Driving in the Philippines

I have noticed an upsurge on the number of people looking to drive in the Philippines but there are a few things you should be aware of before looking into doing it. Firstly if your going to be here ongoing you will need to get a Filipino driving license as your license is only valid for the first 30 days of you being in the Philippines. Secondly there are problems with insurance companies in the Philippines that make it difficult if not impossible to get a payout. Which not only could it leave you out of pocket with your own vehicle but with some hefty medical bills for an injured party. Several times I have heard it here about killing injured parties as paying for someone who is dead is a lot cheaper than ongoing medical expenses may sound extreme but its true and I am aware of some companies operating on those policies with their drivers.

City driving is completely different to provincial. In the city generally traffic flows like fish winding together as most 2 lane roads quickly become 4 as generally a “Car wide road” becomes 2 cars wide and a motorcycle. What I try to do is just take my time if going into the cities as traffic is generally busy and just grid lock at rush hour. If your caught in the city after 3pm better to go to a mall until around 6pm as getting out the city is going to take you an extra hour with the heavy traffic in a hot dusty environment. Being aware of your surroundings are always important but in the city I try to avoid wearing a watch or anything that attracts attention. Not because im expecting theft or robbery but always reside on the side of caution for safety and the fact we ride an open Jeep. There are generally few road signs and roads under “maintenance” have been like it for a long time literally years which often means a straight road is diverted through areas that cant handle the capacity of traffic trying to get down them. Traffic enforcers appear around rush hour for a few hours and generally you wont get any problems with them purely because the roads are too busy and they have more important things to be doing. Traffic lights dont always work but I actually think this is being done on purpose as switching off the lighting outside rush hour periods actually speeds up the traffic.

Would I advise anyone to drive in the city? Personally its upto whoever is going to drive as it is not like normal driving in most countries. Motorcycles weave between cars, jeepneys will stop without any warning or break lights to pickup/drop off passengers and generally its more like people all pushing to get to a place first than traffic flow. If your stopping in one of the Philippines cities personally I would go for a taxi for runs of over 15minutes and jeepneys for shorter journeys. The reason being taxis are air conditioned and know the cities like the back of their hands and Jeepneys are quick to get on and off and constantly available.

Provincial driving is a completely different kettle of fish. Generally most laws such as wearing motorcycle helmets get ignored the further you get away from a major city. Heavy trucks and buses will often be heading towards you on the wrong side of the road and if there are two near each other they begin to race against each other for picking up the next customers. Best thing with the buses is let them past and put a bit of distance between you and them as they are nothing but a pain. If you overtake them eventually they will catch up with you in traffic and the headache of them trying to get passed you begins. Motorcycles weave in and out of traffic at speed and every time we have headed south for the day there is always a motorcycle accident of some kind. You can also imagine the mess of someone being hit by a vehicle with nothing more than a T Shirt, shorts and a flip-flops. Generally the roads are easy going during the day mind except for the speeding trucks and buses. Once you get used to them and just let them passed you are pretty much able to relax.

But at night things are very different. Often you will come across vehicles with little or no lighting. Which not only are difficult to see but often they have no break lights and often drive if they are the only vehicle on the road without any due care and attention. Tricycles will often be driving without lights and will wave for you to slow down as they cut across in front of you trying to go the other way in traffic. Pedestrians often walk straight out in front of traffic without looking or only looking one way. Not sure why there is such a disregard for safety but I have had a few near misses over the last couple of years and they could easily have been prevented by people looking where they are going as often with the misaligned headlights of most vehicles or on main beam coming the other way you are blinded to shadows crossing the road.

Rain in the Philippines is something that turns driving into more of an arcade game because as you know in rain you should slow down and be more cautious right?? Not here.. people speed up to get home faster and everything starts moving about 3 x faster than normal even though its difficult to see or drive as often you get light floods across the road of about a foot high. So I advise anyone when its raining STOP and go to a restaurant or something else until it stops.


you really need to decide if you NEED to. As hiring a vehicle with driver is pretty cheap and you will gain someone who knows the roads. If your here long-term I would start by using Jeepneys to get familiar with the routes as often most things dont make any sense so heading in a direction to a favourite store  can actually be heading somewhere completely different due to road layouts or there is a development smack bang in the middle of where the road should be.

For Hire of vehicle and reliable driver please feel free to contact Aprils uncle one thing I will say if its not a vehicle he has personally no doubt uncle Dems will be available to organise it for you. Either way if on Cebu Island he is ideal for the area and knows the region well.