Public transport in the Philippines is usually inexpensive and the best or only way for the travelling Kiteboarder to get around. Remember you are in a developing country, so transport might be less comfortable than you are used to, take longer, and be less reliable. If you see it as part of the experience, allow enough time and don’t try to do or see too many things in a too short amount of time, you’ll be fine.
They go to and from all bigger cities and towns and stop pretty much anywhere you want them to on the way. Consider spending the extra peso to ride a nice aircon one, as the cheapest ones are uncomfortable to the point of torture if the ride takes a couple of hours or more, which it pretty much always does. The big hub for buses in Manila is Pasay, this is close to the airport. On night buses, make sure to bring a sweater as many of them – especially the more comfortable ones – have a very effective air conditioning, which the drivers make use of to a point where you will feel like riding a refrigerator.
Manila airport is up on top of the list of the world’s worst airports. Efforts to change that only slowly bear fruits. Planes are barely on time, especially the domestic ones. There are 4 terminals there. Getting from terminal to terminal takes quite some time. The free shuttle vans can be hard to find, just ask at the information desk. Immigration procedures are not of the most efficient kind either, even though this part seems to have become better recently. However, always allow enough time to transfer between planes, especially when you have to change terminals. It is much better to have a coffee somewhere rather than stressing or even missing connecting flights.
Book your domestic flights in advance, as prices can vary substantially. Also bear in mind that some of the airstrips are short due to geographical reasons and can only be serviced by smaller planes. Baggage allowance on these planes will be less, like 10 or 15kg. Sometimes there is the option of bringing the big board bag anyway, by checking it in as cargo. Check the sports equipment deals of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
Ferries can be a good option to get around, as they are often inexpensive and you can bring as much kite gear as you want. However, it takes more time. But this can sometimes be even more convenient. For example, when you get into Manila late, there are no domestic flights anymore. Getting on a ferry in the evening could bring you to your port of destination in the early morning. As the ferries do not have a reputation to be safe, don’t go if there is a typhoon close by. Always check the nearest emergency exit.
For a massive metropolitan city like Manila with 20 million people (give or take a couple of million), the two existing train lines for people transport are a pretty small number. However, it is inexpensive and definitely worth checking it out if you have some time to kill in Manila. If you do, be prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder during rush hour. (The first car is for women only). Take very good care of your valuables.
It is very common for the taxi drivers to massively overcharge greenhorn tourists who are arriving at the airport. When wanting to go kitesurfing as soon as possible and carrying a big board bag, you are in no real position to haggle anyway. The prepaid or metered airport taxis are more expensive than the regular ones, but often times absolutely worth it when travelling with a lot of kitesurfing gear and after a long intercontinental flight. Avoid a bad mood and take the official airport ones.
An official airport taxi will be bright yellow and start its meter at 70 Pesos while a metered taxi in the metro should start at 40 Php.
There have been fruitful efforts by the police recently to force the drivers to use their meter. You should definitely make sure it happens as well. However, be prepared for the driver to refuse to take you where you want to go – especially if it is a long way – or refuse to turn on the meter. If that is the case just wait for the next cab. By the way, saying ‘Metro lang, Boss’ when getting in the cab makes you sound local, which yields a higher chance of a hassle-free taxi ride in Manila.
These are the way the locals roll, and you haven’t really been in the Philippines if you haven’t used one. In the province, Jeepneys and Tricycles are prepared to transport all kinds of goods, including your kitesurf equipment. In the big cities they are not, and it is advisable to stick to some other means of transport when carrying big kitesurf bags, unless you want it the hard way. You might be asked to pay for an additional person if you do and your luggage takes a lot of space. However, it will still be very cheap.
Car rental companies like Hertz and Avis you are used to do not exist in the Philippines. If you are planning on a road trip and want to rent a car, check online markets for car rental opportunities in the area you are at or want to go to. Consider getting a car with driver, as it will take not only the stress of maneuvering through the chaotic traffic off of your shoulders, but also make it easier for you if there is a technical problem with the vehicle.
A Final word: Never expect the drivers of public transportation to carry change. If you end up with only 1000s in bills, you can easily get change at a 7-11 or gas station. Always have smaller 20’s on you, especially in the provincial areas. Coins for jeepneys and trikes are best.
© 2014 – 250k Kiteboarding