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Driving is not the best way to explore the Philippines due to unnerving traffic and road conditions, but hopping into a car or motorbike will allow you to discover hidden gems that have not yet been reached by other travelers. For most visitors, traveling without a car (or "commuting" in Philippine English) is better and essential.

UnderstandEdit

The history of automobile travel in the Philippines is closely linked to its history of being a colony of the United States for about 50 years after the Spaniards left and until the end of World War II. Automobiles came around that era, and the Filipino passion on cars began. Despite that, cars are much of a luxury to most Filipinos than a necessity, with only 3% of the population owning one. Many cities and towns date back to Spanish times, thus, they have narrow streets not built for cars. Public transport and walking is much useful, but in places like Metro Manila and nearby provinces, uncontrolled private developments such as sprawling subdivisions and boxy malls make car travel attractive, even into the point it eventually backfires in the form of traffic jams, though around the 2010s, things are changing with the government's thrust to improve and modernize public transport.

As a former United States colony, Philippines drives on the right, though in reality, traffic moved on the left during much of the American colonial area and only after World War II did the country switched to the right side of the road. Most cars have manual (stick-shift) transmission, and models with automatic transmission are much expensive.

Roads in the Philippines varies, from the expressways in Luzon, to unsealed gravel roads in the poorest provinces. The backbone of the system are the one and two-digit national roads, which connects most large cities. The two most important routes are Asian Highway 26 (AH26), which runs north-south from Laoag to Zamboanga clockwise via Cagayan Valley, Bicol, eastern Visayas and eastern Mindanao, and Route 1, often named the Maharlika Highway, which is essentially the same route as AH26, but it is split around southern Metro Manila. It is important not to conflate AH26 and Route 1: AH26 follows the expressways near Manila, and includes spur routes to Cebu City and Cagayan de Oro. Despite their importance, many rural stretches are two-lane undivided.

Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Traffic often grinds to a screeching halt, especially in major cities (Metro Manila in particular), and the honking of horns is a very common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless passing happen on a regular basis, especially on desolate rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which jostle sidewalk curbs to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: the "boundary" commission system that determine bus and jeepney drivers' salaries based on passenger load does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorcycles frequently weave through traffic and accumulate at the crosswalk, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, while frequently ignored in the past, are more strictly adhered to now.

Travel timesEdit

It is easy to underestimate travel times. Narrow roads, mountainous terrain, and dense population patterns also requires you to drive slower than expected. In large urban areas like Metro Manila, cross-town trips through major thoroughfares can last a hour due to congestion when it is possible to complete it within 15 to 30 minutes (e.g. on EDSA). Expressways are severely lacking outside the 100 km (62 mi) radius of Manila, so expect doing only 40–80 km/h (25–50 mph) depending on road conditions. Add times for breaks, lines at toll booths, and ferries (on interisland trips).

To-from Key roads/routes Distance Time Notes
Manila-Baguio Manila North Road (Route 2) and Kennon Road (Route 54) 250 km (160 mi) 4-5 hours Expressway segments up to Pangasinan.
Manila-Vigan Manila North Road (Route 2) 405 km (252 mi) 7-8 hours Expressway segments up to Pangasinan.
Manila-Laoag Manila North Road (Route 2) 485 km (301 mi) 9 hours Expressway segments up to Pangasinan.
Manila-Tuguegarao Maharlika Highway (Route 1/AH26) 457 km (284 mi) 10-12 hours Expressway segments up to Malolos.
Manila-Legazpi Maharlika Highway (Route 1/AH26) 490 km (300 mi) 10-12 hours Expressway segments up to Batangas.

RoadsEdit

Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane expressways of Luzon to the narrow dirt roads of remote mountain areas, which may complicate travel by car.

Most roads in urban areas were built either during the Spanish or American colonial eras, and as such are not suitable for the automobile. In the countryside, highways tend to pass through scattered settlements, often with frequent pedestrian traffic, while in mountainous areas, roads are winding and often prone to landslides. While most roads in the Philippines are narrow, better suited for a pedestrian and small vehicles, major roads often have two lanes and are normally paved with asphalt or concrete, and multi-lane roads are common near major cities.

