Acculturation: Transportation

OK, it’s time for my third installment in my Acculturation series here on LiP.  I hope you are enjoying my articles in this series so far, and I still have a number of articles to go before I can fully explain how I have come very close to completing my acculturation in the Philippines.  I suppose that the truth is that an immigrant’s acculturation is never complete, but I am very close, and will only have minor issues to deal with for the rest of my life, I suppose.  As I mentioned in my first article in the series, though, there are some areas where I have chosen not to adapt to the local culture, and those will be addressed in a future article, probably the last article in this series.

Today, I am going to address the area of the culture that I really only started adapting recently, and that is transportation.

Mitsubishi Adventure

Mitsubishi Adventure

When we first moved to the Philippines, I could not wait to buy a car, or some kind of vehicle so that I could get around.  Within the first 2 weeks of living here, even before our container containing our possessions had arrived, we bought a Mitsubishi Adventure, which is an AUV, or an Asian Utility Vehicle.  An AUV is like an SUV, but a bit smaller. We bought about the top of the line that Mitsubishi was offering at the time, and the cost back then was about US$15,000 at that time.  Prices on such vehicles are a lot higher now, though.  I really have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of our Adventure, and in fact, I have gone on many Adventures using the Mitsubishi Adventure, I can assure you of that!

Over the years, though, I must say that I have driven less and less, to the point that these days, I drive very little.  Probably once per week on average, I will take the AUV out for a spin around town, but sometimes I don’t even make it out in the car.  I still go out on a regular basis, I just don’t drive!

What do you do, Bob, take the taxi?

Join Expat Island

No, actually, I only use the taxi on very rare occasions to be honest.  Read forward and I’ll tell you what I do for transportation!

Riding the Bus in the Philippines

Riding the bus to GenSan

Riding the bus to GenSan

Starting a few years ago, in 2008 or 2009, I started riding the bus if I was taking a long trip (unless it was a very long trip, in which case I would fly). But, for going around Mindanao, I like to ride the bus.  I got started riding the bus because I didn’t feel like driving, and thought I’d just take the bus on that one trip, but I liked it, and decided to use the bus more often.   As I write this, tomorrow I am going to General Santos City for some business I need to take care of.  No question, I’m riding the bus!

There are some very nice buses here too, very modern.  Most of the buses have video on them too, and play movies and such.  To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to the movies, though, they are usually Tagalog movies anyway, so it is of no interest to me.  I like to bring along my MP3 player and just listen to music and “rest my eyes” if you know what I mean! ;-)

Riding the Jeepney in the Philippines



For local transportation, I started a  new routine about 6 months ago.  I ride the jeepney!  It all started out because one day I didn’t have anything to do, and decided to go jump on a jeepney and just see where it went.  I didn’t really know the routes or anything, I just did it all by chance.  I enjoyed it, to be honest, and I felt like a cultural learning experience.  I like to ride the jeepneys now as much as possible, too.  I know all of the routes, which jeepneys I need to ride to get where I am going, etc.  I used to feel embarrassed to get on the jeepney, what would the local people think?  Now, though, I feel like I fit right in.  Nobody laughs or is overly shocked.  Oh, from time to time I will see one or two people who are surprised to see a foreigner on a jeepney, but that just adds to the fun.

I used to consider jeepneys to be a poor transportation system, an inconvenience for “real drivers” with cars, etc.  Now, though, I don’t feel that way at all.  In fact, I think that jeepneys are a pretty good transport system.  My only complaint is that a lot of jeepneys really do pollute the air, and I do wish they would clean that up.  But, I find the jeepney system to be easy to use, cheap, convenient, and also a pretty darn efficient system for transporting thousands of riders day after day.

When I ride the jeepney, I like the “people watching” aspect of it.  I like to just observe what people do on the jeepney, how the  act, interaction among riders and such.  It’s pretty fascinating to me!  One thing I notice is that most local people tend to keep to themselves when they are on the jeepney.  I like to talk to the other passengers, strike up a conversation, etc.  It adds to the fun for me!  It’s also a good chance for me to practice speaking Cebuano and learn even more!

