Departure Tips for the First Timer OFW

I can still remember the first time I set foot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 for my first flight abroad – to Saudi Arabia – a little more than ten years ago. Even though I was not alone during that trip – there were three of us – first time jitters and fear of the unknown got the better of me. It was as if I could not stop worrying about what would happen to me, once I got inside the seemingly humongous structure, not to mention about the thought of arriving in an unfamiliar destination.

Being tense and nervous during your first flight abroad is but natural. Even the most seasoned overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who goes back to his job abroad year after year after year, couldn’t help but get cold feet sometimes. Take it from me, a ten-year “veteran”, of sorts. 😀

This post aims to help you, the OFW, overcome the anxiety of traveling abroad for the first time, simply by eliminating the “unknowns” from the equation.

Are You Ready to Fly?

Are you ready to fly? Before answering this question, you should first ensure that you have all the necessary requirements for departure with you. These include the following:

  1. Plane Ticket
  2. Passport with Working Visa
  3. Employment Contract Approved by the POEA
  4. OEC or Overseas Employment Certificate
  5. PDOS or Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar Certificate
  6. OWWA/PhilHealth Insurance Certificate

In addition to this, the following are also essential for the first timer OFW:

  1. A cellphone. A cheap one will do, but a WiFi-capable one is preferable, so that you can update your loved ones at home about your trip during stopovers. Almost all airports now have free WiFi.
  2. A small notebook with contact numbers of your home and employers, and most especially, the name and contact number of your welcoming party at the destination airport.
  3. A small amount of money – in US dollars – just enough for two to three days contingency, in case “something” happens. The amount should cover your food and communication expenses, in case you get stranded in airports during stopovers.

If you already have all these, but still feels nervous, just think of all the dollars you will earn and all the possibilities that you can do with the money – a down payment and amortization for that new house, an educational fund for your kids, monthly allowance for your parents, even cash for that second-hand car. If you can think about all these and then feel that smile on your face, then you are ready to fly.

Bon Voyage, OFW!

It is time you get into the airport. Let me help you with the aid of the following photos from the photoblogger Unlawyer.

The first picture shows the outside area of the NAIA departure lobby. It is where your car or taxi drops you off. This area can get too crowded at certain times, so go look for a trolley as soon as you step out of your vehicle, to easily maneuver your luggage through the chaos.

Outside the departure lobby of the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

The next picture shows the entrance to the departure lobby. But before entering here, you should go to the OFW lounge first to validate your OEC and Employment Contract. The OFW lounge is located at the far right of the departure lobby entrance.

Entrance to the departure lobby of the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

If you choose to stay awhile at the OFW lounge with your loved ones, you should bring in your luggage with you. Your luggage will be scanned by the x-ray machines before you can bring them in. But if you choose not to stay, it is advisable to leave your luggage outside with your sending party, while you validate your OEC and Employment Contract.

After the validations, it is time for you say goodbye to your loved ones. Bid your farewells, give each one a kiss and a hug. And get inside the departure lobby at once. Don’t look back. The most difficult way of parting – and most heavy on the emotions – is when the leaving party keeps looking back at the sending party. It is sometimes unbearable to see your loved ones with all those tears. This can take a toll on your emotions, too and can weaken your physical, emotional and mental conditions for the long journey.

So get inside the airport immediately.

Your luggage will be scanned again upon entering the departure lobby. If your flight is still not flashed on the big billboards inside, you still have time to kill at the departure lobby. Don’t be shy, look for that available seat. They could be hard to look for sometimes, but with a little persistence and a smile, you could easily find one. Constantly monitor the boards for your flight’s status, looking specifically for the time when the check-in counters open, the boarding time and the flight time. Once the check-in counters open, fall in line immediately. Lines can be very long sometimes, so it is better to be at the head.

If you are traveling to the Middle East and other Arabic-speaking countries, you have to pass your passport and visa first to the visa reader situated at the front of the check-in counters. Also, airport personnel will hand you a departure card. Fill it up, while waiting your turn at the check-in counter.

Check-in counters at the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

After checking in your baggage, you will now have with you just your hand-carry baggage and your papers, plus the boarding pass – or passes if you have connecting flights – with the baggage claim tags attached to them. Your next stop should have been the terminal fee window, but since you’re an OFW with a valid OEC, you are exempted from paying the terminal fee and the travel tax.

Your next stop is the immigration counters. Look for the OFW express lane, shown at the picture below.

OFW lane immigration counters at the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

Present your passport, OEC, boarding pass/passes and filled-up departure card to the immigration officer. If everything is in order, your passport will be stamped without delay and you are through.

After passing through immigration, you will have to pass through customs, where you and your hand carry luggage will be subjected to x-ray scans. You will undergo body searches and you may have to take your shoes off. After customs, you will find yourself at the pre-departure lounges, shown in the picture below, surrounded by duty-free shops and other stores and services.

