Asia and Oceania

Philippines Flag of Philippines

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 19 May 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Natural Disasters (removal of the reference to Tropical Cyclone Halong) and Health (prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines) sections.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • We advise against all travel to Mindanao because of ongoing terrorist activity. There are frequent terrorist attacks against civilian targets throughout Mindanao. Most recently, on 22 November 2007, a bomb exploded in a shopping mall in Kidapawan City, reportedly killing one and injuring at least six others.

  • We also advise against all travel to the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo, where there are ongoing military and police operations against insurgent groups.

  • There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines.  On 13 November 2007, a bomb exploded at Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.  Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out these attacks at any time and anywhere in the country.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places including frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • There is a threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines.  We continue to believe that terrorists and criminal elements plan to kidnap foreign tourists from islands and coastal areas in the southern Philippines-i.e. Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.  The most recent kidnap of a foreign national occurred in June 2007.  Kidnappings from other parts of the Philippines cannot be discounted, with boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites possible targets.

  • The typhoon season in the Philippines normally runs from July to November.  This is also the rainy season and flooding and landslides may occur. See the Natural Disasters section of this advice and Hurricanes for more information.

  • Around 70,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year (Source: Philippines Ministry of Tourism). Most visits are trouble-free. The main type of incidents for which British nationals required consular assistance in the Philippines in 2007 were for: replacing lost or stolen passports; arrests or detentions, mainly for visa overstays; and dealing with deaths, mostly from natural causes.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise against all travel to Mindanao because of ongoing terrorist activity.  There have been frequent terrorist attacks, which have included:
  • On 22 November 2007, a bomb exploded in a shopping mall in Kidapawan City, reportedly killing one and injuring at least six others.
  • On 5 October 2007, two bombs exploded in Kidapawan City, reportedly killing two and injuring 30 others.
  • On 15 June 2007, a bomb exploded on a bus in Bansalan, Davao del Sur province reportedly killing eight and injuring 18 others.
  • On 18 May 2007, a bomb exploded at a bus station in Cotabato reportedly killing three and injuring 15 others.
  • On 10 January 2007, three bombs exploded in various locations in Mindanao (General Santos City, Kidapawan City and Cotabato City), killing seven people and injuring at least 27 others. 
We also advise against all travel to the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo, where there are ongoing military and police operations against insurgent groups.
 
There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines.  Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out these attacks at any time and anywhere in the country.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
 
On 13 November 2007, a bomb exploded in the car park of Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila resulting in a number of deaths and injuries. Among those killed was a representative of Congress.
 
You should also be aware of the risk of terrorist attacks to all forms of public transport:  road, rail, sea and air. Terrorist groups have threatened to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, particularly those operating from Mindanao.   On 27 February 2004, over 100 passengers were killed following a fire caused by a bomb on board a Super ferry travelling between Manila and the Central Philippines.
 
There is a threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines.  On 10 June 2007, an Italian national was kidnapped on Mindanao the Zamboanga Sibugay province.  On 31 May 2007, a group of four people, including two foreign nationals, were kidnapped near Pikit, Mindanao by an armed group.  They were subsequently released unharmed.  We continue to believe that terrorists and criminal elements are continuing with plans to kidnap foreign tourists from islands and coastal areas in southern Philippines - ie Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.  Kidnappings from other parts of the Philippines cannot be discounted.  Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets.  Foreign tourists have been targeted before, particularly in the southern Philippines and coastal resorts.
 
The Philippine government is taking action against the terrorist and kidnapping threat.  It has tightened security in Metro Manila and other areas considered at high risk, including airports and seaports.
 
You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
 
Elsewhere in the region, Westerners were killed and injured following terrorist attacks in Indonesia; in Bali (October 2002 and October 2005) and Jakarta (August 2003 and September 2004).
 
For further information read Terrorism Abroad.  We also advise that you check the Embassy website: Philippines: British Embassy Manila.

Political Situation

Philippines Country Profile

You should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings of people.  There is often a rise in tensions and political unrest around Public Holidays, political events and important anniversaries.
 
Crime

There is a high incidence of street crime and robberies.  Sensible precautions might include: arranging to be met at the airport or using hotel transfer services; using a driver or taxis from a reputable source and avoiding displays of cash or jewellery.  Even well lit and busy city areas cannot be assumed to be safe.  You should beware of strangers offering drinks or confectionery: criminals intent on robbery may lace these to render the victim unconscious.
 
You should be particularly vigilant when travelling on public transport.  Armed hold-ups have occurred on jeepneys and buses in the Philippines, and have in some cases resulted in fatalities.  The roadworthiness of some of these vehicles is also a concern.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.

Local Travel

Include safety measures in all your travel plans.  Seek advice from local contacts, avoid travel off the beaten track and always leave travel plans with friends, colleagues or relatives.  Safety standards on taxis, buses and boats can be low.  You should take particular care during the rainy season when flash floods and landslides can occur.

Air Travel
 
If leaving the country by air you must pay the departure tax (750 Pesos) in cash and in local currency.
 
You should re-confirm domestic flights not less than 72 hours before departure.  Check your international airline's policy on re-confirmation when you make your booking.
 
Sea Travel

In addition to the threat from terrorism (see above) there is a high incidence of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Philippine waters.  Inter-island travel by small boats can also be dangerous as storms appear quickly.

You should be aware that maritime rescue services in the Philippines may not be as comprehensive as they might be in the UK.
 
For more general information see River/Sea Safety.

