Flying home to the Philippines soon? Looking forward to reuniting with your loved ones to celebrate the holidays?
As the excitement for your homecoming builds up, so is the stress that comes with all the preparations. With all the things balikbayans have to take care of before the trip back home, it’s easy to forget those that really matter for that much-awaited vacation.
Keep these OFW and balikbayan travel tips in mind to make the most out of your short stay in the Philippines during the holiday season.
1. Rethink Sending Balikbayan Boxes
Instagram photo by @chellycatindig
Packing a balikbayan box (or repatriate box) with pasalubong for family and friends back home is a long-time Filipino tradition
. It feels good to share the fruits of your labor to the people you’re working hard for.
Practically speaking, though, buying gifts and sending balikbayan boxes can be costly. They usually take longer than a month to arrive, too. Also, declaring international goods at the Customs can be such a hassle, not to mention that the items have to be handled carefully to prevent damage while you’re traveling.
You can choose to give presents only to a select few or not send balikbayan boxes at all, especially if you’re trying to pack light and save money.
Consider bringing just a handful of gifts for your closest loved ones and packing them into your checked baggage (Be sure not to exceed the airline’s baggage allowance). Then buy other pasalubong items at duty-free shops when you arrive at the airport.
There are other ways to give gifts to your loved ones, like sending cash directly to the Philippines. International money transfers are cheaper, faster, and safer than balikbayan boxes.
2. Prepare a To-Do List for Your Balikbayan Itinerary
Make a list of the places you want to visit, dishes you want to try, people you want to see again, and all the activities you want to do when you get back home. Then send the list before your arrival to the family member who’s in charge of preparing your homecoming itinerary. Ask to see the schedule in advance, so you’ll know what to expect.
Having your balikbayan itinerary ready before you come back home ensures that you maximize your short stay in the Philippines. Manage your expectations, though, as you won’t likely to do everything on your wish list due to time constraints.
3. Avail of Benefits Under the Balikbayan Program
Photo by drcw via Flickr. Creative Commons
Arriving balikbayans enjoy benefits under the Balikbayan Program
, including travel tax exemption, visa-free entry to the Philippines for a year (for foreign passport holders), and duty-free shopping privileges
Those perks apply also to immediate family members (foreign passport holders) who are traveling to the Philippines with you. So take advantage of the balikbayan privileges, especially if you’re married to a non-Filipino. To avail of the benefits, just present your valid passport if you’re an OFW or old Philippine passport/NSO birth certificate if you’re a former Filipino citizen.
4. Book an Airbnb Accommodation Instead of a Hotel Room
Airbnb has become a popular option among OFWs and balikbayans who are on a short vacation in the Philippines. It offers cheaper and more varied accommodations than hotels. You can rent a budget-friendly one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit or even an entire house that can accommodate the whole family.
5. Get an OEC Online
Don’t forget to secure an OEC before your scheduled return to your employer.
Getting an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) sounds like a pain in the neck, what with the long queues at the POEA office. But that has become a thing of the past. OFWs can now do it online via the Balik Manggagawa Online Processing System or BM Online. This saves not just time but also money on travel tax and terminal fee exemptions.
If you’ll be staying in the Philippines for five days or less, you can get an OEC at the Labor Assistance Counter of the airport in Manila, Cebu, or Mindanao.
Any other tips you’d like to share with your fellow balikbayans who are traveling to the Philippines? Leave a comment below!