Jeepney riding is for not everyone. Unless one is doing it just for the experience it’s unlikely that most visitors will take the jeepney. During my vacation visits prior to moving here my most common mode of transportation was the taxi, with an occasional tricycle ride thrown in for those in between destinations that were too far to walk, but not worth the effort and cost of a taxi.
I would say, based off those that I’ve met, that most expats still don’t often take the jeepney even after moving to the Philippines. It’s more likely they’ll have an opportunity to do so once living here, but most I know buy a car and/or use taxis. I decided long ago that I would take the jeepney as my main transportation. I still get in a taxi now and then, but for the most part the jeepney gets me where I need to go. Part of that decision was financial, part because I did not want to drive anymore (at least for awhile), and part of it was to better assimilate myself to the area and culture.
There are a few tricks I’ve learned about riding the jeepney that I have found have helped me. I’m sure there are more I will pick up over time, and of course there are the basic rules. Those rules have been covered elsewhere, but I wanted to pass on a few tips for those adventurous foreigners that want to take the jeepney.
How full is it?
When I first started riding I always looked for the one, if I had a choice, with the least passengers. I soon found out that this was counter productive in many cases as the jeepney driver would just stop more often until it was full anyway.
Now if I’m in a hurry I get on the one that is most full. The chances are you will stop less often and get there quicker. There is no guarantee, as passengers might get off at any time, but if you are going long distance this works for the most part.
Where to sit?
This is a bit of a personal choice, but I found that if you are concerned about what you are carrying on you then sitting next to the front gives you one side with no one next to you. You only need to watch your other side pockets. I don’t really see much concern with pick pockets, but if you are then this can help.
Also check the position of the sun and the route you will take. Sitting in the direct sun on a long ride can be exhausting. It is usually pretty obvious when you board the jeepney as all the passengers will be sitting on one side.
Other considerations are: if you sit at the back to get off easier, you will need to deal with passengers loading and unloading. If you sit near the front as I said earlier, you will need to help with the payment to and from the driver.
You can pay at anytime, but it isn’t really a good idea to pay too early. I’ve found that I’ve needed to get back off a jeepney at times when the driver parks at a location and will not leave until he gets a certain amount of passengers. This can go on for a long time, and passengers start off boarding to other jeeps, to the point that you will need to make a decision whether to wait it out, or leave yourself.
The common way to pay is to extend your hand with payment and say “Bayad sa SM (use your destination)”. If it’s unclear where you boarded you can add “gikan Matina (use your starting point)”. The driver will ask where you boarded if he is unsure. I find being a foreigner that they almost always remember where I boarded. Additionally if there is a conductor on board, you will usually pay him instead of the driver.
Most, but not all, drivers will tell you the correct fare and give you the correct change. I have found a few that do not. It’s difficult if you do not know the fare but it you don’t you can ask another passenger. Don’t be afraid to ask for your change. I say “Palihug kambiyo”. I’ve always gotten my change, if due, when asking for it.
Just prior to where you want to get off you should let the driver know by either saying, “lugar lang” or “para”. You may also tap on the roof of the jeepney, this works best if it’s not padded, or tap the metal handrail bars with your coins. There is another method of “pssting” that I find is better left to the locals. I can’t quite get the hang of it and get funny looks when I try.
Sometimes I combine the “lugar lang” with the tapping, especially if I am far away from the driver.
You will become more familiar with the various routes, and which are more efficient, the longer you do it. In the beginning it is best to ask. Just be aware you may not get the same answer from everyone. If in doubt I ask the driver before I get on. Make sure you are clear, as I once asked the driver if he went to NCCC. I ended up all the way across town at the Uyanguren store and not the NCCC Mall. It was a good learning experience.
Sometimes you’ll have options on routes, and you’ll have to determine what is more important – usually time versus money. During rush hour DO NOT be picky, take what ever you can get and be thankful. You will be crammed in like sardines, but at least you’ll make it home. Maybe you’ll be lucky and get a cutie next to you, but more than likely it’ll be a large person that may want half of your seating area, too.
These are just a few tips I’ve picked up so far. I’m sure I’ll learn many more in the future. As I like to say, “It’s Always an Adventure in the Philippines.”