This tip pretty well goes without saying in ANY COUNTRY you visit. Your ID, Passport and supporting documents are your lifeline and exit strategy to and from any country. Without these items your stuck, trapped and without hope. Ok a little bleek I know, but these mentioned items are super important and should be protected at all times.
How should I protect my ID, Passport & Documents?:
Well this is pretty much common sense, keep all of your originals either in a bank safety deposit box, in the hotel or resort safe, or hidden in your room under lock and key. In short do NOT
carry around your original documents with you. Keep them safe!
What should I have with me at all times?:
It is a MUST to have some form of ID on your person at all times. This is crucial if a police officer or immigration official stops you, and asks to see your ID or Visa documents. Now with this said, it would seem quite silly to go around with your ID, Passport and Visa documents with you at all times, not only could you lose them, they could be stolen or damaged. So what we suggest you do is if your visiting the country on business or are on vacation, is to carry a PHOTO COPY of your DRIVERS LICENSE ID, your PASSPORT ID PAGE and your ENTRY VISA PAGE, this way all of your bases are covered.
This is a rather big tip, as so much can be said about money here in the Philippines, and how it should be handled. So we will try out best to cover the most common questions.
How to handle cash:
Firstly only carry around cash that you will need for the day, do not carry a large sums of money. Leave all ATM and Credit Cards where you are staying (locked and safe like your documents) Also when carrying the cash, make sure you keep it in your front pocket (zipped up if you can) and a little in your sock (if your wearing them) This way if the worst case scenario happened, and you were mugged, you would have backup money to get you to your hotel or destination. This sounds scary I know, however fear not as it does not happen often, but it is a good practise, just incase it does happen to you.
So just to touch base on some clothing ideas for you to help secure your money. Firstly you can get shorts with zipper front pockets, if not you can always take your shorts to a taylor and get a zipper installed. This will help slow down pick pockets when in a crowd of people or riding a bus or Jeepny. Another alternate option is a neck purse, which is a flat pocket that you hang around your neck under your clothing, this option is one of the safer ways of storing your money, but in our experience too much of a hassle when you need to get money out to pay for something. So we recommend the first option.
Big & Small!:
Most places here in the Philippines take CASH ONLY, only big businesses such as restaurants, malls and other big outlets take credit cards. So if you venture out into the province, expect even less places to accept credit cards. In our experiences it is always best to deal in cash. Again this brings us back to making sure that you have enough money for your day on you.
When dealing with most street vendors or smaller shops, they will not have the resources to offer change on big notes, so make sure you go to the bank and exchange your big bills for smaller denominations. We recommend that you carry cash notes in the 20, 50, 100 peso amounts and a fist full of coins with 1, 5 and 10 peso amounts. Keep your coins for traveling in small vehicles, such as a Trisikads, Tricycles, Buses & Jeepny's. So it is always smart to make sure you have the exact amount, when purchasing goods.
Keep it to yourself!:
In most western parts of the world, you can pull your cash out of your wallet, to find the money you need and not worry about it, here you should not flash your cash! Only pull out money to cover your purchase. Flashing cash is a quick way to draw un-wanted attention and makes you a target. This is not meant to scare you, but it is meant to help keep you safe.
There are a few tips we can give you to help you BLEND
more. Now granted most foreigners stick out in the crowd, and can be seen from a mile away, however these tips will make you less of a target for pickpocket's and other bad elements.
Lets talk about a dress code! Ok well not really a dress code but more of a: "Do not rub your riches in our faces!" type of dress code. You have to realize, that to most people in the Philippines, you have more money than they do. Filipino's are humble and good natured people, and it is rather rude to showboat or show off your goods, so to speak. Wearing the Bling Bling such as jewelry, watches, high end cellphones and fancy clothing will draw un-needed and un-wanted attention, and as I mentioned it is also considered rude. So tone down your appearance a little to BLEND in more. You have to remember your in their country now, they do not have to change to suite your needs, you have to change to fit into society here! Also you are NO BETTER than they are, so do not think that you are, remember that and you will go far, make friends and really enjoy your stay here.
It does not work the same here, so lose the attitude!:
Most foreigners visiting here have an attitude, this persona about them, and when your here in the Philippines, you should just drop it! This gives expats that live here a bad name. What the hell am I talking about? Well I am referring to the way things are done in your country, they work very VERY differently here in the Philippines, and sometimes you will become frustrated to how things are done here, but kicking and screaming about it, will not change the situation, and will only make it worse! I am not saying accept it laying down, but you should remember again, your in their country now bub, not your own! In short when dealing with confrontations or other issues, remain calm, and talk respectful, you will find that it will get resolved eventually. However if you kick and scream and talk poorly, you will get a much bigger negative reaction and nothing will get resolved, and it is also very dangerous to be in a confrontation where your yelling and being outright obnoxious. One thing I will say is, Filipino's stick together, what starts as a shouting match with one person can become a fight with many more before you can blink, so be warned. So in most instances it is best to just walk away.
If your a good natured easy going person, that is open to the people and culture, you will make great friends here that will watch your back, and look out for you. Again it all comes down to the attitude that you put out there, just chill and go with the flow. You will love it here once YOU have changed and adapted to the way of life here in the Philippines!
Is the Philippines a scary place?:
After reading the above safety tips, it might make you feel un-easy or worried that the Philippines is not a safe place. Well I can assure you that it is quite safe indeed, it is just common sense for the most part, as you have to keep in mind, and I have said it before, your not in your own country any more. So the above tips are more of a guide to help you feel safe in a strange, unknown and yet exciting place. Just keep in mind that like any other country in the world, there is good and bad, so make sure you do your research no matter where you go.
Filipino's are the most warm, friendly and family oriented people I have personally had the pleasure of knowing, their laid back way of life, is what more western countries should learn from. This is one of the biggest reasons why my wife and I are moving there (2013), to enjoy a simpler and personally a better way of life. There are less rules, less red tape, and much more fun!