The Philippines' road network is centered on Manila. Outside Luzon, larger islands' road networks converge on the largest city or cities (for example, Cebu City for Cebu Province, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have a road circling the entire island. The Philippines has one highway which is part of the Asian Highway Network: Asian Highway 26, also known locally as the Maharlika Highway. The highway begins in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, traversing through Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

Roads in the Philippines can be divided into three basic types:

  • Expressways - fully grade-separated highways, usually tolled. Motorcycles are only allowed if they have an engine displacement above 400 cc. Signs are black on yellow ( ), though expressways are only signed if they are part of AH26.
  • National roads - intercity highways that are not up to expressway standard. Can range from unsealed gravel roads in underdeveloped provinces to wide, divided roads in cities. Signs are black on white ( ). Typically marked and signed, although low-importance ones don't have route numbers and are thus unsigned. A few are tolled, such as Kennon Road, which leads to Baguio, and Halsema Highway, the main north-south highway in the Cordilleras.
  • Local roads - All other roads that are not maintained by the national government. These are often maintained by provinces, cities/municipalities, and barangays, although in some areas (such as roads in gated subdivisions and planned communities), these are maintained by private entities.

As route numbers were only introduced recently, these are seldom used for reference; instead, expressways are referred to by the abbreviation of their full name, and national roads are either generically called "National Road/Highway" or another common name, whether they are signed or not.

Road atlases and maps are available at bookstores throughout the country, and apps like Google Maps and Waze provide more-or-less accurate turn-by-turn navigation with real-time traffic updates. Both are very helpful when driving, especially when driving alone.

ExpresswaysEdit

 
The North Luzon Expressway (NLEx)

Luzon has a network of expressways, mostly four to eight-lane freeways; the two most important being North Luzon (NLEx) and South Luzon (SLEx) Expressways. Expressways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads which connect to major cities and provinces. Most of the expressways are controlled by two major companies, San Miguel and Metro Pacific, since 2016.

While most of the expressways are very safe, still watch out for speedsters, pedestrians and stray animals, and stone-throwers in dark, rural sections. Grass fires during the dry season or heavy rain during the monsoon season can also cause traffic to grind to a halt due to a lack of visibility.

Name Distance Provinces served Furthest toll rate Route numbers Operator Notes
North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) 76 km (47 mi) Metro Manila; Bulacan; Pampanga ₱45 (Balintawak-Marilao, flat rate); ₱191 (Bocaue-Santa Ines, Mabalacat) E1 (unsigned) Metro Pacific Balintawak-Malolos section part of AH26.
NLEx Mindanao Avenue, Karuhatan, and Valenzuela links 11 km (6.8 mi) northern Metro Manila ₱45 (flat rate) E5 (unsigned)
South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) 48 km (30 mi) Metro Manila; Laguna ₱214 (Nichols to Calamba toll plazas); ₱25 (Calamba to Ayala Greenfield toll plazas) E2 (signed on AH26 segment only) San Miguel No northbound toll collection on Calamba toll plaza.
STAR Tollway (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road) 42 km (26 mi) Batangas ₱67 E2 (unsigned) No tolls collected on Santo Tomas toll plaza southbound, or Balagtas toll plaza northbound.
Skyway 20 km (12 mi) (Paco, Manila-Alabang only) Metro Manila ₱164 (Nichols-Alabang), ₱260 (Nichols-SLEX Calamba toll plaza) E2 (signed on AH26 segment only)
NAIA Expressway (NAIAx) 5.4 km (3.4 mi) Metro Manila ₱45 (flat fee) E6 (unsigned)
Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX) 3 km (1.9 mi) Metro Manila; Cavite ₱17 E2 (unsigned) Ayala Westbound toll fee is added to the fee on your entry point on SLEX.
Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx) 12 km (7.5 mi) Metro Manila; Cavite ₱24 (Las Piñas toll plaza, flat rate); ₱64 (Kawit toll plaza, flat rate) E3 (unsigned) Metro Pacific
Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx, including Subic-Tipo Expressway) 100 km (62 mi) (including Subic-Tipo Expressway) Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac ₱296 (SCTEx mainline) E4 (Subic-Mabalacat); E1 (Mabalacat-Tarlac City), both unsigned
Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) 77 km (48 mi) Tarlac, Pangasinan ₱270 E1 (unsigned) San Miguel
Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAEx/CALAx) 10 km (6.2 mi) (Mamplasan, Biñan–Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Road, Silang section only) Cavite, Laguna Metro Pacific Partial and toll-free operations until around December 2019. Open M-Th 6AM-6PM, F-Su and public holidays 6AM-8PM.

The table above is current as of October 30 2019, but there are also many ongoing expressway projects, which will expand the list further.

Expressways do not exist outside of Luzon, but there are proposals or ongoing projects, such as the third bridge between Cebu and Mactan islands.

