Crime & Scams in the Philippines: watch out for these!

By , Travel Insights Editor Home > travel-safety > Philippines > scams, travel-crime

There aren‘t too many travel destinations that don‘t carry the risk of some sort of petty crime. Let‘s face it – where there are tourists, there are criminals. The Philippines is, sadly, no exception. The beauty of this country hides a darker side where crime is an ongoing problem.

Are Jeepney's Safe?

Generally, yes, but It‘s not a good idea to catch “jeepneys“ at night, particularly if they have other passengers, or you risk being robbed.

Petty crime is an issue in the Philippines, particularly in the more crowded areas, like shopping malls, markets and other busy public places. There have even been reports of pickpockets striking in church.

If you plan to spend time in touristy areas, or anywhere there are crowds of people, use appropriate precaution. Use a money belt or passport holder to carry your valuables, and keep it well concealed under your clothing. Some people suggest using a “throw away“ wallet as a decoy, so if you are robbed the thief only gets away with a small amount of money.

Take extra care when using ATM‘s, especially at night. Would-be thieves often lie in wait until they see someone withdraw money, then accost and rob them.

Manila - Big City With A Big Crime Problem

The Philippines has a moderately high rate of violent crime, particularly in the city of Manila. Incidents of violent robbery and assault occur frequently, and tourists are often targets. The biggest culprits of these acts are local criminal gangs, although it‘s not unheard of for individual hoodlums to strike on their own.

1. Gun crime

Adding fuel to the fire is the substantial amount of Filipinos who own guns. This widespread gun ownership is very poorly regulated making it a recipe for disaster.

Firearms are frequently used in the commission of crimes in the Philippines, and lend to the violent and highly dangerous nature. Avoid rural, unpopulated areas at night and try to travel in groups.

2. Random acts of violence

We're talking about scary things such as grenade attacks, which have occurred in recent years, and although they don‘t necessarily target foreigners, because they tend to be aimed at large groups of people and places frequented by tourists, visitors can easily become victims simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3. Kidnapping

The danger of kidnapping exists, particularly in south Philippines. This type of crime is believed to be due to the extensive poverty of the Filipino people, and foreigners are usually the ones targeted.

4. Alcohol-Related crime

The consumption of alcohol is often the trigger of street fights and violent crime. The national liquor, a coconut concoction called Tuba, is typically mixed with Coca-Cola and consumed in large quantities. It is an extremely potent drink so if you plan to partake, avoid doing so in public taverns and only drink with people you know. Barroom brawls often involve not just fists, but guns and machetes as well so it‘s not something you want to get involved with - especially if you‘re inebriated.

5. Drink spiking

Drink spiking is an issue – the locals refer to it as the “Atvian Scam“ after the drug used in the crime. Victims are often robbed or assaulted while they are unconscious. If someone you don‘t know offers you a drink that you didn‘t watch being made, no matter how friendly they seem, don‘t take it. It‘s better to be safe than sorry.

While petty crime is typically non-violent, when it occurs at night or in rougher areas it could quickly turn dangerous. It‘s no unheard of for a simple pickpocketing incident to escalate into assault or worse.

Scams and Other Bad Stuff to Avoid

Scams are prevalent in the Philippines with local con artists hoping to get one over on visiting tourists. Here are the most common ones you'll encounter:

Scam 1. A familiar face

One of the more popular cons involves someone approaching a tourist and claiming to recognize them, often under the guise that they work at the hotel they‘re staying at. Coincidentally when they “bump into“ them, it‘ll just happen to be their day off. They‘ll offer to show the foreigner around and give them a free tour. Don‘t fall for it - unless, of course, you‘d like to be robbed. These scams can happen anywhere tourists frequent, but Manila is a hot-spot so be on the look-out.

Scam 2. Taxi drivers

Some taxi drivers are dishonest, so be sure to insist that the meter be used to avoid being gouged on the fare. It‘s illegal for taxi drivers to solicit at airports, so if you are approached by one there it‘s not a legal one. You should also avoid hailing taxis that already have passengers as it increases the potential for crime.

