The year 2020 will forever be known as the year the modern world came to a halt. Thanks to the newly-discovered virus called SARS-CoV-2, things are not going exactly as planned. Nevertheless, you can still keep on planning for that tropical vacation of your dreams. There are just some things you have to keep in mind while doing so.
Do not let your fears stop you from visiting the white sand beaches and the crystal blue waters of the Philippines! Study up, get informed, and then start packing. Here are the things that you must know when vacationing in this beautiful Southeast Asian country during a pandemic:
Who Can Go to the Philippines
With the active threat of SARS-CoV-2 still very present worldwide, there are only a number of people allowed entry to the Philippines at the moment. As of September 23, 2020, these are (1) Filipino nationals, (2) Non-Filipino or foreign spouses and minor children or children with special needs of a Filipino National, (3) Non-Filipino or foreign parent of a minor Filipino child or child with special needs, (4) accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, (5) Non-Filipino or foreign seafarers with the appropriate visa, and (5) non-Filipino or foreign nationals with an eligible long-term visa.
Philippine laws provide that among the eligible long-term visas that can currently grant foreign nationals entry to the Philippines include special alien visas, native-born visas, and temporary and permanent visas. Aside from the requirement of having a valid and existing visa at the time of such visa holders’ planned entry, they must have also secured a COVID-19 testing provider and pre-booked an accredited quarantine facility to stay in upon arrival at least a few days before their flight.
The world is constantly changing. All of the above are subject to the same, and it is best to keep abreast of the relevant developments going on in the Philippines as the country works on fully reopening its many sectors—including the tourism sector—within the next few months.
What to Do Before Your Trip
A general motto for the year and life during a pandemic is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Pre-boarding procedures depend on the airline you book with, but major ones such as the Philippines’ flagship carrier Philippine Airlines require that a case investigation form be filled up and submitted at least three days before a passenger’s scheduled flight.
As was previously mentioned, a pre-booked hotel is also required for all arriving passengers that will go through any of the country’s airports. These hotels would have had to pass the standards set by the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) first. There are around 300 such establishments in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, 42 in Clark and Central Luzon, and 30 in Cebu.
Prior to boarding itself, there are also declaration and waiver forms that passengers will be asked to accomplish upon checking in. Once onboard, the usual arrival cards will be distributed together with electronic health locator forms this time around.
What to Do Upon Arrival
Before an arriving traveler can step out into the sun and fully enjoy their stay in the Philippines, there are still some things to take care of upon landing in their airport of destination. There is a required briefing that will be conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard upon each and every flight’s arrival. Temperatures will be checked and Affidavits of Undertaking must be filled out.
After going through immigration, all passengers must submit themselves to COVID-19 testing which will take about a few minutes. Once that is done, they can head to their pre-booked accommodations for quarantine. New arrivals, regardless of where they came from, are required to wait out the processing and release of their test results in their respective quarantine facilities.
Test results are usually released within 24 to 48 hours within the administration of the test. Sit back and relax until then. When you receive a negative result, you will practically be good to go. The only thing that will be missing at that point is the official Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) Certificate that you will need for clearance to proceed to your next destination.
Where to Go in the Philippines
With so much still unknown about the new coronavirus disease, persons who test negative for it are still required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in their respective homes, quarantine facilities, or accommodations. Isn’t that the perfect amount of time for total rest and relaxation?
The more severe Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ in the Philippines is no more. While various levels of quarantine restrictions still exist, people are generally free to travel from one destination to another by land. If you arrive at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila, why not go up to the chilly Tagaytay highlands for great views and a hot cup of coffee? The warm and sunny beaches that dot the coast of Batangas province is also another option.
A handful of more famous Philippine vacation destinations are now open for tourists, too. As of October 1, the perennial summer capitals of Baguio City and Boracay Island have officially reopened its doors up to tourists coming from areas currently in General Community Quarantine (GCQ). Take good care of the test results and other documents you procured upon arrival in the Philippines! You will need these papers to go around.
Where better to practice social distancing and have fun than on your own private beach? El Nido Resorts in Palawan are now allowing travelers back in as well. Subject still to a number of requirements, of course. Once you pass those, take a pick among the many accommodations Palawan Island has to offer. The still relatively quiet and undeveloped beach town of San Vicente and one of its many private beach resorts might just be the place for you.
How and Where to Eat
As is with the rest of the Philippines during this time, restaurants all over the country have also reopened—subject to health regulations and quarantine protocols. To help prevent the spread of the virus, restaurants are only allowed to fill in up to 30 to 50% of its dining capacity. Much like how airlines require boarding passengers to fill in health declaration forms, dine-in customers will also be asked to do the same before entering the doors of a restaurant.
A must-visit restaurant that is now open for dining again is Cebu’s Isla Sugbu Seafood City. With more or less 7,107 islands making up the Philippine archipelago, and a lot of water in between those landmasses, it goes without saying that seafood is one of the Philippines’ absolute best specialties. This restaurant is one of the best curators of seafood in the world, and they give out unlimited servings when you dine in! If you can’t go to Cebu City, Isla Sugbu Seafood City also has a branch in the City of Taguig in Metro Manila. In light of the pandemic, both are currently open for diners on Wednesdays and Fridays only.
In spite of the many lengths restaurants all over the country have undertaken to assure the dining public’s safety during this time, it is perfectly understandable if so many are still wary of going out to eat. As such, delivery services through apps like FoodPanda, GrabFood, and LalaFood are now the norm. For a time, these operations were limited to a certain timeframe. Now, curfews have been lifted and cravings that arrive at whatever time of the day can be easily satisfied.
The pandemic has hit the world hard. With a number of new cases still being newly confirmed daily, the Philippines was unable and is still unable to completely escape this new virus’s wrath. Life continues to go on for the Filipinos, though. When you do come to visit, you will be able to see for yourself how hard they work toward better adapting themselves to life during a pandemic every single day.
The tribulations you will have to go through before arriving in the Philippines seems like a lot. The same can be said for many other countries in the world right now. However, what can be guaranteed if you choose to visit the Philippines during this time is that all of your efforts will definitely be worth it.
For years and years, the Philippines has been hailed as a top vacation destination by travelers from the world over. It is home to some of the best islands in the world after all! With the pandemic grounding so many other persons who may not have the means to travel right now, these islands are simply waiting for you to lay down on its sand and experience what they have to offer.
What are you waiting for? Now that you know all that you need to know when vacationing in the Philippines during a pandemic, go on and book that trip!