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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of crime. Seek specific advice for the locations you intend to visit.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to central and western Mindanao due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. See Safety and security.
  • There is a high threat of terrorist attack in the Philippines, including Manila. Exercise heightened caution at this time.
  • Be alert to possible threats around locations that have a low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets. Possible targets for terrorist attacks include commercial and public places frequented by foreigners, such as transport hubs, the metro system, hotels, shopping malls, clubs restaurants, bars, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.
  • Be vigilant about your surrounds. Monitor the media for information that may impact on your security. Follow advice from local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • The deterioration in security in Mindanao has resulted in a more volatile security environment in the Philippines. There are ongoing clashes between government forces and militants in Marawi City, Mindanao. If you are in Marawi City, exercise heightened vigilance and review your personal security plans. See Safety and security.
  • The Philippine Congress has extended martial law in Mindanao until 31 December 2017, following a request from President Duterte. Measures imposed under Martial Law may include the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the imposition of curfews and establishment of checkpoints. Monitor media reporting and follow the instructions of local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • On 17 July 2017, the US warned of credible information that terrorists planned to conduct kidnappings in Palawan, Cebu, and Bohol provinces in 2017. On 3 November 2016, the US Government warned that terrorists are planning to conduct kidnappings in areas frequented by foreigners on the southern part of Cebu Island, specifically the areas around Dalaguete and Santander (including Sumilon Island). See Safety and security.
  • The Philippines Government declared a 'state of lawlessness' and raised its domestic terror alert in response to a major terrorist attack in Davao City on 2 September 2016, subsequent terrorist attacks (including on the US Embassy) and its assessment that there is an ongoing terrorism threat. There is a heavy police presence across the Philippines. See Safety and security.
  • There is a very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, especially along the Zamboanga peninsula and in the Sulu Archipelago. Tourists in southern Palawan, southern Negros or Siquijor could also be targeted. See Safety and security.  
  • Police and other authorities have released strong statements regarding the trafficking and use of drugs in the Philippines. See Laws.
  • There is ongoing risk of transmission of Zika virus in the Philippines. Protect yourself from mosquito bites and take additional precautions advised by the Department of Health. If you are pregnant, consider deferring your travel. See Health.
  • The typhoon season normally runs from late May to December. Tropical storms, flooding and landslides may occur. See Additional information.
  • See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you are visiting the Philippines for tourism or business purposes and for less than 30 days, you generally won't need to get a visa. If you are staying for longer or visiting for another reason (such as for work or study), you'll need to arrange a visa before you travel.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines or Philippines Bureau of Immigration website for the most up-to-date information.

If you arrive with the wrong type of visa or break other immigration laws, you'll likely be detained. Offenders face jail sentences, fines and/or deportation and may also be prohibited from entering the Philippines in the future. Make sure you have a valid visa and remain aware of your visa status throughout your stay. If you have any concerns about the status of your Philippine visa or if you want to extend your visa, check with the Philippines Bureau of Immigration.

Other formalities - arrival

Immigration authorities may require travellers to show proof of an onward or return ticket.

Children under 15 years of age who are not accompanied by a parent or coming to meet a parent or parents in the Philippines must present a Waiver of Exclusion Ground (WEG). Check the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website for more information.

Screening procedures are in place at airports and seaports to detect potential Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) infections. You'll be required to submit a completed EVD screening form at airport checkpoints.

Other formalities – departure

Certain foreign nationals must get an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Philippines Bureau of Immigration before they depart the Philippines. This requirement applies to children born in the Philippines who are leaving the country for the first time on a foreign passport. Check the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website for more detailed information on who needs an ECC and how to get one.

If you are leaving the Philippines from Mactan-Cebu International airport, you'll need to pay a departure tax of 750 Pesos or the equivalent in US dollars. If you leave via Manila International airport, there is no departure tax.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

By law, you must as soon as possible report a lost or stolen passport:

Money

The local currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). On arrival or departure, declare to Bureau of Customs officers at the airport any local cash in excess of PHP50,000.

Declare all foreign currency amounts in excess of $US10,000 (or other foreign currency equivalent).

