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100 Tips for Expats


As part of our special 100th issue of Expatch, we present to you this top 100 countdown!


1. Do you want to say “thank you” in the local language? Say “Salamat”.

2. How to ride a jeepney? Make a hand motion that the driver will see and the jeepney will stop in front of you. When you get on, pay the fare. If you are far from the driver, say “Bayad po” (My payment/fare) or “Pakiabot po.” (“Please pass my fare/payment”).

3. When riding a jeepney, pay with coins and small bills as much as possible. Avoid upwards of Php500 bills.

4. To make a jeepney drive stop, say “Para”.

5. When riding public transportations, queuing up is rarely practiced.



6. Know the right fare from a reliable source where riding tricycles. If you ask the driver how much the fare is, they have a tendency to abuse your lack of knowledge and overprice.

7. Be chivalrous. When riding a train, give your seat to women and elderly people.

8. If you ride the city trains a lot, get a Stored Value Ticket to avoid queuing up to buy your tickets daily.

9. When riding a cab, it’s okay not to give a tip. But prepare some loose change to pay the exact.

10. Filipino cab drivers like to take any change as a tip.

11. Do not agree when the cab driver does not want to go by-the-meter. He is planning to rip you off.



12. Airport taxis – make sure they turn on their meters or else they will overcharge you. The only means of computing taxi fare is by the meter. Any other means is illegal.

13. Be wary of muggers and thieves when riding public transportation. Don’t sleep unless you have a companion that is awake.

14. Expats that have been in the country for more than 90 days need to get a local license to drive. Get one at the Land Transportation Office.

15. Driving on the streets? Some small vehicles like to use hand signals when making a turn so watch out for that.

16. Also, just because there is no pedestrian lane doesn’t mean no one will cross. Filipinos cross at every street, even highways, so drive with that in mind.

17. During heavy rains, beware of flood in the city streets which leads to the heaviest traffic you could experience in your lifetime.

18. For activists, holding protests has become a way of life. Listen to news reports to know where there are protests. Those places would most likely have heavy traffic.


 19. Beware of pickpockets in crowded places.

20. Avoid using your mobile phone/gadgets in public places.

21. Some Filipinos think all foreigners are rich and they may take advantage of you.

22. Don’t give to beggars. Some beggars are part of organised crime or the syndicate.

23. Beware of con artists that try to extort money from you. They are everywhere.

24. Avoid walking with a visible map in your hand. Avoid appearing like you’re lost even if you are. If you need to ask for directions, ask the help of receptionists or cops stationed at malls.

25. Are you applying for visa extension or anything or the sort? Beware of fixers at the embassy that promise easier and faster processing.

26. Don’t wear flashy jewelry in public, especially dangling earrings.

27. Be wary of shady money changers in city streets that promise a better exchange rate. Better go to a bank directly or to a money changer in the mall.

28. Know how to spot fake Philippine currency.

29. A word of warning: 99% of cockroaches in the Philippines are capable of flight.

30. Do not point someone directly as it is considered rude. Instead use subtle gestures.

31. When receiving a gift, do not open it in the presence of the gift-giver. You may be regarded materialistic.

32. During informal gatherings, it is generally okay to arrive a bit late of the scheduled time. For formal/business meetings, observe timeliness.

33. After a business meeting, do not leave right away. Stay for some social conversation.

34. In the professional/business world, anyone of higher rank should be addressed as “sir” or “ma’am”. A first name basis suggests closeness or friendship.

35. Similarly, Filipinos greatly value their accomplishments through titles whether director, attorney, doctor.

36. Filipinos are not the most punctual bunch. If you are an employer, it might be a good idea to offer flexible working hours.

37. Filipinos can be very sensitive and can take the professional stuff personally so take it easy when reprimanding Filipino employees. They might end up not turning up for work the next day.

38. Filipinos are very emotional which could conflict with the Australian style of direct conversations. Filipinos hate confrontations and would rather resolve disputes without much commotion.

39. Giving public recognition fuels the Filipino spirit. A simple pat on the back for a job well done will go a long way.

40. Shaking hands is practiced just the same as with Western countries.

41. Saying “opo” is the polite way of saying “yes” to an elderly person or someone of a higher rank.

42. Learn to sing karaoke.

43. Learn how to play basketball. It is the favorite Filipino pastime.



44. When dining with Filipinos, you’ll notice that they are always wary of getting that last bite on the place so as not to look gluttonous. What you should do? Get that last piece and put it on a friend’s plate.

45. If you are eating, always offer to share.

46. Filipinos like to eat with their bare hands, especially seafood. So get rid of that spoon and fork and dig in.

47. Try balut (boiled duck egg with embryo intact) before you get coerce to try one.

48. When dining, it is better to finish the food and set the utensils parallel to each other on top of the plate in horizontal fashion. This means you are full and you are satisfied with the food that you had.

49. When eating, don’t stand or leave immediately after eating as this is considered bad manners. If you need to go to the toilet or somewhere else, excuse yourself.

50. Filipinos like to eat together so you will most likely get invited to eat. In some workplaces, people have lunch buddies which means that they always each lunch together as a group.

