commuting in the Philippines

8 Fun Ways of Commuting in the Philippines

Commuting in the Philippines

Filipinos commuting daily in the Philippines’ capital, Metro Manila, will definitely jolt in horror with the combination of the words “commuting” and “fun”.  Experiencing what it’s like to commute in Manila will make you want to own a helicopter.  That’s no joke. The struggle is real.

But Metro Manila is not the entire Philippines.  Commuting in the Philippines, through its towns and cities, across the land and seas can be fun, I assure you.  Let the adventure begin and learn fun ways of commuting in the Philippines.

1. Jeepney or Jeep


Jeep is the most popular mode of transport in the Philippines.  Jeeps originated from the US military troops during the WWII. After the war, surplus jeeps were left to the locals.  The locals began to reconfigure the vehicle to accommodate more passengers and painted these with various vibrant colors.

Commuting in the Philippines

It’s amusing how jeepneys mirror the lives of many Filipinos.  Some jeepney owners would put a large sign in front, to which what’s written reflects the owner’s personal life.  Here are some examples: “God is good”, “Katas ng Saudi” (translated literally as Extract of Saudi, implying the investment for that jeep is a result of hardwork in an overseas country like Saudi), or the family names or names of the owner’s children.

You’ll also find Filipino humor abound inside a jeep when you read the little signs inside.  Many of these are funny phrases that rhyme like “Bayad muna bago baba” (Pay first before getting off), “Basta driver, sweet lover” (Every driver is a sweet lover), “God knows Hudas not pay”, “Hatak mo, stop ko” (Pull string to stop).


2. Tricycle


Commuting in the Philippines

Tuk-tuks are very popular in Southeast Asia.  If you’re in the Philippines, forget about tuk-tuk for a while and enjoy a ride in a tricycle.  Riding a tricycle is like getting on a taxi because tricycles usually bring you to your exact destination over short distances.  Tricycle designs in the Philippines often vary by town or city.  Capacities can go from three to ten or more than ten (more on that later).

Commuting in the Philippines

Oops! Sorry about the backdrop.

3. Top loading


If you want to get adventurous, try “top loading” or sitting on a roof of a jeepney beside baskets of vegetables, fruits and other goodies. Dangerous? Check! Exciting? Double check! Why topload? The best answer to this is that you’ll get the best unobstructed views from the top.  In case you’re wondering, the fare at the top is the same as when seated inside.


4. Habal-habal


Habal-Habal is simply a motorcycle, used to seat more than two persons.  It is normally used in the provinces to reach rough, narrow roads and steep terrains.  I’ve seen variations of the habal-habal with planks extending across the sides from the back seat to accommodate more persons.

Commuting in the Philippines

Habal-habal drivers in Biliran

5. Tri-sikad or Sikad or Padyak


The equivalent of rickshaw in other countries, tri-sikad or sikad or padyak (sikad means backward kick while padyak means tramp) is the cheapest (but slowest) way to commute.  It’s just like a tricycle, but instead of a motorcycle, a bicycle with side car for passenger seating, is used.

Commuting in the Philippines


6. Kalesa


Kalesa is a horse-drawn transport introduced by the early Spaniards, and used then only by elite families.  You will rarely see a kalesa in the Philippines nowadays but this is used as a tourist mode of transport, especially in Intramuros, Manila and Vigan in northern Philippines.  I remember as a kid how we used to ride a kalesa in my parent’s province in the north.  Kalesa had been slowly replaced by the faster tricycles and jeeps.

Commuting in the Philippines


7. Bancas or boats


The Philippines is composed of 7,641 islands, making it one of the best parts of the world to do island hopping.  This is normally done with a banca or outrigger boat.  Some have regular passenger boats that will take you to the islands, but in some cases, you will have to rent bancas from fishermen or private resorts to take you to the more secluded islands.

Commuting in the Philippines

Our banca in Isla de Gigantes, Iloilo

Commuting in the Philippines

Boat plying the Kalanggaman Island in Leyte

If wavy and bumpy boat rides simply bore you, try the faluwa ride in Batanes, the northernmost islands of the Philippines facing the vast Pacific Ocean.  Unlike regular bancas, faluwa doesn’t have a “katig” or outrigger.  The outrigger will have no use and will only get crashed in the strong waves of Batanes.  Is it safe? Yes. The people of Batanes or the Ivatans use it every day as long as weather permits.  Will you survive? The only way to answer that is to try.

Commuting in the Philippines

Faluwa ride to Sabtang Island, Batanes


8. Ferry


For longer distances between islands, a big ferry is a cheaper option than domestic flights if you have plenty of time to spare.  For relatively shorter distances, smaller ferries are also available.  We also have the Roll-on/roll-off or simply RORO, which are designed to drive wheeled vehicles on and off the ship.  ROROs can be big cargo vessels or smaller for those operating over short distances.

Commuting in the Philippines

If the spirit of backpacking runs in your blood, combine road travel from Luzon (where Manila is) to any point in the larger islands of Visayas and Mindanao without riding a plane.  This is possible with RORO.

Commuting in the Philippines is a fun way of discovering the Filipino culture and hospitality.  As they say, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. I say, enjoy both.

Did you like this post? Pin It!


  1. sg 5 June, 2017 at 00:39 Reply

    Wow. Who knew there were so many ways to get around!? I definitely couldn’t do the top loading option or the Tri-sikad. I would definitely feel back for the driver. I love a good tuk tuk ride and of course the ferry would be a necessity to get out to those beautiful islands no doubt.

  2. Nina Danielle 5 June, 2017 at 18:12 Reply

    I totally want to try top loading one day, it looks like so much and it’s super not-legal in North America, thus it’s even more appealing hahah!

  3. Bethanny Sudibyo 6 June, 2017 at 04:02 Reply

    I would love to try top loading and the bancas! But all in all, the commuting ways in the Philippines look super fun! Thanks for this insight!

  4. ilive4travel 6 June, 2017 at 08:58 Reply

    I haven’t made it to the Philippines yet but it does look so beautiful. I have tried a few of these before but not all. I have sat on top of a van but not sure I would want to sit on top of a bus for a long journey. I have never seen before the motorbike with the roof over, very interesting!!!

  5. Elena Nemets 6 June, 2017 at 10:38 Reply

    I really liked jeepneys when I were in Philippines – they are so colorful and fun to photograph (but probably not so much to ride :)))). And the boats as well!

  6. Edith Rodriguez 7 June, 2017 at 02:43 Reply

    So many ways to commute! The top loading looks quite packed inside so I’d opt for the top but would be hoping for a great driver! The easiest way, would be comfortably on a ferry!

  7. Cristina Luisa 10 June, 2017 at 08:15 Reply

    This is super interesting! I’ve never been to the Philippines, but it’s high on my list, and the modes of transport you’ve mentioned here are fascinating! I had no idea Jeeps were so prevalent in the Philippines, nor that tricycles were used so often. Thanks so much for this informative, extensive list. Now I know what to expect when I get to the Philippines!

Leave a Reply