5 Keys to Navigate Metro Manila’s Busy Streets

The Philippines is a great place, but its public transport system leaves a lot to be desired. The rail system could get overcrowded and public buses have no regular stops and can be a little bit unsafe. If you’re in the country for business or an extended trip, it’s better to rent a car and drive yourself around the city.

The traffic is a huge problem in major cities, and local drivers can (literally) drive you nuts with how reckless they can be. Prepare your state of mind with these tips to help you get to your destinations on time and free from any serious incident.

1. Plan your Route

Compared to most Asian roads, Philippine roads are easy to navigate. Street signs are readable since the Filipino language uses the Roman alphabet and most signs are in English. It’s also easy to ask for directions because practically everyone can understand and speak English.

However, street signs can be hard to spot. Make sure your rental has a navigation system or just download a local navigation app (like Waze or Google Maps) on your phone. Local streets can often have similar names, so make sure you are encoding the right names at the right locations.

2. Keep a Schedule

Rush hour in Manila — 7 A.M. to 9 A.M. and 6 P.M. to 9 P.M. — can get frustrating and should be avoided at all costs. Schedule your activities accordingly or travel early, as driving during the rush hours can add an hour or two to your drive.

Some motorists would have dinner in restaurants or hang out with friends over coffee just to bide time and avoid driving during the rush hours. Manila is teeming with malls, and they can be suitable places to pass the time.

3. Drive Defensively

Manila roads are teeming with unruly motorists and daredevil bikers. Cars will cut you off as they switch lanes and some will do this even in slow moving traffic. Bikers will weave across the road, finding whatever purchase to get past slow moving vehicles. Away from the highways, pedestrians will often cross roads haphazardly even if a pedestrian bridge or overpass is only a few meters away.

4. Lock Your Doors

Man driving

Wear your seatbelt and lock your doors. Some street gangs are known to run up to cars and try to open their doors to steal valuables. Try to get a car with a dashboard camera (or dashcam for short). This serves as an extra line of protection against frivolous scams and unjust accident claims. These incidents are rare, but they were in local news for a time. It’s always prudent to take care.

5. Stay Calm

Manila traffic and the motorists that come with it can be extremely vexing. Horns will be blowing and drivers have no sense of lane courtesy. Getting angry will just add to the problem and can make you lose focus on the road.

Driving in Manila is easy as long as you avoid rush hour. Try your best to avoid it at all costs, and prepare yourself for a lot of chaos if you can’t. Remember to keep calm and focused and you’ll arrive at your destination safely. Arriving on time, though, can be questionable at best.