Driving in the Philippines Part 2 of 3

Southeast Asia isn't known for having the best drivers in the world. I was recently assigned to work in the Philippines for 6 months. My company provided me with a rental car for the duration, and mayhem ensued. Here are some of the things I observed while there. This is part two of a three-part series.

Turning right/left from the left/right lane

Of all the quirks of driving in the Philippines, this is one I have no explanation for. Cars turn right from the left lane or left from the right lane all the time. It was an almost daily occurrence. I stopped being surprised by it after a couple months, but I could never figure out why anyone did it. The only way to deal with this is to keep a safe distance between your car and everyone else's car.

Blocking traffic in order to turn

Traffic is bad in the Philippines. I didn't really realize how bad it is until I returned to the US and saw the relatively few cars on the road here. The huge difference in the number of vehicles on the road has resulted in two schools of thought concerning the left-hand turn from a driveway onto a street.

Typically in America, the turning vehicle waits until there's no traffic coming from either direction and then proceeds to turn. Failing to do yield will probably result in honking, the crunching of metal, and higher insurance premiums in the future.

This isn't how things are done the the Philippines. There is always oncoming traffic. If you wait for it to be clear, you'll never leave the parking lot. To turn left, you wait for break in the first lane, edge out 8 feet, wait for break in the second lane, edge out 8 feet, and finally wait for a break in the lane you're turning onto before proceeding. Yes, this blocks traffic in two or three lanes, but it's the only way. Everyone knows this, so it's unlikely anyone will honk at you unless you edge out unexpectedly or too quickly. It's quite strange, but it works.

Walking in the street

Sidewalks are for parking and street vendors in the Philippines. Even when there are no street vendors. The streets near my office in the Philippines were wide and relatively traffic-free; there were two lanes going in each direction plus sidewalks on both sides of the road. The sidewalks were always clear in this area, yet they were almost never used. Pedestrians walked in the outer lane of the road and never used the sidewalk.

This effectively made the outer lane useless on these roads. It was extremely dangerous to use it due to all the pedestrians. At night, it was even worse because most streets are not well-lit in the Philippines. I'd drive with my brights on at night because I was so scared of hitting anyone who was walking in the road, and judging by the number of times I was blinded by opposing traffic, this was common practice.

Want to read more about driving in the Philippines? Check out the other two parts of this series:

Photo by Trishhhh