Getting Around the Philippines

DOMESTIC TRAVELS in the Philippines is serviced by all conceivable modes of transportation. Tourists can pick from the most modern aircraft to bullying jeepneys and shrieking tricycles, traveling around the Philippines can only be so comfortable and adventurous. Either way, it is guaranteed to be one of the most inexpensive transport systems in Asia.

With the opening of the Nautical Highway-the governments program to link the entire country by sea travel. There is an easy way to find your way from Manila to Mindanao using the adventurous Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) and ferry system. Travel with ease through the major port cities of Batangas, Calapan, Caticlan, Roxas, Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete and Dapitan. Regional and provincial bus operations usually day and night on an hourly or more frequent basis especially during the country’s most important holidays. Ferry boats small and huge depending on distance are convenient and safe. Tourist with international driving license wishing to explore the country on their own, there are many available car rental companies, such as Avis and Hertz, located in major tourist destinations throughout the country.

Transportation around the Philippines normally starts and ends in the country’s capital, Manila. After the hustle and bustle of getting out of the airport, next leg will be your decision on what mode of transportation you will need to be able to move forward to your much awaited exploration to the island paradise- the Philippines! A journey of discovery and adventure into the less accessible corners of the Philippine archipelago can be as rewarding as any planned holiday destination.

Flying within the Philippines

Even within the country, traveling by air is popular because it is fast, convenient and inexpensive, it will save you a lot of your precious time. The Philippines currently has seven domestic airlines, with aircraft capable of bringing you to the most amazing and breathtaking holiday destination, at a very cheap price. Most domestic flights in the Philippines cost between U$30 to U$50 one way or sometimes back & forth. Yes! Because every now and then, these airlines give promos and in some airlines like Cebu Pacific you can even reserve a seat 1 year in advance. Philippine Airlines, the country’s major carrier runs a regular service to and from 43 domestic points. The small aircraft, used for island hopping, necessarily have very precise payloads and you may be asked to weigh-in with your baggage before departure. Domestic air services are provided by Philippine Airline, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Zest Air (former Asian Spirit) PAL Express and SEAir.

Taxis in the Philippines

Taxis provide the best means of transportation around the city, with a flag-down rate of P40, taking a taxi is comfortable- you get shielded from the dust, heat or rain. Metered taxis are plentiful in Manila, finding one at any time is never a problem. Taxis are always lined up at the major hotels and tourist restaurants and can be hailed on the street. All taxis in the major cities are metered and the driver is required to turn the meter on; if the driver does not turn the meter on, find another taxi. Taxis in provincial cities and towns closer to beach resort holiday destinations are frequently not metered and you must negotiate and agree what you feel is a reasonable fare. Taxis are available in major cities like Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Davao.

Jeepneys in the Philippines

The Jeepney, it is said, offers an immortal example of Filipino ingenuity. The Jeepney is still the undisputed “King of the Philippine Roads.” The modern-day Jeepneys are embellished with multicolored designs that differentiate them from one another. Jeepney is the most common public transportation all over the Philippines for goods and persons. Like moving works of art, the colorful Jeepneys ply most of Manila’s secondary roads and even some major thoroughfares almost day and night. They’re as much fun to ride on as they are to look at and you have to try one. Although there are regular stops, you can often just flag one down and hop on. You’ll have to sit sideways with your back to the window for the trip, rubbing elbows with the rest of the passengers. Since there are no conductors, passengers sit down and call out “bayad” (bah-yhad) before passing the fare forward via the other passengers all the way to the driver. When you are ready to get off, call out “para” (pah-rah); wait till he slows down and jump.

Jeepneys are the cheapest form of transportation in the city aside from the buses, and the average fare is 7.50 pesos (or about a quarter USD) for a short distance.You’ll probably have to opt for a Jeepney ride if you want to reach places which aren’t accessible. Jeepneys are the preferred mode of transportation in the islands. Jeepneys are unique to the Philippines so you shouldn’t leave the Philippines without using them. The Jeepney gives us a realistic feel of the air, sights, and sounds of the country- the Philippines!

