Trikes are a very common form of transportation in cities in the Philippines. Trikes are motorcycles with sidecars attached. Small trikes can seat one large passenger or four to six small passengers. Larger trikes can seat up to four large passengers in the sidecar. Trikes generally queue in trike stands like taxi stands in America, but you can also hail them from the side of the road if they don't currently have a fare.
Trike fare is between 15 and 60 pesos depending on the size of the trike, the distance you're going, your ethnicity, ability to speak Tagalog, and haggling skills. They're not particularly safe, but they'll get you where you're going. Be sure to agree upon a price before departing to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts.
Walking isn't a great idea. It's so cheap to use taxis or trikes that the hassle isn't worth it. Sidewalks are generally blocked by parked cars or vendors forcing you to walk in the road.
I walked a block in Manila to a Wendy's. Just before entering, I was quickly surrounded by a swarm of children asking me for money. I had already placed my wallet and phone in my front pockets. When I saw them approaching me, I put my hands into my pockets to hold onto my things. That was a good idea; I felt one of them stick their hands into my back pockets.
Taxis generally fall into two categories in Manila: metered and bartered. I've heard that other cities that get fewer foreign tourists such as Baguio only have metered taxis.
The price for a metered taxi is extremely low. I don't remember the exact rates, and I neglected to take a picture of the rate schedule while I was there. I once took a several-hour trip across Manila in rush hour traffic that ended up costing me less than $20, I think.
Since the metered rates are so low, many taxi drivers attempt to barter with their clients. This general works in two ways: 1) all of the drivers in an area agree not to use their meters are refuse to take you anywhere if you insist on using the meter, or 2) they tell you that their meter is broken. In areas where there are many tourists, taxis will congregate and collude to force you to pay a higher rate than you would with the meter.
I once had a driver show me a laminated piece of paper that said "metered rates" at the top when I asked him to use the meter. That was pretty ridiculous. The rates are on paper, so they can't change based on where he picked up his fare. Obviously he had been showing that card to a lot of people. Having made the same trip many times, I knew that I could haggle him to a much lower price than what he had shown me on the card, and I did.
Another time, I hailed a cab on the side of the road. His meter was clearly working, so I asked him to use it. He said it wasn't working and tried to keep driving. I told him I wouldn't pay unless he used the meter, so he let me out on the side of the road. I forget exactly how much he had asked for. This happened very early in my stay in the Philippines so I wasn't able to determine if the price he was asking was reasonable or not.
Public transportation in the Philippines was very different from what I'm used to in America. I never felt unsafe or threatened while I was there with one exception I'll talk about in the walking section below.
I took the bus between Angeles City and Manila several times. I was working on Clark Air Base, and I'd go to MNL in Manila to travel to other countries. The buses didn't have any set schedule as far as I could tell. They would idle at the bus station until they were mostly full, and then they'd leave.
While the buses were idling, vendors would get on the buses and sell food or bottles of water. If the bus left while they were still conducting a transaction, then the bus driver would just let them off at the side of the road whenever they were done.
I don't remember the exact price, but it cost about 150PHP to take the bus from Angeles City to Manila. The ride was between 1.5 and 3 hours depending on traffic.
You don't pay your bus fair until the bus has left the station. Once the bus is on the highway, an attendant comes around and asks where you're going. He then gives you a receipt with the price punched out with a hole punch. The attendant makes a second trip around the bus and collects everyone's fair and gives change.
The bus from Angeles City to Manila doesn't make any stops until it reaches Manila. In manila, it makes a stop every five minutes or so. I'd watch our progress on my phone and get off when we got near the airport. I'd then hail a cab to take me the rest of the way to my terminal. Cab fair to the airport from a bus stop, in an unmetered cab, was typically around 300 pesos. In a metered cab, I think the cost would have been closer to 80 pesos.
There are no bus routes within cities as far as I could tell. Instead, jeepneys ran predetermined routes within the cities. Jeepneys are converted jeeps that have two long benches in the back and very low ceilings. You get in the back, take a seat, and pass your fair forward to the driver. Jeepneys typically cost about 5-20 pesos.
If you're lost and you can find an idle Jeepney, you can hire it for a private route for about 200-400 pesos depending on your negotiation skills and how much business the jeepney driver would have to give up to take you. From what I was told, jeepney drivers "rent" their jeepneys daily and give a cut of their earnings to the jeepney owners each day.
