Manila - Post Report Question and Answers

Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I feel very safe here. It's a large city, so if you apply common sense, you'll be fine. - Mar 2023

Pickpocketing concerns in crowded areas. Mindanao is off limits. - Mar 2023

On the former base, not at all. It is probably the safest place in the Philippines. In the red light districts nearby you can probably get into trouble if you're looking for it, but I have never heard of any serious crimes or robberies. - May 2022

You feel relatively safe here. Of course, it is a big city so awareness of surroundings is key. - Apr 2021

The Philippines, comparatively speaking, is a violent place, but it doesn't much impact foreigners who stay out of places they shouldn't be going in the first place. In Metro Manila, you need to be careful about petty street crime, but you are unlikely to be a target of anything more serious. Once someone tried to steal a backpack from me in a crowded store, I walked up to him and yanked it back and he ran away. You will hear about politically-motivated assassinations, and personally-motivated kidnappings, and these conflicts may occur not far from your neighborhood. However, if you're reading this, you probably don't need to worry too much about it, as you are likely not a political activist or are deeply involved in the international narcotics trade. Oh, if you are reading this and you are involved in trafficking illegal narcotics, I would definitely say you would encounter some major personal security concerns here. - Oct 2020

I feel relatively safe, but it is always a good item to stay vigilant as in any big city. - Feb 2020

As with all posts you need to be aware of surroundings but I have not personally been concerned for my physical safety in the neighborhood where I live. I am also not out at night a lot. There are areas that you should avoid. I have had friends who have been pickpocketed and had things stolen, but not often. Children appear to work in teams to pickpocket. - May 2018

Makati and the Fort are very safe, relative to the rest of Manila, such that the major concerns are pickpocketing and other urban crimes of opportunity. Other neighborhoods can be more dangerous, in some cases exacerbated by the recent escalation in anti-drug enforcement, and it’s inadvisable to wander too far from the major expat neighborhoods after dark and/or by yourself.

Both the US and UK governments have also issued security advisories relating to terrorist activity in the Philippines, although terror incidents have historically been concentrated in Mindanao and a few other regions well away from Manila. As with most big cities, situational awareness goes a long way – and we feel no less safe here than we do in Washington or Boston. - Feb 2017

Only official travel to Mindanao is authorized. Most officers can wheedle their way into traveling to Mindanao at least once during a tour but for EFMs that means about 1/3 of the country is off-limits. Al Queda and ISIS type outfits exist in the far south of the country and kidnap foreigners. There is a superannuated communist insurgency that theoretically has a presence in all provinces outside Metro Manila. There is the potential for things to go south quickly, but all in all we've felt very safe here. We've traveled frequently (including to Mindanao) and have not experienced any problems. We have not found crime to be a problem, but have not frequented the dodgier parts of town. - Jul 2016

Depends where you live. In the more upscale neighborhoods and villages, not so much. If you're on the embassy housing compound, you don't want to walk around that neighborhood at night, especially as a woman. - Jan 2016

Petty theft and low-grade harassment are more frequent concerns than violence in Manila, although there are many neighborhoods that you should avoid walking in, especially after dark. Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death, and walking in Manila (with the exception of a couple of upscale neighborhoods and the villages) poses a real danger due to speeding vehicles and severe traffic congestion. - Jan 2016

Petty theft and burglary/robbery. Use common sense and you should be fine. - Sep 2015

Yes, this is a high-threat post, but I have never felt unsafe. Take precautions as you would in any big city and you'll be fine. Everyone, to include massive numbers of security guards are armed to the teeth. - Aug 2015

It's higher crime with more guns than other cities in this region. A few years ago, a diplomat's spouse was murdered at the entrance to the housing complex. Within our time here, a politician was killed in a drive-by at the Manila airport that hit others besides the target. - Aug 2015

Yes, in our time here 2 Americans have been murdered (one diplomat). - Sep 2014

The State Department recommends no travel to Mindano Island. There have been some violent exchanges of gun fire in the lower part of the island and a very small island just off the coast of Mindano. Now, having said that, I have also read blogs from expats living In Davao, the largest city in Mindano, and they feel very safe in this area. So, as always, do a lot of research, and personally talk with fellow expats who write these blogs and reside in the area, by either cell phone, messenger, or, even Skype. - Jan 2014

