How to Rent a Car in the Philippines: Everything You Need to Know

How to Rent a Car in the Philippines: Everything You Need to Know

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A woman leaning toward the back of her car

Explore the best tourist spots of the Philippines' top destinations when you book a Philippine car rental and make the most of your vacation. Learn about essential details and practical tips on renting a car in the Philippines with this comprehensive guide. 

If you’re looking to experience road trip adventures in a tropical setting, the Philippines is an excellent choice! Although the country has its fair share of cities with airports, some of its most wonderful spots are not always ones you can fly into. Hence, the best way to reach them is by driving a private vehicle or book a rent a car in the Philippines.  


The Philippines does have a public transportation system that is relatively affordable and somewhat accessible. However, this transport system can be confusing and overwhelming to many travelers. This is why driving a car rental in the Philippines is a smart and convenient way to get around.

Fortunately, several reliable companies offer this mode of travel, and they have managed to make the Philippine car rental process easy and smooth. 

Why should you rent a car in the Philippines?

Car rental company handing over the keys to a customer

Locals use Philippines public transport all the time, but it takes a bit of time to get used to it, especially if you intend to do provincial or regional transfers. Public transport may not be the best choice for exploration depending on your travel goals and priorities.   

Here are some compelling reasons why you should rent a car in the Philippines instead of commuting:

Hassle-free transportation

The Philippines does not have an extensive train network covering key regions in the country except for Metro Manila and getting around the Philippines requires planning ahead.  If locals don’t intend to fly or flying is not an option, they tend to use buses to get to neighboring cities and provinces.

The Philippine bus system is not government-owned nor centralized.  Buses are run by several private companies who organize their own schedules and destinations. Most of the time, these private companies have their own bus stations.

If you prefer to stay mostly in one area, then getting to know the country’s complex bus system may not be necessary.  However, if you wish to explore many locations (as most travelers do), you will need to research bus companies and determine which ones go to your desired destinations. 

This process takes up time and requires a lot of planning. In addition, taking buses also means that you will have to do several bus transfers throughout your holiday. 

Transferring from one bus to another while carrying or dragging your luggage can be exhausting and stressful. If you prefer a hassle-free and more comfortable visit to many of the country’s top attractions, then driving a rented car is a great option.

Normally, you can book a car rental online before your arrival. Then you need to pick up the car right at the airport. This saves you time and energy and eliminates the need for you to go to an unfamiliar location for pick-up. 

Full-control of your travel time/itinerary

Driving your own rented car gives you the freedom to see the places you really want to explore at your own pace. If you’re taking buses or other public vehicles, you have to observe departure times.

Renting a car allows you to create and follow your own itinerary! 

A girl enjoying the roadside view

You don’t have to worry about getting up early or missing the next bus. Leave or stay longer at an attraction when you feel like it. You may even choose to be on the road at night and relax in the morning. At any point in time, you can hop on your car and leave the city to explore waterfalls, caves, and white sand beaches in the Philippines. You can even drive to some of the luxury resorts in the Philippines, which includes some of the top Philippines honeymoon resorts.



More destinations to discover

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. It has several prominent attractions that are heavily visited.  There are many options when it comes to top tourist destinations in the Philippines.

However, there are still so many sites in the country that are barely visited. Because of lack of exposure, these sites are usually not easily accessible via public transport. 

With a rented car, you can reach remote places and discover hidden gems in the country without time constraints. Car rental in the Philippines offers a more-than-your-typical holiday, which not all travelers have the privilege of experiencing. 

Best jump-off points for car rental in the Philippines

When figuring it how to rent a car in the Philippines, the first thing to consider is where you will be driving your car rental. The rent-a-car process depends on your planned destinations. Before signing up for car rentals, here’s a quick overview of the Philippines' geography to help you work out the important rental details: 

The Philippines is composed of three main island groups, which are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Each island group has a prominent jump-off point for car rental. 

Luzon is the northernmost island region in the Philippines and is where the central government resides. Some of Luzon’s notable areas include Metro Manila (including the capital city of Manila), Laguna, Tagaytay, Batangas, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos, and Baguio. The island of Palawan is also part of Luzon but you need to board a plane or ferry to get there from the main island. 

Visayas is the second island region located in the middle section of the country. Unlike Luzon, which is mainly one large island, Visayas is composed of a group of smaller islands. Tourist destinations in Visayas include Cebu, Iloilo, Bohol, and Bacolod.  

Mindanao is the southernmost island region and is home to the most remote sites in the country. Some of its most notable places include Davao, Siargao, Camiguin, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Dipolog, Bukidnon, and Zamboanga

As a visitor, you need to first decide which island group you prefer exploring and then determine the specific jump-off point to rent a car from.

