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  • Is the Philippines Safe To Live? A Philippines Travel Safety Guide For Expats

Is the Philippines Safe To Live? A Philippines Travel Safety Guide For Expats

The Philippines is a gorgeous country filled with friendly people. But the country continues to make the news for the wrong reasons, making some visitors ask, is the Philippines safe? Yes, this guide details how you can safely travel in the Philippines, where not to go, common scams, and what you should avoid.

  Mins Reading Time

Published On: January 31, 2022

Latest Update: April 10, 2024

About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

Overview: How Safe Is The Philippines?

QUICK SUMMARY- IS The Philippines Safe For Expats

  • The US State Department normally considers the country a Level 3 risk.
  • However, many benchmarks rank the Philippines SAFER than the USA.
  • There are areas near Mindanao island to avoid
  • Safe for solo females and LGBTQ travelers

Over the last few years, expats have been reluctant to jump on opportunities to move to the Philippines. The reputation of the country has taken a beating. First was the President's "War on Drugs," then the Abu Sayyaf ISIS attacks in Mindanao, after came the Philippine government's response to the pandemic. Foreign authorities recommend switching all travel plans or advising against travel to the Philippines.  

Contrary to popular belief, the Philippines is safer than the media or Foreign Authorities might have you believe. The country hosts over 8 million visitors per year. In a recent 2023 Safety Index, the Philippines ranked the 34th Safest country out of 140 countries, above Canada (45), the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States (tied at 51).

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.


Show a mandatory departure ticket. You cannot enter the Philippines on a one-way ticket if you only have a tourist visa or visa on arrival. You will need a flight ticket with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by showing immigration you have  a cheap onward travel ticket for just $14

Get help with your visa. The Philippines visa process can get complicated. The rules and regulations change frequently. Avoid the hassle of dealing with the immigration bureaucracy by speaking with a Philippines Visa Specialist. 

Learn some basic Tagalog phrases. While nearly everyone speaks some English, learning some basic Tagalog is always appreciated by Filipinos. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

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Is the Philippines safe for expats?

Absolutely. In fact, expats feel safer in the Philippines than they would be back home! Over 220,000 US expats call the country home, while another 4,000 Americans have retired to the Philippines. 

In Gallup's 2023 Law and Order Report, asking residents in 140 countries if they feel safe, the Philippines scored 86 out of 100 (better than inn 2020), with 100 being the best. Residents of the US gave the United States a score of 83 (worse than in 2020).

The country remains one of the most popular countries for expats. If you are thinking about moving to the Philippines, there is no reason to change your travel plans.

Suppose you are concerned about the security situation or are worried about media stories of violent crime. In that case, this guide will help clarify the realities of safety in the Philippines, including practical tips on staying safe. 

Gallup 2023 Law and Order Report: Residents Personal Experience and Feeling of Safety
CountrySafety Score out of 100 Higher is better
Singapore (Woohoo! Highest Score!)97
Norway, Iceland, Finland (Too Cold to Commit Crime)c92
Vietnam (Too hot)92
Canada (Too polite)83
United Kingdom (Too much to drink)83
United States (Too many guns)83
Australia (Not enough guns)83

I divided this Philippines Safety Guide into five parts.

  1. Transportation Safety Tips- Advice for traveling around in the Philippines
  2. Scams in the Philippines- How to keep your money safe
  3. Tips for Staying Safe in the Philippines- Personal Safety
  4. Food Safety- Avoid getting sick
  5. Travel safety in the Philippines- Places to Avoid

The first part of the guide includes tips on making sure you're safe in your new country, such as where and when you should travel. Next comes the second section covering common scams, especially around Manila. The third section covers personal safety and guidance on LGBTQ and solo females. The fourth section covers food safety to avoid any health issues. Lastly, I discuss places expats are warned to avoid and cities where local authorities officially advise foreigners to "reconsider travel."

