All the basics you need : travel, weather, diving conditions & more ...
To help you plan your trip, we've prepared a list of basic information you'll want to know before you book. Once your trip has been reserved, you'll receive pre-departure information with all the details you need for your adventure. Do allow plenty of time for transit between flights.
Getting to the Philippines
SOUTHERN VISAYAS, MALAPASCUA. BOHOL, NEGROS, DAUIN, APO ISLAND, LEYTE, MOALBOAL, CABILAO, SULU SEA
Liveaboards going to these destinations generally leave from Mactan, Cebu. There are a few international flights which go directly to Cebu(CEB) but most often divers find the best international options into Manila (MNL) with a short connecting domestic flight into Cebu (CEB).
Most of the trips to Tubbataha depart from Puerto Princesa. You'll book your international flight into and out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila (MNL). From Manila you'll take a short domestic flight to Puerto Princessa International Airport (PPS) on the island of Palawan. Do allow plenty of time for transit between flights.
PLEASE NOTE: the Philippines Office for Transportation Security includes 'scuba equipment' on a list of blunt instruments that are not to be carried in hand luggage on flights originating in the Philippines. We advise you to carry all dive related equipment in check-in luggage. If you have questions, you should contact your airline for clarification.
No VISA is required to enter the Philippines. You will be stamped a tourist VISA valid 39 days upon your entry into the country. You must be in possession of a passport with a validity of more than 6 months as well as a return flight. Once in the Philippines, you can extend Visa up to 59 days via on-site travel agencies at a reasonable price.
Since regulations vary by country, contact your consulate or embassy of your country for the requirement.
Citizens of most Western nations will be given a 30 day visa upon arrival. You must present a current passport, with validity of at least 6 months beyond the date of your travel and an onward air ticket. Citizens of China and India must arrange a tourist entry visa prior to travel to the Philippines or entry will be denied.
If you intend to stay longer than 30 days but less than 59 days you may obtain a multiple entry 59-day visa from your nearest Philippines consulate, prior to arrival. You may also extend your tourist visa from 30 days to 59 days, once in the country at a travel agency.
What's the Weather like in the Philippines ?
As a tropical country, the Philippines has a climate which doesn't vary greatly during the year. The year is roughly divided into two seasons; ‘rainy’ (June – November) and ‘dry’(November – May). Tropical storms and typhoons occur more frequently in the northern regions around Luzon, whilst the Visayas, toward the south of the country, typically remain less affected.
Year round coastal and inland temperatures range from 27°C – 28°C (81°F – 82°F) up to 33°C – 34°C (91°F – 93°F) with an average of approximately 31°C (87°F). Evenings can be a bit cooler and we always advise having a light wrap for comfort.
What about Water Temperatures ?
As with air temperatures, the water temperatures are fairly similar throughout the archipelago ... with averages of approximately 26 °C – 28 °C (78 °F- 82 °F). Do note that January to March, temps can drop to 24 C – 26 C ( 75 °F- 78 °F).
Most divers feel comfortable in a 3mm shortie suit, however if you feel the cold easily you may prefer a full-length wetsuit.
Overall, divers can expect good visibility in the Philippines although heavy rains will cause a decrease in visibility. July to October is the typhoon season and many of the boats choose part of this time period to do annual maintenance. If you choose to go at this time, just know that you're likely to have lower viz than in other months of the year.
In some locations there are some pretty strong currents & drift dives are very common, which means you want to be comfortable diving in currents. Also, you need to be sure to bring safety items, such as a Dive Alert and/or Safety Sausage, etc. .
Experience Required for Philippines Diving
Levels of recommended experience vary in the Philippines but in general most liveaboard trips are suitable for all levels. We recommend Advanced level for Tubbataha where you can have some pretty strong currents and some deep dives. Talk with us before you choose your itinerary if you are a novice diver. Also, know that your Cruise Director and dive guides will help you determine which dives may be too challenging for divers with less than 50 logged dives.
Best Time to Go
The big thing to remember is that July to October is the typhoon season and is usually very wet. Many of the dive liveaboards take a few weeks out during this period for their annual maintenance. In spite of that, there are plenty of trips to choose from.
From December to March, the weather tends to be drier and windier (the wind keeps the rain away!) If you suffer from motion sickness, you may want to avoid this period but aside from that, November through May are probably the prime diving months.
Note: Diving is done at Tubbataha Reefs from March to June as the rest of the year is too rough.
Certain sunscreen ingredients have been found to be damaging to corals. These include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, 4MBC, or butylparaben. Research indicates that these chemicals can cause DNA damage to corals, promote viruses in corals, and contribute to the bleaching.
Some dive destinations have banned these chemicals but we would encourage you to choose and use a sunscreen that is "coral safe" in all destinations..
Health standards vary throughout the country. We recommend being cautious with food when not on a liveaboard and drinking only bottled water. All the boats have well-supplied first aid kits Manila and Cebu both have international class hospitals. There are numerous recompression facilities in Manila, Cebu, Batangas and Subic .
Malaria can be an issue when travelling to remote islands, but if you're on a liveaboard there should be no worries. We recommend caution, however. Be sure to pack long clothing to minimize mosquito bites when not on board your liveaboard.
Flying after Diving
Current studies show that you should wait at least 24 hours after multiple days with repetitive diving before flying. Please keep this in mind before you book your onward international or domestic flights.
The vast majority of all hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants will accept a wide range of credit and debit cards. Please note that in some cases, away from the major cities, you may be asked to pay a service charge for credit card handling. This can range from 3.5 – 6.0%. ATM’s are easily found throughout the Philippines in airports and in any major centre of population. Having cash on hand (Philippine Pesos) is also highly recommended.
Taxes & Fees
Passengers travelling within the Philippines are required to pay airport terminal fees. These fees range from 20 PHP – 200 PHP for domestic flights and 850 PHP for outbound international flights.
Please ensure that you have enough Philippine Peso cash to pay these fees upon departure. Both international airports in Manila and Cebu have money change facilities, however smaller airports may not so please ensure you change money before taking your domestic flight..
Each guest must pay a port/park fee. These are not always included in the liveaboard rate. You can refer to the "Extras" section on each liveaboard's page on our site for this information. Tubbataha 7 nights: $120 and Visayas 7 nights: $80. All 10 night cruises: $160. Visayas itineraries that visit Oslob will have an additional $30 fee.
Do I Need Insurance?
Travel insurance : We strongly advise our guests to obtain comprehensive travel insurance to cover against unforeseeable events including personal & business impediments, illness, travel delays and missed flight connections. We can recommend excellent and inexpensive insurance options which will cover virtually every scenario.
Please don't allow yourself to be one of the unfortunate travelers who are without coverage for unexpected circumstances. Insurance is a small slice of the pie in terms of overall travel costs and can save you from serious financial losses.
Dive insurance : Dive insurance is required by the liveaboards. Do not confuse regular travel medical and/or travel insurance with diving-specific insurance such as DAN (Divers Alert Network) or Dive Assure. This type of insurance will cover all of your scuba diving and snorkeling activities, including the costs for recompression chamber treatment and emergency air evacuation. These are not covered by the average travel insurance.
Dive Assure can also set you up with a travel insurance plan which includes general travel insurance, including trip cancellation .... plus full dive coverage.