Your First Trip to Cebu, Philippines Travel Tips
If you're coming here on vacation no doubt most of your planning was already done via the company you booked your flight with such as the hotel. Also be aware most major resorts will offer a shuttle service and often at little or no cost. That is something that will instantly save you money when arriving as the taxi drivers are generally looking to make two or even three times the normal amount which is why its strongly advised to always ask for the meter to be put on when entering a taxi and leave if they refuse. Also a good tip is to go across the road at Mactan airport and up the ramp as you will come out at the departure area and the taxis are less likely to give you problems purely because they are looking for rides back to the City. If its late at night you may tip the driver but generally I only tip if they don't ask for extra.
If your not pre-booked into accommodation and looking for something a bit more long term but know people like myself in the area we can help find you a better deal as often the rents will be hiked on the knowledge of you being a foreigner. Prime example is the rent I pay which is P3,000 per month for a 1 bedroom apartment where someone else is likely to be charged around P7,000 upwards for a similar type and size building as well as bills. The other advantage of asking people like myself is that we can often locate areas which are more suitable for Expats as they are generally areas with an existing Expat population.
What areas are best to stop in for a trip to Cebu? Personally if its a vacation I would look to get accommodation on Mactan island due to its number of hotels and resorts as well as facilities catering for the tourism market such as diving, island hopping and generally good quality beaches. Cebu city itself is less than twenty minutes ride away giving you quick access to the large malls in Cebu or Colon market which is famous for its bargains and an ideal place to pickup souviners a lot cheaper than you will find elsewhere. Colon street also offers several guitar stores for hand made guitars who also produce ornate mirrors.
Touring the island is often something many don't do but would recommend at least a couple of days of a trip here to travel to the more beautiful parts of the island as the further you head out the greener and cleaner the countryside becomes. It also gives opportunity to experience diving, waterfalls, beaches and local life. Getting around doesn't have to be so expensive and I can help organise vehicles for such trips which are generally fixed prices for the day and the hire of a vehicle with driver. This allows you to travel around without the worry of being lost or trying to deal with the hectic traffic that exists all over the Philippines.
One of the most important factors many people over look though is "money" you don't need to change it abroad it is actually a lot cheaper to do it within the Philippines. As well as the fact Western money has a larger currency value so larger bills in a home currency means less money mass and only needing to change money as and when you need it. There are money changers pretty much everywhere, avoid the ones at the airport and use the ones in good locations such as the malls but please check rates as they can vary considerably. If you get a new sim for your phone and let your regular changer know they will often update you by text or call you on a land line with the latest prices.
Do not carry too much jewelery or expensive items as currently we are experiencing a higher than usual number of snatches. Believe it or not someone will grab a chain from your neck and disappear into the crowd quicker than you can look at them. Also carrying personal items that may make you stand out will make you a more obvious risk of robbery. Generally I find Cebu a safe place but like most things you do not want to invite risk if it can be avoided. The general population are friendly and glad to help but like any society there are always some bad elements.
Matt Wilkie is an Expat who originally arrived in the Philippines nearly three years ago. An experienced engineer and surveyor specializing in project and asset management in the UK. Has adapted to the new environment in the Philippines offering consulting services for a wide range of topics and working towards building a strong Expat community in the Philippines. This led to the development of TropicalPenpals.com a website which has literally a constantly growing collection of useful insights and information on life in the Philippines from someone who is already living and experiencing life within the county of the Philippines.