|Language:||Filipino, English, Many other dialects|
|Currency:||Philippine Peso (PHP)|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='ph' />|
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|<map lat='13' lng='122' zoom='5' view='0' width='250' height='400' country='Philippines'/>|
The Republic of the Philippines is an island nation located in South-Eastern Asia.
The Philippines is possibly the easiest of all Southeast Asian countries to hitchhike in. You can cover 200-300 km a day, maybe a bit more, depending on the route. Near toll gates and on the NLEX/SLEX (North/South Luzon Expressway) you will probably get in trouble with the police. Nevertheless they are friendly at many checkpoints. Ferries are frustrating though.
Filipinos are well known for being very hospitable and friendly, and are a very social people. Hitching a ride is often very easy because of this trait, and in the provinces and rural areas out of the cities it is especially easy to get a lift, whilst in the city you may not be as lucky because of the chaotic schedules of the drivers, especially around the bustling traffic, however Filipinos are known to go out of their way to help people and you will be surprised how many people will try and help you. Often drivers will stop to see if you need a lift in the provinces, especially if you look like a foreigner. Many people hitchhike all over the Philippines, and drivers rarely if ever ask for money.
If you travel within the island provinces out of urban centers it is a great experience for hitchhiking as many locals will always stop to see if you need a lift (especially if you give the thumbs up or wave your hand in a downwards manner, commonly used to hail a Jeepney, a type of local Filipino bus), this is much more easily done if you look like a foreigner, as many locals consider you exotic and are interested in you, you often find yourself making new friends this way.
It often can be harder to hitch a ride if you are travelling in some of the isolated islands, which often do not have very good road infrastructures in the first place. You will find out about this especially if you are wishing to hitch a ride in a mountainous area, where there is often a lack of flowing traffic, and often fewer vehicles because fewer people actually have them in more rural areas. Again, public transportation is common even in these areas and you can often get yourself on a local jeep or trike.
In crowded town areas near Manila, hitchhiking is also difficult. You will find yourself sticking your thumb out and trying to avoid flagging down trikes or jeepneys. In these areas with dense traffic, it is frustrating trying to get noticed by a private car that is surrounded by an army of trikes.
The usual method of hitchhiking amongst Filipinos is to flag down a truck. If it stops then it is prepared to give you a lift, and it is OK to get on the back. Drivers usually prefer this to a lot of negotiating beforehand "can we get a ride, where are you going etc." Details can be sorted out through the window afterwards. Riding on the back of trucks is the most normal, and you should only climb into the cab if the driver invites you. If you are a foreigner it is quite likely you will be invited, though.
The word for hitchhiking in Tagalog is "makasakay" which also works in the Visayan language spoken in the south, although on Mindanao "hitch na lang" (just hitching) is widely used. In the places in the North where Ilocano is spoken (including the Cordillera mountains), you could try using the Ilocano word "makilugan". The verb "angkas" is also easy to remember and is widely understood by the locals.
There is a widespread practice of hitchhiking amongst the punk community of the Philippines. For some, hitchhiking every day and asking for leftover food is a positive way of dealing with poverty, running away from unpleasant family situations and finding adventure. They also hitchhike buses, climbing on the buses and then negotiating with the drivers to go a few kilometres for free, which often helps getting past the tricky bits to a place where the traffic is heavier, or getting out of cities. If you are a foreigner you will find bus conductors very reluctant to help you out this way, because they are also taking a risk themselves (there are also controllers employed by the bus company to check their work), and people expect that foreigners have some money. However, foreigners often get taken by private cars, which almost never happens for Filipino hitchhikers.
Number plates are colour-coded - white for private cars, red for government, yellow for public transport, which can be very useful if you are trying to spot whether an approaching vehicle is a minibus or a van, and therefore if you are going to be asked for money or not. Of course, there are plenty of buses that didn't pay for the public transport license and so have white plates, but you'll still get some idea.
The Philippines is the world's second largest island nation, with over 7,000 different islands. Because of this unique geography it may be harder to get very far without boarding a ferry (we assume you're not flying if you're hitching a ride), often you could get dropped off at a port area and find yourself on the ferry, but once you are at your destination you may run out of luck if you wish to hitch a ride, especially since many of the ferries arrive in the early hours or in the evening. However public transportation at the ports is plentiful at every hour of the day, and if all else fails it really isn't much money to pay for a local jeepney or bus.
On the main north-south route (Maharlika Highway), there are plenty of boats between Bicol and Samar, and a Bridge between Samar and Leyte. But if crossing between Leyte and Mindanao there are only 1-2 ferries each day. From Leyte to Mindanao a boat travels at 5.30pm each day and possibly early morning, I'm afraid I didn't check the other direction. Trucks can take 3 people on the ticket, so you might get a lift for free.
