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Transportation in the Philippines: How to Get around

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Transportation in the Philippines is a crucial aspect of any travel plan, as this beautiful archipelago nation comprises over 7,000 islands, each with its own unique attractions and culture. Navigating this diverse and stunning landscape presents a myriad of options for those looking to travel around the Philippines, and understanding the transportation choices available is key to making the most of your journey. Whether you’re exploring the bustling metropolis of Manila, the pristine beaches of Boracay, or the lush landscapes of Palawan, knowing how to get around efficiently and safely is essential. In this guide, we’ll delve into the various modes of transportation in the Philippines, helping you make informed decisions about how to move around this captivating country.

Get around the Philippines by Air

Exploring the Philippines by air is a convenient way to experience its diverse attractions. Get the lowdown on air travel tips in the Philippines:

Leading Airlines:

When flying domestically, you’ll encounter two major airline groups: Philippine Airlines, which offers both full-service and low-cost flights to numerous destinations and Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest low-cost carrier, servicing over 60 domestic and international locations. AirAsia Philippines, a subsidiary of the Malaysian-based AirAsia Group, also competes on various international routes.

Top Destinations: 

Some of the most sought-after destinations in the Philippines reachable by air include:

  • Manila: The capital city is a cultural and historical hub. Explore Intramuros, Rizal Park, Chinatown, and museums. Manila serves as a gateway to other Luzon destinations like Baguio, Banaue, Tagaytay, and Batanes.
  • Cebu: The second-largest city boasts historical landmarks like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, and Basilica del Santo Niño. It’s also a haven for beach enthusiasts and adventure seekers, offering spots like Mactan Island, Moalboal, Oslob, Bantayan Island, and Malapascua Island.
  • Boracay: This renowned island is celebrated for its white sand beaches, vibrant nightlife, and numerous water-based activities, including swimming, snorkeling, diving, kite surfing, and more.
  • Palawan: The largest province in the Philippines is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich variety of ecosystems, including forests, mountains, caves, and coral reefs. Explore El Nido, Coron, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Honda Bay, Port Barton, and Balabac.
Philippines Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Airfare ranges for popular routes:

Airfares for different routes within the Philippines can vary significantly due to several factors like season, demand, airline, and booking timing. Here are estimated price ranges for popular routes:

  • Manila to Cebu: Prices usually average around ₱11,836, but they can span from ₱2,000 to ₱20,000, contingent on the airline and when you book.
  • Manila to Boracay: On average, this flight costs around ₱11,780. However, rates can fluctuate between ₱3,000 and ₱18,000 based on the airline and when you make your reservation. A convenient route to Boracay is flying from Manila to Panay Island in the Visayas.
  • Manila to Palawan: The typical fare for this journey is approximately ₱12,397. Nevertheless, prices may range from ₱4,000 to ₱22,000, depending on the airline and your booking timing.
  • Cebu to Davao: On average, this flight costs about ₱17,781. Yet, fares can vary from ₱5,000 to ₱30,000, depending on the airline and when you make your booking.
  • Cebu to Bohol: Typically, the fare for this route hovers around ₱12,397. Nevertheless, it can fluctuate between ₱3,000 and ₱18,000 based on the airline and when you decide to book your flight.

Get around the Philippines by Boats and Ferries

Exploring the Philippines by boat and ferry is a well-known and practical means of traversing the country’s numerous islands. The Philippines boasts an extensive network of ferry services that link the major regions of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and Palawan. Depending on the distance, comfort preferences, and budget, travelers can select from various ferry types, including passenger liners, ROROs (Roll On, Roll Off), fastcrafts, and bangkas. Here’s what you need to know about traveling by sea in the Philippines:

  • Passenger Liners: These are sizable vessels accommodating thousands of passengers and vehicles. They operate on long-distance island routes and offer various accommodation classes, from economical bunk beds to air-conditioned staterooms. Tickets are typically purchased in advance, and passengers are required to check in three hours before departure.
  • ROROs (Roll On, Roll Off): ROROs serve both vehicles and passengers on short to medium-distance routes. They’re especially convenient for travelers who wish to transport their cars or motorcycles. Tickets are typically prepaid.
  • Fastcrafts: Modern, air-conditioned catamarans provide swift and comfortable travel between larger islands. Although pricier than other ferry options, they save time and offer amenities like TV and snacks. Tickets are bought at the dockside prior to departure.
  • Bangkas: These small wooden boats, also known as pump boats or water taxis, are the most affordable and widely available form of ferry transport in the Philippines. They operate on short-distance routes between closely situated islands. Tickets can be purchased at the jetty or dock before departure.

Various ferry companies serve the Philippines, including 2GO Travel, El Greco, Montenegro, Oceanjet, Supercat 2GO, Super Shuttle Roro, and Trans-Asian Shipping Lines. To obtain details about their routes, schedules, fares, and online booking options, you can visit their websites or utilize a resource like Schedule.ph.

