Entering the country through any of the main ports is a breeze; however, you'll need to show the airline an onward ticket in order to board any Philippines-bound plane.
- Firearms and pornography are forbidden.
- You can bring up to 2L of alcohol and up to 400 cigarettes (or two tins of tobacco) into the country without paying duty.
- Foreign currency of more than US$10,000 and local currency of more than P10,000 must be declared upon entry or exit.
A free 30-day visa is issued on arrival for most nationalities. You can extend, for a fee, in major provincial centres, or extend upon arrival at the airport.
Visa rules and fees changed in early 2017. The situation remains fluid, so check the latest rules and regulations on the website of the Bureau of Immigration, whose head office is in Manila.
In a nutshell, the situation is as follows:
- It is easy to extend your initial 30-day visa (technically a visa 'waiver') for an additional 29 days. This costs about P2200 for most nationalities.
- Thereafter, you may apply for additional one-month, two-month or six-month extensions. The cost for the first month is about P4000 and includes purchase of an 'ACR I-Card' identity card valid for one year; subsequent extensions cost P1000 to P2000 per month.
- You can apply for visa extensions at the head office in Manila or at any BOI provincial office. Most regional hubs and touristy areas such as Boracay have BOI offices; a full list of the regional offices can be found on the BOI website.
- You can apply for your initial 29-day extension at the airport upon arrival in the Philippines; just request this service once you reach the immigration control booth. This may only work at the Manila and Cebu airports.
- It may or may not be possible to extend retroactively (and pay at least a P1010 fine in addition to retroactive visa-extension fees) upon your departure from the Philippines – we wouldn’t chance it.
- The maximum stay for most nationalities that qualify for the visa waiver is 36 months.
- Dress respectably when applying; shorts and flip-flops are definite no-no's.
- The visa process is generally painless, especially in provincial offices, but you can also pay a travel agent to handle everything for you.
Be prepared to show the airline at your point of departure to the Philippines a ticket for onward travel. If you don’t have one, most airlines make you buy one on the spot.