Scam 3. Horse trading

You may see a lot of horse drawn buggies in the Manila area. They may seem charming, but do so with caution. If you decide to take a ride make sure you first negotiate an agreed on price and be firm. Some visitors have reported the driver stopping halfway into the trip and getting out, turning the job over to their “boss“. At the end of the ride, the new driver then demands up to 10 times the original fare amount.

The Philippines is an absolutely beautiful country, it's filled with natural wonders, adventure and cultural discovery. But as with most travel destinations, it‘s not without risk of danger and the occasional crime. As long as you pay attention to your surroundings, avoid dangerous areas and take appropriate safety precautions, you‘ll decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim and be able to enjoy this beautiful country safely.


  • Rosemarie said

    WTF, thats extremely offensive towards Filipinos. And it was not provoked it any way, so it was basically just needless hate. When you insult an entire country make sure you know how to spell, especially insulting their culture is just rude.
    Some advice... Shut the fuck up.

  • Vic said

    This article is a complete joke. Do you have a single statistic to substantiate anything you say? All you care about is web traffic and you don't care about spreading misinformation.

  • Bradley said

    Desperate people do desperate things. I've been to the Philippines twice and I have had no problems. I don't drink alcohol and I am always aware of my surroundings. The only people hitting me up in in the Philippines are beautiful women. lol

  • Johnny said

    It is a dirty nation. I've been there 17 times and loved it. Those people just walk down the street and throw rubbish when they feel the need and spit everywhere even in restrants. I sat on a bus and a local guy walked across the road and pissed on the wheel of the bus next to us. No one batted an eye. They piss up against signs saying don't piss here. They don't seem to put much thought into anything. In the provinces there are some nice ppl though. Except the guy from Batangas round 1991 or so who came over to Sabang and hacked the Austrian woman and here Austrian boyfriend to death while they slept. Don't get me wrong, as long as the local cops said it was OK then I'm fine with it. The bus load of Japs that arrived the next day didn't stay any longer. I'm going back again next year and hope to retire there one day soon.Love you byeeeeeeeeeeee.

  • Roy said

    Me n my wife got robbed twice same night about a hr in between. I always carry pocket knife they took nothing but luckily they didn't have guns. Alot of ppl get killed n robbed in Philippines, just google it. Escorts or police get u n take u to atm n dry u up.

    Philippines is not as nice as before or ppl thought.

    Its safer in Mindanao then in cebu or manila, police let locals rob u infront them. If u resist u go jail or a taxi will disappear you, many many tourist have been killed lately.

  • Roy said

    Me n my wife got robbed twice same night about a hr in between. I always carry pocket knife they took nothing but luckily they didn't have guns. Alot of ppl get killed n robbed in Philippines, just google it. Escorts or police get u n take u to atm n dry u up.

    Philippines is not as nice as before or ppl thought.

    Its safer in Mindanao then in cebu or manila, police let locals rob u infront them. If u resist u go jail or a taxi will disappear you, many many tourist have been killed lately.

  • Jojo said

    I couldn't help laugh at the comments Roy and Henry moreover Johnny's. It seems that essence of the article is just to forewarn everyone traveling to the Philippines of what can happen to you if you are not diligent.

    Rosemarie, Vic and Bradely's comments are on the dot. There is nothing better than due diligence.

    Take it from a Nomad...

  • Allen said

    I went to Manilla and Batangas once. I never saw any signs of any violent crimes going on anywhere even though the two english people I stayed with there warned me about it. I actually found the locals very friendly and I met several nice women there, except one who I paid money to, took her back to my place, then she just suddenly left the second we got there. She obviously just wanted to scam me for my money. But I then met a couple of other women who didnt do that at all, who were great!

