What I can say, based on my personal experience, is this: I have criss-crossed the island of Luzon alone and I’ve taken buses, tricycles and jeepneys alone and I’ve never felt, not even once, that my safety was somehow threatened.
I haven’t been to the Visayas or Mindanao, so I don’t know if it is safe or not to travel there.
My solo walks “sa kabukiran”
When I arrived in the Philippines for the first time, I was very eager to explore everything I could possibly explore.
We arrived in Manila at 1 am but, because it was my first experience outside Europe, I almost didn’t sleep at night and woke up very early to walk about in the barangay.
My wife and my mother-in-law didn’t look very happy that I had taken the initiative to go out of the house without a “body guard” and they gave me all sorts of warnings about how dangerous it was for me to walk about in the barangay alone.
I was not too convinced and I actually went much further away than the barangay itself: I spent entire days out in the kabukiran (countryside) and, quite honestly, I saw nothing but smiling faces.
All roads lead to Cubao
I live in Rome, Italy, and there is a saying about Rome that goes “all roads lead to Rome”.
In the Philippines “all roads lead to Cubao”.
Cubao is a major bus terminal in Quezon City and buses from Cubao go all around Luzon
My Filipino wife, like many Filipinos who work abroad, wants to do nothing but stay home, when she goes home to the Philippines, while I am eager to explore the country.
In order to discourage me from pushing her to go somewhere together she would say that it was just too dangerous for the two of us to go around, let alone for me to go off on my own.
As I said, even the fact that I was walking alone in the countryside was a cause for complaint.
So I decided to overcome my wife’s resistance (which, I must admit with the benefit of hindsight, was a rather selfish move and not very beneficial for my relationship….but I eventually managed to fix a lot of things in my relationship) and make a further leap, and one morning I went to Cubao and took a bus to La Union, where I met up with other Filipinos who live in Italy and who were in the Philippines on vacation.
I used their home as a base for my solo bus, jeepney and tricycle trips to various parts of the Ilocandia
I spent 10 days away from my wife and her family, partly with my Pinoy friends and partly completely alone, and I didn’t even see the shadow of a dangerous situation during my solo bus or tricycle rides.
Again, maybe the reason is that I speak Tagalog and I know how to build rapport with Filipinos, I don’t know.
Perhaps if someone else does what I did he will be attacked so I disclaim responsibility for what I am writing.
Maybe you shouldn’t try Quiapo by night alone but, by and large, I think that travelling in the Philippines isn’t a problem for most foreigners.
I’ve actually met Western couples who had rented cars and who were doing road trips without any “body guards”.
Europe is more dangerous than the Philippines
In my life I have only experienced a couple of incidents in which I run the risk of being robbed: one took place in Paris, France and another in Brussels, Belgium. Nothing happened to me in the Philippines.
I was in Quiapo (a part of Manila that is considered dangerous) at night with my family and I have the feeling that, because I know how to deal with Filipinos, I could have walked alone there, or in Tondo (an even more “dangerous” area of Manila), without any problems.
Quiapo and Tondo are actually peanuts compared to parts of Naples in Southern Italy: if you walk alone in Quiapo or Tondo you might be robbed. If you walk alone in certain parts of Naples you will be robbed….
A slum in Naples, Italy: try walking alone here at night….
My Filipino mother-in-law was held up in Rome!
I’ve never been held up in the Philippines but my Filipino mother in law (the very one who got very angry at me because I wanted to explore the Philippines alone) was held up in Rome few weeks after she moved to Italy!
Few months later burglars broke into the apartment of a Filipino family whom I known.
I have heard stories of Filipinos being robbed or even killed in my country, while no one of the Europeans whom I know (and I know many), who have been to the Philippines, has ever been injured by criminals in the Philippines.
This is, of course, simply my own experience and limited perspective.
Quiapo by Night: the Ultimate Philippine Adventure
Maybe, as I said, you shouldn’t try Divisoria, Quiapo or Tondo by night (unless you are fluent in Tagalog like me…..) or, maybe, parts of Mindanao but, by and large, as far as I am concerned, travelling in the Philippines has proved to be much safer than the warnings full of doom and gloom that I had heard before I made my first trip to the country.
So, take your precautions and enjoy the Philippines!