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How to Stay Street Smart in the Philippines
 

The Philippines is a wonderful place for a vacation, but like all other places it pays to take precautions against theft. Here you will find a list of things you can do to make your holiday both enjoyable and safe.

How to be Street Smart

1. The main rule is this: stay alert to your surroundings!
2. Don't walk down alleys or through parks at night.
3. Do not wear flashy jewelry.
4. Carry everyday items in a plastic bag, not an expensive looking briefcase or purse.
5. If you carry a purse, loop the strap over your shoulder, not around your neck.
6. Beware of someone who approaches you in the street and holds out a newspaper as if offering it for sale. The newspaper is simply a shield for his hand that will reach under the paper and empty your shirt pocket.
7. Never get staggering drunk.
8. Walk confidently as if you know where you are going, not as if you are lost.
9. Don't keep all your valuables in one place - spread them about. For example, your cash in one pocket, your keys in another pocket, and your cell phone in a secure belt case.

After a while these things will become second nature.

How to Handle Money Safely

Never flash large sums of money around. It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many people disregard this advice. For example, when you receive a bill in a restaurant the temptation is to take a large wad of cash and count it out on the table. Don't!

Before asking for the bill take out your cash and count off the approximate amount under the table. Then put the rest back into your pocket.

This raises another point - don't carry a wallet. Wallets are too bulky and too obvious. If you are a male, carry your cash in your left trouser pocket, NEVER in your hip pocket. And to make the notes less obvious arrange them in a set order.

Place the high denomination notes on top and the lowest denomination notes (like 20 peso notes) at the bottom. Then fold the notes so the small 20 peso notes are on the outside and the high denomination notes are inside. Then, when you take the wad out of your pocket, only the small denomination notes will be visible.

How to Avoid Hustlers

Here, as in other parts of the world, you will find hustlers - or rather, hustlers will find you! Hustlers prey on foreigners. They are also very good salesmen. They have various approaches, all aimed at separating you from your money. Here are just a few:

"Hi, I remember you from xxx Hotel."
"Hi, remember me? I used to work at the xxx Hotel."
"Hi, you're from (name a country)." When you reply telling them where you are from they will respond, "Yes, my sister lives there. You may know her."

The point of these openings is to either get you into a tricycle or to have a drink.

DON'T!

NEVER get into a tricycle unless you have hired it!
NEVER accept a drink from a stranger! Don't be rude, just refuse the drink politely, and thank him for the offer.

Warning - be very careful not to confuse genuine Filipino hospitality with hustling!

After reading this you may think that the Philippines is a dangerous place. It is not! In fact the Philippines is inhabited by some of the most friendly and hospitable people in the world. Go out and enjoy yourself! Just remember - the best prevention is precaution.


The author has lived in Asia for over 44 years and has never been robbed or conned.

Allan Miller
7 March 2009

  Copyright © 2009 Allan Miller

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