It’s a bit difficult to travel freely if you’re a Filipino and a Philippine passport holder like me. There seems to be a lot of restrictions that are imposed to our nationality. But these things shouldn’t stop us from traveling and experiencing the backpacking lifestyle.
These are some Challenges of a Filipino Backpacker.
1. Low Wage: Most Filipinos are earning the minimum wage which is around $200-$250 a month. A huge portion of it will go to paying bills and supporting some family members. Some will go to personal allowance and whatever’s left will be used for recreation stuff such as traveling.
a. Look for alternative sources of income
b. Watch your spending habits and cut unnecessary expense
c. Compromise some of your wants (example. Not drinking a $2 cup of Starbucks a day is an opportunity to save $60 a month)
2. Poor Peso Performance: You fly out and go to the nearest money exchange shop to change it to other currency just to find out that it’s just worth half of the other nation’s currency. Last April, when I was in Bangkok I was shocked to find out that the Peso equivalent to Baht is just around fifty cents. Sigh!!!
a. Change some of your Peso to US Dollar (when the rate is good)
b. Change some of your Peso to your needed currency (example: If you know you’re going to Thailand in a few months time, watch out for the possibility of 1:1 exchange rates and take advantage of it)
c. If the rate in currency exchange shops is unacceptable, try withdrawing your money instead from your ATM. They usually give better rates. When the rate (in money exchange shops) was at fifty cents (sometime in April), I was able to get 0.70 rate from the ATM.
3. Visa Restrictions: If you’re a Philippine passport holder, chances are you’re only allowed to enter a limited number of countries without visa. According to Wikipedia, “It is estimated that 78 countries and territories grant visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Philippine passport holders, while 52 countries and territories are visa free accessible (visa on arrival for free counted). Click here for more info.” Compare it to Singaporean or Malaysian citizens who are allowed to travel to more than 100 countries without visa or with the visa upon arrival scheme. Sigh!!!
a. This is something beyond our control. My suggestion is travel first to visa free countries.
b. You may opt to change your nationality or get dual citizenship (which is a tough and long process).
4. Trust Level of Immigration and Embassies: I was in Nepal last August 2009 and I had decided to get my Indian tourist visa there. To my horror, most of the travel agencies said that there’s a slim chance of getting it in Nepal because I’m a Filipino. I asked around for a reason because most nationalities are entitled to get a tourist visa to India. The owner of the hostel where I was staying said that it’s because a lot of Filipinos in Nepal have bad records that’s why they don’t like Filipinos. While planning my options, the owner asked me if he could see my passport. I showed it to him and he saw that I have never overstayed in any countries that I’ve been to and I have a visa for US and Schengen territory as well. He suggested that I try it again because I might get the visa because of the credibility of my passport. To cut it short, I got my Indian tourist visa.
a. Build and maintain your good reputation as a traveler. Don’t overstay in any countries unless needed (e.g. emergency hospitalization etc).
b. Whenever we travel, let’s try to be a good example for our nation. I don’t want to sound preachy but it’s just a practical approach in building a good relationship with our foreign brothers and sisters.
If you have suggestions or additional information that could help our Filipino backpackers travel freely and easily, please feel free to post it here.
Photo Credits: The World Map is from Wikipedia