Philippines

Modes of Public Transportation in the Philippines

Discover the ultimate getaway to a paradise-like destination in the Philippines. You can lounge on idyllic beaches and islands, experience fun outdoor activities with stunning sights, taste flavorful local cuisines, and join vibrant festivals. Escape to the Philippines, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, that is made up of more than 7,000 islands with pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Philippine islands and beaches like Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao have been consistently named as the best in the world. The Philippines is also home to world-renowned natural wonders like the Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Banaue Rice Terraces, incredible diving spots rich in biodiversity, colorful public transportation, unique cuisines from savory to sweet, vibrant festivals that showcase its colorful culture, and friendly locals regarded as some of the happiest in the world. The official tourism slogan of the country is “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, because whatever type of travel adventure you’re looking for, you’re bound to discover a fun experience in the Philippines. If you’re craving for the rays of the sun to kiss your skin, the Philippines is your dream paradise. As a tropical country, the Philippines only has two seasons: dry and rainy seasons. The dry season covers November to May while the rainy season is usually from June to October. During the rainy months, it’s still sunny and warm, so tours in the Philippines are still ongoing with cancellations only necessary when there’s a typhoon. Aside from the picturesque spots in the Philippines, the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino locals is another reason for you to visit the country. Filipino locals continuously top surveys on friendliness. Because of this, the Philippines is considered as the friendliest country in Asia. The moment your plane lands here in the Philippines, you will be greeted with the genuine and loving smiles of Pinoys. Filipinos are also very proud of the beauty of their country and their culture. That’s why when they meet travelers who are visiting the country, the locals will go out of their way to help them out.

Every beach lover, adventure junkie, and local culture fanatic should head over to the Philippines to explore its pristine beaches, wondrous landscapes and unique culture. Since the country is an archipelago, visitors will need to ride an airplane or take a ferry to reach amazing destinations within Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. With that being said, and with so many places to visit and so little time, the most important key to your travel experience is how to transport between places! So here is a list of how you can transport when visiting the Philippines:

Buses

Bus travel is a cheap and popular way of traveling around the Philippines. While planes are much faster, hassles with security at airports, as well as frequent delays, and the ticket prices not faring well to the income of an average Filipino, make buses even more useful and efficient. Buses have more frequent departures, but they are not punctual either, as bus stations are often in congested spots in cities, and it’s not uncommon for a bus to leave only if full. There are two major categories of buses, provincial buses, which zip through the provinces to connect every major city or town, and city buses, which are less common, as most places would have jeepneys instead as streets are narrow. You can also find tourist buses approved by the Philippines’ tourism department, and range from shuttles offered by some hotels, to one’s chartered for group tours. Buses in the Philippines are usually manned by two persons, a driver and a conductor. The conductor also announces stops and assists passengers, aside from punching tickets and collecting fares. Due to the distances involved, buses running long-haul runs (e.g. Manila to Bicol, or Manila to Davao) may have a second driver who takes over the wheel after six hours of driving. Bus staff in the Philippines are very helpful, but unlike airline staff, are less used to foreigners. Only a few places in the Philippines have city buses, and for most cities, jeepneys are a staple as they can negotiate the smaller streets. Unlike most systems in most of the world, city buses are run by private companies, some being affiliates or subsidiaries of the companies in the provincial bus network. City buses ply wide avenues, and routes often connect suburbs. It’s best to prepare small bills or pay exact amounts to the conductor. If you’ll be riding on a P2P bus (which is more convenient and guarantees comfort), you will need to have a beep card (which is reloadable) to pay for your trip.

Philippine Bus (Photo by @joshr0ckx on Instagram)

Trains

Currently, the Philippines has a railway footprint of only 77 kilometers, and rail transportation is provided by three rapid lines called the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, LRT Line 2, and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) Line 3 in Metro Manila and the Philippine National Railways (PNR), which serves commuters traveling from the province of Laguna to Manila and back. LRT Line 2 and MRT Line 3 are interconnected via a walkway in a station in Cubao, Quezon City. Because of the heavy traffic situation in Metro Manila, most commuters resort to taking train rides for fewer travel hours, but do note that during peak hours (before and after office hours), expect long lines at the MRT. While regular passengers of the MRT and LRT lines use the beep card to pay for their rides, you may opt to purchase single journey cards. In addition, it’s best to study the route of each train line and their stations for easier and more convenient trips.