TollsEdit

All expressways have tolls, either distance-based or flat-rate, which are generally paid in cash or through electronic toll collection (ETC). Contactless or credit/debit cards (e.g. Mastercard PayPass, Beep, Smart PayMaya) are only accepted on the expressways operated by Metro Pacific. Tolls are fairly cheap, especially on trips within 100 km (62 mi) of Manila. If you lose the card or ticket issued upon entry, or use the ETC lanes without a valid tag or transponder, you must pay a penalty toll which is the fee from your point of entry plus the farthest toll fee.

Philippine expressways use any one of three ETC systems:

  • Autosweep (RFID tag) - SLEx, STAR, Skyway, NAIAx, TPLEx and MCX
  • Easytrip (transponder) - NLEx and SCTEx
  • E-Tap (reloadable card) and EasyDrive (transponder) - CAVITEx

It is possible to get an ETC system for your car if the rental company does not provide your vehicle with one, sometimes with a small deposit required. Obtaining any of these is generally straightforward, and since 2018, all three ETC systems are interconnected and usable on any expressway.

Philippine Nautical HighwaysEdit

The Philippine Nautical Highway system is composed of three routes composed of highways and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferry routes which connects the major islands of the Philippines together by road, bringing down the cost of driving (and, ultimately, lowering the cost of shipping goods between islands). The system begins in Luzon, runs in a north-south direction through the Visayas, and ends in Mindanao. The rotes is useful for driving to tourist destinations south of Manila: for example, it is possible to drive to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. Philippine Nautical Highways are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism [1].

RulesEdit

LicensingEdit

Visitors are allowed to drive in the Philippines using a foreign driver's license for up to 90 days, after which a foreign license must be converted to a Philippine license. If your license is not in English, it must be accompanied by an official English translation.

An International Driving Permit is recommended, particularly for holders of non-English language licenses, but not required.

Road signsEdit

Road signs are only very common in expressway and mainline national roads, and most locally-maintained roads have few signs, but if there any, sometimes outside the government standard. Sign theft is another issue as most signs are made of sheet metal that are usually sought by junk collectors to be sold for scrap metal.

Road signs follow international convention, but borrows some elements from American and Australian signages. Red and white triangles are used for many warning signs, as in Europe, but some use graphics based on the US MUTCD. Regulatory signs are either circular or rectangular (the latter largely an influence of the MUTCD). Guide signs are rectangular, with white text and borders on green, blue, or brown background. The Philippines have another category of road signs called "traffic instruction", which provides other road rules that are not covered by the regulatory type, such as the prohibition on right turns on red. Neon colored road signs are used to indicate pedestrian-related regulations and warnings, such as crossing locations and advance warning.

MarkingsEdit

Road markings in the Philippines follow international standards, and are usually white. Exceptions are on the no-overtaking lines, the box intersection and the no-parking curb paint, which uses yellow, and the no stopping curb paint, which uses red.

White lines are used to separate both traffic in the same direction and the opposing direction. Broken white lines means that overtaking is allowed. A solid white line indicates the edge of the roadway, the center line of a wide road or prohibition on swerving. Yellow lines are used in no-overtaking zones, no parking zones (as curb color), and intersection boxes. Double or single solid yellow lines means you cannot overtake on either direction. A solid yellow line along with a dashed white line means that overtaking is not allowed on one side while permitted on another. A yellow box intersection means that you cannot block the intersection space, even in traffic jams.

Speed limitsEdit

Unless indicated otherwise by signs, speed limits as mandated by national law are as follows:

  • 20 km/h (12 mph) - Residential areas and school zones
  • 30 km/h (19 mph) - Non-major roads in populated areas
  • 40 km/h (25 mph) - Major roads in populated areas (otherwise 60 km/h (37 mph), especially on dual carriageways).
  • 80 km/h (50 mph) - National highways outside populated areas and rural roads
  • 100 km/h (62 mph) - Expressways (except on sections within Metro Manila, where it is often 80 km/h (50 mph), and the NAIA Expressway, where it is 60 km/h (37 mph)).

Beware of the kaskasero, or speedster. Speed limits are not well-posted on most roads, and most localities have not passed ordinances setting speed limits on roads within their jurisdiction. Speeding is a particularly common problem on rural highways, especially at night, and more often than not, speed limits are treated merely as guidelines. On the other hand, expressways often have photo radar (or personnel with speed guns) to enforce the posted limit.