Expat Guide To Living In The Philippines- Costs, Visas, Safety, Pros & Cons (2022)
How To Get A Philippines Retirement Visa For As Low As $1500
2024 Philippines Online Annual Reporting Requirement Guide for Expats
Expat Life in the Philippines: An American Expat’s Pros and Cons
Foreigner’s Guide To Prenuptial Agreements in the Philippines- Protecting Your Money
A Comprehensive Guide To Philippines Health Insurance For Expats
24 Facts About Healthcare In The Philippines Every Expat Must Know
How Do I Send Money to the Philippines? My Remittance Rundown
Best Places To Live In Manila- An Expat Guide To Metro Neighborhoods

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Does the Philippines have a low crime rate?

No. The US State Department regards the Philippines as a MEDIUM in terms of safety. Numbeo's Crime Index ranks the Philippines 59th out of 142 countries with low crime rates. For reference, the US ranks 27 spots worse at 86th.

"Level 3 - Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory."

While most studies do not consider the Philippines more dangerous than the United States, I would not characterize the crime rate as low.

It's no surprise that poor neighborhoods in Metro Manila have the largest robbery, assault, and violent crime incidents. Outside of the poor areas in the Capital, expats should take caution in crowded markets and public places, where petty theft and pickpocketing are more common.

As in any country, foreigners flashing around large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry are more likely to be mugging targets.

Which place in the Philippines has the lowest crime rate?

Davao City is well known for its low crime rate. Davao is the only Philippine city ranked on CNN's "Asia's Most Livable Cities" list. Davao's accomplishments in combating crime, terrorism, and public safety also won a Safe Haven award.

How safe is the Philippines to live for expats?

For experienced expats, I say that the Philippines is safer than Latin American countries but the least safe out of Asian countries. But, the crowded and impoverished areas of Metro Manila are what skew the safety level so dramatically worse. Safety increases dramatically outside the Capital, especially in touristy islands, resort towns, rural areas, or even smaller cities.

Natural Disasters in The Philippines

Damage caused by super typhoons makes expats ask is the Philippines Safe To Live

The coastal waters in the Philippines can cause property damage and deaths during a Super Typhoon

The warm tropical waters and gorgeous landscape are, unfortunately, what make the Philippines prone to natural disasters. Most of the country sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire's sphere of volcanic activity.

The warm tropical waters and gorgeous landscape are, unfortunately, what make the Philippines prone to natural disasters. Most of the country sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire's sphere of volcanic activity. 

The same seismic activity that created the country's dramatic landscapes peppers the country with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. Additionally, the country's tropical climate spawns several tropical storms annually, peaking during rainy season (July through October), when nearly 70% of typhoons hit the Philippines.

What is the safest place in the Philippines from natural disasters?

Marco Sison on Palawan island the safest place in the Philippines for tourists

Palawan, the most popular island in the country, is also the safest place for tourists in the Philippines

Luckily Palawan, voted the most beautiful island in the world, is also the safest place in the Philippines from natural disasters. This island chain, which includes El Nido and Coron, is located in Western Philippines, away from volcanic activity and the high-risk tropical storm areas.

Palawan's coastal waters on the West Philippine Sea are tectonically stable. Unlike most of the country, the island is not located near any active faults. The last seismic activity to hit Palawan's Capital, Puerto Princesa, was in 1897.  

 INSIDER TIP : Natural Disasters- Regardless of where you live in the Philippines, you should be prepared for disruptions to essential services by earthquakes and typhoons,. Have at least a weeks worth of emergency supplies like food and water. Emergency services may be limited to flooding, landslides, or road debris. Ensure you have an emergency first-aid kit on hand.

Transportation Safety Tips- Advice When Traveling Around The Philippines

Is it safe to drive in the Philippines?

Chaotic traffic in Manila makes expats wonder, is the Philippines safe to visit

Traffic in Manila is chaotic and drivers can be undisciplined and aggressive. Photo Credit

You can feel safe driving in the Philippines outside Manila and maybe Cebu City. However, driving in Metro Manila is not for the meek. Traffic laws are nothing like in the US, and defensive driving is unheard of. Instead, driving in Manila traffic is closer to Max Max levels of chaos.

Manila drivers, especially the jeepney drivers, are undisciplined and unpredictable. Be prepared for jeepneys to suddenly stop in the middle of traffic to let out passengers, causing cars and buses which were closely tailgating to recklessly zigzag at high speed to avoid collisions.