Speaking of riding the jeepney being cheper than driving or taking a taxi, the fare for a normal length ride on the jeepney is P8.  For a further ride it might be up to P12 or so, but 99% of the time you will pay P8.  Now, consider that just the flag down rate for a taxi is P40 now.  That means that you can ride 5 different jeepney rides for just the flag down rate on a taxi.  For example, if I go from my house to Abreeza Mall in Davao City, that will usually cost nearly P150 on a taxi.  On a jeepney, the total cost would be P16!  Amazing difference, huh?  I certainly don’t ride jeepney because of the financial reasons, though, I’m just adding that here as an added bonus.  The reason I ride the jeepneys is because I enjoy it!

Another reason why I like to ride the jeepney is because it also means that I get to walk a fair amount.  I like to walk for exercise, and if I ride the jeep, it usually means that I have to do a bit of walking to get to the proper place where the jeepneys are.  For example, Jeepneys don’t run in front of our house, I have to walk about a half mile to catch the jeepney, then of course a half mile when I come home too.  Also, there is usually some extra walking involved in the City too.  Because of this, I feel healthier, and am in better shape than if I was driving.  I consider that to be a real bonus.

You know, I can’t say for sure, but if I knew back in 2000 what I know now, maybe I would not have even purchased a vehicle of my own.  I do admit, though, that I got a lot of good use out of that Mitsubishi Adventure, and it carried me to a lot of cool places.  That vehicle has been to nearly every part of Mindanao now, and it’s never let me down!  Not bad for a vehicle that is now 12 years old!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (944 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

Author Info


  1. Neal in RI says

    Wow thats impressive Bob.
    I bet you even are communicating with pursed lips and the raise of a eyebrow.
    Not sarcasm really I am impressed and prolly a bit green with envy.

  2. Russell says

    Great stuff Bob.I have a girlfriend who currently lives in Manila but she is from Surigao.
    When i visited her last year I wanted to try and do as many local things as possible,like riding the jeepneys etc.
    It was a great way to experience local life in Quezon City and I mostly went everywhere with my girlfriend.
    However on a few occassions I went with an aussie friend from the hotel and found that when we ventured out either by taxi or jeepney,on more occassions than not that we got ripped off by the drivers.
    We found this to be a sad state of affairs and not good for tourism at all.
    I guess though that in your case you are a bit more streetwise than us newbies:)

    • says

      Hi Russell – Sounds like you had a nice visit! As for drivers ripping you off, sadly that is pretty common up in Metro Manila from what I hear. It is very rare in Davao, and I believe, most of the Philippines, though.

  3. Tom Ramberg says

    Hi Bob,

    If I didn’t live about 10 minutes from town by car and 45 minutes by public transportation I would fully agree. I was laughing at Marie yesterday when we were using the multicab truck to pick up building materials yesterday. She was complaining that it is rough riding. I told her that many families dream to own this one but you are a spoiled princess! Marie had an Adventure for ten years and it was a very reliable car. I promised her that someday she would have one more new vehicle so this Christmas she got a new Montero. She was happy that her Adventure was purchased by her sister who will cherish it as much as she did. I told her that if it were my choice I would be happy to just admire the new cars in traffic because I am kuripot.

    • says

      Hi Tom – In most ways, I am happy that I have a car, and can use it when needed. But, I really enjoy using local transportation. I am very familiar with the area where you live, and I think I’d still ride the jeepneys from out there, but can’t be certain unless I actually lived there. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Tom Ramberg says

        Hi Bob,

        Our house is two kilometers from the highway so the form of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. After you get to the highway you would have to ride one of the vans to the city. The jeepneys seem to stick mainly to Gen-San. I am sure that I could endure that way of traveling but there would definately be times when you would wish for your own car. If I lived in any major city I would have no problem adapting transportation wise but I sure do love our place in the country.

  4. Lenny says

    I use the pedicabs, buses, and sometimes jeepnies…I figured why buy a car.. pay insurance, get a drivers license. pay the upkeep, expensive gasoline,and not worry about having an accident, they drive very impatient here…. when I can use the availability of all the commercial transportation here.. I have been here now, about 5 years in Metro Manila, and have had no problems what so ever transportation wise, and I don’t even have to drive!! It’s really been a simple undertaking…And I think cost efficent in the long run….I really like it…

    • says

      HI Lenny – I don’t ride the tricycles or pedicabs for the most part. I find it too tight and uncomfortable for a big guy like me. I fully agree with you on the jeepneys though. Not having to drive is more relaxing for me, and I can watch the scenery more and see things I would have missed if driving.

