Sunset in Boracay Philippines Photo by Bambi Corro

Philippines Driving Guide

Explore Philippines by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2023-08-08 · 9min read

Is it safe to drive in the Philippines?

One of the major concerns when driving in the Philippines is safety. Outside the expressways of Luzon, Philippine roads have a poor safety record.

Major roads like the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) offer relatively safe and well-maintained routes. However, rural areas often have narrow, winding roads with varying conditions.

Always stay alert and be prepared for unexpected obstacles, such as pedestrians, animals, and local traffic. Defensive driving and adhering to local traffic rules are crucial for a safe trip.

Despite this, driving remains an enjoyable way to explore the country. Whether you rent a car or motorbike, taking precautions can enhance your travel experience and ensure a safer journey.

To help you find a reliable vehicle, here are some major car rental companies in the Philippines:

  • Avis
  • Hertz
  • Europcar
  • Budget

What do I need to drive in the Philippines?

Understanding the driving requirements in the Philippines is essential for a hassle-free experience. Ensure you have the necessary documents, meet age requirements, and possess an International Driving Permit (IDP) if needed.

Necessary documents

To drive in the Philippines, you must have the following documents:

  • Valid driver's license
  • Passport or ID
  • Credit card for security deposit purposes

Additional car insurance coverage is not required but recommended

Age requirements

The minimum age requirement to drive in the Philippines is usually 21. However, some car rental companies may require renters to be at least 25 for certain vehicle categories.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

Most car rental companies in the Philippines will require you to have an IDP along with your valid driver's license. This ensures your license is recognized and you can legally drive within the country.

Like any other country, the Philippines has specific regulations for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to ensure road safety.

BAC limits and regulations

Republic Act 10586, or the "Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013," states that the blood alcohol content (BAC) for non-professional drivers should be 0.05% and 0.01% for motorcycle riders and professional drivers.

Penalties for violations

If you fail the field sobriety tests, the breathalyzer exam, and the drug test, you'll be fined between ₱50,000 and ₱100,000 (approximately $1,000 to $2,000) and face a six-month prison sentence.

Causing an injury while drunk driving leads to imprisonment and fines ranging from ₱150,000 to ₱250,000 (approximately $3,000 to $5,000).

If you want to drink, consider commuting or using local transportation such as taxis or Grab cars to visit some of the best restaurants in the Philippines.

Road Rules in the Philippines You Need to Know

There are several things you need to know before traveling to the Philippines and driving on its roads, including the country's road rules and regulations.

Driving side

In the Philippines, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. This is crucial, especially if you're from a country that drives on the left. Stay on the right and be cautious at intersections and roundabouts to avoid confusion or accidents.

Turning and roundabouts

When turning and navigating roundabouts, the general rule is to yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Left turns at intersections are common and usually require waiting for a green signal or a clear break in traffic. Always signal your turns to inform other drivers of your intentions.

Use of horns

Using horns is common in the Philippines, often used to signal other drivers or pedestrians. However, excessive honking, especially in urban areas like Manila, can be considered rude and may result in fines. Use your horn sparingly and only when necessary to alert others of your presence or intentions.

Right of way

In the Philippines, the right of way typically goes to larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses. Pedestrians crossing at designated crosswalks also have the right of way. When approaching intersections without traffic signals, always yield to vehicles on the right and be cautious of pedestrians and motorcycles.

Traffic signals

Traffic signals are used extensively in urban areas to manage the flow of vehicles. However, it's not uncommon to encounter non-functioning traffic lights, especially in rural areas. In such cases, follow the instructions of traffic enforcers or proceed with caution, ensuring to yield and make eye contact with other drivers.

Overtaking rules

Overtaking in the Philippines requires caution and clear signaling. You should overtake on the left side of the vehicle in front of you. Always check for oncoming traffic and ensure you have enough space and time to complete the maneuver safely. Overtaking on bridges, curves, and intersections is strictly prohibited.

Seat belt use

Seat belt use is mandatory for both drivers and passengers in the Philippines. Ensure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up before starting your journey. This rule is strictly enforced, and non-compliance can result in fines. It's an essential safety measure that significantly reduces the risk of injury in case of an accident.

What’s the road condition like in the Philippines?

Road conditions in the Philippines are generally safe, though they can vary significantly depending on the area.

General road conditions

Major cities like Manila, Cebu, and Davao have well-maintained roads and extensive expressway networks, making driving relatively smooth and straightforward.

However, once you venture into rural areas or smaller towns, you may encounter narrower roads, occasional potholes, and less frequent maintenance. Staying alert and driving cautiously is essential, especially in less developed regions.

Seasonal considerations

During the summer months, from March to May, road conditions are typically dry and favorable for travel. However, during the typhoon season, which runs from June to November, roads can become slippery and hazardous due to heavy rains and flooding.