 INSIDER TIP : Ride-Sharing Apps- Avoid the hassles of taxi drivers and download Grab. Grab is the main ride-sharing app in the Philippines and has bought out Uber. Grab is cheaper and more reliable than street taxis. Getting nearly anywhere in Manila will cost you less than $5. To save even more, ask the driver for their cell phone number. They will likely give you a discounted rate to be your dedicated driver for a few days.

Is public transportation in the Philippines safe?

safe local transport on the island includes a jeepney

While cramped, slow, and uncomfortable, Jeepneys are a safe way to get around the Philippines 

Outside of Manila, the Philippines lacks a mass transit system. The most common way to get around is by using jeepneys or trikes ( called tuk-tuks in other countries in Southeast Asia). Riding in a jeepney or trike is generally safe, with some precautions. Like everything in the Philippines, negotiate the price before accepting the ride.

Tricycles are the most common way for locals to get around in the Philippines. They come in different forms, but they're basically a three-wheeled motorcycle with an attached sidecar. They're popular because they're cheap and can navigate crowded streets and narrow alleys that cars can't squeeze past.

Don't be surprised when more and more people start to pack in next to you. There is no such thing as overcapacity during peak rush hour when there is money to be made. 

As in any country, keep your belongings close to you and be aware of your surroundings when riding in crowded public transport. Keep your bags in sight and nearby; wear your backpacks in front where you can keep things secure.

 INSIDER TIP : Habal-Habal Motorcycles- Moto transport in the Philippines comes in two flavors: the previously mentioned tricycles and "habal-habal" motorcycles. 

While trikes are generally safe, habal-habal motorcycles, with make-shift seats made of wooden boards, are unlicensed, illegal, less stable, and not recommended. Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover any medical services for injuries sustained while riding illegal transportation. 

Do I need travel insurance in the Philippines?

Yes. Your home medical coverage DOES NOT provide adequate travel health insurance for injuries or emergency services incurred outside your home country. To stay covered and safe in the Philippines, you have three options for protection:

 INSIDER TIP : Healthcare Coverage Abroad- Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:

  • Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
  • Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than the US. 

Are taxis safe in the Philippines?

Taxi drivers are known to rip off foreigners. Make sure you are clear about the price before getting in the taxi. Point to the meter as soon as you open the door, so the driver understands that you will only pay the metered rate. 

Additionally, be alert when stopped at intersections or in traffic jams. While not common, beggars may try to reach into the taxi to grab your belongings.

Ferries Boat Safety In The Philippines

It's no surprise that an archipelago of over 7,000 islands is dependent on ferry service. From large car ferries to smaller local banca outrigger boats, thousands of people and tons of cargo crisis cross the Philippine islands.

Ferry travel was considered extremely unsafe in the Philippines. The country ranked last in terms of safety and the global leader in fatalities until 2017. However, the Philippine government has made remarkable strides in improving the country's safety statistics. 

With some ferry trips lasting several days, even with improved safety, you should take precautions.

  • When possible, only sail with a reliable transportation company. This advice applies more to large passenger ferries than small outriggers.
  • Don't board overloaded or unseaworthy vessels.
  • Ensure you have access to a life jacket in case of an emergency.
  • Plan for extra time during the rainy season, as services get canceled if the seas are too rough.

Scams In The Philippines- Keeping Your Money Safe

ATM and Credit Card Fraud

Be cautious when using debit or credit cards. Credit card and ATM fraud is a common crime. Scammers try to use skimmers to steal and clone cards, then rack up your card with unauthorized purchases or cash advances.

ATM Skimmers

There has been a recent uptick in ATM card fraud where criminals are attaching illegal devices that record your information as you enter it into the keypad. Vigorously shake the card reader to check for loose connections to protect yourself. Avoid any card readers with irregular or unusual features. Using ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank to reduce the risk scammer tampered the ATM's card reader. Always be aware of your surroundings and cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN.

Common Scams In The Philippines

Online Dating Scams

Online dating is booming in the Philippines. Unfortunately, online dating scams targeting men in Western countries are also growing.

Common online dating scams in the Philippines follow the same pattern: Scammers will create fake profiles to build a relationship with someone. Once the scammer gains the trust of their "online boyfriend," the requests for money come. 