  5. Speb Freespiritme says

    Hi Bob,

    Nice read! I like riding the jeepney too, well actually depending where. Back in Bataan I used to take a 15 min ride to work on a zigzag road right through the mountains, which from the top you can see the poster-card perfect back draft of Corrigedor island , south china sea and the economic zone. I also loved it in Olongapo and Subic, where you get a fusion of city life and nature. But yikes in manila where i am right now .. heck no, i only ride it for economical reasons.. the only thing i get out of it is a headache from the blaring noise of horns, traffic,the ear blasting hiphop songs where you have to shout ” Para Po! from the top of your lungs while you see the driver texting. But I’m sure I’ll be able to take the Davao jeepney experience when I get a confirmation of an assignment there in a month or so.
    Great day ahead!

    • says

      Hi Speb – Sounds like a nice view on that jeepney ride, looking out over the south China Sea (oops, PNoy says we have to call it the West Philippine Sea now!). I certainly don’t ride for economic reasons, but that is just an added bonus, the cost savings.

      BTW, here in Davao, we don’t say “Para” when we want to get off the jeepney… we say “Lugar lang,” so keep that in mind for when you come to Davao! :wink:

  6. Speb Freespiritme says

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the reminder , that made me smile.. I’m actually being taught Bisaya by you LOL! so nice! and yeah South Philippine Sea indeed!

  7. Miss August says

    In Olongapo City and Subic area the Jeepneys are color-coded according to their route. You can still see some colorful painted Jeepney around but they’re not for public transportation, it’s usually just for private family use.

    • Speb Freespiritme says

      Miss August,

      I love the all time favorite ” Yellow Jeep” its your ride from Caltex to Main Gate basically the whole downtown Olongapo City.. My personal fave- Magsaysay Drive!

  8. Robert says

    Hi Bob,
    My wife and I have talked about the advantages of not owning a vehicle when we move to the Philippines. I know I won’t miss paying car insurance/maintenance and also have enjoyed riding jeepneys and buses on our visits. We just can’t be without a vehicle in the Twin Cities suburbs with our job locations. I’ve also had the experience of getting in a jeepney and people giving me the double take. Interesting article. 3 years, 4 months.

  9. Cheryl says

    When I first started coming to the Philippines I only rode taxis. But a couple of years ago I started riding Jeepneys when I lived in Malibay, Pasay Manila. I LOVE riding Jeepneys! Not just because it is much cheaper to do so, but because I like being “in the action”.

    I really like to people watch here and Jeepneys is one of the ways that I do it. I am in Manila at this time and where I stay there is not much Jeepney activity. I sorta miss that.

    As far as owning my a car or truck here. I sometimes wish I had one, but most of the time I am VERY happy to not have to deal with the hassle of owning a car. I think I could probably deal with the driving here (as crazy as it can be) but there is something about the FREEDOM of not having to do upkeep, get gas, and things like that.

    I have rode a few buses but do not do it on a regular basis. The bus rides have been fine though.

    One form of transportation that freaks me out a bit here is the van rides you will see in Mindanao from places like Sindangan to Dipolog. I am sure there are thousands of more routes. These drivers are out of control!! As we all know there is really no such thing here as a real state patrol like you will see in the United States.

    These van drivers make Manila cab drivers look tame. It is just crazy and very dangerous.

    Transportation in the Philippines is pretty cheap, even in Manila. Actually transportation in the Philippines is really cheap. When I live in Malibay Pasay I could ride a Jeepney from there to the Mall of Asia for seven pesos!! Hard to get much cheaper than that…plus I enjoyed the rides.

    As far as pollution…yes…that needs to be dealt with. Jeepneys and motorcycles contribute huge amounts to the pollution problem in the Philippines. I hope Jeepneys NEVER go away here, but I do hope they tighten the pollution standards on them.

    • says

      Hi Cheryl – When you said your are “in the action” I completely agree. You are part of society instead of being an outsider looking in!

      I don’t like the vans either… they pack them in too tight! Ha ha

  10. Mike Henebry says

    My asawa and I live part of each year in Libmanan, Cam Sur. We have never owned a car or motorcycle in Phil’s. We mostly walk to the market and back in Libmanan Our favorite mode of transportation when we go to Naga City, the closest place to us with a mall, etc, is the newly-running PNR train that also continues to Manila. More comfortable than the rough road.

  11. Mike Henebry says

    My asawa and I are currently in Libmanan and Naga until Feb 18. I have yet to meet or talk with another foreigner in Phil’s, but would love to.

