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Philippines Driving Guide 2020

Driving in Philippines is not so different to driving in the USA, as long as you have an International Driving Permit and an understanding of the basic rules.

Lisa Brown

January 21, 2020

INTRODUCTION

The Philippines, a country full of islands. Philippines is a very wonderful country. It is one of the world’s largest archipelagic nations with pristine white sand beaches and a pleasingly rich quality of tropical Flora. Philippines has more than 7,600 islands, out of which only 2,000 are inhabited. I know you will ask yourself, “where are the roads then?” They have roads that are good and solid to drive on. Driving directions are also easy to master with the good services rendered by pile driving contractors in the Philippines.

The good thing about the Philippines is many of the locals hear and speak Fluent English. However, as a tourist, you will find the public transportation system difficult to understand at first. Even the locals will agree with me on this, it is not like Hong Kong where you can easily take a train to wherever you want to go. But don’t worry, you will figure it out in little or no time.

So depending on the level of comfort and luxury you wish to have in Philippines, your best option is to rent a car. If you already have friends who are locals, just pet them with sweet talks so that they can lend their car to you. Usually, they will agree given that you will take them along with you or you will buy them something nice when you return.

To know more about the Philippines’ driving systems, just stick with this guide so you can enjoy the world class attractions of this country. Enjoy reading to enjoy your travel!

Renting a car will allow you to explore not just the big cities but also those all-important towns, villages and landmarks in between, whether you are driving in the Philippines

HOW SAFE IS DRIVING IN PHILIPPINES FOR TOURISTS?

It is perfectly safe for a foreigner to drive a rented car or a borrowed car in the Philippines. However, the experience is not going to be the same for the Americans who will drive in the Philippines. Things you should expect as a foreigner that is driving In Philippines includes:

  • Traffic can be Chaotic in the Metro where there is a larger population. You will see trucks, private cars, and all the modes of transportation in a totally confused traffic situation, and you have to wait for several minutes just to move a meter from your initial position.
  • Drivers that ignore and disobey traffic lights can be found in this country. It’s not like there is no traffic law and regulations but it is not as strict as it should be.
  • The top speed on highways is 100km/hr, but don’t ever think about forgetting to step on your brake pedals because you will see Pedestrians crossing the highway. So stay safe and watch out for them. This can be pretty terrifying for people from countries with a strict traffic law system.
  • One way streets are also common in the Philippines, so be careful to avoid being caught and penalized by the authorities.
  • The cheapest driving school in the Philippines and the motorcycle driving school in the Philippines can be found in the city center that means that you will see a lot of amateur drivers on the road also.

So with all these points that I have mentioned, I want to tell you that you should be careful and attentive to the road while driving. The driving style on the roads of the Philippines should be defensive. They use the left-hand driving cars. So, if you are from the United Kingdom or Australia, remember to always drive on the right-hand side of the road. You will witness a lot of curses and anger from other drivers coupled with the hot weather and constant traffic jams. So play good music, wind up your windows, and turn on the A/C while you enjoy your ride.

WHAT do YOU NEED TO REMEMBER WHEN GOING ON A ROAD TRIP IN PHILIPPINES?

Foreigners driving in the Philippines should plan ahead of time of the things that they will be needed and the important rules on driving in the Philippines. Driving without a license in the Philippines is prohibited. Driving in the Philippines with US license is allowed. If you want to know how to get an international drivers’ license in the Philippines, just visit internationaldriversassociation.com.

Have the car documents as well as your travel documents: Whether it is a rented car or a borrowed car, remember to always have the documents of the vehicle inside the vehicle when going on a road trip. Your travel documents are also very useful for easier identification by the authorities. Having these documents will reduce the number of questions that you need to answer from the authorities and also reduce the time you spend at police checkpoints.

Plan your Itinerary and write them down: The Traffic here is not so bad. You will only notice a busy traffic in the city center. Driving around is very convenient. For instance, driving from Manila to nearby cities is very easy and enjoyable, but you need to plan your route properly so that you won’t end up going back and forth. You can plan a few stopovers for sightseeing and snack breaks while you are on the route of your final destination.

Inspect the car: Don’t just believe that the car is in perfect condition whether borrowed from a friend or rented from a car rental company. Before you drive off from a car Rental Company’s garage, check the car for any physical damage/s on the body or any scratch on the paint. Take the car for a spin and listen to how it drives, and the sound of the engine, and then report any abnormalities that you noticed. If you fail to do so, you may end up paying for things that you know nothing about. Then if it’s your friend’s ride, inspect it and be sure that it is safe to drive on the road.

