Philippines is known because of its thousands of islands scattered across the archipelago, fascinating limestone formations and white sand beaches, home-made delicacies such as rice cakes and glutinous rice locally known as “suman” or “budbod” wrapped in banana leaves, charming and hospitable people around. On the other side, this country is faced with problems on heavy traffic in its major cities, congested roads and densely populated urban centers.

Driving in this country can be a bit tough for first time travelers, especially if you are not very familiar with. However, when you already frequented our roads, you will surely feel more at ease while driving. The challenges in driving are mainly attributed to some few poorly maintained national roads and interior roads, driving habits of some local motorists, and poor enforcement of traffic laws and ordinances in some towns and cities.

Having a car here will allow you to travel with ease and convenience. Anyone who’s been behind the wheels can move around more independently. Among the common vehicles that are found on the road include cars, pick-up type vehicles, trucks and elf, tourist’s vans. The common means of public transportation are buses, jeepney, multicab, taxi and even tricycle- a 3-wheeled vehicle propelled by pedals or a motor.

Driving in the Philippines safely and hassle free

Manila, Philippines | Best Places to Visit in the Philippines

If you are a tourist who’ve just landed in the Philippines and consider driving around during your stay, it will not be complicated on your part since most of the traffic signs and signals are in English and similar to those in Western countries.

In this country, it requires everyone to drive on the right side of the road. Unlike in other countries where both left and right-hand cars are allowed as long as the drivers follow which road they should traverse, here all vehicles must be left-hand drive, while right-hand drive vehicles are strictly prohibited.

The Anti-Distracted Driving Act also known as Republic Act No. 10913, is a law enacted in 2016 that prohibits distracted driving by restricting and penalizing the use of mobile phones and other electronics devices while driving. If you are using a map or Waze to guide you in going around, just do it hands-free.

A traffic collision or a motor vehicle collision is common in the country. It occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, road debris, animal, or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree, building or electric pole. In most cases, due to low speed of traffic, most accidents are considered minor.

Since traffic collision is common, foreign drivers should be always prepared. If you rented a car, you should have a copy of your rented car’s registration, official receipt and car insurance policy at all times.

Parking in the Philippines

You should be careful where you park your vehicle since there are many restrictions in place for parking in the Philippines. There has been a crackdown on illegally parked vehicles in recent years, in many cities in the country. Avoid parking your vehicle near schools or hospitals, near a government building, on the approach to the bridge. You must also avoid parking on the pavement. Position your vehicle properly at the roadside, in order not to obstruct other passing vehicles.

Be aware of the no parking signs and signage installed by local authorities. They are imposing fines for illegally park vehicles. Don’t even try parking where a tow-away sign is present or else your car will be impounded.

There are also paid parking available in towns and cities, especially in open lots but sometimes in parking garages. The costs are reasonable and you have greater security.

Enforcement of parking is done by the police or the traffic enforcers of the city or municipal government concerned. Both are deputized to enforced traffic laws, local ordinances and armed with violation tickets with corresponding fines. The scale of enforcement differs across the country, most of which, stiffer fines are imposed for infringement.

Speed limits and air-conditioning

Speed limits are enforced by towns and cities within their respective urban areas and commercial districts, usually less than 40 kilometers per hour. Local traffic enforcers are deployed to manage the flow of traffic.

Vehicle’s air-conditioning is necessary in this country for safety and practical reasons, taking into consideration the humid weather, pollution and dust. Cars should be undercoated, and equipped with heavy-duty shock absorber and springs. If you are planning to travel outside Metro Manila, in the different provinces, you’ll need a vehicle with high clearance. This is necessary if you plan to travel in areas reached by floods and with poor road conditions.

Driving a motorcycle

If you’re considering driving a motorcycle instead of a four-wheeled vehicle, know that they are subject to the same laws and regulations. Back riders or passengers are limited to only one per motorbike. It means that there should only be a total of two people on a motorcycle.

Both driver and passenger are required to wear helmets approved and accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Approved helmets have Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) stickers. Always wear shoes when riding since they are the only allowed footwear for riders. While, lane splitting or lane filtering is allowed in some countries, it is prohibited in the Philippines, thus, you should avoid going between two vehicles and wait until you can overtake safely and properly.

Driving with a foreign license in the Philippines

If you are a tourist with valid driver’s license from your country, it will not be difficult for you to secure a Driver’s License here. The Philippines has an international agreement with most Western countries, including the United States, which allow their residents to drive legally in this country for up to 90 days after their arrival so long as the license is still valid.

Foreign driver must have a driver’s license written in English or an International Driving Permit (IDP), so that he can drive in the Philippines. If foreign driver has no IDP or his driver license is not written in English, he can get official translation at the consulate/ embassy.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) handles all driving license processing and issuance. It is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Transportation (DOTr)  responsible for all land transportation in the country. Its primary functions include the registration of motor vehicles, issuance of license and permits, enforcement of laws, adjudication of traffic cases, among others.

Getting a driver license in the Philippines

You may only be allowed to convert your foreign driver’s license to Philippine driver’s license once you have stayed here for more than 90 days. You can apply through the main branch of the LTO along East Avenue in Quezon City. The classification you must apply for is Non-Professional Driver’s License if you are not driving for a living.

There are several necessary documents that you need prepare. Foremost, is the an original and a photocopy of your valid driver’s license. The original and a photocopy of visa and stamp or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) is likewise necessary, along with your valid passport. Also needed is your medical certificate and negative drug test result issued by the Department of Health (DOH) accredited hospital and LTO-accredited drug testing centers. If you are employed, your Taxpayers Identification Number (TIN) will be needed for the processing.

Another important thing to remember, is that the license is not eligible for conversion if the issuing country does not have an embassy here in the Philippines.

If your foreign driver’s license is already expired or if you are applying as a new driver, you will be required to undergo both written and practical examinations at the LTO. The cost of such exams is pretty low (around P1,500) and securing a driver license in the Philippines can be quite inexpensive compared to obtaining such license in other countries.

Are you ready to explore the Philippines?

Once you have your driver license ready, you only need to find the right vehicle to go on exploring our beautiful country. On Tikigo, you can organize your whole trip in the Philippines from the comfort of your home, whether you’re looking to book your tours and activities, rent a car or find transportation options. Create your account on Tikigo and start planning your vacations today!