Commuter's Guide to Manila

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The Jeepney. Photo obtained from Images Philippines

Getting around Manila is easy enough to learn and understand for both the experienced and neophyte traveler. Tourists have many options to explore when it comes to navigating the city's multitude of roads and avenues. Cabs, trains and jeepneys are available at all hours of the day. Another good thing: Transportation costs in Manila are more affordable compared to other world metropolises.

Words of caution though: Sometimes the traffic gets really heavy, especially on major avenues such as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). Heavy rains and flash floods during the monsoon season may also worsen the traffic situation.

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Going to or from the airport

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is--without traffic--approximately 20 minutes away from tourist hotspots like Makati and Malate. To get to Makati or Malate, one can either ride a cab, a bus, a rental car, or even a jeepney.

If your trip is well-financed, it is advisable to hire a prepaid taxi to avoid all the hassles of traveling in Manila. There is a desk near the arrivals area in NAIA where you can secure a taxi. Just state your destination. You will be given a ticket detailing your fare, which might range from P345 to P375. For cheaper cabs, one can acquire meter taxis outside the terminal. Rates start at P30. The only drawback is that you have to drag your luggage from the arrivals area to the taxi queue.

For the more adventurous, one can immediately try riding a jeepney, the most common mode of transportation in the Philippines. Just find one that says "Baclaran," and it will take you to the Baclaran jeepney terminal, where you can switch to another jeepney, bus, or LRT. The fare is P8.50. Dealing with the luggage, not to mention the possible nonstop stares from fellow passengers, might detract from any enjoyment you will derive from the experience.

Jeepneys

The jeepney is the King of Philippine Roads. This long vehicle is the usual mode of transportation used by Filipinos when getting around the city. Each major thoroughfare has at least one jeepney system traveling the circuit.

Jeepney destinations are posted in the windshields, indicating the trip's endpoint plus the important roads and places that will be passed by. Rates are currently at P8.50; they increase by P1.50 for every kilometer after five. Jeepney services are also round-the-clock and are a practical resort when buses and trains have ceased operations.

However, note that jeepneys are cramped, as drivers tend to make the most out of the long seats. And prepare to feel vulnerable to elements of smoke and noise and heat. Nevertheless, a jeepney ride is an experience that the first-time traveler to Manila should not miss.

Buses

Getting around by bus is a less popular means of transportation, as jeepneys trump them simply by sheer number. Buses do prove to be highly useful in traversing specific routes, particularly the EDSA, España/Quezon Avenue and Las Piñas ones. At EDSA the buses are king, and they are used mainly by professionals going to work in the city's business districts: Ortigas, Makati and Quezon City. Buses are also used by commuters from Manila going to Quezon City via España Blvd and Quezon Ave. Buses are also the primary means by which one can get to the hemmed in Las Piñas. The route starts from Santa Cruz, passes by Taft Avenue, then goes to Coastal Road.

As with jeepneys, buses have their destinations posted in huge signboards propped against the windshield. Rates range between P10 and P30, depending on the length of the trip, and on whether the bus is air-conditioned or not.

FXs

To put it simplistically, FXs are more convenient, air-conditioned jeepneys. These vans follow the same routes as the jeepneys do, loading and unloading passengers en route. Originally, the FXs are of the Tamaraw model, created by Toyota, but today similar models from other car manufacturers are being used for the same purpose.

Rates for FX rides begin at P10, then increase by P5, depending on the destination's length. Empty FXs can also be hired at pre-arranged flat rates if you are headed for places like the airport or tourist spots outside Manila.

The Trains

The trains are excellent means of getting around Metro Manila, as they are quick, affordable, and cozy. There are three elevated lines: the LRT (Light Rail Transit) 1 and 2, and MRT (Metro Rail Transit). The LRT1 runs from Monumento in the north to Baclaran in the south. This is the most convenient way of getting around the city of Manila, as it passes by major landmarks such as Santa Cruz and Malate, and comes close to Intramuros and Chinatown. It also links to the other two lines: the LRT2 is linked through the Doroteo Jose LRT Station, and the MRT through the EDSA LRT Station.

The LRT2 runs from Recto in the west to Santolan in the east. The line traverses Cubao, so this is the recommended means of getting to Quezon City when you are coming from Manila proper.

The MRT travels along EDSA in a north-south direction. When riding the MRT you can easily disembark at busy business and shopping districts while avoiding the traffic and other hassles which come with taking the bus. When going to Makati, disembark at the Ayala station. To get to the Ortigas Center, you can disembark at either the Shaw Boulevard station or at the Ortigas station.

Both systems use electronic tickets which can be bought inside the stations. Fares start at P10 for the MRT and P12 for the LRT. Amounts increase depending on the distance.

Cabs

Taxis are also ubiquitous in Manila though fares are much higher compared to jeepneys and buses. However, compared to the cost of hiring taxis in other cities around the world, taxi rates in Manila are relatively affordable. Rates start at P30; the meter adds P2.50 for every 500 meters covered, or for every two minutes of waiting time.

Speaking of taxi meters, you must check whether the cabbie has turned it on before your trip. Most do, but there are a misguided few who deliberately forget to do so, then later ask for an obviously tampered fare. A quick reminder to the driver will do the trick.

Kalesa

Kalesas are horse-drawn carriages still in use in major tourist hotspots such as Intramuros and Chinatown. If you wish to go for a ride, it is advised to you agree with a price first. Try offering P50 for the first 30 minutes, then let the bargain go from there.

Tricycles

Tricycles or pedicabs are used by locals to get around their immediate communities. Short journeys can cost anywhere from P15 to P50.

Related reading

Citation

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