The requests for money seem reasonable enough:

  • To buy books for school
  • Medical treatment for sick mother
  • A new phone, so they can video call their boyfriend
  • A visa to visit their partner in real life
  • Getting kicked out of their house unexpectedly and needing rent money

An even more nefarious scam is asking for nude pictures or videos of sexual acts, only to turn around and blackmail their victim.

Most dating scams revolve around money. No matter how much someone you meet online seems like your "soulmate" when money gets involved, it seldom ends well.

If you decide to get married in the Philippines, be smart and get a prenuptial agreement to be safe. 

A familiar face scam

Manila is a hot spot for this common tourist scam, while expats, who live in the area, are less likely to be approached. The scammer pretends to recognize your familiar face. 

The scammer's setup is claiming to work at your hotel. Conveniently, the employee is on their day off and offers to "show you around town" or "give you a free tour."

Kindly decline the offer. It isn't worth the risk. A free tour in a strange area led by someone you don't know is a movie plot that ends in a robbery or mugging. 

The money changer scam

This scam happens in nearly every country with a foreign currency. There are two variations. One involves someone approaching you on the street; the other is a physical location in an out-of-the-way, inconspicuous area. The lure of the scam is the same; the money changer advertises a currency exchange rate better than what is offered by local banks. 

What to look out for:

  • Improperly calculated exchange rate
  • Undisclosed fees
  • Tellers stealing bills while counting the money
  • Replacing large notes with smaller notes

Protect yourself by :

  • Only changing currency at reputable locations
  • Double-check the agreed-upon conversion rate
  • Calculate the rate yourself, don't trust the calculator used by the vendor
  • Clarify any additional fees or commissions at the start of the transaction
  • Count, then recount your money in front of the teller before the exchange.
  • Count, then recount your exchanged pesos before you complete the transaction.

No Change Scam

Assume all taxi drivers, Grab delivery, local street food stalls, farmer's market vendors, anyone that you pay in cash will likely not have much change. Instead, they will try and make you buy more things or subtly hint at a tip by claiming to have no change for large bills. 

Always carry small bills with you. This one is more annoyance than a full-fledged financial scam. Lots of times, this is a true statement. Remember, the minimum wage in the Philippines is only. It is unreasonable to give someone a 1000 Peso note for a 20 Peso item and expect change. 

 INSIDER TIP : Candy and Gum As Change- Don't be surprised if a sari-sari (small roadside store) or street vendor gives you a few pieces of candy or gum if they don't have change. Using candy instead of pesos is common practice when they don't have small change.

Child Abuse Scam

While I haven't heard of this one personally, it was brought up on the Canadian government website and is particularly sinister. Locals with kids befriend single Western males, only to extort money from the expat, calling them a pedophile and accusing them of child abuse.


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Personal Safety- Tips for Staying Safe in The Philippines

Is the Philippines safe for solo female travelers?

Young woman at a bar visiting the philippines safely as a solo female traveler

Philippines is one of the safest places for solo female travelers. 

Yes, it is generally safe for a woman to travel alone in the Philippines. Similar to any destination, be cautious and practice basic travel safety. In major cities, like Manila, you'll need to deal with pickpockets and overpriced taxi scams everyone, including men and locals, avoids.

Sexual assault and rape are uncommon in the Philippines, especially against foreigners, and are punishable by death. A woman is 4.5 times more likely to be raped in the US than in the Philippines. 

The Philippines ranks among the least sexist nations in the world. There is not a lot of gender bias, and culturally, we treat women as equals. You'll get more intrusive questions about traveling solo than your gender.

If you are concerned about a specific area or event, ask a local Filipina. Most Filipinos are open, speak English, and are helpful to a fault- They will assist you any way they can.

 INSIDER TIP : Women's Rights- The Philippines is, in fact, a global leader in women's rights. Except for New Zealand, the Philippines has the highest gender equity rating in Asia-Pacific. The Philippines has always had more gender equality than parts of Southeast Asia.

Women find an equal level of respect between the sexes and have equal opportunities in society. In many instances, women are equal, if not primary wage earners. Filipino women today are educated, professional, and hold top positions in the workplace and government. There have even been two female presidents, which is two more than the US. 

