do like it, but there is a reason it's called Little Manila. For me Manila just doesn't do it. If I want pollution, stress, traffic and high prices, I can stay in the U.S. But I do recognize that many like it for the night life and girls.

The OP really didn't ask about the girl situation, so we don't really know where his tastes lie in that area.
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Postby Winston » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:44 pm

I would choose Smart over Globe, because when you take the Smart SIM card with you overseas and put it on roaming, ALL text messages you receive are FREE, whereas with Globe, I hear, if you are on roaming, you get charged 75 pesos per text you receive, which is outrageous and insane and unbelievable! Several sources told me this. I couldn't believe it.

Also, Globe goes offline more often than Smart, I hear. So Smart is better overall.

If you are there short term, then just use Smart prepaid. You can buy a SIM card at any booth. If you are there long-term, you can look at monthly calling plans, but unless you are planning to make a lot of calls, why bother? Plus, two smart phones can now talk for free on wifi by using Skype or Viber.
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