Crime in the Philippines: What to Watch Out For

The beauty of this country hides a darker side where crime is an ongoing problem.

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

Philippines Gun Crime

Adding fuel to the fire is the high number of Filipinos who own guns; the Philippines has the second-highest gun ownership in South East Asia and it is very poorly regulated.

Firearms are frequently used in the commission of crimes in the Philippines. Avoid unpopulated areas at night and try to travel in groups.

Random Acts of Violence

Since President Duterte was elected, there have been over 7,000 judicial killings by police and vigilantes in response to the President's war on drugs. This heavy stance by the government has divided the nation and seen innocent people, including visitors, caught up in the crossfire. In October 2016, a South Korean businessman was kidnapped and killed by rogue police officers in the National Police Headquarters in Quezon City. His wife was also threatened with a ransom. In a separate attack, in January 2017, three South Korean golfers were victims of robbery and extortion by rogue police officers in Angeles City.

Many visitors have been victims of bag snatching by armed assailants on foot or on motorbikes. In July 2017, a New Zealand man living in the Philippines was shot dead while being robbed of his bag when he visited a market on Bilirian Island. A British man was also mugged and shot dead for US$13 outside a bar in Cebu.

If you find yourself at the end of a robbery, do not resist or attempt to fight back – losing your life is not worth it.

Terrorism in the Philippines

There have been numerous terror-related incidents in the Philippines in recent years, and although they don‘t necessarily target visitors, it's still possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, there have been targeted incidents against foreign interests such as an improvised explosive device found at the US Embassy in 2016.

There are many parts of the Philippines you should avoid due to their heightened risk of terrorist activities, and it's wise to keep across any potential alerts via your government travel safety advisory.

Kidnappings in the Philippines

The danger of kidnapping exists, particularly in southern Philippines. This type of crime is believed to be due to the extensive poverty of the Filipino people, and visitors are often targeted.

Gangs will often get a member to pose as a friendly local inviting you to join them for meals with the family, then once you have established trust, they invite you on an out-of-town trip. Once you are away from the city, they might drug you (usually via a drink), then rob or rape you.

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. Bar brawls often involve guns and machetes.

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 see 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 not unheard of for a simple pickpocketing incident to escalate into assault or worse.

Supporting Crime Through Donation

Many parts of the Philippines are poor, and children begging on the streets is a frequent sight. While giving them money might be tempting, doing so could be contributing to a crime. Most of the time, the child begging on the street is being exploited by an adult who is not necessarily their own parent, but a trafficker or drug dealer. There is also the possibility that the money you give could go to a drug-addicted relative. Also, while children are working on the streets, they are not attending school. 

Instead of giving money to children, find out what organisations are operating in the country to help lift communities out of poverty and encourage children to attend school; donate your money, time or both, to these organisations.

Personal safety tips

  • Leave the expensive jewelry at home. While it may be nice to wear a good watch or that gold chain, it is a beacon for pickpockets and snatch-and-grab thieves.
  • Don't place valuables like wallets, phones in a backpack, it makes for easy pickings. When traveling on public transport or in crowded areas, carry your backpack on your front.
  • Always keep an eye on your belongings and don't leave them unattended. Some shopping malls in the cities require you to leave your bags at concierge or bag counters. If you let staff know you have valuables in your bags, they will let you take them with you while you shop.
  • Don't walk alone in dimly lit areas or streets. Be mindful of who and what is around you.
  • Avoid certain trouble spots in Manila including Ermita and Malate, Navotas, Tondo and Baclaran.

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30 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • steve said

    women are lovely but stay away from the men. on my second day in angeles city I was taken by tryke to a house and robbed in a card game. they're polite and courteous even when robbing you. the card scammer shook my hand after he took my money. will go back anyhow, such an alluring place. most annoying everyone keeps saying 'sir' 'yes sir' with pursed lips.

