Exotic wildlife, pinkish-orange sunsets, brilliant blue seas overlooked by lime cliffs…sounds like the perfect holiday destination, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is! We’re talking about Palawan, one of the most blissful vacation spots in the Philippines.
For a long time, non-natives were clueless about the wonders of Palawan. That changed one day when a group of foreign scuba divers chanced upon the town’s beautiful rocky coastlines.
If you’re planning a visit Palawan, then one of the biggest issues to consider is safety. Is Palawan safe for tourists? Are there any dangers to watch out for? By the end of this article, we’ll have all these questions answered and more.
Where is Palawan?
Before we delve into the question of the day (is Palawan safe for tourists?), let us share some basic information on the region. Palawan is located on the western border of the Philippines. Officially, it is called The Province of Palawan and is an archipelago of islands that come together to make up one of the Philippines’ provinces.
The Philippines has many small and large islands, all of which are part of the country. To make things easier to understand, the Philippines is divided into several administrative regions and Palawan falls under the region of Mimaropa. With Islands stretching from Mindoro to Borneo, Palawan covers a total land area of about 5,656.29 square meters.
The province of Palawan has more than 1,700 islands and islets. The largest being Palawan island.
In 2016, travellers voted Palawan as the most beautiful island in the world. Apart from its breathtaking land and seascapes, Palawan offers exotic wildlife – both terrestrial and aquatic. It’s the home to many endangered and endemic species that are protected by UNESCO.
Is Palawan Safe for Tourists?
So, is Palawan safe for tourists?
We’d love to say that the most beautiful place in the world is also the safest place in the world. That might be true, but since there’s currently no evidence to prove it, we’ll stay away from making such a bold statement. What we can say is that Palawan is the safest part of the Philippines. You’ll soon see why.
Travelling to Palawan comes with certain safety risks, just like travelling anywhere in the world. If you ignore the risks, you are more vulnerable to danger. Of course, we’re not saying that all of Palawan is unsafe. Like any country, some areas in Palawan are safer and more tourist-friendly than others.
However, here are a few dangers you might encounter in Palawan:
Crime is not something to worry about in Palawan. The crime rate of the province is close to zero, with a further reduction each year. There are police patrol teams everywhere, and they’re always on the alert for any suspicious or violent behaviour.
It’s evident that the Palawan government has done a lot to make sure that tourists in Palawan are safe. Unfortunately, they haven’t managed to drive out all crime. Petty crimes like robbery and pickpocketing are still prevalent in tourist areas. Protect your money from pickpockets!
Keeping your money safe from theft and pickpockets is essential when traveling on the road.
A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.
Terrorism and kidnapping
In May 2017, the US Embassy in Manila issued warning messages to all US citizens in the Philippines, with information about a gang of terrorists who were planning to kidnap tourists in the Palawan area. Thankfully, nothing of the sort actually happened. But the May 2017 warning was not the only time there was a threat of terrorism and kidnapping.
The Mindanao and Sulu regions are frequently under threat because of the clashes between terrorist groups and the military. There has also been a warning about potential terrorist activity in the Visayas region. Since 2015, there have been a few cases of tourists being kidnapped.
The Philippine authorities have heightened security measures, but it’s always wise to take precautions. For instance, avoid wandering into unknown and dark areas by yourself. If you’re with with a tour guide, always follow your guide’s lead, and try to stay in a group as much as possible.
Thankfully, Palawan isn’t in the Ring of Fire like the rest of the Philippines. The Ring of Fire is an area in the basin of the Pacific that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. That’s great but…(it seems like there’s always a but after the good news, right?)
Palawan is still at risk of other natural disasters. For instance, typhoons are quite common in the area, especially during the monsoon season. Fortunately, it’s unlikely for Palawan to get struck by one that’s powerful enough to cause worry.
The Palawan province is also vulnerable to tsunamis. But once again, the tsunamis so far haven’t been severe enough to affect tourism. Compared to other regions, Palawan is one of the the safest areas in the Philippines.
Crocodiles in Balabac
Balabac forms part of the Palawan Province. Crocodiles are practically a part of life in Balabac. The locals know they’re close by, and the crocodiles are also very aware of human presence around them.
If your Palawan tour takes you towards Balabac, be aware that crocodiles are a significant risk in that area. There are several reports of crocodile attacks each year. Some crocodiles are bold enough to venture into the town to attack people.
Creatures that bite
As mentioned earlier, Palawan is home to several exotic animals. You’ll find a wide variety of creatures that don’t exist anywhere else. There is also a variety of dangerous creatures to watch out for.