  12. Mike Henebry says

    Unfortunately, so true. I have heard of a guy about my age (66) from England that lives near Libmanan, but have been unable to contact him. I am a retired environmental scientist from the US (Illinois).

  13. John Miele says

    Bob: I don’t shy away from local transport… But I tend to take taxis most often (due to aircon). However, today I went to immigration for annual report, and had a meeting in Tondo afterwards. My transport day today…

    Tricy to the main street. (P10)
    Taxi to the Katipunan LRT station (P80)
    LRT to the RECTO station (P14)
    Taxi to immigration (P200 – BANDIT!)
    Pedicab around Intramuros (P200 – Little tourism to kill time. More on that in a future article)
    Taxi to Tondo (P400 – Yeah, another bandit, but, to be fair, taxis generally don’t venture out that way, much less with Kano passengers. Had a meeting, and not worth the argument).
    Colleague had driver take me in personal car to edge of Tondo)- (Free)
    Bus (Ordinary – No aircon, plastic covers on sticky vinyl seats) to SM North – (P14)
    Met Rebecca and Juanito for lunch, taxi home – (P120)

    So, virtually every mode of transport today except jeepney.

    With most taxis, the rip-offs tend to be to either locations with foreigners (like immigration, tourist stuff) or if you are venturing long distances through heavy Manila traffic (Like from my house to Tondo, across the city). With the touristy areas, if you have time, you can either argue over a few pesos or take another. I’ve also found that walking a block or so away from the foreigner area usually gets you an honest driver. With distances, it is trickier. When I need to go to Tondo, I usually hire for the whole day, or use the procedure above, since the LRT flies over the traffic, cutting an hour off of my travel time. The drivers don’t want to go there, and I usually don’t want to argue with them about it anyway, and it ends up being quicker. Same thing when I need to go to Makati from here.

      • John Miele says

        ;-) Rebecca’s response: YOU rode the ordinary bus!?!

        My response: I lived, didn’t I?

        Rebecca: But you like aircon!

        Me: Didn’t tell you, but last week in Indonesia, I was walking to the mall, got lost, and rode a moto-taxi (riding on the back of a bike… about equal to P20).

        Rebecca: YOU?!? Riding on the back of a bike!

        I guess you can see where it went from there….

        • says

          I like aircon too.. what I find, though, is that there is a nice breeze in the jeepney, and it’s plenty comfortable in my opinion. In Manila, with traffic often at a standstill, I can see, though, that it could get pretty uncomfortable!

        • says

          Hi John – when I went to Dinagat Island, north of Surigao, I got stuck on a rather remote part of the island and had to ride the habal-habal. It was a first for me. I had to ride for nearly an hour, as I recall, and it scared me to death! Ha ha.

  14. says

    Hi Bob – I must confess personally I would not like to be without my own transport. I enjoy the independence of being able to go out as and when I like in any weather and arrive in reasonable condition. I just hate the diesel fumes and the dust especially in very hot days. From where I live to the city we have the Jeepney and the Aircon Van. I used to use the Jeepney under duress when I had no other means of transport and then latterly the Aircon Van which I still use when going to the Airport or Ferry Port and I don’t wish to leave my car there.
    Like you I bought my car new when we arrived in 2008 and I have been to places that I normally would not have seen without it. As long as I’m able I’ll continue to relay on myself to get from A to B even if I have to pay for the upkeep and the pleasure of doing so.
    I think in my acculturation to life here I will just continue to drive myself around.
    Happy traveling.

    • says

      Hi Jim – For the first 7 or 8 years that I lived here in the Philippines I felt exactly the same as you do about having my own transportation. So, I can certainly understand your feelings. Also, you live quite a long ways from the City, so your situation is a bit different than mine.

      To be honest, I never feel that I smell like diesel fumes when riding the jeepney.

  15. PapaDuck says


    Very enjoyable article. I don’t plan on buying a car, at least for a few years, if not at all. I want to enjoy the public transportation and interact with the local people. Since i am no longer with my ex g/f from Bataan, i will be with a friend in Quezon City, so i will be able to use all types of public transportation. Looking forward to your next article in the series. Be safe and have a nice friday.

    • says

      Thank you PapaDuck! I’m glad that you continue to enjoy the series. My prediction is that if you can avoid buying a vehicle in your first year here, you probably never will, as you will get used to the public transportation! I think it’s a good move.

