Brightly painted and packed with commuters, Jeepneys are the most popular way for locals to get around in the Philippines. With rides costing between 7 -25 pesos / 10-35 pence they’re super budget-friendly and a great way to get an insight into local daily life. However they can be tricky for a first timer to figure out!
In Ireland and the UK we’re not used to much interaction on our daily commute. We buy tickets at machines, swipe our cards on automatic barriers and avoid eye contact with everyone else at the risk of looking a bit strange. Things are a little different in the Philippines and in order to get from A to B on public transport you’ll probably have to depend on locals to help you figure out your route, pay the driver, and let him know when to stop.
Figuring out your route
The good news is that most Jeepney routes are mapped on Google Maps, so if you have a SIM card then you will be able to figure out your route quickly and easily. (Read about why I recommend getting a SIM card) The Jeepney stops aren’t clearly marked or signposted so just stand at the point in the road that is marked on the map and keep an eye out for your Jeepney number. You’ll see the route number on the top left of the bus and when the correct one is approaching wave your arm to get the driver to stop.
If you don’t have a SIM card or if your route isn’t marked online then you will have to rely on your sense of direction and the help of locals. On any given road you will see a cluster of people waiting for their Jeepneys and many buses riding past with their destinations written on their sides. If you’re going to a major tourist destination then it might be obvious to figure out which one to take, as the name will be written on the side of the bus. If not, then ask any of the other waiting commuters which you should get on. English is widely spoken in the Philippines so communication should be easy, and the people there are really helpful.
How to pay the driver
Once you’ve found the right Jeepney and squeezed into a seat you’ll have to pay the driver. It’s always better to have small change with you you for the ride, try not to pay with larger than a 20 peso note. Your fare is likely to be around 7 or 8 pesos unless you’re doing a particularly long journey.
People tend to pay the driver at the start or mid-way through their ride, so what we did was watch how much money other people were giving the driver. Jeepneys are very long vehicles so money is passed down along the bus between passengers to the driver, and he passes the change back up the bus. People tend to prefer to sit closer to the back of the Jeepney as otherwise you spend most of the trip passing money or telling the driver to stop.
Again, if you have Google Maps then you can track your journey and see when it’s time to get off. If not then tell the driver when you’re paying where you want to stop – you might have to relay this to other passengers for them to pass on the information if you’re at the back of the bus.
When it’s time to stop either tap your coins on the metal bar in the Jeepney to signal that you want it to stop (the local way!) or else say ‘Para Po’ to the driver which means ‘Please stop’.
Be careful of your belongings when you’re riding a Jeepney. Keep your bags on your lap and camera and phone in your pockets when you’re not using them. We didn’t have any bad experiences riding public transport in the Philippines but it’s always good to be careful.
Sit next to the friendliest looking person you can see on the bus, and tell them you’re new to riding a Jeepney. Most of the time they’ll help you out it with where to get off the bus and how much to pay.
Don’t ride at night. Stick to riding in the daytime as lots of the stories I hear about people being robbed on Jeepneys take place at night when the buses are quieter and there’s less people on the streets.
There you have it, next time you’re in the Philippines forgo the usual Grab or Uber and hop on a Jeepney for a more authentic Filipino experience!
Thanks for reading!