51. Learn how to haggle in public markets and stores.

52. If you want your meat cheap and fresh, go to wet markets just before the sun rises – fresh from the slaughterhouse. Same goes for fish.

53. When you get invited to a Filipino home, it is a good idea to also invite them in the future to your home to build friendship.

54. Saying “maybe” is sometimes the polite way for Filipinos to say that they can’t attend to an engagement.

55. Foreign nationals can’t own land in the Philippines. If you want to buy a place to live in, your best bet is a condo unit.

56. If you want to buy land, get a Filipino spouse and put it under his/her name.

57. You can’t get a job in the Philippines, at least not with your tourist Visa.

58. You can’t easily open a business in the Philippines unless 60% is owned by a Filipino.

59. White skin and prominent noses are admired in the Philippines. It’s good to keep that in mind.

60. You don’t always need a pedestrian lane to cross a street but be wary of where you cross as you can still get caught for jaywalking.

61. More or less $1,000 a month will get you by in Manila depending on your lifestyle. Less if you live in a province.

62. To get into private university, you need to prepare $800 or more just for tuition and other school fees per semester.

63. Set up an offshore bank account to easily manage your finances. It will be really handy if you receive retirement income from overseas.

64. Most places in the Philippines are hot so you won’t need that thick jacket.

65. Can’t stand the heat? Avoid dark coloured clothes and synthetic cloth. Cotton works best at keeping you cool.

66. The hottest months are March to May.

67. Looking for the rest room/toilet? They are normally referred to as Comfort Rooms or simply CR.

68. Reached the toilet but the signs are written in Filipino? Male is “lalaki”. Female is “babae”.

69. Public toilets have no toilet paper. So, if you need to go, better drop by at a convenience store first to buy some.

70. Do you want to bring your pets with you? Contact the Philippine Embassy and get your pet an import permit and a health certificate.

71. There is an overwhelming stray dog problem in the Philippines and you should stay away from stray dogs as they most likely have not had any vaccinations.

72. Just like dogs, there are also many stray cats. Though stray cats don’t pose as much as a risk as stray dogs. You can bring them to a local animal shelter. More information at

73. Making calls in the Philippines costs a fortune. Send a text message instead. You can even send an unlimited amount of text messages for a set amount of days for a fixed amount.

74. You can buy prepaid phone credits just about anywhere. Just look for signages.

US$1 = Php44 more or less.

75. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak Filipino. Almost all Filipinos understand English at varying levels.

76. Filipinos have really close family ties.

77. Filipinos value family so much that they detest putting family in hospice care. Don’t even think of suggesting it.



“Pagmamano” is a way to show respect to elders in the Philippines.


78. “Pagmamano” is a means of showing respect to an elderly person or a religious leader/priest. You do this by asking for the hand of the person and touching the back of the hand on your forehead.

79. If you do a Filipino a favor, they will never forget it and they will try to return this favor at every opportunity.

80. Filipinos hide embarrassment with laughter so learn to take a hint.

81. Filipinos greatly value a sense of humor so if you want to make a lot of friends, crack some jokes.

82. Filipinos love slapstick humour.

83. Do not insult Filipinos. They have a tendency to gang up on non-Filipinos when insulted or threatened.

84. Filipinos can be touchy but be careful with contact with the opposite sex as it may sometimes be deemed offensive.

85. Take a bath every day. Filipinos dislike the smell of sweat.

86. The Philippines has a deep culture of nepotism engraved in its culture. Just something to keep in mind.

87. Not believing in a god is frowned upon. If you are an atheist like me, better keep it to yourself.

88. A bad habit of some Filipinos: Talking behind people’s backs

89. If you like a Filipino woman (a.k.a. Filipina), you have to court her religiously.

90. Courtship of a Filipina can be quite difficult since the culture and society dictates that men should prove themselves worthy to get the woman’s attention. There is no divorce in this country and as a reflection on how Filipino culture takes relationships seriously, they consider courtship as an important step in establishing a lasting relationship.

91. Like clubbing? Beware of the women who approach you as they may drug you and then steal your stuff.

92. And those women… Well, they may not exactly be women.

93. Regular health care facilities in the Philippines can’t compare to the US and UK but if you want first class health care service, go to St. Luke’s Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center.

94. Beware of mosquitoes. Use mosquito repellant lotion.

95. Get vaccinated for malaria and tuberculosis before going to the Philippines.

96. Learn how to count in Filipino and Spanish.

97. Learn common Filipino words. (We have a weekly Tagalog Phrase to teach you on

98. Most importantly, read and get to know the culture.

99. The tropical weather in the Philippines is quite harsh for the skin. Use a water-based sunblock lotion for all-day protection from the sun if you are frequently outdoors.

100. Learn the history of the Philippines (even if it’s just basic history) in order to have a better understanding of the culture and behavior of your neighbors and co-workers. Knowing the historical significance of a place will also help you get adjusted easily.

Author: Rueben von Hanen  


Photo source:

Pagmamano –




  1. 95 says get a malaria vaccine, there are vaccines in development but as I understand it none are commercially available.

    • Marcy Villegas says:

      Hi Craig. Sorry about that :( but thanks for pointing this out about malaria. Thank you for the link from WHO. :)