Ways of getting around in Manila
There are plenty of ways to get around Manila, but if you are not familiar with the city, it is best to take a tour on a carpool with friends who are accustomed with the winding streets and the detours. Manila and its outskirts are best appreciated on commute, but the means of transport and the ways to get around can be complex even for the seasoned traveler. Take note that a numeric coding scheme is enforced on all vehicles on the main thoroughfares, and make sure that your vehicle’s plate number doesn’t end with the designated code for the day before you go out – else you’ll wind up paying a fine.
If you are keen on getting a good feel of what Manila is all about, you can commute to your destinations; just take great pains to conceal the fact that you’re a tourist. Locals can easily discern a foreigner, and the city has its own share of unscrupulous people who won’t hesitate to part you with your money.
Taxis are probably the best way to get around as they aren’t bound by franchised route regulations, but make sure that the driver flags down the taxi meter before you let him drive; if the driver seems hesitant to do so, or offers you a ‘special price’ for lengthy trips, hail for another cab. The various malls around the area of Manila, Makati and Quezon City have traffic and police enforcers patrolling the area to ensure that cab drivers do not take advantage of unwary passengers.
Light Railway Transit LRT
There are three light railway transit lines ( LRT1, LRT2 and MRT) which makes a stop on all the relevant points of the city and the metro, but these intersect at rather odd junctions, so you’ll have to go with other means of commute in order to get to where you really want to go. Getting about in this way is recommended nonetheless since the trip is fast and efficient, and the fare is a trifle; you also won’t have to deal with the notorious traffic on all of the major roads and highways. Aside from the fact that the railway is air conditioned, roving guards and policemen can be seen at every corner of the different terminals, thus pickpockets and other small time crooks tend to stay away from this area. This is by far the safest way to go aside from a carpool, but be prepared for a tight squeeze during rush hours and noon lunch breaks.
You’ll probably have to opt for a jeepney ride if you want to reach places which aren’t accessible otherwise. Jeepneys are the cheapest form of transportation in the city aside from the buses, and the fare can cost for as less as a 7.50 Pesos (or about a quarter USD); you’ll have to sit sideways with your back to the window for the trip, rubbing elbows with the rest of the passengers, and in relatively cramped spaces. Take extra caution with your belongings as you are very vulnerable to pickpockets and snatchers in such a compromised position. Be aware that jeepneys are not for everybody, especially those who are prone to heat stroke as these vehicles do not have air conditioners. Foreigners with blond hair and blue eyes will attract a lot of unwanted attention, so jeepneys should not be the first choice when it comes to commuting. Riding on a jeepney is necessary if you want to get to places like Quiapo or Divisoria, the city’s main bargain haunts, but be sure that you only carry as much money as you need, and leave the credit cards behind.
Buses are reliable commutes as some follow a circuitous route, but others tend to stay too long at junctions, waiting for passengers to fill them up. Go for air-conditioned buses for obvious reasons – temperatures can get fickle especially during the monsoon season, and the summer heat can be quite discomfiting. The fare is easily cheaper especially for long distance travel; consequently the masses prefer this mode of transportation. Be ready to rub shoulders with people from the lower classes, otherwise you might want to stay from buses if you have a sensitive sense of smell.
The most convenient – or so they say – mode of transportation is called the FX. The name is actually derived from the name of the vehicle, Tamaraw FX. An AUV designed and manufactured by Toyota specifically for Asia. The typical fare starts at 10 Pesos, and can be as much as 40 Pesos; depending on how far your destination is. Although these are air conditioned, it can become uncomfortably hot with more 10 passengers riding on board. The FX follows certain routes, and has terminals on the major drop off points within the Metro. It, however, stops at various locations to unload and load other passengers – so if you’re running a bit late, you might want to opt for another ride. As always, be careful with your belongings and avoid taking a nap while stuck in heavy traffic.
Tricycles & Pedicabs
Don’t bother with the tricycles and pedicabs (two wheeled vehicles attached to canopied sidecars) unless you really, really need them, such as when coursing the bystreets and secondary roads that jeepneys cannot access; the ride can either be bumpy or uncomfortable. You are also vulnerable to snatchers and other crooks who would love nothing more than to get their hands on your possessions.
Every mode of transportation is pretty much within easy reach everywhere, even on the high-brow business district of Makati, the posh areas of Malate and the slums of Tondo. One word of caution that must be reiterated, crooks abound the streets of Manila so try your best not to attract too much attention.
Grace is loving every minute she spend traveling around Philippines, meeting people and making new friends. Her travel mantra - “Live, breathe. It is never too late to feel alive.”