Pre-departure lounges at the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

If you have extra money, you can avail of massage services to help you relax for your journey. But don’t spend all your remaining pesos here. You can use them again once you go home after finishing your contract, or you can trade them with returning colleagues at your work destination.

One of the two concourses leading to the boarding gates at NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

If you don’t feel like hanging out at the pre-departure lounges, you can always wait for your flight at your boarding gate lounge. Look at your boarding pass for your boarding gate number, refer to the various directional signages, and head to one of the two concourses, shown in the picture above, where your gate is located.

One of several boarding gate lounges at the NAIA. Photo courtesy of the Unlawyer.

Try to relax while you are at your boarding gate lounge. While waiting, you can call or text you loved ones. Cheer up. This will be your last moments in Philippines soil, until your next vacation or contract. Wait for the boarding announcement. Board the plane, and good luck to you. Mabuhay ka, OFW!



  1. Very useful Info for OFW!

  2. complete info=). Thank you very much for sharing your experiences!

  3. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  4. joyness · · Reply

    soo useful.. im less anxious now.. mabuhay ka!

  5. mjeymes · · Reply

    malaking tulong…….salamat…

  6. neil galing ako ng new zealand may work visa ako papanu pag balik ko dun kailangan ko paba ng mga requirements tulad ng 1st time ofw papunta sa ibang bansa?

  7. Yeng, no need. But you have to go back to OWWA to process your Balik Mangagawa (BM) papers, and pay your OWWA, PhiHealth and Pag-IBIG (optional) fees. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  8. Thank you Neil..meron pala ganto!!

  9. nanlyn obin · · Reply

    thanks 4 d in4mation,atleast meron n kming nlalaman s departure nmn. Godbless (*^﹏^*)

  10. Thank you so much…now i have a knowledge for my flight..

  11. severusmathers · · Reply

    definitely helpful! what-a-bloody-hell-of-a-guide! cheers!

  12. daghang salamat kabayan

  13. first time ko po magpunta sa saudi, mga magkano dollars kailangan? medyo kapos na rin sa budget eh. thanks

  14. it took me minutes to find this very useful really helps a lot for a fisrt timer like me…thank you and mabuhay ka kabayan…

  15. very helpful very detailed..
    salamat kapatid
    thank you for your generosity mabuhay ka din..

  16. Thank you so much for this. This will help alot.

  17. salamat sa tips…

  18. johnane26 · · Reply

    un oh…i learn alot from u.tnk u so much for this information..

  19. thanks for this very useful info! I will be leaving the country a month from now, God bless po sa inyong lahat…Mabuhay mga OFW!

  20. Good luck, mga Kabayan! Ingat… Pag-ayu-ayo… Halong…

  21. maganda ito

  22. Salamat po! Sana may guide din Arrival particularly sa Bahrain. What to do? No idea pa kc.

  23. Nice…very useful to new Wishers Luck…Thanks

  24. · · Reply

    bakit may hinahanap na ngayon affidavit of declaration sa mga first timer na ofw

  25. Just like to share the OFW Form Filler na nakita ko. Para di na magsulat sa mga OEC Forms just visit

  26. Thanks Neil for this very informative blog. 🙂

  27. Verry complete informations at ang photos very heplful for me kasi wala akong idea ano itsura ng NAIA airport and all, mabuhay ka talaga! :)))

  28. geralen barinquey dejaballa · · Reply

    nice poh… least i have an idea pag nsa NAIA nko….gud luck to all of us mabuhay tyo….

  29. John Andrew · · Reply

    this is very helpful. i’m planning to work abroad and i don’t have any idea of what i am going to do regarding me leaving PH haha then finally searched this blog in google! maraming salamat! nabuhayan ako ng dugo. . .this line is unforgettable “They could be hard to look for sometimes, but with a little persistence and a smile, you could easily find one.”

  30. very informative! then nakakaiyak yung parting time :_(

  31. alsherif · · Reply

    Salamt. First tym ko po aalus ng ibang bansa. Helful ung tips.

  32. Thank you Neil. Your post have helped me lessen my anxiety. Ill be going to bahrain on friday March 6. This isnt my first flight, ive been to HK and Vietnam for travel and tours, but, this time it is entirely different, ill be working at the middle east and this is the very first time i experienced Separation anxiety to my loved ones. Its really hard. Emotionally hard. 😭 Big salute for the OFW’s 👍 my tears keep falling…

  33. very helpful tips. thanks

  34. Hi Do we still have the same procedures up to this date? This was posted 4 years ago…Thanks 🙂

  35. very informative for someone like me who is going to work abroad alone

  36. Thanks for the info kababayan 😀 I will leaving next week going to Saudi, any advice for me? Thank you and God Bless 😀

  37. Thank for the info…firstime din ako papunta sa Saudi galing sa Cebu Hindi rin nka punta ng maynila kaya maraming salamat po….

  38. Thanks kahit medyo matagal na ang post still fits sa current..

  39. Alexander Gas · · Reply

    Thank you so much for the tip sir! It is my first time travel abroad.

  40. thanks po. less anxious bcause of this blogpost.

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