The Philippines is an incredibly beautiful country, and it is especially famous for its islands and beaches. But it has much more to reveal and if you want to explore it further and in details, you have to build a certain itinerary and following a planned route. The transportation is a very important part of your plan, and in the Philippines it has its specific features that you must have in mind. Arranging your Philippines transportation can take the largest part of your trip preparation. So, let’s take a look into the details.
The transport in the Philippines is more complicated than in most of the other Southeast Asian countries. First, it is due to the geography of the country. It consists of islands, so moving from island to island requires sea transport or airplane. Second- the transport on the road is quite slow because most of the roads are too narrow and too full with slow vehicles like trucks, tricycles, and jeepneys. For this reason, if you use some route planner like www.rome2rio.com or other, and it gives you 5 hours from point A to point B, you can be almost sure that in reality it will take at least 8-9 hours! And third, about the transport in the cities- there is no “city bus transport” with bus numbers.
When we planned our Philippines itinerary, our route included various kinds of places and roads- travel in a big city (Manila, Cebu), travel on a highway, travel on a narrow mountain road, travel by ferry, travel by boat, or a combination of all these. And we used many kinds of transport, which all had their specific things that you must have in mind.
You can read a lot of information about the various kinds of transportation, but here I would like to add our personal experience.
Domestic flights are a very popular way of transport in the Philippines. It is mainly because they are fast. However, the main problem is that this is the most expensive transport of all. But depending on the case, saving time, you still saving money, so it can be worth.
We used it two times on our trip. First- from Cebu to Legazpi, in order to avoid the unsure ways of on land transport between Surigao and Donsol, which I had initially planned- a route, running through Samar and Leyte Islands, changing many buses, taxis and other possible transport.
And our second flight was from Legazpi to Manila. Since we already didn’t have enough time to explore more places between Legazpi and Manila, we decided to take it by plane, thus saving a little more time in Legazpi. Actually, it was worth, because we saw one of the most beautiful views from the air- Mayon Volcano, penetrating the clouds at sunset time!
Prices are different, depending on the destinations that you go, and depending on the time. You can expect prices between 20 and 200 USD, a wide range. And if you want to be in the lower part of this range, usually the best time to buy domestic air ticket in the Philippines is at least 2 weeks prior to the flight. Click on the button below for more information:
The taxis in the Philippines are generally good. All the taxis that we took- in Manila, Iloilo, Bacolod, and Cebu, used taxi meters, with initial price 40 PHP. Then it grows according to the distance and the time (waiting at crossroads and in traffic jam also increase the price). But it was generally cheap. From Malate (coastal area of Manila) to Makati it was 200 PHP, and it would be cheaper if there was not a traffic jam.
We didn’t have any problems with the taxis, but I have heard about scams, such as “broken taxi meter with faster counting” or just taxis without taxi meter. Such taxi drivers often “attacked” us at the airports, ports and bus stations, offering much expensive price (without taxi meter), in hope to trap some “silly tourists”. Of course, we rejected them and moved far from them, where we could easily find a normal taxi.
Light train (in Manila)
This is the best way to move around Manila, since it is not dependent on the terrible street traffic, and it is cheap. It is serving like a metro system. The only problem is that its network is too tenuous for such a large metropolis (there are only 4 lines), so it is convenient only for the areas, which are near the light train stations. The price is different, according to the distance you want to travel, but for a few stations is normally 10 PHP.
The main bus company in the Philippines is Ceres. It is easily recognizable by their yellow buses. We traveled by Ceres buses from Caticlan to Iloilo, from Bacolod to Bais, then from Bais to Dumaguete. You can see our experience below.
Some bus trip examples by Ceres
Caticlan to Iloilo: we took the bus at 8:00 am (there are buses every 20 mins in the morning) and arrived in Iloilo at 2:30 pm. The bus stops in Kalibo also stops for rest and lunch in a roadside restaurant. Price: 330 PHP
Bacolod to Bais: we took the bus at 10:15 (in South Bus Station) am and arrived in Bais at 3:30 pm. The bus stops in a town in the middle of the route. Price: 280 PHP
Bais to Dumaguete: there are a lot of buses, stopping in Bais (in front of the central Jollibee). Most of them are small buses with opened windows. We took such a small bus around 1:30 pm and arrived in Dumaguete around 2:30 pm. Price: 80 PHP
Buses in Siquijor Island: There is some kind of a public transport running in Siquijor- a local small bus, traveling only in the morning and noon, on the local Circumferential road and the nearby villages. This bus is said to depart every hour, but in fact, it doesn’t follow a strict timetable but just waiting for more passengers to fill it. It is slow, stopping everywhere when someone raises a hand to get on it and is more like a jeepney, rather than a normal bus. The price is 20-30 PHP, depending on the distance.
