There are probably many blogs out there that talk about travelling tips, reminders and whatnots. I wouldn’t even call myself a jetsetter but I have my fair share of experiences and I want to somehow contribute to my fellow Filipinos who are planning to travel (for pleasure) soon.
Vacationing outside the Philippines is supposed to be an amazing and pleasant experience but somehow we end up having a bad start due to an encounter with the Airport. I’d like to help you guys especially those who will be going out for the first time by giving you some sort of guide of what happens and what you can do about it before you can actually depart.
- Make sure you arrive at the airport ATLEAST 2 hours before departure. I said ATLEAST because technically the IDEAL TIME would be 3 hours. If it’s your first time to go abroad, you don’t want the hassle of running around and asking people at the airport so please go 3 hours before your scheduled departure. However, if you are a lazy person like me and have already an idea of what happens before you can finally settle and wait at the departure lounge then I think 2 hours is enough.
- Before you go inside the airport, make sure your PASSPORT and PLANE TICKET is within reach. Or better yet, they are already in your hands. Airport security will ask for them before you can go inside.
- Once inside, check for monitors or screens that flash the check-in counters available if a counter for your flight is already open. Most counters for international flights open 4 to 5 hours before the scheduled departure. If you don’t see any monitor or screen, ASK You can approach any airport staff or much better if it’s an employee of your chosen airline.
- Before you proceed to the check-in counter, PAY YOUR TRAVEL TAX FIRST. I know it’s kind of annoying that we still have to pay travel taxes but that’s the law and you have to follow it or else you won’t be able to fly to your destination. If you don’t know where you can pay your travel tax, ASK. Once you know where you can pay, show your PASSPORT (with the VISA if you need one) and PLANE TICKET to the person at the desk.
Reminder: Some ticketing agencies and airline ticketing offices (e.g. Philippine Airlines) already include Travel Tax in your plane ticket. Again, ASK if you are not sure whether the Travel Tax is already included in your payment.
- Once you pay your travel tax, they will give you a receipt. Keep that receipt and insert it together with your Passport and Plane Ticket. These are the things that will be asked from you once you go to the check-in counter.
- Present your PASSPORT (with the VISA if you need one), PLANE TICKET and TRAVEL TAX RECEIPT at the check-in counter. Listen carefully and answer tactfully if they tell or ask you anything. This is also a great time to ask for good seats before they give you your boarding pass. Don’t worry, staff at check-in counters are friendly. You’ll get grilled later at the Immigration counter. Kidding! LOL
TIP: I recommend you use the web check-in of your chosen airline (if offered), which is usually available 4 hours before departure, so you can get the best seats minus the cost.
- Once you are done checking-in, you may now proceed to writing your DEPARTURE CARDS usually given by the check-in counter staff. There are also tables or booths near immigration counters where you can get the cards. But if you can’t find one, ASK FOR IT. You won’t be entertained at the immigration counter without it.
- WRITE LEGIBLY in your DEPARTURE CARDS. Make sure it is clean and that everything you wrote there is true. As much as possible, memorize whatever is written there. It will be the basis of all the questions that might be asked from you once you go through Immigration.
- Once you’ve completed the card, prepare it together with your PASSPORT (with the VISA if you need one) and BOARDING PASS as you queue at the Immigration Counter. If you use a passport holder, remove your passport and keep your fancy holder. You only present the things I mentioned above. However, make sure that your HOTEL BOOKINGS and RETURN TICKET are available within reach. If you are staying with a friend or a relative, obviously you don’t need the hotel bookings. But RETURN TICKETS SHOULD BE PRINTED and readily available. I emphasized on having a return ticket because it’s full proof that you are coming back to the Philippines and that you are only going abroad for vacation/pleasure purposes.
- Once you are at the Immigration Counter, smile and greet the Immigration Officer no matter how strict looking they are. Breathe normally because there’s nothing to be afraid of. Remember, they are there to protect you from human trafficking and make sure that you really are going abroad to go sightseeing and not become a TNT. It’s normal for the Officers to ask and they usually ask questions you already know the answer to. Like the purpose and duration of your travel, where will you be staying abroad, your occupation and travel companions. Answer briefly and truthfully. In my experience, not once was I asked for proof of income. But if they do then just continue to answer calmly and provide proof (such as credit cards or company ID’s) if you can. Don’t go all jittery especially if you know you are doing nothing wrong. Relaks, it’s just Immigation.
