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Local transport

Local Transport

Taxi

Metered taxis are common in Manila and most major provincial hubs. Flagfall is P40, and a 15-minute trip rarely costs more than P150. Airport taxi flagfall is usually P70.

Most taxi drivers will turn on the meter; if they don’t, politely request that they do. If the meter is ‘broken’ or your taxi driver says the fare is ‘up to you’, the best strategy is to get out and find another cab (or offer a low-ball price). Rigged taxi meters are also becoming more common, although it must be said that most taxi drivers are honest.

An alternative is to arrange a taxi and driver for the day – from P2000 to P4000 – through your hotel or another trustworthy source.

Though it’s not common, there have been cases of taxi passengers being robbed at gun or knife point, sometimes with the driver in cahoots with the culprits or the driver himself holding up the passengers.

Get out of a cab straight away (in a secure populated area, of course, not in the middle of nowhere or in a slum area) if you suspect you’re being taken for a ride in more ways than one.

Light Rail

Some parts of Manila are served by an elevated railway system, akin to rapid transit metro.

Jeepney

The first jeepneys were modified army jeeps left behind by the Americans after WWII. They have been customised with Filipino touches such as chrome horses, banks of coloured headlights, radio antennae, paintings of the Virgin Mary and neon-coloured scenes from action comic books.

  • Jeepneys form the main urban transport in most cities and complement the bus services between regional centres.
  • Within towns, the starting fare is usually P8, rising modestly for trips outside of town. Routes are clearly written on the side of the jeepney.
  • Jeepneys have a certain quirky cultural appeal, but from a tourist’s perspective they have one humongous flaw: you can barely see anything through the narrow open slats that pass as windows. The best seats are up the front next to the driver.

Tricycles, Kalesa & Habal-Habal

Found in most cities and towns, the tricycle is the Philippine rickshaw – a little, roofed sidecar bolted to a motorcycle. The standard fare for local trips in most provincial towns is P8. Tricycles that wait around in front of malls, restaurants and hotels will attempt to charge five to 10 times that for a ‘special trip’. Avoid these by standing roadside and flagging down a passing P8 tricycle. You can also charter tricycles for about P300 per hour or P150 per 10km if you’re heading out of town.

Pedicabs Many towns also have nonmotorised push tricycles, alternately known as pedicabs, put-put or padyak, for shorter trips.

Habal-habal These are essentially motorcycle taxis with extended seats (literally translated as ‘pigs copulating,’ after the level of intimacy attained when sharing a seat with four people). Habal-habal function like tricycles, only they are a little bit cheaper. They are most common in the Visayas and northern Mindanao. In some areas they are known simply as ‘motorcycle taxis’.

Kalesa Two-wheeled horse carriages found in Manila’s Chinatown and Intramuros, Vigan (North Luzon) and Cebu City (where they’re known as tartanillas).

Bus & Van

  • Philippine buses come in all shapes and sizes. Bus depots are dotted throughout towns and the countryside, and most buses will stop if you wave them down.
  • Bus 'terminals' also run the gamut. Some are well-secured large garage-like structures with destinations clearly signposted and even ticket booths, whereas others are nothing more than a few run-down outdoor sheds with drivers clamouring for your business.
  • More services run in the morning – buses on unsealed roads may only run in the morning, especially in remote areas. Night services, including deluxe 27-seaters, are common between Manila and major provincial hubs in Luzon, and in Mindanao.
  • Air-con minivans (along with jeepneys) shadow bus routes in many parts of the Philippines (especially Bicol, Leyte, Cebu, Palawan and Mindanao) and in some cases have replaced buses altogether. However, you may have to play a waiting game until the vehicles are full.
  • Minivans are a lot quicker than buses, but also more expensive and cramped.
  • As in most countries, it pays to mind your baggage while buses load and unload.
  • Reservations aren't usually necessary, however they're essential on the deluxe night buses heading to/from Manila (book these at least two days in advance, if possible, at the bus terminal).