Philippine Rabbit bus company
Another bus company that we used was Philippine Rabbit, from Manila to Angeles and back from Angeles to Manila. The bus traveled 2 hours in both directions. It started from Philippine Rabbit Bus station in Manila and arrived in Angeles (Philippine Rabbit Bus station again). But when we back to Manila, we had to take the bus from Old Terminal of Angeles, because the last bus to Manila from the small Philippine Rabbit was at 5:00 pm. Price:120 PHP.
Of course, you can use buses in many other areas in the Philippines, including the overnight buses from Manila to Legazpi, which we didn’t use, but were prepared with all information that we could find in internet, and at least what we found is that they are very comfortable and relatively luxury (hence, relatively expensive).
For most of the bus routes you don’t need to buy tickets in advance, but for some long distance buses it would be better. You can check more about it by clicking on the button below:
The rental car is more proper in the big islands, such as Luzon and Mindanao. There are many rental car companies, some of them providing good service, others- not so good. The best of them is Hertz. Other names include Viajero, Kayak, Avis, and Europcar.
However, when we rented our car, we didn’t use any of these companies. About Hertz, we found their prices too expensive. About the other companies- again, not only expensive but with some bad reviews from clients.
Another reason was that we didn’t want to rent a car from Manila and to “fight” with its terrible traffic. So, we found a much better alternative. Since rent a car in the Philippines is more useful for a trip around Luzon Island, the best option we discovered was a small rental-car company, located in Angeles City (2 hours by bus from Manila), which was much better than any of the above companies.
First- it was located out of Manila, avoiding its traffic, and at the same time in a strategically very convenient place, a good starting point to explore Luzon Island. Second, their prices were cheaper than the prices of the biggest companies. And third, it had excellent testimony from my friend, who rented their cars a few times without any problem- something that we also experienced and I can witness now too. The only problem is that the company is still too small, they don’t have many cars yet and you have to make a reservation earlier.
Gaano rental car
This rental car company is called Gaano, and we used it in our 6 days part of our Philippines itinerary in Luzon Island. You can read more about our experience (here). Price: we rented the cheapest car (since we didn’t need more and it was enough for us)- for 990 PHP per day.
About the fuel in the Philippines: most of the cars use Unleaded or Premium (which is just Unleaded with a little higher octane and better quality). Price: for Unleaded currently the price is around 50-55 PHP per liter. You can make a calculation here.
If you go to the other, smaller islands, you can rent a car there too, but the prices that we saw were higher- from 1500 PHP and above per day. Shared van (if you are a group), motorbike or tricycle are much better options for places like Siquijor, Bohol or Siargao islands.
However, if you start your car trip not from Manila, but from other place like Legazpi, or if renting a car from Gaano is just an inconvenient option for your itinerary, you can check for other options here:
It is one of the symbols of the Philippines- it is not just one of the transport ways, but it is something like a “destination” and “a thing to do” itself. Jeepneys are mostly used within the big cities like Manila and Cebu, but also in some smaller towns and between near towns and villages. To be more attractive, many of them are richly decorated.
In the big cities, you can see really a lot of jeepneys. Some of them are almost empty but other so full with passengers that some of them literally hang on them outside.
The jeepneys follow certain routes, usually from jeepney terminal A to jeepney terminal B. There are written signs, showing the key points of their routes. Anyway, if you are not sure which jeepney you can take, you can always ask the driver, is the jeepney going to your desired destination.
When the passengers get on the jeepney, they just give the money to the driver (or to his assistant, if there is such). Everything is fast, the passengers sitting more backward just give the money to the neighboring passengers sitting more inside, they pass it to the next until it reaches the driver. And you normally become a part of it. Price: usually from 8 to 12 PHP per person within the city. For longer routes, it can be more expensive, but still cheaper than the bus.
It is another widespread way of transport in the Philippines. While jeepneys can’t be found in every place (for example there are no regular jeepneys in Siquijor or Siargao islands), tricycles are everywhere. They are waiting for you at every bus station, port or smaller domestic airport. In some places, they are very attractive too. And in Tagbilaran (Bohol Island) for example, every tricycle must have written a verse from the Bible on their cabin.
When they see you are a foreigner, normally offer a much higher price, sometimes 8 to 10 times higher than normal. But of course, you have to bargain and you can cut the price a lot. Anyway, it is difficult to reach the normal prices for locals, but you still can try.
