Saturday, February 2, 2019

Traveling on Philippine Airlines and Tips for a Enjoyable Vacation in the Philippines!

It had been over 30 years since I boarded a plane to the Philippines! I was so excited I took pictures of our journey from LAX to Manila!
PC: Philippine Airlines
This is the seat map of the plane my family boarded!
PC: Philippine Airlines

We were in economy class, but this is a picture of the business class section which of course offers more space!
PC: Philippine Airlines
The flight was about 15 hours so plenty of time for some movies! They had a great selection of newly released movies, classics and even a couple of foreign films!

 Every seat on the plane has a monitor and a remote that is tethered so you don't lose it!
Soon after we boarded, the staff came around and offered a hot towel! It felt good to refresh your face and hands!

PC: Philippine Airlines
Each seat also came with a hospitality kit, toothbrush and toothpaste, earphones, sleeping mask and some socks!  A blanket is also offered per seat.  These are all shrink-wrapped in plastic to ensure cleanliness!

 Now for the food.  Oh my, you will not starve on this flight.
We had "dinner" first, even though it was probably 2 or 3 am PST. This is the Korean Chicken Barbecue meal.  It was very tasty!
 Then, if you were awake, a few hours later was snack time!  Cookies and a hot box was passed out! What was inside?
A warm ham and cheese sandwich! I really enjoyed it! I wish they would sell these in the U.S., perfect grab and go item.
I fell into a food coma and then when I woke up, it was breakfast time!  This was the western breakfast, chicken sausages with an omelette.
Or you can choose the Filipino breakfast: corned beef, egg, potatoes, rice, and some melon.
The flight was indeed long, but between movies, sleeping, and meals, it wasn't that bad. I do recommend getting up when it is safe to do so to walk a bit and stretch every few hours!   We made it safely to Manila and enjoyed 14 glorious days reuniting with relatives and seeing the sights!

 Here are some tips to make your Philippine vacation more enjoyable!
  • Saturate yourself with Picaridin Insect Repellent to avoid bug bites! I applied this religiously with my son throughout our stay and he didn't get bit once. I applied it a couple of times a day. I still got a few bites, but my daughter who did not use this was attacked all over! 
  • Bactine helped a lot with the itchiness from the bites. We ran out of the repellent and I found Off in one of the stores. It worked ok, but not as well as the Picaridin Insect Repellent. 
  • I found that 50% of the public restrooms that I visited in the Philippines did NOT have toilet paper. My friend had warned me about that. You will find spray hoses in the stalls to wash yourself with and to clean the toilet after you have used it.  However you do need something to dry yourself with so I brought my package of Charmin To Go and Wet Ones with me whenever I had to go to a public restroom.
  • Don't be surprised at the restaurants if menu items are not available. My guess is there is no strictly followed schedule of supplies so if something runs out, there is not much to do about it. After all you are on an island! At one restaurant,  my brother-in-law ordered four different items, each time the server responded that the item was "not available".  At the end, he said, "Ok, what DO you have?"  Fortunately, the hospitality of staff makes up for the lack of selection.
  • There are security checks almost everywhere! You'll go through metal detectors and have your bags either x-rayed or poked through. I didn't mind, safety first!  At the LAX airport on the return flight home, they are strict about claiming food on the customs form.  Any kind of pork product will be tossed. So long bag of chicharrones! 
  • Seniors are your Fast Passes to long Disney-like lines. They get front-of-the-line priority with one chaperone and sometime the whole party will be accommodated.  This happened to us at the airport several times, especially if a senior is in a wheelchair.  The airport attendants will offer a chair and stay with you, even accompany them to the bathroom if needed! Now that is service.  They also get a pretty significant discount with their senior card when making almost any kind of purchase. 
  • The water pressure can be very low for showers except for when we stayed at chain hotels.  And hot water may be a luxury.  We got used to heating water up on the stove and using a tabo!
  • Every place we stayed at offered a free breakfast, either Western, Filipino or a buffet! It was great!
  • Man purses are the norm in the Philippines.  But always make sure you carry your purse, man or woman in front of you, even your backpacks!  A nephew said, "There are many magicians here, things can disappear!"
  • Download the Grab app. It is the Philippines' version of Uber and Lyft.  Oftentimes it was cheaper than getting a private van or car.
  • For transportation needs for your travelling party, these are my recommendations:
Less than 15 minutes away - hail a tricycle.  They are plentiful and you literally just stand on the street and wave one down. Some can fit from 3 to 6!  Pay ranged from 20 pesos to 75 pesos a passenger depending on the distance.
 More than 15 minutes to under an hour - call a Grab.  XL vehicles are more readily available at  populated areas like malls, etc.. not impossible but a bit more challenging to get one to pick your party up at a residence if you are not in a suburban area.
 More than an hour to a whole day - You might consider hiring a private driver.  We got to know a couple drivers pretty well and would just negotiate a rate.For a 10 passenger van, the average rate for hiring a driver for a whole day ranged from 3000 pesos to 5000 pesos depending on distance to destination, toll road fees, and gas. 
  • Take a native speaker with you to negotiate when shopping at local places.  With privately owned businesses, there is always opportunity to negotiate for services or merchandise.  Locals can speak the language and definitely get you the best price!
I hope to visit the Philippines again soon! Have a tip to offer, please comment below!

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