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12 Things to Know About Using Taxis in Manila

Getting around Manila is easy, but you should know some of the basics. Here are 12 things to know about using taxis in Manila before you jump into any of them.

NOTE: This post was originally 10 tips, but I’ve expanded it into 12 in April 2017. ENJOY!

Taxis in Manila and How they work

The way it works here in the Philippines is the driver pays a “boundary” or daily rental rate for the taxi. Anything over that, plus fuel, he gets to keep. They will do anything to make more than the boundary and have some money to take home.

The rules in the Philippines state they must engage the meter but in some places, they disregard this.

Cebu and Bacolod City are wonderful for Taxis, with very few problems. Manila travel is the exact opposite; the taxis in Manila are out of control and they show complete disdain for the rules.

Watch this Video about Taxis in Manila

I’ll go over some Travel Tips and things to watch for in Manila below.

*This can also be viewed as a general warning of possible tourist scams common to many 3rd world countries.

Quick Tip - Airport Taxis in Manila

If you just arrived at the airport go to the DEPARTURES area. This means a lot of Airport taxis in Manila will be dropping people off and leaving empty. These drivers would love to get a passenger and are very negotiable in terms of taxi rates.

They come in many colors but generally, the yellow metered ones have dedicated airport taxis, have a higher “drop rate” AND a higher “run rate”. They will cost about 50% more than white metered cabs in Manila.

Before You Leave Your Location

Before you leave your room/apartment/hotel/etc., make sure to prepare by following these travel tips below in advance. This will make the trip much easier to deal with…

Tip #1 - Have Plenty of Small Bills

ALWAYS, Always carry LOTS of small bills in the Philippines. The driver WILL NOT have change or will claim to have none. Either way, you will need to do one of two things. Leave all the change with him or WAIT while he goes looking for some. Neither sounds good so be sure you are prepared.

Go to 7/11 or to the front desk at your hotel and get as many small bills and coins as possible. You will thank me later and probably save enough to stop by and buy me a beer.

Tip #2 - Copy the Exact Address to a Piece of Paper

Whenever possible, have the complete address printed or clearly written on a piece of paper so there will be no confusion about where you want to go. The driver will speak English but many place names sound similar and they can be mistaken or claim to be when you have just paid to get to the wrong place!

Make sure to add on their “cross streets” to better pinpoint the locations. They could also take you “mistakenly” to the wrong address halfway across town. If you mention cross streets this cannot happen.

Doing this helps reduce the chance they might not know the location and will drive around aimlessly while frantically & covertly texting other drivers to ask directions. Knowing the exact address also makes you seem more “local” or at least familiar with the terrain.

This also applies to get back to your address. If possible get a business card or written directions from wherever you are staying so you can get back easily.

Tip #3 - Get Pricing Advice from Locals

Whenever possible, ask someone where you’re at what the approximate fare should be to your destination. This will give you a baseline of what roughly the cost should be. That way if you are in a hurry and need to get in any taxis in Manila and end up having to negotiate for one who won’t turn on the meter you will have a rough idea.

Tip #4 - Leave Early

I cannot stress this enough! It is much less stressful to be early at your destination than frantic and fuming while the minutes tick by in a snarl of smoking traffic.

Before You Get in the Taxi

Before you get into the Taxi, there are some tips you should know.

Tip #5 - When Hailing a Taxi

Be careful about accepting “help” hailing a driver. Unless it is from your hotel staff they will probably have some kind of a gimmick going on. They are not doing this out of some sense of hospitality. Just be aware that there will be something in it for them.

This happens a lot where public transportation stops (a bus for example). Self-proclaimed porters knew as the “Manila Concierges” will rush up to you fast, ask you if you need a taxi, grab your bag and start wheeling it towards a waiting taxi. Then they will load your bag for you, open your door, and expect a tip. All something you were about to do yourself with really not much of an effort. It’s up to you if you want to support this. If you don’t tip them, a lot of times the taxi driver will.

Tip #6 - Taxi Condition

It costs the same if the taxi is in new condition or a beat-up piece of crap so choose wisely. The drivers of the newer ones will generally be more professional.

Taxis in Manila

Tip #7 - Cost of a Taxi

When engaging a cab on the street, open the rear passenger door. But do NOT get in. Tell them where you want to go and then ask the driver if he’ll turn the meter on. If he does not, leave the door open and walk away. You will do this because, after the 2nd or 3rd taxi, you will get angry and want to slam the door. However they do not care, it is not their car. Your only revenge for their dishonesty is leaving the door open so they must get out and close it. Of course, be careful.

