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The Philippines

Travel Tips   Safety

During your Philippine diving holiday you will discover one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in the world. There are very few tourists so you can enjoy this amazing country without the crowds. Everywhere you go, locals will be smiling, laughing and genuinely wanting to be your friend. It really is the undiscovered jewel of South-East Asia.


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History

Spain first laid claim to the 7,107 islands of the Philippines in 1511 and named them for King Philip II of Spain. England briefly occupied the islands from 1762-3, and the U.S. laid claim in 1898. Japan took over during WWII, and independence was finally granted in 1946. It has been a politically turbulent country ever since.

U.S. occupation left the legacy of the English tongue, Marlboro cigarettes and basketball. English is widely spoken throughout the country and signs, official documents etc are all in English, although the main language of Malapascua is Visayan (Cebuano).

Is it safe?

The Philippines has received a lot of bad publicity over the years and some people think it is unsafe to visit. This image is based on only a few isolated events and does not reflect the whole country. Filipinos are mostly devout Catholics due to the Spanish influence and Muslims are a small minority, the extremists smaller still.

The Philippines is generally very safe and the only place to avoid is Mindanao in the far south - an isolated area far away from Malapascua. Cebu itself is populated by very Catholic, very friendly, Filipinos. You will have much more chance of coming across danger in any major Western city. We can assure you that Cebu is one of the safest places we have ever traveled and even the taxi driver are (almost always) honest. Quick tip: Make sure you ask them for "Meter" to avoid any problems.

As with anywhere, keep your belongings and money in a secure place, although theft is not a big problem in Cebu. Tourists are not a target for the thieves in the way they are in most major tourist areas. Nevertheless, use hotel safes, and be careful when leaving money and cameras in your room. Do not leave anything outside your room at night.

Find out more about your dive safety.

Find out about Malapascua.

Travel Tips: What you should know before coming

Money

The currency of the Philippines is the peso. The rate is around 45 pesos to the US dollar, 70 pesos to the pound and 60 pesos to the euro at time of writing. There are several places to change money on Malapascua including Thresher Shark Divers. There is one licensed money changer, but as there are no banks, they are not guaranteed to have pesos, so make sure you have a backup plan! The rate of exchange in Malapascua is poor and it can be difficult to change travelers checks. You may have trouble using travelers checks and credit cards outside the main cities. When in doubt, always take enough cash. US$ will usually be okay. Transaction fees for credit cards and travelers' checks are very high in the Philippines and it is usual for the businesses to pass on their costs to you.

Cash: US$ cash is easiest to change on the island. However, it is best to get pesos in Cebu. You can change money at some banks (BDO and Metrobank),or money changers in the shopping malls (SM, Ayala or Robinson's). You can also withdraw cash through an ATM bank machine. There is one at the airport. If you are getting a taxi or transfer to Malapascua, just ask your driver to stop at an ATM machine. Citibank and HSBC right outside Ayala will let you draw out P15-20,000 at a time, but they are 30 minutes in the opposite direction from the airport if you are coming directly so you may have to pay the driver extra. At other banks each allowed withdrawal may be much less and you will have to make multiple withdrawals paying multiple transaction fees. There are no ATMs in Malapascua. The nearest ATM is in Bogo, over an hour away. If you are worried about bringing a lot of cash, you can leave it in our safe.

Travelers checks: Travelers' checks can be difficult to change in the Philippines. There is an American Express office at the Ayala shopping mall in Cebu City. Anywhere else, the exchange rate may be high. The Banco de Oro Bank near SM shopping mall will change $200 of travelers checks per day. Travelers checks are more difficult to change on Malapascua although you may be able to use them in payment.

Credit cards: Very few places take credit cards, but you can use them at Thresher Shark Divers and Oscar's Bar and Restaurant. Be prepared for very high transaction charges in some places- up to 10% is possible.

Living costs are quite low on Malapascua. Some of the restaurants on Malapascua are very good and fairly inexpensive. You will probably spend $4 - $20 a day for food depending on your tastes. Above Thresher Shark Divers is Oscar's Restaurant which always has an excellent and varied food selection. Beer costs 50 pesos (US$1), and the local alcoholic hard stuff is Tanduay Rum and Coke which costs around the same. Accommodation can be quite expensive due to the remote location but the standards have improved dramatically over the last couple of years. Most of the better resorts now have 24 hour electric and hot water showers as standard. Wi-fi is even creeping in in some places. Backpacker rooms start at $10, decent fan rooms at around $30 and AC rooms at $60 per night.

Thresher Shark Divers Payment: We accept payment in Pesos, US$, Euros, Pound Sterling, and all other major currencies. We also take credit cards and internet bank transfer. You can pay in advance using bank transfer or Paypal. Transaction fees will be charged for credit cards. We offer limited money changing services. You can pay for all your package, room, food and drinks from our restaurant by by any of these means.

Visas

A free 30 day tourist visa is standard on arrival in the Philippines for most nationalities. It is possible to get a 2 month visa at a Philippine embassy abroad before coming, or to extend your 30 day stay to two months at immigration in Cebu, Manila, or Tagbilaran. After 2 months you can extend your visa every two months for up to a year. We may be able to process your visa extension if you will be with us for a while, just give us your passport and let us do the rest.

Get more information from the Philippine government web site and Columbus World Travel Guide.

Health

There are very few health related problems on Malapascua among tourists. Bottled drinking water is available everywhere on the island and we provide cheap refills to cut down on the environmental impact of plastic bottles.

There is no malaria on Malapascua. The mosquito borne disease dengue fever is around, but it is rarely caught by tourists. Even so, it wise to avoid mosquito bites and cover up or use repellant. We have found, apart from the more poisonous DEET-based products, that Jungle Juice, Avon Skin-so-Soft and plain antiseptic soap work well. A tiny pot of Tiger Balm is great to take away that itch if you do get bitten.

There is no doctor on Malapascua. Basic medications, including antibiotics, are usually available although it is always a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit. Of course we have a first aid kit in the dive shop and on the boat.

The nearest hospital is in Daan Bantayan, which is on the mainland and takes about an hour to reach. The nearest recompression chamber is in Cebu and helicopter evacuation is available if necessary. Read more about your diving safety at Thresher Shark Divers.

If you are thinking of taking a PADI diving course and have any pre-existing medical conditions, please click here.

wifiCommunication

Cell phone: SIM cards are widely available in Malapascua for mobile phones. Globe is best for Malapascua. You can place local and international phone calls at Thresher Shark Divers.

Internet: Thresher Shark Divers offers internet access including wifi. We have the fastest internet connection on the island (bar none!). Wi Fi is free for all our divers with their own mobile devices and available at a reasonable rate for all non-divers. Computers are available for a charge for anyone without their own device.

Electricity

The Philippines uses USA style plugs - flat, vertical two pin plugs. Its voltage is different from the US - 220v at 60Hz. Be sure to bring an adapter if one isn't built into your appliance, but we also sell adapters if you forget. We have voltage converters at Thresher Shark Divers, so if you have strobes, torches, camera batteries etc. that need charging, you can do this in the dive shop.

24 hour electric has recently arrived in Malapascua and is now available in most resorts and island-wide.

Women Travelers

The Philippines is very safe for women travelers, although of course you should always use a reasonable degree of caution. As with most other places in South-East Asia, it is best to cover up when not on the beach.

There is rarely toilet tissue or water in public toilets so take your own. Tampons are hard to find, so bring a sufficient supply. You may be able to buy them at some of the pharmacies in the bigger shopping malls in Cebu (Rose Pharmacy is best).


Contact us if you have any further questions about coming to Malapascua and the Philippines.

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