Manila is a great place to explore and enjoy shopping. However, tourists should also be aware that while locals are generally kind and hospitable, there are still some unscrupulous individuals that threaten safety in Manila.
Normal common sense dictates not to wear flashy jewellery, wave cash around or look like one is obviously a lost tourist in an unfamiliar city.
Apart from the infamous recent example of the tourist bus which was taken hostage by a disgruntled former Manila policeman, incidents against visitors to the city are few and far between. In general, the vast majority of guests to the Philippine capital enjoy their stay without encountering any Manila safety concerns at all.
Safety concerns in Manila
Pickpockets: Some of the problems most often encountered by tourists include pickpockets and mobile phone snatchers. If you need to go to crowded places, be extra careful of your belongings because there are many snatchers and gangs that take advantage of the jam-packed situation to reach into your pocket or bag. Areas that have the most reported incidence of snatching and pick pocketing include España, Pedro Gil Street, Divisoria, Quiapo, Carriedo, and the Pier area.
Credit card fraud: This is one of the most common Manila safety issues for both foreigners and locals in the city. To be safe, only use your credit card in reputable establishments such as shopping centres and brand-name boutiques.
Immediately report any incidences of stolen credit cards. If you want to go online shopping, avoid going to seedy internet cafes and only use the computers of trustworthy establishments. If staying in a hotel, put all your charges on the room bill and then pay that off at check out to avoid lots of repeat transactions which are difficult to keep track of.
Drugs: Drugs are still a common concern in the city but the government is making efforts keep them under control. Authorities will arrest tourists if they find even a small amount of marijuana on their person. If you are caught trafficking drugs you are likely to go to prison for a long time. At all costs, avoid buying drugs in Manila as many pushers work with corrupt cops to extort money.
Motorcycles: A lot of Filipinos use motorcycles as their means to get around in the city. But if you are a foreigner driving one around Manila, you may stand out and invite unwanted attention and stares. It is advisable not to hire a motorbike and try to go out on your own. You should also be aware of walking very close to the street while on pavements because there are incidences of thugs riding motorcycles and snatching your belongings as they pass by.
Violence: Filipinos are generally nice to foreigners, but occasionally one may find themself caught in the middle of an argument with an aggressive drunk. Filipinos are also very sensitive people and some remarks which you think are nothing may actually be insulting to them. Make the effort to be extra respectful.
Women alone: Women travelling alone in the Philippines can generally feel safe, but there are very rare cases where a female tourist has been raped, mugged or lured into dangerous situations. As a general rule, always follow your gut instant and never trust strangers too quickly.