Travel to the Philippines: Latest Covid rules and practical guidance

·5-min read
girl snorkelling in blue waters near boat - John Seaton Callahan /Moment RF
girl snorkelling in blue waters near boat - John Seaton Callahan /Moment RF

The Philippines has finally been removed from the red list, meaning that arrivals are no longer subject to a 10-day hotel quarantine on return to the UK.

However, those hoping for a paradise escape on the island of Palawan or to tuck into crispy lechon (roast suckling pig) in capital Manila will have to wait a while longer. Currently, only Filipino citizens and their families, plus those with special work permits, are allowed to travel from the UK. Furthermore, the archipelago is still living under a raft of Covid-related restrictions which would severely impact holidays even if they could go ahead.

Here we run through the entry rules and look at when the Philippines might reopen to British holidaymakers.

Can I go to the Philippines?

The Philippines has a traffic light system – sound familiar? – which dictates the entry rules for each country. The UK, along with much of the world, is currently rated yellow. Bermuda is the only country rated red, while 49 countries are on the green list.

However, unlike the UK’s old system, the medium tier of travel rules is extremely strict. Only Filipino citizens and their families, plus those with special work or retiree visas, are allowed to enter the country, while holidays are firmly off the table for now. Even those who are granted entry must quarantine at an accredited hotel for at least eight days.

Unlike some other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Singapore, the Philippines has not indicated when it will reopen to holidaymakers. Tourism has become increasingly important to the economy in recent years, contributing 12.4 per cent in 2019, but its harsh domestic restrictions suggest it will be a while before a reopening date is announced.

How is the data looking in the Philippines?

The Philippines’ seven-day case rate (as of October 14) is 61.63 per 100,000 citizens, which is low when compared to the UK’s current rate of 412.33. Cases have fallen dramatically in recent weeks, after a significant surge in late summer.

However, its vaccination rollout has been rather sluggish, with only 31.62 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

What restrictions are in place?

The country has lived under some of the world’s harshest restrictions throughout the pandemic, including multiple lockdowns and an extended confinement of children to their homes.

Among the more peculiar rules still in place are the mandatory wearing of face shields, in addition to face masks, in closed and crowded spaces. Until last month, they were also required to be worn outdoors.

Some restrictions are due to ease from October 16. Certain hospitality venues, with fully vaccinated staff, will be able to operate at 30 per cent capacity indoors and 50 per cent outdoors. Note that rules can change frequently and with little fanfare.

Will I be insured if I go?

The FCDO no longer advises against non-essential travel to the Philippines based on its Covid risks, meaning travel insurance is easier to come by. Some advisories are still in place for certain regions, though not ones generally popular with tourists. For the full list of advisories, see gov.uk.

Do I need to be vaccinated to visit the Philippines?

Unvaccinated travellers – though not tourists – are able to enter the Philippines but are subject to strict restrictions. Filipino authorities have not yet confirmed whether UK vaccination records will be accepted, meaning you should follow the entry and quarantine rules for unvaccinated people if you received your jabs in the UK.

Approved travellers who are not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be verified, must stay in an approved quarantine hotel for at least eight days. They will need to undergo an PCR test after the seventh day; if the test is negative they will be allowed to transfer to home quarantine until 14 days after their arrival in the country.

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving from green or yellow list countries must also stay in a quarantine hotel for at least six days. They can take a test on day five to be released to home quarantine for another five days.

Do I need to self-isolate on arrival?

Yes, even those who are allowed to enter from the UK must remain at a quarantine hotel for eight days and spend a further six days at an approved residence.

As even arrivals from green list countries have to isolate for at least six days, it seems likely the country will not drop its quarantine restrictions for some time.

Do I need to take a test before travelling back to England?

No, not if you are fully vaccinated. If you are not double-jabbed, you must take a lateral flow test 72 hours before arriving in the UK and have an official certificate to prove it. If you fail to do so, you will be denied boarding, or risk a fine of up to £500 on arrival back in the UK. You can find the Government's rules on testing before departure, here.

It is also compulsory to fill out a Passenger Locator Form to present to your airline and at the border.

Do I need to self isolate on my return to England?

Travellers who have received two doses of a Covid vaccine can avoid quarantine on their return home, but still need to take a test on day two. This will be downgraded to a lateral flow test from late October.

Those who haven't had both jabs must self-isolate at home for 10 days. You will also need to take a PCR test on the second and eighth days of your self-isolation. If you opt in for Test to Release, you can take an extra test on day five to exit quarantine (if your result is negative), but will still need to take the further test on day eight.

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