Philippines Transportation Guide: How to Get Around, Land & Sea Travel, Local Tips

Philippines Transportation Guide: How to Get Around, Land & Sea Travel, Local Tips

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Jeepneys in ManilaGetting around the Philippines is not as straightforward as you might think. Unless you book a Philippine car rental or Philippine airport transfers, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different public transportation vehicles and systems available in the country. This article will teach you the basics and offers tips for a hassle-free experience.

With over 7,100 islands, there’s no limit to the experiences you can have when you explore the Philippines. This Southeast Asian country is home to stunning beaches, pristine islands, mysterious caves, and beautiful mountains.  

For those who prefer the indoors, there are plenty of Philippine tourist spots in cities, including museums, churches, and other architectural landmarks in the Philippines. Travelers who want to try cultural activities in the Philippines may also visit UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Philippines.

However, thanks to the unique Philippine geography, transportation in the Philippines is a little tricky. The country has three main island regions, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Top Luzon tourist spots include the capital Manila and the island of Palawan, top Mindanao tourist spots include Davao and the surfing island of Siargao, while top Visayas tourist spots include the islands of Boracay and Cebu.

Manila City SkylineIf you want to see all the best places to visit in the Philippines, you will need to plan ahead. This will involve trying different modes of transportation in the Philippines. The most convenient way to visit the best islands in the Philippines is via plane, but some of them are close enough to each other that you can go on a ferry ride.

For cities and landlocked provinces, travelers need to familiarize themselves with local Philippine transportation like jeepneys, tricycles, trains, taxis, and motorcycle taxis. 

To make your trip even more convenient, you may also book Philippines city and airport transfers to Philippine hotels or Philippines vacation packages and Philippines guided tours that include flights and transfers from the airport to your hotel or the tourist attractions. You also have the option to book a Philippine car rental so you can drive around the country and follow your own itinerary. Just make sure you have all the requirements to rent a car in the Philippines.

This guide to getting around in the Philippines will brief you on Philippine public transportation so you can have an even more hassle-free vacation in the Philippines

Jeepney in the Philippines

Jeepney parked in ManilaThe Jeepney is not only the most common mode of public transportation in the Philippines but also an iconic national symbol. The jeepney in the Philippines came to be thanks to the Americans who left their surplus jeeps behind after World War II. Enterprising Filipinos turned them to passenger vehicles, along the way giving them colorful makeovers that made them the icons that they are today. 

They can be found all over the country, as their open-air design and bench-style seating make them one of the cheapest land transportation in the Philippines, with the current minimum fare at PHP11 or USD 0.20 (as of August 2022). Their routes usually cover only one city and its adjacent areas.

To get on the right route and avoid getting lost, it’s best to ask locals what jeep to take. Jeepneys will have signboards displayed on their windshield, indicating their route and final destination. 

While some jeepney routes have designated stops, most don’t, and you need to tell the driver you need to get off by shouting “Para po!” which means, please stop. You may also chance upon jeepneys with a string on the ceiling, which you need to pull to alert the driver that you need to alight. Note that you need to do this several meters before your actual stop to give the driver enough time to slow down and stop at the side of the road safely.

Local tip

It’s best to bring coins and smaller bills for the Philippines jeepney ride, as it’s usually the driver themself who handles payments. If you are seated near the driver, you can simply hand him your payment while letting him know where you will get off so he can compute your fair. If you are seated far from the driver, you can ask your fellow passengers to pass your payment to the front by saying, “Bayad po!” Any change will be passed back to you.

Bus in the Philippines

Bus along a busy road in Metro ManilaCommuting in the Philippines is not complete without riding a bus. There are several types of buses in the Philippines, but the most common ones are the provincial and city buses. Provincial buses or inter-city buses usually have terminals and set schedules so you can plan your trips easier. 

On the other hand, city buses have several stops where you can hail one and don’t have any set schedule. This could mean that, depending on traffic in the Philippines, you could end up waiting before you can get on a bus. There are also point-to-point or P2P buses that you can get in the city, which only have one pick-up spot and one drop-off spot. 

Some provincial buses require you to pay at the terminal before boarding the bus, but the norm when it comes to payment with most buses in the Philippines is you pay after boarding. A bus conductor will issue you a ticket and collect your payment. 

While there are premium provincial bus companies in the Philippines that have Wi-Fi, an onboard toilet, and wide reclining seats in their buses, expect most to have standard seats. 

If you want to save money, you can ride buses without air-conditioning. Note that this option is much less comfortable than air-conditioned bus rides, especially during the hotter months from March to May.

Local tip

As with jeepneys, it’s best to prepare coins and smaller bills when riding a bus in the Philippines. However, some city and P2P buses only accept Beep card payments, so make sure you get one with credit before boarding.

