Manila - Post Report Question and Answers

Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis and Grabs (Ubers) are safe, and it's about $6 USD for a 30 min Grab/Taxi ride. Embassy personnel can't take any other form of public transportation. - Mar 2023

No public transit is permitted for embassy personnel, besides taxis and Grab (local version of Uber). - Mar 2023

There is a taxi service on base that is expensive by Filipino standards (usually around 5$). Trikes and jeepneys are not allowed on the former Navy base. Off the base, local buses and trikes are dirt cheap. Many expats don't own a car at all and prefer to do everything via trikes. - May 2022

No public transportation is allowed for the embassy community. However, we can use taxis and grab (like Uber). Grab works very well unless it is peak hours, or raining. - Apr 2021

Local buses are not safe, and I would not recommend taking jeepneys, pedicabs, or other forms of local mass transit. The city's metro is pretty unreliable, and during my time here, several local friends told me of being pick-pocketed or having a bag grabbed on public transportation. Safety is not up to snuff, especially on motos and pedicabs. However, Grab (similar to Uber or Lyft) is a great option, reasonably safe (despite some articles you may see in the press), and inexpensive. You may not have a seat belt, and forget about your car seat. However, it gets you from point A to point B for six bucks and you don't have to drive yourself, which is stressful on the best day. - Oct 2020

Diplomats cannot use Jeepneys or trains. Getting around can be super frustrating. Public transportation is lacking . - Feb 2020

Taxis and Grab are safe and affordable. Uber pulled out of the Philippines earlier this year. I paid for an hour-long ride to another suburb and it was maybe 6 USD. There are abundant jeepneys, some buses and some trains. Public transportation is crowded but affordable, but expats are discouraged from using them. Renting a car for your own use is expensive but doable. - May 2018

All are affordable, but safety can be a question mark. Taking a taxi from a stand at the airport or a large mall/hotel is general safe (assuming good situational awareness); whereas flagging down a taxi can lead to scams or worse; in all cases, be sure to insist that the driver use the meter.

Uber and Lyft are widely available in Manila, and usually reliable, all they are barred from picking up customers at the airport.

Local bus service, to the extent it exists, is provided by the legendary jeepneys – which are known for their chaotic driving, and are periodically targeted by pickpockets and armed robbers. The light-rail system, which is limited to Makati and the university districts, can be dangerously overcrowded, and is also a frequent target for pickpockets. Embassy personnel are prohibited from taking the light-rail and jeepneys in Manila. - Feb 2017

Embassy employees are not allowed to take mass transit within Manila and are discouraged from taking it outside Manila. In reality bus or "jeepney" is the only way of getting around in the more remote areas. Our experience is that they were fine. Taxis are inexpensive and plentiful in Manila, as are motorcycle tricycles for short distances.

Do be careful with ferries. Unless you limit yourself to the most popular tourist destinations you're going to have to take them at some point. There are a number of well-regarded carriers and some dodgy ones. Wherever there is a ferry service there is generally also a fisherman with a small "banka" or pumpboat offering to take you for half the rate or twice the speed. We'd advise against it. Ferry disasters are not infrequent. Consult with RSO before you take a trip involving a ferry, but take what they say with a grain of salt. - Jul 2016

I don't think we are supposed to take trains or buses. Taxis are ok, but make sure they turn the meter on. I usually stick to uber, it's cheap and there is a GPS so there is less confusion with getting to the destination. - Jan 2016

Trains and buses are often very time-consuming ways of getting around. But they are affordable at approximately USD$0.50 per ride. Most foreigners choose to take Uber or Grab Taxi. - Jan 2016

Taxis are very cheap, but drivers do not always speak English, which might be a problem if there is a need to give specific directions. Also, a taxi drivers is supposed to turn the meter on when he starts going, but several times I had to remind them to do so. Otherwise, they just charge whatever, whatever they think you can pay. Manila has Uber. Uber cars are very easy to deal with, it works great and rather cheap. - Jan 2016

Affordable yes. Usually US$1 or less. Safe no and yes. Since, traffic is usually slow 20mph its safe. - Sep 2015

Nope. - Aug 2015

I didn't find the taxis felt safe, though people have started to use Uber. Taxis are very cheap, which may be why they feel a bit unsafe and worn. Also, taxi drivers are less likely to speak English, so I've had to get out and try again on the side of the road which wasn't a great experience. I haven't tried local trains or buses, partly because they look so grungy, but also I stand out particularly in Asia due to hair and skin tone, so I think I'd be more of a pickpocket/bag snatching target. - Aug 2015

