Updated: Mar 19, 2019
For most first time international travelers, the idea of traveling through the Philippines can seem overwhelming. But we can help with that...
The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, so you most likely will not be able to fly directly to your destination. For most first time international travelers, the idea of traveling through the Philippines can seem overwhelming. The languages, street systems, and modes of transportation alone can give your brain an aneurysm. But rest assured, traveling through the Philippines is relatively easy and generally safe.
“I love Jeepneys! They are modified Jeeps that were left by the US after the Vietnam war.”
First things first, you will only find taxi services in major cities. That being said, when you first touch down you will probably need to find one. There are a few basic principles you need to know to prevent getting scammed. Philippine Law states that all taxis must have working meters. You will often find them offering you a "special deal" that will cost you about four times the normal rate. You most likely will not even notice because the price will still be far below the US average for a cab. As a general rule, you should always use the meter. There is only one exception to this rule. From the airport, there will be two types of taxis, the first has a meter like most taxis and the other will have preset prices from a booth and those prices can be negotiated. You can generally negotiate them down by 25%.
Buses are a convenient, simple and affordable way to travel. You will use them for either traveling longer distances around the island you're on, or to bring you to the dock to take a boat to another island, and you will be able to find food, drinks and basic items there. When you arrive, it may be slightly confusing, so let me explain how it works. There are rows of buses with signs above them for the city that they travel to. You do not need a ticket, you simply get on the right bus when it arrives. Some buses have air conditioning and the windows are generally shut on those. The air conditioned buses cost approximately 20% more. Once on the bus, a man will ask you if you are getting off before the final destination. He will then punch a ticket for you with the amount owed. Once he has given a ticket to everyone, he will go back through to collect the money.
Trikes can be found outside bus stations, boat terminals and sometimes going down the road waiting to be flagged down. One of the benefits is that unlike taxis, trikes can be found outside of major cities, even in small provinces. There are two types of trikes, motor-powered and leg-powered. The price is the same, but the motorized trikes are much faster for obvious reasons, and generally a must if you have multiple people or heavy luggage. Because you are a foreigner, they will generally pad the bill, but if you ask the cost prior to the trip, they will think you are more experienced in traveling the Philippines and give you fair price.
I love Jeepneys! They are modified Jeeps that were left by the US after the Vietnam war. They are comparable to a city bus system and generally found in larger areas. On the side they have a sign that states the destination, and you simply flag down the Jeepney that is going where you want to go. You get on and your money will be collected for the trip.
Car and Motorcycle Rentals
I would NOT recommend renting a car your first trip! First, learn the area and the way people drive, to see if you would even be comfortable driving. Traffic in the Philippines is more chaotic than you could imagine. If you decide to rent, the vehicle will generally have to be returned to the same location it was rented, and it's only available in major cities. Prices vary, but unless you will be driving long distances, it will be a more expensive way to travel.
At some point you will want to go to another island. When you arrive at the port there will be a toll and the taxi will just add the fee to your fair. There will be rows of different boat companies you can purchase tickets from. In my personal experience, I have found FastCat/SuperCat to be the fastest and most comfortable. There will be a range of options from comfort to location on the ship, etc. After purchasing your ticket, you will have another fee at the entrance of the terminal.
For me, the thought of traveling over many different methods through many different islands was overwhelming. However, after traveling all throughout the Philippines I found it much easier than the transportation systems in the United States. With a healthy sense of adventure and a little cash you will fall in love with traveling the Philippines.