  • IamAFILIPINOandPROUDtoBeONE said

    I have read all your comments and it infuriates the hell out of me! Hey, listen mo&herf*ck3rs, we are not SAINTS for cryin' out loud, we make mistakes and are you that good huh? Don't you have pick pocketters in your country huh? No crime? Wow! Then you people must be F#CKIN! saints!! Mga p$tangin* kayo! You're insulting the Filipinoes as a whole and that is the lowest and dumbest thing I know. Cheaper and dirtier than a used Diaper! Eh, ano ngayon kung developing country pa lang kame?! kayo ba ang nagpapakain samen mga g*g* kayo. Sige, punta kayo sa Pilipinas ng ma barang, ma aswang at ma nuno sa punso kayo!!! Hindi nyo naiintindihan diba?! Kame kaya naming mag intindi ng English! Ganyan kami ka talino!! We, filipinos are religious and caring people but once our dignity is tarnished we fight. Filipino style! Dali kamu di para matestingan ta kaisugon nyo!!!!!

  • Chris said

    I'm an American who's been living in manila for the past ten years. I have never been a victim of any crime. Use common sense people. No different here from America. The people and places you avoid at home do the same thing in the Philippines or whatever country you visit. If you like to drink and run your mouth then good luck to you.

  • terryrideshard said

    The Philippine people as a whole are the nicest people in the world blow me if you disagree and I'm American. I've been all over the world there's crime everywhere. I'm not saying it's right there is people in the Philippines starving to death every day people will steal before they starve or watch their children die of not eating there is no such thing as no crime in any country then you add a country full of poverty you can expect crime. Act like you got some sence stay away from places you no aren't safe in any big city

  • Todd said

    I'm an American and pretty offended by the obvious racism of a number of the posters above. Any comments like calling an entire people dirty, liars, lazy, etc., should just be deleted. We don't have to give voice to ignorance and hate.

    The obvious context here is that the Philippines like unfortunately many places on the planet has severe poverty. These scams are not unique to the Philippines, and it's not created by "culture". Poverty creates a lot of different responses, some positive and some terrible. It's good for travelers to understand this stuff exists, as long as people remember the vast and overwhelming majority of people live as we all do; selling our time for wages to someone else, scraping by, and trying to do the best we can. My country is filled with violent crime and we lack the excuse of the extremity of poverty, glass houses and all.

  • Nagaivag said

    Been there many times. My wife and I go there every year for the last 18 years and we never had any issues. we travel to the provinces and sometimes stay in Manila and Taguig but thankfully it always went fine. Its no different from London or anywhere else. Just have some manners and show some respect and I'm sure everything will be OK.

  • Charlie said

    With a greater than 40% unemployment what do you expect. I've been to lots of 3rd world nations(PHP is 2nd world Nation)that have far worse crime rates than the Philippines.
    If you stay sober, don't go with people you don't know and stay alert to your surrounding and people around you. The Philippines are safer than part of LA or Detroit, where you can get shot for no reason at all. All my experiences in the Philippines have been great. Made a lot of friends there, that I stay in touch with.
    As far as the scams and pickpockets go. They are in any city worldwide. I have had dirt poor Filipino's invite to their homes for dinner. A place to sleep etc. and never been scammed or robbed. Go there as an Ugly American, treat the people like shit. You deserve what ever happens to you. Try learning the customs and at least a few polite phrases of Tagalog and you will find that the people you treat with respect, will treat you the same way. How many people in the USA are scammers that could get a job. Grow up people. Stop looking down on people you know nothing about. Try surviving even a couple of weeks with no money, no shelter and no food.
    Nagaivag is 100% right. Manners and respect will get a long way.

  • M. Blake said

    Less than a week ago, I sent an online friend $2,000 USD, which was $90,000PHP. She was going to buy a house north of Manila in Malolos, Bulacan, but she was robbed by two male bandits with knives, they took $70,000PHP from her. I won't be trying to help her buy a house anymore. But I might help her through a local charity organization.

  • Igor said

    I was in philippines 8 times in last 2 years and wish to move there soon permanently. Never faced any problems except for taxi drivers scams like deals without meter 100m for 100 pesos. Just left the taxi even he was offering better deal later. All people i met were friendly. I've even got drunk at disco in cebu and don't remember how i got back to condo safely. Manila is surely full of crime as any other city with 10+ million population, but people in provinces are probably nicest people i ever met in my life. Even they don't have much to offer but they don't hesitate to share even that small they have. Happened to me in General Santos, i was flying back to manila had no cash at all and ATM on airport didn't worked. Terminal fee was 100 pesos only but except for few australian coins in pocket i had no cash. Nearby young guy seen i have an issue, approached me and paid it for me. I asked him for number to pay him money back in manila but he said it's ok and left. So do you think you would find any westerner to pay for you equivalent of approx $40 (comparison to salary) to stranger to help him to get on plane? I don't think so

  • wendy Dendy said

    So much exaggeration here! I am a filipino and I find above comments misleading. You you are a sensible person an exercise care as you travel, it is no more dangerous that other 3rd world country.

