Safest Way to Carry Cash While Traveling in the Philippines

the jeepney keeps rolling along

“Don’t Put Your Wallet in Your Back Pocket When You Board a Jeepney!” Brother and Sisters, that’s what I thought when I read a recent article in The Panay News. Some  Norwegian guy, 35, remembers placing his wallet in his short’s back pocket. He had boarded a Leganes public utility jeepney, PUJ, bound for Iloilo City. That begs the question: What’s the safest way to carry cash while traveling in the Philippines?

I’ve been on a Leganes jeepney and probably hundreds of other PUJ’s in Iloilo and Guimaras during over the past six years of living in the Philippines. I NEVER carry my wallet in my back pocket. When I had to go to Chicago or Vegas in the States, that wallet went into the front pocket of my relaxed fit Levi’s immediately.

Listen, I’m sorry the Norwegian got ripped off. He lost P3,800 in cash, 80 U.S. Dollars, an ID and a credit card.

He resides in Barangay Man-it, Passi City, so he should have been aware of the dangers of riding a jeepney in the Philippines, though I’ve never had one single problem while riding a PUJ.

The victim remembered a man boarding the jeepney from the Jaro district. The man sat beside him and shortly thereafter got out of the vehicle on the Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue.

The Panay News stated “this is bad for Philippine tourism.”

Disagree. Doubt that it will make even one tiny ripple.jaro cpu jeepney in iloilo city

But what’s the safest way to carry cash?

Independent Traveler.Com has some good tips.

They don’t recommend carrying anything valuable in a purse, which is too easily snatched, or a backpack.

I agree. A backpack can be ripped open with a razor by someone walking behind you at a crowded mall in the Philippines or while riding a jeepney. You won’t even know it.

The website states that even a wallet kept in your front pocket can be taken by an experienced pickpocket. Guess I should reconsider where I put my money then.

IT reports that wearing a money pouch that can be concealed under your clothing is a must. 

I’ve always used a money pouch or money belt while traveling by air. Some pouches attach to your belt, while others are worn around the neck, waist or calf.

I do have a new money pouch that I can wear around my neck and should retrieve that out of my luggage and start using it again when traveling to Iloilo City.

The Philippines Expat Advisor - Safest Way to Carry Cash While Traveling in the Philippines

If you’re traveling with a companion, make sure each of you has some cash and a credit card on hand in case you’re split up or one of you is robbed.

Now, Independent Traveler recommends that if you’re traveling alone you should keep a backup credit or debit card in a separate pouch from the one you’ll be using most often. You may want to keep a small amount of pesos in that separate pouch where it’s easily accessible.

That way you’re not flashing your cash each time you want to make a small purchase. I’ve done this in the past and think’s it’s an excellent safety tip for traveling in the Philippines.

Riding the jeepney in Iloilo City

Another good tip from the website is to make two copies of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, ATM cards and any other important documents you might be carrying.

Leave one copy at home with someone you can reach in an emergency.

Keep the other set with you in a safe place separate from the originals.

Another option is to scan your documents into a computer as a PDF file and e-mail it to yourself. This will allow you access to your documents from wherever you have an Internet connection.

And don’t fall for this scam that I’ve heard is used on jeepneys in the Philippines. Someone will drop some coins next to their intended victim. As the Good Samaritan bends down to help pick up the coins, another member of a pickpocket gang will lift the victim’s wallet.

Another Option, Attack the pickpocket

Last month the Panay News  reported that a man caught a jeepney passenger trying to steal his wallet.

Antonio Tabingo, a 57-year-old resident of Bankers Village, Barangay Quintin Salas, Jaro district, told police a pickpocket jumped out of the Jaro-Liko jeepney they were in after the thief was exposed. (My wife and I have been on a Jaro-Liko jeepney dozens of times on the way to the SM HyperMarket.)

OK, at least the newspaper account didn’t say the guy “exposed” himself.

Tabingo attacked first because the suspect had a sharp object and was trying to rip the wallet out of his trousers. Another positive, at least he wasn’t trying to yank something else out of the guy’s pants.

I give the guy credit for having balls. He grabbed the pickpocket’s hand holding the sharp object and began punching him on the chest.

But if you’re an old expat geezer like me, you might just want to get that money belt, and avoid a tussle.

FC 728 90 - Safest Way to Carry Cash While Traveling in the Philippines

What do you think? What’s the best way to safely carry cash in the Philippines in your opinion?

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

12 thoughts on “Safest Way to Carry Cash While Traveling in the Philippines

  1. My wife carries most of the money, I just keep a few thousand pesos for myself. I try to remember to also put my wallet in my front pocket, but many times I forget and it ends up in the back pocket where I carry it here in US.

    With body scanners at airports now, I dont know how well money belts will be tolerated, when you have to remove your belt and if they see something strapped to you leg, they will want to examine it I am sure, so would be a pretty big attention getter for anyone close by and seeing it.

