The Philippines


The right is the correct side of the road on which to drive in the Philippines. As is usually the case assessment of driving habits and road conditions is very personal and based on experience. There is always a difference between driving in cities and on country roads and between suburban streets and main trunk routes. A driver experienced in major cities in Europe or North America will probably not find driving in major cities in the Philippines a relaxed adventure and there are some local peculiarities. Often drivers in North America see an amber traffic light as a challenge to be taken on and beaten. This is true also in the Philippines and some classes of road users in main centres take liberties with lanes, traffic lights and even police controlled junctions. Such drivers are those in command of jeepneys, trikes and taxis. There is also a culture of “might is right” so large vehicles can generally command right of way.

The commercial road users, trikes, jeepneys and taxis among others are all hazards in their own rights but scooters, motor cycles and pedestrians are also hard to deal with.

If anyone thought that the maximum number passengers on a motor cycle is two then simple observation in most main centres will deny that assumption. Whole families of up to eight people can ride on one machine. It is very simple to extend the seat backwards and to allow at least two children to ride on the petrol tank. Add one slung on the back of each adult and carrying eight is easily accomplished. There are also variations on outrigger arrangements which increase the width of the two wheeled vehicles to more than that of a car.

Pedestrians are a greater hazard here than in most countries. Successfully crossing a road is a matter of will-power, never taking a backward step and progressing one lane at a time. If it takes time to get used to pedestrians as a driver then performing successfully as a pedestrian takes courage, determination and, at first, the odd change of underwear.

The links at the "Resources" tab on this site and the book "How to Retire in the Philippines" by Les Johns will add to the above comments. The book can be bought directly from this site.

Driving Licenses

Tourists can drive in the Philippines on their home country’s driving license for up to 90 days. If it is intended to stay for more than 90 days then it will be necessary to obtain a local license. A foreign license may be converted to a Philippine license. This is somewhat easier than going through the stages of applying for a local license as a Filipino non-license holder must do. The schedule of fees is given at the Department of Transportation and Communications web site but there may be some “less formal” payments necessary to clear local difficulties.

Life In the Philippines, as in so many Third World and aspiring First World countries, can be a Kafka-like and casual experience with little certainty and changing attitudes from authorities even in situations that have been experienced previously. Precedents may hold no authority nor be any guide to current or future problems and their solutions. A mitigating factor for the Philippines is the generally happy and optimistic demeanor of the people which seems to be a national attribute. (It must be emphasized that it is the case that dealing with the Philippine Retirement Authority is just the opposite of tardiness and uncertainty.)

The web links provided at the "Resources" tab of this site and the book "How to Retire in the Philippines" by Les Johns will give more detail on these matters. The book can be obtained from this site.