Taxi

Taxis in Manila are cheap and plentiful. Taxis, which are white colored cars with yellow-colored plates, have a predetermined flag down rate of ₱40 (at time of writing) and have an additional charge per kilometer and waiting time on the road. Fixed starting fee is a mere ₱40 (40 Philippine Pesos) for the first kilometer, plus ₱3.5 for every 300m (or two minutes of waiting time) after that. A 15- to 20-minute trip rarely costs more than ₱150 or so. Uber is popular in Manila and charges similarly low rates. 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). Like buses, they are privately-owned, and so, there are different taxi operators.

Jeepneys

Jeepneys (Filipino: Dyipni), sometimes called simply jeeps (Filipino: dyip), are buses and the most popular means of public transportation ubiquitous in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a widespread symbol of Philippine culture and art. A Sarao jeepney was exhibited at the Philippine pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a national image for the Filipinos. It’s the cheapest and most popular mode of public transportation when traveling in the Philippines. Because of its open rear door design, it’s easier to hop on and go down the vehicle. Plus, there are more jeepney stops, unlike bus stops. Before riding on a jeepney, it’s best to know where you want to end up (what the areas are called, the names of the stops, roughly how long it takes to reach your destination). The iconic Filipino jeepney is one of the country’s main modes of public transport and local commuters simply learn through time and experience how the tacit system of traveling via jeepney works. First-timers however are bound to find themselves puzzled at one point or another, attempting to get from origin to destination via these anachronistic vehicles. The first and most important thing to know for your jeepney adventure is your route. Know your starting point and know where you want to end up (again, what the areas are called, the names of the stops, roughly how long it takes from one point to the other). Without so much as a set schedule of sorts or an official map of routes available to the public, the best way to learn all this is by asking a more seasoned fellow commuter. Don’t be shy and simply ask around. Filipinos are very warm and friendly, and they’ll be glad to help out if they can.

Jeepney

Ferries

Sea travel in the Philippines can be hazardous. Traveling by ferry is not recommended due to safety concerns. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment, and are not adequately maintained. Pump boats are often used for short trips between islands but this type of travel is only suitable for those prepared enough to rough it out. Remember that storms can develop quickly and can be very dangerous. In addition to these safety issues, there is are high incidences of piracy and armed robbery inside ships in and around Philippine waters. If you choose to hop on a ferry, prepare accordingly by checking travel forums and websites for updated information on companies with reliable reputations.

Ferry in Port of Batangas, Batangas City, Philippines (Photo by Michael Rivera 🇵🇭 on Unsplash)

Tricycle

Motorized tricycles, or simply tricycles (known by the rest of the world as a motorcycle and sidecar), are an indigenous form of the auto rickshaw and are a common means of public or private transportation in the Philippines. These public utility vehicles either ply a set route or are for-hire, like taxis. The Boracay Budget Travel website says of the motorized tricycle, “The tricycle is the most popular means of transport in small towns and cities, especially in the rural areas. Tricycles come in handy when your intended destination can’t be reached by jeepney or when you have a lot to carry and there’s no taxi cab available in town. These modes of public transport have various types, such as a motorcycle with sidecar or a bicycle with sidecar. Like the passenger jeepneys of the Filipinos, they are colorful, which reveals the artistic nature of the country’s locals. Make sure to have smaller bills so you can pay the exact amount.

Tricycle

Airplanes

The most expensive yet most convenient and fastest way to reach neighboring major island groups in the country is via airplane. Across the country, there are more than 10 international airports and about 30 principal domestic airports. This number does not yet include the community airports and unclassified airstrips found in the Philippines. If you’re hoping to travel to major destinations in the country by air, the best airlines to look at are Philippine Airlines (the country’s flagship carrier) and Cebu Pacific. Throughout the years, these airlines hold promotions and sell airline tickets at low prices, such as Cebu Pacific’s “piso” fare with seats having a net price of one Philippine peso.

Cebu Pacific Airplane (Photo by @5j_marcusgianan on Instagram)


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