Some people prefer to say survival kit, but “survival” makes Manila sound scary. That’s why I say Manila Safety Kit.
Manila Safety Kit
These are trying times for the Philippines. The turning over of leadership to a new party is always a shaky process. The media, both international and local, are abuzz with news of political rackets and of injustice on the streets. However, as risky as a visit to the country might seem, there actually is virtually nothing to worry about.
A tourist would have the same amount of danger visiting Manila, as he/she would at any other part of the world – even in their own hometown, if they aren’t careful enough. Although crime used to be rampant in the city, this level is now receding with the new, albeit controversial, actions of new governance.
Just like any other city, Manila comes with its own Tourist Tips and Tricks. A Safety Kit, if you will; because no matter where you are, it always pays to be prepared.
Dress to Dissuade
As you would expect of a Third World country, robberies are quite common. However, they are never as violent or dramatic as they are being depicted these days. There are lone pickpockets who prey on unsuspecting individuals, and more commonly, there are groups who work together (most of them have their own signature ‘modus operandi’) to assist the pickpocket by first distracting their victims. In both these cases, what is observed by the stealers first and foremost is clothing.
It is a fair assessment to say that a person who “looks rich”, judging by the clothes they are wearing, really is rich. So it isn’t any surprise why a pickpocket would prey on such a person.
The clothes that you would wear at home should be enough for your adventures around Manila. Shorts and a thin shirt are preferable under the Manila heat, anyways. A backpack is fine too, just make sure you are always aware of the people around you and that your bag is securely closed.
Walking side by side in a crowded area is also a good precaution as you can get a better rear view of your fellow tourists, and they have a better view of your back too.
If you absolutely must dress well for some occasion, then we got two more things to work on…
Transportation and Travel Buddies
In Manila, white taxis are mostly privately owned taxis, meaning one person may own one, two, or even a small fleet of taxis with hired drivers. These types are picky with their destinations, especially at rush hour. They will only agree to take you to places that are convenient for them as they don’t want to get stuck too long in traffic. However, the sight of foreigners are a welcomed one to these opportunists, so they’ll almost always agree to take them wherever. However, you must insist on metering the fare, or else they’ll ‘fix’ the price at an overestimated value when you get to your destination.
Although it is quite safe to get on one of these taxis during daytime, it is a risk at night as there have been reports of these kind of cabbies being used to pull out thefts. So if you want to be on the safe side, it is best to stick with the legitimately company-owned yellow and green colored taxis. These cabbies will take you wherever as their drivers don’t have a sales quota to meet and they are guaranteed to be registered.
Safer yet, use Grab Taxi. Taxi and car rental services like Grab Taxi are booming in the Philippines. With options to track and record your driver’s info, no driver would even think about taking the risk of stealing from a passenger.
As usual, it is important to be very wary of your surroundings; even when you’re in a vehicle. There are reports of thieves on the streets who are on the look out for unlocked car doors. These thieves are known to suddenly open up unlocked car doors and quickly nab a few belongings before making a run for it.
It also pays to always have company when travelling as a lone traveler is an easier target.
If you want to go the more exotic and adventurous route, take a tricycle. But keep in mind that most of them are not governed by rules.
Plan before you Plane
Manila has a ton of great hotels to offer. You may be offered a stay at one of these great hotels at the airport itself. Everything looks legitimate and safe as the staffers offering you the accommodations will be well dressed and they will have their very own stalls – but it is just better to book ahead instead of relying on these instantly presented options.
It is always best to book a hotel with your travel agency as well since they would know which ones would best be suited to your needs. You would also have the time to decide on where to stay so there won’t be any more stress after the already stressful flight.
An inconvenience to booking a hotel at the airport itself is also the fact that you might now know exactly where in Manila the hotel is located. Great sounding budget hotels may be located far from any tourist spots, and you would only find that out when you get to the hotel itself.
Safe as Safe Gets
In conclusion, it is safe to say that Manila is a…safe place. The only things which are at risk (at a very low level) are your belongings when traveling, as pickpockets and thieves have become masters of their silent crafts. These days, as the police are forced to become more vigilant under orders of their new government, Manila has become even safer. So even many of the petty criminals have stopped doing the things they do out of fear.
The petty thefts that have been known to happen, seldom occur. And these cases are only known because barangays have now CCTV and footages are being recorded so information of their modus operandi spreads fast on social media. As for the news of kidnappings, these cases only happen far into the south of the country – a long way away from the safety within the nation’s capital, and even many of its surrounding provinces.
And, lastly, about the apparent violence in recent weeks in relation to the government’s ‘War on Drugs’, what’s certain is that the word ‘war’ is an overstatement as there is no war. At least, it’s not one that is actively seen on the streets. It’s a mostly silent operation which only criminals should be worried about. Things are functioning normally as they always do in the Philippines and tourists as safe as ever.