Driving in the Philippines.
I wrote this post way back in 2007, just after I had been living in the Philippines for a full year. I’ve been “cleaning out” old articles and I was going to send this one to the trash bin, but reading it through, remarkable little has changed. And driving here is always a big subject of discussion. So I’ll update it.
I just finished putting the papers together to renew my auto insurance, I’ll go to the bank first thing tomorrow and get everything “pushed through”, my renewal date is at the end of the week and that made me think about the fact I’ve been driving here for a full year now. I’ve enjoyed it, even though driving can be frustrating for a foreigner.
2016 Update: I no longer have to go to the bank or fill up any paperwork. I get my insurance bill every year, go to my BDO Online banking and pay the bill with a couple clicks. Full coverage insurance is now well under $200 per year for me, mainly becuase the car is now worth about a quarter of what it was back in 2007.
Many foreigners come here and hire a driver (you can expect to find someone decent for 2,000 Pesos per month plus room and board in the Metro Manila area, less in more remote provinces) but I have never seriously considered hiring a driver … I much prefer to drive myself.
2016 Update: Actually I’d really like to have adriver now, but providing the room and board and havingthe guy lolling around the house all day is the main problem. I hire a local trike driver on a day basis when I need someone now. About P500 a day and of course we give him something for merienda and lunch (P50 pesos or so).
It’s not because I consider myself all that great of a driver .. I’m ok, in one full year there are two tiny scratches on our little Adventure, on on the passenger side mirror where I intentionally tried to push my way past a low-hanging tree branch and didn’t realize there was the cut-off stub of a much larger branch concealed in the leaves ). Bang!, Oh s**t ;-)), and one on the corner of the rear bumper that mysteriously appeared after a trip to the mall … perhaps from an errant shopping cart or bicycle … who can say … all in all a pretty safe and uneventful year.
2016 Update: In 9 more years of driving there are a few other digs and scratches, but nothing really worth mentioning. Except for a little tangle I had with a long piece of angle iron bar sticking out the back of a tricycle. Another Bang! Poked a nasty little hole right through my windshield. Looked up a glass company online, gave them a call, they were at my house the next day, changed out the windshield in about 20 .minutes flat, charged me P3600 for the windshield and P700 labor, abut $92 USD. Nothing else worth mentioning.
But I’m 62 now, still enjoying good health but realist enough to know that my driving days are numbered and the day wil come when I do need a driver … and I’m making the most of the time I have. By the way the full-coverage insurance bill is going to be about $390 USD, approximately a quarter of what i was paying for a similar value vehicle in Colorado.
What does it take to drive here, besides patience and a little sense of adventure?
License: Your foreign license is good for 90 days. Within that 90 days you should visit a convenient LTO (Land Transportation office … the Philippine equivalent to a DMV…, take an eye test a blood pressure test and pay a few hundred pesos for a Philippine license based on your foreign qualifications. They call this procedure a “License Conversion” but nothing happens to your existing license, you get to keep it, and you get a whole new Philippines license. No other tests ot hassles, good for three years at a time.
Whatever you do, don’t bother with a so-called International Driving License … technically an International Driving Permit. It is not needed in the Philippines and it is not a license to drive anyway .. it is only based on the privileges you hold in your home country … it’s really just a legal translation of your home country license, and in the Philippines they know what a US, UK, Australian, etc. license is … even if they do sometimes confuse California with Montana.
2016 Update: By the way my only stateside license is now long expired, couldn’t renew by mail and I sure wasn’t flying back to the USA to renew it. Is a Philippine license any good in the USA? Yes, according to the law, for your first 90 days back in the USA. Mine worked just fine for renting a car in Colorado in 2015 … the lady at the Budget counter didn’t even look twice or ask any questions.
A car You can rent cars in the larger cities. As in the US you just need a driver’s license and a credit card or cash deposit. I’ve only rented a few times, in general costs seemed high to me and availability is poor. There is an extensive used car market here and I am sure you can find good deals, but I chose to go the new car route and have all my work done at the new car dealer … called “casa maintained” here and again, highly recommended.
A horn Your car should certainly come equipped. The intelligent and proper use of the horn is a subject unto itself here, I think I’ll do a future post dedicated to my thoughts on this subject. There are a number of useful techniques and a few no-no’s I have learned.
The Ability To Make Singit Singit is a Pilipino word that refers to the inguinal crease (Google is your friend). If you know what a singit is, you’ll understand the use of the term in traffic.
Patience The number one reason I would suggest to someone that they not drive here is if they have a temper problem or are afflicted with a lack of patience. In the Philippines, in driving as in many other things, you make haste slowly.
2016 Update: One reason I hire a driver more and more now that I have passed my 70th birthday is, I have a problem with hypertension … high blood pressure. I can drive literally anywhere, even in the densest of Manila traffic, but especially when sitting and inching along for literally hours at a time, I know my BP starts shooting up. Way better to pay my guy “Fred” P500 ($10.70 USD) and let him do the inching.
Enough for now … I have to jump in the car and go pick up my dear wife … hope someday you enjoy driving here in the Philippines as much as I do.