Travel in the Philippines
Traveling to the Philippines can be one of the most self-rewarding vacations you can take this year. Whether it is by yourself or a friend or significant other, the getaway of your dreams may be tucked away in the thousands of islands that make up this pacific gem. While my travels were limited to myself and a significant other, traveling there alone may be just the ticket you're after. I could bless the Philippines with songs of praise about its tasty foods, rich diversity, and complete affordability as far as a vacation hotspot should go; I must also address and immediately dispel any and all rumors about traveling there either alone or in a group.
The Philippines, like most south Asian countries, has a HUGE and insanely profitable sex tourism industry. An assumption made of most foreigners traveling to the Philippines is that they are there to soak up a piece of that industry. Whatever your intentions, don't let me belay you. If it is earthly pleasures you're after you can jump ship at Manila and never step a foot farther. If, however, you're seeking more than just the fruit of the flesh, take a tip from me and spend exactly one day in the tourist district of Manila. Two days at most but no longer than you need to be. While Manila is a HUGE and wonderful sprawling metropolis of diversion and food, you must (imperative stressed) get out of the city and move to the areas in the countryside which offer more fun with different activities at much cheaper rates.
First let's start with what to do once you're in Manila proper. The one day you're spending there will be setting up roots. If you haven't done so already, find a money changer. The changers in the downtown area are plenty and easily found. Finding one that can be trusted shouldn't be too daunting a task. Do not under any circumstances change money with a street changer. Always do business at a location that is set up in a store. While I can't vouch for reputation I can with experience say to trust the stores that appear to have been there the longest. You will NEVER get the ideal rate and if you are a traveling American, this will count doubly so. Almost always you'll find that money changers are slicing an even 10-15% off of the actual live mid-market rates. This is okay, since you'll be out exactly enough money to buy a coca-cola if you do it right. If you can do it economically I recommend trading in Euros. At the time of writing Euros are gaining value and will net the most for your change.
Once your money is changed, take care of any special needs. If you aren't carrying these things already stop and pick up some as you leave, one bottle of your preferred pain killer, one bottle of high spf (50 or more) sun screen, one set of replacement blades for your shaving razor (or buy a pack of the cheapest there), a full tube of tooth paste, a replacement toothbrush, and a full can of shaving cream. Bring your own shampoo. While you may be using the world's cheapest shampoo, your scalp may not be ready for you to change your formula.
Changing water conditions as well will wreak havoc on your scalp and may lead to drying and flaking. The least you can do for yourself is use the shampoo you've been using for the longest and try to keep the drying to a minimum. 2-in-1 and medicated shampoos are the best for this sort of travel.
Optional equipment may include a hotplate and a saucepan. Not all water is potable in the Philippines and you may find yourself boiling what you don't wash your hair with. If it doesn't say "potable" above the tap you should assume its city water and for the love of God don't drink it. I can personally tell you that there is nothing glorious or macho about doing it. Yes, I survived; No I did not enjoy doing so. Don't drink impure water. Alternatively you can just buy bottled water. I suggest the pan and plate first because you simply don't know when you'll need it and while there is little to no shortage of bottled water I can't imagine not being prepared for a lot of scenarios. Always have a first aid kit.
Register yourself with the embassy. There is no reason not to do this. You're there on vacation, you may be planning to leave the city and head off into the wild. Someone should always know to look for you and how. While kidnappings have been on a sharp decline and are approaching a wonderful and safe mark of 0, it is hideously reckless to imagine that it won't happen. And even if wild-eyed religious extremists aren't a problem, the wildlife can be. Just in case you end up on a cot in a jungle health clinic with a snake bite be sure someone knows where to find you.
Do it, it may save your life.
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