If time is short, driving yourself is a quicker option than relying on jeepneys and other public transport, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The manic Filipino driving style is on full display in Manila, and driving on the congested streets of the capital definitely takes some getting used to.
International car-hire companies are in the larger cities; however, these are exactly the places where you probably don't want to drive. But if you want to get out of the city you have to begin somewhere – rates start at around P3000 per day. Fuel costs P40 to P50 per litre.
Defensive driving is the order of the day: even relatively quiet provincial roads are packed with myriad obstacles. Right of way can be confusing to determine and obedience to stop signals is selective. Most drivers roll into intersections before or without checking for oncoming traffic.
It’s best to avoid driving at night if you can, not least because tricycles, jeepneys and even large trucks are often without lights (many drivers believe that driving without lights saves petrol), not to mention the issue of potential robberies in political trouble spots.
Small and midsized islands such as Camiguin, Siquijor and Bohol beg to be explored by motorcycle. You can even ride down to the Visayas via the ‘Nautical Highway’ – the system of car ferries that links many islands – and enjoy pleasant riding on larger islands such as Cebu and Negros.
Most touristy areas have a few easy-to-find shops or guesthouses renting out motorcyles – usually in the form of Chinese- or Japanese-made motorcycles (75cc to 125cc). The typical rate is P400 to P500 per day, but you’ll likely be asked for more in particularly popular resort areas. Ask for a helmet; these aren't always automatically included.
In more remote areas, just ask around – even if there’s no rental shop, you can always find somebody willing to part with their motorcycle for the day for a fee.
Your home country’s driving licence, which you should carry, is legally valid for 90 days in the Philippines. Technically, you are supposed to have an International Driving Permit for any period longer than this, and some car-hire companies may require you to have this permit when hiring vehicles from them.
Philippine law requires that when hiring a car you have third-party car insurance with a Philippines car-insurance company. This can be arranged with the car-hire company. You are required to have a minimum of P750,000 of insurance.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. With the exception of the expressways out of Manila, most roads in the Philippines are single lane, which necessitates a lot of overtaking. Local drivers do not always overtake safely. If an overtaker coming the other way refuses to get out of your lane, they’re expecting you to give way by moving onto the shoulder. It’s always wise to do so.