Buses in the Philippines

The Bus Services in the Philippines are well structured and well organized. All the terminals are located in Manila from where the departures take place to various provinces. A vast majority of city buses travel via Epifanio delos Santo Avenue (EDSA) carrying passengers around metro Manila and beyond.

When starting in a larger city like Manila, most bus lines have their own individual bus terminal – ask a taxi driver and tell him where you plan to go by bus. Same Bus Company may have different terminals depending on destination.

For tourist, buses within Metro Manila may be quiet complicated with hundreds of bus lines across this multi million city – for this reason, as a new arrival you may single out taxi for city transportation. On the other hand, moving out of town into regional areas or remote provinces – bus is the transportation of your choice.

Travel by bus in the Philippines is an inexpensive option for a long journey, from two to ten hours or even more. Basically, there are large buses with or without air-conditioned (those without air-conditioned are known as ‘ordinary’ or ‘regular’) and the famous minibuses, also called ‘baby buses’. Go for air-conditioned buses for obvious reasons – temperatures can get fickle especially during the monsoon season, and the summer heat can be quite uncomfortable.

For those traveling outside Metro Manila, the Victory Liner, Five Star, and Fariňas are some of the major bus companies that serve Northern Luzon,  like Baguio City – the summer Capital of the Philippines,  Pangasinan- we’re Hundred Islands is located and Laoag City, a few hours from Pagudpud home for magnicent beaches in the northern tip of Luzon. For the Southern Region, one major bus company is the Philippine Transport Company (Philtranco). This bus company also offers Boracay trip. (w/ RO-RO included) These are large, well maintained and comfortable buses, You can find their terminals in Pasay and Cubao. Bus transport is the life blood of the Philippines. They are fun to ride in and the best mode for exploring the true colors of Philippines.

Major Provincial Bus Companies:

Victory Liner — Ilocos Region, Baguio and Zambales (Northern Luzon)
Five Star — Ilocos Region (Northern Luzon)
Partas — Ilocos Region (Northern Luzon)
Farinas — Ilocos Region (Northern Luzon)
Dagupan Bus Co. — Ilocos Region (Northern Luzon)
Saulog Transit — Baguio, Olongapo, Cavite
ALPS  The Bus, Inc. — Southern Tagalog Region.
JAM Bus Co — Southern Tagalog Region
Philtranco — Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Mindanao
Rural Transit — Mindanao
Rural Tours — Mindanao
Bachelor Tours — Northern Mindanao
Super-5 — Northern Mindanao

Train System in the Philippines

The development of a light metro system (Mass Rail Transit – MRT) in Manila-Capital of the Philippines is the goal of the national government to provide public with an alternative means of transportation and reducing acute road congestion on the city’s busiest corridors

The modern form of public transport- the commuter trains is a network of elevated light railway systems that connect various portions of Metro Manila. The very busy Mass Rail Transit system in Manila is comprised of three lines. The Metro Railway Transit (MRT) connects North Avenue in Quezon to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, travelling down Epifanio delos Santo Avenue (EDSA). The Light Railway Transit Line 1 (LRT 1), runs from Caloocan terminal in the north to Baclaran terminal in the south. Finally, the MRT Line 2 (Megatren) stretches west to east from Santolan to Recto Avenue. These train lines cover almost all places in the capital with stations conspicuously located to connect the traveler to places of interest, business centers and transport terminals.

The trips are fast and efficient, and the fare is a little higher by a few pesos than Jeepneys but you won’t have to deal with the notorious traffic on all of the major roads and highways. Aside from the fact that the railway is air conditioned, roving guards and policemen can be seen at every corner of the different terminals, thus pickpockets and other small time crooks tend to stay away from this area.