Is the Philippines safe for LGBTQ+ travelers?

Yes. Manila has even been dubbed the "Gay Capital of Asia." Most LGBTQ+ travelers say they felt welcome in the Philippines as openly gay. Some websites even rank the Philippines in the top gay-friendly Asian countries

two LGBTQ supporters enjoying Pride and that the Philippines is safe for LGBTQ travelers

Manila is considered by many the Gay Capital of Asia

Transgender and Filipino gays are accepted and applauded members of Philippine society, with many in the LGBTQ community prominent in TV, media, including an openly transgender woman elected to Congress. 

However, with a very influential Catholic church and heavily Roman-Catholic population, other websites give the Philippines a D Ranking, due to denial of same-sex marriage, absence of adoption rights, and lack of federal LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws.

While federal protections are lacking, several cities including Cebu City, Quezon City, and Metro Manila have local laws protecting LGBTQ rights. Additionally, the Philippine Department of Education observes June be celebrated as Pride Month in all public schools.

Is the Philippines safe for solo travel?

Yes. Filipinos are known to be incredibly friendly. Especially if you are a American or speak English, if you come as a solo traveler, you'll find it easy to make friends here. Outside of the places avoiding in the southern part of the country, you'll find it very safe traveling alone.

The exception to that rule is Metro Manila. The Capital's population is over 13,000,000 people. Treat the Metro Manila like you would any big city anywhere in the world.

  • Don't walk alone late at night
  • Avoid poorly lit streets and dark alleys
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers.
  • Be careful letting strangers in your home
  • Don't flaunt large wads of cash or expensive jewelry

RELATED POST ON Safety In The Philippines

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Food Safety

Food is a huge part of Filipino culture. And while food in the Philippines is not inherently "unsafe," Filipino cuisine is questionable to most foreign expats.

Filipino cooks showcase the country's ingenuity by using the least edible ingredients. Especially to an Americanize palate, traditional meals like stir-fried pig face (sisig), partially formed duck embryos (balut), or blood stew (dinuguan) sound more like an episode of Fear Factor than a restaurant menu.  

Is street food in the Philippines safe?

Street food anywhere in the world carries an inherent risk. It's hard maintaining hygienic food preparation when cooking and cleaning on an open street. Consuming contaminated food caused by improper food handling and unsafe food storage can lead to terrible cases of travelers' diarrhea.

Like many countries in Southeastern Asia, food and water in the Philippines can carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, and E. coli. However, I love street food. Street food is cheap and delicious in places like Penang, Hanoi, or Chang Mai.

 Marco Sison eating at a local market to see if street food is safe in the Philippines for expats

Busy with locals and expats, Salcedo Market is one of the safest places to try street food in Manila

However, I generally avoid street food in the Philippines. The country does not have the same street food culture as Thailand or Vietnam. The quality of the street food vendors in the Philippines doesn't hold up to their Southeast Asia counterparts.

A tell-tale sign of street food quality is if wealthier locals eat street food. In Thailand, Malaysia, or Vietnam, locals of all income levels eat street food. In Hanoi, you are just as likely to see a businessman sitting on the street eating a bowl of pho as a construction worker.

In the Philippines, you will rarely see upper-class or wealthier Filipinos eating street food. Even middle-class or working-class Filipinos are more likely to eat cheap meals at a 7-11 than next to a street stall.

Is it safe to drink tap water in the Philippines?

No. Be on the safe side and don't drink water from the tap. Most of the Philippines suffers from poor sanitation and lacks the infrastructure to safely collect, clean, and deliver safe drinking water clear of contaminants, waste, or pathogens. However, major towns and cities have access to safe water for brushing your teeth, washing dishes, showering, etc.

Is Manila water safe to drink out of faucets?

No, but I'm erroring on the safe side here. But, oddly, there is no clear-cut answer on if you can drink tap water directly from the tap Manila.

Maynilad and Manila Water have invested billions of pesos in upgrading the sanitation infrastructure in Manila. According to Metro Pacific Water, drinking water now complies with Philippine Authorities' standards for safe drinking water "set by the Department of Health (DOH) and compliant with the World Health Organization."