As with any big city, a person should be aware of his surroundings. - Dec 2013

Within Manila, very few. Only the usual "big city" stuff. I've walked around various parts of Manila with no issues. Select parts of Mindanao have terrorist elements. Much of Mindanao is pleasant and safe and spectacular, but due to the threats in western Mindanao, the whole region is off-limits to personal travel for USG employees. - Nov 2013

The Philippines is a higher threat level than a lot of countries but I haven't felt threatened since arriving. I don't like to travel alone [I didn't in the U.S. either though] and take my yaya [nanny] with me almost anytime I go out in a taxi. The Jeepneys & buses aren't considered safe because petty theft occurs a lot in the tight quarters. - Aug 2013

My neighborhood had lots of pickpockets, so beware! But I did not feel in danger, even at night. - Apr 2013

There are plenty of scammers, including taxi cabs. I feel comfortable using cabs, but my wife does not. I would not feel comfortable walking or using public transportation in many parts of the city, although some of the wealthy areas are very safe, and malls are walkable. One embassy employee's spouse was murdered outside a gated community as he was trying to be a good samaritan in the middle of the night. - Feb 2013

While Manila has a reputation for crime, it is more the normal big city stuff. Watch out for pickpockets, though, and avoid certain areas. - Sep 2012

Robberies are on the rise...there have been numerous reports and one person we know who has been stopped by a "fake guard" regarding a vehicle problem and then robbed. - May 2012

We are not allowed to take jeepneys or the MRT here, based on embassy restrictions. No big security concern, unless you decide to be in the wrong part of town at 2 in the morning (in Makati and the Fort things are fairly safe).Always aware of your belongings so you don't get pick-pocketed, but robberies are very very rare. - Mar 2012

Yes, depending on where you live. If you live on the Seafront Compound, DON'T take your kids out for a walk outside the compound walls. Most people hire drivers, so this is not a problem. The Embassy is good about sending early alerts out. - Jan 2012

The Philippines has three regions. Government personnel are not allowed to travel to the region of Mindanao. Current information should be obtained from the State Department's website. In the city of Manila there are a few concerns like purse snatchings and pickpocketing. But violent crime for money - like carjackings, gun/knife holdups, et cetera - are rare. When traveling around the country, the crime is even less. I never had an issue with it, but heard about money being taken from accommodations so I'd suggest leaving valuables at the front desk of the resort. - Jul 2011

USG personnel prohibited from traveling on island of Mindanao. In 2011, bombing of a commuter bus on EDSA.Daily security not usually an issue -- usual heightened awareness of one's security is sufficient to thwart would be pickpockets. - May 2011

Pickpockets are frequent. Pay close attention to your purse/wallet. Terrorist groups operate in the south, where our embassy personnel are forbidden to travel. In late 2010, there was a bus bombing that killed two. It took place just outside a neighborhood that houses many embassy families. - May 2011

The restive southern islands of Mindanao and Sulu are off-limits to Embassy personnel. There are several terrorist and non-terrorist Muslim insurgencies in the south. Communist guerrillas operate in rural areas across the country, but are not typically a barrier to travel. Urban crime is an issue, but not if you stay alert and are selective in where you travel. Manila traffic is the most dangerous thing in daily life. - Feb 2010

Be aware of surroundings, avoid public transportation such as train and famous jeepneys. Taxis usually fine. Watch pockets, purses. Keep purse in front of you with no credit cards with you. Had my purse slashed in a mall when I had my kids with me. I was perfect target. Bring yaya, driver or maid with you if alone with small kids. Don't travel to Southern islands like Mindinao due to terrorist activity and kidnappings. Local people though are very friendly and overall Americans are well liked and respected. - Jan 2010

Manila is relatively safe and there are security guards everywhere. The southern island of Mindanao is generally unsafe for foreigners, but most U.S. government officials are prohibited/warned from going there. - Jul 2009

You need to be on watch and cautious, however, if you are smart you will be fine. - Apr 2009

Manila is safe for expats, provided they follow basic big-city street-smarts. Scams and petty theft are common, so double check your bills and be careful of where you use ATMs and credit cards. There are armed guards are at the entrance of most large buildings, shopping centres, hotels, villages (gated communities), etc. Be prepared to open your bags for inspection upon entering most buildings. - Jun 2008


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