There are women-only carriages on almost all trains to enhance the travel experience for the fairer sex. This is by far the safest way to go, but be prepared for a tight squeeze during rush hours and noon lunch breaks

The Mass Rail Transit in Metro Manila

The LRT Line 1 - The Yellow Line

LRT Line 1 is a fully elevated north-south route, consists of the 15 km elevated railway system servicing the Taft Avenue – Rizal Avenue route between Baclaran, Pasay City and the Bonifacio Monument in the City of Caloocan.  The Light Rail Transit Authority is recognized as the premiere rail transit in the country providing reliable, efficient, dependable, and environment-friendly mass rail services to all residents of Metro Manila. It is considered to be the first LRT system in Southeast Asia.

Passengers using single journey tickets will be charged Php 12.00 for the first four (4) stations and Php15.00 ( around 3 cents USD)for the rest of the route. The LRTA, in cooperation with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, offers free newspapers to its patrons daily from 6:00am (until supply lasts) at the following LRT Line 1 stations. An Automated Fare Collection System (AFCS) using  plastic magnetic tickets as fare medium is being  utilized in both the LRT Line 1 and MRT Line 2  Systems .

The LRT Line 2 – The Purple Line

LRT Line 2Megatren is a 13.8 km mass transit line that traverses five cities in Metro Manila namely Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila along the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda and Recto Avenue. The line is elevated except for Katipunan station, which is underground.

The Megatren, more popularly known by its generic name Line 2, is the latest of its kind in the world today. It is a fully automatic (i.e., driver-less) system which is at par in terms of facilities and technology with those in other parts of the world. It is equipped with a CCTV system that enables the railway operator to monitor activities of passengers and employees at the stations and inside the trains. Moreover with this size, the Purple Line trains can accommodate up to 1,628 passengers.

The Megatren, the LRT 2 is commuter friendly and has facilities especially designed for the elderly and the differently-abled. It has Braille tactiles along the lanes and elevators which enable blind passengers to be guided on their way to the trains. Even if there were elderly and physically disabled on board who are provided with space for their own wheelchairs and mobility tools, alongside the fiberglass reinforced plastic benches. Another key feature of the Megatren is its automatic vending machines which enable the passengers to buy their tickets without queuing at the ticket booths. This allows for faster mobility of people and added convenience to commuters.

The Purple Line has 11 stations with a footbridge linking the Purple Line to the Yellow Line at the Recto station and Doroteo Jose station. Although called LRT, this line uses heavy rail metro vehicles. The Free newspaper (Inquirer) is also available at the following MRT Line 2 stations, Santolan and Katipunan.



LRT Lines
Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays
Line 1 – Yellow Line
(Baclaran to Roosevelt Stations)
05:00 AM
05:00 AM
Start of Operation
09:30 PM
09:00 PM
Last Northbound commercial train leaves Baclaran Station for Roosevelt Station.
10:00 PM
09:30 PM
Last southbound commercial train leaves Roosevelt Station for Baclaran Station.
Line 2 – Purple Line
(Santolan to Recto Stations)
05:00 AM
05:00 AM
Start of Operation
09:30 PM
Last commercial train leaves Santolan Station bound for Recto Station.
10:00 PM
09:30 PM
Last commercial train leaves Recto Station bound for Santolan Station.

The Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-The Blue Line

MRT 3 known as Metrostar is another offering of the government for fast, inexpensive and relatively hassle free travel along major city arteries. Metrostar 16.8 km train that runs elevated along EDSA ring road, except Buendia station which is underground.

The MRT 3 runs from the North Avenue Station in Quezon City up to Taft Avenue Station in Pasay city. Passengers would enjoy the traffic-less route, well maintained coach and stations with the spectacular view of Metro Manila’s skyline. The MRT 3 operates from 06:00 – 22:00, every 3 minutes during peak hours, every 5-7 minutes at other times.