  • anonymous said

    why always the filipinos were only the crime offenders against foreigners..dont you think that foreigners too will do a crime here in our very own place??believe me or not a foreigner without conforming yet the nationality stole my money.he didnt even realized how hard for us to acquire just 18,000 pesos. we are not rich we live so simple like without a house of our own. although my husband is working but having a money like that isnt that easy and its very painful in our part since it was a loan money. i really feel too bad about it. i really dont know how to pay my bills, my debts and where to get for our daily needs. i hope this wont happen to anyone like me because with my life status, its hell.

  • Donnie said

    I have been to the Philippines 9 times and my wife and I are going again later this month. Had my pocket picked one time, other than that have never had a problem with crime. People are nice for the most part, but be aware of what is going on around you and you can have a great time in the Philippines. Do not be afraid to get out of the big cities.

  • Leon smith said

    Biggest crime in Manila is scam...check this out
    Thus guy runs marketing company called idea XXXX in metro Manila and also write popular spiritual blogs to promote his products and ask victims to transfer the money and never send the product, lie repeatly abs threat abuse and do black magic on victims. Be ware of cyber crime!
    Name : XXXXX
    Filipino male
    Address: XXX Salcedo St., Legaspi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines

    (Leon, we had to delete some of those details because it leaves us open to defamation action. Not saying it's not true, we just have to abide by the law. Phil @ World Nomads)

  • Dave said

    I am an American, who has lived in the Philippines for the last six plus years. Manila does have a serious crime problem. Pickpockets and theft are common, especially on public transportation and in malls. Be careful where you go. Don't hesitate to report crime or concerns to the police, they are visible. My other suggestion is if you feel threatened, head for a store or hotel. Many have uniformed security officers present, and I have always found them willing to help. All security officers must be properly trained and certified, not like many places in the states. My advice, don't look for trouble, and stay in after dark. God Bless!

  • Andy said

    Recently scammed by the horse and buggy brigade. Threatened with the horse whip before turning over all my cash (PHP2600/$55) for a 5 minute ride. I read this advice too late, but you didn't. The cautious tone of the advice offered on this page is not without justification. I will get over my loss finanically but I am done with visiting Manila after that frightening experience. Learn from my sad experience and never assume Manila is as safe as other more advanced Asian capitals like Seoul and Tokyo.

  • Murphy said

    I been in different cities in Luzon for 7 weeks. Yes I had fun and saw great sceeneries but versus all the frustrations I passed through in this country, my conclusion is clear and simple: stay away from that fucking shit hole. If you're a westerner, you have no business there. As soon you enter in that country you are taking risks. What do you imagine? You think Filipinos are like Americans, Aussies, British, canadians, Germans etc? You imagine yourself walking down nice and cute streets telling people: Hi Sir, morning mam, tsup kids without being bothered? Well think again because a big percentage of them see us as a direct source of income. They try to make easy made money on our asses. Some are doing it by stealing us from different ways, many by different types of scams but their best and most common way of making easy money out of us is by playing with our emitions.lying is part of the filipino culture. They'll come to see you and will start to tell you a sad story and will embarrass you. They're not even shy telling you their stories in front of many people.tell them your in a hurry to take your helicopter to go on the moon. Staying outside in public for only one hour is way enough to meet ten different people with all different stories. Sometimes it's funny but sometimes the cock sucker can even insist A LOT! They can even start following you til you give them money. We can't rely on the cops in this country. Filipino people hate working and working hard is not in their traditions. This is not a myth, they're super lazy and they focus on easy made and quick money. From the guy whose selling peanuts in the street until the government of the Philippines, passing by the police officers (iletrate bums in uniform) and judges, the vast majority of Filipino people are like that. No wonder why that country is so bad and corrupted. They suck at managing even the most simple things. Theyre always taking shortcuts. Yes there are great Filipino people there but in overall, the Filipino society is uncivilized and primitive. A real bunch of savages. They're also very stupid.Go there and you will see what I mean.

  • doug said

    philippinos so ready to defend and minimize the deception scamming exploitation that goes on there... very sociopathic behavior seems like an epedemic they call culture

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