In such conditions, it is crucial to drive slowly, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and be prepared for sudden stops or detours due to road closures.

Should you take public transport or rent a Car?

This depends on your travel itinerary and personal preferences. Both public transport and renting a car have advantages and disadvantages, catering to different types of travelers and needs.

Public transport


  • Cost-effective
  • Provides a local experience
  • No need to worry about parking or navigation


  • Can be crowded and less comfortable
  • Limited routes and schedules
  • Potential language barriers

Renting a car


  • Greater flexibility and convenience
  • Ability to explore remote areas
  • Comfortable and private travel


  • More expensive than public transport
  • Responsibility for fuel, tolls, and parking
  • Need to navigate unfamiliar roads

Recommendations for different types of travelers

City travelers

If you are planning to stay in a city for an extended period, it is highly recommended that you try out public transport like tricycles, jeepneys, and buses, as this is one of the best things to do in the Philippines.

Intercity travelers

Renting a car is a better option for those traveling from one place to another. It allows you to explore at your own pace and access remote or less touristy areas that might be difficult to reach via public transport.

Tips for safe driving in the Philippines

Follow these tips for a smooth and safe driving experience in the Philippines. They will help you navigate the roads effectively and ensure a pleasant journey.

Signal correctly

Always use your turn signals to indicate your intentions to other drivers. Proper signaling is crucial, especially in busy urban areas and during lane changes or turns. This practice helps prevent accidents and ensures a smoother flow of traffic. Remember, clear communication with other drivers is key to road safety.

Follow traffic laws

Adhering to local traffic laws is vital for safe driving in the Philippines. Obey speed limits, traffic signals, and road signs. Respect pedestrian crossings and give way to emergency vehicles. Familiarize yourself with local driving regulations before hitting the road to avoid fines and ensure a safe trip.

Always wear a seatbelt

In the Philippines, wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for drivers and passengers. Seatbelts significantly reduce the risk of injury in case of an accident. Make it a habit to buckle up as soon as you enter the vehicle, and ensure that all passengers, including those in the back seat, do the same.

Observe speed limits

Speed limits vary depending on the area, so always pay attention to posted signs. Driving within the speed limit helps prevent accidents and gives you enough time to react to unexpected situations. Speed limits are generally lower in urban areas, while highways allow for higher speeds.

Expect the unexpected

Philippine roads can be unpredictable, with sudden obstacles like pedestrians, animals, or potholes. Stay vigilant and be prepared for unexpected events. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle before you and drive defensively, anticipating potential hazards to ensure a safer driving experience.

Stay away from distractions

Avoid using your phone or any other distractions while driving. Staying focused on the road is crucial for safety. If you need to make a call or send a message, pull over safely before doing so. Keeping your attention on driving helps prevent accidents and ensures a smoother journey.

If you wish to make the most of your travels, the best time to visit the Philippines is during the dry season, from November to April. This period has a lower chance of rain, making it ideal for road trips and attending local festivals.

Make the most of your Philippine adventure

Driving in the Philippines can be an exciting way to explore this beautiful country. For a smooth experience, ensure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP). Discover some of the best places to visit in the Philippines, like Manila, the stunning beaches in Palawan, and the breathtaking landscapes of Banaue Rice Terraces.

Don't forget to try some of the local cuisine, like the popular adobo and sinigang. Many restaurants in the metro offer authentic Filipino food. But if you're feeling more adventurous, head to the street markets or karenderyas (small local eateries) for a taste of true Filipino flavors.

With careful planning and an IDP at hand, you are sure to get the most out of your Philippine adventure.


Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the Philippines?

To drive legally in the Philippines, you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) and a valid driver's license. Most car rental companies require an IDP, so obtaining one before your trip is essential.

What are the speed limits in the Philippines?

Speed limits in the Philippines vary by area. In urban areas, the speed limit is typically 60 km/h (37 mph), while on open highways, it can be up to 100 km/h (62 mph). Always look for posted speed limit signs and adhere to them.

Are there any toll roads in the Philippines?

Yes, the Philippines has several toll roads, especially around Metro Manila, such as the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Ensure you have cash or an electronic toll collection device to pay the toll fees.

How can I find the best hotels in the Philippines?

Finding the best hotels in the Philippines is easy, with numerous options, from luxury accommodations like Nobu Hotel Manila to beachfront resorts in Boracay and Palawan. Booking in advance through travel websites can help you secure the best deals.

What should I do in case of a car accident?

If you are involved in a car accident in the Philippines, stay calm and do not move your vehicle until authorities arrive. Call emergency services and report the accident. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other party involved. If needed, contact your car rental company for assistance.

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