Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

Getting Around

If you haven't prearranged for a car to whisk you to your destination from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, join the queue for an official taxi, which will take you downtown in around 30 minutes (assuming good traffic, and that's quite a big assumption). Look for the yellow taxis to the left as you exit: more expensive than those you flag down on the street, these are safe, reliable and air-conditioned, and shouldn't cost much more than $7.

The elevated LRT is fast and reliable, and the preferred transport method for office workers looking to avoid traffic. Jeepneys are colorful and cheap, though you need to know your route in advance as there's no other way of telling where you're going (shout "Para" when you want to get off, and give your fee of about 20 cents). Taxis are inexpensive, with fares starting at 70 cents, but service can be varied, since many taxi companies are less than regulated.

There are no citywide sightseeing passes; be ready with coins and smaller bills to pay for entrance tickets as you go along.

Tipping at restaurants is the norm, particularly where no service charge is included; anything over 10% will be received with boundless gratitude. In taxis, round up the fare to the nearest 10 pesos. Feel free to tip more if the driver has helped you out with luggage, say. Airport and hotel porters expect small tips.

Survival Skills
Manila is not the safest of Southeast Asian cities, so be vigilant. Watch for pickpockets and, if you're spending time in the streets, avoid displays of wealth. In taxis, make sure your driver switches on his metro at the start of your journey; it's usually in front of the gearbox.