The problem is, during heavy traffic or rainy days you will sometimes go thru numerous attempts before you get one to agree to turn the meter on. At these times it really depends on how desperate or late you are getting to your destination. Sometimes they will ask for a meter rate + 20 or 50 pesos. Sometimes it is double. It really depends on how badly you need the cab as to whether you want to accept this.

DO NOT get in until they have turned the meter on, and if you do get in, tell them to turn it on immediately or simply tell them to pull over and get out. They are NOTORIOUS for agreeing to turn on the meter and then “forget” and you may too as you’re shuffling your stuff in and getting situated. 10 blocks away you notice the meter isn’t running and well…so does he. Ooops. Guess you’ll pay the new fare he’s asking now.

Lastly, most countries have TOLL roads. Be prepared to pay the tolls unless you have negotiated otherwise. This expense is well worth it. These roads are less populated and much faster.

Tip #8 - Your Bags

Now here is something I want to mention but do not want to frighten anyone.

If possible, DO NOT put your luggage in the trunk just in case the cab drives off when you get out. If you are traveling with a friend, one of you should stay in the taxi until everything is out.

Very, very rarely I have heard of this happening. You will deposit your luggage in the trunk, arrive at your destination, exit the taxi, and… the car speeds off with your belongings! Just be aware, have one of your companions stay in the car until all is unloaded or. If alone, leave the passenger door open till you get your stuff.

Please remember, like all countries you may experience bad people so just be aware, be alert and have FUN.

After You Get in the Taxi

Now you’re in the cab, here are some travel tips to get you there.

Tip #9 - Safety Inside the Taxi

As with any place really, these travel tips are just in case. I am not trying to make the Philippines sound like a dangerous place, but let’s just be safe:

  • Lock your doors.
  • Put your arm or leg through the loop of your bag(s).
  • Don’t hold your electronic devices up in the air for everyone to see.
  • Make sure to keep your zippers shut on your bags.

These are not just tips for Manila travel and the Philippines, I do this everywhere I go. To me, it’s just common sense.

Tip #10 - Use Your Phone GPS if you can

Now the digital age is in full swing a lot of people have smartphones with map apps and taxi apps on them. Use the map to make sure the driver is taking a route that doesn’t have high traffic as well as taking a sensible route. Don’t become a backseat driver, and do keep in mind they may know better where the choke points are in the city and how to avoid them, so use this as a guide.

Tip #11 - Your Safety While Riding

Do not be afraid to tell the driver to slow down if they are going too fast. You have a right to be safely transported to your destination and there are speed laws in place to help assure this.

Also, do not let them use their cell phone during the ride. It is illegal in the Philippines to call or text while driving. ALSO because they might be setting up a gimmick further down the road. This does not happen often but it does happen. Perhaps they have an accomplice suddenly jump in the taxi & rob you.

Sometimes they will pull over claiming a breakdown. Another driver will be there by chance. Once you change vehicles you are in danger. It will most likely be unlicensed and unregistered. You will be robbed and left on the roadside in some remote location. Any information you have from that cab will be false so no police investigation will help. Tell them to stop calling or texting.

Tip #12 - How about Tips?

If the driver turns on the meter immediately, drives the most direct route, does not try to have you pay above metered price, and is generally a nice guy then reward him with a 20% tip. Other than this a 10% is fine.

Now your small bills will come into play. See, told you that you would thank me.


BONUS TIP - Vehicle Accidents

If they get in an accident, even a minor one, and there are other taxis nearby. Pay the fare IMMEDIATELY, and get the hell out of there. These things get messy, with police involved, and can be hugely time-consuming.

Helo Spread Good Karma

If your driver turns on the meter immediately without being asked, takes you to your destination without making you fear for your life, and does not beg for a tip… REWARD THEM!

We certainly want to positively reinforce & encourage this type of behavior.

You Made It!

That’s it, you’ve made it to your destination!

If you’re on your way to BADLADZ Beach & Dive Resort in Puerto Galera, then stop by the beach resort and let me know if this was helpful. I’m always happy to hear when this content is helpful to fellow travelers.

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Editor’s Note: This post about Taxis in Manila was originally published on August 1, 2013, and has been updated adding more tips and expanding on the original information.

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