National law does not set any acceptable speed limit tolerance, but there is a de facto tolerance of 20% above the posted or implicit limit, so traveling at 120 km/h (75 mph) on the expressways is acceptable but doing 150 km/h (93 mph) is likely to result in a ticket. This tolerance, however, does not apply in places like the 18-lane-wide Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, where a 60 km/h (37 mph) is permanently enforced after numerous accidents due to speeding; minor increases in speed due to road conditions do not count, but trying to do 80 km (50 mi) means getting slapped with a mailed ticket, which includes your license plate number.

Traffic lightsEdit

 
Traffic light with timer, Quezon City

Traffic lights in the Philippines follow those mandated by international convention, but there is much influence from those used in North America. The main signals is generally placed overhead across the intersection, but there are also additional lights at the stop line. Most of the lights have fixed phasing and have timers, and induction loop systems are limited in use.

Traffic lights typically work like these:

  • Red light - Stop until it turns green. Right turn on red is legal (so are left turns to a one-way street), unless a sign says otherwise.
  • Red arrow - Stop for the direction of the arrow.
  • Flashing red - You must stop and give way; through road has right of way.
  • Yellow - Stop unless it is unsafe to do so.
  • Flashing yellow - Traffic lights are not functioning. In some places, the side streets or turning traffic will face a flashing red light or arrow.
  • Green light - Proceed unless there is traffic blocking the intersection or the lights will turn yellow (and red). Blocking the intersection is illegal.
  • Green arrow - Proceed at the direction of the arrow, given the conditions above.
  • Red and green man (or red hand and white man on some installations) - Pedestrian signals, some with timers. The red or green man (or the red hand symbol) will flash if the light for vehicular traffic will turn green.

Running through a yellow light is common practice by local drivers, and stopping on the crosswalk is also illegal, but remains prevalent, usually with motorcyclists, which zip through traffic lanes while others are stopped.

Right of wayEdit

The general rule on right of way in most intersections is all traffic on the right has priority. In major roads, through traffic has right of way over side roads, which must give way. In roundabouts (or rotunda), traffic inside the circle has right of way, though most have no signs, and traffic may enter anytime even when others are already inside. Four-way stops are not recommended (though some areas, such as Subic Freeport, has such intersections), and right of way must be clearly indicated by signs. Pedestrians have right of way in crossings, but only a few drivers respect this, and crossing can be risky even in marked crossings, because someone may zip through without slowing down.

SeatbeltsEdit

Seatbelts are mandatory only for those seated in front, and if traveling with children, kids under 6 are not allowed to sit in the front passenger seat. Starting in 2019, children below 8 years old are required to be seated in child booster seats.

Distracted driving and honkingEdit

Using a cell phone while driving is dangerous and illegal under the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, and carries a fine when caught. Distracted driving is illegal: texting, calling, or playing games while your vehicle is stopped on a traffic light or a traffic jam can result in a fine. Navigation apps, like Waze and Google Maps, which are being popular with drivers trying to avoid jams, are permitted, but must be hands-free, that you cannot use the device while driving, unless you pull over to set navigation to an alternate route. Exceptions only apply when using a cell phone in emergency, like reporting an accident.

Filipinos are very gratuitous with the car horn, and honking is very commonly used as a signal to other drivers. Honking is often used to get another driver's attention, to get a car out of the way, to thank an opposite driver or to speed up traffic. It is, however, illegal to honk in front of schools (during class hours), churches (during Mass or service times) and hospitals, although this is ignored by some drivers.

Alcohol and drugsEdit

Driving under the influence are covered by the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013, but accidents due to drunk driving remains common, especially on motorcyclists at night during weekends, where locals flock bars and nightclubs or go to drinking sessions with peers. The allowable blood alcohol is 0.05 for most drivers and 0.01 for motorcyclists. When you are suspected to be under the influence, traffic enforcers will pull you over to take three sobriety tests, and a breathalyzer test is required if you fail the three sobriety tests. Even when you are sober and below the limit, charges can still be filed for other violations, if not on drunk driving.

School zones and school busesEdit

 
Sign indicating an approach to a school zone
 
School buses at the afternoon in Quezon City

School zones have a 20 km/h (12 mph) speed limit when in force and vehicles must slow down when approaching those. In rural areas, school crossings usually have additional barricades added to further slow down speeding traffic when passing through them.

