- We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines due to the high threat of a terrorist attack and the high level of crime. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
- Manila will host high level APEC meetings from 16 to 20 November 2015. You should expect increased security and travel disruptions during this period. See Local travel.
- Violent crime is a significant problem in the Philippines. See Safety and security.
- Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. You should avoid places known to be terrorist targets. See Safety and security.
- Information of late October 2015 indicates that militants may be planning a kidnapping operation in North East Mindanao, including the islands off the coast. Resorts in the area are being notified to take extra precautions.
- There is a very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, especially at coastal resorts and isolated coastal locations. The threat is highest along the Zamboanga peninsula and in the Sulu Archipelago. Groups based in the Sulu Archipelago have demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks at locations around Mindanao and in eastern Malaysia. Recent attacks have also created concerns that these groups have the capability to target locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, southern Negros or Siquijor. See Safety and security.
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental) due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
- We advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago and in the southern Sulu Sea area, due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.
- The typhoon season normally runs from late May to December. This is also the rainy season when tropical storms, flooding and landslides may occur. See Additional information.
- See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
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Entry and exit
As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines or Philippines Bureau of Immigration website for the most up-to-date information.
The Philippine Government strongly enforces immigration entry and exit laws. You should ensure you have proper and valid visas and remain aware of your visa status while in the Philippines. Immigration authorities may require travellers to show proof of an onward or return ticket. Although no longer a legal requirement in the Philippines, we strongly recommend that your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.
The Philippines allows entry for tourism and business purposes without a visa for visits of less than 30 days. Longer visits require a visa. Holders of an APEC business travel card can enter the Philippines for up to 59 days. Students require a visa to attend educational institutions in the Philippines. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines for information on your eligibility.
Australians have been detained for having improper visas or violating immigration laws. Offenders can expect jail sentences, fines, and/or deportation and may also be prohibited from entering the Philippines in the future. If you have any concerns about the status of your Philippine visa or the correct exit conditions, or if you want to extend your visa, you should refer to the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website.
Certain foreign nationals must apply for an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Philippines Bureau of Immigration before they depart the Philippines. This applies to children born in the Philippines who are leaving the country for the first time on a foreign passport. For more detailed information how this applies, see the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website.
From 1 February 2015, there is no longer a departure tax at the Manila International airport. If you are leaving the country from Cebu Mactan airport you are required to pay a departure tax of 750 Pesos in local currency or the equivalent in US dollars.
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). See the Philippines Bureau of Immigration website for more information.
The Philippine Government has established procedures at airports and seaports to detect potential Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) infections in the Philippines. Screening procedures are in place at airports. Incoming passengers are required to submit a completed EVD screening form at airport checkpoints. The outbreak of EVD in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. For more information on the outbreak and regional travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.
Safety and security
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack. Terrorist attacks, including bombings, are possible anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. Attacks could occur in the lead up to and following religious celebrations.
In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include commercial and public places frequented by foreign nationals such as transport hubs, hotels, shopping malls, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.
Kidnapping: There is a very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, especially at coastal resorts and isolated coastal locations. The threat is highest along the Zamboanga peninsula and in the Sulu Archipelago. Groups based in the Sulu Archipelago have demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks at locations around Mindanao and in eastern Malaysia. Recent attacks have also created concerns that these groups have the capability to target locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, southern Negros or Siquijor.
Information of late October 2015 indicates that militants may be planning a kidnapping operation in North East Mindanao, including the islands off the coast. Resorts in the area are being notified to take extra precautions.
Yachts and other vessels in the southern Sulu Sea and transiting between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan are also at risk. Groups based in the Sulu Archipelago have the capability to carry out attacks at coastal locations around Mindanao and the Sulu Sea, including locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, southern Negros, and Siquijor. If you chose to visit coastal resorts around Palawan, southern Negros or Siquijor, you should exercise caution and ensure your hotel has appropriate security measures in place. You should avoid isolated coastal locations, especially after dark.
Numerous locals and foreign nationals have been kidnapped in central and western Mindanao, including in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago. In December 2011, an Australian citizen was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay. Other kidnappings in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago have involved Philippine nationals and citizens of European countries, the United States, China, Korea, Malaysia, India and Japan, among others. Kidnap victims are sometimes held in captivity for long periods of time before being released. Others have been killed by their captors.
On 21 September 2015, three foreign tourists were reportedly 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. Two German nationals were kidnapped from their yacht in the south Sulu Sea, near Palawan Island, in late April 2014. This incident, and other recent kidnappings of Swiss and Dutch nationals, underscores the ongoing threat of kidnapping in tourist locations in the Philippines.
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 do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat bulletin.
If, despite our very strong advice against travel, you decide to visit central or western Mindanao, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.
Eastern Mindanao: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental) due to very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
Central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago and the southern Sulu Sea area: We strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao (including the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, Misamis Occidental, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and surrounding waters) due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.
Armed clashes between Philippine security forces and insurgent groups could occur without warning, particularly in central or western Mindanao. A serious armed clash took place between militants and the security forces on 25 January 2015 in Maguindanao. Since then there has been an increase in the security presence in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
Recent armed clashes, bombings and kidnappings in Zamboanga and armed clashes in Maguindanao demonstrate a heightened threat environment in those areas. Possible targets include locations where people gather, which may include hotels, shopping centres, restaurants and educational and government facilities in and around Zamboanga City. Armed clashes between rival clans and other armed groups occur frequently in central and western Mindanao, often resulting in multiple deaths and injuries and the displacement of local populations. Terrorist attacks are frequent in central and western Mindanao.
The threat of kidnapping is higher in the southern Philippines, particularly in central and western Mindanao, where terrorists and kidnap-for-ransom gangs targeting foreign nationals can operate across a wide area.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.
