Whenever a person visits the Philippines for the first time, the most likely thing they comment on is the driving here. It is certainly a different style of driving from most of the Western Countries in the world. Many foreigners who visit here, even many who live here comment to me that they could never drive here. To be honest, though, I love driving in the Philippines. Frankly, I am more comfortable driving here than in the USA.
Things work differently here, but if you let yourself absorb and understand the differences, you will probably do just fine if you try to drive here. I started driving here only a few weeks after moving here, and have been driving ever since – nearly 8 years now. Honestly, if I went back to the USA, I think I’d have a hard time adjusting to the style of driving there. I joke to Feyma and others that if I drove in the States again, I’d probably end up in Jail within just my first few minutes behind the wheel!
The way that driving is here, though, there are fewer hard and fast rules. You just do what is right. I find that drivers here (if you follow their style and rules) are actually quite courteous in most cases. But, if you don’t follow the local customs for driving, the drivers here won’t really understand what you are trying to do, and you will probably find them rude. Have you ever noticed that in much of the Philippines there are no traffic lights, yet the traffic still flows? That’s because people understand how to do it, they take turns letting each other go, etc. Frankly, if you don’t understand how it works you will probably mess up the whole system! 🙂
I do find that driving here is something that I take more seriously than when I drove in the USA. In the States, when driving on the Interstate Highways, you could carry on a conversation with your friends in the car, even look at them a lot, because everybody had plenty of room between cars, and you were not going to hit anybody. Here, driving is a more serious matter. You don’t spend your time talking and carrying on with the passengers if you are the driver – you drive. You pay attention to what you are doing. You pay attention to what others on the road are doing. If you don’t do that, you are likely to get involved in an accident of some kind.
I often say that driving here is a game of inches. Whereas in the USA you have lots of room between cars, here you have very tight spaces, so you must pay attention. I would say that I am a much better, more skillful driver now than I was before I lived here, because I can navigate through areas that would have been difficult for me to make it through before. I pay more attention to what I am doing and what others on the road are doing. The my life and the life of my passengers depends on my paying attention.
Don’t be intimidated by the driving here. You can do it to. But, be careful! Give yourself time to learn the local traffic customs and rules. Respect other drivers. Another very important thing to remember – they don’t drive the same here as where you came from. It’s another case where you, as a single person, are not going to change the other 88 million people here. You must adapt to what they do here. If you do that, you won’t have a problem driving. If you try to be stubborn and retain “your” way of driving, you will probably be in for some hard times.