FIRST TIME ABROAD: airport suggestions & frequently Asked questions

traveling outside the Philippines for the first time? You might be very thrilled but I bet you’re a little anxious, too! There might be a lot of questions brewing in your head best now so here’s a little something to shed light on some of the things you need to know before your trip. (These suggestions are for Filipino travelers only.)

Every country has its own immigration rules. Some require visas from Filipino visitors, others don’t. Some have stricter rules, others don’t. It is essential that you know these guidelines and requirements before your flight.

But here are some frequently asked questions that I thought I could answer. Again, I’m only depending on personal experience and some knowledge that I gained in my years of working in the airline industry. some of these might already be outdated but I’ll try my best to keep them current.


What are the processes at the airport?
How early ought to I be at the airport?
What are the things that I ought to bring to the airport?
What are the typical questions that the immigration Officers ask?
What is offloading?
What can I do to make sure I won’t be offloaded by the Immigration?
Should I present all these files at the immigration booth?
Do I need to have a hotel reservation before my flight?
I’m invited by a relative or a friend, do I need an invitation letter?
Is there a show money? how much do I need to have for them to let me through?
Where ought to I exchange currencies? Is it best to exchange in the Philippines before the trip?
Should I bring an ID?
I’m a freelancer so I don’t have a company ID. What is a good alternative?
I’m a fresh graduate but I’m currently unemployed. Τι μπορώ να κάνω?
I’m unemployed and I don’t have funds. What are the requirements?
I’m traveling with my foreigner sweetheart / girlfriend / friend. What are the requirements?
My trip is sponsored by my foreigner sweetheart / girlfriend / friend. What are the requirements?
I’m meeting my sweetheart / girlfriend abroad for the first time. What are the requirements?
What is the weight limit for carry-on baggage (hand-carry)?
Where ought to I store my power bank (mobile charger)?
What ought to I wear?
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What are the processes at the airport?

The typical process is this:

Pay the travel Tax. IDEALLY, the travel tax and departure fee are already included when you book your ticket, so please check your ticket. but there are times when it isn’t the case. if not sure, check-in first. The check-in agent will tell you if you still need to work out the tax. At NAIA terminal 3, the travel tax counters ought to be on your far best when you’re facing the check-in counters. It’s P1,620 per person.

Παραδίδω αποσκευές! present the departure Card together with the travel tax receipt, printed ticket and passport to the check-in agent. The agent will give you your boarding pass.

Fill out a copy of immigration form (aka departure Card). You will get it at the Check-in Counter. Note that you will need to indicate your address abroad (address of the hotel or the pal you’re visiting).

Proceed to the immigration Booths. They will be asking questions like: how long will you be staying abroad? Τι θα κάνεις εκεί? Ποιο είναι το επάγγελμά σας? Πού θα μείνεις? The essential is to convince them that you’re going there to trip and not to find work. When they’re satisfied, they will put a stamp on your passport.

Final safety and security check. Remove all gadgets and metal items (including belts and coins) from your body. remove your shoes only when instructed.

Για αυτό πρόκειται. It’s a long process and it involves a lot of queueing so make sure you’re at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight.

How early ought to I be at the airport?

At least 2 hours before your scheduled departure.

I personally like showing up at the airport 3-4 hours earlier just in case something untoward happens. I once lost my old passport and visa at the airport on two different occasions (yeah, I was careless, haha), but good thing I had enough time to search. Also, I like staying at airports. Χε χε.

Update: In top season like the weeks before and after Christmas, it’s best to arrive at least 4 hours before your flight.

What are the things that I ought to bring to the airport?

I always have a checklist of items I should NOT forget.

Here are the most essential items.

Passport – Duh.

Visa – When applicable

Return flight Ticket – Make sure you print out the tickets. When I fly domestic, I typically just show the check-in agent the tickets on my phone. They accept it. but for international flights, you will be showing your tickets too numerous times (check-in counter, travel tax counter, departure fee counter, immigration, etc) that it would be impractical and ridiculously bothersome to whip out your phone every step of the way. A printed ticket will make it a lot simpler for you and the people who will check it. Besides, a piece of paper does not need to be charged.

Company ID – immigration Officers in some cases ask for a company ID as a proof that you would return to the Philippines and would not seek employment opportunities in your destination country.

Address and contact number abroad – If you’re traveling as a tourist, get the hotel’s exact address and contact number. If you’re going to a pal or relative and you’re staying with them, get their exact address and contact number. You will need it when filling out immigration forms.

DSWD Clearance – only when traveling with a minor who is not your child and the parents are not joining the trip.

Here are other things that you can bring for good measure.

Hotel reservation – If you’re traveling as a tourist.

Invitation letter – If you’re going to a pal or relative and staying with them.

Money – Of course! Make sure you have enough. My typical budget for a 3-day or 4-day trip abroad is US$600 but I typically just spend less than USD400. having not enough cash is a common reason why travelers are denied entry even when they are already at the airport.

Credit card – Some airports require a copy of the credit report card used when the tickets are booked online. You might also need it as a safety net in case you run short of cash. Some hotels also ask for credit report card for deposit.

Photocopy of the Passport and Visa – just in case you lose your documents, it would be simpler for you to get a replacement if you have a copy. When you’re already in your destination and you’re going out, leave the photocopy in the hotel room if you’re bringing the original with you.

Travel schedule – Make a clear plan of what you want to do and write them down. In case the immigration Officers pick you for a random check, a printed schedule will help convince them that you will really go to your destination to trip and nothing else.

Address and contact number of the Philippine embassy in your destination country – just in case something happens.

A Pen – Yes, the humble pen is important. You will be accomplishing forms.

I typically carry an envelope where I put all these together (except the photocopies and money).

In addition, I have a paper where I write the hotel address, contact number, my passport number, passport expiry date, and flight number. This way, when I’m accomplishing forms, I don’t need to fish out my passport and other documents. I just have one reference page.

What are the typical questions that the immigration Officers ask?

The questions vary from officer to officer. If you’re lucky, the officer will just throw a couple of questions at you and you’re through. but often, here are the questions:

Πού πηγαίνεις?

When will you return to the Philippines?

Τι θα κάνεις εκεί?

Whom are you traveling with?

What is your occupation here in the Philippines?

The essential is to answer confidently, consistently, and truthfully.

Sometimes, they will ask follow up questions. Sometimes, you will be subjected to a secondary inspection, which I will discuss below.

What is offloading?

Offloading is the act of pulling a passenger who is already boarded out of an aircraft.

Technically speaking, the Bureau of immigration does not have an offloading policy. They do not get a boarded passenger out of a plane on a regular basis. What they do is they screen passengers and decide if they will allow them to board the plane or not. This process happens before boarding, not after, so this is not really offloading.

However, here in the Philippines, “offloading” has been used as an umbrella term for blocking someone from leaving the country, even if the passenger has not yet boarded. If an immigration officer rejects you at the inspection, numerous Filipinos refer to it as “offloading.” Hence, for the purpose of this article, let’s just use that Filipinized definition of the term.

What can I do to make sure I won’t be offloaded by the Immigration?

The Bureau of immigration has been implementing stricter guidelines lately. According to the bureau, each day around 40 people are offloaded at NAIA terminal 1 alone. three to four in every 50 of these offloaded passengers actually have genuine reasons to go abroad. You don’t want to be one of them.

If you want to make sure you won’t be offloaded, you need to follow the guidelines released to immigration Officers by the bureau. A 2012 memorandum enumerates what the officers should require from departing passengers:


Visa (if applicable)

Filled out departure card

Εισητήριο μετ ‘επιστροφής

They typically also ask for your company ID. Then, if they deem necessary, you will be evaluated based on the following criteria:


Μορφωτικό επίπεδο

Financial capability to travel

What does the last item mean? Well, in a nutshell, tourists with no stable source of income in the Philippines and no benefactors who appear to have a different reason for traveling other thanfor leisure are much more likely to be offloaded. So if in case you are subjected to a secondary inspection, you would want to have the following with you:

If you’re an employee, Certificate of employment (best if it indicates your salary and how long you have been with the company)

If you’re self-employed, a copy of your company Registration Certificate

If you’re a freelancer, you ought to still have an ITR. If your clients pay it for you, you may ask for a copy from the client. You may also ask your client to produce a file that would certify that they have hired you and the details of the project/contract.

If you’re tax-exempt, you ought to still have an ITR. because 2018, workers earning below P250,000 a year (P21,000 a month) are exempted from paying income taxes. but that doesn’t imply it exempts you from having an ITR. If you’re an employee, you can still get a copy of your ITR from your employer even if you’re tax-exempt.

I always have a copy of both my ITR and a “Certificate of Employment” from my clients to be safe.

For much more info about this, check out: how to avoid getting Offloaded

Should I present all these files at the immigration booth?

No. Again, many of the time, the officer will only ask for the following:

Passport (with visa, if applicable)

Accomplished departure card

Εισητήριο μετ ‘επιστροφής

Ταυτότητα Εταιρίας

Don’t present other files when they don’t ask for them. All the other files are much more like safety nets IN case you need to show you’re employed.

Just answer their questions confidently.

Do I need to have a hotel reservation before my flight?

It is best to always book accommodations first before your flight. You will be required to indicate the address of your hotel on your departure and arrival cards, and immigration officers on both sides sometimes ask for hotel documents. Even when I’m backpacking across much more than one country, I typically make sure I have booked accommodations on at least my first night in the next country I’m visiting. Again, you could go there without prior reservations but if you want to avoid the hassle of getting asked too numerous questions and the tension that comes with it, better book in advance.

I’m invited by a relative or a friend, do I need an invitation letter?

In theory, yes, so if you could produce one, go ahead. The immigration Officers DON’T always ask for this, so numerous invited travelers are still able to make it through without it. However, they might just ask for it if they deem necessary. 

The safest thing to do is to produce an Affidavit of support or Guarantee, notarized at the Philippine Embassy. When officers ask for “invitation letter,” this is actually the file they refer to because it’s formal, legal, binding, and hard to fake.

Anyway, you will be asked to indicate your “address abroad” when filling out forms so make sure you have that. To be on the safe side, be sure you have your friend’s contact number, too.

Is there a show money? how much do I need to have for them to let me through?

I have never been asked to show money, but I know people who have been. I have been asked numerous times how much money I have with me, though, but never to show it.

My pocket money depends on the destination country. Some are much more expensive than others. For example, the cost of living in Singapore is certainly higher than in Thailand. In countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, I typically bring USD400 for a 4-day trip, USD500 for a week-long trip. but that’s way much more than I actually spend. In less expensive countries like Cambodia and Thailand, I allot USD50 per day. Again, that has a big allowance.

I also bring a credit report card, just in case.

Where ought to I exchange currencies? Is it best to exchange in the Philippines before the trip?

It depends on the country I’m visiting. In countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, where the PH peso is not widely accepted in banks/money changers, I typically exchange my pesos with us dollars here in

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