Getting around Manila is fairly simple, thanks to the transport options available to you. Manila is a large city, and from the suburbs, shopping areas, recreation areas, and city center, you need these different modes of transport to get you where you want and how you want to. Metropolitan Manila adds other cities like Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, San Juan, and thirteen others to become one big mix of skyscrapers, tourist sites, stately houses, and even slums.
Most tourists to the Philippines deny themselves the experience of authentic Philippines because they lack appropriate Manila transportation. Instead of treating Manila as a transit hub, you could use these Manila transportation options to get through Manila and go to your favorite spots, whether it’s Boracay, Bohol, or Siargao. Skipping the Manila leg of your trip makes you miss out on a wonderful experience.
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The main airport in Manila is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It has one domestic and three international terminals, but because of the busy nature of the airport—mostly from international flights, the airport has earned the reputation of being one of the worst airports in the world. The airport is not connected to the city’s rail system, so you will have to take a point-to-point bus or a cab from the taxi ranks, which you can find near all the terminals.
To get out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you will need your own Manila transportation. If you still don’t have a SIM, take advantage of airport Wi-Fi to call an Uber or Grab Taxi—the two most popular in Manila.
Here are some of Manila transportation options for your next trip.
In Southeast Asia, Grab is the favorite cab-hailing app. You can hail cabs using a Grab app, but it works a little bit differently from how Uber does. You can use the app as a wallet, load it up with cash and pay for your rides from your app account or you can choose to give cash at the end of your trip.
The choice is yours. While it works perfectly in less congested cities like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, Manila’s traffic may pose a challenge. So, it’s better to order a cab in advance, approximately 15 minutes, so that it arrives in time. The prices are affordable, and if you are going out of traffic-heavy areas, the experience is seamless.
Uber works much like Grab taxi (with a few subtle differences of course), but it is more familiar to tourists and outsiders who may have the app. Compared to Grab, it tends to be the costlier option, but because Uber has plenty of promotions, you could find great offers that let you make massive savings.
This should not be confused with Ube Express bus services found at the airports. Ube Express is a bus service that will ferry people from the airport to various parts of metropolitan Manila, so if you are keen on public transport, this could be an option worth considering.
Sidecar Bike Taxi
If you are looking for a fun and cheap way to meander around Manila on your errands, then a bike taxi is worth considering. It is essentially a BMX bike with a canopied sidecar attached to it for the passenger. It is convenient because the riders know the backstreets, and if you are moving in unfamiliar areas or stuck in silly traffic, they will always come to your rescue.
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Jeepneys are the cheapest way to get around Metro Manila. They comprise air-conditioned and regular buses covering major routes in the city, and they are the favored means of transport for locals running errands or going to work. That said, you can also find Jeepneys for long-distance travel across the country. They are a cultural part of Filipino culture, and most of them are converted military jeeps—hence the derivation, Jeepney.
Instead of just taking pictures, they are a must-have experience, so board one for your Manila transportation. Boarding a jeepney is easy because there are plenty available, simply flag one down, board, pay, and exit at your drop-off. The driver will call out the stops, but if you are new, it’s better to follow your trip on Waze or Maps and inform the driver when you get close.
Manila Light Rail Transit System (LRT) and Metro Rail Train (MRT)
To avoid Manila’s traffic, the light rail train is your best bet. It is an option most people rush for, so you will have to contend with a bit of overcrowding but not jam-packed. The Manila Light Rail Transit System is an elevated light rail system consisting of LRT1 and LRT2.
LRT1 runs southerly from Roosevelt Station to Baclaran Station, while LRT2, indicated by the blue line on laps, travels from east to west of the city from Rector station to Santolan. It is crucial to check on these signs for these stations to know the direction you are traveling in.
The Metro rail train serves the city’s interior and travels to North Avenue from EDSAA or Taft Avenue. If you have business in the city center, especially the shopping malls, this is the train to board. The most common peeve to this train is overcrowding, but with patience in the station, you can find a less crowded train to board.
Sometimes the traffic can be hectic, and the best way to get around will be on foot. Traffic lights and traffic cops are available to tell you when it is appropriate for you to cross the road.
To drive in Manila, you need to be at least 18 years old and hold a valid international driver’s license. In the Philippines, you drive on the right, and the best way to get a rental car is from a reputable company or a hotel.