Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A New Adventure

Last November my wife Lydia and I celebrated our  40th wedding anniversary; so we decided to treat ourselves to a once in a lifetime trip to Europe. Planning and executing this excursion has been a learning experience and an ordeal in itself.

Once we decided exactly where on the Continent we wanted to visit (London and Paris), out next step was selecting a reliable service that provides group tours to these locations. Based on a friend's suggestion, we opted for a company called Trafalgar Tours.  Since this organization mainly services clients who are traveling  from the US, our next step was to contact (what turns out to be) Trafalgar's only  representative agency in the Philippines: Pan Pacific Travel Corp which is located in Metro-Manila to book our itinerary.

This is where the fun began. When I called in our information to this agency, it turned out that the agent misspelled our last name when transcribing it to the airline, Singapore Airlines; and I wasn't aware of this error until  I reviewed an online detail of the airline reservations. Correcting it required cancellation of the original air reservations and re-booking  the flight (and of course the tour as well) to a later date and a different airline, Cathay Pacific.  This is because Singapore considers a name change (even if it's a correction) as a new passenger booking,  and the original flight was already sold out except for standby,  which we  waited in vain for several days to see if that status could be changed to confirmed.. To complicate the issue, the agent dragged her feet about getting us more suitable arrangements at the original ticket price,  and it took a letter to the vice president of the firm to get that done. We finally settled on a departure date of March 9.

Then I had to remind the travel agent to send me the the Trafalgar documents which she should have done earlier on her own without my prompting and  which upon arrival were incomplete . Pan Pacific is very hard to contact as their phone lines are always busy, so I sent her an email about the missing papers.  I never did get a response.

Our next step was securing exit and re-entry permits from the Bureau of Immigration.  These documents are required for almost all non-citizens who are leaving and returning to the Philippines.  The question was whether we had to go to the BI main office in Intramuros and jump through bureaucratic hoops there to secure these papers. According to agents with whom I spoke at BI headquarters and at the airport, that step is no longer necessary because Lydia and I both hold ACR I-cards.  These supposedly eliminate such hassles that were once required under ACR-ICR document, the forerunner of the I-card. 

So that's where matters stand at this time, one day before our trip, We're packed and  have completed the airline advanced check-in and seat selection.  Now we can only hope that we have dotted all our i's and crossed all our t's to get our journey itself off to a smooth start.


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

Congratutation to both you, Lydia and you, for your 40th wedding aniversary. We are not there yet, but approaching. 23 years for us.

Too bad, you guys had a bad experience with the travel agency. Your last name is not too difficult to spell.

Also, one still must have an Exit and Entrance Permit from the BI (either at the main office in Intramuros or at the NAIA, but at the airport, one does not usually record your names in the computer, so a trip to Intramuros is worthwhile. Also, if you travel at midnight, the BI office at the airport may not be open or not have sufficient staff to help you. So, we always go to the BI-Main.

I believe, an Exit Permit is good for only 1 month, so you go to BI a few days before your flight. An Entrance Permit is valid for one year.

A lot of hassles to get to BI-Main, with traffic and such. And also the amount of people there, but nowadays, it's becoming more organized, at least they try to be.

Paris and London are fantastic cities to visit. Way to go!


Secular Guy said...


Congratulations to you and your wife too for being married 23 years. That's no mean feat when most marriages crash and burn just after a few years.

As for the necessity of exit and re-entry permits, this may depend on the type of visa that you have. Lydia and I hold 13(g)and 13(a) permanent resident visas respectively plus I-cards. In that case a BI agent confirmed by phone that we don't need exit and re-entry permits as our I-cards would suffice instead. And as I mentioned in the sequel to the above post,he was right. The I-cards got us in and of immigration in a jiffy.

So if you have a different type of visa and / or no I-card, that is probably why the permits are required.

Kano said...


Thanks for the info regarding the Exit and Re-entry Permits. Both my wife and I have a 13(g) Permanent Residency Visa. We have also an ACR - I-Card.

I am now confused! We have always been told that we need an Exit and Re-entry Permit when we travel abroad. As far as I know, the Exit Permit is valid for 1 month of day of request and Re-entry Permit is valid for 1 year of the day of request at the BI. When we do the request at BI, they always take our I-Cards and we go to several windows, one for request, then recording and then payment.

On the back of our I-cards says: This card serves as a Re-entry Permit, but it does not say Exit Permit, though.

We may have been taken for a ride by people who may only see us as gullible foreigners and only see money coming in at the BI, or we still need to get these permits everytime we go abroad. I still don't know, now.

I don't know if you guys have paid the Travel Tax of about P1,620 per person when you buy your plane tickets. Every Filipino and Permanent Resident pays this, but I heard that this money never goes to the right source, so it just stays with the travel agency.


Secular Guy said...


According to the Bureau of Immigration website page for I-cards,


that plastic serves as both Emigration Clearance and Re-entry Permit, which as per the above post, was confirmed by by phone by agents at both Intramuros and the Airport office of the BI. As my subsequent post shows, they were right. So I really don't know BI is making it difficult for you.

Yes, we paid the travel tax and a departure tax as well.

Kano said...

Thanks, Rick. I will certainly check their website and see if I can find some more info about this.


Secular Guy said...


You're welcome. The problem seems to be when seeking correct information from two immigration officers, you can expect three answers.