  • anton borres said

    Metro Manila (Philippines):Gate Of Hell!
    pile of garbage?,beggars?,scammers?harassment?,pedophilia?,violence?,dirty-politics?,thief,illegal-drugs?,corruption?child-pornography?rapist?killers?etc....
    Manila has it all!
    proof:

    https://www.facebook.com/TangalogYou/media_set?set=a.160050351050245.1073741829.100011358434486&type=3

  • ------ said

    Well, Manila is kinda a sketchy place but not that much. There are some areas that are dangerous (ie; Sampaloc, Tondo and I think, San Andres). They have a bad reputation for drug trafficking, rape and sometimes but commonly, homicide. I've been in Manila too and didn't been harmed just a single time. Just be cautious on your way and don't wear or bring expensive stuff. (BTW, The NCR, (National Capital Region) which includes Manila is a hot spot for violent crimes and petty crimes)

  • Darrell said

    Anyone who believes the Philippines worse then the US is just proving their ignorance. The Philippines is a beautiful country. Yes..There are some areas with extreme poverty...And Yes..there is crime..but the US also has many areas with both poverty and crime. I have been to the Philippines many times and within the next 5 years I will be retiring at 50 years old and my wife (who is a Filipino) and our son will be moving to the Philippines. I love it there and although I have not lived there long term if you combine all of my trips over the past 5 years I have travelled to many different areas including Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, etc...And have never had any issues with crime. If all you are in the Philippines for is to exploit women and hand out at the bars then you get what you get....But if anyone thinks bars and bargirls are what the Philippines is about you do not have a clue. Some of the best and nicest people I have ever met are from the Philippines.

  • FilipinoGirl said

    Hey, listen all "westerners". OUR country is beautiful as it is. Just like any other countries, we have opportunistic and ill-mannered persons just like in your country. Don't judge us! Crazy bastards.

    Why? Do you have 0% crime rates in your country? Are you all good citizens? Hell no, right? The problem with you Americans is that you think you're the most "important" persons in the world. You all feel superior! Well, let me burst your bubbles fuctards,the most crazy and horrible crimes happen in your country! Remember OJ Simpsons? How about BTK? The Manson family? Teen child killers? And other serial killers? This only means some of the Americans are born psychopaths! See? How can you judge us Filipinos? And Asians as a whole? Give us respect and we will return it open-heartedly.

    We, Filipinos are very hospitable. We give our guests anything we have for them to have a comfortable stay. If you don't respect us, our culture and our people then get the fuck away from our country. We don't need you! For hundred of years we've been under different races. We've became slaves within our country and men you don't know that cuz you americans are one of those persons who had invaded us.

  • Bill said

    I just returned to USA after living in the Philippines. Crime is a problem in the Philippines however, The average Filipino is one of the friendliest and nicest person you can meet. If I was faced with poverty like some of the people there I would probably try to remove the burden of having to carry so much money from the foreigners. You must realize that we foreigners are only guests in the country. I've been told by several Filipinos that they don't report crimes because the police won't do anything or the police may be paid off by the criminals. The only crime that I have been personally involved with was a pick pocket while riding a jeepney. I would hear of one or two robberies of foreigners a month. I lived in Lapu-lapu, Davao and Dumaguete and can only speak of those 3 cities. I personally believe you are more likely to die in a motorcycle accident then be a victim of a serious violent crime. I don't drink and chase younger girls even though I'm single and that helps reduce your chance of being involved in a crime by being in bed by 10. Even some of the local language and enjoy but keep your eyes open.