Safety and security

The Philippine Congress has extended martial law in Mindanao until 31 December 2017, following a request from President Duterte. Measures imposed under Martial Law may include the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the imposition of curfews and establishment of checkpoints. Monitor media reporting and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks, including bombings, are possible anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. We continue to receive information that indicates that terrorists may be planning attacks in the Philippines.

Possible targets for future attacks include commercial and public places frequented by foreign nationals such as transport hubs, the metro system, hotels, shopping malls, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.

Terrorist attacks are frequent in central and western Mindanao and there is a very high threat in this region of further terrorist attacks, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. There is also a high risk of further terror attacks, kidnapping and violent crime in eastern Mindanao.

  • Do not travel to central and western Mindanao. If, despite our strong advice against travel, you decide to visit central or western Mindanao, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao.

Recent terror attacks include:

  • In April 2017, Philippines police and military clashed with heavily armed individuals in Inabanga, Bohol (Central Visayas). A number of casualties occurred.
  • In December 2016, a bombing at a boxing tournament at Plaza Rizal, Hilongos, in Leyte injured several people.
  • In November 2016, an improvised explosive device was planted near the US Embassy in Manila.
  • In September 2016, an attack in Davao City killed 14 people and injured more than 70.

In November 2016, the US Government warned that terrorists were planning to conduct kidnappings in areas frequented by foreigners on the southern part of Cebu Island, specifically the areas around Dalaguete and Santander (including Sumilon Island).

The Philippines Government declared a 'state of lawlessness' following the Davao City terror attack in September 2016. On 1 December 2016, the Philippines raised its domestic security threat alert in light of recent attacks and the threat of further terror attacks.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
  • If you go to a crowded place, have a clear exit plan in the event of a security incident.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Kidnapping

There is a very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, especially at coastal resorts and isolated coastal locations. Business or criminal related kidnapping can occur anywhere in the Philippines.

The threat is highest along the Zamboanga peninsula and in the Sulu Archipelago. Groups based in the Sulu Archipelago have also demonstrated their ability to take hostages at locations around Mindanao and in eastern Malaysia. Recent attacks show that these groups have the ability to target locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, Bohol, southern Negros, southern Cebu and Siquijor.

Numerous locals and foreign nationals have been kidnapped in central and western Mindanao, which includes the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago. Westerners, including Australians, have been kidnapped in recent years. Kidnap victims are sometimes held in captivity for long periods of time before being released. Others have been killed by their captors.

In April 2014, two German nationals were kidnapped from their yacht in the south Sulu Sea, near Palawan Island. In September 2015, three foreign tourists were kidnapped from a resort on Samal Island, near Davao City in Davao del Norte. In October 2015, another foreign national living in Dipolog on the Zamboanga peninsula was kidnapped. 

Yachts and other vessels in the southern Sulu Sea and those sailing between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan in the Philippines are also at risk from kidnapping. In November 2016, a yacht was attacked in waters between eastern Sabah and Sulu by militants based in the southern Philippines. One German national was killed on the yacht and another killed after several months in captivity. A number of commercial seamen have also recently been kidnapped from cargo vessels in the area.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a threat of kidnapping such as the southern Philippines:

  • seek professional security advice
  • have effective personal security measures in place
  • make sure your hotel or other accommodation has appropriate security measures in place
  • avoid isolated coastal locations, especially after dark
  • avoid travelling by boat, especially in the Sulu Sea and between Sabah, Malaysia, and Palawan in the Philippines.

More information:

Civil unrest and political tension

Militant groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in attacks on targets primarily associated with Philippines security forces. Armed clashes often result, especially in Mindanao and remote areas of northern Luzon. In Mindanao, armed clashes between rival clans and other armed groups are also frequent, sometimes resulting in multiple deaths and injuries and the displacement of local populations.

Violent insurgent attacks and armed clashes could occur without warning, particularly in Mindanao. Possible insurgent targets include locations where people gather, which may include hotels, shopping centres, restaurants and educational and government facilities in and around Zamboanga City.

Demonstrations and large public gatherings can turn violent.