  16. maria says

    hi bob
    so you have not encountered another foreigner riding jeepneys? since you speak the language and live locally its a different feel for you in “safety” and you’ve figured out the routes and which jeepneys to take. how about an article on safety and how to for foreigners taking jeepneys?

    • says

      Hi Maria – I don’t recall ever being on a jeepney with another foreigner, although I know that some foreigners also ride jeepney.

      I don’t really have any desire to write an article about safety, because I really consider that a non-issue. Perhaps in some areas, but where I live, I just don’t feel that safety is even a concern.

  17. Opus says

    Tried public buses, tricycles, FX, Jeepneys, and cabs. Heck, even did the horse drawn carriage tour around Intramuros. Had fun doing it all, too. Amazed to see vendors just hopping on and off the dang public bus while it was still in motion. Tricycles are fun until I realized that I was riding in a passenger cab constructed out of sheet metal. This was while our tricycle driver made a U-turn during rush hour traffic in Valenzuela City. Still would do it again! Jeepneys and FX weren’t too interesting. People were squished together looking solemn and uninterested. Like taking the public bus in the States. Wifey says we’ll take the train next time we go travel there. Can’t wait!

  18. Manila_Playa87 says

    Jeepneys are hard to read ragarding where they’re excactly going. The other i caught the Sta Ana one along Mabini to Pedro Gil Station where i then rode the LRT to Balintawak. Alot faster than a car anyday. All up, 28 peso. A bunch of scruffy looking, shameless children tried to pick pocket me in front of onlookers so the fist went pretty close to one of their faces but it did the trick.

    I generally avoid taxis unless they’re at the taxi rank at a mall and i’m even nice enough to let them keep w/e little change there is. One of them came into my condo complex at Fort and blatantly asks for 300 to go to cubao. So i tell him what i think of him and leave the door and boot open for a laugh. Needless to say he won’t be back at the condominium complex anytime soon. Security could have shot him dead had he retaliated. For what it’s worth there is a special app on cell phones which allows you to report abusive taxi drivers without even having to make the complaint in person. Brilliant isn’t it

    • says

      Hi Manila_Playa87 – I don’t know much about the jeepneys in Manila, but riding the jeeps here is quite easy. The routes are pretty easy to follow and such. It works fine for me, anyway.

  19. Eric says

    The public transportation in Manila is not that efficient but I must say it still does the job and it’s cheap compare to owning a car. Parking is difficult in Manila anyway. When I retire in Manila, I dont plan to buy a car. I have a residential lot near an LRT 2 station and there I will build a modest house. The LRT and MRT trains will take me practically anywhere in the city especially to the major entertainment and shopping centres without even taking the jeepneys. I’ve realized that jeepneys may not be efficient but are very good mode of transportation nevertheless for navigating very narrow/tight roads and streets. But my only wish [upon a star..:)] is that jeepneys and tricycles all run on electricity so that they will not pollute the air and run quietly and not create so much noises that annoys me.

    • says

      Hi Eric – I hear you on the electricity thing, but I’m afraid that may be a dream. There are electric jeeps and trikes, but I’m afraid we may not see them in widespread use for many years, if ever.

  20. Adam says

    Greetings filipinos,
    I lived in Taguig, Metro Manila from Jan 2011 until the end of Nov 2011. I also enjoyed riding the jeepneys. Tricycles I agree could be tight if you’re not a skinny person like myself, even though I’m only 5’9. But in the end, if you’re traveling by yourself, by far the most enjoyable transport was my 150cc scooter. It had a lot of problems, but with the lifetime warranty I didn’t mind – its all that rain clogging up my engine I swear. But the reason is – both my wife and I worked in call centers – was if you want to tear through traffic during rush hour or mall closing hours, nothing is faster than having a bike. Yes I agree it can be dangerous, but I miss it. Used you can buy them for 15,000php and there are repair shops everywhere.

  21. James Speight says

    Bob I really like this article.

    It really hits home to the idea that what, we as new expats think is a necessity is actually more of a luxury. There are many things that you can’t live without in other counties that you can live without in the Philippines.

    If someone really thinks they need a vehicle, I think they should consider the possibility of renting that vehicle out when they are not using it. At least it will be making some money for it’s up keep. And if you can do without it. You can always rent a vehicle for that special trip yourself.

    • says

      Thank you James, I am glad that you liked it. We foreigners (particularly Americans) feel that we must have a car, it is an extension of our person. After many years I have learned that it simply is not so!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *