The Philippines has its challenges regarding getting around, but with a little planning it is possible to get to most places by bus and sea. Timetables are something that change without notice and often buses will not go until the driver has enough paying customers, so do not totally trust timetables use them as a wishlist only.
Getting out of Manila by bus is harder than you might expect, as there is no central bus terminal and no central source of information. Bus information seems to seep into the collective conscious by a weird osmosis. Ask around and you’ll find the right answer. Two good resources (besides your hotel) are taxi drivers and www.clickthecity.com. The former often have an amazing knowledge of the myriad of bus lines. Tell the driver the city you want to go to and you’ll be taken to the right bus station. The latter serves as a good online guide. You can search for ‘bus lines’ and add in the name of the city that’s your destination. Often the correct company will come up. Alternatively, search for ‘bus lines’ and ‘Manila’ and you’ll get a list of over 100 bus companies with services to and from Manila.
The myriad of private operators have their own terminals scattered around the city. Most are close to EDSA (Manila’s ring road), which connects the highways going north and south of the capital. All the terminals are accessible by public transport; the suggested routes (jeepney or LRT/MRT) to the terminals are from Ermita and Malate. From Makati, the companies are often just an MRT ride away. It should be noted that Filipino bus drivers are among the most maniacal on the face of the earth, although the number of accidents is surprisingly low. If you’re not used to travelling at breakneck speed, you may well be in for a white-knuckle ride.
What follows is a list of some of the more important bus companies. Note the headings below refer to the suburb from which your journey originates.
A daily bus leaves the Sundowner Centerpoint Hotel (400 7352; 1315 A Mabini St) to connect with a boat to Puerto Galera (P350 for bus and ferry).
Close to the tourist belt, there are bus terminals offering services to destinations such as Batangas City pier (for ferries to Puerto Galera), Cavite, Ternate, Angeles and the Bataan peninsula. To get to the terminals, catch a jeepney from Taft Ave or A Mabini St.
No 1 Alps Transit (A Villegas St, Intramuros) Alps Transit has buses to Batangas City pier every 20 minutes. To get to the terminal, take the LRT1 to the Central stop.
No 2 Saulog Transit (442 5391; Anda St, Intramuros) These companies, near Baluarte de San Gabriel, have buses to Cavite and Ternate every seven minutes. To get to the terminal, take a Divisoria jeepney and get off just before Jones Bridge.
No 3 Philippine Rabbit (734 9836; cnr Oroquieta St & Rizal Ave, Santa Cruz) Philippine Rabbit has buses every 20 minutes to Angeles in Pampanga province, and Balanga and Mariveles in Bataan province. All buses go via San Fernando (Pampanga). To get to the terminal, take a Monumento jeepney or the LRT1 to Doroteo José station.
In Sampaloc there are a number of bus companies serving northern destinations. To get to the terminals, catch a jeepney from Taft Ave or A Mabini St.
No 4 Fariñas Transit Company (731 4507; cnr Laong Laan St & M de la Fuente St) Fariñas has hourly buses that leave for Vigan (Ilocos Sur), Bagabag (for Banaue) and Laoag (Ilocos Norte). On the way, the drivers make stops in San Fernando (Pampanga), Tarlac (Tarlac), Dagupan (Pangasinan) and San Fernando (La Union). To get to the terminal, take a Governor-Forbes-via-España jeepney.
Caloocan is an important departure point for north-bound buses. Destinations include Olongapo in Zambales province, San José del Monte and Baliwag in Bulucan province, and Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija province, as well as Vigan, Laoag and Baguio.
No 5 Baliwag Transit (912 3343; 199 Rizal Ave Extension) Baliwag Transit has buses every 40 minutes to Cabanatuan (a jumping-off point for the surfing beaches of Baler), as well as regular services to Baliwag and San José del Monte. Take a Monumento jeepney to the corner of 2nd Ave; the terminal is about midway between R Papa and 5th Ave stations of the LRT1.
No 6 Philippine Rabbit (364 3477; 1240 EDSA, Balintawak) Philippine Rabbit has hourly buses to Baguio and Bangued, and buses every few hours to Laoag and Vigan. Take the LRT1 to Monumento, then a south-bound bus for Cubao.
No 7 Victory Liner (361 1506; www.victoryliner.com; 713 Rizal Ave Extension) Victory Liner has four daily buses to Baguio. There are half-hourly buses to Olongapo, Iba and Santa Cruz in Zambales. Take a jeepney or the LRT1 to Monumento; the terminal is just before the Monumento roundabout.
