The Philippines comprises 7,100 islands. The country has some of the world's most beautiful and extensive coral reefs, unspoiled white-sand beaches, tropical jungles, spectacular mountains, rice terraces and active volcanoes.
The Philippines has a tropical climate and weather year-round, with a cool and dry season from November to February, hot and dry season from March to May and rainy season from June to October. The average temperature is about 25 C (77 F), though it get as hot as 40 C (104 F) in May.
Typhoons and floods usually occur during the rainy season. Volcanic eruptions are unpredictable.
There are about 60 indigenous groups in the Philippines. Historically, Filipinos have blended their culture with foreign influences, particularly from the U.S. and Spain. Tagalog and English are widely spoken throughout the Philippines. Filipinos (Pinoys, as they call themselves) are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
The Philippines became an independent democratic country after being ruled by Spain, the U.S. and Japan, but did not have a true democracy until the "People Power Revolution" in 1986 that led to the downfall of the dictator. The Philippines is now one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia.
The Philippines is best reached by air. Many major international carriers have scheduled flights serving Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. Some international carriers also serve international airports in Cebu and Davao. Buses and taxis are the best way to travel around the cities and towns. Ferries are available for inter-island travel.
Most roads connecting cities and towns are paved, but road conditions are poor. Vehicles travel on the right. The roads in the cities are congested; drivers are undisciplined. The best way to travel around the city is to hire a local driver or take a tourist bus.
Food in restaurants is usually safe, but uncooked food such as vegetables or fruit may be unsafe. Drink bottled water because tap water is not potable. Most business travelers will find that the Philippines is an inexpensive place to visit.
The Philippines is not completely secure because of political instability and poverty. Terrorist insurgents in some parts of the country have been dangerous. Manila and other major cities in the country have risks similar to those of major cities elsewhere in the developing world.