- Once you’ve finished Immigration successfully, it’s okay to breathe normally. LOL. Prepare yourself for the security that you’ll be passing through. This is why I suggest you were super comfy clothes. If you can skip the belt, skip it. Wear slippers or sandals if you can. As much as possible, don’t wear metals. This is because you have to strip them of from your body so it can pass through the x-ray machine. It’s very stressful to remove them and then wear them again. But if you like the stress, that’s your call. Though please don’t be a bothersome dude blocking all of us because you are still tying your boots at the end of the line. Be a gentleman/woman, get your shoes and find a seat before you wear them again.
- Once you are already at the Departure Lounge, BE ATTENTIVE. Your gate and boarding time may change. Some flights may be delayed and some may even depart earlier. So be alert, check monitors/screens if available and listen to announcements.
- When you are ready to board the plane, prepare your PASSPORT (with the VISA if you need one) and BOARDING PASS. These are the only things they’ll ask of you. Also, learn to chill. It’s not first come, first serve. You already have a seat.
- Out of all the countries I’ve been, it’s only here in the Philippines that you are required to pay Travel Taxes (and terminal fees). I really hope that they could do something about that soon.
- Dress comfortably but stay pretty. Maybe don’t forget to put on lipstick (is lipgloss still a thing for adults? LOL). I know this can be a little pretentious but it actually helps when you present yourself well at the Immigration Counter. But don’t overdo it. Trust me, these guys are experts on judging people.
- Have your itineraries, tickets and hotel vouchers printed. It will take only a couple of minutes anyway so why be lazy about it. Remember that a hard copy of a proof is better than having to show them your tablets or phones. It wouldn’t matter even if you own the latest Iphone, they may not consider it.
- Not having a return ticket will be hard for you and you may get deplaned. Again, it’s the ultimate proof that you are coming back to the Philippines.
- Do not yell at Immigration Officers. Be respectful. Yes, they can be super strict sometimes but it’s their job. However, if you think they are way out of the line already then ask for their Supervisors. There’s always one available. This is why it pays to learn the law, people!
- If you have no idea on what to do a certain thing, ASK. Do not be afraid to ask. It’s better to be makulit than to be left by the plane. Goodbye piso fare! LOL
- If you’re travelling with a minor who is not directly related to you (meaning he/she is not your sibling or child and/or if you have different surnames) then you need a permit from DSWD. It’s the child’s protection that you are not kidnapping him/her. No permit, no travel.
- Do your research before booking your flight. Maybe you need a visa to go to that place. Also do the research before going to the airport. Maybe there are changes of the terminals for your airlines. Be knowledgeable. If you plan to have a travel agency arrange your vacation, ask them all the things you need to know.
- Do also some research on the weather situation of your destination so you’ll know what you need to bring. A normal jacket won’t help when it’s 7 degrees and will definitely ruin your vacation.
- Pack lightly. Bring only what you need. Make room for your pasalubongs and shopping. Besides, excess baggage is very sakit sa ulo and sakit sa bulsa!
- Speaking of packing, know how much baggage you are allowed. You are usually allowed 7kgs carry-on luggage while checked-in baggage will be based on your plane ticket.
- Learn a little bit of their language, especially useful ones like “how much”, “take me to” and even a friendly “hello”. It also helps if you save the address written in their language on your phones. You can just show it to taxi drivers or people when you ask for directions.
- Consider taking their public transportation rather than sticking with taxicabs. It will help you explore their city and maybe learn more of what it’s like to live in their country.
- Plan the places you visit ahead of time. Do some research on the best time and dates on visiting a certain tourist spot so you’ll know when to avoid crowded places. But if you love sweaty tourists photobombing you then that’s your call. LOL
- Last but not the least, have fun and goof around. Nobody knows you anyway! Hahaha!
So that’s pretty much what I’ve learned from my trips abroad. I really hope I’ve imparted a little bit of knowledge somehow. Travelling for vacation is supposed to be an enjoyable experience so if you have all the things you need, then don’t sweat it! Have fun and smile. The airport is just a little part of your journey, don’t give it the power to ruin your experience.
To all my readers out there who are planning a trip soon, I wish you have the best time!
–the girl who’s lost in Desire’s lair–