Most buses from Cubao head north to San Fernando (La Union), Baguio, Tuguegarao, Vigan or even Aparri, at the top of Cagayan province. The bus terminals are clustered near Araneta Center (cnr EDSA & Aurora Blvd); there’s one terminal in the centre itself. Take a Cubao jeepney or FX van to Araneta Center or take the MRT to Cubao-Araneta Center station.
No 8 Baliwag Transit (912 3343; EDSA) Near the corner of Aurora Blvd. Baliwag Transit has buses leaving for Cabanatuan via Baliway every 20 to 30 minutes. A few doors away is another Baliway terminal from where buses bound for Tuguegarao (via Cauayan) depart every two hours and buses leave for Aparri twice daily.
No 9 Dagupan Bus Co (727 2330; cnr EDSA & New York St) Dagupan Bus Co has buses every hour to Dagupan, Alaminos and Lingayen in Pangasinan province. There are also hourly buses to Tuguegarao and Baguio.
No 10 Dominion Bus Lines (741 4146; EDSA) Dominion has hourly buses to San Fernando (La Union), Bangued and Vigan.
Services also run south from Cubao, including buses to Batangas, Lucena in Quezon province, Naga in Camarines Sur, Legaspi in Albay, Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte, and Davao in Mindanao. From the Araneta Center Bus Terminal, in addition to BLTB and Philtranco, several smaller operators run buses to Bicol, the Visayas and Mindanao. Take a Cubao jeepney or FX van to Araneta Center or, alternatively, take the MRT to the Cubao-Araneta Center station.
No 11 BLTB (913 1525; Araneta Center Bus Terminal) Behind Ali Mall. BLTB has buses to Sorsogon (Bicol) and Catbalogan (Visayas).
No 12 JAC Liner (928 6140, 929 6943; cnr EDSA & East Ave) JAC has buses to Bantagas City and Lucena every 20 to 30 minutes from 2am to 9pm daily.
No 13 JAM Transit (924 7712; cnr EDSA & New York St) JAM has buses every 30 minutes to Batangas City, Lucena and Santa Cruz (Laguna).
No 14 Tritran (925 1758; cnr EDSA & East Ave) Tritran has half-hourly buses to Lucena and Dalahican, and buses to Batangas City every 20 minutes.
No 15 Philtranco (913 5666; Araneta Center Bus Terminal) Behind Ali Mall. Philtranco has daily buses to Sorsogon, Bulan, Tabaco, Legaspi, Naga and Iriga (Bicol); Cebu, Tacloban, Ormoc, Caticlan, Kalibo, Iloilo and Roxas City (Visayas); and Davao and Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao).
A couple of bus companies head north from Pasay for destinations like Baguio, Cabanatuan and Olongapo. To find your way to these terminals, take a Baclaran jeepney from M H del Pilar St or the LRT1 to EDSA station and change to a north-bound bus for Makati and Quezon City.
No 16 Five Star Bus Lines (833 4772; Aurora Blvd) Five Star has regular buses to Cabanatuan. There are also buses to Bolinao and Dagupan in Pangasinan every half-hour.
No 17 Victory Liner (833 5019; www.victoryliner.com; EDSA) Victory has at least hourly services to Baguio (Benguet), Tarlac (Tarlac), Alaminos, Bolina and Dagupan (Pangasianan) and Tuguegarao and Aparri (Cagayan). Buses to Olongapo and Iba (Zambales) leave every half-hour.
Most buses out of Pasay head south, with some connecting by ferry to other islands. Destinations include Batangas, Lucena, Nasugbu and Santa Cruz. A few buses go further afield to Daet, Naga, Legaspi, the islands of Samar and Leyte, and on to Mindanao.
No 18 BLTB (833 5501; EDSA) BLTB has buses every 15 minutes to Batangas City, Nasugbu and Lucena. There are also hourly buses to Dalahican Port, Calatagan (near Matabungkay beach) and Santa Cruz, as well as long-haul trips to Bicol, Samar and Leyte. For Leyte, there’s a service to Ormoc, two buses to Maasin, and one to Tacloban. To get to the terminal, take a Baclaran jeepney from M H del Pilar St or the MRT or LRT1 to EDSA station and change to a north-bound bus for Makati and Quezon City or walk 10 minutes.
