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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Palau 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Palau at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Koror does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s Palau-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Koror, yet it can have an impact on the work and life of the community. The most common type of crime is burglary and petty theft. Most occurrences of theft involve unattended items at hotels and at the Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (ROR) in Airai.

Although foreigners do not appear disproportionately affected by crime, they tend to attract more attention than local citizens do. Criminals may perceived them as wealthier, making them more attractive targets of opportunity.

Due to public interest, a curfew in Koror State is in place between 0230-0500, Monday through Thursday, and 0400-0600 Friday to Sunday and on national holidays.

Cybersecurity Issues

Palau continues to face issues associated with ATM/credit card scams. In 2016, Palauan authorities, in conjunction with the FBI, identified skimming devices and related equipment commonly used in ATM and credit card-related fraud. Most of the skimmers are easily identifiable, but many victims still fail to recognize the devices. Some banks have added increased security measures to ATMs – including anti-tampering measures and PIN concealment covers – but scammers continue to target small, regional banks due to the absence of such security features. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Other Areas of Concern

Peleliu Island was the site of a major World War II battle. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) on land and underwater may be present here and throughout Palau’s 16 states. While tours to Peleliu to view the battlefield are frequent, and most are relatively safe, exercise caution while visiting.

Firearms of any kind are illegal in Palau. The penalty for possession of a firearm or ammunition is up to 15 years imprisonment. Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Palau of certain other items.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Drunk driving is Palau’s biggest road-safety issue. Driving under the influence of alcohol is ubiquitous, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Drive defensively and cautiously. Road conditions in urban areas are generally fair, with the exception of large potholes that appear following heavy rainstorms. Road infrastructure in rural areas away from the main island of Koror can be poor and potentially dangerous. Poor road conditions, unfenced livestock, stray pets, unwary pedestrians, and large potholes present safety hazards, particularly after dark.

Palau accepts a driver’s license issued by a U.S. state or an International Driving Permit for up to 30 days, after which drivers must apply for a Palauan license. Most cars in Palau are right-side drive, as they are Japanese imports. However, drivers use the right side of the road. Due to the low population, there are no traffic signals on Koror, and the island maintains a lower speed limit.

It is illegal to pass slow-moving vehicles in Palau, yet drivers frequently do so.

For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

Unmetered taxis are the only mode public transportation available. You can find taxis at the airport and at larger resorts, but it may be difficult to find them elsewhere. Most resorts will call a taxi to pick guests up. When using a taxi, patronize a reputable taxi service with well-maintained vehicles.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The airports are relatively free of crime, but there have been reports of items stolen from checked baggage. This trend has continued to decline, but passengers should maintain awareness of their belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible.

Terrorism Threat

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Koror.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Koror. Although protests are not common, avoid demonstrations and large crowds, as even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Palau is an island nation subject to many natural disasters, including typhoons, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and landslides. Although the probability of a major earthquake or tsunami occurring during a particular trip is remote, small earthquakes occur regularly.

The Pacific typhoon season runs from July to mid-November. However, typhoons are rare, as Palau is outside the main typhoon zone.

Understand that public services (e.g. water, electricity, transportation) are unlikely to be available for a significant period following a powerful typhoon.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial accidents occasionally occur, usually in the form of fires at warehouses or commercial facilities. Often, these structures do not have fire alarms installed or fire suppression equipment in close proximity. Most tourist hotels on Koror Island have up-to-date fire alarms and proper evacuation plans in place. For more information on fire safety in hotels, review OSAC’s Report, Fire Safety Abroad.

Economic Concerns

Palau is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WTO, or any organization protecting intellectual property rights. As a result, the frequency of pirated items has not declined and stores openly sell pirated copies of movies, television shows, music, counterfeit clothing, jewelry, and other luxury goods.

International investors must conduct sufficient due diligence to assess judicial transparency, government accountability, and avenues for recourse under the law.

Personal Identity Concerns

Palauans are generally polite and respectful towards women, who have traditionally held a lot of power in Palauan society. Palau is a matriarchal society where lineage and titles pass down from the mother’s side, and women often fill prominent positions in government.

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Palau. However, same-sex marriage is still illegal, and there is no law protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation. There have not been any reports of violence related to sexual orientation.

Palau’s overall accessibility for the disabled is very limited. While many buildings have ramps to facilitate persons with disabilities, others do not. There is no public transportation equipped to transport persons on wheelchairs and sidewalks around Palau are limited. The law does not mandate access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities. The law does require that there be at least one designated parking space for persons with disabilities close to the main entrance of each national government building open to the public.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug addiction does contribute to some of the petty crime that occurs in Palau. Penalties for possession of any amount include fines and possible jail time.

Kidnapping Threat

There are very limited cases of kidnapping in Palau; these are usually family-related.

Police Response

Report all incidents of crime to the local police authorities. Remain calm and polite when interacting with the police to avoid misunderstandings.

The ability of local police to respond to traffic accidents and to assist victims of crime is limited due to a lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment. 

Carry a copy of your passport, as police may ask for identification of all parties involved in any type of incident.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens detained by the police should request to speak to a U.S. Embassy representative. Police generally treat arrested or otherwise detained foreigners well. Note that the assistance the Embassy can provide is limited to making sure U.S. citizens are not treated differently from local detainees, and providing them with a list of local attorneys.

Crime Victim Assistance

Victims of crime can expect fairly treatment with dignity. The relative inefficiency and overly bureaucratic judicial process may frustrate victims.

For emergencies requiring police, fire emergency, or medical assistance, dial 911. For administrative calls in Koror, dial 488-1422 for police, and 480-1411 for fire.

Medical Emergencies

Health care facilities are limited in Palau. In rural areas, staff training is limited, and there are often shortages of supplies and medications. The hospital in Koror provides the only hyperbaric chamber in the country; most popular dive spots are located further away. A medical evacuation (medevac) to Guam or Australia can be very expensive and severely limited by the lack of flights out of Palau. Carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.

Emergency response is extremely limited. Ambulance availability is minimal, and ambulances are often poorly equipped and not staffed with medical personnel. Individuals requiring an ambulance should call 911 or Belau National Hospital (488-2558). Rural areas have extremely limited ambulance services. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Local hospitals work frequently with international evacuation services. Persons with medical emergencies typically require evacuation to Guam, Australia, or the U.S.


Insurance Guidance

The U.S. Embassy recommends all travelers have travel and medical insurance. Medical evacuations may cost thousands of dollars and are only possible if the patient has adequate insurance or pays in advance. Note that you usually must purchase medevac insurance separately from other policies. In some cases, medevac to Australia or New Zealand will require a medical visa.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Dengue fever is prevalent in Palau; take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Palau requires Cholera and Yellow Fever immunizations for those arriving from infected areas.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Palau.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in Palau. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Koror, Omsangel/Beklelachieb (no street address), Airai 96940

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: + (680) 587-2920

Emergency: + (680) 587-2911; for after-hours emergencies involving U.S. citizens, callers can also dial the main switchboard at (680) 775-6150 and ask for the duty officer

Website: https://pw.usembassy.gov/   

Nearby Post: U.S. Embassy Manila: https://ph.usembassy.gov/

The Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy Manila is also responsible for Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Palau should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resource: Palau Country Information Sheet

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