Trip Basics: Trekking the Urban Travel Jungle

 

To see a marvel in the dark of night

To see a marvel in the dark of night.

Travelling is a must. 

I have always had a penchant to be just about everywhere. I guess one factor to the fact is that I am Filipino.  Being archipelagic in nature, Philippines’ beautiful and exotic islands entail lengthy travels for any visitor, local or foreign.

I worked on ships and my wanderlust just peaked from the experience. Soon after I stopped, the travel bug kept on eating up on me from the inside like a terrible moth. That’s why when the need to go to Singapore arose, I quickly made travel plans.

So first things first, I needed to book a flight.

I always use either http://www.cheapoair.com or http://www.onetravel.com for this. I find that they can search very good flight promos and you can even customize your itinerary based on what flights are available to match your needs.

Search the sites for available promo codes that you can use when you do the actual booking to avail of discounts or you can use codes from https://www.groupon.com/coupons to save some bucks.

Second, I needed a place to stay.

If you have friends in your destination country, I suggest you see if they can be your host as hotel prices are mostly steep in countries such as Singapore. If you can’t find hosts but still want to save and you are not too picky about where you will sleep, you can stay in a hostel or try something relatively new like capsule hotels.

Scoure sites such as http://www.booking.com or http://www.agoda.com for good deals on accommodation and instant price-drops. You can also try staying in an apartment or a private room offered in airbnb.   In my case, since it was just myself who will go, I opted to book a budget hotel in front of Mustafa Center which was pretty close to the Farrer MRT Station. Transport convenience is a must for me. Singapore’s train system is one of the most reliable ones I have seen and the easiest to navigate.

hotel bed

Airports are one of the most unpredictable places on earth.

Make sure that days before your scheduled flight, confirm your ticket with the airline either online or by calling. I booked with JetStar for this trip and I had to call them as the online check proved impossible if booking was made via an online travel site. Check the airport directory for airline numbers and make sure to ask which terminal is your airline located in.  The airport terminals in Manila are not easily accessible for terminal transfers so be fully aware regarding which one services the airline you will be using.

Always mind the travel time going to the airport. The nearest airport to where I live is Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. The metro is known for its heavy traffic so make sure to plan your arrival at the airport three hours before flight time for international departure. Use traffic apps to keep you updated on traffic flow en route to the airport. This may be an exaggeration to some but I chose to wait 5 hours in the airport just so I can avoid the rush hour traffic.

airplane nose under the rain

When traveling as a tourist, departing NAIA usually meant paying travel tax. There is a desk as soon as you enter the airport terminal where this should be done. These days though before paying, it is good to check if there are no more fees to be paid. I learned that terminal fees are already included in airfare tickets purchased after February 2015 so no need to shell out money for that. I was ecstatic about this and got ready to check in. Time to prepare my most important document, the passport. Never ever lose it, guard it with your life.

There are times airline personnel will also ask you questions upon check-in. Just answer politely and show documents when prompted. This may take a good few minutes and be glad that those extra hours you waited at the airport to be first in line proved advantageous.

Keep calm during Immigration Q and A. 

Often times, my excitement to wander makes me forget the sometimes gruelling task of facing immigration procedures. At this time, I prepared for the arrival questions in Singapore not knowing I will be daunted by the departure ones in my own home airport. Later on,  I learned from a friend that it was starting to become common for immigration officers to subject Filipino travelers going  to Singapore with close scrutiny.  Apparently, some have been known to pose as tourists but in truth,  their intent was to stay and seek for employment there.

border immigration sign

The officer asked me upfront what is the purpose of my visit to Singapore. I was not mainly a tourist because I needed to visit an embassy over there so I answered truthfully. I was probably a different case so I had to answer a few more questions before I was let go. Verifying my statements through their data system took a while as the officer had to take notes and leave her post to go to their back office.

To note, when you submit your immigration form to the officer, it should be filled out properly to avoid looking suspicious.  I realized I may have left some items unanswered. Another advice is to keep all documents such as hotel booking and return ticket copies handy so in case immigration officers ask for them you can provide them out quickly. If your documents are in electronic form, it will be wise to make a file folder in your smart gadget for easy access. It really pays to look calm and organized in times such as this.

Going through security check is a breeze in NAIA. No need to be scared of being patted down to the bone like in other airports. As soon as this was over, I gave a satisfied sigh of relief that it was time to find my designated departure gate and head to the closest Starbucks for a little treat while I told myself “Bon voyage to me.  See  you soon, Lion City.”

Any travel guides you can share? Write them at the comments box.

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