Is it Safe to Travel in the Philippines? Is it safe for tourists? Do you feel safe living in the Philippines? Are the Philippines safe? These are some of the questions we often get from the readers of our blog. After four months of living in the Philippines, we’ve finally decided to share our experiences. I firmly believe that even if we’ll have to deal with some challenging events or changes with regards to the political situation in the future, this article should still hold. However, if you’ve traveled in Asia bore (not necessarily in the Philippines) and have some experience (either positive or negative) with issues related to safety, please let us know in the comment section.
Most people have probably read or heard, or even seen a story on the evening news, about the Philippines being unsafe. People get shot for no reason, theft and child kidnapping is rampant, and terrorist attacks happen on a regular basis. In the eyes of Europeans who are used to the death penalty being outlawed and humans rights being respected, the Philippines may seem rather scary and unattractive to travelers.
Is it Safe to Live in the Philippines?
We currently live in Panglao, Bohol. We have chosen these islands out of the thousands of others not only because they are the least likely to be hit by natural disasters, but also due to their beauty and safety. To be honest, we often feel safe even when out and about in the evening – something we can’t really say for the streets of Vilnius.
Filipinos are peaceful, friendly, and highly religious people. Helpfulness, placidity, and respect for other people are things we encounter here all the time. Even when shopping in local markets we never feel like anyone’s trying to trick us or jack up the prices beyond what they would normally be. After a nice chat, people often reduce the price without even being asked to.
All the foreign travelers we’ve met here, as well as those who’ve been living in the Philippines for a long time, have unanimously told us that the country feels safer than, say, New York or London. We’ve never seen any real criminal activity, theft, or murder. In the Philippines, even young people who’ve had a bit too much to drink show no aggression – they’re pleasant to talk to and never try to start any trouble.
To make sure we’re not in the wrong, we looked for information and statistics on safety and crime levels in Bohol and Vilnius. The numbers made it clear that we were right after all. In terms of criminality, Vilnius has it much worse than Bohol. Here, even drug use and the drug trade are slightly lower than in Vilnius. When it comes to safety during the day, Bohol scored a whopping 100. To be fair, nigh time is a bit riskier, yet still not as risky as in Vilnius.
That being said, you’re going to meet all kinds of people no matter where you are. Safe as it may seem, keep in mind that the Philippines are known for poverty, which means that, regardless of where you travel or decide to settle down, make sure to use all necessary precautions, keep an eye on your belongings, stay vigilant, and use your common sense.
Safety in other Islands of the Philippines
Is it Safe to Travel in the Philippines in all the islands? If you try to look for information on safety in the Philippines, you’re likely to find at least a few lists of islands you’re supposed to stay away from. Here’s a few of those:
- Mindanao is home to many different terrorist groups;
- Manila is dangerous due to high rates of child kidnapping and drug-related shoot outs.
After digging up a good deal of statistical data on crime in the Philippines, however, we were surprised to find that the country’s overall safety index – keep in mind that the Philippines have a population that’s orders of magnitude larger than that of Lithuania – is slightly higher than our home country’s, and one position above Poland.
Most of the islands mentioned above are easy to avoid, with the exception of Manila, as that’s where most international flights converge. Most arrivals to the Philippines take place in Manila.
Over 7,000 murders took place in the Philippines since June 2016 when Duterte became President of the country. Most of these happened during shoot outs between local groups involved in the drug trade or police raids which took place in connection with drug-related activities. These are all consequences of the President’s “war on drugs”. As a side note, most locals think these measures have actually been successful.
Safety Advice for Those Planning a Trip to the Philippines
Shoot outs between and within criminal groups, or those resulting from police raids, mostly take place in the poorest areas of Manila during the night. Even though such killings were condemned by Duterte at the beginning of 2017 after the death of a Korean businessman, we nonetheless advise you to stay away from streets at night, especially in less well-off areas (which, in all honesty, you should probably skip even during the day).
From time to time, Manila also makes the news due to child kidnappings. The most common victims in this sense are the citizens of Korea and China. Here’s some information we’ve found on how to stay safe when traveling with children:
- don’t use local transportation and taxi services. We recommend you go for Uber or simply make arrangements with your hotel to be picked up from, and driven to, the airport;
- don’t leave your children unattended in remote or crowded locations;
- avoid arguments with the locals; If you feel that a conversation is slowly turning into an argument, just swallow your pride and let it go. Although this has never happened to us (how do you get into an argument with the most friendly people in the world?), this is a piece of advice we’ve found during research;
- keep an eye on what you’re drinking. Don’t leave your drinks unattended.
In our opinion, the Philippines (or at least most of the islands thereof) are among the safest island countries in the world. A strong statement, to be sure, and yet we’re thrilled to have found people who are still largely unspoiled by the worst that civilization has to offer. Things are changing, however, and given the rising crime rate, it seems unlikely that a decade from now everything will still be roughly as we’ve described it in this article.
Also, before traveling abroad (which obviously includes the Philippines), make sure to check the latest information on safety provided on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.
Is it Safe to Travel in the Philippines? – An Update 2020
UPDATED in January 2020. Even though we’ve been living in the Philippines for over four months now, our opinion on safety remains unchanged. And this even despite bearing witness to things being stolen both from the locals and from tourists. In each of these cases, most of the blame can certainly be placed at the feet of the victims themselves – unattended suitcases, backpacks left behind the chair at a bar…
As we’ve mentioned – you’re probably going to meet all kinds of people no matter where you are. So it’s no great surprise that even the Philippines have some thieves within its borders. If you stay vigilant and take care of your belongings, however, you’ll be just fine. We still haven’t heard of any cases of people being assaulted, beaten up, or robbed. Fights do often break out here… although those are usually instigated by foreign travelers.