Foreign travel advice

Philippines

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.

Safety and security

Crime

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.

Local travel

If you’re planning to travel within the Philippines, seek advice from reliable local contacts as part of your preparation. You should take particular care during the rainy season when flash floods and landslides can occur.

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 FCO advise 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 FCO advise 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.

Road travel

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.

Safety standards on taxis and buses can be low.

Air travel

The FCO can’t 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.

Sea travel

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.

Political situation

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.