Palawan is home to scorpions of all different types and sizes. The most common is the Malay Giant Scorpion. These creatures are extremely aggressive and very territorial. Accidentally stepping on one of them will not end well. The sting of a Malay Giant Scorpion isn’t lethal, but it’s incredibly excruciating.
Additionally, the largest stag beetle in the world is also a Palawan resident. Their bites are painful as well, so keep an eye out for them.
Another creepy crawly to watch out for is the Palawan centipede. This creature is enormous by centipedes standards, and they’re also very dangerous. It has sharp claws that connect to venomous glands. Generally, it would help if you watched where you walk, as you don’t want to accidentally step on one of these biting creatures.
Nightlife Safety in Palawan
Palawan has a healthy nightlife culture. From seafront bars and BBQ grills to inland pubs and nightclubs – party enthusiasts will find themselves right at home. The problem is, alcohol comes with its own set of dangers.
A lot of petty crimes occur at night when people are either intoxicated or have let their guard down. It’s not uncommon to see street fights that are triggered by binge drinking. Often, these bar brawls escalate very rapidly. Occasionally, the drunken participants may pull out weapons including guns, knives, and machetes. If you witness a bar brawl, leave the premises immediately to avoid getting hurt.
Another important thing to watch out for on your night out is drink spiking. Local vagabonds are infamous for spiking the drinks of unsuspecting tourists. With their victims unconscious, it’s easy for these vagabonds to rob or assault them brutally. How do you stay safe? Simple. Refuse to accept drinks from strangers. Don’t be lured by a pleasant and friendly appearance; this is often how they catch their victims. Keep an eye on your drinks at all times.
It’s also worth noting that the Palawan local liquor is very potent. You can become intoxicated and lose control of yourself very quickly. If you decide to try it, do so in a safe and private place, or with people you know and trust.
The Safest Beaches in Palawan
Stunning beaches are one of Palawan’s trademarks. The contrast of turquoise waters against the white sand and bright blue sky is gorgeous. Topped up with lush green palms and looming limestone rocks, Palawan beaches are any traveller’s dream come true.
A Palawan beach has all the beauty of other Philippine beaches, but without the crowd and noise.
Our favourite beaches are:
- Seven Commandos Beach
- Long Beach in San Vicente
- La Cabanas beach in El Nido
- Nacpan Beach in El Nido
- Banol beach in Coron
- Talaudyong beach in Puerto Princesa
Generally, swimming in Palawan is safe, but there are some areas to watch out for. On the West Coast, the water has dangerous undertows right beneath the surface. The waves may look calm, but you can easily get pulled in by the current underneath.
The most dangerous beaches in terms of undertows are Sabang beach, Nagtabon beach, and City beach. Look out for red flags on beaches. These are a sign that it’s not safe to swim.
If you’re taking a swim and feel yourself being carried away by the whirlwind current, don’t try to swim against it. Instead, swim in the direction of the current, and gradually edge yourself to either the right or left, depending on where the nearest shore is.
Is the food safe in Palawan?
Because Palawan is a popular tourist site, eating out has become part of the island culture. The restaurants in Palawan are among the best and safest in all of the Philippines.
Unlike other Filipino restaurants, Palawan restaurants offer a combination of both local and international dishes. The local dishes are a big hit with tourists. Palawan dishes are a fusion of Chinese, Spanish, and Malay cuisine.
Because of this, local food appeals to visitors from many different countries. But if you want a taste of home, there’s no doubt you’ll find something from your country in one of Palawan’s many international restaurants. We have listed some of our favourite restaurants below:
- Mojitos RestoBar
- The Nesting Table
- NomNom Comfort food
- Vellago Restaurant and Beachbar
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions to Palawan
Since the current COVID -19 pandemic, you’re probably wondering whether it’s safe to go to Palawan now and whether it’s even possible to travel there. At the beginning of the outbreak, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) banned all non-essential travels abroad.
In some countries, the ban has either been lifted or is gradually being eased to allow tourists in.
While travel to The Philippines is still very restricted, there are a few groups of visitors who currently have entry access:
- Foreigners with Filipino spouses
- Minor children with Filipino parents
- Children with special needs (at least one parent must be a Filipino)
- Foreigners with minor Filipino children
- Foreigners with Filipino children who have special needs
- Foreign Nationals with long term visas.
So, is Palawan safe for tourists?
Compared to other Filipino destinations, Palawan is one of the safest places for tourists that are seeking a tropical holiday. There are few safety risks, but if you’re vigilant and follow the instructions of your tour guide, it’s very unlikely that you’ll encounter danger.
Because of COVID-19, currently, tourists aren’t allowed to enter the Philippines. But we’re all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that things will clear up soon.
Till then, you can keep busy by reading more great articles on our site! Leave a comment to let us know your thoughts about Palawan.