The Philippines is a safe country to visit but there are some things you need to do and not do to in order to travel safely.
Every country has areas where more violence occurs and areas that are safe, and the Philippines is no different.
Although there are some internal conflicts, the Philippines is a very big country and most of it is perfectly safe. That being said, no place in the world is really secure anymore, and the Philippines is not excluded. Some areas in the country are notorious for hosting terrorist groups and criminals.
According to the US State Department:
Exercise increased caution in the Philippines due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, a measles outbreak, and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk.
Do Not Travel to:
- The Sulu Archipelago, including the southern Sulu Sea, due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping.
- Marawi City in Mindanao due to terrorism and civil unrest.
Violence & Theft
Theft and pickpocketing are two of the common crimes in the Philippines particularly in urban areas. In order to avoid such crimes, always remember to secure your money, luggage, documents, and other valuable possessions such as expensive gadgets which are often attractive in the eyes of thieves and pickpockets. When seeking reliable information, better consult your hotel or resort front desk rather than approaching a random stranger on the street.
Violent assaults also appear throughout the country but it is uncommon. Just steer clear from trouble and avoid walking the streets alone especially at night.
As with traveling in most countries, travel scams do exist in the Philippines as well. The best way to avoid being a victim of a scam when traveling it so be aware of them. We have compiled a separate article which is devoted specifically to the most common scams in the Philippines.
Traffic & Transport
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines. Jeepneys are the cheapest while taxis are the safest. However, they’re only available in big cities, not in small towns and islands. Taxi drivers have a reputation for swindling money especially from tourists by asking for a fixed price or claiming that the meter is broken. Before getting in a taxi, insist on paying based on the meter and make sure that the meter is working. Otherwise, find another one.
Grab, which bought Uber in the Philippines, is a great ride-sharing service to help you travel around the city safely however it is only available in select cities and area including Bacolod, Baguio, Bataan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Manila, Naga, and Pampanga.
Traffic in Metro Manila is the worst in the country. Always give at least two hours allowance when traveling to an appointment, more than that when traveling during peak hours.
READ MORE: 10 Taxi Safety Tips: Dos & Don’ts
READ MORE: Transportation in the Philippines
Simply stated … Do NOT do drugs in the Philippines. This includes buying, selling, and/or using any type of illegal drugs including Marijuana. The penalties are quite severe … up to and including death.
Hotel, Apartment, Condo, and House Safety
Before booking a hotel, apartment, or any type of accommodation, research not only the price and proximity but also the location. It is important to know if the area is safe and avoid areas with high crime rates so you will be able to explore around and sleep at night without having to worry about your safety. Choose one with security cameras and request a specific floor. Second to fourth floors are the safest while the ground floor is prone to crimes since it is easy to access.
When checking in, write your name and other details on paper and hand it to the front desk instead of announcing it where others can hear and use your information for scamming or other crimes. Request to have your room number written down and don’t let the concierge or bell boy take your bags. Always keep an eye on your luggage.
As soon as you’ve secured your bags inside the room, take a walk to find the nearest fire exit, fire escape plan, and notices for hotel safety and security procedures. Take a picture of them so you will be able to easily access them when necessary.
Secure your money, passport, and other valuable documents in a bag with a travel lock if your room doesn’t have a safe or if you are doubtful about the safe. Avoid leaving your valuables under the mattress as it is one of the places thieves search in a room.
Keep your doors locked, including the balcony door, at all times. When leaving the room, put up the “do not disturb” sign to limit the people going in and out of your room. Request fresh towels directly and if you need to have your room cleaned, make sure to secure your valuables.
Staying fit and healthy can be challenging when you travel in the Philippines as the tropical climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
Before flying to the country, know what diseases are common, particularly contagious ones that can be transmitted through water, food, mosquitoes, and other unsanitary conditions. Visit a doctor a couple of months before your trip and get vaccinations to avoid these diseases. Some vaccinations need multiple shots so seeing a doctor ahead of time is highly advised. Prepare medications that may be necessary, stock your first aid kit for emergencies, and don’t forget to bring supplies such as insect repellent, sanitizers, and sunscreen as well as protective clothing.
Tap water in several areas in the Philippines is unsafe to drink. Make sure to drink filtered or distilled water to avoid diarrhea or other water-borne diseases. You can buy bottled water or carry a reusable water bottle with a filter to ensure that your drinking water is safe. Aside from water, you also have to watch out what you eat. Eat a healthy balanced meal and don’t skip breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day. If you have a sensitive stomach, be cautious of eating foods your stomach is not accustomed to. You wouldn’t want to spend your precious travel days inside a hotel room, or worse, a hospital room, recovering from diarrhea.
The average temperature in the Philippines is 21℃ and can go as high as 28℃ during the dry season. When out in the sun, remember to stay hydrated, slather on sunscreen, and wear comfortable clothes made of cool and lightweight fabric in light colors to help combat the heat.
READ MORE: Guide to Sun Safety in the Philippines
Tips on Staying Safe
- Do your homework. Research things like culture, climate and possible threat before finalizing your itinerary and making arrangements.
- Make e-copies of your documents.
- At the airport, check in and head through security early. When you arranged pick up from the airport, find out who’s collecting you before your flight.
- Stay in a safe area like Makati, Pasay, and Taguig, so you won’t have to worry about your safety.
- If possible, avoid the Malate and Ermita areas in Metro Manila.
- Stay alert when on the move and keep a charged phone with you for updates.
- Be aware of pickpockets. Keep your bags close to you and avoid displaying your valuables in public nor put them in your back pockets. Wear your backpack in front when in crowded places.
- While beggars are not bad people, it is best to avoid them. When you give them alms, you are more likely to be swamped by beggars and increase the chances of your belongings being snatched.
- Give street kids snacks or food instead of giving them money. The money will only go to criminals who use the children to make money for themselves. Ultimately, it’s best to ignore them, as hard as it may be.
- At the hotel request two room key cards so you can leave the TV on to deter thieves.
- If a security incident happens, stay calm, look for safe escape routes and follow advice from emergency services.
- Avoid dark and deserted alleys, especially when you’re alone.
- Always keep the windows rolled up, and doors locked when in your car or a taxi. If driving at your destination, wear a seatbelt, avoid traveling at night, and don’t drive tired.
- Once home, write a review about your hotel’s security. It could improve the way they do things.
The Bottom Line
Common sense should ALWAYS be your guide no matter what country you’re traveling in, including the USA.
To avoid scams, never trust strangers and follow your instincts.
Keep your guard up when traveling.
Most importantly, don’t let fear prevent you from traveling. Remember, the truth is that bad things can happen in any country, including the USA.