Metro Manila · Laws, Rules & Regulations

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In addition to a common code of behaviour (do not hurt or insult people et cetera), the Megacity Manila features some rules and laws which might not be familiar to everyone. While a list of all social and cultural behaviours would definitely fill some pages (and it makes more fun to figure it out by yourself), features the most important rules and laws which, when followed, prevent you from getting in trouble.

Most of those laws are called 'ordinances' which means that they might differ from city to city and from HotSpot to HotSpot. In order to be timeless, we present them to you as overall ordinances, as following them is not a bad idea anyway - and they are all enforced in one or the other HotSpot anyway. The strictest in this regard is Makati (Salcedo, Jupiter and Legazpi HotSpot as well as the International & Alternative Makati HotDot).

Rules of Thumb

  1. It is prohibited do drive when you are drunk.
  2. Smoking is only allowed in designated 'smoking areas'. If in doubt where the smoking area is or if smoking is prohibited in the HotSpot you are in, ask the staff present.
  3. Drinking alcoholic beverages in public is prohibited.
  4. If you enter a church, you have to cover your shoulders and you should wear appropriate clothes.
  5. The Philippines in general and Manila in particular are very liberal on freedom of speech.


Carrying around a valid ID or a photocopy of your passport is essential, as a police officer can ask you to produce it at any time. Having a copy of your passport handy will save you lots of time and trouble by avoiding a visit to the police station.

Sexual Behaviour

Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, it has an open approach when it comes to night clubs and entertainment bars with “hostesses”. Underage sex (legal age is 18) is a serious offence.


Driving whilst in the Philippines is possible if you have a driving license indicated by the Philippine authorities as legal or appropriate for driving in the country. Most foreigners have up to 90 days to secure a domestic driver’s license - until then they can use the diver's license of their home country. For more traffic rules, check our main article on driving.


The Philippines enforces a zero tolerance policy against all kinds of narcotics. The possession of small amounts of drugs, including marijuana, can lead to imprisonment of up to 12 years. Possession of more than 10 grams of drugs can be punished with life imprisonment. Foreigners being caught with illegal drugs will be put to jail as well, and the prisons in this country are nasty.

In Case of Violation

As a Megacitizen, there are three main reactions if you, perhaps by accident, still violate one of these laws and rules. Either you are not told at all (most of the time), or you are pleasantly told that what you are doing is wrong and asked to stop doing it (happens also a lot) or you are directly fined because you look like money (does not happen very often, especially if you are nice to those people telling you what is wrong).

In case you are fined for something you obviously did wrong, always ask for the printed and signed fine to be produced. Corruption is still prevailing, and sometimes you are 'charged with something' which it not even prohibited. Discuss what was wrong, ask for a formal charge. This might sometimes also get you around a fine. We discourage everyone from joining the vicious circle of corruption as it might get you in even more trouble.