Civil unrest/political tension
Militant groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in attacks on targets primarily associated with the security forces. Armed clashes between Philippine authorities and communist rebels regularly take place in many rural areas of the Philippines. Several major attacks have occurred in Mindanao in 2015.
Due to the risk of violent insurgent attack that exists in rural areas across the Philippines, you should exercise caution when travelling and avoid, where possible, security forces facilities and deployments.
You should avoid any large gatherings, demonstrations, protests, rallies or other public and political events as they may turn violent. You should monitor the media for information about any protests or political rallies and follow the advice of authorities.
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high level of serious crime. Violent crime remains 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.
As in many other big cities, street crime is of concern particularly in crowded shopping malls and other public places. Pickpocketing, bag snatching and a range of scams, including those involving credit cards and automated teller machines, are common.
Gun ownership is widespread and poorly regulated, contributing to a higher 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. If you witness a confrontation between police and criminals, you should leave the area immediately.
Taxis sourced from hotels are more reliable than those hailed on the street.
Avoid travel on public buses, light rail and jeepneys where possible as opportunistic crime may occur. Armed hold-ups have occurred and in some cases have led to fatalities.
Insurgent groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in violent criminal activities. Extortion activities involving violence occur regularly and are often aimed at business interests, including mining projects. Similar attacks have occurred around the Australian-controlled Tampakan mine site in South Cotabato, Mindanao.
Money and valuables
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
APEC Leaders’ week 16-20 November 2015: Manila will host high level APEC meetings from 16 to 20 November 2015. A large number of VIPs, officials and delegates will attend. During this period, visitors to Manila should expect increased security measures and road closures around the airport, meeting venues and hotels. Travellers should anticipate travel disruptions and allow extra time when travelling by road. Some flights have already been cancelled and there is the strong possibility of other flight disruptions. Travellers should reconfirm flight times with airline/tour operators. There is a likelihood that hotel accommodation in Manila will be in short supply.
Other local travel issues
You should 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. You should 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.
Sea travel in the Philippines is hazardous. You should not travel on ferries unless no other means of travel are available. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not adequately maintained. Storms can develop quickly. 142 people were rescued and 62 people were killed when a ferry capsized approximately 300 metres off Ormoc City Port in Leyte in July 2015. At least 100 people were rescued, and two were killed when a ferry sank off Southern Leyte in September 2014 due to mechanical failure. For further information, please refer to our Travelling by boat page.
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, you should use another provider.
Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of the Philippines. For more information about piracy, see our piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its Piracy Reporting Centre website.
For information on road safety, see our page on road 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.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Philippines, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Judicial process in the Philippines can be very lengthy, with some court cases taking years to complete. During this time authorities may place restrictions on international travel. Australians who are accused of crimes can find themselves in financial and other difficulties while their case is ongoing and may not be able to depart the Philippines until the process has been concluded.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. Possession of even small amounts of so-called 'soft drugs' attracts mandatory jail sentences. See our Drugs page.
It is illegal to take photographs of official buildings for publication.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.
The Philippines also has strong laws against child sex crimes and human trafficking. A number of foreign nationals, including Australians, have been detained and prosecuted for these offences in the Philippines.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual nationals page provides information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
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. Most hospitals will require up-front payment or guarantee of payment prior to commencing treatment, which can be expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities may be necessary. Medical evacuation costs are considerable.
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. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary. You should take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and leptospirosis. There are reports of pollution causing illness to swimmers in coastal resort areas. Always check with local authorities before swimming.
Following flooding, travellers should be aware of the potential for outbreaks of leptospirosis and gastro-related illnesses. You should be aware that the high risk of contracting a water-borne disease continues after floods recede. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish can be a hazard. For more information on ciguatera poisoning see Queensland Health's fact sheet.
Decompression chambers are located in Manila, Cebu, Batangas, Subic and Palawan.
Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer.
Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
For criminal issues, contact the local station of the Philippines National Police (PNP). The PNP's National Operations Center (NOC) hotline is +63 721 8613. The emergency services number is 117.
If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below.
Australian Embassy, Manila
6819 Ayala Avenue
Makati City, 1200 PHILIPPINES
Telephone: (63 2) 7578 100
Facsimile: (63 2) 7578 344
See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to the Philippines, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
In recent years the Philippines has experienced a number of natural disasters and severe weather events. Travellers to the Philippines should familiarise themselves with natural disaster and severe weather risks and monitor sources of information on latest developments. You should have a plan outlining the action you will take in the event of a disaster and identify the local sources of support and advice that you can draw on in the aftermath,
Typhoons usually occur in the Philippines between late May and early December and can result in substantial loss of life. This is also the wet season when tropical storms, flooding and landslides are common. If you are travelling during typhoon season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
Information is available from the following sources:
- the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre website.
- the typhoon2000 website.
- the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council website, in particular the updates section.
- the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) website, including weather bulletin update page and hotline on +63 2 4338526.
The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. Telephone and internet communications, services and transport may be disrupted in affected areas.
In the event of an approaching typhoon, you should identify your local shelter. Flights and ferry services in and out of affected areas can be unsafe and could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline or ferry operator for the latest information. The 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 may choose to stay. You should review and follow hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our severe weather page.
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, Bulusan volcano has four kilometre PDZ and the entire volcanic island of Taal is a PDZ. You should avoid areas surrounding these volcanoes.
* Mayon volcano:* Currently, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council has set the alert level of Mayon Volcano in Bicol, South Luzon, at Alert Level 1 (an eruption is unlikely). In the event of major volcanic activity, you should follow the advice of local authorities and monitor warnings issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website has information on seismic activity in the Pacific and the potential for 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. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
If a natural disaster occurs, you should monitor the media and other local sources of information closely and follow the advice of local authorities.