No 19 Crow Transit (551 1566, 804 0623; cnr Taft Ave & EDSA) Crow has buses to Nasugbu every 30 minutes and buses to Tagaytay (for Lake Taal) every 15 minutes. To get to the terminal, take the MRT or LRT1 to the EDSA station.
No 20 Genesis (551 0842; cnr Taft Ave & EDSA) Genesis has buses to Mariveles in the Bataan peninsula via San Fernando (Pampanga) and Balanga, leaving every 15 minutes. There is also an early-morning bus to the surfing beaches of Baler in Aurora province. To get to the terminal, take a Baclaran jeepney from M H del Pilar St or the MRT or LRT1 to EDSA station.
No 21 JAM Transit (831 8246; cnr Taft Ave & Sen Gil Puyat Ave) JAM has buses every 15 minutes to Lucena and Santa Cruz in Laguna. To get to the terminal, take the LRT1 to Gil Puyat station or a Baclaran jeepney to the corner of Taft Ave and Sen Gil Puyat Ave.
No 22 Philtranco (851 5818; cnr EDSA & Apelo Cruz St) Philtranco has daily buses to Davao and Cagayan de Oro, both in Mindanao. There are services to Tacloban (four daily) in Leyte, stopping at Calbayog and Catbalogan in Samar. There is also a bus to Catarman (three daily) in Northern Samar. Buses stop in Daet, Naga, Legaspi and Sorsogon. To get to the terminal, take a Baclaran jeepney from M H del Pilar St or the MRT or LRT1 to EDSA station and change to a north-bound bus for Makati and Quezon City or walk 10 minutes.
If you are driving, the North and South Luzon Expressways are the quickest ways to disentangle yourself from Manila. They are relatively expensive tollways (pricey even by Western standards) but that just serves to cut way down on traffic.
The ramshackle Philippine National Railways (361 1125) has its main Manila station just north of Binondo at Tayuman St and Dagupan St. As such it is commonly just referred to as Tayuman. Services at the station – like trains – are few. The one rail line from Manila goes south as far as Legaspi in Southeast Luzon, passing through Lucena and other points along the way. Schedules are nonexistent and are more a matter of the overworked and underfunded staff trying to get enough cars working to form a train. For information and fares, your best option is to visit the station, which is a 10-minute walk west from the LRT1 Bambang Station.
The port of Manila is divided into two sections, South Harbor and North Harbor. Unfortunately for the traveller, two of the shipping lines use the hard-to-reach North Harbor. It’s best to take a taxi to North Harbor, as the area isn’t a place for a foreigner to be wandering around with luggage.
There are three major shipping lines handling inter-island boat trips from Manila:
Negros Navigation (245 5588; www.negrosnaviga tion.ph; Pier 2, North Harbor) Destinations: Bacolod, Boracay, Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete, Dumaguit, Estancia, General Santos City, Iligan, Iloilo, Ozamis, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, Tagbilaran.
Sulpicio Lines(245 0616; www.sulpiciolines.com; Pier 12, North Harbor) Destinations: Baybay, Cagayan de Oro, Calubian, Cebu, Cotabato, Dadiangas, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, Estancia, Iligan, Iloilo, Maasin, Masbate, Nasipit, Ormoc, Ozamis, Surigao, Tagbilaran, Zamboanga.
SuperFerry (528 7000; www.superferry.com.ph; SuperTours hotline 528 7100; firstname.lastname@example.org; Pier 15, South Harbor) WG&A Destinations: Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu City, Coron, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, Dumaguit, General Santos City, Iligan, Iloilo, Nasipit Butuan, Ozamis, Puerto Princesa, Roxas City, Surigao, Zamboanga.
All three shipping companies have ticket offices at their piers and in town, although nowadays you needn’t go to the shipping offices to make a reservation or buy a ticket. Travel-ticket agents can make bookings and issue tickets. All three companies have excellent websites for checking schedules and buying tickets.
Note that shipping schedules are prone to change; adverse weather conditions or renovation work on one ferry can totally disrupt or alter the sailing times and boats specified for the scheduled trips.
Ferries to the Bataan village of Orion are run by Mt Samat Ferry Express (551 5290; Bataan0917 873 2425) five times a day in each direction. The one-hour trip costs P300/150 per adult/child.