The price for distances like 1-2 km is usually offered to foreigners for 100 and more PHP, but you should require down to 50, even 30 PHP since locals normally pay no more than 20 PHP or less for such distance. When we were in Batangas, the distance from the port to our hotel was a little more than 3 km and the driver required 200 PHP from us. We cut it to 100 PHP, but it was again too much.
By tricycle in Siquijor Island
In Siquijor Island, when we arrive from Dumaguete, it was late afternoon (4:30 pm) and there was no local public transport. Knowing that the local tricycle drivers offered us a higher price for the 28 km distance from Siquijor Port to Lazi, starting from 800 PHP. We could cut down to 450 PHP. When we traveled again by tricycle from Salagdoong Beach to Larena, which is 20 km, it was noon and the driver agreed to take us for 150 PHP in case that he can take other passengers on the road. A local woman got on the tricycle and paid him only 20 PHP.
By tricycle in Siargao island
In Siargao Island tricycles are even more expensive. From Dapa to Union village (where our accommodation was) is 6,5 km and we paid 150 PHP. But if you want to go to General Luna, the price is higher- usually, they require 300 PHP or not less than 250 PHP if you bargain. And if you want to “order” a tricycle to take you from your accommodation place, it is considered “special” and is more expensive.
Ferry (ship, or big speed boat)
If you want to move from island to island, the best (and the cheapest) way is by ferry. There is a well-developed ferry network in the Philippines, running by shipping companies like 2GO, Oceanjet, Cokaliong, Montenegro, Medallion and others. Some of the ferries offer Ro-Ro service, which means carrying on land transport vehicles (which however would be VERY expensive if you try it by rental car), and others are just smaller fast boats.
In our trip, we had to use ferries many times. Our first ferry was from Batangas to Caticlan. It is running by 2GO company and it offers only sleeping options in various classes. We got the daytime ship and since we didn’t want to sleep all the time, we ordered the lowest (Super Value) class- beds in the open air. The price was 890 PHP per passenger. You can see more about 2GO (here).
We also used two times night ferry from Cebu to Surigao, and from Surigao to Cebu, by Medallion shipping company (which travels only 3 times a week). It departs from both directions at 8:00 pm and arrives around 4:00 – 4:30 am (but if you are not urgent and want to sleep more, you can stay in the ship 1-2 hours more, before getting off). We bought Tourist class tickets (1025 PHP), which is in the air-con hall, but the cheapest is Economy class (825 PHP) in open-air. We worried that we couldn’t buy tickets in advance, but when we went to their office in Cebu, they said that in this season (February) their ships are quite empty, so we can buy tickets in the last moment without a problem. However, they said that there is a “high season”, during which you may not find free beds if order too late.
More ferry trip examples
Here are some examples of shorter ferry trips which were parts of our itinerary.
Caticlan to Boracay
There are many speed boats, running almost 24 hours, every 10-15 mins, between Caticlan Jetty Port and Boracay Cagban Jetty Port. They travel around 15 mins. Now since Boracay was closed to renovation and opened again, the prices are higher- 25 or 30 PHP, depending on the time of the day you travel.
Iloilo to Bacolod
There are a lot of ferries, running by a few companies: Oceanjet, 2GO, Weesam Express, and others. We got the fast boat from 3:45 pm and arrive at Bacolod at 5:30 pm, for 250 PHP.
Dumaguete to Siquijor
We took a speed boat (by Aleson Shipping) at 3:30 pm and it was quite cheap- only 120 PHP. It arrived at Siquijor for a little more than an hour.
Larena to Tagbilaran
There is a fast boat, running by Oceanjet, from 12:30 pm, and it arrives in Tagbilaran for 1 hour and 45 mins. It is the most common boat, used by the tourists and it is quite expensive (but cheaper for locals)- 700 PHP. There is another boat, at 7:00 pm, running by Lite Shipping, and it is much cheaper- 250 PHP, but the traveling time is 4 hours (and it is only Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday), so we chose the other (expensive) one.
Tagbilaran to Cebu
There are a lot of boats, running between these two destinations, by Oceanjet, 2GO, and Weesam Express, so from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm there are boats almost every hour. We got the boat from 5:30 pm to Cebu (it traveled almost 2 hours), for 500 PHP per person.
