Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to get around Manila

The craziness of the streets in metro Manila can be very overwhelming for a first time visitor like myself. Pedestrians, passenger cars, taxis, huge buses, trucks, jeepneys, motorcycles and tricycles all come together to clog Manila roadways. All of this without the comforts of traffic lights, crosswalks and clear road lanes can turn a simple trip into an experience for an outsider. Jaywalking in busy Manhattan streets is a cakewalk when compared to navigating around Manila intersections. It's normal life for the locals, who use a "Frogger" approach to dodge vehicles in order to get across the street. After a couple of days I was getting pretty good at it - it just takes a little practice!

If agile walking does not sound appealing to you, here are some different ways to get around Manila ...

1. Jeepneys

This neat form of transportation was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived. There are a plethora of them in every neighborhood, and are often times full (with some daring riders even standing on the back). They reminded me of shuttles and are a popular and inexpensive way to get around town. They fit around 10 people and can be hailed down like a taxi. The coolest thing about the Jeepney is the individuality each one of them has. They all have a name which is clearly labeled on the front and sides.

This Jeepney is named Revelation:

They are very colorful and often times have lots of chrome and logos. Riding them can be a little frightening at high speeds, as the back is completely open. Rest assured though, there are handles to hold onto.

The inside of the Jeepney:

2. Tricycles

Tricycles are faster than walking, but overall remain a slow form of transportation. These man-powered vehicles are an effective way to travel down small streets. The driver peddles on the left while passengers relax on the right in the shaded sidecar. The sidecar is designed for 2 passengers to ride at a time, anything over that is stretching the roominess.

They are cheap and can be haggled down (but don't get too greedy). They are very easy to find, with lines of operators waiting at various locations. A good option if you need a break or feel like being lazy in exchange for a small fee.

3. Motorcycle Taxis

A convenient and faster alternative to tricycles are motorcycle taxis. They are very similar, with room for two passengers in the sidecar and space for one adventurous rider who wishes to sit behind the driver holding on for dear life. These could also be hailed down randomly in the street if vacant.
Since the motorcycle taxis are quick, they ride on major streets along with all of the other vehicles on the road. The one downside to this is the smog build up. It pays to cover your mouth and nose while riding, and I noticed that some locals wore masks over their mouth to help protect against the smog.

4. Sky Train

The sky train is often the quickest way around Manila, especially when traveling from one neighborhood to another. They are fast, clean, safe and easy to navigate. Depending on your destination you will sometimes need to take a quick taxi ride to and from the sky train station. When on the train you can clearly see all of the time you are saving, as the train shoots past the crawling vehicles on the traffic filled expressway beneath.

5. Taxis

Taxi's are everywhere and easy to flag down. The problem is that Manila's traffic is so bad that often times taxis seem unbearably slow. Nevertheless they are an essential way to get to certain places, and are inexpensive when compared to prices in the states.
Manila cabbies are often cowboy drivers, so be prepared for a wild ride with sudden stops.

It's nice to have have options when traveling around Manila. No matter what your time restraint or location is there is always a way to get around town. When traveling to nearby cities such as Batangas (about a 2 hour ride) express buses are the best way to travel. When traveling to other islands such as Romblon, long boat rides are usually the most direct way to travel. But when trying to navigate around Manila, there are plenty of choices to choose from.

So I ask the question to all of you, what is your preferred way to travel around your own city?


  1. In NYC, I think most people think that everything in Manhattan is 15 minutes away. So, either you walk to that destination and make it on time more or less, or you take the subway and blame the dispatcher for stopping the train due to track maintenance.

    Whichever one you pick, a person like me will always come on time. That is of course, if I walk fast enough, and the train decided to move the pace I wanted it to.

  2. I'm from NYC, so I semi-agree with JRM above, lol. I never use taxis here in the city; the train and bus systems really do just fine.

    And ah YES, Manila! I never did understand how so many cars were able to drive around without any lane lines o_o.

    I'm Filipino, but I was born in the Bronx, lol. I'll be visiting the Philippines again this summer, though, and Manila's International Airport is always my first stop, of course.

    Good post :].

  3. Thanks for the comments John and Miss Keyszz!!:)

    I agree, when getting around the city train and walking are the most efficient ways. When the weather is nice nothing beats strolling around the streets, even if you're not in a rush.

    Miss, I'm really jealous that you're going to Manila in the summer, I love that city! Everybody there is so friendly even with all of the hectic craziness in the background. How long will you be staying for?