Despite physical barriers, the Philippines has found ways to create an extensive transportation system that connects over 7,000 islands of the archipelago. Along the way, they have created several transport forms that are unique to the country.
The Philippines transportation system is very established. Fares are cheap, very cheap when you compared to other parts of the world. It is very easy to get to and from the Philippines, travel the country, move about in the cities, and explore life in the Provinces. We will be talking about the different types of land, water and air transportation in the Philippines.
Philippines Transportation by Land
Once on land, you have choices of either a Tricycle, Pedicab, Jeepney, Bus, Taxi, or a Train. It all depends on how far you want to go and what you want for creature comforts. For sure, each one will get you where you want to go with some guaranteed fun!
The Philippine Tricycle (Trike) is basically a 125cc (or so) motorbike with an attached sidecar. The design originally comes after World War II when the ingenious Filipinos used left over metal scraps from their manufacturing process of their famous Philippine Jeepney.
Trikes are usually colorfully decorated just like the Jeepneys, but designed to go for short distances. The legal limit is suppose to be just 5 passengers. Some drivers will accept up to 15 passengers, 6 squeezed in the sidecar, 3 on the back of the driver's seat, 4 others hanging at the rear of the sidecar and 2 sitting on the roof.
At times, you will see Trikes carrying loads of market goods, hardware, and furniture and even appliances. This is the main staple for cheap transportation in the Philippines.
The Philippine Pedicab looks a lot like a Trike with the same side car, but uses a peddled bicycle instead for power. They usually carry two adult passengers and only go short distances. Some drivers take on more passengers depending on the load, distance and leg strength.
Trikes and Pedicabs are confined in the city outskirts and adjacent barangays. They are not allowed within city limits because they can cause traffic congestion.
The standard fare is 2 pesos per head at start, then 1 peso every 300 meters. If you decide to ride alone, as an exclusive passenger, you will have to pay 5 times the price of a single fare (minimum). But everything is negotiable before start. You can also rent the driver and his Trike for around 200 - 300 pesos per hour.
Tricycles and Pedicabs are rather safe. They do not drive very fast. But be careful of your head when going over bumps. The cabins are very tight and there is no head room. Ouch!
The Philippine Jeepney is the national symbol of transportation. Known as the "King of the Road", the Jeepney's orgin comes after World War II, when thousands of American Jeeps were left behind and the creative Filipinos transformed the 4 seater Jeeps into something useful. They cut them in two and extended them to make room to transport people.
Jeepneys are still used today. They are usually decorated in bright colors with unique sounding horns and different colored lights. A wording of warning, they are rough riding and don't come with air conditioning.
Jeepneys are mostly used for short and long distance transportation and you can find them almost everywhere loaded up with happy passengers. They're supposed to have an official capacity of 20 passengers, but it's not uncommon to see them overloaded, with some riders even on the roof. If you are lucky, get a chance to sit up front next to the driver, otherwise you get to cram in the back with all the others happy Filipinos.
Jeepneys run on no certain timetable, but have fixed routes. The endpoints of the route are usually painted on the side or posted with a sign in the window. If you unsure which Jeepney to take to where, just ask the driver or the barker.
Most drivers that are on a fixed route display a flat rate, if not, ask. On average, Jeepney fares are 2 pesos once you get on, then 1 pesos for every 1km after that, per head, just pay the driver. You can also rent the Driver and Jeepney for around 2000-3000 pesos per day (depending on location and is negotiable).
Some Jeepney stops are like a "California roll" through a red light. They don't actually come to a complete stop, so you have to get on and off fairly quickly and safely. To get off, say Pada (stop), or make a "sssssss" sound, or tap a coin against something metal.
The plan is for Jeepneys to be eventually replaced by mini buses. They will all have air conditioning and cost 3 times the current fare.
Jeepneys are rather safe. In the cities, their speed is limited by the traffic, but still be careful getting on and off. Overland, they are okay, but usually hot and cramped. If in the back, be careful of your head when going over humps. The place is tight and again there is not much head room.
It's recommended to take a bus if you need to go for longer distances or night trips.
For long distance land transportation in the Philippines you will want to use a bus. There are various bus lines that run from city to city and make stops along the way in the different provinces and municipalities.
You have a choice between basically 4 types of buses:
Luxury Travel Coach - Has beds or business-class seating, TV, air conditioning, and onboard restroom facilities. Ultimate comfort is offered by some companies such as PeŮafrancia Tours.
Their luxury buses have either real beds on the upper deck or have very large business-class seats where you can sleep without problems. This is for the traveller that demands comfort and style.
While there are many bus companies, the largest in the Philippines is CERES with their CERES Liners. Most of them are bright yellow or yellow and white. They come in Air Conditioned and Non-Air Conditioned versions.
Air Conditioned Bus - A very comfortable CERES Liner. They have roomy seating, TV, air conditioning, and onboard restroom. They are the best choice for traveling long distances as they are comfortable and comfortably priced. Bring a jacket or blanket because the aircon is usually cold.
Non-Air Conditioned Bus - These are older CERES Liners that have NO air conditioning and narrow seating. Windows are wide open to let in some air. This is for the budget traveller, but still fun.
Private Owned Bus - These are smaller than the big CERES Liners. They have big windows and sit comfortably with air conditioning. They are a good transportation solution for shorter distances and for getting around easily. You will sometimes see these being rented for group tours and special functions.
Bus faresare very cheap. Currently the average bus fare is about 1Km = 1 pesos. Board the bus, and the conductor will give you a punched bus ticket showing your fare to pay to get to your destination. Note, they only accept cash.
