Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

May 10, 2007

Getting There and Around

Filed under: — lapulapu @ 11:12 am

I have had good luck buying international tickets (United States-Philippines) from Best Travel Store.

Travel within the Philippines is inexpensive and easy, at least compared to places where they don’t speak your language and the signs are in a script you don’t read. Air travel and the better ferries seem pretty safe. Anything on the road is a bit of a crap shoot. For all the talk about various dangers in the Phils, I’m absolutely certain that my greatest perils have come at the hands Philippine drivers. Be particularly careful of the drivers waiting at the pier or bus station. They are likely to try to overcharge you. Before you get there, ask someone on the ferry or bus what a ride to wherever you’re going should cost.

For domestic flights I recommend Air Philippines. They have close ties with Philippine Airlines so they can operate out of the same shiny new terminal in Manila. Their prices are as good as any. If they are not available Cebu Pacific will get you there for about the same price, but through the old domestic terminal. Unfortunatuely, as of this writing you cannot book Cebu Pacific online with a US credit card. This, I am told, is the text of an email from them:

“Please be advised that we are temporarily not accepting US issued
credit cards for online booking. We suggest that you try our Mail
Order/Telephone Order (MOTO) transaction wherein you will have to
contact our 24-hour Call Center at +63-2-70-20-888 (Manila Office) or
+63-32-230-8888 (Cebu Office), quote your preferred flight and pay
over the phone using a credit card. Your e-ticket transaction receipt
will be sent to you via e-mail.”

The site for Philippine Airlines usually does work. They were previously the national monopoly carrier, so their infrastructure is much better and they’re a lot more expensive. Still, even their prices aren’t bad compared to prices in the United States. The flight from Manila to Dumaguete takes about an hour and costs about $35 on Air Philippines or Cebu Pacific or $60 if you buy your Air Philippines ticket through Philippine Airlines. This includes the use of an umbrella to shade your delicate skin as you stroll across the tarmac to the plane.

Ferries travel frequently between the islands. Oceanjet from Cebu to Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Dumaguete (Oriental Negros) takes about five hours total and costs about $16. The Delta fast ferry between Dumaguete and Siquijor takes about an hour and costs about $3. For short hauls, slow boats are a lot cheaper. Upon departure some ferries feature a video prayer followed by instructions about what to do when the ferry sinks.

Buses run between the major towns.

Jeepneys are the usual mode of transport within towns and for short hauls (say, 30 kilometers or less) between towns. They are small buses with bench seating down the sides, costing about 2 cents a kilometer. They usually have a sign in the window saying where they’re going. You flag one down to get on and tap the metal ceiling with a coin to let the driver know you want to get off. Pay when exiting, giving the money to the driver’s assistant who will usually be standing on the back bumper, or to the driver if he is alone. If you’re afraid you can’t recognize the place where you want to stop, tell the driver or driver’s assistant and he will take care of it (probably). Be prepared to ride with chickens and goats and get doused with beer foam, and watch out for pickpockets. I like Jeepneys–unless they are too crowded, which often they are. I’ve ridden in a passenger compartment six feet wide and twelve feet long with 26 other people. Another dozen or so rode on the back bumper, roof, and front seat, making for efficient and deadly transportation.

Cabs in the cities are cheap as long as you ask whether the meter is working before you get in. From the airport to Ermita in Manlia, about a 20 minute ride if the traffic is good, is outrageously expensive at $12, but that is the exception, being a fixed fare. Getting back by the meter is about $3. Going wherever you want around Cebu usually costs about $2.

Tricycles (also called “pedicabs”, though nearly all are motorized now) are also cheap. The standard fare wherever you want to go around downtown Dumaguete is about 14 cents. Longer fares are negotiable; do the negotiations before you get in. A 20-30 minute ride from Dumaguete to Dauin costs about $3, ruins your hearing, and contributes about half a degree to global warming.

Car rental, with driver, usually runs about $40 per day. The driver will expect you also to buy him lunch, so add on another two bucks.

Habal-habal is motorcycle transport with driver. These guys go places that no one else will. I’ve mostly used them for day-long tours of remote areas and normally pay about ten dollars plus gas. That’s the full fee for the motorcycle and the driver/guide. Don’t get off on the side with the exhaust pipe.

Motorcycle rental
(without driver) can be as little as $4 per day plus gas, though $5 or $6 is more normal. If you’re at a resort where they charge a lot more (I’ve seen prices as high as $15 for eight hours) ask the staff if any of them have a motorcycle they’d like to rent personally.

The vast majority of Filipinos must rely on public transportation, so it goes just about everywhere.


  1. At hindi pa ako nagkaroon ng Belle de Jour Power plennar. Kelangan ko makasali. Hahabol ako. Belated merry christmas and advance Happy new year to you Jeanny and your hubby and the rest of the family.

    Comment by Katarina — November 16, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

  2. We shouldn’t need to cater that.

    Comment by how do i become a male model — February 2, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

  3. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you need to publish more on this issue,
    it might not be a taboo subject but usually people do not discuss these subjects.

    To the next! All the best!!

    Comment by auto — March 5, 2015 @ 9:16 pm

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    Comment by MichelVef — February 11, 2017 @ 5:41 am

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