Is Boracay too touristy and overcrowded? That’s all perspective. That’s what local Filipinos say about it, but that certainly doesn’t apply to their gorgeous beaches. While Boracay is the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines, it seems like half the tourists are focused on avoiding the sun. When I was there, the beaches were wide open when the sun was out, 10am – 4pm.
Boracay Too Touristy?
Here are photos of Boracay at different times of the day – it was completely empty at 1pm. By 5pm people start coming out, and by 6pm people are out to enjoy the sunset and post-sunset.
Boracay at 5:56 PM [17:58]
Boracay has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Amazing!
at 1:14 PM:
does this look overcrowded?
This photo may look like it was taken of a private beach, but it’s actually beautiful Boracay in the Philippines. It didn’t get much more crowded than this…
At 6am for sunrise, young people are just getting back home from the bars after a night of dancing.
The nightlife is awesome, among the best of any town in Asia. The “crowded” label likely is referring to the nightlife (with that said, it’s still less crowded than a lot of the bars we frequent at home in New York City). The beaches… I thought it was some sort of holiday or my area was semi-private since so few people were outside, but others pointed out that many of the tourists are coming for the parties. Many are coming from eastern Asia and thus less interested in being out during the sun’s warmest rays.
Is Boracay too touristy and overcrowded? Nope!
I strongly disagree with all of the advice I received. Boracay is wonderful and fairly quiet beaches during the day. Don’t let anybody convince you that Boracay’s overcrowded. Perhaps that refers to the Boracay nightlife, but not the beaches.
When considering visiting the Philippines, I kept receiving the same ominous warning each time. “Don’t go to the Philippines – you’ll die!” That sounds ominous! But is Boracay dangerous?
Based on that advice I was planning on avoiding the entire country. But is it true? Is the entire Philippines dangerous? Is Boracay dangerous? Let’s dive in!
Crime in the Philippines
I kept hearing about the terrible crime problems, and that tourists actually get kidnapped (OMG!). Between that, and how far it was from everywhere else I was planning to go, I initially wasn’t even considering going.
Spoiler Alert – you can visit Boracay the Philippines safely
I lived, and I’m glad I went! The Philippines ended up being one of my favorite countries I visited.
They weren’t even on my initial Asia trip plan, but there was so much I wanted to see and do that I stay there an entire month! That’s longer than anywhere else on my trip.
I give a special thanks to a traveler I met, Amanda, from Canada. When I was diving in Sipadan, Borneo – she raved about her experiences there. Then I met Jesper and Louise (from Denmark), and they loved it there too, specifically Bohol. And on and on.
So are the Philippines really dangerous? Here’s what you need to know:
Is Boracay and the Philippines really dangerous?
Let’s break it down. Parts of the Philippines are safe, parts are dangerous. Fortunately it’s easy to go the areas that are safe.
From what I’ve read and heard (details below), the South of the Philippines (the southern third) is actually dangerous and to be avoided. Don’t even pass through.
If you’re still wondering, is Boracay dangerous, let me clear that up. Boracay is not scary. It has very little crime. You still want to be street smart, especially at night (minimal lights when walking back to your hotel/hostel), but it felt fine.
It’s nearly always misleading to declare an entire country as too dangerous to visit. I’ll elaborate on those parts in a moment, but you need to know that the popular parts of the Philippines are both safe and wonderful! Where?
Where are the Philippines safe? Is Boracay dangerous or safe?
The Visayas are likely where you want to go. That’s the center/middle of the Philippines.
I loved Boracay and surrounding islands, and I’ve also heard stellar reviews for Palawan and El Nido in the west as well.
Beaches and nightlife in Boracay Island
Boracay is the beach tourist capital – it’s one of my favorite places for the beaches, the nightlife, and so many reasons. Unlike Thailand’s beach tourist capital (Phuket), Boracay beaches don’t get crowded and are among the best you’ll see. They’re awesome!
If you have enough time and don’t want to overlook some treasures of the south, please do your homework.
The US and UK have very stern warnings against visiting due to terrorism. There’s lots to know and it sounds like it ‘s to be avoided. More info at the bottom of this page.
Manila and northern Philippines
There’s quite a bit of crime in Manila, but I haven’t heard about any kidnapping at random. With that said, I hear there’s quite a bit of research on specific businessmen with big bank accounts to hold for ransom. They’re not looking for backpackers in Manila. I ended up avoiding altogether, but mostly because of the rich alternatives to explore.
How dangerous is Manila?
Manila also has quite a bit of crime – pick-pocketing, ATM scamming, etc. If you go, as with anywhere, particularly in cities, it’s important to be street-smart and aware of your surroundings, so you can appreciate the capital of the country. Here’s the US State Department’s writeup on the Philippines.
Fun fact: Manila is one of the fastest growing places for customer service jobs for US companies – labor is cheap like in India, but without the strong accents.
Philippines Orientation –
Manila is in the north; it’s the area labeled Luzon. Most of the islands you want to visit are in the middle, which are referred as the Visayas (which includes Boracay, Cebu, and nearly every place I visited). The south is the dangerous “stay away!” areas. You want that middle area, the Visayas. Avoid the southern islands.
Where are the Philippines located?
The Philippines are far from everywhere I was visiting in SE Asia. They’re directly east of Vietnam, south of Taiwan, southeast of China, and northeast of Borneo.
Conclusion: Boracay is safe! The Philippines are mostly safe. But be smart
The areas near Boracay in the center of the Philippines are largely safe. The South is dangerous. Manila and the areas in the North has crime but is ok.
Ok, so Manila is filled with crime, and the south is legitimately scary and dangerous. That leaves a whole lot of awesomeness in the middle to explore. I’ve shared some of my favorite adventure stories from the Philippines on Visit50.com.
To answer, are the Philippines dangerous, I’ve highlighted some more info on the crime in the southern Philippines’ Sulu Islands. Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office suggests you avoid:
We advise against all travel to south-west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activity. We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reason. There are also ongoing clashes between the military and insurgent groups in the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. See Safety and Security -Terrorismand Safety and Security – Local Travel.
Terrorism: There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Such places could include, but are not limited to, airports, shopping malls, places of worship etc.
Kidnapping: There is a threat from kidnapping in the Philippines, particularly in the southern Philippines. Kidnapping could occur anywhere, including on coastal and island resorts and dive boats and sites in the Sulu Sea. On 12 July two US citizens and a Philippine national were kidnapped from a resort on the island of Tictabon near the southern port city of Zamboanga. On 5 December 2011, an Australian citizen was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay.
[Normally I’d use the US State Dept but their info wasn’t nearly as clear]