Philippine people use several ways to go from one place to another. If they have their own car or motorbike they use it often. Those who don’t have one, are using public transport. It depends on the distance or travel time what kind of transport they use.
Public transport in the Philippines
There are tricycle, with or without motorbike, jeepney, fx, taxi,bus or train. And for inter-island traveling they use small boats for nearby islands or ferry boats for further away islands. And of course there are airplanes going all over the Philippine islands to all mayor cities. By far the safest way to travel longer distances.
For very short distances they just walk or use a tricycle.
The most common tricycle and mostly used is a motorbike with sidecar. Sometimes painted in nice colors. They practically all have a kind of roof so the passenger remains dry when it rains. In some places still, man power-driven bicycles with sidecar are used. Pedicabs (tricycle on muscle power) and tricycles are not very comfortable for foreigners. They are built for Filipinos, not for tall westerners with longer legs. The most comfortable place for me is at the back, on the buddy seat of the motorbike.
Fares are low, about 7 to 8 pesos per ride but this is depending on the location.
For bigger distances Filipinos often use jeepney’s. Originally they are transformed American jeeps (left after WWII) with a large sitting area in the back. These days jeepney’s are made on the same principle but without using the jeep chassis.
Jeepney’s are going a specific route vice versa which is stated on the car, especially on the front window and on the side. Almost all jeepney’s are painted with colorful designs, very often religious designs. The Philippines is a very religious country. In a jeepney usually there’s room for 16 to sometimes more than 20 passengers inside. It’s not unusual that also a few people hang on the back and in remote areas also people sitting on the roof. Officially these practices are not allowed and very dangerous, but… Jeepney’s are also not built for use by westerners. The ceiling is very low, benches are small and it is easy to get one’s head hurt getting in or out the vehicle.
Some jeepney’s have a stereo inside to give entertainment to the passengers. But the music is typically Filipino: very loud, heavy basses, and a lot of disco.
Some even have a lot of extra colorful lights when driving in the evening hours. Fares are also low, about 8 pesos for the first 4 km.
Those who like to travel a little more comfortable can use FX or taxi.
Taxi’s are more or less the same all over the world. Most of them have air conditioner and prices vary, although the government has implemented a rule that every taxi has to use a meter for the fare. Some taxi drivers try not to use the meter, especially with foreigners whom they ask prices far above the regular fare. TIP: when using a taxi, before you enter, ask always if the driver is willing to bring you to the desired place, and if he will use the meter. Although these practices are not allowed, foreigners can easily be fooled with all kinds of stories. Do NOT get in such taxi if the answer is no to one of these two questions. According to Philippine law Taxi drivers are not allowed to refuse a trip and they are obligated to use the taxi meter. A tip of 10% for taxi’s is standard.
There’s also the so-called FX. The first car used as such was the Toyota Tamaraw FX. That’s where the present name FX comes from and is used for all cars of similar type. It is a small van with room for around 10 passengers, air-conditioned and most of the time having a specific route like jeepney’s have. Fares are still affordable but more expensive than a jeepney.
Public transport in the Philippines for larger distances.
For provincial and inter provincial operations buses are often used next to jeepney’s. Ordinary buses do not have air conditioner and often have very poor seats and sometimes not even windows. Also air-conditioned buses are available. They usually have a better seats and the fare is more expensive. For inter provincial traffic also Express buses are used. They offer good seats, seat belts and air conditioner. Sometimes a meal is included in the fare. The meals are picked up on the way in Jollibee or another fast food restaurant. My experience is that these Express buses are driving very fast (almost dangerously fast).
A lot of buses nowadays have TV or DVD on board to entertain the passengers and some even have WiFi.
Traveling by bus through the country is not that safe. Because of the high speed of the buses, and ‘reckless’ bus drivers many accidents happen, often with fatal result. Especially buses driving into the mountains have accidents from time to time. So be warned!
Within the Metro Manila area there is also a kind of metro system operating. It has three lines with fast trains high above the existing roads or goes sometimes underground. Fares vary from about 13 pesos and up depending on the distance. It is a clean and fast way to travel from one side of Manila to the other. Unfortunately there are only three lines so far.
transportation in the Philippines
All ways of transportation, except taxi’s, are service included, so there’s no need to give tip.
Public transport in the Philippines inter island traffic
Transport from one island to another can be done by airplane, but many smaller islands do not have an airport, or one has to travel first to Manila or Cebu in order to get a second flight to the desired island. Boats are the solution. For just shorter distances a common way for Filipinos to travel is by pump boat. These small vessels have only one motor and are traveling short distances between nearby islands. For a little further away islands a small passenger ferry is used. Larger islands and larger harbors often offer ferryboats for hundreds of passengers and some cargo. And there are the “roll on- roll off” ferryboats where buses, trucks and private cars can be transported, next to many passengers.
And in some places in the Philippines (among them Cebu City – Tagbilaran, Bohol) they have very fast catamarans for persons transport. They are called ‘super-cat’. A fast and safe way of transportation.
Warning: Passenger vessels are often over loaded, especially in high season like Holy Week, Christmas time and the like. Try not to travel inter island by boat these periods, but take a plane. And be aware that in typhoon season, and due to rough seas, no transport will be possible when a typhoon is expected to pass that area. It simply is not safe enough to take that risk.
A lot of people have to go to work or school using public transport. If they live far from their work or school they sometimes travel one or two hours or sometimes more than that, single trip. In the evening the same again. A lot of people have to change jeep or bus once or twice to reach their destination. Therefor the cost of daily transport takes a big part of the Filipinos income.
When you see yellow colored vans or other vehicles (not taxi’s) they are often school buses to bring students to school or back home.The name of the school is always written on the side.
In tourist areas (around Old Manila and Quiapo, but also in Vigan City) you can also find ‘calesa’, a couch pulled by a horse. They are for tourist purposes only and are not used for regular public transport anymore. Usually the calesa is decorated with copper or silver plated shields.