Local laws and customs

You should not get involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for illegal drug importation and use are severe.
 
You are required to show some identity if requested by the police.  You are allowed to carry photocopies of the relevant pages of passports.  You should store the originals in a safe place to avoid loss or theft.  You should leave details of travel plans, passport, credit cards with friends and family in the UK and enter next of kin details into your passport.
 
Philippine law on paedophile activity is severe, and strictly enforced.  Severe penalties can be passed in child abuse or rape cases.  A child is defined in Philippine law as a person under the age of 18.  Entrapment may also occur where strangers with children have befriended single male tourists; allegations of abuse are then made in an attempt to extort money.
 
For more general advice for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
British nationals may enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 21 days, while a tourist visa from the nearest Philippine Embassy will allow an initial 59 day stay.  These periods may be extended, before they expire and for a fee, at the offices of the Bureau of Immigration. The Philippine Embassy in London is located at 6-8 Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HG; (Tel: 020 7451 1800).
 
Passport validity
 
Entry to the Philippines may be refused if your passport has less than six months validity or if you do not have an onward or return air ticket.  Overstaying without the proper authority is a serious matter and can lead to detention pending payment of outstanding fees and fines and voluntary deportation at your own expense.
 
Travelling with children
 
Parents of children travelling unaccompanied to the Philippines must file an "affidavit of support" with the nearest Philippines Embassy or Bureau of Immigration.
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some case, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Philippine Embassy in London.

Health

The extent of medical care varies across the Philippines, and may not meet the standards of care in the UK.  Although sufficient in major cities, medical care is limited in more remote areas.  You should be aware that medical treatment can be very expensive.

Rabies, typhoid, malaria (including malarial encephalitis), and dengue fever are common to the whole of the Philippines. Since the beginning of 2007 reports have indicated a significant increase in the number of Dengue Fever cases.

Since January 2008 there have been outbreaks of typhoid reported throughout the Philippines, these have occurred in Calamba City, Luzon in February 2008 and Zumarraga, Samar in March 2008.  You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to the Philippines you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 12,000 adults aged 15 or over in the Philippines were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at less than 0.1% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see the HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Philippines and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

For more general health information see the Travel Health.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
 
There have been no reported cases of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in the Philippines during the current series of outbreaks.  But the World Health Organisation has confirmed cases elsewhere in the region.

You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian & Pandemic Influenza.
 
Natural Disasters
 
Typhoons

The typhoon season in the Philippines normally runs from July to November.  This is also the rainy season and flooding and landslides may occur. You should follow the advice of local authorites and monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation see also Hurricanes.  You can also access http://www.nhc.noaa.gov for updates. 
 
Tropical Storm Mitag hit northern Luzon on 25 November 2007.  There were reports that at least six people were killed.

Typhoon Durian hit central Luzon on 1 December 2006.  The Typhoon caused mudslides and there were reports that around 1,000 people were killed.
 
Volcanoes

There are numerous volcanoes in Philippines, any of which can erupt without warning.  Sudden steam and ash explosions may occur at any time. Since July 2007 both Bulusan volcano in Sorsogon Province and Kanloan volcano in Negros Oriental Province have shown increased volcanic activity. Mayon volcano in Albay Province, south east Luzon, also continues to show signs of volcanic activity.
 
The capacity of the Philippine emergency and rescue services to deal with large natural disasters is limited. You are advised to exercise caution, check news reports and follow local advice before travelling to volcanic areas. More information can be found on the PHIVOLCS website: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph.

Earthquakes

The Philippines is in an earthquake zone.  The last significant earthquake to affect the Philippines was on July 16 1990 in Central Luzon when over 1100 people were killed.

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  You should have insurance cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, cards, passport or luggage.  See the Travel Insurance.  

If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see How We Can Help.

Language
 
English is widely spoken in the Philippines, and most signs are in English.
 
Registering with the British Embassy
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
Residents and longer-term visitors should register with the British Embassy and renew this annually to help keep information up-to-date.
 
Money
 
ATMs are available in Manila and other major cities.  Some machines accept major international credit or debit cards.  Retail outlets in urban areas usually accept payment by international credit card, though often add a service charge.  Banks do not always accept travellers' cheques, but it will help if you can show your receipt of purchase for the cheques.  Cash, in Pounds sterling or US dollars, can be exchanged for Philippine pesos in banks, hotels and some retail outlets.  Scottish and Northern Ireland bank notes are not generally accepted.  Buying foreign currency in the Philippines can be difficult.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Palau

Address:

Non-resident British Ambassador
(resides in Manila, Philippines)

British Embassy
Floors 15-17, LV Locsin Building
6752 Ayala Avenue, Corner of Makati Avenue
1226 Makati
(PO Box 2927 MCPO)
Manila

Telephone:

(63) (2) 580 8700
(63) (2) 580 8700 Consular
(63) (2) 580 8700 Consular/Visa

Duty Officer (Out of Hours Emergencies only) 00 63 917 530 6431

Fax:

(63) (2) 819 7206 Management
(63) (2) 810 2745 Visa
(63) (2) 815 6233 Commercial
(63) (2) 815 4809 Information
(63) (2) 840 1361 Consular
(63)(2) 813 7755 Chancery

Email: uk@info.com.ph

Email: uktrade@info.com.ph

Office hours:

Mon-Thur:
0800 - 1645 (local time)
0000 - 0845 (GMT)

Fri:
0800 - 1300 (local time)
0000 - 0500 (GMT)

Website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/philippines