Have some cash on you: I am sure that you don’t want to be surcharged for using your foreign debit cards, so it is recommended that you move around with cash for ease of transactions. Another issue with the credit cards is that sometimes there may be no network coverage to complete credit card transactions.

Ask when confused: Filipinos speak English and that is one of the reasons why it records a lot of arrivals from the airport. So, if you are driving and you feel the need to ask or clarify that you are on the right track, just stop over and ask the locals. They will give you a detailed answer with smiles all over their faces.

If you forget or make a last minute decision that you want to rent a car while you are in the Philippines, it is possible to get an IDP through a premium fast track service, and it will be sent to you electronically in just a few hours.

DRIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES WITH FOREIGN LICENSE

If you asked, “can I use my  international driving license in the Philippines?” The answer is, YES, you can!I f you are going to spend less than 90 days in the Philippines, then there will be no need for you to get a local driving license from a land transportation officer. You can make use of the one issued by your home country of origin provided it is written in English. If it is not written in English, then you have to obtain an international driver’s license in the Philippines.

On the other hand, the validity of the international driver’s license in the Philippines is 90 days. If you are going to stay for more than 90 days, that means that you are going to live there for some time. In this case, you need to get yourself a local driver’s license from the land transportation officer by either converting your foreign license to local one or by getting a new one.

What documents do you need if you will convert your license?

For you to convert your foreign license to a local one, there are a couple of documents that you need to provide and they are as follows:

  • Original and photocopy of a valid license
  • Original and photocopy of visa and stamp or ACR
  • Valid passport
  • Medical Certificate
  • Completed application form
  • Taxpayer’s identification number

After providing these documents and getting your license, there is one weird thing about the Philippines that you need to know. The vehicle license plate number coding rules, it applies mostly in Metro Manila. You have to take note and remember the days that you are allowed to take your car out depending on the last digit of your plate number. If you violate this rule, you will be served a traffic violation ticket by the traffic law enforcement authorities. Here are those:

  • If your license plate number ends in 1 and 2, you cannot drive your car out on Monday.
  • If your license plate number ends in 3 and 4, you cannot drive your car out on Tuesday.
  • If your license plate number ends in 5 and 6, you cannot drive your car out on Wednesday.
  • If your license plate number ends in 7 and 8, you cannot drive your car out on Thursday.
  • If your license plate number ends in 9 and 0, you cannot drive your car out on Friday.

Sometimes this can be lifted if you are a traveler, but it is recommended that you check and be sure of the destination that you are going to before you leave.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Common road violations in the Philippines

Even though we will go into more details later, there are a couple of things that you need to avoid in the course of your day to day driving in the Philippines. If by chance you violate them and you are caught, you will be served a traffic violation ticket which you will pay. These include:

  • Driving without a valid driver’s license, certificate of registration and official receipt
  • Driving a car that was used in a crime (That is why you need to get cars from a reputable car rental company)
  • Reckless driving
  • Not wearing seat belts
  • Driving an unregistered vehicle
  • Driving a car with unauthorized accessories or equipment
  • Illegal parking and illegal turns
  • Swerving
  • Illegal Parking

If you are found guilty of any of these violations, one thing that you must never try to do is to bribe the officers. It is a very wrong move to make, even though a lot of locals do it, but you can land yourself in bigger trouble if you try it with a wrong guy. Just drive to the shoulder of the road, stay in your car, try to be very polite while speaking with the official.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN THE PHILIPPINES

The transport system is not as hectic as it appears, the whole craziness in driving ends in Metro Manila. When you live there, you will get a little bit of sanity both in traffic laws and road uses. There are a lot of transport options to consider and choose from as either a local or tourist. Whichever one you choose, surely, there are special experiences and fun to it.

The Jeepneys: The Jeepneys are one of the embodiment of Filipino culture. These are typically old military jeeps that were used in World War 2 and abandoned after the war. They were converted to commuter vehicles and flamboyantly decorated to match the rich cultural heritage of the Filipinos. The name is a combination of Jeep and Jitney. The Jeepneys are the vital means of transportation for the Filipinos, and the colorful decorations make them an iconic vehicle for the country.

The Jeepneys have their designated routes painted on the body of the Jeeps. If you look at the front of the vehicle, you will see a placard that has all the main destinations of the Jeepney written on it. The only weird thing about these vehicles which may concern the foreigners is that it lacks a proper loading bay or park. They can stop anywhere to pick up or drop off a passenger. This will be challenging for a foreigner who is not yet conversant with their whereabouts. However, if you want to enjoy the Jeepney, kindly make the move with a local. If you don’t have a local that will go with you, then this is not a recommendable means of transportation.

