10 Must-Dos to Stay Safe in the Philippines

Kayangan Lake, Palawan © Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr (CC, BY)

Kayangan Lake, Palawan © Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr (CC, BY)

Safety is one of the most important considerations when traveling. It does not matter if you’re swashbuckling in the Amazon, beachcombing in the Philippines or cruising in the Caribbean – your safety must be your #1 priority. Well of course, along with your enjoyment.

Whether you are traveling solo, with a partner/buddy or with kids in tow, there are important measures that you need to take to ensure that you return home healthy and in one piece. Ever heard of international abduction? How about swindling and theft? Sadly, these things happen in the Philippines. And it’s not just here, it happens all over the world.

This article is not meant to scare you from traveling. Instead, we aim to arm you with the basic things that we tend to overlook in the excitement of travel planning.

Let me give you 10 must-dos to stay safe in the Philippines. You may also apply these tips for other destinations:

Before you go

  1. Secure your documents. Aside from making sure you have your passport, visas, tickets and other travel documents ready, secure at least two copies of each. Keep the copies in separate bags and keep the originals on your person at all times while in transit. Once you arrive at your destination, secure the documents in a safety deposit box at your hotel and carry a copy with you while you go around.
  2. Get vaccinated. Ask your doctor for recommendations on which shots you need to have before traveling to the Philippines. Malaria is a threat in some places so make sure you take malaria meds. Yellow fever, on the other hand, is not a threat but you need proof of vaccination of arriving from a country where the disease is existent.
  3. Get insured. There are plenty of firms that offer great value travel insurance. In the event of accidents and health threats, travel insurance makes sure you don’t incur whopping hospital expenses or worse, medical evacuation costs.

Once you arrive

Tagaytay sunset

Sunset in Tagaytay © Matteo Russo on Flickr (CC, BY)

  1. Choose your transportation wisely. Do not fall for “well-meaning” individuals who offer to take you to your hotel in their car. Instead, opt for hotel transfer service or ask airport security to direct you to where the metered taxis are. Insist on the meter and refuse the flat rates; the latter will most likely be a rip-off.
  2. Make friends aware of your whereabouts. Inform one or two people back home that you have arrived at your destination. Include your hotel’s name and room number in the message so they know where to start looking in case you go missing. Whatever you do, do not broadcast your hotel specifics via Social Media.

While you’re out and about

Metro Manila at night © digitalpimp. on Flickr (CC, BY-ND)

Metro Manila at night © digitalpimp. on Flickr (CC, BY-ND)

  1. Keep a low profile. If you’re a Caucasian, attracting attention to yourself in a dominantly brown population is a no-brainer. Wearing flashy jewelry and lugging around expensive gadgets attracts even more (negative) attention. Leave the bling home and settle for just the essentials. And unless you’re on a photography assignment, a basic DSLR kit or even a point-and-shoot camera will do. Also, keep your cellphones in a secure pocket and don’t text or take calls while walking city streets.
  2. Keep your eyes open. When riding public transportation, it pays to be wary of who you’re riding with. Pickpockets run aplenty in large metros like Manila and Cebu and they often victimize unknowing passengers. Keep tabs on where your seatmate’s hands are.
  3. Stick to banks. When withdrawing cash from an ATM, do so in a machine located inside a bank or at least in a place where security guards are nearby. When exchanging foreign currency, do so in banks as well. Money changers might rip you off or use counterfeit money.
  4. Befriend the locals. It is always a good idea to make friends with the locals. Start with the hotel staff; they’re your best resource for information on the best spots, yummiest food and even the cheapest beer, among others. Also, Filipinos are protective of their friends. So if you have a Filipino friend, you can trust that that person will ensure that you not only have a good time but also stay safe.
  5. Stay sober. It’s easy to lose one ’s self when inebriated and there are plenty of chances to get drunk while traveling. Avoid chugging too much alcohol while on the road; you stand the risk of losing your money, documents and other important things if you party like there’s no tomorrow.
Virgin Beach in Pungtud, Bohol © Steve Olmstead on Flickr (CC, BY-ND)

Virgin Beach in Pungtud, Bohol © Steve Olmstead on Flickr (CC, BY-ND)

These 10 must-dos to stay safe in the Philippines is not a definitive list. You will find a more comprehensive Health and Safety Guide in an ebook we will release very soon.

Do you have other things to add? Please let us know in the comments below. Let’s help each other stay safe in the Philippines!

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