With the exception of Philippine Airlines (PAL), international flights to and from Manila Airport (MNL; 877 1109) use the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal I (NAIA or NAIA I) in Parañaque. International and domestic PAL passengers use NAIA II (also known as the Centennial Terminal).
NAIA I is long in the tooth but functional. NAIA II is relatively new and gleaming white. Both have currency-exchange counters and ATMs after customs in the arrival areas. Passengers changing terminals can use shuttles inside the airports before they exit the terminals.
Note that someday an entire new terminal will open at the airport. NAIA III will be a cutting-edge replacement for most of the international services at ageing NAIA I. But when will it be done? Actually it was completed in 2003, and has since sat vast and empty. The tale of what went wrong here is a fable for the rest of the Philippines. There’s plenty of gossip and lawsuits but the real facts are lost in a swamp of cronyism and corruption. Should NAIA III open, it can be found on the airport’s east side, near the South Super Hwy.
A P550 departure tax is payable for international departures.
Many airlines have city ticket offices in addition to those at the airport. Also, several Asian discount carriers are now flying to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (CRK) at the Clark Special Economic Zone near Angeles, some two hours drive north.
Air France (887 7581; Trident Tower Bldg, 312 Sen Gil Puyat Ave, Makati)
Asiana Airlines (892 5698; Salcedo Tower, 169 Dela Rosa St, Makati)
British Airways (817 0361; Filipino Merchants Bldg, cnr Dela Rosa St & Legaspi St, Makati)
Cathay Pacific Airways (757 0888; LKG Tower, 6801 Ayala Ave, Makati)
China Air Lines (523 8021; Golden Empire Tower, 1332 Roxas Blvd, Ermita)
Continental Airlines (816 0527; 6760 Ayala Ave, Makati)
Emirates (811 5278; Pacific Star Bldg, cnr Sen Gil Puyat Ave & Makati Ave, Makati)
Gulf Air (817 8383; 100 Alfaro St, Makati)
Japan Airlines (886 6868; Standard Chartered Bank Bldg, 6788 Ayala Ave, Makati)
KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines (819 5680; The Athaeneum, 160 Leviste St, Makati)
Korean Air (893 4909; LPL Plaza Bldg, 124 Leviste St, Makati)
Lufthansa Airlines (580 6400; Rockwell Center, Makati)
Malaysia Airlines (867 8767; World Centre, Sen Gil Puyat Ave)
Northwest Airlines (841 8800; La Paz Center, cnr Salcedo St & Herrera St, Makati)
Qantas Airways (812 0607; Filipino Merchants Bldg, cnr Dela Rosa St & Legaspi St, Makati)
Singapore Airlines (756 8888; LKG Tower, 6801 Ayala Ave, Makati)
Thai Airways International (812 4744; Country Space I Bldg, Dela Costa St, Makati)
Domestic PAL flights leave from NAIA II, and other carriers operate from the Manila Domestic Airport, just north of NAIA I and very close to Baclaran. There is a P200 departure fee.
The domestic terminal barely qualifies as such; you’d think it was the terminal for one of the smaller of the 7000 islands in the Philippines. The waiting area for those greeting passengers is a tent across from the terminal.
PAL has ticketing facilities at NAIA II and at ticket offices in town. Other domestic carriers have ticket offices at or near the domestic terminal and some also have city offices.
Air Philippines Makati (Legaspi St); Pasay City (855 9000; Manila Domestic Airport Passenger Terminal, Domestic Rd; 24hr) Destinations: Bacolod, Cagayan De Oro, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tuguegarao, Zamboanga.
Asian Spirit Pasay City (855 3333; cnr Domestic Rd & Andrews Ave, Pasay City; 3am-7pm) Destinations: Antique, Bagulo, Basco, Busuanga, Calibayag, Catarman, Caticlan, Marinduque, Masbate, Ormac, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, San José, Surigao, Taytay, Tuguegarao, Virac.
Cebu Pacific Air Makati (132 C Palanca St); Pasay City (636 4938; Manila Domestic Airport Passenger Terminal, Domestic Rd; 24hr) Destinations: Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Zamboanga.
Laoag International Airlines Pasay City (551 9729; Manila Domestic Airport Passenger Terminal, Domestic Rd; 7am-4pm) Destination: Laoag.
Philippine Airlines Makati (Legaspi St); Parañaque (855 8888; Centennial Terminal NAIA II, NAIA Rd; 3am-8pm) Destinations: Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Legaspi, Naga, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, Tacloban, Tagbilaran.