Why do some people evacuate ahead of natural disasters while others do not? The question is crucial for effective natural disaster response and crisis management. The timely response to early warning alerts before Cyclone Phailin in India led to a minimal death toll despite being affected by a powerful cyclone that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and affected the livelihoods of 13 million people in October 2013. A month later, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the regions of Samar, Leyte and Panay in the Philippines, causing up to 8,000 fatalities. Only a minority of the population followed the warnings and evacuation orders. This paper explores the striking variation of responses between India and the Philippines by examining the importance of two main factors suggested by previous research: experience and trust. Prior experience of natural disaster increases individual perception of risk and may lead to institutional learning, but only where the experienced disaster was traumatic. Trust between citizens and public officials is held to further increase the likelihood people will evacuate in advance of natural disasters. These two interrelated factors are explored through a structured, focused comparison between the responses to Cyclone Phailin in India (Orissa) and to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (Leyte) in 2013. The data, drawn from extensive field research in India and the Philippines, combines a household survey together with 30 semi-structured interviews, and focus group discussions.