Local authorities even test samples daily to ensure safe water quality. The Department of Health and other agencies conduct third-party independent sampling to guarantee safe drinking water.

However, locals and expats remain skeptical. I haven't been to an expat's house or restaurant that offers water directly from the tap without a filter.

 INSIDER TIP : Spike Drinks and Laced Foods- The Philippines National Police warned of increased reports of GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and ecstasy-laced drinks and food.

‎"...avoid strangers randomly offering them drinks. As much as possible, don't accept unsealed drinks or cocktails in glasses," warned PNP Chief Inspector Merdegia.

Unlike the US, where women and rape are the primary focus, spike drinks in the Philippines frequently target single male expats and foreigner travelers for robbery. Scammers usually include an attractive Filipina and alcohol with the intent to spike the drink and go back to the victim's home or hotel to rob them.

Practice common-sense safety tips at parties, pubs, and bars. Don't accept drinks from strangers. If you need the restroom, bring your drink with you. If you feel drowsy or dizzy, ask your close friends for help. Don't accept help from strangers offering you a ride or promising to get you home.

Places to Avoid— Travel safety in The Philippines

Honestly, I hate this part because the Philippines is very safe subjectively. Unlike when I lived in South America, I feel comfortable walking nearly anywhere in the country. However, I would be negligent in ignoring the safety issues in the Southern Philippines and the fact that the US State Department has an Active Travel Warning for Western and Southern Mindanao.  

Consider that terrorist activity can happen anywhere. Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in attacks in New York, London, Paris, Barcelona, and many more in recent years. Yet, there are rarely calls to avoid tourism in the US, UK, France, or Spain due to terrorism.

Terrorism In The Philippines

The security situation remains a HIGH-RISK for terrorist activity in Southern Philippines, where ISIS-affiliated groups, including Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) base their lairs. Islamic militant groups have been known to conduct kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks targeting markets, airports, and government institutions in the area. Anyone entering this region can expect frequent security checkpoints and increased security presence around public areas.

The US State Department considers the island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and Palawan as regions with risk. While kidnapping victims tend to be local Filipinos or immigrant Chinese citizens, US Citizens should take adequate security measures or avoid non-essential travel to the area. US government employees need special authorization for any official travel or entry into the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao Island. They can not guarantee emergency services to any Americans in the area.

What is the most dangerous place in the Philippines?

American travelers should avoid Marawi City. The city was recently under martial law and continues under a state of emergency. The city was the epicenter of the 2017 Siege of Marawi between the Philippine security forces and Abu Sayyaf ISIS militants. Marawi City remains off-limits and should be avoided by foreign nationals. 

explosion in Marawi City a high risk place where it is not safe in the Philippines to travel

Marawi City is a off-limits area for American Travelers Image Source

Is it safe to travel to the Philippines now?

The US Department of State has a Level 3 Travel Advisory for the Philippines. The State Department's Do Not Travel warnings consider the Sulu Archipelago, the Sulu Sea, Marawi City as regions with risk, stating that "the risk level of personal safety and security in the Philippines remains high."

Government authorities recommend foreign nationals "Reconsider Travel" for other areas of Mindanao Island. Insurgent groups linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS operating in these areas pose a higher level of risk of violence linked to piracy, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping.

Is Manila safe?

Like any major city globally, Manila deals with higher levels of crime. Petty crime and theft are the most common crimes. While violent crimes, especially against foreigners, are much less common. Reduce your level of risk further by staying in safer upper-class areas like Makati, Taguig, and Pasay.

Key Takeaway: Is the Philippines safe to visit?

Yes, the Philippines is generally safe for visitors, tourists, and expats, with some caveats. There is a higher risk of petty crime in major cities like Metro Manila or Cebu City, but violent crime against foreigners is rare. Additionally, authorities continue to advise against travel to Mindanao and other areas in Southern Philippines.

However, the Philippines is not unique. Many countries have higher risk areas. The fact that a country has trouble spots does not necessarily equate to being dangerous.

Declaring all of the Philippines as not safe to visit would be as disingenuous as claiming the entire United States unsafe and avoiding traveling anywhere in the country due to the January 6th Capital riots, the Boston Bombing, or the murder rate statistics of Detroit.


