Although most expats report feeling safe in the country, the Philippines pose several safety and security concerns. It has a high crime rate and is subject to frequent natural disasters.
Expats should take the necessary precautions concerning their valuables and always keep abreast of political developments and hazardous weather warnings.
Crime in the Philippines
Crime rates in the Philippines are high, with violent crime a particular concern. Gangs are active in large cities like Manila, and armed robberies have occurred on public transport. Expats should be cautious and vigilant in crowded public places to avoid petty crimes such as pickpocketing and mugging. Foreigners in the Philippines should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and wearing flashy watches or jewellery.
Expats in the Philippines should be aware of various scams targeting foreigners. These include internet and phone call scams and credit card and ATM fraud. Credit card fraud is an ongoing problem in the Philippines, and expats should use credit and debit cards with caution. It is best to avoid using ATMs that have any unusual covers over the keypad or the card slot. These devices can record banking information and PINs.
- General emergency number: 911
- Police: 117
- Philippine Red Cross: 143
Expats are encouraged to purchase an international insurance plan that provides a private air ambulance service.
Food and water safety in the Philippines
The quality of tap water in the Philippines is questionable, and expats should generally avoid drinking it. Fortunately, bottled water is readily available at shops and restaurants. Expats should remember that ice consists of tap water, so they should request no ice in their drinks.
Natural disasters in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the world's most natural disaster-prone countries. Expats should have a plan of action in case of emergency and make sure that they have appropriate insurance coverage.
The Philippines experiences several tropical cyclones annually, mainly between June and November, which can cause flooding and landslides that have devastating effects on the population. Expats should always be aware of the risks in the area they are living in, and should always take cyclone and flood warnings seriously.
Earthquakes and volcanoes
The Philippines is also an earthquake zone and is vulnerable to volcanic activity in the Mayon and Taal volcanoes in the Albay and Batangas provinces. Expats must follow all advice from local authorities in case of a quake.
Protests in the Philippines
Anti-government protests are relatively common in the Philippines. Anti-US protests are also frequent in Manila (near the US embassy). Activists have long opposed the presence of the US military in the region. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, expats should avoid them as a precaution.
Problems in the southern Philippines
Safety in the southern Philippines remains uncertain due to the ongoing activity of Islamist insurgent groups. These groups have carried out attacks against government buildings, public transport, local markets and religious festivals. They are often involved in armed clashes with government forces.
Insurgent groups in the Philippines, particularly Abu Sayyaf, have also been responsible for kidnapping several people, including foreign nationals.
Some governments warn their nationals against all non-essential travel to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago due to the insecurity.
►For more on road safety and public transport, see Transport and Driving in the Philippines
Are you an expat living in Philippines?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Philippines. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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