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Is it Safe to Visit the Philippines in 2020?

Updated July 20, 2020

Generally, the Philippines are safe to visit—as long as travelers are aware of some safety issues. With some local help, we created this guide to staying safe in the Philippines

For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. Learn more.

"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

When will it be safe to visit the Philippines?

Like most places around the world, the Philippines has cases of coronavirus. So, when will it be safe to visit the Philippines? 

Here's the latest:

July 20th: The Philippines suspended all international flights in May. Starting in August, foreign nationals will long-term visas will be allowed to fly to the Philippines.

Let’s be clear: the Philippines is experiencing a very turbulent time

We’re going to be as honest as possible here, so hold on to your proverbial hats. Simply put, the Philippines is going through a volatile time, politically and culturally. Since 2016, President Duerte has been waging a violent, heavy-handed, and often illegal war on crime and drugs (and, in many cases, anyone who disagrees with him). His use of roving death squads, coupled with an ongoing insurgency in certain parts of the country, have resulted in kidnappings and terrorist activities. These areas are not safe to visit—but luckily, they are far away from popular tourist destinations. 

Because of an increase in crime and civil unrest in the past several months, travel advisories have been issued and visiting certain areas is considered dangerous and should be avoided. A “Do Not Travel” advisory is in effect for the Sulu Archipelago, including the southern Sulu Sea, and Marawi City in Mindanao—the State Department urges travelers to "reconsider" visiting other parts of Mindanao as well. 

Does that sound bad? Yes. But ongoing political unrest will likely NOT affect your future trip. 

The good news is that the Philippines is huge, and the violence is taking place literally thousands of miles away from anywhere a traveler would find themselves. Simply put: unless you’re trying to get into trouble, your trip will not be affected at all. The government has active police and military presence in popular tourist areas and keeping visitors safe is a priority.


Worried about safety in the Philippines? Feel free to reach out to one of our local trip planners in the Philippines to talk. 

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So tell us what kind of trip you want to plan, and we’ll connect you with the perfect local to get you started.

It’s safe to explore Manila

Street vendor in Manila | KittyKaht/Flickr

Locals tell us you’ll have to exercise caution in Manila just like you would any other major city. Foreigners can be targets of petty criminals and car-jackers, but if you take standard safety precautions, you’ll be perfectly fine. Benefit from local insights: locals provided these safety tips.

  • Stay in a safe neighborhood such as Makati, Pasay, and Taguig, so you won’t have to worry as much about safety.
  • Avoid the Malate and Ermita areas in the center of Manila.
  • Be aware of pickpockets—they’re out there. Keep your bags close to you and never put valuables in your back pockets. Wear your backpack in front when in crowded places.
  • Beware of beggars—they’re not bad people, but if you offer them money, you’ll be swamped by beggars from all directions, and your belongings could be snatched.
  • Don’t give street kids pesos—the money ultimately goes to criminals who use the children to make money. Give them a snack or food instead. Ultimately, it’s best just to ignore them, as hard as it may be.
  • Avoid dark alleys, especially when you’re alone.
  • Always keep windows rolled up, and doors locked when in your car or a taxi.

For more safety advice, ask the people who know best—locals living in the Philippines.

Taxis are safe, but watch the meter

Taxis are generally safe in big cities, but taxi drivers are infamous for swindling money from tourists—claiming that the meter is broken, asking for a fixed price, or asking you to add some money to the final price. Make sure that the taxi has a working meter or refuse to get in. 

Local Tip:

Hail a cab online by using the MiCab app (in Manila and Cebu) to avoid the issue.   

There is no Uber in the Philippines—use Grab instead

The ride-sharing service Grab bought out Uber in the Philippines and is a great way to get around the city. The drivers’ regulations are stringent, and the price is determined by the app itself before the ride.

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The water in the Philippines is unsafe to drink

Unclean water can ruin your trip, and the Philippines is not known for having clean tap water.

Always ask if the ice in your drink is made from bottled or filtered water. Seriously—you do not want to get typhus. 

You can buy bottles of water during your trip to stay safe. However, we'd recommend investing in a reusable water bottle with a filter to cut down on plastic consumption. It's an easy way to make your travel more sustainable. 

Some common scams to avoid

Locals tell us that scams are widespread in the Philippines and often target travelers. However, our trip planners note that as long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you can avoid becoming a victim of a crime. They say these are a couple of popular scams to look out for:

The money changer scam

In this scam, shady money changers will set up shop in out of the way locations and advertise better rates than banks and hotels. Some tellers will steal a few notes when counting the money out for you or replace the bills with smaller notes. Only exchange money in reputable places, double-check the conversion rate and clarify commission charges before you start. Also, count your money before giving it and count your pesos after receiving them.

A familiar face scam

This is a popular scam that involves someone approaching you claiming to know you saying, “I work at the hotel you’re staying at.” They’ll offer to show you around and offer a free tour. Firmly decline the offer—it can end in a robbery.

Local Tip:

Depending on where you are in the Philippines, be careful with your cell phone. 

Solo female travelers love the Philippines

Woman in the Philippines | Yamaitrop Vioreenlack/Unsplash

It’s definitely a myth that it’s not safe for women to travel alone, and exploring the Philippines on your own will be an awesome adventure.

Solo travel is just as safe as any other country if you take a few precautions. Research the area before you go. If you're looking for local insights, keep in mind that many of our trip planners are women. They can let you know the situation in the Philippines, and what precautions they take when they're traveling solo. 

If you like adventure, you may need some vaccinations

You should be all set if you are up to date on routine vaccinations.

The CDC recommends all travelers heading to the Philippines should also be covered for hepatitis A and typhoid.

Based on how long you are staying, however, or if you plan to explore the rural areas, the CDC recommends additional vaccines.

Emergency numbers to know

When traveling, there is always a chance of getting into an accident where emergency help is needed. Here are some numbers you need to remember:

  • National Emergency Hotline: 911
  • Philippine National Police Hotline: 117
  • U.S. Embassy in Manila - (632) 301-2000

Still have questions about travel to The Philippines?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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