About Philippines (PH)
The Philippines (PH) occupies a special place in the heart of Asian tourism, with its abundance of natural attractions and a generally friendly, Western atmosphere. But it’s impossible to understand many of the apparent anomalies found in the country without understanding its colonial Spanish history, Japanese occupation, and former commonwealth status of the U.S. There’s a pervasive vibe in the air that something happened here — and that something was the abject destruction of the city of Manila during World War II. In fact, there are still places in Metro Manila that haven’t been rebuilt since the last bomb was dropped. And so, the most popular destinations in the Philippines are found in the outlying island groups of Visayas and Mindanao. Island-hopping across the 7,000-plus archipelago is one of the primary attractions for international visitors.
Getting around is far more efficient, safe, and reliable when you rent a car in the Philippines. However, there are three primary regional driving differences, each with their own set of conditions. Metro Manila is the seat of Luzon Province in the north, and generally speaking, the main gateway into the Philippines, and probably the least appealing to visitors. Despite having the country’s most developed infrastructure, driving in Luzon is a mild nightmare. The island of Cebu in the Visayas is considered far better to base a long-stay visit in the country. Most of the roads are in good condition, and congestion isn’t that bad. And finally, Davao City in southern Mindanao is an emerging city for commerce and leisure, and by far the easiest to navigate. Then of course, you have another 7,000 island destinations to choose from. And although Filipino driving habits have been historically awful, the trend has been curbed by more thorough enforcement.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in the Philippines are readily available from Avis, Europcar, National, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, and Hertz. Choose from compact sedans, economy hatchbacks, fullsize, premium and luxury sedans, SUVs and estate wagons. If you’re planning to rent a 7-12 seater for a family or group, you may need to consider hiring a driver (chauffer) to operate the vehicle in the Philippines. Check with your chosen provider about their restrictions on passenger vans in the booking conditions.
Tips and advice
All of the major Philippines car rental companies have locations spread across the country, but outside of the airports, don’t expect them to be running the most on-the-ball operations. Many companies in the country are still operating paper-based rentals with minimal computer tech involved, but if you book here on this site, you will find that things are a lot smoother.
“Filipino time” is an elastic concept of tardiness where “the bus leaves at nine o’clock” means the bus could leave anytime between nine o’clock and sometime this afternoon. Filipino time is primarily a product of the country’s atrocious public transportation system and heinous traffic congestion. People are late because they couldn’t get there on time, not because they didn’t want to.
Driving at night in remote provincial areas is insane. Otherwise, you’re pretty safe in the Philippines as long as you stay out of the slums. But even then, crime rarely involves foreigners unless they somehow get themselves involved. You have to try pretty hard to get in trouble in the Philippines.
You’re generally not allowed to take a Philippine car hire off of the island from which you rented the vehicle, mainly because of the ferryboats involved.
The island groups actually have really good highway networks built to mainly American schematics — they’re just really congested.
Metro Manila has a traffic code that restricts weekday operation of certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the last number of your car hire’s license plate. Check with your provider to see if your car is affected by “number coding”.