School buses also exist, but full-sized vehicles are rather rare because of the narrow roads. Vehicles used as a school bus can range from tricycles to vans, jeepneys, minibuses and rarely, full-size buses, painted yellow. Most yellow school buses are operated by private schools rather than by public schools, where tricycles without a distinctive color operating on school route service are commonly used instead. They are frequent in urban areas during school days, and operate in the morning to pick up students for morning and day classes, during noon to drop off students from morning shifts and pick up students for afternoon classes, and in the afternoon drop off students from afternoon and day shifts. They will flash hazard lights when loading and unloading, but it rather means you must slow down instead of coming to a full stop, regardless of the side of the road you are on.

City and town drivingEdit

City or town driving can be very challenging, not only for congestion and the narrow streets. Expect other bad driving habits just as common in other cities in Southeast Asia, and scarce parking spaces.

Due to heavy traffic congestion, Metro Manila, Baguio, and Cavite province (since December 2018, on its three major highways) have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but it is simply known as "number coding" or, previously "color coding" (although it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:

Number Coding
Day Plate number
Monday 1, 2
Tuesday 3, 4
Wednesday 5, 6
Thursday 7, 8
Friday 9, 0
Weekends and holidays No coding

Cities that enforce the UVVRP generally prohibit cars from being driven between 7AM and 7PM on a certain weekday on all national (primary) and secondary roads, although within city limits the implementation varies: in Metro Manila (excluding Makati and Pasay), some cities implement a "window" between 10AM and 3-4PM where the scheme is not enforced unless driving on national roads, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city center, and the scheme does not apply to the rest of the city. In general however, the UVVRP does not apply to minor streets (mostly in residential areas), and those roads remain open to coded cars the whole day. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.

Buses and jeepneys in large cities are notorious for following the "boundary" system, a commission paid depending on the number of passengers picked up, that don't help reducing traffic, so find some bus or jeepney drivers racing dangerously to pick up the most passengers (and receive a high boundary) and make stops in prohibited locations indicated by "no loading and unloading" signs.

HighwaysEdit

Major urban areas such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, or Davao City have a network of wide thoroughfares, but only Metro Manila has expressways, yet to form a large network. It remains stressful to drive from the downtown to the suburbs because of frequent intersections, congestion, and roadside obstructions.

In towns, the major highway directly passes through the poblacion (town center), and traffic is usually mixed with pedestrians, tricycles, and motorcycles, creating congestion. Bypass roads are built to divert traffic away from the center, avoiding the stress when passing directly through town.

ParkingEdit

Parking is mostly scarce, even in the major tourist attractions. It remains challenging to find a parking spot in many areas, especially in big cities because the roads are too narrow to permit them.

Paid parking can be spotted in the cities. Shopping malls will have at least one parking garage, with the largest malls having multiple garages and lots available. In areas with paid street parking, a parking attendant will approach your vehicle once parked and will issue a ticket which has to be placed on the dashboard. Parking fees are either by the hour or flat-rate, depending on the location and/or the parking operator, and can range from affordable to very expensive. At night, street parking spaces in some areas may be freely parked in, while in others, these are closed off with a cordon.

Parking restrictions are strictly enforced to curb down traffic congestion, particularly in Metro Manila, where illegal parking or stopping can result in the vehicle being clamped or towed, and the driver being ticketed. Be on the lookout for signs that announce parking restrictions, and beware of unlicensed towing companies that extort money from violators, and of corrupt traffic enforcers bribing unwary motorists. However, outside of big cities, parking enforcement is much more lax, and is virtually non-existent in rural areas.

RentalsEdit

Major international car rental companies such as Hertz and Budget have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. Avis and Europcar are among the largest international car rental companies, with offices in several cities throughout the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car. Regardless of the company, prices are bound to be reasonable.

Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: some types of cars however (like vans) may only be rented out with a chauffeur. Also, some rental companies (mostly local ones) may only allow rentals to be driven within the island where the city of rental is located: for example, it may be possible to drive with a rental from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte) because it would entail the use of roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to drive out of Luzon and into the outlying islands, the Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice-versa), be sure that the rental company's terms and conditions allow it.

CongestionEdit

Traffic jams are commonplace in the large cities, especially Metro Manila. Metro Manila has the worst reputation for traffic jams, despite having a network of five circumferential and ten radial roads, with various routes still unfinished. Most congestion is blamed on uncontrolled private urban developments, most notably malls, which generate most traffic through their large parking lots. Rush hour often runs between 7-9AM and 4-7PM, but snarls can continue throughout the day.