  • Avoid all crowds, protests and demonstrations.
  • Stay away from security force facilities and deployments.
  • Monitor the news and other local sources for advice of possible unrest or security issues.
  • Look out for signs of unrest or violence, as you travel.
  • Avoid areas where armed clashes have occurred.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the advice of local authorities.

Crime

Violent and other serious crime is a significant problem in the Philippines.

Criminal gangs that drug and rob or assault unsuspecting tourists are active in Manila, including the Makati central business district, and in provincial resort towns.

Gun ownership is widespread and poorly regulated, contributing to a high incidence of violent crime. Gunfights between police and criminals are common, including in parts of Manila frequented by foreign nationals. These incidents often result in multiple deaths and injuries, sometimes including innocent bystanders.

Insurgent groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in violent criminal activities. Extortion activities aimed at business interests (including mining projects) and involving violence occur regularly.

Travellers on public buses, light rail and jeepneys have encountered armed hold ups, sometimes resulting in fatalities, as well as pickpocketing and other street crime. Pickpocketing and bag snatching are also common in crowded shopping malls and other public places.

A range of scams, including those involving credit cards and automated teller machines, are common.

  • Be vigilant and aware of the high level of crime throughout the Philippines.
  • Never accept food or drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
  • If you aren't sure if a drink is safe, leave it.
  • Stick with people you trust in bars, nightclubs and taxis.
  • If you witness a confrontation between police and criminals or between rival groups, leave the area immediately.
  • Avoid travel on public buses, light rail and jeepneys, where possible.
  • Take care of your personal belongings, particularly in crowded areas.
  • Only use ATMs in secure locations such as banks, shops and shopping centres.
  • Always keep your debit and credit cards in sight.
  • Monitor local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Local travel

Take particular care when swimming off coastal areas. Severe undercurrents (rips) are common in coastal areas and many foreign tourists have drowned, including in popular resort areas. Lifeguard services are rarely available. In some locations, red flags are displayed to warn swimmers not to enter the water and these warnings should be taken very seriously. Never swim after dark or after consuming alcohol. There are reports of pollution causing illness to swimmers in coastal resort areas. Always check with local authorities before swimming.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Read Safety and security before planning any local travel.

Road travel

Traffic is dense and unpredictable. The road system is frequently congested, and drivers are often undisciplined. Avoid driving off the national highways and other paved roads, especially at night.

You are twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the Philippines than in Australia. Drive defensively.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can use an Australian driver's licence for your first 90 days in the country. To drive beyond that time, you will need to convert to a Philippine licence.

More information: Land Transportation Office

Motorcycles

Riders and passengers must wear a helmet at all times. Accidents are frequent. Check with your travel insurer if any exclusions apply if you are involved in an accident, particularly if you do not possess a valid Australian motorcycle licence.

Taxis

Ridesharing apps and Grab taxis sourced from hotels are more reliable than taxis hailed on the street.

Public transport

Road and rail transport is widely used throughout the country. Jeepneys are also a common form of travel. Overcrowding is common and vehicles do not comply with Australian safety standards.

Sea travel

Sea travel in the Philippines is hazardous. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not adequately maintained. Storms can develop quickly.

Travellers could also encounter piracy and kidnapping in Philippine waters. Kidnapping is a particular threat in the southern Philippines, especially the Sulu Sea and between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan in the Philippines.

  • Avoid travel on ferries unless no other means of travel is available.
  • If you travel by ferry, take your own lifejacket.
  • Avoid travelling by boat in the southern Philippines.
  • If you travel by boat, take appropriate security measures and regularly check the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre website.

More information:

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the Philippines.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

If you are accused of a crime, you may not be allowed to depart the Philippines until investigations and legal proceedings have concluded. Judicial process in the Philippines can be very lengthy. Some court cases take years to complete. Australians accused of crimes have experienced financial and other difficulties while waiting for their cases to conclude.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe. Police and other authorities have been publicly encouraged to kill drug traffickers and have been told they will be rewarded for doing so. Senior political figures have stated that drug addicts should also be killed. Such killings have taken place. Possession of even small amounts of any illicit drug in the Philippines attracts a mandatory jail sentence.

More information: Drugs

Other laws

The Philippines also has strong laws against child sex crimes and human trafficking. A number of foreign nationals, including Australians, have been arrested and prosecuted for these offences in the Philippines.

