Moving to the Philippines?

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Jacques Paillard

Living in Philippines, from France

"All expatriates in my company joined InterNations because it really helped me get accustomed to my new life in Manila. "

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Living in Philippines, from Portugal

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The Philippines at a Glance

Transportation in the Philippines

Have you decided to move to the Philippines? Your life will probably change completely after settling in the second largest archipelago in the world. The InterNations guide on the Philippines provides you with all the necessary info for this adventure, on everything from geography to visa.

Transportation

When you get ready to take the big step of moving to the Philippines, you should make sure to book your airline ticket early on. This is especially true if you plan to move in December. This is the time when many Filipinos come home for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

The main way to enter the Philippines is via Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which will welcome you with long lines at the immigration counter. The second busiest (and much nicer) airport of the country is Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu City, which receives flights from Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, and Seoul.

Fortunately, Cebu Airport emerged from the chaos of Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda relatively unscathed. The natural disaster in November 2013 destroyed other important airports in the Visayas, especially in Tacloban City, where the airport was rendered unusable for all planes except turboprop craft dedicated to the relief effort. 

Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO) in Davao and Diosdado Mascapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Angeles City both also receive international flights from different Asian countries. Depending on your destination, entering through one of the smaller airports may make more sense and be more convenient for you.

Inter-Island Travel

Travelling by water is the main way of inter-island travel and the backbone of the Philippine’s overall transportation system. Virtually any mode of water transportation is available, ranging from high-class, air-conditioned ferries and catamarans to small bangkas or pumpboats. Bangkas are the basis of inter-island transportation in the Philippines. These small wooden boats run on automotive engines. While bangkas lack the luxury provided by ferries and catamarans, they are cheap and widely available. 

If you prefer to travel on land, you can use one of the many reliable and cheap bus services, which offer island hopping as well. Departures are frequent; however, drivers sometimes tend to leave early if their bus is full. Alternatively, you can also rent a car and drive yourself. Keep in mind though that traffic is crazy in Manila and in Luzon’s central mountains. In other cities and in the countryside, it can be quite a pleasant alternative.

No matter which kind of transportation you choose: for obvious reasons, in the wake of the 2013 natural disaster, you should refrain from travel to the Eastern Visayas until further notice. If you are not working for an aid organization, don't have relatives in the affected areas, e.g. on Leyte or Samar, or have any other pressing reason to go there, it is highly recommended to avoid this. 

City Transportation

In most cities, jeepneys, a cross between a jeep and a bus, are the main mode of transportation. They are popular both for local travel and long-distance journeys. Unfortunately, jeepney drivers like to wait until they have enough passengers before they depart. As a result, you may have to wait a while before the jeepney leaves for your desired destination.

Jeepneys travel on set routes for the average price of about 7 pesos. If you choose to travel long distances with a jeepney, try to find out the fare in advance. Other modes of transportation in the cities are light rail (in Manila), tricycles or pedicabs and vans or minibuses.

Pedicabs are very traditional and cost from 5 pesos per trip. This is the price for locals however and may be considerably higher for you as a foreigner. Vans and minibuses are becoming a popular alternative to jeepneys and buses. They are operated privately and cost you at least twice the fare of a jeepney. On the other hand, they are more luxurious than jeepneys and come with air-conditioning.

InterNations Expat Magazine