Commuter Buses: Buses are common on the roads of Manila and other distant cities. As usual, you will find a placard in front of the bus where all its main destinations are written down. Their buses are further grouped into two, one is known as the air-conditioned bus and as the name implies, they are airtight air-conditioned buses. They offer a more luxurious ride to its passengers, their transport fare is higher than the second group known as the ordinary or not air-conditioned buses. These ones are not air-conditioned, but they are cheaper to ride in. It will not give you the best experience if you are someone that is not used to it.

These buses are always crowded as such may not appeal to tourists. Alighting from the bus is also going to be a bit difficult because there are no defined bus-stops. You may need to scream in their local words or English to the hearing of the conductor before the bus stops.

Trains: There are no trains that move around the whole country due to lack of maintenance of old railways and lack of construction of new ones. However, there are comfortable, safe, and air-conditioned trains that services Metro Manila and the cities and suburbs around it. They are comfortable and a lot better than the buses if you are traveling the same route that the commuter buses are traveling.

Taxis: Taxis are comfortable and convenient means of transportation for visitors in the city of the Philippines. It enables them to get around quickly and safely while striking out the crowded nature of the earlier mentioned means of transportation. Hotels usually have an understanding of some car rental services which makes it easy and cheaper for the hotel to get a taxi for you. If you wish, you can also hail a taxi straight from the streets of Philippines. However, make sure that the driver knows exactly where you are headed to. 

Finally, in front of the driver, inform a friend or a family of the taxi plate number and driver’s name. It is not that anything bad is about to happen, but this is a security measure that will help you ride safe anywhere that you find yourself. A lot of the drivers speak English, so you can be sure that communication will not be a barrier. These drivers normally love to be tipped, so if you have a little change to spare, toss it to them.

Car Rental: there are a lot of car rental services in the Philippines that offers both economy and luxury car rental services. If you want a reliable, safe and convenient means of traveling around in the Philippines, then consider renting a car. You can opt in to any of these services listed below:

  • Airport Transfer
  • City Transfer
  • Hotel Transfer
  • Car Hire (Hourly Service)
  • Chauffeur Driver (full day 9 hours service)
  • self-drive service (Cheapest option for going around and offers more privacy)

DRIVING LAWS IN THE PHILIPPINES

In the Philippines, traffic laws place more priority on the pedestrians. These laws were enacted to ensure public safety and maintain orderliness in the flow of traffic. With the Philippines’ traffic laws, discipline can be inculcated into the drivers. Anyway, there are a lot of driving laws in the Philippines, but the most common are:

Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program: Cities like Metro Manila and other areas such as Baguio City, Cabanatuan, Cavite, and Dagupan implemented this law as a way to check the number of vehicles that drive on the road at a given day. So if the last number on your vehicle’s license plate is 1 or 2, you are not supposed to drive your car on Monday.

 

Exempted Vehicles from UVVRP Or Number Coding: The UVVRP law exempts vehicles like ambulance, fire service trucks, police and military vehicles, government vehicles, medical practitioners with an emergency, vehicles carrying people that need immediate medical attention, diplomatic vehicles, accredited tow trucks, vehicles carrying relief goods, motorcycles, and accredited media vehicles.

Seat Belt Law: The seat belt act prohibits children under the age of six years old from sitting in the front seat of a vehicle. It further states that all passengers especially the front seat passengers must put their seat belts on whether it is a public or private vehicle. Failure to that attracts a fine from the enforcement agency.

The Child Seat Law: This law will persecute you if you allow a child who is below 12 years of age to sit in the front seat. As we all know, the reason for this law is to protect the child from the force of the airbag when it is deployed. This force can cause serious injuries or death to the child. Babies must be secured in a back-facing child seat until they are up to 15 months.

Drivers will be fined P 1,000 for the first offense, P 2,000 for the second offense, and P 5,000 and a one-year suspension of driving for the third offense.

Speed Limits: Despite the chaotic and seemingly disorganized nature of driving in the Philippines, their speed limits are not far from what is obtained from other countries. The speed limit is as follows:

  • Open roads: 60 km/h
  • In-Town: 30 km/h
  • Highways 100 km/h

What is the Driving Age in the Philippines? 