Buses run on well defined routes. They will make stops in major municipalities and some barangays (suburbs). Buses with the sign "direct" or "express" only stop in towns.
Go to the nearest bus terminal to see the bus schedule time tables. Some companies publish their schedules on the internet.
Buses usually do not go to the city-centers. They stop at peripheral bus terminals. Small cities only have one terminal. Big cities like Manila, Cebu City, and Davao have several terminals. Each of them serving a particular region. If not sure, tell the taxi, Jeepney, trike, or pedicab driver where you want to go and he will drive you to the corresponding bus terminal.
Remember this....buses have the absolute priority in the Philippines. The large buses drive at 80KPH or more. So don't get flattened!
You will find taxis mostly in the cities. They can be found sitting at airports, bus terminals, malls, and other busy areas. They are also easy to flag down. If ready for hire, most drivers will sound their horn to get your attention.
There are two types of taxis, White and Yellow. White Taxis are the most commonly used and are cheap. They can range in age and condition from new and clean to old and nearly wrecked looking. Most all have working air conditioning, but some of the older taxis donít, so get ready for 4/60 air (4 windows down, going 60Km per hour). Yellow taxis are newer metered airport taxis and are more expensive.
You can sit in the rear seats or in the front seat. Lots of drivers are friendly and will give you free information about their city and more. For security, make sure to lock your door and donít flash jewelry and money.
Philippine taxi fares are known to be the lowest in the world. For White Taxis, the meter will start at 40 pesos once you get in, then itís 2.5 pesos for every Ĺ Km after that (or for every 2 minutes it stands motionless). Yellow taxis have a higher fare of 80 and 4 pesos, respectively.
Use the Meter! - The most important thing to remember is to ask the driver to use the meter.
Some drivers are honest and will switch on the meter without being asked. Others do it after you have asked for it. Some will insist to not use the meter and try to charge a higher flat rate.
If you cannot get the driver to turn on the meter, then get out of the taxi and find one that does. There are many around.
It's actually against the rules for drivers not to use their meter. As last resort, you can always call the taxi dispatch office with the number you find written on the side of the car.
A good trick is to pretend to start dialing on your cell phone. Usually the driver will see that and switch on the meter.
Taxis Quick Tips
Tip 1 - There is an abundance of taxis, if you don't like the first one, wait for the second. They're everywhere.
Tip 2 - Once you have waved a taxi down, ask the driver to turn the meter on. If not, see Tip 1. He's just trying to get you to pay a higher rate. Tip 3 - Make sure you have small bills and coins to pay for the taxi fare. Drivers act like they don't have change. Tip 4 - Ask the driver to fire up the air conditioning. If it doesn't work, remember Tip 1. Tip 5 - Avoid taxis parked around malls and hotels. They are not cheap and they don't want to use the meter. Walk down the road and remember Tip 1. Tip 6 - Don't get into a taxi if there is some other passenger in it, unless you want to get robbed. Tip 7 - Sit in the back seat. Philippine taxi drivers are crazy. They only know GAS and BRAKE. Just because there are three marked lanes doesn't mean they can't squeeze in to make it four or five cars across!.
The Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) are the major modes of transportation in Metro Manila. The ride is faster and more convenient than taking a jeepney, bus, or taxi, especially during rush hour. They are air-conditioned and the trains are pretty nice running on smooth tracks.
The Light Rail Transit or LRT has two lines, the LRT 1 and the LRT 2.
The LRT 1 (Yellow Line) runs over 15 kilometers, from Baclaran to North Ave. It runs across the major cities in Manila, namely Pasay, Manila City and Kalookan. Opening hours are from 0:500 am to 9:30 pm.
The LRT 2 (Purple Line) runs over 13 kilometers, from Recto to Santolan. There is a connecting station in Doroteo Jose Station for those who need to travel to the other part of Manila. It passes through Manila, San Juan, Edsa and Marikina. Opening hours are from 0:500 am to 10:00 pm.
The Metro Rail Transit or MRT or Metrostar (Blue Line) is the latest of the light rail transits in Manila. It has 13 stations along its 17 kilometer track which passes through the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and San Juan.
It's great for shop-a-holics, as it runs along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and is connected to or adjacent to many Shopping Centers, including the big Mall of Asia, the biggest mall in the Philippines. and fourth biggest mall in the world!
The trains run all days of the year except during the Holy Week. They are relatively safe and cheap. It costs 12 pesos for short distances and 20 pesos for longer ones. The train rides are quite enjoyable, except during rush hour when it gets crowded.
The Philippines has much more water than land and with it's 7,107 islands to explore, it's very popular to use a boat to move about from island to island.
There are various types of boats and ferries used in the Philippines.
The most commonly used boat is the Philippines Banca Boat. They are used for short distances to small islands and beaches. You will see them everywhere, near the ports and along populated beaches.
They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are huge and are used to carry enormous amounts of people. While others are small single man fishing bancas.
They don't travel on a set schedule so negotiate a fare with the captain prior to your voyage and don't be afraid to ask the captain for a private tour. It will not cost as much as one organized by a hotel and he will know where all the best destinations are, you know, the ones away from all the tourists.
Ferries are the life blood for traveling in and among the Philippine Islands. All the major cities can be reached by a ferry that will suit your budget.
Ferry Companies have different rates, destinations, and timetables. The major ports are in Manila, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao.
By using ferries you can get to just about any island in the Philippines and a fantastic way to see places that would be impossible to see by air or land travel.
The Philippines has all your air transportation needs taken care of. They have many international and domestic airports that can take you to many different countries and to the different regions and provinces of the Philippines.
To learn more about all the Philippine airport locations and flights go here...