Trains in the Philippines (MRT, LRT, PNR)

LRT-1 at the Balintawak stationPhoto by Light Rail Manila Corporation

There are several operational train routes in the Philippines, but they currently only run through Luzon, with most covering only Metro Manila. You have four options when it comes to rail transport in the Philippines: The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT), the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT 1), the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT 2), and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Metro Commuter Line.

  • MRT - There are 13 MRT stations in the Philippines, all of which can be found along EDSA, the National Capital Region’s (NCR or Metro Manila) main highway. The MRT route in the Philippines has two bookend stations, North Avenue in the north and Taft Avenue in the south. The minimum fare is PHP13 or USD 0.23 (as of Aug 2022), making it a good option if you want to beat Metro Manila traffic. 

  • LRT 1 - There are currently 20 LRT 1 stations in the Philippines. The LRT 1 route in the Philippines stretches from Roosevelt Station in Quezon City of North Metro Manila to Baclaran Station in Pasay of South Metro Manila. The minimum fare is PHP12 or USD 0.22 (as of Aug 2022).

  • LRT 2 - There are 13 LRT 2 stations in the Philippines, and the route starts/ends at Recto Station in Manila and continues until Antipolo station in the province of Rizal, north of Metro Manila.

  • PNR Metro Commuter Line - There are currently 26 PNR Metro Commuter Line Stations. The whole route stretches from the Governor Pascual Station in the City of Malabon in the National Capital Region to the IRRI station in Los Baños in the province of Laguna.

MRTPhoto by the Department of Transportation MRT-3 

Local tip

From the MRT, you can switch to the LRT 1 line via the Araneta Center - Cubao station or the LRT 2 line via the Taft Avenue station (which will lead you to the EDSA station). The LRT 1 and 2 lines are connected via the Doroteo Jose and Recto stations.

If you’re switching between these transit lines, having a Beep card with you is best to avoid lining up for single-journey tickets. The PNR doesn’t accept Beep cards, but it is connected to the MRT Line via the EDSA / Magallanes stations, the LRT 1 Line via the Blumentritt station, and the LRT 2 Line via the Pureza / Sta. Mesa and Tutuban stations.

Tricycle in the Philippines

Tricycle along a small street in BoracayYour trip would be less interesting without riding a tricycle in the Philippines. A tricycle is basically a motorcycle with a sidecar attached to it. They are similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuk and can be found all over the Philippines. Tricycles usually pass through smaller roads and are usually not allowed on highways and main thoroughfares. 

Some tricycles have a set route and are shared between two to four passengers, but you can also get a private tricycle ride. This will take you straight to your destination, but expect it to be more expensive than shared rides. You can board one in tricycle terminals, but if you chance upon a vacant one on the road, you may hail it. 

Local tip

The sidecars of these tricycles are usually not built for tall people, which can feel much more uncomfortable during bumpy rides. If you’re on the tall side, ask to ride behind the driver if there’s still room. 

Pedicab in the Philippines

PedicabPedicabs can be found all over the Philippines and is similar to a tricycle, except that instead of a motorcycle, the sidecar is attached to a bicycle. This means they are slower and can carry fewer people (usually just a maximum of two, but bigger pedicabs can accommodate three people) but are useful and more comfortable when passing through bumpy routes or dirt roads. 

Like the tricycle, pedicabs may also be shared by passengers but may be used for a private ride at an additional cost. Note that pedicabs may not be allowed on certain types of roads in the Philippines, including highways and some main roads.

Local tip

If you are not in a rush and you have the option to ride a pedicab or a tricycle, go for the pedicab ride. Pedicab rides are usually cheaper, and they will allow you to see the sights on your way to your destination better. 

Taxi in the Philippines

Taxis Photo by LBR Taxi

Taxi cabs are the best option if you are looking for a pick up and drop off service when traveling within the Philippines. Taxis are also the most comfortable way to get around, considering they are private and air-conditioned. Taxis can be found all over the Philippines, but note that if you are traveling in congested cities, including Metro Manila and Cebu City, using a taxi to get around may cause you to spend a considerable amount of time sitting in traffic.


There are three kinds of taxis that you can find in the Philippines. Regular metered taxis have a fixed flag down rate of PHP40 or USD 0.72 (as of Aug 2022)  and additional fees are added depending on the time spent and distance traveled. 

Busy road in Makati CityThese taxis are usually white with yellow license plates. If you are coming from the airport, you may come across coupon taxis and yellow airport taxis. Coupon taxis are blue-marked taxis that charge a fixed price based on the rates prescribed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). On the other hand, yellow airport taxis are similar to regular metered taxis, except their rates are much higher.

A transport app in the Philippines is also available called Grab that you can install in iOS or Android mobiles. It allows you to get an online booking for a taxi in select areas in the Philippines. 