Surigao to Dapa (Siargao) and vice versa
There are a few boats running between these two destinations and all they are in the morning. We got the boat from Surigao at 5:30 am and arrived in Dapa, Siargao at 8:00 am. On our way back, we got the last boat from Dapa to Surigao, at 1:00 pm and arrived at 3:30 pm. The price was 290 PHP.
More tips about the ferries
Normally you don’t need to buy tickets in advance (even for the sleeping ships), but for some destinations is advisable to come earlier to the port, at least 1-2 hours, especially in the high season. Anyway, on some occasions- high season or holidays, there is a risk of finding no seats available, so have it in mind.
Everywhere, when you take a ferry or speed boat, you must pay a terminal fee, besides the ticket fee (unless you have already paid for it when purchasing the ticket, for some routes). Normally it is very low- between 10 and 30 PHP, depending on the port. The only exception is the boat from Caticlan to Boracay and vice versa, where the terminal fee is 100 PHP (and is called environmental fee, probably due to the renovation of Boracay island).
When we traveled by Oceanjet from Larena to Tagbilaran and from Tagbilaran to Cebu, they required to take our big luggage and put it in a luggage compartment- same as check-in for a plane. And we paid for that 45 PHP.
Anyway, if you want to buy ferry tickets in advance, you can click on the button below for more information:
Some beautiful destinations and things to do require a boat. It is a tourist service and is usually also regulated by the government. You need a boat ride to explore Manjuyod Sand Bar, to make island hopping or cruise to Sohoton Cave in Siargao Island, or to make a whale shark watching tour.
The boats are different in size- for 5, 8, 10 or more people and normally you pay for a whole boat.
The lowest price (for 5 people) in Manjuyod was 2500 PHP for the boat, for island hopping in Siargao- 1500 PHP, for Sohoton Cave trip- 3500 PHP and for whale shark cruise in Donsol- 3500 PHP too (but for locals it was cheaper). We also had to pay environmental fees for the two of the three islands around Siargao (30 and 50 PHP).
You can join a larger group for these trips, but it is not always possible. We couldn’t join a group in Manjuyod. We couldn’t join a group for island hopping in Siargao, because we were too late at General Luna port- you have to be there not later than 6:30-7:00 am. But we found 2 more people with us for the whale shark cruise in Donsol.
In some areas, scooters are the best way to travel. Such areas are the islands of Siquijor, Bohol, and Siargao (from our itinerary). You can rent a motorbike and usually the hotel where you sleep arrange it for you, or they have their own motorbikes. The prices are between 200 and 500 PHP per day, depending on the place. We were two adults and two children and we could rent and drive one motorbike for all of us (we didn’t have any problem, but you still have to be careful about safety!) in Siargao- for 500 PHP.
These scooters use Unleaded fuel. In those islands you can find Unleaded everywhere on the road- they sell it in 1 liter Coca-Cola bottles. You just buy and pour it inside your reservoir. However, it is better you find a normal gas station since it is said that the Coca-Cola bottle sellers may add water inside.
Traveling with children
We traveled with our two children (6 and 9 years old). And we saw that there isn’t any clear standard should they be taxed or not. For the same way of transport, in the same city, sometimes they required to pay fully for the children, sometimes to pay only half of the price, and sometimes to be free of charge.
Anyway, for buses and jeepneys, you usually have to pay for a seat, not for a person. So if you want to save money with your children, just take them to sit on your knees. In such a case, they would most likely not insist you to pay for them.
Other useful tips
Maybe the most important useful tip is: if you make such an exploratory trip around the Philippines, we would advice to not reserve (and pay to) hotels by Agoda and Booking in advance! It is because you would often need flexibility about your route, due to the relatively complicated transport. The weather may change, you may find no seats in a ferry, roads may be closed for repair, or just you may want to stay a long time in a certain destination. Actually, there are plenty of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in most of the destinations that you can just walk around and find free rooms.
The mountain road from Baguio to Sagada is about 160 km long, and in Rome2Rio it was calculated to be passed by driving for around 3-4 hours. But in reality we passed it for 9 hours! Then we have planned to drive from Sagada to Pagudpud, which was calculated as a 5-6 hours drive. Needless to say, we decided to cancel our trip to Pagudpud, and we were right. Our host in Sagada told us that he have traveled by car to Pagudpud for 12 hours! Obviously, we had to cancel our Pagudpud hotel (and they had to return the money that we have paid in advance, which was a bit complicated too).
So, having in mind these details, plan accordingly. It is better to plan a slower trip, just in case that your transport could be troubled in some way. At least the good news is that all of the country is easily accessible. So you can go almost everywhere, and be prepared to enjoy your Philippines trip!