PHILIPPINES SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Philippines is generally safe - I would consider it as safe as London. The wedding venues and any other places we may recommend are frequented by westerners. Security is often top priority in the Philippines and you will feel both safe and relaxed at the same time.

Within cities you are fine - if you stay in Manila then Makati is the place to be (contact us for suggestions of suitable hotels as some Makati hotels are in noisy districts). In Cebu there are many hotels catering for the western market. In order to stay safe it is common sense really - don't go to slum areas at night and don't go into the provinces unless they are frequented by westerners. Currently it is not recommended to travel to Mindanao (the southernmost island).

Overall, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised how safe it is here and how friendly and helpful people are. Have a look at the Foreign Office advice below, but don't be alarmed - I could make a list this big for London - just don't go to western Mindanao and take a day trip into the jungle whilst carrying a million peso and wearing a priest costume. We will not take people to unsafe areas!

Latest Foriegn Office advice: click here

Philippines country profile: click here

HEALTH AND VACCINATIONS: Consult your doctor at least 4 weeks before your visit, although 6 months before your visit is better. I would suggest Hepatitus A and B, Tetanus and Typhoid. I seem to remember that one of the Hepatitus injections requires a second booster jab, 6 months after the first.

Malaria isn't really a risk in the cities and particularly not in Cebu. Personally I wouldn't take it unless you plan to spend some significant time in rural areas after the wedding - generally westerners on holiday don't go to the back and beyond! So whilst Malaria tablets are not necessary, it may be worthwhile taking some insect repellent material/spray as the odd Mosy could visit you in the night - shouldn't be a problem though. Mosys can also carry Dengue fever, no vaccination - just use repellent.

I would also carry some Imodium (local equivalent is Loperimide) for LBM. I don't have a problem ever, but I am used to the water.

In the Philippines you should drink bottled water, which is readily available.

In the Philippines it is worth having comprehensive travel insurance, but in cities if you have money then health care is good and chemists are open 24 hours.

Oh, and don't forget the sun tan lotion!

VISA'S: British citizens do not require a visa to travel to the Philippines. Simply fill in a landing card which is given to you on your plane. Additionally you need to ensure you have a return or other ticket out of the Philippines. You are then good for 21 days. You can easily extend your stay for 56 days I think. Simply go to the Immigration office and it will cost you 2000 peso (£25) plus 500 peso slipped into your passport. Alternatively, you can pay on departure if you overstay your visa. On leaving the Philippines please remember to keep some Peso's as you will have to pay an airport terminal fee. In Manila it is 750 peso, although Cebu is likely cheaper. Internal flights are usually less than 300 peso terminal fee.

LANGUAGE: People in the Philippines speak Tagalog, or a local dialect, as their first language, however the vast majority of Filipino's are more or less fluent in American English. You will have no problems as everyone will speak to you in English and all signs and everything are in English. As a bit of history the Philippines was formerly a Spanish Colony. Spanish used to be widely spoken and many of the older buildings and styles are remarkably Spanish-European. From the World Wars, the Philippines have been very close to America and so now the youngsters are taught English rather than Spanish and can tuck into a McDonalds rather than a Paella.

CASHPOINTS / ATM's: You'll find plenty of these, except in rural areas. Loads in Cebu and Manila. Usually £2 charge regardless of amount you take out. Some machines only let you withdraw 4,000 peso at a time, others 10,000 peso. I use Chinabank or Metrobank usually. Max 20,000 peso (£250) withdrawal a day. Inform your bank and Credit card company before you come to the Philippines (or at least bring their number). They have a habit of blocking your account when you pay a big hotel bill! Visa, Matercard and Amex all widely used although Mastercard is best as for Visa they look at it weirdly, call the bank then accept it.

FOOD: Filipino food is generally plain and not spicy. Most things are served with plain rice. Pork, chicken and fish are widely eaten with the rice in a fairly plain manner (Aubrey's opinion). Pork dishes are a speciality and some are really nice! Filipino's usually eat with a spoon and fork, but a westerner is usually given a knife and fork. Most Filipino's can use chop-sticks, but you only get these if you go to a Japanese or Chinese restaurant. Food is cheap and you can get Japanese, Chinese, American, Thai, Filipino, Arabic, Indian, French and many more styles of food. Watch out for the ice in beer - in western bars, however, they usually know that we don't water down our beer! Filipino men tend to drink, but women don't drink much. Beers are about 50p in restaurants and a very good meal for two only costs around £20. It is considered rude to comb hair at tables and also not to finish, or be wasteful with food. Don't worry about this though - we usually order too much and then it is normal to get it put in a take-out box, which you can give to a taxi-driver.

TAXI ADVICE: From airports take an airport taxi. You go to the booth, get a ticket and then get the taxi. You pay the taxi driver the agreed fee (usually around £4). In the street, if you grab a taxi it is best to ask if they will take you to the place and then agree by meter. They should have the meter running (by law) - make sure they reset it, something the commonly forget to do! Many will want to charge you a flat (sometimes extortionate) fee though. One con trick that 'meter is broken' - get the next cab! Another is to say they are a hotel car (once you are in) and then charge you five times the rate - agree on meter first. If you agree to to a price rather than the meter, get him to keep the meter running anyway as he is required to by law. I usually say I'll pay you extra (50 peso or so) on top of the meter and then they are happy. Typical journay costs about £1.50. It is normal to lock the doors when you get in, although this is more Filipino habit to be safe, as generally there is no problem. You may encounter beggers/venders at traffic lights, often including children. I suggest you don't give money to them as it encourages them to risk their lives in the road - instead donate to a charity - you'll find many cans in shops. Having said all this though, most taxi drivers are honest and work very hard for just a few dollars a day, so it's good to give a little extra. One other thing - most taxis, especially in Manila, are old and don't have seat belts except in the front. Some drivers are pyscho, but generally the heavy traffic means you're pretty safe as you only travel slowly.

FLIGHTS: A flight to the Philippines will typically cost £550 plus/minus. Most people book the cheapest flights, but please double check the timings - particularly of the return flight. Some very cheap flights will have a 12 hour connection time, which is not worth it for a few quid. This is particularly true with Etihad and some Emirates flights (others are fine). KLM fly via Amsterdam - flights are well routed and cheap with service best described 'cheerful'. Emirates and Singapore Airlines have excellent service and flights are very good - fly via Dubai or Singapore respectively. Qatar Airways fly via Doha, airport is a pain as always by bus and service is 'OK'. British Airways routing I'm not sure about, but again service is usually average. Out of these airlines my personal favourite is Emirates. You may want to consider having a stop-off half way and spending a couple of days in Dubai - if you want to do this ensure you buy an appropriate ticket (you can't change a UK-Manila flight to include a break in Dubai unless you say so when you book). Also if you do this remember to book hotels as the Middle East is very busy in winter. Another alternative, if you wish to tour Asia, may be to have a return ticket to Singapore or HongKong, you can then get cheap tickets to all Asian countries from these hubs.

I would recommend, if possible arriving a day or two before the wedding. When travelling East you often get jet-lagged, going home isn't bad.

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