The following information is how it is going to play out on your first arrival at Cebu or Mactan Intentional Airport on the island of Cebu in central Philippines. Your experience will be very fimilure if arriving in Manila. Your plane lands at Cebu and you depart the plane, then you are taken down to Customs and Immigrations area where you go through a quick very short interview (see photo right). Your passport is stamped with the date and time. You are automatically granted a 21 day visa at this time. If you arrive with your spouse and he or she is a Filipino citizen you can get what is known as a Balikbayan visa good for one year, this is what I did twice now. Once the year is over you can extend any number of times by visiting your local Bureau of Immigrations Office. After the customs and Immigrations, you go through the doors to the baggage Claim area and pick up your bags as soon as they are unloaded. In the Baggage claim area a Filipino man will grab a cart and load your bags onto it for you and wheel it out side to the taxi stand. I usually give them P20 as a tip. The porter will head across the room to the exterior doors taking your bags with him, make sure you have all your bags and don’t leave4 them unattended. I have had to wait a long time for my last bag and one was lost once but was hand delivered when it was found at another airport. Once you get out in the sunlight you are in the Taxi zone and it is usually quite crowded with people all trying to get out of there and others trying to get you to take their cab. If you have a hotel van coming to pick you up they should be driving by looking for you. You may have to flag them down since he will not know who you are. You could prepare a paper sign with the hotel and your name on it to aid them in finding you. Moat of the hotel vans have a sign with the hotels name on them. They can’t park there except to load and unload so he may simply drive around the block in circles until he and you spot each other.
If you click in the above images you will see a larger version.
The left image is of Mactan International Airport in Cebu, the right is a closer look at the main loby area building with red roof and Waterfront Airport Hotel with the tan roof. The road between the two buildings is where you are once you exit the baggage claim area and get your van or taxi. You can see the road the van goes around and around looking for you if you have a Hotel picking you up. The white vehicles are mostly taxis.
I have fond that the cabs at the airport are higher cost wise than in town. Ask how much it cost to take you to your destination be it a hotel or resort. Often the price is higher for foreigners because all Filipinos think all foreigners are rich. And we prove that to them by our actions. What do we do here, buy cars and build big houses,these foreign married to Filipina houses are all over the place now, so to them we are rich. Anyway try not to get taken too much a taxi should not run you more than around P 130 but I have seen it as high as P400 at the airport. Just tell him where you go they will get there. If you are new to the country it is good to have someone meet you and show you around, if not most of the people do speak some English. It is not necessary to arrange a hotel room ahead of time the taxi will take you to one that is vacant. If so please give him a nice tip. You can ask him if you want to have him take you around and tour the city, he may have a special rate for that. There are plenty of services where you can rent a vehicle with a driver for an all day sight seeing adventure just ask at your hotel. Find someone who speak fluent English. The story is similar in Manila If I can find my Manila trip photos I will put in some here.
My personal suggestion is, once you secure your hotel room, go ahead and venture outside and grab a cab (very cheap here only P 80 to P130) and head over to the nearest SM or Mall for a real treat to the senses. There you will find a very lively crowd of people shopping along with lots of foreigners either on vacation or living somewhere near by. I have met many Americans at these malls some not very friendly some are. I can’t see coming all the way to paradise and having a frown on your face and being so unfriendly that you look the other way when someone speaks to you. Just does not sit well with me. You will find the malls here or as they call them “SM” are not like the ones in the US, these are very alive, there is always lots of things going on here. No shortage of shoppers either. I have been approached by women at least 5 times now asking me if I was spoken for, or they just say hi as they pass by or smile, something that does not happen very often in the US. Once at a local Pharmacy the attendant asked me if I was already spoken for, kind of took me by surprise, but you will find this happens fairly often here.
More Mall Photos here on Joe Bogo’s Blog Wandering Blindly.com