Rent a Car in Manila

Aerial view of Rizal Park, beside a major road in Manila

If you plan on exploring Luzon tourist spots, then it makes sense to rent a car in Manila. Metro Manila is the National Capital Region of the Philippines, and the city of Manila is its capital.

When locals mention Manila, they often refer to the whole metropolitan area.  Metro Manila is composed of other cities like Makati, Quezon City, Alabang, and Cubao. There are plenty of Manila tourist spots that you can reach by car. If you're flying in to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, there are even places you can visit near NAIA terminals including museums in Metro Manila. You can also go on a Binondo food trip.



Metro Manila has numerous highways and flyovers. Traffic is typically heavy in certain areas during rush hour. If you want to drive around with a car rental in Manila, make sure to start early. Go to tourist spots that are geographically close to each other. 

It is also important to be familiar with the local government's traffic rules and regulations to decongest the traffic. One important regulation in place is the number coding scheme during weekdays. Take note of one-way streets, assigned lanes, and loading/unloading areas.

Most of the Luzon provinces are connected to Manila by highways and expressways. With a rented car, you can visit these provinces and go on a weekend getaway near Manila

Some of the provincial destinations worth visiting include Tagaytay, Batangas, Baguio, and Ilocos Region. You can also drive to beach resorts in the Philippines from Manila. If you're exploring more of North Luzon, it's recommended to rent a car in Clark Pampanga

Rent a Car in Cebu

Marcelo-Fernan Bridge in Cebu at night

Visayas is a tricky region to do a road trip because its cities and provinces are located in some of the best islands to visit in the Philippines. However, Cebu City makes a sensible jumping-off point for car rental in Cebu province and if you want to explore other Visayas tourist spots

There are many Cebu tourist spots and Cebu beachfront hotels that are easily accessible via a drive. You can even go for a ride to some of the white sand beaches in Cebu. If you're up for a long drive, you can also visit Oslob tourist spots and Moalboal tourist spots.



Apart from having the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Cebu is connected to some Visayan cities and provinces via national highways and bridges, but there are quite a number of sites that need to be accessed by sea. Fortunately, the Philippines has a Roll-On Roll-Off (RoRo) ferry system. Using the car ferry, you can visit destinations like Bohol, Dumaguete, Boracay, Iloilo, and Bacolod.

Rent a Car in Davao

Stunning roadside scenery in Davao

If Mindanao is your destination, then Davao is most likely your car rental jump-off point.  Most of the prominent Mindanao tourist spots are found on the main island of Mindanao.



Notable cities and provinces are connected via national highways, so it’s actually a great region for road trips. From Davao, you can book a Davao car rental and drive to well-known destinations like General Santos, Dipolog, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga City. 

What are the car rental vehicle options in the Philippines?

Car rental companies in the Philippines offer customers a range of vehicle types to choose from. The type of vehicle affects how much car rental is in the Philippines. This means that you can actually pick a vehicle that suits your budget and needs.  

Just keep in mind that brands and models may vary from one company to another. But generally, Philippine car rental options are quite decent and models popular in the Southeast Asian region are often available. With many options to choose from, you won't find it hard to find the best cars to rent for your travel needs.

Small Budget Car Rental

Black Toyota Vios

Renting a small car is a great option for solo travelers, couples, and small groups. Small car rental in the Philippines are usually categorized as such because they have relatively small engine size, and limited luggage compartments. They are also the least expensive of all the rental car types. 

Examples of small cars include Toyota Vios, Mitsubishi Mirage and Toyota Altis, Toyota Wigo, Honda City and Nissan Sylphy. 



Small budget car rental in the Philippines are capable of running in sunny and rainy seasons. This type of car is more ideal for traveling around cities and nearby provinces as they are easy to park and have low fuel costs.  

It’s possible to use a small car to get to highland destinations. However, if you really want to have a safe and more convenient journey, bigger cars with larger engines such as SUVs/ 4x4 are much suitable for such terrain. 

SUV or 4x4 Car Rental

Chevrolet Trailblazer

SUVs or 4X4 vehicles have larger engines and more spacious interiors. These cars are big enough to accommodate a big group of travelers while also having enough space for multiple luggage. 

Examples of vehicles under SUV or 4x4 car rental in the Philippines category include Suzuki APV, Mitsubishi Estrada, Toyota Fortuner, and Chevrolet Trailblazer.



SUV car rental in the Philippines are more durable and is meant to travel greater distances. It can be used during the country’s warm and rainy seasons. SUVs are very suitable for highland travels that may involve steep inclines and rougher terrains. 

Luxury Car Rental

Mitsubishi Montero Sport GLS

Similar to 4X4 SUV cars, luxury cars are more spacious and have bigger engines. This type of car is considered a notch higher than regular SUVs because they offer high-end comfort and beautiful interior. Some of the cars found in this category include Lexus ES350, Toyota Camry, and Mitsubishi Montero Sport GLS.