Hitchhiking in the Philippines generally feels safe, although truck drivers often tell horror stories of carjacking and so on. But remember the Philippines is home to several ongoing armed conflicts and a reasonably high level of violent crime. It's not a reason not to hitch there, but it's good to be knowledgeable about the situation in each place and choose how cautious you want to be.
Across the whole archipelago there is a conflict between the armed forces of the Philippines and the communist New People's Army. Neither side has a particular interest in causing problems for foreigners, but there is a chance you might wander into a zone of active conflict. For this reason you can also expect some suspicion. There are few foreign travellers away from the main tourist attractions, and local people often guess that foreigners are missionaries, and if not, spies for the CIA. This suspicion is understandable in the context of decades of conflict, where many people are percieved to have hidden agendas. Local people will tend to warn you if there is conflict on the road ahead.
Filipino, or other Asian hitchhikers should be more cautious before heading into troublespots. A few years ago, a group of 11 people, mostly teenagers, were hitchhiking together to Sagada, a popular relaxed town in the mountains, after a punk show in Baguio. They happened to pass through a spot where, a few days before, 3 soldiers had been killed in clashes with the NPA. The military thought their behaviour unusual, and arrested them on suspicion of having carried out the attacks. Despite no evidence whatsoever linking them to the attacks, the 11 people were tortured and held in prison for 9 months.
In Mindanao, there is also ongoing conflict with a range of Muslim separatist groups, and because of this long history some of those groups have turned to kidnap-for-ransom, not always clearly linked to their political objectives. This is a problem in Western Mindanao, and also the fighting tends to be much heavier here than in the conflict with the NPA. There are also conflicts with paramilitaries, usually in areas where plantation or mining companies are trying to expand. Most local people who have knowledge of the conflict advise that foreigners avoid certain areas, particularly the Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu archipelago and most of North Cotabato / Magindanao. The east of Mindanao is really fine, the road from Surigao to General Santos, or from Davao to Cagayan de Oro is as safe as anywhere in the Philippines. The north coast as far as Iligan is also usually fine. Further west there is some risk, but foreigners do go there.
For people who want to travel overland to the Philippines, Zamboanga is the only place you can catch a boat to. Zamboanga city is perceived as safer than the areas around it, but many people still advise being a little cautious in this city, and leaving by boat to Cebu or Davao.
I have hitchhiked around many of the rural island provinces of the Philippines, especially southern Luzon/Tagalog region and the Visayas and found it incredibly easy and enjoyable, Filipinos are a very hospitable and fun people who genuinely wish to help out. A couple of times I have prefered to actually walk the distance of an island on foot, rather than hitchhike so I could see the various villages and sights, however in my 2-3 hour walk two vehicles actually stopped to ask if I wanted a lift, without me even asking or showing any intentions. I found the people's genuine happiness to help very good for hitching a ride, however public transportation is so cheap in the Philippines that often you really don't need to hitch a ride unless you really want to, or if that route has no public transporation servicing it. Many of the people who picked me up in the provinces where relatively poor, so I sometimes paid for my lift, but other times when offered they refused my money. I found many did not want my money, and often many locals jump on for a free ride going through each village, I assume they knew the driver however and it's not uncommon to see a private person's vehicle all of a sudden seem like a taxi or bus. Safety is not a big concern in the Philippines, maybe in the bigger cities, but in the provinces generally the road rules are very laid back, and it is not uncommon to be seated in unsafe places (by western standards) such as the back of a ute, or on the roof of a jeep. Keep in mind this is normal, and often they drive fairly slow (or their vehicle actually cannot go any faster), remember to hold on. Normal procedures in hitchhiking and safety, of course apply all around the world. Take care.
Transport is found everywhere in the Philippines, there often is a ferry or boat leaving port every hour depending on the port, and often not following the schedule to exact times, so it is a gamble sometimes. Flights are cheap to the Philippines thanks to a number of low cost airlines servicing the nation, the premier Filipino Low Cost airline is Cebu Pacific, which also serves international flights around the region.
Be careful on Mindanao island, especially in the city Zamboanga. Getting a free boat (there is only one regular one: Zamboanga to Sabah state in Malaysia) from Indonesia to Malaysia is very very hard, Malaysia immigration is pretty tough though.
Air Asia has discount flights to Malaysia.
If you like boats you can try your luck here.
Other Useful Info
- Information, tips and personal experiences of hitchhiking in The Philippines. A 3244 km journey on 72 vehicles (only in spanish), by Marcando el Polo
- Facebook group "Hitchhikers Pilipinas"