 
Daytime traffic jam on the infamous EDSA

EDSA (or Epifanio delos Santos Avenue in full) is notorious for its perennial traffic, and has become a metonym for Metro Manila's extreme congestion. Many Manila locals call it a large parking lot as traffic often grinds to a halt during rush hour, especially at places such as Ortigas and Cubao. Avoid taking it unless necessary. Even C-5 Road (Circumferential Road 5) which is intended as an alternative to EDSA, sees traffic throughout the day, as it is an important truck route, but less worse.

Expressways also have some congestion hotspots, especially on sections approaching Manila. North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) approaching Quezon City is often clogged every 6-10AM in weekdays. South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) northbound also gets snarled every morning till noon during weekdays, noon till 7PM in Saturdays, and 2-7PM in Sundays. Kilometers-long traffic jams can happen in expressways during major holiday periods, especially on toll plazas.

GasolineEdit

 
A gas station in Quezon City. Note the large variety of fuel types being sold.

Fuel is sold by the liter and not by the gallon, and prices are expensive by local standards but cheaper than in Europe and parts of the United States. Full-service gas stations are the norm, and expect a pump attendant to provide service and payment. Payment is generally cash-only, although in urban areas many also accept credit cards.

In most areas, gasoline is available with a choice of between three levels of octane: 91 (regular), 95 (mid-grade or plus) and 97 (premium), all sold under varying brand names. Some gas stations, mostly in big cities, also sell extra-premium gasoline with an octane level of 100. Diesel fuel is widely available, with both regular and premium levels both being sold, and particularly in rural areas, expect to also find kerosene (locally called gaás). Diesel is priced a few pesos per liter cheaper than regular gasoline, and kerosene is priced somewhere between the two. The Department of Energy publishes weekly summaries of average fuel prices on its website, which can be used to determine when to fill up your tank, but fuel prices tend to fluctuate frequently, often weekly, so gas up as early as possible. Generally, the further away you are from a major urban area, the more expensive it becomes to fill up, and on far-flung islands where fuel is brought in by ship, expect to pay significantly more (up to ₱10 more per liter) than on the main islands.

Gas stations are common in highly populated areas and major roads, but are sparse out in the countryside, with entire towns sometimes only having 1-2 gas stations between them. Most gas stations have convenience stores and car repair shops, and along expressways, gas stations at full-service rest areas will have multiple restaurants and shops on-site, but smaller ones have only pumps and toilets. Toilets tend to be poorly maintained except at expressway rest areas and at larger gas stations in major urban areas.

In rural areas, retail gasoline, dyed red, can be seen sold in used soft drink bottles. They are typically catered to motorcycles, tricycles and jeepneys, but those are untaxed and illegal, and can incur a fine, which is often unenforced.

Stay safeEdit

Because of a variety of traffic conditions and aggressive driving habits, driving in the Philippines can be dangerous and non-essential. Accidents are common and can be fatal.

Newcomers must expect to cope with the local driving habits, but you do not need to drive like a local. Foreigners must expect the depressingly aggressive driving habits of Filipinos. Driving can be as chaotic as Vietnam, Indonesia, or China, to say a few, and when driving, it is best advised to hire a driver instead of driving yourself.

Road accident fatalities continue to rise, with 10,012 people killed on the roads in 2015. Despite the first impressions you find when arriving on the country's metropolises, the Philippines is not a car dependent country, with a car ownership rate at 3% (30 cars per 1000 people), but don't be surprised why accidents happen over and over again. A first encounter in a Philippine road mean getting into the nasty experience of local drivers like recklessly driven trucks, manic speedsters, unfixed potholes, suicidal motorcyclists and wandering pedestrians (or even farm animals in countryside roads), all sharing that long, wide strip of tarmac or concrete.

Vehicle maintenanceEdit

A common refrain for road accidents is failing brakes. Always check the condition of the brakes (along with the lights, oil, water, air, gas, engine, and tires) before taking long drives by car. Ensure that you are not sleepy or drunk before driving, and always have a fellow driver to substitute you if you feel sleepy on a long drive.

Be aware that the Philippines does not have a national roadside assistance number. In Metro Manila, should you need roadside assistance or need your car towed, you can call 136. Elsewhere, if you're a member of an FIA-affiliated auto club, you can call the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) hotline at +63 (2) 723-0808.

CorruptionEdit

Traffic enforcers, especially in the cities, are usually noted for pulling over vehicles and demanding bribes. Foreigners are frequent targets of corrupt traffic cops, given that they have the money they demand.

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