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Philippines

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines overall. 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
  • The typhoon season normally runs from late May to December. Tropical storms, flooding and landslides may occur. During a tropical storm, monitor local media reports, follow the instructions of local officials and check the latest typhoon information at the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre website. See Natural disasters
  • There is a high threat of terrorist attack in the Philippines, including Manila. Be alert to possible threats around locations that have a low level of protective security and places that could be terrorist targets. Possible targets for terrorist attacks include commercial and public places frequented by foreigners.
  • Martial law is in place in Mindanao until 31 December 2018. Martial law increases authorities' powers to detain suspects, and put in place curfews and checkpoints. Monitor media reporting and follow the instructions of local authorities. 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

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements. 

Visas

If you're visiting the Philippines for tourism or business purposes and for less than 30 days, you won't need to get a visa. If you're 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 up-to-date information.

 

Other formalities - arrival

Immigration authorities may ask for proof of an onward or return ticket.

Children under 15 years of age who aren't accompanied by a parent or coming to meet a parent or parents in the Philippines need to have a Waiver of Exclusion Ground.

More information: Philippines Bureau of Immigration

Other formalities – departure

You may need to get an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Philippines Bureau of Immigration before you depart the Philippines. Among other categories, the ECC is needed for 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're leaving the Philippines from Mactan-Cebu International airport, you'll need to pay a departure tax. If you leave via Manila International airport, there is no departure tax.

Passport

Australian passports are valid for travel to and from the Philippines until the expiry date. However, if you intend to travel/transit through other countries, ensure 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 get access to your passport by deception.  If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

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

Safety and security

Martial law is in place in in Mindanao until 31 December 2018. Martial law increases authorities' powers to detain suspects, and put in place curfews and 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 indicating 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 more terrorist attacks, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. There is a high risk of more terror attacks, kidnapping and violent crime in eastern Mindanao. There is a very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines. See Kidnapping.

  • 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:

  • On 6 September 2018, a military operation in Sultan Dumalondong, Mindanao, killed 6 people.
  • On 2 September 2018, an explosion in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, killed 2 people and injured at least 14.
  • On 31 July 2018, a vehicle bomb attack in Basilan, Mindanao resulted in 11 deaths and several injuries.
  • 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.

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 these groups have the ability to target locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, Bohol, southern Negros, southern Cebu and Siquijor.

Numerous locals and foreigners 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.

A number of commercial seamen have also been kidnapped from cargo vessels in the area. 

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is it doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of more 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
  • ensure 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

Militants associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) operate throughout the Philippines, and are involved in attacks primarily targeting Philippine security forces. CPP-NPA militants are suspected to be behind bomb attacks in Antipolo City and Masbate City in 2018. Armed clashes often occur between the security forces and militants, 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 deaths and injuries.

Demonstrations and large public gatherings are common and can turn violent. It's illegal to participate in political rallies if you're not Filipino. Australians have been deported or may have their visas cancelled for partipating in such events.

Crime

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

Criminal gangs drug and rob or assault tourists. Such gangs 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. A number of Australians have died as a result of property disputes that have turned violent.

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 involving credit cards and automated teller machines, are common.

  • Be alert to 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

The Philippines Government has closed the island of Boracay to tourism for up to six months from 26 April 2018. The hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses will be closed. You won't be able to access the island unless you have permission from the government. Flights to and from Boracay will also be affected. If you were planning to visit Boracay, contact your airline, hotel, travel agent or tour operator to modify or cancel your reservations.

Swimming off coastal areas can be risky. Severe undercurrents (rips) are common in coastal areas and many 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 . There are reports of pollution causing illness to swimmers in coastal resort areas.

  • Take particular care when swimming off coastal areas.
  • Never swim after dark or after consuming alcohol.
  • Don't swim where there are red flags.
  • Seek local advice before swimming.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, aren't always met. 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 isn't available, use another provider.

Read Safety and security before planning any local travel.

Road travel

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

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can use an Australian driver's licence for up to 90 days after arrival. To drive beyond that time, you'll need to get a Philippine licence.

More information: Land Transportation Office

Motorcycles

Wear a helmet at all times. Accidents are frequent. Check with your travel insurer if any exclusions apply if you're involved in an accident, particularly if you don't have 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 don't comply with Australian safety standards.

Sea travel

Sea travel in the Philippines can be hazardous, avoid ferries that are overcrowded and appear poorly maintained. If sea travel is necessary use a reputable ferry service.  

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 doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the Philippines.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to 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're 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'll be rewarded for doing so. Senior political figures have stated 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: Carrying or using 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

Local Customs

Local laws do not protect LGBTI rights. While locals consider themselves tolerant of the LGBTI  community, open displays of affection between same-sex partners could attract adverse attention and may offend.

More information:  LGBTI travellers

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 won't pay for your 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 aren't covered under your policy
  • that you're covered for the whole time you'll 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 illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you. Always carry 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 common in many provincial regions of the Philippines, but not in 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 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. Transmission rates between homosexual men are high. Condoms may be difficult to find outside Manila.

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.

  • Wherever possible use bottled or filtered water.
  • Boil drinking water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Don't 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.

  • 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 need 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.

Natural disasters

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'll do if there is a natural disaster.
  • Identify local sources of support and advice 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 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're 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 eight kilometres, Bulusan volcano has a four kilometre PDZ and the entire volcanic island of Taal is a PDZ. Avoid areas around all of these volcanoes.

Volcanic activity may escalate with little or no notice.  Disruption to flights in the region is possible. Individual airlines make their own decisions about flight operations. Contact your airline or tour operator directly for up-to-date information. 

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 coastal areas 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 earthquakes and tsunamis) and follow the advice of local authorities.

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.

Emergency phone numbers

  • 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, see contact details below.  

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're 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

Additional resources