Travel & Food

Planning Your Summer Vacay? Here’s a Primer on GCQ Travel Guidelines

Treat yourself to a well-deserved getaway while staying vigilant



After nearly a year of living amid one of the longest lockdowns in modern history, you’re probably already itching to travel again. 


Traveling for leisure amid the pandemic may be challenging because of precautionary restrictions and requirements. However, with a few extra preparations in line with GCQ travel guidelines, you can still have a great summer vacation and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. 


Are Domestic Destinations Open to Tourism? 

While not all tourist destinations are accessible to weekenders post-lockdown as of this writing, some vacation spots are now open for business. You just need to keep in mind that these destinations still impose corresponding health guidelines and protocols to keep vacationers safe. 


As of writing, the nationwide COVID-19 testing requirement has been lifted. You don’t need to produce a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test to enter a province or city. Although, keep in mind that local government units may still require a negative RT-PCR. So it’s best to check with your destination LGU first. Additionally, local travelers no longer need to undergo quarantine "unless they exhibit symptoms upon arrival at the LGU of destination." The same goes for travel authority and health certificates. 


The government allows non-authorized persons to travel between GCQ (General Community Quarantine) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) areas. Locals from Metro Manila can now go on vacation outside NCR, but there are still a couple of restrictions depending on their chosen locality’s specific requirements. 


Not sure where to head for your summer getaway yet? Here are a few cities and provinces in the Philippines that you can choose from for your next vacation.



Boracay 

Is Boracay open? Yes, but only to locals and Western Visayas residents. Only tourists from neighboring provinces like Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental are currently allowed to enter their borders. 


Baguio City 

Baguio City now allows vacationers from Luzon, specifically those from NCR and Region 2 and 3, as long as they have a negative RT-PCR test. The city also has a digital platform called Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VIS.I.T.A.) to help you navigate the new normal while in Baguio. 


Tagaytay 

Tagaytay City reopened last September 2020. Even visitors without travel passes from places under MGCQ or without quarantine status are welcome in Tagaytay. Tourists may now visit popular vacation spots like Sky Ranch, Picnic Grove, restaurants and hotels that offer scenic views of the famous Taal Volcano. 


Palawan 

The world-famous Palawan has been welcoming vacationers since October 2020. Palawan is implementing the Test Before Travel Policy, requiring guests to test negative on their RT-PCR tests at least 72 hours before their chosen travel date. 


Batangas

Batangas diving sites like Balayan Bay, Twin Rocks and Cathedral Rock reopened last October 2020. A domestic tourist either from a GCQ or MGCQ area bearing a negative swab test result, proof of reservation, valid IDs and medical clearance will be allowed to enter these destinations. 


Beach resorts and spots like Mt. Daguldol and Mt. Gulugod Baboy are open to domestic tourists. You simply have to adhere to health protocols set by the LGU while on location. 


What are the ‘Staycation’ Guidelines for GCQ areas?

If going out of town for a vacation is not in the cards for you, a staycation is an excellent and relatively safer alternative. Thankfully, hotels have also reopened their doors to guests. Establishments in areas under GCQ are allowed to operate as long as they secure the Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycation from the Department of Tourism. 


Hotels with a 4-star rating and up are allowed to operate as recommended by Metro Manila mayors since lower category establishments are currently being used as quarantine facilities. Hotels outside of Metro Manila with 3-star ratings and up are allowed to operate since the demand for quarantine facilities in these locations is lower. 


Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before you start planning your staycation:


  1. You may be required to present negative antigen test results from a rapid antigen test conducted on the day of check-in.


  2. Some hotels may only allow a maximum of 2 guests from the same household to occupy a 20-square meter room.


  3. Cashless payments are mandatory for bookings to promote minimal physical contact between staff and guests. 


  4. Common function areas like gyms, swimming pools, restaurants or other beverage stores, apart from bars located in hotels or other establishments, are now reopened. 


What are the Required Public Minimum Health Standards? 

Wherever you plan to spend your summer vacation, be sure to follow these safety protocols and hygiene measures to prevent the virus’s spread.   


  • Mandatory wearing of face masks and face shields

  • Social or physical distancing, between one to two meters

  • The Department of Health still requires individuals injected with the COVID-19 vaccines to follow the national government’s travel protocols



Other Tips for Traveling in the Philippines during COVID-19

After checking the requirements of your chosen city or municipality, prepare documents in advance. 


  • Requirements for travel pass may have to be secured depending on your chosen destination’s local government unit. Check out the LGU’s official website or Facebook page to confirm if they require a pass. If they do, prepare these requirements before hitting the road. 

  • Pre-book your hotel for the required quarantine period for a hassle-free check-in process.

  • Avoid long queues and enjoy 100% cashless transactions when crossing NLEX or SLEX by registering for an RFID sticker. 

  • Have shareable data so that you and your travel buddies can stay connected while on vacation. This way, you can easily research guidelines and protocols online while traveling in case you need additional details, stream music and communicate with messaging platforms anytime, anywhere.


Let the Good Times Roll 

Renew your sense of wonder and treat yourself with a well-deserved getaway while staying vigilant. 


The resumption of local tourism doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over, but it also doesn’t have to mean you can't have fun. You can still make the most out of your vacation with careful preparation and by following safety protocols.


Check the official websites or social media pages of your preferred domestic destination for more information on location-specific travel guidelines and requirements. 



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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