Water Transport in the Philippines

The Philippines being an archipelago of 7,107 islands and islets, traveling inter-island, the sea plays a vital part for travel. Transportation around the Philippines is not a problem. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats.

Ferry boats are operated by reputable shipping companies; these fast ferries are actually air-conditioned ships, mostly hydrofoil and catamaran that are fitted with aircraft seats, a small bar and video screens. It is the most suitable medium to enjoy the charms of an island country and the call of the sea.

The Philippines is served by a network of commercial ferries like WG&A Lines, Negros Navigation and among others linking Philippine holiday destination and are generally cheaper than traveling by air. Major ferry companies have vessels that will carry thousands of passengers, offer a wide variety of on-board accommodations, from bunk rooms to private cabins and are well maintained.

Most of the time, smaller, short-distance, inter-island ferry services frequently use local “banka” outrigger boats or pumpboats, generally used for transporting the tourists to the most popular beach resort holiday destinations.

Ferries ply regular routes between Luzon and the principal islands in Visayas and Mindanao regions. Wherever you go, there’s always a boat waiting to take you to the next island.

Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH)

The Strong Republic Nautical Highway offers an efficient and shorter way to travel to the Visayas and Mindanao regions plying the western seaboard. For tourists and travelers, this route allows you to hop from one island to another and enjoy the scenery in the comfort of your car.

SRNH is opened under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Administration since April 12, 2003, a 919 km of  integrated set of roads and ports that connects the three primary regions of the Philippines, which are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The RO-RO (Roll-On-Roll Off) Program is a government initiative to enhance public access to selected tourism areas throughout the country. It traverses the Strong Republic Nautical Highway.(SRNH) The Roll-On-Roll-Off (RO-RO) route started only recently is another means of traveling to Boracay, the number one top destination in the country—by bus and ferry, with RO-RO, the bus and ferry fares are combined into one fee. You can also bring your car all the way to the last port of call. It may be a simple sounding term, but for first-timers, it can involve complicated procedures before loading. It is also often the most unwelcome undertaking since it is perceived to be synonymous with tedious bureaucratic red tape and corruption among government agencies in the port areas.

But going further south using bus & RO-RO is less complicated. But this is not for the faint-hearted; the journey to Boracay in Caticlan for example will take 14 hours. The experience can also be nerve wrecking. But, if you have the luxury of time and  wanted to explore the scenery and historic avenues of the country across seven islands -Luzon, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Negros, Panay, and Boracay RO-RO adventure is for you!

Strong Republic Nautical Highway Route Map

Tricycle in the Philippines

Philippines’ staple transportation for short and sometimes not-so-short journeys is the durable and versatile tricycles. Tricycle is a common sight (and sound). Its motorcycle attached to a sidecar, normally good for 3 adults (2 inside and 1 at the back) but in the Philippines -like the Jeepney there is always a room for everyone!

Tricycle is a Philippine transportation vehicle that has power over secondary roads and alleys, it even rules highways at times. The tricycle is much like a taxi; it picks and drops you off to your destination “door-to-door.”

Thousands of tricycle drives around the country day and night with goods and persons. Fees are regulated –but not followed sometimes, the usual fare must be 8.00 pesos per person for short distance but drivers will charge you 10 pesos, so for obvious reasons, it is wise to make arrangement in advance – and the rules of thumb NEGOTIATE!

Car Rental

Driving can be extremely hazardous activity in the Philippines and sometimes not recommended.  Nevertheless, hiring a car with a driver sometimes is a better option; just an additional driver’s fee and you’re much safer and convenient. There are many trusted car companies in the Philippines like Hertz Rent-A-Car, Budget Rent-A-Car, Avis Rent-A-Car, Hannan Rent-A-Car and Avalon Rent a Car.

Vehicles include the newest models of sedans, AUVs, and Vans at the lowest possible rates, with a choice of quality cars such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Chevy, etc., ranging from 2003 models to 2005. A valid international driving license and a map in hand, you are set for an interesting trip.