Destinations Close To Manila.
(Updated 23 July 2018)
I don’t want to drift too far into geography here, but there are some good reasons to think about destinations close to the Philippines.
Reason 1, Onward Travel Tickets:
One common reason is a destination for a required “onward travel” ticket. Technically, everyone entering the Philippines as a tourist must have travel booked back home, or to some other destination, within 30 days of their arrival in the Philippines.
The reason I used the word “technically” above is that although that is the law, Philippine Immigration seldom asks people for proof of onward travel. (but they do, sometimes.)
The agency that almost always asks, though, is the airline you are planning to fly to the Philippines.
The rules are applied very strictly toward airlines. If found guilty of carrying a passenger to the Philippines who does not have onward travel booked, the offending airline must remove the passenger on the next available flight and also pay a fine of up to $50,000 USD.
Needless to say, airlines tend to pay attention to this rule:
And there are times when the airlines apply the rule when you least expect it. Recently I traveled from Denver to Manila with a stop and a change of planes in Seattle.
Everything was great on the flight from Denver to Seattle. Waiting at the gate for our onward flight to be called, a lady in airline uniform came to the podium and announced, “Listen up people, the following passengers must line up at the counter here and present their documents to me, no onward travel, no boarding the flight to the Philippines”.
She then read out about 50 or 60 names, including mine and my wife’s.
Luckily, my wife and I had all our ducks in a row and had our boarding passes stamped “Docs OK” and on we went. But without onward travel documents, I might well have been denied boarding, thousands of miles away from home in the middle of my trip.
Now onward travel tickets deserve a whole article on their own, so I’ll get around to that RSN (Real Soon Now).
So on to the next reason you might want to know what destinations are close to Manila.
(BTW … If you think you need an onward travel ticket like “right now”, just email me at philly (at) philfaqs (dot) com or call me at +63929-819-9824 and I’ll fix you right up).
Reason 2, Resetting Your Visa “Clock”
You can stay in the Philippines on a tourist visa for as long as 36 months (extending every month or two).
Or, if you are married to a Filipino or former Filipino and you enter with your spouse you can avail of a Balikbayan Privilege Samp which you get at the immigration booth upon entry.
The BB stamp allows you to stay one year with no other paperwork involved.
But all good things must end sometime, and if you are at the end of your time allowed on your passport, but still want to say here in the Philippines, you need to do a quick trip out of the Philippines.
When you return … as quickly as the next day is fine, your visa “Clock” or “Calendar” is reset so you can start your stay here all over again.
Reason 3, Marriage Or Divorce.
I’ll bet not many of you knew this reason was coming. How does marriage or divorce connect with close-by places to Manila?
Well, many times I’ve worked with foreigners who want to marry their Philippine sweetheart, but for whatever reason (this would be another huge article all on its own), the fiance’ can’t get all the paperwork and approvals together for their marriage to take place in the Philippines.
Or the foreigner prospective spouse has a legal divorce from his or her home country, but the Philippine Registrar refuses to issue a marriage license until the foreigner files a case in the Philippine court system requesting the courts judge the divorce valid under Philippine law.
If this sounds like a long time and a lot of legal fees ahead, you’re right.
But many of the countries listed on my “near-by” list will allow the marriage of non-residents. (Hong Kong and Singapore are two that I know of, for sure).
So a couple could take a quick trip out of the Philippines to a nearby country, marry, and then return to the Philippines. (Bonus, as a married couple they now qualify for a BB Privilege Stamp upon re-entry).
This could also work very well for married couples where the foreigner husband resides overseas and he is planning to come to the Philippines for an extended visit.
He can’t qualify for a BB Stamp if he arrives without his Filipino spouse, and possibly she can’t get a visa to fly to the USA and then fly back with her hubby.
But hubby can fly from the USA to someplace with lots of cheap flights like Hong Kong and the wife can also take a cheap flight to Hong Kong (no visa required for Filipinos), and they meet up and fly on to the Philippines together.
I’ll cover the divorce aspect of closeby traveling another article, this one is getting huge already.
So Now That We’ve Established Why You Might Want To Know About Destinations Close To Manila
Here are a few of my favorites:
This map really shows how much of a hub Manila is for Southeast Asia destinations. But it isn’t all that useful with just three-letter abbreviations for the “distant ends” So let me clarify. I’ll list the destinations roughly in distance order, from closest to farthest away.
All these locations can be visited without a visa by US citizens.
Code/Name – Time of Flight – Visa Required for Filipinos – Remarks
MFM/Macau 2:06 No
The fascinating city across the bay from Hong Kong. My favorite. 40 minutes by ferry from Hong Kong, but a whole different world.
HKG/Hong Kong 2:08 No Very busy, cheap to fly to destination. Marriage for foreigners can be arranged.
BKI/Kota Kinabalu 2:15 No Usually the cheapest flight from Manila listed.
BWN/Brunei 2:18 No
On my list. Like no other country I’ve ever been to.
ROR/Koror, Palau 2:20 No
If you’re a WWII history buff, you can NOT miss this one.
TPE/Taipei, Taiwan 2:22
No (as of July 2018) Modern skyscraper city and the greatest Chinese food.
OKA/Naha, Okinawa 2:35 YES
Like visiting mainland Japan but much closer. And WAY better beaches.
HAN/Hanoi, Vietnam 2:40 No
If you’re a Vietnam war vet, can’t miss this one.
SGN/HoChi Min City 2:42 No
If you want a broader Vietnam experience.
BKK/Bangkok 2:52 No
Spent two years here, many happy memories.
KUL/Kuala Lumpur 2:56 No
The Malaysian megacity. Petronas Towers and much more.
SIN/Singapore 2:58 No
Premier city of Asia. (and marriages for foreigners, too)
Bonus For Those Who Read This Far
I originally said that I’d pick only locations closer than 3 hours flight time to Manila.
But here is a bonus two just over three hours that I just had to add, for very different reasons.
GUM/Agana, Guam 3:08 Yes
Although Filipinos need a difficult to obtain visitor’s visa, Guam (at just slightly over three hours flight time) is special for several reasons.
It is a US possession, thus time spent on Guam counts as time in the USA. That means a US Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) can enter without a visa. Very useful for someone on a US Green Card, worried about being outside the USA for too long a time. They don’t have to fly all the way back to the mainland to reset their “Green Card Clock”.
Guam also has terrific support for US military retirees. Several BX’s, commissaries, a huge naval hospital and hospitals with Medicare. It’s a pretty place as well, with beautiful beaches and there always seems to be a lot of jobs available for anyone who can legally work in the USA.
And Last But Not Least
DPS/Bali, Indonesia 3:10 No
Few places on earth are as fascinating as Bali. Only a little more than 3 hours from Manila, it is a whole different word. If someone is wanting to really see another country rather than just make a trip to reset their visa clock.it’s hard to think of a better destination than Bali. Try it, you’ll like it.
So, what else can I say about Destinations Close To Manila?