Photo by Leonidas_Smith1866
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 three of a three-part series.
Speed limits practically don't exist in the Philippines. Most roads have no posted speed limit. This isn't a problem because roads without a speed limit are usually so congested that going faster than 20 MPH isn't possible. Remember that high-speed chase in Manila in that Borne movie? That couldn't have happened.
The roads that do have posted speed limits fall into two categories: private tollways and public roads. Police in the Philippines don't have radar guns (as far as I could tell), so they can't really enforce speed limits. Private tollways have their own traffic patrol officers, but there aren't many of them, and they probably don't have radar guns either. Speeding was exceedingly common from what I saw, yet I did not hear of a single speeding citation being issued.
I'm really really surprised I didn't see more head-on collisions in the Philippines. It was somewhat common to see cars cross over the double-yellow center line several hundred yards before the driveway they were turning in to. I guess they figure that way they can always use the far-left lane as a reversible lane. This always freaked me out when I saw it because it always seemed like it happened when the wrong-wayer was coming my way.
In Manila, I saw this maneuver performed en masse. I was in a taxi stopped at a red light, waiting to turn left. The traffic light was one where both directions of traffic get green left-turn arrows before the green circle goes up. Well, when our side's green arrow went up, about ten or twenty cars jumped out of the left turn lane, went down the road a couple hundred feet in the wrong direction, and then turned left at the intersection.
Motorcycles are cheap in the Philippines. Really cheap. They're not like the motorcycles you're used to seeing in America. They're tiny. 100-200cc engines. Tires that look like they belong on a mountain bike. You get the idea.
Filipinos don't wear shoes very often. The footwear du jour over there is the "slipper". It's more commonly known in the US as a thong sandal. I'm not even sure a lot of Filipinos actually own anything but slippers. Anyway, 9 out of 10 motorcyclists wear slippers while riding. That's some poor foot protection in the case of a crash.
It gets worse. Motorcycles get overloaded almost as often as jeepneys with three or four people on a bike. Sometimes they're even used to transport things like ladders or lumber. It's pretty ridiculous to see the amount of stuff you can transport on a motorcycle with a little determination.
The worst thing I saw on a motorcycle was a woman riding on the back holding a Subway drink cup in one hand and her helmet in the other. She wasn't wearing her helmet, the motorcycle was on a highway, and she had no way to hold on.
Want to read more about driving in the Philippines? Check out the other two parts of this series:
Photo by James Manners
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Trishhhh
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 one of a three-part series.
No, I’m not talking about getting on a roundabout, going clockwise, skipping three exits, and getting off where you started. I’m talking about the other kind of u-turn on a roundabout where you go counter-clockwise in a desperate bid to avoid the traffic jam already on the roundabout and succeed in only making said traffic jam worse. If you’re having trouble imagining what I’m talking about because it’s so mind boggling that someone would actually attempt this maneuver, check out the diagram below.
Sure, the highways and main thoroughfares of Luzon (the island Manila is on) have traffic lights. And sure, some of the other street have stop signs. But other than that, nope; the vast majority of intersections in the Philippines have no traffic control devices.
What happens when there's more than one vehicle at an intersection without a traffic control device, you ask? Madness. There's always more than one vehicle at every intersection in the Philippines. It's like the opposite of the Pauli exclusion principle: at least two cars must always be attempting to be in the same place at the same time.
This has resulted in Filipinos developing a unique method for navigating intersections:
Usually this method works pretty well when you consider the circumstances. Sometimes, it doesn't. If you arrange the cars just right, you get gridlock. None of the cars in the intersection can move forward. And since there's so much traffic trying to get through the intersection, no one can back up either. Nightmares are made of this stuff. The picture above wasn't taken in the Philippines, but it gives you an idea of how this works out in practice.
If you're not familiar with jeepneys, here's what they look like:
Yes, that's a typical jeepney. They're usually brightly decorated and have some form of religious statement on them. The Philippines is something like 90% catholic after all.
Jeepneys have two rows of benches in the back facing towards the center line of the jeepney. They can fit ~16 small people in these benches, but when it's rush-hour, that's just not enough. Passengers desperate to get home will hang on to back, sit on the roof, or even the hood of the jeepney. Don't believe me? Proof:
Photo by Stefan Munder