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Philippines – Expatriate Commuting

Driving, Drivers & Family Cars

• Driving in Metro Manila can be a great challenge for foreigners. While rules do exist, most local drivers are only focused on getting to their destination as fast as possible thereby ignoring traffic regulations such as: staying in one lane, giving right of way and respecting pedestrian crossings. Some major and minor roads do not have visible street signs making getting to ones destination an obstacle. Traffic patterns can also be difficult to follow. Fortunately there are a number of options which assignees can choose from to ease their daily commute.

• Most Filipino and expat families employ a family driver. When it comes to foreigners, some foreign companies (namely American and Australian firms) require that their employees do not drive and therefore hire a professional driver. A driver will relieve you of the burden of parking in a city where parking is a hassle (or nonexistent). A good driver knows his way around the city and alternate routes to take during the busy rush hours (before 9AM and after 4PM) or street closures.

• Road condition in Metro Manila is good. However, heavy traffic will be encountered at any time of the day when it rains. Expect road repair works along the way especially during the rainy season. Professional drivers also know how to talk to local police officers who are sometimes looking to extort money from unassuming foreigners. Newcomers settling into the country sometimes opt to use for car rental companies initially since cars and vans are available at affordable prices for day, short term and long term lease and come with a personal driver assigned.

• Foreigners have a tendency to own spacious SUVs with a minimum of seven-seats to account for employees (i.e. nannies) who may ride with them, and to provide adequate space for a carpool option for children going to school. Another advantage of having a large car is the protection it offers on the road from other vehicles. It so happens that in the Philippines, larger cars tend to have rite of passage over smaller vehicles.

Regulations and enforcement (e.g. seat belt, child seats, road safety)

In the Philippines, seat belt law is strictly implemented for front seat passengers. For back seat passengers seat belt laws are less stringent but their use is highly recommended. Car seats for infants and children are not mandated by law, although most foreigners do use them for safety reasons. Driving under the influence is not only a common occurrence at night but also a leading cause of accidents, particularly during the wee hours. It is advised that foreigners exercise extreme caution when going out at night. Speed limits and other traffic rules are strictly enforced. Tickets will be issued to violators and may be settled through accredited banks of the LTO.

Public Transportation (safety, reliability, efficiency)

• Remember however, that traffic in Manila can be bad at times so driving may not always be the best option, thus some foreigner that opt not to hire a driver tend to use the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metrostar Rail Transit (MRT). Many expats will ride the LRT or MRT to and from the office and leave the car at home for a spouses to use to run errands, go grocery shopping or take children to and from school. Both the LRT and MRT systems are fast, comfortable and most of all reliable. Unfortunately neither is accessible in all parts of Metro Manila. Both lines go through different parts of the entire Metro Manila. Fare on average is about 12 PHP (0.26 USD).

• For the local commuter, There are a numerous of options to take depending on one’s preference. Buses have routes in, out, and around Manila. There are also numerous bus terminals that one can go to catch a trip to major provinces in the country. A ticket for a short trip within Manila and its neighboring cities in Metro Manila would cost about 12 PHP (0.26 USD) to 25 PHP (0.55 USD) depending on distance traveled.

• Another popular means of public transport is the jeepney. Inspired by the sturdy military jeeps used by the Americans during their time in the Philippines, the Filipinos have extended, expanded, and made it colorful. The jeepney is the most popular mode of transportation for getting people around. Fare in PUJs (public utility jeeps) may cost from 7 PHP (0.15 USD) to 12 PHP (0.26 USD). Taxi cabs are best for those who prefer a more comfortable and convenient means of travel. Flag down rate is 40 PHP (0.91 USD). Usually high-end villages, condos, and hotels are able to get a taxi for the tenants upon request and usually have a taxi pick-up and drop point within the area.

• Looking for a decent taxi in the metropolis without having to line up at a taxi stand or call a cab company? If you have a smartphone or tablet, there’s an app for that. New apps being developed in the Philippines now allow smartphone and tablet owners to hail a taxi with Internet-based apps. One of which is, Grab-a-Taxi, and UBER, allowing smartphone or tablet users to virtually hail a cab in an instant. If a cab whose company uses the app is available and responds to the cyber-summons, the app provides the rider with details such as the cab’s name, mobile and plate number, as well as the driver’s details. Using the app to hail a cab, however, may cost the passenger an extra 70 PHP (1.60 USD) booking fee. The newest addition would be Premium limousine service at an affordable price called GrabCar by GrabTaxi.