If you liked this story on Philippines safety, you will enjoy these other posts on living in the  Philippines

Expat Guide To Living In The Philippines- Costs, Visas, Safety, Pros & Cons (2022)
Philippines SRRV Visa Update and Requirements- All Your Questions Answered (2023)
How To Get A Philippines Retirement Visa For As Low As $1500

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FAQs: Safety in the Philippines

Is the Philippines safe for Americans?

Yes. The vast majority of Filipinos are pro-Western and pro-US. Americans shaped the education system, and English is the country's official language. American culture is ingrained in the Philippines, and the US is an aspirational, almost mythical place Filipinos dream of visiting.

However, there are occasional anti-American protests by the Philippines Communist Party or other fringe student or radical labor groups in front of the US Embassy in Manila. But the anti-American demonstrations are small scale and very infrequent.

Is it safe to travel to the Philippines?

Yes. International travel to the Philippines is safe. However, there are "Do Not Travel" advisories to avoid Southern Philippines, including the Sulu Archipelago and nearby waters, Marawi City. Additionally, there are non-essential travel warnings for Northern Mindanao Island and Sultan Kudarat province areas.

Who can I call in the Philippines for help if I am in trouble?

Call your home country's embassy or Consulate in Manila in a crisis. The embassy or Consulate can provide you with information on the Philippines legal system and a list of local attorneys.

Note that the embassy cannot "get you out of jail," pay your bail or any legal fees, or provide you any legal advice. The numbers for the United States Embassy in the Philippines are:

  • During business hours +632 530-120-00
  • Outside business hours +632 530-120-00
  • Outside of the Philippines: +632 530-120-00

Is the Philippines safe for tourists?

The Philippines is generally considered to be safe for tourists. While the media focuses on the "War on Drugs" and the security situation on the Southern islands, the Philippines continues to be a safe and popular tourist destination, with over 8 million tourists visiting annually.

What should I avoid in the Philippines?

Drugs. Attempting to buy or use illegal drugs in the Philippines comes with harsh penalties. While the Philippines never had the same easy-going reputation as Cambodia or Thailand when it came to foreign tourists obtaining illegal drugs. The Philippine authorities' "War on Drugs" has made even casual use not worth the risk.

Which place in the Philippines is the safest?

Davao City is considered one of the safest cities in Asia, with lower levels of crime and higher quality of life. Palawan is the safest place in the Philippines from natural disasters, as the island is outside regions with the risk of typhoons and seismic and volcanic activity.

We moved the comments to the New Expat Forums

  • Very enlightening indeed, I am considering a visit to one of the Philippine Islands but NOT any that have been mentioned in the above article

  • Vanz Malicdem says:

    Are you a Filipino? You have detailed information about the Philippines. Thanks.

    • Hi Vanz,

      You are correct. I am a dual citizen, born in the Philippines, moved to the US, then moved back to the Philippines for early retirement. I’m glad you found the information on the Philippines useful. Let me know if I can help in your research.



  • Marc Morris says:

    What becomes of Filipinos that are unable to sing? Are they banished to a remote island re-singing camp or other dire fate?

    All kidding aside, I have always found Filipino people to be the warmest, kindest and most welcoming individuals in the world. While every place has its challenges, I personally feel safer when visiting the islands than I do within my home in the US. There just seems to be more respect there as a whole; something often missing here today. To visit the islands is like turning back the clock 50 years in how individuals interact. The older I become, the more those subtle nuanced qualities of how we as family, friends and guests are received are noticed, treasured and practiced.

    If these words somehow touch something within yourself, visit and be amazed.

    • Hahahaha…as the only person in my entire extended family who can’t sing or play a musical instrument, I was banished from attending family events 🙂

      The friendliness of the locals and the ability to build a natural social circle is something that separates the Philippines from nearly all other Southeast Asian countries. I found Thais, Cambodians, and Vietnamese also to be very friendly compared to the US but lacking a common language and shared culture made it exponentially more challenging to make “real" friends. With most Filipinos speaking English, the Philippines makes building a social circle nearly effortless, and having a solid group of friends makes a place feel like home.

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    About the author

    Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last eight years to over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller, Abroad: Expats That Thrive. [view press...]