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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Since you’ll be traveling all over the Philippines, you should know what different modes of transportation that you can take to get around. There’s a good mix of traditional and modern transportation in the Philippines from trains to jeepneys and from ferries to bangka (outrigger canoes). There’s quite a lot of options to choose from getting to point A to point B, not to mention pretty cheap too.
You can also see the resourcefulness and creativity of Filipinos when it comes to designing, painting and personalizing their tricycles, jeepneys or bangka.
Let’s now discuss each of these means of transport. I have divided the different modes of transportation into 3: by land, by sea and by air.
The rail transport system in the Philippines consists of a commuter rail and rapid transit. As of now, the train system is only servicing the areas in Southern Luzon and Metro Manila. Unknown to many, there used to be a train system that runs from Northern Luzon to Southern Luzon but because of war and neglect the some parts of the network has been unusable for years. The government has now revived Southern Luzon(suspended for on-going repairs) route but the revival of the Northern Luzon route has been put on hold because of controversies.
Currently, the government is developing the country’s first monorail system which is being pilot tested in the campus of a state university. This would greatly improve the condition of transportation in the Philippines especially in the urban areas but until then you’ll get to enjoy more of the traditional mode of transportation.
In Metro Manila, there are 3 train networks. The LRT 1, LRT 2 and the MRT 3. These 3 lines are interconnected: LRT 1’s EDSA-Taft Avenue station is connected to MRT 3’s North Avenue Station. LRT 2’s Recto Station is connected to LRT 1 via Doroteo Jose station. MRT 3 has also been connected to Roosevelt Station of the extended LRT 1.
LRT 1, LRT 2 and MRT 3 Train Route Map
To view the landmarks and establishments near the LRT 1 and LRT 2 stations just use their interactive map.
No inspection, no entry policy. This involves frisking and they ask you to open your bags.
Gift-wrapped items will have to opened for inspection. (So, if you are coming from the mall with a gift wrapped item just don’t take the train. You could just use a nice paper bag instead or just gift wrap the item on your own at home)
Bringing in of deadly weapons, food and drinks, inflated balloons, and flammable materials is also not allowed.
Bulky and long objects is also a no-no. You can’t bring your big luggage when using the train. There’s no train station near the airport so you don’t really have to bring your luggage there.
Persons who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs will not be allowed to enter.
Philippine National Railways
The Philippine National Railways or simply PNR have commuter rail service (known as Metro Commuter/Commuter Express/Commex) in Metro Manila and another one that serves the Southern Luzon (Manila-Bicol route) area. It is one of the oldest railway in Asia but has been operating on and off for quite a while. It has recently been rehabilitated and is now a good alternative mode of transportation.
According to PNR website, the Manila-Bicol route is currently suspended because of ongoing repairs but anyway, here’s their route map for Manila-Bicol:
During rush hour, the trains would be really packed. If you can postpone your travel a little bit and just use the train at around 10am-3pm it would be less crowded.
Watch out for your valuables.
If the next station is the one you are supposed to get off, prepare to make your way through near the exit one station ahead or else you’ll run the risk of not getting off your stop.
The buses in the Philippines are operated by private companies. They are divided into two: city and provincial. The routes are self explanatory. The city buses ply the major thoroughfare of cities while the provincial buses..well goes to the provinces. They have signs infront indicating where their destination is. There are both aircon and non-aircon buses.
In Metro Manila, the provincial buses have terminals where you can just hop on to your destination. The main bus terminals in Metro Manila are located Monumento, Cubao, Buendia and Pasay.
For the city buses, you can just use the proper bus stops. Just use the route map below for reference:
When you are in the provinces, you can pretty much just hail a bus as it pass by.
The jeepney is the king of public transportation in the Philippines. You can find it all over the country. It is the most popular and affordable means of transportation in the Philippines. You can see it not just transporting passengers but also hauling goods and agricultural products.
Who would have thought that the World War II jeep abandoned by the Americans would become one of the most recognizable Philippine icon. You can easily spot these colorful and jeepneys all over the Philippines.
So, these are a bit more stylish.. fyi, most jeepneys don’t look like these.
Most jeepneys are non-airconditioned. I have only seen airconditioned jeepneys in Makati.
The jeepneys ply a designated route. The routes are usually written on the sides of the jeepney and you can see the destination that it is going to in the windshield.
When paying for the fare, just extend your arms towards the driver and say ‘Bayad Po’ which means ‘here’s my fare’. Then, you can tell the driver where you want him to drop you.
If you are too far away from the driver, just say ‘Paki-abot po’ and the other passengers would pass your fare to the driver.
To have the jeepney stop on your destination, just shout, ‘Para po’ or ‘Lugar lang po’ (which is the one used in Cebuano speaking provinces).
If you have change, the driver would then pass it back to the passengers near him and they’ll pass it to you.
Always use coins or small bills when paying for the jeepney fare since the drivers might not have enough change especially during their first trip in the morning. Paying 100 pesos and up is usually frowned upon.
The minimum fare for the jeepney is 8 pesos for the 1st four kilometers.
Usually, the jeepney doesn’t leave the terminal unless it’s full so you’ll have to wait a bit.
UV Express Service
The UV Express Service are vehicles given franchise by the government to transport passengers. These vehicles are capable of transporting 10-18 passengers. It is popularly called FX after the brand Toyota Tamaraw FX which started these type of vehicles. They travels specific route and have designated terminals. Just like jeepneys and buses they have signages in their windsheild indicating their destination. They’ve become popular since they are airconditioned and can also take you much faster to your destination since they have fewer stops and pass through shortcuts. The usual price for an FX/Van ride is P20-P40.
I mentioned the FX/Van because you can also rent them for trips. They are pretty spacious and can fit several people including some bags. You can talk to the drivers in the terminal and just haggle for a better rate.
The taxis/cabs are all over the metropolitan areas. I think this one doesn’t need much introduction. Just some tips:
Always remind the driver to use the meter. Some drivers would want to make a deal with you that they’ll take you to your destination for a certain price which is much higher that the price if you used the meter.
Know the general direction of where you are going. Some taxi drivers would go around in circles just to make you pay a higher rate even if your destination was just supposed to be one block away.
Every province have their own version of this three-wheeled motorized vehicle. It consist of a motorcyle and a sidecar. It can fit 3-8 people depending on the design of the tricycle. It is usually used for short trips.
They have also designated routes but you can also rent them for special trips. The fare is about P10/person and goes up depending on the distance.
Pedicabs are the unmotorized version of tricycles. It is cheaper and environment friendly 🙂 Just be considerate to your driver and don’t make him travel uphill.
I haven’t tried riding a habal-habal yet. I find it too scary and dangerous but if you are up for a unique experience you can give it a try. A habal-habal is a motorcyle with extended seats to accommodate more passengers.
The habal-habal is popular in areas where the jeepneys and tricycles cannot go because of rough, steep and narrow terrain.
You can still find this classic horse drawn carriage in Intramuros and Binondo, the Chinatown of Metro Manila. These are rarely used nowadays except in tourist spots and some rural areas.
Rent a car
Well, I haven’t really availed of a rent-a-car service here but just in case you’re looking here are some popular companies that I’ve heard of: