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How To Navigate Transport in Manila, Philippines

Which mode of transport you take in Manila is up to you
Which mode of transport you take in Manila is up to you | © TheDigitalWay / Pixabay
Having several cities under one region, Metro Manila is often described as busy, crowded, and bustling. It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know the ins and outs of the Philippines’ capital region and which mode of transportation to take. Luckily, you can ask friendly locals for directions and refer to this guide.

Buses

Throughout the cities’ main roads, you’ll find city buses running – from the wee hours of morning until midnight. Similar to how it works in other countries, passengers do not have to pay upon boarding. Rather, they wait for the conductor to collect the bus fare.

While there’s no central bus station for city buses (as bus companies are privately-owned), there are frequent points where passengers can board and alight. But with Manila’s current traffic situation, taking the bus takes a lot of time. Recently, Premium Point-to-Point (P2P) buses were introduced in the city and each bus has a single point for pick up and another for drop off.

With P2P buses, passengers need to purchase a beep card to pay for their trip fares, which are more expensive than city buses. If you find yourself roaming around Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, you’ll notice they have their own bus transport system and you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the routes, because so-called Fort buses have designated bus stops within the area.

Local tip: Always have smaller bills with you and prepare to pay the exact amount. Manila’s city buses are always in a hurry so you better be quick when hopping on buses.

Trains

Because of the heavy traffic situation in Metro Manila, most commuters resort to taking train rides for less travel time. Currently, there are three rapid lines operating in Manila. These are the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, LRT Line 2, and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) Line 3, and the Philippine National Railways (PNR), which serves commuters traveling from the province of Laguna to Manila and back.

MRT Line 3 along EDSA Avenue © Judgefloro / Wikimedia Commons

The trains that run more frequently are those in MRT Line 3 because it runs parallel to EDSA – the city’s major highway. But due to frequent technical glitches and problems, added to the limited number of trains operating, train stations are often crowded and lead to delays.

Local tip: If you’re an occasional visitor, purchase single journey cards for your train rides. Also, take time to study the route of each train line so you’ll know the station where you’ll go down.

Taxi

If you don’t want to ride on public trains and utility vehicles, you have the option to hail a cab anywhere in Metro Manila. Commonly referred to as “taxis,” you’re bound to find one wherever you are in the metropolitan area.

Taxis connect Pristina Airport to the city centre © Pexels / Pixabay

However, expect that it’s an expensive mode of transportation. These white-colored cars with yellow-colored plates have a pre-determined flag down rate of 40 Philippine pesos (at time of writing) and an additional charge per kilometer and waiting time on the road. While these cars are available anywhere, it’s hard to find one during peak hours.

Local tip: Unfortunately, some drivers tend to “forget” to turn on the taxi meter and instead offer a fixed trip rate. To avoid being scammed, remind drivers to turn on the meter if you’ve noticed that it’s not yet running.

Utility Vehicle (UV) Express

The Utility Vehicle (UV) Express Service is a non-metered taxi that has fixed rates in Manila that can accommodate 10 or more passengers, depending on the type of vehicle, such as vans, and the type of cars called Tamaraw FX.

UV Express Service passing along the road © Ramon FVelasquez / Wikimedia Commons

This kind of public transportation, also known as FX or shuttle, provides a more convenient commuting experience for working individuals and students. Some also consider that it’s safer and cheaper to ride, unlike taxi cabs. While there are designated terminals for such vehicles, you can also hail the vehicle while it’s traversing the road, provided the area allows loading and unloading of passengers.

Local tip: If you can’t afford to be late for your scheduled appointment or trip, make sure to go early to the designated terminals for shuttle services because there are usually long lines of commuters waiting.

Tricycle and pedicab vehicles

For shorter distances within Manila cities, the tricycles (motorcycle with sidecar) or pedicab vehicles (bicycle with sidecar) are cheaper alternatives to taxi cabs. Mostly, these kinds of vehicle are used by passengers within subdivisions or areas not reachable by jeepneys.

There are two ways to ride the tricycle – pay a standard fare and join a group of commuters inside the vehicle or opt to rent the vehicle all to yourself, price depends on your negotiations with the driver. While it’s easier on the pocket, take note that tricycles or pedicab vehicles are not allowed on major roads in Manila.

Local tip: Make sure to have small bills with you so you can pay the exact amount.

Jeepneys

Of course, the jeepneys are the cheapest alternative to the above-mentioned modes of transportation in Manila. Known to be an iconic symbol of the Philippines, you’ll find them painted with bright colors and adorned with gaudy accessories.

Philippine jeepneys © Ellen Munro / Flickr

Some jeepneys even parade through the streets blasting their loud speakers with either humorous dance music or heartbreaking Filipino songs. But due to the Philippine Modernization Program, these type of jeepneys that Filipinos have known for decades will soon be replaced by modern, eco-friendly public utility vehicles.

Local tip: Say “para” or “para po” to inform the driver that you’re about to go down the jeepney. If you’re seated near the driver, help other commuters hand over their fares to the driver.

Transportation apps

Currently, Grab is the only major app-based ride-hailing service in Metro Manila as the Philippine government suspended Uber operations. Also available in Metro Manila is Angkas, a motorcycle ride booking service and a more convenient way to navigate transport and avoid traffic jams. In addition, Sakay.ph provides accurate directions and commute directions so first-time and occasional travelers won’t find it hard to commute in Manila.