Davao City: Tips On Surviving As Foreigners

July 31, 2018





I haven't lived in Davao very long but every time I came back to the Philippines for a visit, my time was always spent in Davao since my whole family is from that area. My experience is somewhat different from just traveling alone in a new country because I was born in Manila and had my family to show me around, but I've got a pretty good idea on how to make foreigners travel to Davao much more enjoyable and comfortable.



DO NOT ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH:

The Philippines is known for being one of the largest English speaking countries in Asia, but in the less developed areas like Davao, English is understood by everyone but not widely spoken. Locals get very shy to respond in English because they are scared of messing up. The least you can do is learn a few words and simple sentences for being in their country. Plus, if you know how to talk to the store clerks, they might just give you a discount on the items you buy.



LEARN THE JEEPNEY SYSTEM: 

This is something I'm not an expert at yet, but the basics are pretty straightforward. Jeepneys are the most popular form of transportation, and the most expensive jeepney I've ever been on was 27 pesos (less than 1 USD still.) Taking taxis are convenient and airconditioned, but if you need to travel every day, that money adds up over time. On the outside of the Jeepney, it says what streets are on their route. If you know the road to your destination is, find a Jeepney that takes it routes there. Usually, if you tell the driver of the specific place, they know where to go. When you see your destination, tap the roof of the Jeepney and say "Para!" which means stop. Quickly get off so others can get on and the Jeepney can leave. Jeepney drivers don't make much and driving in downtown is one of the hardest things to do.



BUY FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AT LOCAL VENDORS, NOT THE GROCERY STORE:

Now I'm not saying you should never shop at the grocery store for these items. Grocery stores are located at the bottom of all the malls, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive. If you want fruits that are not popular in the Philippines, like watermelons and grapes, go to the grocery store. The best mangos and bananas are definitely sold at the Sari-Sari shops in the villages. I've never bought vegetables as we have our own garden but if you find a shop that sells what you need, get it there. Some families only income is from their shop and supporting local businesses are always a go!



YOU WILL GET STARED AT OR EVEN MADE FUN OF:  

Unlike Manila, seeing foreigners isn't rare, but it isn't as common. I used to cry when we got back to our house because I noticed people would stare at me. The people who stare don't mean any harm, they are just interested in seeing someone who doesn't look like a local. You might notice a group of people looking at you and laughing, don't mind them. They won't make fun of you to your face. I once had a girl say to her friends she was going to puke because my cousin and I were speaking English. Just mind your own business, and they won't bother you.



DAVAO IS CONSERVATIVE:

The Philippines is a majority Catholic country. In Davao or even the entire island of Mindanao, there is a mix between Catholics and Muslims. Understand that most people will be wearing pants or long sleeves even though it is almost 90 degrees every day. If you want to blend in, dress the way the locals dress. Also, your ideas of free speech and disrespecting others are frowned upon by most. I've gotten in trouble for saying my unpopular opinion and not being respectful enough to elders. Don't be the stereotypical foreigner no one enjoys.



DAVAO IS MUCH SAFER THAN THE NEWS MAKES IT SEEM:

Mindanao is known globally for having terrorist groups and being a pretty unsafe area. Davao is an exception. Being in a big city will always have its petty crimes like stealing or being pickpocketed which you should still look out for. You shouldn't feel unsafe all the time. My dad told me his biggest concern was people stealing horses. If that's my father's idea of the most significant crime in Davao, you're in a pretty good area.



And that's all the tips I have for right now, I'll probably think of more later on and make another post but these are the most important ones that I think should be the main priority.






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