The driving age provided by the law is 17 years. At this age, you can drive a car but you are not allowed to rent a car. For you to be able to rent a car, you must be at least  21 years of age.However, some companies will only allow you to rent their car if you are 23 years old. At this age, you will be charged an extra fee to cover your inexperience.

Drunk and driving in the Philippines: The country has zero-tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating substance. The penalty for drunk driving in the Philippines is fine ranging from PHP 2,000 to PHP 5,00, or a three to six months of jail sentence at the discretion of the presiding magistrate.

Phones and driving: This is another sensitive one. You are not allowed to text, make phone calls, or even use the GPS in your phone unless you have a hands free kit attached to the phone. If you are caught, you will be given a fine at once.

Traffic Lights: Just like other countries, you can turn right at red lights in the Philippines.The traffic light system is pretty much the same with what is obtainable in other regions. If you are the first car to move after the green light comes on, drive through the intersection with caution because a lot of drivers will want to beat the red light. If they are caught, they will pay for it decisively.

APPREHENSIONS

The laws stated above are standard laws which apply to the Philippines and other countries. However, certain violations can land you into trouble. These violations are even quicker to spot when compared to the laws stated above. So amid many potential traffic violators, the traffic officers are not allowed to confiscate your driver’s license unless any of these situations arise:

  1. Disregarding traffic signs by driving at the red light. Yes, you can make right turns at the red lights but you are not allowed to obstruct the traffic that has been permitted to drive.
  2. Obstruction of traffic can make you get a ticket. Some drivers in the Philippines will stop in the idle of the road to scold each other. By doing so, they will cause a traffic jam behind them. At case like this, if they are caught by the traffic enforcement officers, their license will be demanded.
  3. Illegal Parking. Apart from getting you to pay a fine and having your license taken by the enforcement officer, it can also make your car to be towed. When your car gets towed, the fine that you will pay will be more pricey than the usual because the cost of towing the vehicle will be added.
  4. Illegal counter flow is one that you can rarely run away from, except if you are used to it. Some roads are one-way streets and you are not allowed to drive against the traffic. Sometimes in a very tight traffic jam, some drivers will switch to the lane of the opposing traffic just to cut off the traffic jam. If you are caught doing this, your license will be asked by the officers, and you will be booked for a traffic violation.
  5. If the driver is involved in a traffic accident, irrespective of who was at fault, both drivers will have their license collected at first before the further investigation commences.
  6. If the driver has accumulated three (3) or more unsettled violations, the license will be demanded by the enforcement officers and the driver has no right to refuse giving it to them.
  7. Allowing another person to use the driver’s license is another offense that will have your license confiscated by the enforcement officer. Some identical twins may do this and get away with it, but if caught, they will dance to the tune of the law.
  8. Fake driver’s license. Apart from being used as an evidence against you, you will never get it back. You will be asked to pay a fine and if the fake license was discovered in the course of apprehending you for a different violation, the consequences can be worse than it should have been. 
  9. Illegal transfer of plates/tags/stickers. Some people want to play the smart one by transferring plate numbers to their car either to drive on days that they are not supposed to drive or to drive on routes that they are not supposed to drive. If this is discovered, your license and plate number will be confiscated.
  10. Over speeding and reckless driving can land you many more traffic violations.
  11. Tampering of OR/CR/CPC & other documents (spurious documents) is not accepted. If you are caught, you will pay a fine or even jailed depending on how grievous the offense is.
  12. Using a motor vehicle in the commission of a crime. Once you are spotted using a vehicle that has been reported to have been used to commit a crime in the past, without any dialogue, your license will be confiscated immediately.

THESE ARE YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOU GET APPREHENDED BY A TRAFFIC ENFORCER

Traffic enforcers all over the world have the good ones and the bad eggs. In countries that are still developing, if you are ignorant of the law or your rights, you may end up being penalized for what you did not do or even penalized with the wrong type of penalty. So assuming you get apprehended by a traffic enforcement officer, please as it concerns bribe. Remove it from your mind. Offering the person money is already an offense. Then the effect of offering a bribe to a traffic officer is that you will make it obvious that you know that you have failed a law. Foreigners are often the target of some corrupt traffic enforcers because they know that you don’t want to be embarrassed or fined, so they will ask for the bribe. Be wise and calm while dealing with such officers. Some rights that are reserved for you when you get apprehended include the following:

  • You have the right to withhold your driver’s license until the enforcement officer tells you the specific reason why he is demanding for it.
  • You have the right to refuse and say NO when the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officer demands that you step out of your vehicle.
  • Another good right that you are entitled to is the right to question the mission order of the enforcement officer talking to you. The mission order is a document that is issued to each traffic enforcement officer by the MMDA. It contains his jurisdiction area, official role, time of duty, and law authorization to issue tickets for such violations.
  • You are allowed to ask the officer who apprehended you why you are being apprehended. If you have not been involved in a traffic accident, accumulating three or more unsettled violations, violating any traffic law, etc, then you can refuse to give him your driver’s license

TIPS WHEN DRIVING IN THE NIGHT

Be sure that all External lights are working: This is the main thing to check before making a night movement. Make sure that all lights are working. Good lights will show you the way and also ensure that you are spotted easily by other road users.

Average Speed: Pedestrians usually cross the road indiscriminately during the day, but the night is not left out. Maintaining an average speed will help you to see things early enough to avoid hitting them. Apart from pedestrians, some trikes may have faulty lights while some vehicles, especially the commercial ones are fond of not having one side of their headlamps working. Some may have bad tail lights also, so do not be in a hurry. Maintain an average speed, so that you will be on the safe side.

Keep Your Favorite Music playing: This helps to deter dizziness while driving. The music should not be too loud, but loud enough for you to sing along while maintaining your safe speed. If you have a passenger, have a conversation but keep your focus on the road. The passenger should act as your co-driver by keeping an eye on the road as well.

No Distractions: Keep your phone away. It doesn’t even make sense that you are making use of your GPS at night because the GPS itself serves as a source of distraction. So, driving to a destination that you don’t know the route is not best to be done at night. So keep the phone down, avoid eating and drinking while driving while driving at night because apart from ramming into another car or pedestrian, distractions can make you leave your lane and skid out of the road.

Beware of traffic offenders: Many people don’t give a damn about the traffic lights once it is dark. So, even the traffic light has passed your lane, drive across the intersection with caution because one crazy driver may be beating the red light in his lane with great speed. Beating the read light penalty in the Philippines is PHP1,000(20$). Apart from traffic lights, teenagers and other reckless drivers tend to drive on the one-way roads against the traffic. Others may be going beyond the speed limits, so keep your eyes open when driving.

Secure your Car: While driving in the Philippines at night, always make sure that your doors are locked and the windows are winded up, especially when you are at a stop position. This will help you scare away bad boys who can run into your car, rob you, and run away immediately. It is also recommended that even if you have a problem with your car, do not stop the car at a lonely place. Manage the problem to a populated area before stopping the vehicle for inspection of the problem and possible temporary repairs.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

PARKING INFORMATION

Which areas are prohibited for parking?

  1. All national roads, something that some people called federal roads. In other words, roads that were constructed by the central government prohibits parking on the road.
  2. Primary and secondary roads of the city in Metro Manila that are 6 meters radius of any intersection or bent lane.
  3. Parking within 4 meters radius of driveways, entrances to any fire station, hospital or any similar establishment is also prohibited.
  4. You are not also allowed to park beside any legally parked vehicle.
  5. Pedestrian crosswalks
  6. The foot or near bridges

Paid Parking: There are a lot of paid parking spaces available in the urban areas. It could either be an open parking lot or a garage. However, the cost of parking is considerably cheaper in the Philippines compared to other western countries and the security is also top-notch. Parking in the metered bays alongside the roads is also a perfect option to consider because the area is patrolled by the enforcement officials which serves as a deterrent for possible criminal activities.

Parking Enforcement: The enforcement is done by the police, even though they may seem friendly. Do not make the mistake of infringing on the parking rules because the fines are going to break your wallet.

Disabled parking: The pace is marked with the symbol of a wheelchair. Disabled people have space almost in every modern parking lot and garage in the cities of the Philippines, but there are no considerations or discount on the price that they will pay for parking.

Emergency Information

The emergency number in the Philippines is 117. In case of an emergency, dialing 911 will connect you to the police, ambulance and fire fighters. If you are driving a rented car, it will be nice to contact the number provided by the car rental company when an emergency arises.

If you get into a car crash, and there are a couple of wounded people who are involved, call for the ambulance first. Then, depending on how bad the damage is, call on the fighters to be on standby in case there is an ignited fire before you call for the police. Do not move the car away from the scene until the police arrive. But if there is a need to move the car, take a record of the accident, and take a photograph of the event, capturing all vital information before you remove the car from the spot of the impact.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Filipino drivers might have a few bad habits, but aggression is definitely not one of them, so drive with a smile on your face and enjoy the open road.