    I have started sending money before I leave here as an international transfer.I put it into my wifes account there. I can send $10.00 or $100,000.00 for the same fee, and do it as dollars to dollars so nothing is lost in the exchange rate, then shop for the best rate I can find once I get there.I used to use XOOM, but this is far cheaper rates and there are no limits like XOOM imposes, just a flat $50.00 fee, them my bank credits $35.00 of that back to my account. Since I plan to move there in the near future, (anyone looking for a house in Virginia?) I set it up already so I can do transfers from my bank here in US, from there, although I have not done one yet, but will try it next month to make sure everything is working for when I move there.

    Dave, I want to wish you and all your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

    1. Sounds like you’ve found a good way to transfer your money, Bill S, and at a very reasonable cost. You’re smart to have already started the process so you will be able to hit the ground running once you sell your house in Virginia, which I hope happens very soon.

      Does anyone have any contacts in Virginia that could help Bill out? I would love to see him get that house sold so he could get over to the Philippines.

      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours, Bill. I sincerely hope that 2016 is the year you can make your move to the Philippines. Take care.

  2. Yes, money should always be carried in the front pocket or with a money belt in the front under the clothes…and that is good advice ANYWHERE you go with a lot of people around or in a crowded place…not just the Philippines.

    As far a this theft affecting tourism…I highly doubt it. Most people are smart enough to understand that this type of thing happens in EVERY country.

    I had my business van and all of my equipment stolen in October of 2014. I had a business van stolen as I was doing a job three years prior to that. My friends have had phones, money, and jewelry stolen walking down the street. It really bothers me when people act like this stuff only happens in the Philippines.

    And to be quite honest, no one should have anything stolen from them but that is not the world we live in and having your wallet in your back pocket is just not very bright.

    1. I will probably be dragging out my money pouch again, Todd. And you’re right, thieves exist in every part of the world and have since the beginning of time. The Philippines is no better or worse than other countries, as you point out with your own personal example.

      I was fortunate back in the States to only have the driver’s side window of my Honda Civic smashed and an Alpine stereo taken out. And many decades ago, in our small town in Central Illinois, we didn’t even lock our doors at night. Times have changed.

  3. Hi Dave, times have changed you just have to be careful with your stuff yes I’ve had
    Pickpockets trying to steal my stuff, my backpack I carry on my chest if there are thieves
    About, I always buy shorts with zip pockets to keep my money in , but like Todd says it
    Happens in every country in the world including my own country England were I even
    Had my motorcycle stolen with 3 locks on it , it’s part of life now I had my stereo stolen
    From my car smashed my side window nice Panasonic gone ,friend give me a old stereo
    Front which clips on to your expensive stereo never happened again,
    Happy Christmas to everyone, Derek in pasig.

    1. Yes, Derek, I have seen people carry their backpacks on my chest, much better idea than leaving it on your back where you can’t see it.
      I should have used the fake front clip idea on my expensive Alpine stereo which I had in the States. We only have a factory stereo in our Ford Ranger here that I never turn on; I have to concentrate on the jeepney and trike drivers that dodge in and out of traffic and stop without warning.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Derek, and a Happy New Year.

  4. When I travel to the Philippines or anywhere else I use a money belt for more serious amounts of money and a travel wallet with a chain for smaller bills and credit cards. I also usually separate the money putting some in another pocket or even a shoe just in case. But I know that no system is foolproof and anybody can be robbed if the robber is motivated enough.

    1. That’s a good tip, DaveW, thanks. The old money in the shoe is one I used back in the States. I always wore cowboy boots and when I went to my favorite honky-tonk, which was always known to have a good fight or two during the evening, I would stick my money in my boot. 🙂

  5. Last year I caught a pickpocket in the act down between Robertos and Central Market in downtown Iloilo. Turns out attempted theft in the Philippines is 3 months in prison. He did his full term. It was an interesting insight into the Philippines legal system. It was also quite entertaining 🙂

    Fortunately, I made a choice which turned out to be a good one during the event.

    – I gave chased and yelled for “Pulis” while in pursuit. Ya know those security guards everywhere in white shirts? Turns out they are trained but extremely bored. They came out of everywhere to assist and were very professional (if a bit rough handling the culpirt).

    – By calling for assistance, I ensured that if the guy pulled a weapon that I would not be the one stabbed or injured during the takedown.

    I was using my backpack at the time, but that is a risk I will take. I dont’ carry valuables in it. Worst he would have gotten that day is a bag of fresh veggies 🙂 He had opened my upper backpack pocket and had his hand inside.

    1. Great story, Rease, thanks for sharing it. I know I’ve been targeted a few times by would-be thieves but thanks to my ever-watchful asawa, she tipped me off. Had a couple of incidents in Iloilo and one in downtown Bacolod. Always pays to be vigilant. Glad you came out of the incident unscathed.

  6. Hi Dave,
    After your earliest article about the bullet scam in airpors I search for better luggage options and found this site http://www.pacsafe.com. it seems to have good safety tips and gear for travelling.
    always enjoy your articles.
    happy New Year!
    Thanks,
    Mark

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