Taxis are safe and cheap. I've heard buses and trains are very crowded with long lines but they are cheap also. - Sep 2014

The local taxi driver often ask for fares that are much higher than it would be if you used the meters. In other words, get out of any and all taxis that try to take your hard earned money in an unscrupulous manner. The light rail can be crowded at times, but it is safe, cheap, and clean. Traveling by bus is also very affordable. - Jan 2014

Local trains, buses, or Jeepneys are not recommended due to safety concerns. Taxis are relatively safe, but make sure they turn on the meter. - Dec 2013

All affordable. Taxis are generally safe (with standard precautions). RSO advises against trains and buses and "Jeepnys" though I've never heard of anyone having an incident on any. - Nov 2013

Taxis are considered safe & affordable. Jeepneys, buses & the train are not safe. - Aug 2013

Taxis are safe and cheap. They are metered, but sometimes you need to request them to turn them on. - Apr 2013

No. - Feb 2013

Taxis are fine, although I wouldn't say they are safe. They have no seatbelts, and back seats are sometimes are not quite bolted down. I wouldn't recommend buses or the MRT. We have a driver because Manila's traffic is maniacal. It is a difficult city to navigate, so a driver would be recommended and is very affordable. - Sep 2012

All public transport is inadvisable, but taxis seem safe enough. You will, however, spot cockroaches in them! - May 2012

Embassy staff are not allowed to take train, buses or jeepneys. Taxis are VERY affordable (think $2-$3 for a ride most times).Taxis are also safe. The only precaution is that they're not familiar with other neighborhoods but they'll rarely admit that. If you have directions it will help. Also, they're known for stopping to get gas or going to the bathroom, WHILE YOU'RE IN THE CAR WITH THE METER RUNNING. If I knew the area better before our car arrived, I would have gotten out and taken a different cab in the many times this has happened. - Mar 2012

Yes. Taxis are okay'd by the Embassy, but everything else is off limits. Due to safety concerns, only a taxi is allowed. - Jan 2012

Taxis are safe though drivers don't like turning on their meter and sometimes don't want to take you to your destination if it's out of their way. Buses are not safe. They are frequently in deadly accidents. A surprisingly efficient rail system is available in Manila. It's only two lines but in a pinch, you can take it. But watch your purses and pockets. Jeepneys, specific to Manila, are not recommended since they also get into deadly accidents and are improperly maintained. Additionally, your probability of being robbed is significantly increased. - Jul 2011

Taxis are very cheap & affordable, but the drivers will often try to get more money out of you ("Oh ma'am, too far, lots of traffic, you pay 300 Pesos!").Insist they use the meter. If they don't get out and get another cab (unless it's Friday night in Makati, then you might be a victim to the market!!) - May 2011

RSO advises us against public transportation. Taxis are fine, as long as the driver is willing to go where you want and turns on the meter. - May 2011

Innercity buses are perhaps the least safe form of travel, as they drive like maniacs. The Manila metro train system is a haven for petty criminals, and jeepneys and buses are sometimes targets for robberies. Taxis are generally safe, but the drivers will often try to cheat you. Make sure the meter is running, and don't be afraid to get out if you don't feel comfortable. You can get anywhere in the city for less than $4. - Feb 2010

We have been told not to ride buses, trains, or jeepneys. I have taken taxi from the condo (the guard writes down the plate #) and also from the malls. Don't enjoy the taxi though, prefer my own vehicle. - Jan 2010

The embassy advises against using trains and buses, given that they can be targets for crime and bombings. On the other hand, taxis tend to be quite safe and inexpensive. The only issue with taking a taxi is that you have to be vigilant about making sure the meter is turned on when you enter the vehicle. - Jul 2009

Taxis are safe and affordable but be smart and text someone taxi info when you get in. Lock your doors. - Apr 2009

Taxis are affordable and generally safe. The MRT (light rail) system is safe and reasonably clean, but doesn't go many places. Many employees of the Asian Development Bank who live in the Makati villages of Forbes and Dasmarinas take the MRT because there are convenient stops near these locations. Buses and jeepneys are not recommended for travel by expats. - Jun 2008


Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More