You can book a regular metered taxi in Grab, but you need to pay an additional PHP79 or USD 1.42 (as of Aug 2022) booking fee on top of your metered fare. You may also book private 4-seater and 6-seater vehicles in Grab. The fare for these rides is also based on the rates prescribed by the LTFRB, but note that there could be surge pricing when demand in your area is high.

Aerial view of a busy road in Makati CityLocal tip

Be aware of scams run by some taxi drivers. If you are riding a regular metered taxi, always insist that the meter be used. Some drivers may claim that their meter is broken and will charge you a fee much higher than what you would have paid based on the meter.

Ferry or RoRo in the Philippines

FerryThe country is an archipelago, and an option to get around islands is sea transportation in the Philippines. Ferries in the Philippines vary greatly depending on where you are, but most have fixed routes, schedules, and prices, making it easier to plan a trip. It’s best to research beforehand where you can get tickets for your ferry boat ride in the Philippines, as some may be bought at the port, but some require advanced booking.

If you booked a Philippines car rental from the mainland, you may also go on a RoRo vessel or the roll-on, roll-off boats, which allow cars to be driven aboard so you can drive them at your destination.

Local tip

Always check the weather forecast before your trip. The Philippines is prone to typhoons, and traveling by ferry during stormy weather can at the very least result in an unpleasant ride. Try to time your visit during the dry months, the best time to visit the Philippines.

Pump Boats (Banca/Bangka) in the Philippines

Bangka in PalawanIf you’re in the country to explore its white sand beaches and islands, the transport service in the Philippines that you need to familiarize yourself with is the pump boat, locally called a banca or bangka.

Compared to passenger ferry boats, these smaller pump boats travel shorter distances and are often used for Philippine island-hopping tours and fishing trips. These boats are powered by a small boat engine and have outriggers for stability.

Bancas or pump boatsBe prepared to get wet when riding a banca, as the boat is open, and seawater may splash onto the boat during the trip. Also note that while you can board some bancas from a port, many will dock directly at the beach, so you need to wade into the water in order to board or alight.

Local tip

The rates for banca rides vary from one destination to another but are usually negotiable and calculated on a per trip basis as opposed to per passenger. This means that the more passengers on the boat, the cheaper you’ll be charged per person. Just refrain from going over the maximum number of passengers for your own safety.

Motorcycle taxis (Habal-habal) in the Philippines

Habal-habalMotor taxis are called habal-habal in the Philippines and are particularly useful for hard-to-reach destinations that require passing through small dirt roads and for traffic-congested cities when you are in rush. 

Essentially, a habal-habal is a motorcycle taxi that will have passengers sit behind the driver. Some habal-habals have modified seats, allowing drivers to take up to 6 (or even more!) passengers with them. 

While this type of public transportation is popular in the provinces especially for tourists who want to explore small islands like Siargao and Palawan, it has become available in the big cities of the Philippines as well. Habal-habals have no set routes and rates are usually negotiable.

For a much safer and more convenient motorcycle taxi experience, you can download the Angkas and Joyride apps on your smartphone for commuting in big cities like Metro Manila. These apps will allow you to book a private motorcycle taxi that can take you directly to your destination without having to share the ride with anyone else.

Local tip

Motorcycle drivers and passengers are required to wear a helmet, and while Angkas and Joyride drivers can provide you with one for your ride, it’s best to have your own motorcycle helmet for a more hygienic and safe commute.

Airplane and Seaplane in the Philippines

Seaplane flying above Philippine islandsThe fastest but most expensive way to explore the Philippines is via airplanes and seaplanes. Air transportation in the Philippines is fairly straightforward as there are many Philippine Airports scattered across the islands and there are several domestic and international airlines in the Philippines.

Philippine Airlines aircraftPhoto by Philippine Airlines

For domestic travel, the bigger airplanes usually fly to major destinations like Cebu and Bohol while smaller aircraft travel to places like Batanes and El Nido in Palawan.

While the Manila Airport or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport services the most flights, there are other busy airports in the country including Cebu Airport and Davao Airport.

AirTrav's seaplanePhoto by AirTrav Philippines

Local tip

For your domestic flights, make sure you arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight time to allow for security and document check. The check-in lines at airports may take a while as the ground staff needs to check each passenger’s Philippines travel requirements.

If you’re traveling from Manila Airport, take note that there are 4 terminals so make sure to check which terminal you are flying from before you book your Manila airport transfers


Start Exploring the Philippines Now!

Cars along EDSA in Metro ManilaGoing around to tour the Philippines can be less complicated and tricky if you arm yourself with the correct information. Before heading out to explore the country's natural wonders including beaches, islands, caves, and mountains, make sure you have everything you need with you and your route mapped out. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to ask a trusted local for tips and advice.

For a more convenient vacation in the Philippines, book with a trusted Philippine travel agency. Search Philippine tour packages, including vacation packages for couples, all inclusive family vacation packages, and long stay packages so you can get the package that fits your budget and travel needs.

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