To some people, traveling can seem like a scary thing, especially when you’re leaving the country for the first time. Thoughts like “what if my credit card won’t work in the country I’m visiting?” or “what if my luggage is over the limit and I have to pay thousands of pesos on the spot?” will slowly pop up in your head, sure, but the truth is, the key to a smooth trip before you jet off to faraway lands is simply being prepared.
If you’re a Philippine passport holder, here’s a comprehensive checklist to consider before you book your first international ticket:
1. Take note of the travel tax and airport terminal fee
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According to the Philippine Embassy’s official website, Philippine nationals are expected to pay for the Philippine Travel Tax upon departure from the Philippines. It is usually paid at the airport upon departure or; oftentimes, already included in the cost of the ticket when purchased.
Cebu Pacific, PAL, and AirAsia, as well as other major airlines based in the Philippines, give passengers the option to pay for the Travel Tax during the online booking provided passengers are all adult. When paying directly with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, head straight to the Travel Tax counter at the airport before check-in. For online payments, visit the TIEZA website and click on the “Travel Tax Tab,” and then select “Pay Travel Tax”.
For first-class passengers, the travel tax costs around Php2,700.00 and PHP 1,620.00 for economy class.
All passengers departing from the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) are expected to pay the Airport Terminal Fee of Php750.00. No one is exempt from paying the Airport Terminal Fee.
2. Check your passport
Before you book your flight, and we cannot stress this enough, check your passport validity. Many countries require that you have at least 6 months of validity left before you enter their country. If your passport is expiring within this date, then we suggest applying for a renewal.
Lost your passport? In case of a lost valid passport, this will be treated as a new application, wherein you have to provide a Police Report in English (original and photocopy), Affidavit of Loss in English (original and photocopy), and pay a penalty fee amounting to Php350.00.
3. Find out if you need a visa
Currently, Filipinos can visit 67 countries visa-free, according to the 2019 Henley Passport Index. However, if you are traveling to popular Asian destinations like Shanghai, Japan or South Korea, they have visa policies in place with the Philippines. Requirements and costs vary with each country you’re planning to visit, and the whole process can involve weeks and even months of waiting.
Here’s the list of visa-friendly countries in Asia for Filipinos:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Myanmar (Burma)
- Hong Kong
4. Check immigration requirements
I remember a friend who wasn’t allowed to come with our group to Kuala Lumpur because she got detained by immigration at NAIA. She had all the necessary documents to make the trip: our itinerary (accommodation, tours, etc.), copies of our return ticket, as well as the endorsement letter provided by our organization (we were there for a youth leadership congress.)
Long story short, she wasn’t allowed to fly at the time because she was already detained a few months back when she was trying to visit her friends in South Korea. When she was finally released by the officer who interviewed her, our plane had already left, and she had to buy a ticket going to KL. We never knew the reason why she “had to undergo extra surveillance,” but ever since that incident, I made sure to check all of the immigration requirements of the country I’m planning to visit.
Some countries require you to provide proof of an itinerary before they will let you in, whether that be a flight, train or bus ticket, and even Airbnb or hotel accommodations. Some countries have these regulations but aren’t necessarily strict with the,, while some airlines won’t let you even board the flight if you don’t have documentation that is inline with the destination’s immigration requirements. But hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? (See also: https://www.embassy-worldwide.com)
If possible, make a photocopy of all your documents and put them all in a sealed envelope. Things you should include here are your: passport, printouts of flight tickets/boarding passes/hotel reservations and directions, stacked in the order in which they’ll be used on the trip; travel insurance documents; and, in case you already booked a flight, money that is exchanged for the currency of the country you’re visiting.
5. Do your research
Earlier this month, I saw a couple of airline sales for one-way tickets from Manila to Taipei. And like many giddy travelers out there, I booked it without checking how much the return ticket would cost me. I’m pretty sure you know by now how this scenario played out. To those of you who don’t, here’s how: I paid P3,470.00 for two one way tickets from NAIA to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. It would later turn out that these seats aren’t travel tax inclusive, and the return tickets cost me more than the amount I was supposed to pay for two roundtrip fares. Still, I learned my lesson, thus this last bullet on our list.
Aside from budget security, having some knowledge about the country you’re visiting will definitely pay off once you’re there. When traveling, research can significantly but positively impact your time. Researching prior to traveling to a certain place involves getting information regarding the place in several aspects–like getting a deep insight into the area, what places to must visit or avoid, the culture and local traditions, must-try foods, the dress code, and other important details to know.