The first two tasks on your agenda as you arrive in Angeles are obtaining local currency and setting up local phone service. The reasons for the importance of these two items are pretty obvious.
First of all, assuming you are an international traveler flying into the country for the first time via the Manila or Angeles airports, you will need cash in Philippine currency, as many of the services and establishments here do not accept credit or debit cards. Depending on the time of day you arrive, you can usually obtain local cash using your debit or credit card at an ATM inside the airport, or visit a money-exchange booth and receive cash via that method. This is a wise idea, particularly if you have not pre-arranged transportation from the airport to your hotel, as you will need to pay for a ride, tips, food, etc. If you have pre-arranged to be picked up by a private driver or hotel chauffeur, then you could just wait until you get into Angeles or your hotel to secure some cash. Keep in mind it is not unusual to find the ATMs here out of service and/or out of money, and avoid any outdoor ATMs at night, especially if you are alone. ATMs will dispense in Philippine pesos, and typically the maximum withdrawal amount is 10,000 pesos. You will also pay a fee for each withdrawal (usually 250 pesos per transaction for international cards) on top of any fees your bank may charge.
A more economical route would be to bring plenty of cash (the maximum you can bring into the country is US 10,000 or its equivalent) and exchange it at one of the many exchange stalls on Field’s Avenue. Just browse and choose the one with the best rate.
The next essential task is establishing local phone service as soon as you arrive, as you will need communication to contact your driver or hotel or to book a ride on the Grab app, as well as providing the ability to call an emergency contact if necessary. There is no worse feeling then not being able to contact anyone when you are in an unfamiliar country and city, especially if you are in a jam or your driver hasn’t shown up or can not locate you. If you just arrived at the airport, there are both booths and self-service machines where you can purchase a SIM card with a free calling, text, and/or data plan – this is under the assumption you have an unlocked phone that will accept any service. If you do not have an unlocked phone, contact your regular cell provider to see if it can be unlocked before departing on your trip. The other option is to purchase a simple inexpensive unlocked phone before you travel.
Within a day or two in Angeles after you’ve settled in, you can set up your phone or purchase a new phone and establish the plan you think will suffice your needs for the duration of your visit. Always include some data (4G LTE is currently the fastest available) as WiFi is not always accessible and can be somewhat unpredictable when it is. Smart Communications and Globe Telecom are the two largest service providers in the country. There are many small shops on the streets that provide prepaid “loads” and SIM cards, however, we recommend visiting cell provider stores at either the SM Clark or Marquee malls until you are more familiar with the city.
Now that you have some local cash and your phone service is set up. Now is time to settle into your hotel.
First and foremost; once inside your room, whether it be a hotel or apartment/condo, you will want to secure your valuables inside the safety box that is provided. When you are shown to your room, ensure the attendant checks the safety box to make sure that it is properly working and can be locked and unlocked.
This brings us to a footnote subject: Tipping Etiquette. Tipping is not as commonly expected or anticipated in the Philippines as it is in other countries. That being said, workers here are generally paid rather low wages, which they typically support their family with. So if they provide you with prompt and courteous service, by all means, show them your appreciation. Not only will this gesture make their day and help out their family, but it will also ensure they commit to being attentive to your needs and wants and provide you with the best service they possibly can.
After those two initial tasks, the next most important step we recommend is what is known by astronauts as “de-compressing”. Assuming you have just traveled a long way, perhaps half-way around the world, your body is going to have to re-adjust. Your inner clock is out-of-whack, and you may have even lost track of what day of the week it is. Rest is super-important. This is a very high-energy party city, and you will be buzzing with anticipation and jacked-up to paint the town, but take a long deep breath and slow down. You will have plenty of time to see and do all the things you want.
First, give a little time for your body to adjust, sleep deeply in a nice comfy bed regardless of the time of day it is, and treat yourself to a nice hearty meal. This will all help you to re-energize and provide you with the stamina that you’ll need to truly enjoy the Angeles City experience!