A Vroomster Shares Her Commuter’s Traffic Survival Guide for Manila

One of the top tourist spots in Asia is Manila, Philippines because of its beautiful scenery, cheap cost of living, great food, excellent shopping and warm hospitality, but there’s one thing you have to deal with once you get there – and that is traffic! Manila may not be included in Forbes’ list of the world’s most traffic-congested cities, but it is included in Huffingtonpost’s top 10 absolute worst places to drive in the world.

photo by Luke Chapman
Pasig River overlooking Binondo (Photo by Luke Chapman)

There are many factors as to why the traffic in Manila is bad and one of the leading causes is vehicular accidents. Just a few days ago, a 14-wheeler dump truck lost its brakes and crashed into several vehicles. That happened on a Monday morning, which is also one of the worst days to travel to work or school. Despite the number-coding scheme, major and even minor roads were packed with vehicles inching their way to their destination. The traffic congestion lasted until night time.

Monday traffic along EDSA
Monday traffic along EDSA (Photo from PhilStar)

Are you wondering how I survived that day? The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) saved me from the turmoil of getting stuck in traffic. However, you need to get used to being crushed and pushed by other people who still want to get inside the train. You’re lucky if you’re tall because you can easily breathe a few centimeters above other people.

MRT North EDSA station
Typical morning scene in the female section of the MRT train

The MRTLRT, and LRT 2 can take you to your destination faster, but it isn’t always reliable since there are times that it gets technical problems, thus causing delays in trains. Once that happens, the queue can reach from the second floor of the train station to the major highway. You may even spend an hour just to get inside the station and another 30 minutes to get inside the packed train.

MRT line
MRT line reaches Mother Ignacia (Photo by Charlie Villa/ABS-CBN)
LRT queue, photo by MSN News
LRT queue (Photo by MSN News)

Here are some tips: It is best to go to the first or the last station whichever is closer to your place because that’s where they empty the train. You can also go to the MRT or LRT station with the least number of people for a better chance to get in the train. In my case, I prefer the GMA station because less people ride in that station. Sometimes the train skips one station so when it reaches GMA, there’s still more space for passengers.

Ayala Bus
Bus going to LRT/Ayala (Photo by Bus P-LazyBoy/Flickr)

There are some people who prefer taking a bus because the MRT only reaches Taft Avenue (South) and North EDSA (North) while the LRT only reaches Baclaran (South) and North Avenue (North). For LRT 2, the last stations are Santolan and Recto. Usually buses are already packed with people once it reaches the last stations. There are also routes such as LRT/Ayala or Novaliches which can only be reached by bus. Another option is by riding the MRT or LRT/2 then ride a jeep. However, jeepneys can get really packed with people during rush hour and you can even see people hanging outside the colorful vehicles. Two to four people hanging on the jeep is quite normal compared to the overloaded jeepneys in the province.

Overloaded jeep near Q.C. Circle (Photo by jericho11699)
overloaded jeep in La Union, photo by Erwin G. Beleo
Overloaded jeep in La Union (Photo by Erwin G. Beleo)

Here are some tips:
If you’re planning to take the bus going to the South, it is best to go to bus stops where most people go down such as the MRT North EDSA station or Cubao. Be prepared to stand along the aisle or even near the windshield or door when all seats are occupied. Now you will know how it feels like being a sardine stored in a can.

overloaded bus
passengers in Caloocan trying to get in the bus after tropical depression (Photo by Maria Victoria T. Deveza)

There are times that the MRT/ LRT/ LRT2, buses, and jeeps are impossible to take especially during the rainy season. Another option are the shared SUVs and vans or more popularly known as FX. They are bit more expensive, but they can take you to certain destinations faster since they pass by areas where buses and jeeps are not allowed. You won’t even have to worry about the fare unlike riding a taxi because the rates are fixed whether it’s traffic or not. However, the queue can get really long during rush hour because most of the SUVs and vans get stuck in the traffic thus having a hard time returning to the terminal. On the other hand, you also have to wait for the FX to get filled up with passengers during slow days so it is not advisable to take the FX when you’re in a rush.  Most of the FX terminals can be found at the parking lot of the shopping malls or near the MRT/LRT stations.

FX Terminal at Trinoma

If you’re a newbie in the Philippines, feel free to ask the locals  for the best route and ride to take since most of them are friendly and helpful. You may even gain a new friend while in the midst of the traffic or luckily bump into a superstar like Vin Diesel 🙂

Vin Diesel survived manila
Vin Diesel riding the jeep in BGC (Facebook)

Leave a Reply