Safe & Cheap Transport in the Philippines: A Few Tips

Weave your way through throbbing metropolises and thick steamy jungles, to find peace on white sandy beaches with these tips on how to get around the Philippines – safely!

When traveling throughout the Philippines and its surrounding islands, there are some basic precautions to keep in mind – especially when deciding which mode of transportation is best suited for you and your safety. 

Top travel tip for the Philippines: most modes of transportation don't carry a fixed price, so hone your haggling skills.

Other warnings about travel:
• It is best not to accept rides in private vehicles from strangers, even if they appear legitimate.
• Hitchhiking is very risky and should be avoided.
Petty crime (especially pickpocketing) is widespread, so take notice of your surroundings at all times.

Is it Safe to Travel in a Jeepney?

jeepney

Jeepneys are vehicles originally made from military jeeps left in the country after World War II and are a fun option for travelers.

Although it will be an adventure to ride in a Jeepney, there are safety and security concerns for this mode of travel.

Jeepneys are often very crowded and thus, a pick-pockets dream. Check out our other tips about crime in the Philippines and how to avoid it.

Is Philippines Airlines Safe?

The European Commission recently announced it had lifted an operating ban on Philippines Airlines after the company was certified to have met international safety standards.

Not all airlines in The Philippines are the same. Travel on local airlines can be very risky, and should be avoided whenever possible.

Other Transport Options in the Philippines

Renting a Car in the Philippines

If you choose to rent a car, be mindful that the roads are crowded and drivers are undisciplined.

Driving off the national highways and paved roads is particularly dangerous, especially at night, and should be avoided.

Due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila, certain areas of the city have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate.

Be sure to check with a local contact, car rental agency or hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle in order to avoid becoming the target of less scrupulous traffic aides.

Taxis

Taxis are the recommended form of public transportation and are quite inexpensive.

Keep in mind that many drivers try to rip off tourists, so point to the meter as soon as you open the door, that way the driver understands you won't ride without the meter on.

Keep the doors locked and windows up when inside a taxi, as beggars may reach in and grab your belongings at a red light.

Also, do not enter a taxi if they have already accepted another passenger.

To ensure safety, it's wise to make a mental note of the license plate number – should there be a problem.

Trike

This unique Filipino mode of transport is an adventure in itself.

It's a loud motorcycle with an attached sidecar, and can be hired from busy market places and cities.

Hold onto your hat as you bounce along bumpy roads while being tossed around in the side car.

A word of warning is in order as these vehicles are not regulated, and often don't have seatbelts, raising your risk of injury.

Bicycle

This is a great mode of travel for the adventurous type, but of course carries with it a certain amount of risk.

Sharing the road with cars on the crowded busy streets often riddled with potholes can result in serious injuries so proceed with caution.

Bus and Baby Bus

Public buses operate in the main tourist areas and can be a good option for the traveler who does not mind an uncomfortable ride.

Beware though, as drivers are known for racing their rivals along the bumpy and winding roads presenting a real safety risk.

There are also smaller versions of buses known as "baby buses" which are also very popular modes of travel.

Keep in mind that the drivers do not strictly adhere to the posted schedules often departing earlier so arrive with plenty of time to spare.

Are The Trains Any Good?

Light Rail Transit (LRT) is the most modern form of transportation. It is a time-saving and inexpensive mode of travel and is utilized by most locals on tight schedules.

Metro Train

The Metro Train should only be used by travelers willing to while away the hours waiting to reach their destination.

It is not a popular mode of transport for the locals due to the often long, and interrupted routes that are complicated by damaged bridges and railways routes.

We are not saying this delightful craft is inherently dangerous, it may have a perfect safety record. It's also most likely to have been retired by now and replaced by a modern catamaran - we hope.

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 to rough it out. Remember that storms can develop quickly and can be very dangerous.

In addition to these safety issues, there is a high incidence of piracy and armed robbery against 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.

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9 Comments

  • RJL said

    depend on where you are.. Traveler(s) have to be aware that not all places in Philippines have taxi. Other than Manila and a few other big cities or freeport zone, there are almost no taxi in other provinces. Nevertheless, one can search for reliable car rental with driver in many places.

  • Ange said

    Why aren't there more jeepney information?😱we need more of it!😀

  • Ange said

    So I expect it to be there tomorrow...joking😂

  • Rochelle said

    What is the best way to get from Manila to Cuyapo? Does the Light Rail go that far? Am I forced to rent a car????

  • robert wilson said

    your comment on the "trike" was 100% correct ! If you are taller than 5 ft 9 in you will bump your head a lot.....I was in leyte for an extended stay...the only scam-man I met was a fellow foreigner. Locals work hard and have very little money. I was warned about the white guy price, when I calculated the exchange rate I would just 2x the going rate...for a fair price. Blogs like the one I am responding to do serve an important service...situations change, even parts of U.S. cities change. So a little home work goes a long way. Rob
    .

  • Lee said

    Do you know if there's a cheap room for rent for 1 month stay in the Philippines? Like not more that 5000 pesos a month?

  • JP said

    This article is just a piece of crap.
    There is absolutely no advice on anything... You just basically say that any transportation mode is not safe !
    Avoid planes, avoid boats... Philippines is made out of 3000 islands, how are we supposed to go from one to another ? By swim ?
    I traveled there many times and the 3 main planes companies are perfectly fine (Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia). You may experience lot of delay but actually it's a good things : it means they care about safety.

  • Frank said

    The story about transportation in the Philippines could have been much better and actually be helpful.

    Here is my contribution based about many months of living in the Philippines since March 2014.

    AIRLINES are good and reasonably low cost. PAL is the most expensive, but best on-time record. Cebu Pacific and Air Asia and Tiger Air are budget, no service during flight, and often close to being on-time, but give yourself enough time between lay-overs.
    Read the luggage limits!! and book additional luggage (carry-on is 7 kg and they often weigh it!!) beforehand on-line as adding it at the check-in counter is often five times more expensive. Be save and add 20 kg check-in luggage with booking your ticket on-line.

    FERRIES are the only way to go to the island. Posted prices and sometimes a schedule.
    When you plan to buy the ticket, first ask when the next ferry leaves to that destination. It might be tomorrow and they will not volunteer that information. Some ferries are very good and have even aircon spaces.
    Luggage carriers = porters will carry your luggage on board, expect to pay 50 pesos or less per heavy piece.
    Yes, you can carry it yourself, but will his children eat that evening?

    BUS SYSTEMS are often good and frequent, but there are non-aircon and aircon (Airconditioning) buses. Aircon is definitely the way to go for longer distance. No need to book in advance.
    But there are many bus lines (a few hundred different ones in Metro Manila), so finding the proper bus terminal can be a challenge. Do NOT expect taxi cab drivers to know which terminal you need.
    Bus fares are low and can be paid in the bus to controller who will tell you where to get out at destination. But large luggage in the bus belly. No, I never lost anything that way.

    TAXI CABS is often a hassle, starting with your first experience in Manila Airport. You will be approached in Arrival Hall already by "need a taxi, ma'am?"). All these are overpriced!
    And can vary from 500 to 950 pesos for a ride into town, what should be 120 to 150 pesos in a metered cab! Traffic is choked and slow, so pick hotel closer to airport, like Pasay, Aseana City or Makati.
    Insist on a running meter, the white taxi's are lower priced (flag-down fare is 40 peso) than the yellow metered "airport" taxis.
    If they do not want to run the meter or hassle you for tip, suggest to take you to police station and to report their license to LTO.
    Feel free to take a picture of their license on display and let him observe that.
    Tipping is not expected, so do not ruin the system, please!

    JEEPNEY'S are low priced, 8 to 10 peso per stretch. Not practical with luggage and keep your hands on your pockets. Low roof, you will bust your head when you are 6' or taller.
    Jeepney's run set routes and it can be difficult to figure out what route you need. But once you know, they are easy and cheap.

    MULTICAB are the smaller vans, same as Jeepney's.

    V-hire or long-distance Van's are aircon, are too fast and they wlil not leave unless all seats are filled. Probably the most risky way to travel. Reasonable cost, much higher priced than bus but sometimes the only option. There are separate terminals often for V-hire and for jeepney's and for buses and for tricycles.

    TRICYCLE is motorcycle with sidecar. Can only operate in certain parts of town. Standard fare is 13 pesos per stretch per person. If you ask .... you do not know the price and you will be quoted 50 to 100 pesos for that same distance and they will not bother to take on other passengers. If threatened to pay more, ask to take you to police station and take picture of his license number and state that you will report him to LTO.

    PEDACYCLE or pedal-tricycle, easy for short distance. Do not pay more than 10 pesos unless you are overloaded with stuff.

    HABAL-HABAL is solo motorcycle taxi. Can take up to 4 locals on one motorcycle. No, of course that is not legal, but what is legal in the Philippines??
    Ideal for going to out-of-the-way places. But expect to pay 50 to 100 pesos for a few kilometers if you are the only passenger. Settle price before you leave! No set routes, will go anywhere, but no room for luggage.

    It is more Fun in the Philippines and being prepared saves you from frustration. Raising your voice to win an argument does not produce results. Stay kind but resolute.

  • Serve Dee said

    Thanks Frank!!!
    Very helpful!!
    We plan to spend a few months with the kids in the Philippines and your tips are certainly be of great use!!

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