A lesson learnt.
We were off to Manila! From Coron we could either take an overnight ferry or fly. With previous seasickness experiences, we decided to flashpack and fly to Manila.
The capital city of the Philippines had never been on the agenda as a stopping destination but having assumed we’d have a month long visa and later finding out it was just 3 weeks, we had to visit the visa extension office in Manila. Our stay was 24 days and having heard stories of tourists being made to miss flights to extend visas, we didn’t want to risk it!
Having stayed in low budget places for the past couple of weeks, it was decided that we’d get a nice hotel. I was rather glad of this as we had a close call with pick-pocketers on our first day. Seeing armed guards at the gates of our hotel was quite something. It’s normal to see them at banks in the Philippines, as are signs stating “Please remove all firearms before entering the bank”.
Our hotel was luxurious – air conditioning, warm water and a TV! Much needed after the day of stress that lay ahead obtaining our visas.
I stupidly thought it would be painless – pay money, get a stamp and have a day to check out Manila. How wrong I was.
We walked across the city on a sunny day. The weather being hot, both Martin and I were wearing shorts to keep cool. On arrival at the visa office, we went to stroll in and were stopped by a guard (armed, of course). “You cannot go in”, he said and turned away. That was a little strange.
Asking for an explanation, he simply replied “no shorts or sandals”. Great. So we’d trekked all the way across the city to be denied entry.
Frustrated, I wasn’t giving up that easily. I went to a second hand shop nearby, purchased trousers that were too short and tight for me for the equivalent of $5 (I wish I had a picture because looking back this is a lot funnier than it was at the time) and hoped they didn’t notice the flip flops on my feet. I was going in! Martin went and waited in the Starbucks across the road – he was excited to see it, being back in a big city – philistine.
I got in. I thought it’d be easy from this point. There were endless queues but I thought it’d be OK. I thought I’d only be in one of them.
This was how it actually went:
• Queue up to get a numbered ticket to become part of a second queue.
• Queue up to receive the form to fill out.
• Queue to be seen with your form, to be told you need photocopies of your passport (stated nowhere on signs in the building or on their official website).
• Queue to pay (of course) to photocopy your passport.
• Return to previous queue to be seen with form, receive receipt and move to next queue.
• Pay and wait 2 hours to pick up passports (at which point you can leave the building).
• Queue to re-enter building.
• Queue to receive stamped passports.
The result? 5 hours wasted, 4 coffees drank by Martin, 2 stamped passports, 1 frazzled Chelsea and a very important travel lesson – always double check visa limits!