Philippines Cebu Island
Boats on Cebu Island

Traveling around the Philippines by Buses

Exploring the diverse islands, cultures, and attractions of the Philippines through bus travel is not only economical but also a favored choice among travelers. Whether your itinerary includes bustling cities, scenic countryside, or pristine beaches, there’s a bus ready to transport you. Here’s what you should be aware of when embarking on a bus journey in the Philippines:

  • Types of Buses: There are two primary bus categories in the Philippines: provincial buses that link major cities and towns across the nation and city buses that operate within urban areas. Provincial buses come in several classes, ranging from ordinary to luxury, each offering different amenities and comfort levels.
  • Schedules and Delays: Buses in the Philippines operate on schedules, but they are frequently subject to delays caused by factors like traffic, road conditions, and passenger demand. It’s not uncommon for a bus to wait until it’s full or to make stops for passenger pick-ups and drop-offs.
  • Fare Variability: Bus fares fluctuate based on factors like distance, class, and the bus company. You can purchase tickets in advance at bus terminals or online for select companies. Alternatively, you can pay your fare to the conductor onboard, who will provide you with a ticket. Hold onto your ticket until you reach your destination, as it may be required by bus staff or security personnel.
  • The Adventure of Bus Travel: Bus travel in the Philippines can be a fulfilling adventure for those who are adventurous and flexible. It allows you to explore new places, meet new people, and gain insight into Filipino culture and history. However, it’s essential to be mindful of potential challenges, including safety concerns, scams, thefts, accidents, or natural disasters. Always exercise caution and common sense while traveling by bus in the Philippines.
Philippines City Bus
Philippines City Bus

Traveling around the Philippines by Shuttle Vans

Shuttle vans serve as a widely-used mode of transport for inter-town travel between various Philippine islands, such as Coron, Cebu, Port Barton, Siargao, and Palawan. These vehicles typically fall in size between buses and cars, and they are favored for everyday commuting, tourism, and business purposes across the Philippines. You’ll find a range of shuttle van types and brands to suit your specific needs and preferences.

Shuttle van fares are typically fixed and quite reasonable, depending on the distance and your chosen destination. For instance, traveling from Puerto Princesa to El Nido via a shuttle van costs approximately PHP 600 per person, while a shuttle van journey from Cebu City to Moalboal comes in at around PHP 150 per person.

Traveling around the Philippines by Taxi or Ride-hailing Apps

Traveling across the Philippines by taxi or ride-hailing apps offers a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the nation’s diverse and picturesque destinations. Nevertheless, there are essential details to consider before embarking on your taxi or app-based ride.

Firstly, you should acquaint yourself with the various types of taxis and ride-hailing services accessible in the Philippines. Regular taxis, typically white or yellow, use meters to calculate fares based on distance and time. Meanwhile, premium taxis, usually black or silver, offer fixed rates dependent on your destination. These taxis can be flagged down on the street or found at designated taxi stands.

In some areas, particularly during peak hours or inclement weather, hailing a taxi can be challenging, prompting many locals and tourists to turn to ride-hailing apps for convenient smartphone-based bookings. Notable ride-hailing apps in the Philippines include Grab, a Southeast Asian leader offering various services and extended features like food and grocery delivery as well as cashless payments, and JoyRide, a domestic superapp facilitating on-demand ride-hailing, deliveries, and e-commerce across multiple Philippine regions.

Next, it’s important to understand the pricing and gratuities for using taxis in the Philippines. Here are some general pointers:

For regular taxis, the initial charge is 40 pesos (0.80 USD), with the meter increasing by 13.50 pesos (0.27 USD) per kilometer or 2 pesos (0.04 USD) per minute of waiting time.

On the other hand, premium taxis have a starting fee of 70 pesos (1.40 USD), and the meter adds 16 pesos (0.32 USD) for each kilometer or 4 pesos (0.08 USD) for each minute of waiting time.

Bali Grab App
Grab App

Traveling around the Philippines by Mopeds

Exploring the diverse Philippines by moped is an exhilarating adventure, but there are key considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, having a valid driver’s license is advisable, along with wearing the provided helmet. Adhering to traffic rules and road orientation is crucial. Secondly, road conditions and weather can vary greatly, so check forecasts, avoid adverse conditions, and equip yourself with navigation tools. Lastly, while moped rentals are typically affordable at $5 to $8 per day, anticipate additional costs for fuel, parking, and tolls. Prior to renting, inspect the moped and take photos of any damages, and consider travel insurance for added security, encompassing moped rentals and medical emergencies.

Travel around the Philippines by Jeepneys

Jeepneys, born from repurposed US military jeeps post-World War II, are the Philippines’ primary and cost-effective public transit, serving urban and rural areas. To ride, know the route displayed on the vehicle, find terminals or flag one down. Fare varies by distance (7 to 25 pesos), paid in cash. No ticket needed; money passes among passengers. Students and seniors can seek discounts. For stops, say “para po” or tap the roof. Inform the driver of your destination while paying.

Some notable jeepney routes in the Philippines include:

  • Baclaran-Divisoria: This journey meanders through bustling parts of Metro Manila, including Pasay, Makati, Manila, and Binondo, providing glimpses of churches, malls, markets, and historical landmarks.
  • Baguio-La Trinidad: Traversing from the Philippines’ summer capital to its strawberry hub, this route offers scenic vistas of mountains, pine trees, and flower farms, accompanied by refreshing mountain air.
  • Cebu City-Lapu-Lapu City: Crossing the Mactan Channel via two bridges, this route treats passengers to panoramic sea views and city skylines. Notable attractions in both cities, like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Basilica del Santo Niño, Lapu-Lapu Shrine, and the Mactan Island Aquarium, beckon exploration.
Philippines Jeepney
Philippines Jeepeny

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