Safety tips when traveling in the Philippines
What this article is about
Before I started on writing this article, I thought of non-Filipinos who are planning to go to the Philippines. While you know how safe you are in your home country, and how public safety officers respond in times of accident of crime, priorities for safety are somehow different in the Philippines.
1. Avoid wearing expensive clothing and accessories
Not looking wealthy in the first place will keep the attention of bad guys away from you.
It is understood that you would sometimes need to wear formal attire with matching accessories for attending special occasions or business meetings. If ever that happens, you are still advised to follow the other safety tips that are in this article.
In the Philippines, people who wear things excessively sometimes humorously named as "walking department stores". Don't get offended if ever they called you that - it is in fact a useful warning for people who show off too much.
2. Avoid using your phone while at the streets
No matter how careful you are with your surroundings while you are using your phone, you are still an easy target for snatchers. That is not only because your phone is outside your bag or pocket, but much of your attention still goes to the phone. There is no safer way of protecting your phone while traveling than keeping it stored in your bag or pocket.
Not just for the risk of your phone being snatched, it is also said that using your phone while walking beside roads with fast vehicles is just as dangerous as while driving a vehicle.
3. Do not put more cash in your bag or pocket than what you need
If you are planning to use the money for payments, it is best to put your money into a temporary bank account (if you are not permanently residing in the Philippines), to which a good example is a debit or prepaid card.
While applying for a debit card in the Philippines may take time, it is practically more convenient because you no longer have to count your Philippine peso bills when making payments in most stores, and keeps the rest of your money safe.
Also, do not put all of your cash in just one bank account. Those cards can be replaced at cheap prices (mostly less than 3 dollars) in case of loss, and will be handed to you in less than a few days - sometimes instantly..
Losing a big amount of your cash in case of accident or crime is truly inconvenient.
4. Do not talk to strangers unless necessary
If you are a foreigner, then you would not have much people to talk to. You are also likely not to be familiar with the people and places in the country. Only talk to people when you really trust them, you really need to ask for directions, or you have stayed for quite some time in the country.
Talking to a stranger is not a good idea especially if you are a foreigner. You should talk to people only in any of the following circumstances:
- You trust them. In this case, they are technically no longer strangers.
- You need to ask them for directions. Avoid telling them that you are lost even if this is true for you.
- You know exactly what to expect from them.
- You need to engage in some business with them. Try to make sure that you are in a safe environment before doing so.
5. Avoid going to crowded places
Expect many places in Philippine cities to be crowded. Going to crowded places is risky, especially if you are not familiar with the place or you are a foreigner. You should only do so when there is no alternative way around the place. You can easily avoid crowds by going to rural places where you can see the country's natural attractions without many people around.
There are two main reasons why going to crowds is risky.
- In case of emergency, panic is likely to happen. A crowd simply makes rushing towards the designated safe areas more difficult.
- It will be more difficult for you to determine if someone touching you is accidental or if a theft is already being attempted.
Being late for a schedule meeting for a few minutes is acceptable, especially when you are in the Philippines. Just avoid joining crowds as much as possible.
6. Do not trust strangers
If a stranger asks you to go somewhere that is considerably far from your location, you have the right to refuse. In fact, you should.
If you are being threatened, call immediately the nearest security personnel or police. Peace officers would try their best to assist foreigners who ask for help.
Filipino people with good intentions will never ask anyone to go somewhere else other than a public place.
7. Keep your belongings organized
Valuable items such as wallets, gadgets and accessories are the targets of thieves in unsuspecting victims.
Make sure that you remember which pocket, part of the bag, or location where you place your important things. Doing so will help you know quickly if your items have been silently stolen or accidentally left behind.
8. Avoid staying in dark or abandoned places
Staying in dark or abandoned places especially during the night is dangerous. On top of that, it is also scary. Avoid surprising yourself by unexpectedly seeing cats or people in the dark and eerie environment.
In case you really need to go to those places, make sure to have some people you trust to accompany you.
Having a map will help you
9. Familiarize yourself with important places
As a foreigner, it is best to be proactive when staying in the country. Look at the places on the map in advance. They will help you avoid getting lost during travel.
In case of emergency, there is no time to search for the address and contact details of the most accessible hospital, police station or fire station from your location. Being prepared for these situations can save lives.
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10. Be friendly
Being a good person from inside-out will positively affect how everyone treats you, including those bad guys that may be planning to do harm.
Remember that to be kind and generous does not necessarily mean that you should give away your money, possessions or personal information.
Friendly people are less prone to danger, and people will be more willing to help them in case the need arises.
My experience in safety
I myself have never witnessed any form of crime, which I hope would continue for a long time. It could have resulted by my preference to be in the safety of my home, family and friends.
Not going to many places unnecessarily provides many benefits, aside from the fact that danger will be less.
- Money that would have been spent for transportation and eating outside would be saved for much-wanted gadgets which you could use at home or with my friends.
- Time which would have been used for travel and waiting in lines in other places may be used to rest and learn new things by reading books and talking to friends.
- Energy would be saved by not needing to spend it outside. By the way, the best way to spend energy is to exercise.
The fact that I often do not go to places outside the house does not necessarily mean that I would not easily obtain practical experience, health exercises and new relationships. Many positive things in life happen at home.