Top 12 Tips When Driving in the Philippines

Ever driven a car?  Easy enough question answerable by a simple YES or NO.  But have you ever driven a car… in the Philippines?  “Heck, yeah!” would be the obvious reply if you indeed have shared the road with the jeepneys, tricycles, motorcycles, huge travelling coffins (err, buses), pedicabs, and kuligligs (yup, pedicabs and kuligligs in major roads like those found at the intersection of Taft and U.N. Avenues in the great city of Manila) frolicking around the major thoroughfares of the country. So, if you want to go from Point A to Point B in these islands without any hitch, I suggest you read on, take down notes (mental or otherwise) and keep an open mind because as they say in TV, radio, internet and print ads, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”  And the fun begins… now: 

1. Keep cool.  Remain calm.  Stay collected.  First things first, (and you should always remember this while driving in the Philippines) keep in mind that you are driving in the Philippines -- a country where it’s perfectly normal for people to drive like there’s no tomorrow.  Here’s one way of keeping your anger at bay: Use the Force.

2. Be courteous and never take other drivers’ behaviors on the road seriously/personally.  Road rage, anyone?  We Filipino drivers are very possessive of the roads we’re driving on.  That’s where the expression “Parang mauubusan ng kalye!” (Like it’s gonna run out of roads!) is derived from.  If you want to survive your trip, better let the occasional dirty finger from another driver slip by “unnoticed” even if you want to shout expletives right in his face.  Instead of cursing, just smile and be on your way.  Besides, you’ll be sparing yourself the stress that surely stems from such situations. And you might just save a life in the process: your own.

3. Stay alert, be aware of your surroundings, and practice defensive driving--always.  Shit can surely happen when you drive offensively in these islands.  Accidents here are like a box of chocolates ‘coz you never know what you’re gonna get.

4. Buckle up, use your side and rear-view mirrors, and maintain a safe distance all the time.    It’s better to be safe than sorry and it’s much better to be safer than just safe.  We can’t reiterate this enough.

5. Plan your route ahead.  Mapping out your trips can save you a lot of trouble and a whole lot of time, not to mention a lot of money.  Preparing for your drive not only gives you all these advantages, it also keeps driving more manageable as you already know what to expect when you’re out there on the road.  If you don’t know where to go, Google it!

6. Leave early if you can.  If you can’t, make sure that you still do.  My advice:  As always, use the Force.

7. Tune in to traffic reports on the radio.  Most radio stations have this special service for motorists during rush hour in the mornings and evenings during weekdays.  This is truly helpful especially if the traffic reporter can give you up to the minute updates on what’s happening on the thoroughfares, so you’ll know which roads to use.

8. Be mindful of pedestrians, motorcycles, tricycles, “kuligligs” and bicycles.  In the U.S. and Canada, when a motorist sees someone crossing the street, the motorist yields and gives the pedestrian the right of way.  Here in the Philippines, when a driver sees pedestrians crossing the road, he incessantly honks his horn and leaves each one of them biting the dust (literally) as they scamper away from the four-wheeled monster out to get them.  

9. Share a car, win some friends.  Carpooling can work wonders for you.  Though it’s not usually done here in the Philippines, just think of how much fun it would be to see your friends off to work and pick them up later in the afternoon when all of you are dead-tired and you’re (you guessed it) the designated driver.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is, tomorrow and for the rest of the week, you’ll be sleeping to and from the office as someone else from the group is in charge of the wheel.  Just think of how much down time you (and your car) will have at your disposal, not to mention the savings you’ll incur, from this very nice approach to being green.

10. Leave your ride in a safe car park and take the train instead.  So, you’re an introvert with no friends to have rides with?  Not to worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet new friends in the jam-packed trains of the metropolis.  Just go to your nearest (and safest) car park service and leave your ride there so you can go to work feeling like a million bucks!

11. Make sure your car is in good running condition all the time.  Maintaining your car in tip-top shape is its own reward.  You need your car to be on top of every situation rain or shine, flood or no flood.

12. Avoid honking your horn at the slightest provocation and don’t make a habit of flashing your headlights to on-coming traffic because you want to get ahead of the other driver.  Just don’t.  ‘Coz it’s so rude.  Enough said.

What are your other tips when driving in the Philippines?

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