As rewarding as traveling can be, there is quite a bit of work that goes into preparing for it, especially if you come from the Philippines. As much as you’d like to see Gangnam, or walk past what remains of the Berlin Wall, you’d probably have to spend a not so negligible amount of time at these countries’ respective embassies applying for a visa. And that’s not even a guarantee you’ll get one.
There are, of course, other options. Currently, the Philippines enjoys visa-free or visa on arrival access to 61 countries or territories. That’s a lot of countries to visit or explore. After we explored the possible sites in Southeast Asia, here’s a list of visa free countries that you can visit in Central and South America — and the tourist spots and destinations you can see there.
This South American country right in the midst of the Andean mountain range has a lot to offer when it comes to sights to see and attractions to take part in.
The country is home to the Uyuni Salt Flats, the world’s largest salt flats at 11,000 square kilometers. Formed by the disappearance of an inland ocean, the Uyuni Salt Flats are now 3,600 meters above sea level. At that height, it often looks like clouds are just within your reach.
Bolivia is also where you can find Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. At 3,810 meters above sea level, the blue waters are surrounded by mountain tops that are constantly covered with snow because of the height of the mountain range. Lake Titicaca is also littered with archaeological remains that will surely attract those with an interest in history.
And if a party is more your style, Bolivia is home to the Oruro Carnival, held as a sign of devotion to the “Virgen de la Candelaria” (Virgin of the Candle Mass).
This three-day celebration, held in the month of March, involves 50 different groups of dancers clad in a variety of outfits. The Carnival was even declared by UNESCO as “Mankind’s Masterpiece of Intangible and Oral Heritage.”
Recently in the spotlight for its hosting of the Summer Olympics, Brazil is yet another country that Filipinos can visit without having to get a visa. And with a total area of 8,515,767 square kilometers, there’s certainly a lot of it to see.
An obvious place for us Filipinos to visit would be the 98 feet high statue of Christ the Redeemer. Located at the peak of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the statue is the second largest Art Deco sculpture in the world and has become not just a symbol of Christianity but of the city of Rio itself.
Another stunning location worth a visit is the Iguazu waterfalls, located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. With its longest drop at 269 feet, it is considered as the largest waterfall system in the world, and is truly a wonder to behold. It was also recently named as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation.
Lastly, what would a trip to Brazil be without a visit to the Amazon rainforest? At 7,000,000 square kilometers, the Amazon contains over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and is the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world.
While most Filipinos are familiar with Colombia mainly because of Steve Harvey’s gaffe during the Miss Universe pageant, the South American country actually has so much more to offer than beautiful pageant contestants.
One interesting place to visit would be the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. The Cathedral was built after commercial salt mining was stopped in the town. It was first opened in 1995, and is a three-part cavernous subterranean cathedral.
The town of Cartagena is located along the Colombian Caribbean coast and has been a World Heritage Site since 1984. It’s a walled city just like Manila’s own Intramuros, and is just as replete with beautiful architecture and historical sites.
Have you ever seen a river that is colored yellow, green, blue, black, and red? Caño Cristales is one such river, and you can find it in Colombia’s National Natural Park La Macarena. The river’s amazing colors are due to the combination of a plant that lines the floor of the river as well as the minerals found in the river’s rocks.
Filipinos may not know a lot about the country of Costa Rica, other than it being the birthplace of Glee actor Harry Shum, Jr. But with the country offering visa-free entry for Philippine citizens, it’s a perfect opportunity for us to discover the beautiful destinations this Central American country has to offer.
With its persistent cloud cover and rich biodiversity, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a Costa Rican destination one shouldn’t miss. Its 10,500 hectares of cloud forest is home to 2,500 plant species, hundreds of animal species, and thousands of insects.
Formerly one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, Arenal has been dormant since 2010, and is also known by a number of names: “Pan de Azúcar”, “Canaste”, “Volcan Costa Rica”, “Volcan Río Frío” or “Guatusos Peak”. Aside from its physical beauty, you can also visit the site’s relaxing hot springs.
Finally, turtle lovers will definitely enjoy the Tortuguero National Park, which is the habitat and nesting ground of four of the eight species of marine turtles in the world. A remote location that can only be reached by plane or boat, the reserve is also home to eleven different habitats, including a rainforest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons.
No, it’s not the same place as the Dominican Republic. The Commonwealth of Dominica is a sovereign island country in the Caribbean, and it’s known as the “Nature Island of the Caribbean” because of its natural beauty. Nature-loving Filipinos would do well to take advantage of its visa free entry for Filipinos.