It is illegal to take photographs of official buildings for publication.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The Philippines recognises dual nationality.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Malaria is endemic in many provincial regions of the Philippines, but does not affect the capital Manila. Dengue fever has been on the rise in Manila and neighbouring provinces along with outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases (including Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) in many areas, particularly during the rainy season between May and December. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue fever.

There is ongoing transmission of Zika virus in the Philippines. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas. There is no vaccination available for Zika virus.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a risk for travellers. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Lakes and rivers can harbour water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and leptospirosis. Risks are highest following flooding and continue after floods recede. There are also reports of pollution causing illness to swimmers in coastal resort areas.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Do not swim (or bathe) in fresh water sources.
  • Always check with local authorities before swimming in other waters.
  • Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Fish poisoning

Ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish can be a hazard.

More information: Queensland Health ciguatera information

Black henna tattoos

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions.

Avian influenza

Philippines has reported avian influenza ('bird flu') in farm birds in the past.

  • Minimise your exposure to live poultry.
  • Avoid visiting live bird and animal markets (including 'wet' markets) and poultry farms.
  • Practise good personal hygiene.
  • When preparing food, handle poultry and poultry products properly and thoroughly cook all parts of the poultry.

More information:

 

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in the Philippines are adequate in major cities, but are very limited in provincial regions and remote islands. Major private hospitals, particularly in Metro Manila, are well equipped and internationally accredited.

Decompression chambers are located in Makati City, Cebu City, Batangas City, Subic and Quezon City.

Most hospitals will require upfront payment or guarantee of payment prior to commencing treatment, which can be expensive.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation could be very expensive.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 117
  • Medical emergencies: 117
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 117 or +63 721 8613 (Police National Operations Center hotline)

For criminal issues, you can alternatively contact the local station of the Philippines National Police (PNP). Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact:

Australian Embassy, Manila

Level 23
Tower 2
RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Avenue
Makati City, 1200 PHILIPPINES
Telephone: (+63 2) 7578 100
Facsimile: (+63 2) 7578 344
Website: philippines.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

In recent years, the Philippines has experienced a number of natural disasters and severe weather events.

  • Familiarise yourself with natural disaster risks and weather issues for your destinations before you travel. Prepare accordingly.
  • Monitor news and other weather information sources for the latest developments.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Have a plan of what you will do if there is a natural disaster.
  • Identify local sources of support and advice that you can draw on in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

If there is a natural disaster:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • closely monitor the media, other local sources of information and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities.

Typhoons

Typhoons usually occur in the Philippines between late May and December and can result in substantial loss of life. Tropical storms, flooding and landslides are also common during this period. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. Telephone and internet communications, services and transport may be disrupted in affected areas.

If you are travelling during typhoon season:

  • know your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans
  • carry your travel documents at all times or secure them in a safe, waterproof location
  • monitor local weather forecasts and media reports
  • contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

If there is a typhoon or one is approaching:

  • identify your local shelter
  • monitor local media reports
  • follow the instructions of local officials
  • check the latest typhoon information at the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre website
  • contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Flights and ferry services in and out of typhoon-affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights and ferries may fill quickly and could be unsafe. Contact your airline for the latest flight information. A typhoon could also affect access to sea ports in the region.

In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe typhoon may not be available to all who choose to stay.

More information:

Earthquakes and volcanoes

The Philippines is located on the Ring of Fire, and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The Mayon, Taal and Bulusan volcanoes have a permanent danger zone (PDZ) established around their summits by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). Mayon volcano in Albay Province has a PDZ of six kilometres (notwithstanding the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council's assessment that an eruption is unlikely), Bulusan volcano has a four kilometre PDZ and the entire volcanic island of Taal is a PDZ. Avoid areas aroundall of these volcanoes.

If there is any major volcanic activity, monitor warnings issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and follow the advice for all natural disasters listed above.

Tsunamis

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches.

If a tsunami or a tsunami warning is current, check the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website regularly (for information on seismic activity and the potential for tsunamis) and follow the advice for all natural disasters listed above.

Additional Resources