Before travelling to the Philippines, or indeed any destination, it is good practise to check the travel advice pages of your own government’s website for up to the minute advice on travel and especially for specific threats to your safety based on your nationality, gender, race, religion or sexual persuasion.

In the modern age, terrorism is a global problem that can affect anyone. Aside from the general threat that any traveller needs to consider, in the case of the Philippines, an ongoing struggle exists between the government and separatist Islamic movements in Mindanao, which has its roots deep in Philippine history.

Recent efforts to procure peaceful agreements and the setting up of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have yielded some tangible results, but some armed groups remain in operation outside of the process and occasional bombings, violent clashes and kidnappings involving foreigners have occurred, particularly at remote dive sites in the Sulu Sea.

For this reason most foreign governments do not recommend their citizens to visit central and western Mindanao and to exercise heightened caution elsewhere on the island and to be alert throughout the Philippines.

As in the USA, guns are commonplace in Philippine society and violent crime, usually committed by criminal gangs is quite widespread in the country, though most of the foreigners caught up in such incidents belong to the expat community rather than the visiting tourist.

Crime is, of course, prevalent everywhere in the world, and in the Philippines tourist areas, and particularly Manila and Cebu City, the usual assortment of opportunistic thieves and pickpockets commonly target tourists for portable technology, handbags and luggage, purses, wallets and passports especially at busy tourist sites and markets.

Credit card fraud and ATM skimming can occur in the Philippines. Never let your card be taken from your sight and, if possible, use ATM’s inside bank premises or shopping malls. Scams are commonplace, so you should beware of being approached by overfriendly people who invite you anywhere. 

There have been instances of drink spiking as a prelude to robbery. Never leave drinks unattended nor accept drinks from strangers. Sexual entrapment can also be an issue, whereby single foreigners are targeted for blackmail by fraudsters.

When flying throughout the Philippines, you should only travel on Philippine Airlines (PAL) or Cebu Pacific Air. All other carriers do not currently meet international safety standards. Safety is also a concern on ferries, which can often be overcrowded and often lack proper safety equipment.

While travelling in the Philippines, you must be able to show identification to the police if asked. 

Never use illegal drugs, as penalties for drug crime are severe. In recent times, by presidential decree, government kill squad have adopted the severe policy of assassinating drug dealers and users alike, with deaths in the thousands, without any judicial process, as a deterrent in their 'war on drugs'. Getting mixed up with with any aspect of the drug trade in the Philippines is most assuredly unwise. 

Homosexuality is not illegal in the Philippines, providing it is non-commercial though, under Filipino law, there is little in the way of protective rights, and overt public displays of affection is subject to a legal penal penalty. In general, discreet behaviour is advised, particularly as Christian Catholic and Islamic institutions publicly oppose gay rights.

The Philippines are situated on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and is geologically very active. The potential for volcanic eruption, earthquake and resultant tsunami is a living reality of the Philippines. Likewise, typhoons are common and particularly powerful episodes can cause severe destruction and loss of life.