Love hiking? Dominica has the Waitukubuli National Trail for you to try out. Branded as the Caribbean’s first long distance walking trail, it covers about 115 miles and takes you through forest reserves, coastal areas, and even the Morne Trois Pitons National Park.
Talking about the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, it’s also something that should definitely be on any traveling Filipinos itinerary. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has for its centerpiece the 1,342-m-high volcano known as Morne Trois Pitons, and is known to have as the richest biodiversity in the Lesser Antilles.
If parties are more your thing, then Dominica also has something to offer you. Carnival, or “The Real Mas”, is a pre-Lenten festival that features a Carnival Queen show, a Calypso Monarch Competition, and two days of costume dance and street jumping.
Ecuador may not be top of mind when it comes to countries Filipinos want to visit, but the South American country has a number of destinations that would definitely be worth the plane fare. Whether you’re a science nerd or a nature lover, Ecuador has got something to offer you.
If biology and evolution have always been topics that interested you, then you probably already know that Ecuador is where you can find the Galapagos Islands. For those not in the know, the Galapagos Islands is where Charles Darwin first thought of his influential Theory of Evolution. Almost two centuries on, the Galapagos Islands remain one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing.
The New Cathedral in Cuenca is also a site to visit, not just for prayer but for its architecture as well. Also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, work on the Cathedral began in 1885 and was only finished 90 years later in 1975. It’s best known for its distinctive domes glazed by striking blue and white glazed tile from Czechoslovakia.
Peru has a long and storied history. It’s one that involves the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world; the Inca Empire, and a period of Spanish colonization just like our own country. Today, Peru is a historically-rich country that has plenty to offer the Philippine tourist.
Of course, if you’re going to be in Peru, you ought to pay a visit to the fabled city of Machu Picchu. Set 2,430 meters above sea level, the 15th century Inca citadel was never found by the Spanish during their time of conquest, and is now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
After visiting Machu Picchu, you can delve even deeper into the Inca past of Peru by visiting Museo Larco. It’s permanent exhibition features six rooms tackling different aspects of Peruvian culture and history. Probably the room that will arouse the most curiosity is the Erotic Art gallery, with ceramic figures depicting sexual acts between males, females, and even deities and the dead.
Round off your journey into the Inca history of Peru with a visit to the Ransom Room, considered to be the place where the Inca Empire came to an end. The Ransom Room was where the Emperor Atahualpa was imprisoned, and also where he bargained for his liberty from the Spanish. He had filled the room with gold, and the two following rooms with silver, for him to be set free. However, the Spanish still ended up executing him even after he had fulfilled his promise.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines may not be familiar to a lot of Filipinos, but they’ve probably already seen a part of the Caribbean country on the big screen before without even knowing it. But the densely populated country isn’t just a host to Hollywood blockbusters. It’s got lush natural resources, and plenty of activities that Filipinos can get into once they arrive.
Wallilabou Bay may not ring a bell, but anyone who’s ever watched the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, has already seen the bay’s beauty. The location is featured in the scene where Johnny Depp’s character, Captain Jack Sparrow, is first introduced, and where he begins his adventures. While not a lot of the movie set remains, the arch from which the executed pirated hung from is still very much a part of the landscape.
Aside from the bay, visitors can also hike up La Soufiere, a slumbering volcano that’s 1,219 meters above sea level. While there are several ways to summit the mountain, the most popular one is a two-mile route from the windward side of the island. There’s even a trail that can take you from one side of the island to another with the volcano in the middle of the route!
For those looking to party, head to St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the beginning of July to participate in Vincy Mass. It bills itself as the biggest summer party in the Caribbean, and features a huge Mardi Gras parade complete with costumes and dancing.
Haiti is also on the list of countries that the Filipino tourist can enter visa-free. However, the country is still reeling from a devastating 2010 earthquake that affected an estimated three million people and killed hundreds of thousands. The country is still recovering from that natural disaster, as well as the recent calamity of Hurricane Matthew. It would be best to look into charities that will help the country recover.
All of these are just the tip of what Filipinos can see in these countries. There’s still so much to explore in each of them, and with visa free entrance, you have at least 30 days to discover most of them. If you’re interested in visiting any of these countries, Traveloka has flight routes to a number of these countries — Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru — giving you the means to go visit and discover what they have to offer.
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