With all the recent talk about the Laglag Bala controversy, I just wanted to share my recent experience in NAIA Terminal 3. I took a trip to Hong Kong a few weeks ago, and I’ll be sharing some of my adventures there, so stay tuned!
When I went through NAIA Terminal 3, the Laglag Bala controversy was just starting to gain some publicity, so I wasn’t really conscious about it yet. Fortunately, I ALWAYS make sure that my travelling bags have zip closures. Many, many years ago, one of my spanking new Nokia phones was stolen while I was doing groceries at a supermarket in Makati – remember that time when easy access little phone pockets located outside the main bag compartment were a thing? After that, I never used open-top bags anymore unless I knew I would be somewhere extremely safe – like at a friend’s house; and never ever in public, especially when I expect to be in a crowded area.
NAIA TERMINAL 3
Terminal 3 is my favorite NAIA Terminal. Most of my recent travels almost always use Terminal 3 and so far, I have always been happy with the experience. It’s not the best airport in the world, far from it, but it’s definitely so much better than Terminal 1. Also, people who pick us up can easily enjoy themselves at Resorts World while waiting for our call.
Upon entering the airport, you have to show your e-ticket, or at least a printout of your booking. Then you go through the first X-ray and inspection. It’s a hassle, but at least it’s fast and not as invasive as some other airport procedures I’ve heard about.
I like being dropped off at the far end of the terminal, near the A area. I don’t know why most people line up in the gates in the middle… the lines there are usually quite long and it is very, very far from the travel tax counter. Entering near the A B area is much closer to the travel tax counter.
The first thing one has to do after you enter the airport for an international flight is to pay for the Philippine Travel Tax. The travel tax is P1,620 per person, and there is no senior citizen discount! Fortunately, it is a lower amount for kids (P800). If there is anything that makes me feel bad about traveling outside the country, it is this. I hate that we always have to add this stupid P1,620 PER PERSON expense to our travel budget. Nobody likes paying taxes, especially when we are basically forced to pay this outrageous toll fee for the “privilege” of leaving the country. I get that the Terminal Fee is to help pay for the upkeep of the terminal (although I still think the amount is too big), but a travel tax is like paying for nothing and it feels like you’re just being shaken down for money. And of course, we all know where our taxes go, don’t we?
The travel tax counters are located at the far end of the terminal, so save yourself from waiting in long lines and walking to the other end of the terminal, and ask to be dropped off at the far end of the terminal instead of at the nearest gate.
The process for paying the travel tax was quick, at least. Fortunately, there wasn’t a long line and several windows were open. After paying, don’t forget to get the receipt. You’re going to need to show it to the airline check in counter.
Checking in was fast & easy. I made sure we checked in online (you can do this as early as 48 hours before your flight; doing this usually gets you seats nearer to the door, especially if you are the earlier people to do online check in). To check in online, you usually have to log in to your airline’s website and do it there. If you don’t have an account, you might have to register for an account, but it’s usually free.
Just look for the counter of the airline your flight is with – there are signs to help you. There are also some big TVs where you can see where your check in counter is located.
Go to your airline check-in counter, fall in line, and check-in. Even if you have already checked-in online, you still have to check in at the counter. Checking in online just makes the process faster, and you also have to “check-in” your luggage (if you have any luggage to be checked in).
NO MORE TERMINAL FEE
After leaving our check-in luggage at the counter, we proceeded to the back where the Terminal Fee counter was. What an unexpected but happy surprise to know that the Terminal Fee (that used to be P550) is not being collected anymore!
However, upon further googling, I found out that we are still paying for the Terminal Fee, it has just been included in our ticket price. For a moment there, I thought something good finally happened for us, tax-burdened people…
The next step was to go through immigration. Before falling in line, make sure that your Departure Card is filled up. There is an area where you can fill up the departure card, blank departure cards are available there as well. The line for Philippine passport holders was a bit long but processed quickly, I waited in line for less than 10 minutes.
After immigration was the final inspection where they X-ray hand carry luggage and do a pat down AGAIN. I didn’t notice anyone taking off their shoes (unlike a few years ago), but just to avoid any problems, I just usually wear flipflops or comfortable slip-on shoes.
It is always better to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to slip on or off, just in case. Just wear what is appropriate depending on your destination and personality.
After Immigration, we arrived at an area with some restaurants and some shops. If the fear of Metro Manila traffic made you arrive very early for your flight, you can spend time in this area browsing the very few shops or getting a meal or coffee. The shops and restaurants are few, but acceptable. The prices for the food are slightly higher than they are outside.
This time, I was sad to see that Seattle’s Best Coffee wasn’t there anymore. At least, my usual hangout, Bo’s Coffee, is still there 🙂
What’s nice is that are several public restrooms available – you don’t need to walk too far before you find a restroom.
Free Wifi is available at NAIA Terminal 3, but don’t be totally reliant on it.
I heard that there is a pay lounge available now, but it seems expensive if you have to pay per hour. But at least it’s there, in case you are in a situation where you are willing to pay for these services.
When it’s near boarding time, head over to your Gate. There is usually a big waiting area with enough seats for each gate where you can wait for the announcement to board.
Overall, going through NAIA Terminal 3 is relatively quick and easy. It may not have the best shops nor the best amenities, but that’s not really what I am at the airport for. We were able to get through the entire process up to Immigration in less than an hour, with minimal hassle, and that’s kind of what counts. This was on a regular weekday (not on a peak holiday period, which I really try to avoid as much as possible).
ON LAGLAG BALA
In case you are worried about becoming a victim of Laglag Bala, Laglag Droga or other variations of the scam, it is best to always use bags that are fully zipped closed. No open pockets! Avoid using bags with open pockets: for example, many backpacks have open side pockets that are used to typically keep bottles of water – avoid using these. If you must use bags with open pockets, secure them! Tape them up or wrap them in cling film. Make sure that nobody can “accidentally” drop anything in them when you’re not looking! Keep your bags visible, in front of you, ALWAYS!
There is a service at the airport that will wrap your luggage in cling film for P160. But you can do this yourself for cheaper at home. This way, your bags are secured before anyone else has any chance to plant anything in them: not some cab driver, not some porter, not some random person who fell in line behind you.
Buy a roll of packaging tape, preferably the clear type, and also buy a roll of cling wrap. We buy ours at Unitop near Nagtahan, it’s only P28.00 for a roll of cling wrap, and even less for the packaging tape. That place looks like a circa 70’s department store, but sells Divisoria knick knacks at Divisoria prices Don’t worry about the quality of the cling wrap – you’re using it to wrap luggage, not food. It’s better to spend less than P50 than run the risk of being victimized by the Laglag Bala scammers.
You can also buy an extra roll of cling film and keep it in your checked-in luggage, in case you want to wrap your luggage on your way back to the Philippines. Don’t forget to bring scissors and tape, too! But these need to be checked-in (you cannot hand carry scissors and similar sharp objects). Just bring a cheap ball pen with you in your hand carry bag, and you can use the ball pen to tear the cling wrap or the tape (the technique is to puncture holes with the pen and use the holes to tear through). The ball pen also comes in handy when filling out the various forms
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!