Luxury car rental in the Philippines are better fitted for city driving. However, some luxury 4x4 or SUVs combine comfort, toughness, and style. 

Renting a luxury car in the Philippines is all about the experience and creating a lasting impression.  It is perfect for business-related meetups, romantic escapes, or celebrations. If you intend to drive long distances, luxury cars will make the long trip more comfortable. 

Van Rental

Vans come with a large engine size to match its impressive seating capacity of up to 9 people. Most vans would also have rooms for 4 luggage in their compartment. Some of the typical vehicles for Philippine van rental include Toyota Hi-Ace, Toyota Innova, Mitsubishi Adventure GX, Hyundai Starex. 



Most van rental in the Philippines are suitable for long-distance and highland driving. They can handle rougher roads but also provide space and comfort to passengers. Vans are the best fit for family excursions or group trips. 

What are the requirements for renting a car in the Philippines?

The requirements to rent a car in the Philippines are a valid passport, a major credit card (Visa, Amex, Mastercard), and a valid driver’s license.

As a foreigner, you may use the driver’s license issued by your country for 90 days, but the license needs to be written in English. If your driver’s license is not in English, you will need to go to your local embassy to have it officially translated into English.

If you wish to stay beyond 90 days, you need to go to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and have your license converted to a local version. You also have the choice to get a new license from the LTO. 

You always need to have your passport, driver’s license, and car rental document with you while driving your rented car. For a hassle-free experience, make sure to also bring the other car rental requirements during your drive in the Philippines

Tips for driving a car rental in the Philippines

Staring at the roadside view while sitting on a car

Renting a car in the Philippines is a straightforward process as long as you have all the requirements needed. With regards to actual driving, the streets can be chaotic at times, but most people will generally get used to it in no time. 

It is generally safe to drive in the Philippines. Most roads are well-maintained, especially in metropolitan cities and provincial capitals. Car accidents are not as common as in other countries. 

Here are just some tips to keep in mind if you’re driving a car rental in the country:

1. Take note that the Philippines drive on the right side of the road. This means that the driver sits on the left side of the car. 

2. Schedule your driving time outside of rush hours (7 to 9 AM and 6 to 8 PM) and peak times to avoid being stuck in heavy traffic. This is especially true if you’re driving in Metro Manila or other busier cities like Cebu and Davao.  

3. Metro Manila traffic authorities implement a number coding scheme to alleviate heavy traffic. This scheme regulates the number of vehicles allowed to be on the road.  The number coding is based on the last number of the car plate. Number coding system does not apply in provinces. 

4. Be mindful of the common road rules and traffic laws in the Philippines to avoid violations and penalties. Several local drivers ignore common traffic rules. Do not follow their example as a traffic enforcer will most likely fine you. 

Some common road rules to keep in mind include:

  • Always have your valid driver’s license, certificate of registration, and official receipt ready. 

  • Slow down and not speed up when orange/yellow light is turned on. Do not try to beat the red light, or worse, run it.

  • Don’t drive while intoxicated with alcohol. 

  • Wear your seatbelts at all times.

  • Drive only registered vehicles that are rented from reputable companies. 

  • Avoid swerving.

  • Avoid illegal parking and illegal turns.

5. Drive cautiously, especially during heavy rain, as roads are slippery and visibility is compromised. There’s no need to rush as excessive speed may lead to accidents and violations. Check out our list of rainy season activities and travel destinations in the Philippines.

6. If you get pulled over for a possible violation, be calm and drive the car to the side of the road. Stay in the car and wait for the officer to approach you. 

Traffic enforcement in Metro Manila is done by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officers. These officers specialize in enforcing traffic rules, but they are not policemen. 

In case of a traffic violation, the MMDA traffic enforcer will ask for your license and registration. Follow instructions and always be polite and respectful. You may ask more about your violation and how to pay for your ticket in a respectful manner. 

7. You may hear stories about people bribing traffic enforcers, but this is not a good idea. Over the years, more attention is given to eliminate such corrupt acts so don’t take the risk of bribing an officer.  

8. Navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps work perfectly for Philippine roads. They will help you avoid traffic and reach your destination faster. Just make sure to configure them correctly before hitting the road.  

Roxas Boulevard in Metro Manila

Overall, renting a car can grant you full control of your Philippines vacation. It will provide a lot of conveniences so you can actually spend the time enjoying instead of worrying and planning. 

Availing of car rentals in the Philippines helps make your travel experience more spontaneous and less rigid. And trips sprinkled with spontaneity often end up being the most memorable ones. 

For a hassle-free experience, check the Philippines travel requirements and read our Philippine travel guide before planning your trip. You can also book packages like all-inclusive family vacation packages, long-stay packages, scuba diving Philippines packages, and Philippines honeymoon packages. Those on a budget should also check out our travel promos.



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