Getting Around In The Philippines


So you’ve decided to take the plunge to make a trip to the Philippines. If this is your first trip, you are probably focusing on all the wonderful things to see and do while there, and then it hits you. How do I get around?

Once you clear customs and you walk out the door, you’ll see hundreds of taxi’s and other people that appear to be transportation oriented, and that is when the confusion sets in. How am I going to get to where I’m going?

A little pre-planning while still on the plane or even before you leave to start your travel is to write down where you are going after arriving – clearly – on a piece of paper to give to the driver.

It is advisable to be careful with the so called Manila Concierges that will ask you a tip for supposedly helping you to hail a taxi. In a crowed airport such a Manila, they might seem real, but once they have your tip, they will disappear before you can figure out what happened.

There are two main options regarding taxi transportation. Coupon Taxi (colored white with blue squares) and Yellow Taxi (colored yellow). The first one works by charging a specific amount according to the final destination distance, while the second one are normal metered taxis.

To take Coupon Taxi you need to go to a dispatch station available at any of the airport terminals, tell them your destination and you’ll be given a coupon which marks the price you’ll need to pay to get to your final destination. Please keep your coupon during the trip and do not give it to the driver until the end of your ride.

Metered Taxis are on average 50% more expensive than the average taxis around Manila, but they are the only metered taxi companies allowed in the airport premises. In case the driver refuses to turn on the meter, board another taxi.

Getting to downtown Manila from NAIA Airport – 6.5 miles (9.8km) – by taxi can take between 20 minutes to up to an hour depending on traffic conditions, so be patient with the driver as he is trying to get you there as fast as you want to get there.

Now that you’ve settled in. What to do? It’s recommended that you book your room for at least two days as international flights tend to be brutal on the body. You are surely going to be excited to be there, but you are also going to need some rest for the first couple of days. Stay away from heavy foods for the first couple of days till your body has a chance to clam down from the flight. Thanks to the advice of a doctor who travels to India a lot, she states that the digestive systems tends to stop working at 35,000 feet after having been at that altitude for extended periods of time. So be patient and give yourself some time to rest.

Great. So now you really want to get out there to roam around to see all of the wonderful sights, sounds and places to eat. What’s the best way to get around. Challenge number two.

For around town, most any place that you want to go is within walking distance and recommended as it will give you time to actually absorb the many sights that Manila has to offer.

But what about going to some place like SM Mall or someplace out of the nearby vicinity? There are three choices at this point. Taxi, Jeepney or Tricycle.

Taxi’s tend to be expensive for this kind of travel. A taxi has a $1 (about 50 peso) flag fee as well as the fair it’s self which can be around $19.50 (about 988 peso) depending on where you are picked up from.

The better option is a Jeepney, although, it can be crowed at times with 20+ people packed into a converted WWII Jeep. It will also take longer to get there as the driver will be dropping off and picking up passengers along the way. But hey. You came here for the adventure, so enjoy the ride. The fares for Jeepney’s tend to be about 16-20 cents (about 8-10 peso).

The last option is a Tricycle. Tricycles have a heavier presence in the rural areas, but there are plenty of them in the downtown areas as well. Like Jeepney’s, tricycle drivers like to have two or more riders. Tricycle fares tend to be about 20 cents, but can be higher depending on where you are picked up from and the distance that you are going.

As with Jeepney’s, Tricycles have stations where large clusters of them hang out waiting for passengers. Almost always, there will be a queue and a Barker (dispatcher) keeping track of where everybody is going so that the driver can get as many passengers on board as they can fit and so that the driver doesn’t get stuck having to make a circuitous route to get their passengers to where they are going. When inquiring about fares, it’s best to ask a Barker and they will be able to tell you the price and the best Jeepney or Tricycle to take.

For long distant travel, it’s best to take a long distance bus. Say you wanted to take a ride up north to explore. Bus fares tend to be $5 – 15 (about 254-760 peso) and the trip can take up to five hours or more. It would be recommended to have a motel booked at your destination as it would be to much to try making your way back after a long day of touring around, and again, you are there for the adventure and not to be in a hurry to get here or there.

For those thinking about making the trek to the Philippines, I hope this quick guild will help you out in your adventure.