Safety and security
There are high levels of street crime and robbery sometimes involving weapons and firearms. You should take sensible precautions.
Arrange to be met at the airport, or use a hotel transfer service or an official airport taxi where they exist.
Only use taxis from a reputable company. Some taxi drivers and their accomplices have robbed and harmed passengers. Avoid displaying cash or jewellery.
Beware of strangers offering drinks or confectionery. They may be spiked.
Be particularly vigilant when travelling on public transport. Armed hold-ups have occurred on ‘jeepneys’ and buses, mainly in larger cities like metro Manila and Cebu. In some cases these have resulted in fatalities.
If you’re planning to travel within the Philippines, seek advice from the local authorities on relevant travel requirements as part of your preparation. See Department of Interior and Local Government website for contact details of your local officials. You can also contact your nearest Department of Tourism office (DOT) through the DOT Official Facebook page or DOT hotline at 1-386 for advice. See link for safety protocols and series of precautionary measures prepared by the DOT.
Always leave travel plans, passport and credit cards with friends, colleagues or relatives and make sure the next of kin details in your passport are up to date.
A ‘state of national emergency on account of lawless violence’ remains in place across the country. Expect random checkpoints, security patrols and a more visible routine security presence. You should co-operate with the Philippine authorities and allow extra time to pass through security checks. Make sure you carry a form of identification with you.
Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago
The FCDO advises against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camiguin, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) due to the threat of terrorism. See Terrorism
It’s likely that terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals, both on land and at sea. This is particularly acute in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. See Kidnapping
Martial law was lifted across Mindanao on 1 January 2020. Monitor media reporting and follow the instructions of local authorities.
You can drive in the Philippines on a valid UK driving licence for up to 90 days. If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel. If you’re staying longer than 90 days, you should apply for a local licence. You can find more information on the application process on the Land Transportation Office website.
Accidents can happen, mainly due to poor road conditions, dangerous driving and non-enforcement of traffic laws. Observe the speed limit, be cautious around motorbikes and scooters, and if possible avoid driving at night or during adverse weather conditions. Make sure you have adequate insurance.
Safety standards on taxis and buses can be low.
Philippine law prohibits children aged 12 or below from using the front seat of a vehicle. A child may be exempted provided they are at least 150cm tall (4’11’’) provided they can be properly secured using a regular seatbelt. Otherwise, children must sit in the back of the vehicle and use a child restraint system or car seat. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in a penalty.
The FCDO cannot offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
A list of incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.
There is a high level of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around the Sulu and Celebes seas. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are also possible targets. See Kidnapping.
The Philippines’ ferry and passenger boat network has a poor record of maritime safety. Boats sometimes lack necessary lifesaving equipment and maritime rescue services may be limited. You should exercise caution when considering travel by inter-island ferries and avoid overcrowded boats. Accidents are more frequent during the rainy season between June and December when storms can develop quickly.
On 3 August 2019 three passenger boats capsized in the Iloilo-Guimaras straits, with more than 30 people killed.
Keep up to date with local and international developments, and avoid demonstrations or large gatherings of people.
The Philippines Bureau of Immigration has specifically warned foreign nationals against participating in public protests and political rallies. Foreign nationals who participate in these activities may be detained and deported for violating Philippine immigration laws.