10 Hacks to Commuting in the Philippines

10 Hacks to Commuting in the Philippines

Are you planning on braving public transportation in the Philippines? Here are 10 hacks to survive commuting!

If you are a Filipino and an avid commuter, you will know how agonising it is to commute. I have been commuting almost everyday since I was Grade 3 in Elementary up to this day. While I could go on and on about why commuting is not my favourite thing to do, I’ll skip that and instead, share with you 10 hacks to surviving the commute in the Philippines. I know, you’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Before reading my hacks, note that these are general tips and depending on where you live, may or may not apply to you. Every town and city is different but I’m sure you’ll learn from these tips anyway.

1. Plan ahead


Always make time to create a schedule. Whether your days’ activities are recurring or not, it’s always helpful to plan ahead. Is there a holiday coming up? Are there any storm signal warnings? Is it going to be sunny? These are questions you need to ask yourself before you start your journey. If you’re not from the Philippines, try watching morning programs on television to give you a brief and broad idea about what you should consider on the road.

Also read: Why Every Filipino Should Be a Tourist in Their Own City

2. Start early

EDSAImage credit: Roberto Verzo

This is specifically targeted to people who have no sense of urgency. To me, every minute in the morning is crucial. In my head, I’ve already planned out how I’m going to spend my extra hour before heading to work. For example; the usual time when people start work is 8:00 AM. So I set my alarm at 7:00 AM. Where I live, traffic is not as bad as Manila so it only takes me about 30 minutes of commute. I dedicate my extra 30 minutes to eat, brush my teeth, shower, dress up and hail a multicab or jeepney. Obviously, if you have more “rituals” and obligations in the morning, you might want to wake up earlier. The point is, do not show up late. Manage your time well so you won’t waste other people’s time. #affected

3. Do not bring all your cash or insert extra cash in some other parts of your body

philippines commute hacksImage credit: Smoke & Mirrors Entertainment

I’m not trying to be too negative but the reality in the Philippines is that there are many pickpockets. Either that or you’re just too careless. I cannot count the number of times I have lost my mobile phones and cash while commuting. When you’re travelling around the country, it’s better not to bring all your cash with you. If you think it’s safe to leave your money at your house or hotel, do it.

If you don’t feel that it is safe to leave your cash in your hotel, I suggest that you divide your money and hide them in other compartments in your bag or other parts of your body. Do not put everything in one place because if you lose your wallet, for example, then you lose everything in it. Don’t ask me where I hide mine. You don’t want to know.

4. Wear comfortable clothes

When you commute, you can’t expect to have the train, jeepney or tricycle all to yourself. Unless you’re riding a taxi, do wear comfy clothes. Unless it’s necessary (for work or something), avoid heels and super tight clothes. When I commute, I like to wear thin shirts, slightly loose denims and flats. Sometimes, I wear dresses and skirts but only when I know I won’t be travelling during rush hours. Commuting will make you sweat and no matter how pretty you think you look at home, as soon as you speed off on a tricycle or jeepney, say goodbye to those lusciously glossed lips and perfectly groomed hair.

5. Learn the magic words

Image credit: David Guyler

Over the past few years, my family and I have hosted a Japanese exchange student and a German volunteer. When I taught them how to commute, I always tell them to remember the magic words: para, meaning pull-over or stop; bayad or plete in Visayan, meaning fare; and paki-abot or alayon in Waray which means “please pass my fare to the driver or conductor”. If you’re somewhere with a different dialect, it’s best to learn those three words. As much as possible, pretend that you are not a tourist and that you know what you’re doing. And for the duration of your commute, the driver is your best friend.

Also read: Important Filipino Phrases Every Visitor to the Philippines Must Know

6. Be aware of your surroundings


Always be aware of your surroundings. As much as possible, don’t listen to music through your earphones. If you really have to, minimise the volume or keep one ear free. Also, keep your guard up at all times and try to stay focused. You’ll never know what will happen so it’s best to be alert.

7. Be nice to others


When commuting, you will always be around other people. No matter how in a hurry you are to go to work, meet a deadline or  stressed at the end of the day, always try to be nice to others. You don’t know how their days went, you don’t know their personal struggles, plus it feels great to do good deeds every once in a while. Is there an elderly? Give up your seat for him/her on a train. Did someone step on your toes? Just smile and forgive the person no matter how annoyed you are. Are kids noisy in a jeepney? Remember how fun it was being a kid. Be nice, especially to your driver.

8. Wear a backpack


Filipinos are used to wearing backpacks in front of them and yes, I’m one of those people. I do it for obvious reasons. You can also wear sling bags as long as you keep the bag in front of you so you can make sure that no one else is trying to get their hands on your belongings. I don’t like wearing totes especially open ones. I use mainly these two types of bags because they’re comfortable and I can get a good grip on them.

9. Learn and observe traffic rules

Image credit: Horia Varlan

Just because many Filipinos don’t follow traffic rules, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t too. I have to admit, it’s sometimes hard to understand some of the traffic signs on the street but if you’re ever in doubt, just follow the Ped Xing or pedestrian crossing and the traffic lights.

10. Do not get lost, bring a map


Maps are essentials to travellers. Others are comfortable with the classic paper or book maps. I, on the other hand, just use a map app on my phone. Although it’s going to be hard to tell which jeepneys or routes to take, you’ll get a good idea of where you are and where you’re headed.

Also read: Getting Around the Philippines: Which Transport Should You Take?

On your next commute in the Philippines, make sure to keep these hacks in mind. You’ll thank me later. Ciao!

About Author

Johanna Ella May Erroba
Johanna Ella May Erroba

Johanna is a free spirit. She channels her energy through music, writing, surfing, and travelling. She expresses all of her musings on Camera and Cheese.