How to Ride the Jeepney like a Pro – A Tourist’s Guide

Welcome to the Philippines! As you may already know, one of the star attractions of this country is the jeepney. Originally a military vehicle used by the Americans during the second World War, the jeepney has since evolved into the cheapest and most available form of mass transportation. In fact, your travel experience in the Philippines won’t be complete until you get the thrill (or horror) of riding one of these.

Philippine Jeepney Ride Tips 3
The jeepney, or “jeep” for short, is easily recognizable because of its excessive decorations, gaudy colors, ubiquitous signages and messages, and incessantly noisy engine. There are only two rows of long sofa-like seats at the back with capacities ranging from seven to ten passengers per side (depending on the perception of the driver). The front part can seat three people: the driver, the conductor, and one passenger. The start and end destinations of the jeepney’s route are painted on both sides and also at the lower part of the windshield. Most jeeps are non-airconditioned and have large open windows with either roll-down curtains or sliding panes to keep off the rain.

Philippine Jeepney Ride Tips 1
You may have also heard of the notorious guys who drive these monstrosities. They are marvelous multi-taskers, as they are quite capable of doing several things at once: drive, collect fares, count change, talk, listen to the radio, and keep track of any passenger who forgets to pay. In recent years, drivers also have assistants sitting next to them, usually their spouses who want to make sure that they are keeping their eyes on the road and not on the ladies. These assistants enable the driver to concentrate on finding the speediest and most reckless ways of reaching their destination.

The above descriptions may sound daunting to first-time jeepney riders, so here are a few tips to guide you and help make your jeepney ride a truly pleasant and memorable experience, if you live to tell the tale.

Know which route to take.

You can find these out from the hotel personnel, security guards, cops, or just about any pedestrian on the street. Also, know where to find the jeeps.

Get on and off with haste.

Jeepney drivers are willing to wait only several seconds for passengers to board or get off. The important thing is not to step on anyone’s foot as the aisle is pretty narrow. Find the nearest available empty seat and sit down immediately, or you could risk flying off your seat by the driver’s frequent jack-rabbit starts.

Take as little seating space as possible.

This is especially hard for long-legged or wide-bottomed folks. In the driver’s interpretation, a standard seat means only a part of your bottom is actually sitting, while the rest is jutting out. At terminals, drivers will often make sure that there are at least 10 people on each side regardless of their sizes. You can always hold onto the overhead bars to balance yourself during the rough ride.

Pay with small change if possible.

How to pay jeepney fare 1

As much as possible, pay the exact amount. You can ask the driver, conductor, or a fellow passenger about the fare. There have been cases of drivers who failed to provide the right change for large bills.

Use proper timing to pay.

Some passengers unwittingly insist on paying the driver while he is busy changing gears or making turns, not realizing that this can cause accidents. Take the chance to pay while the jeep is stationary, such as at stoplights, terminals, or jeepney stops. As a custom, passengers at the back can pass the fare to fellow passengers next to them, until the money reaches the front.

To pay, just say “Bayad po” (translation: here’s my payment). If you are seated far from the driver, people would usually pass your fare until it reaches the driver or his assistant. But sometimes, people won’t notice that you are already ready to pay. Try extending your hands and politely say “Paki-abot po” (translation: please pass my fare)

How to pay jeepney fare 2
Bayad Po

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Paki-abot po

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That’s how it’s done!

Don’t push or jostle.

Even in a crowded jeepney, courtesy is still the rule. Seats are usually given up to female and elderly passengers.

Use proper ways to signal a stop.

You can either say “Para po” or “Sa tabi lang po.” Some passengers knock or tap the ceiling or the sides of the jeep but many drivers detest this. For your convenience, most jeeps now have cords on the ceiling attached to buzzers to alert the driver. If you’re not sure where you should get off, immediately inform the driver or conductor at the start of your ride. Or if you know where to get off, alert the driver at least half a block from the stopping point.