  • ian said

    i have been all over a lot of the philippines and have been very respectful to everyone that i have met ,and in return i have been treated very well ,my girlfriend is one of the most beautiful woman i have ever met inside and out ,her family have welcomed me in with open arm ,as have her friends i love the provinces even though my girls from manila we love 2 travel there are some very nice places in manila so don,t knock it just be aware all the time ,if you want 2 go 2 a place of scammers go 2 bali

  • Trym said

    This article is totally bullshit. I have been living here for more than 3 years and never ever seen a fistfight. Philippine people are very friendly and welcoming. I feel more safe here than in my home country Norway. Try a night out in the streets of Oslo in the weekends. It is like a war zone. Philippine is safe and secure compared to Norway. I also spent 8 years in Thailand. Thailand is not a safe place. A lot of violence and crazy people that like to argue with foreingers. The Philippines has a bad reputation that they do not deserve to have. I do not understand why so many people think the Philippines is so dangerous and bad place to visit. I love to stay here. And stupid articles like this one will not scare me away.....

  • Golden Brown said

    Filipinos would not agree but they are exactly like Donald Trump and his Cult followers. Racist and low IQ and will defend their criminal leader to the end. Duterte and Trump. Twins.

    Anyone who thinks Philippines has bad reputation would be correct they are proud of it. I had GF sweetest woman ever said to me she would side with Filipino even if wrong. I am still in shock. You can never trust a person like that or a people.

    The brit who was killed by his own security guard because he canned him for coming to work drunk then the guard shot him 6 times til dead and claimed he was not respected. Then Filipinos got on yahoo comments saying saying the brit disrespected the guard. So I looked up the brits name and saw he had driven his truck personally do a filipino disaster just to help the filipinos...and these creatures are on yahoo saying he deserved to die because of the words he chose in firing the guard. These people deserve every disaster they get.

    They are petty as a Trump and his Cult.

    Major terrorists and Mini Terrorists.

    I can give you hundreds of examples...here is just one. I do not show off but I just happen to have alot of nike. Most filipino can not afford authentic Nike. So guess what. They hate you for it. This is their mentality.

    They used to see me buy the same item in Gaisano mall and the young filipino worker assholes started opening the jars and eating some. I would see 3 fingers had dipped inside. I would laugh if not so ghetto.

    They cut in line and get online and talk about respect? You can get online these days and get an entire Entrepreneur education and start a business just from an internet cafe...I have done it.

    But these people would rather get on dating sites and scam and the guys rather play multi player online games cursing loudly at each other.

    Petty? Once I caught a cold and some asshole filipino did a fake sneeze outside in the hallway and I am thinking these assholes deserve to suffer. They are the most hateful people on the planet. They always point the finger in defense but nobody is as petty as these people.

    If they saw you about to walk down a dead end they would let you as HBO entertainment...your frustration is their entertainment every time.

    Constructon workers even worse. They will call any filipina coming to visit you a bitch and she will be in tears by the time she reaches your door.

    These assholes who get them pregnant at 16 then run away. Then the girls get on the net inviting foreigners to the country.

    Now are there good Filipinos...some of the best on the planet. They will do more for you than your own family would even after meeting you for a short while. but the ugly side is just so unnecessary it is hard for your brain to adjust to it.

  • Joseph said

    I have visited the Philippines 50 times in 5 years due to work, adding up to around 50% of my time in the country. The Filipino people are very nice and very welcoming to foreigners, particularly outside of the foreigner hotspots of Makati and BGC.

    Crime is not a problem for foreigners as it is easily avoided with common sense. Don't be disrespectful to anyone (locals or foreigners) and don't walk down obviously shady areas alone (such as the 'squatter' slums). I have travelled all over Quezon City, Pasig, Pasay, Manila City etc many times and it's completely fine with common sense. Just keep your valuables safely in your pocket, as you would in US or Europe and you'll be fine. If you are in crowded public transport places (MRT, jeepneys, bus terminals) pay extra attention to your valuables. Simple, common sense.

    I grew up in a Western country and I remember the feeling that I could get robbed any time I walked outside at night. Or a random drunk would try to pick a fight with me. I now live in another Western country and am still concerned about violence breaking out around me when I'm out at night. In contrast, random violence or macho behavior is not part of the Filipino culture. If you drink with Filipinos they're more likely to be interested in you, take care of you and ensure you have a good time than start fights (with you or anyone else).

    Outside Manila, the country feels even safer. In 'the province' people are even more friendly and helpful and crime rates are low. I've been all over the Philippines. Admittedly I've never been to Mindanao but I've heard from reliable sources that the main cities are completely fine too.

    In summary, if you are a foreigner and you're concerned about going to the Philippines due to risk of violence or crime? For me, that's laughable! Just go, you'll be absolutely fine.

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