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Driving in Manila: Basic Tips for Foreigners

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Getting behind the wheel can be a means of meditation and an effective channel to improve problem-solving skills. For most people, driving also gives them a sense of control and peace of mind, especially after a day filled with meetings and conferences.   If you’re visiting Manila, great deals on sedan rentals are available, so you can drive around the metro and nearby places. Before you go ahead and drive, take note of these things, especially if you are a foreigner:

1. You can drive using your country’s driver’s license for 90 days

If you have a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can drive anywhere in the Philippines within 90 days from the date of your arrival. Just make sure you bring your passport together with your license every time you drive. However, if your license is not in English, you need to go to your country’s embassy in the Philippines and secure an English translation.

If you plan on driving around the country for more than 90 days, you will need to obtain a local driver’s license from the Land Transportation Office or LTO. Converting your foreign driver’s license won’t be a hassle if it is still valid, as you won’t need to go through any examinations. But if your license is already expired, you need to undergo written, medical, and practical exams before you can obtain a Philippine driver’s license.

2. There is a number coding policy to adhere to

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The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which is the agency that oversees the traffic management (among others) in the metro, has imposed a number coding scheme for years in order to lessen the volume of cars and help ease the traffic situation. Just recently, it had been decided that the number coding policy will no longer have window hours,  meaning it will be in effect from 7 AM to 8 PM throughout Metro Manila. Keep these number coding days in mind:

  • On Mondays, cars with license plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are coded.
  • On Tuesdays, cars with license plate numbers ending in 3 and 4 are coded.
  • On Wednesdays, cars with license plate numbers ending in 5 and 6 are coded.
  • On Thursdays, cars with license plate numbers ending in 7 and 8 are coded.
  • On Fridays, cars with license plate numbers ending in 9 and 0 are coded.

When you get stopped for a coding violation, you will need to pay P300 at any Bayad Center or SM Payment Centers. Metrobank branches also accept payments for coding violations. Just make sure you pay up within seven days from the time of apprehension.

3. Know where you are going

Driving aimlessly around the streets and highways of Manila may be a good idea from time to time, as a way to relieve stress and think things through, but it is always advisable to know where you are going, or at least where you are. There are GPS navigation apps to help you out, such as Google Maps and Waze. These are handy apps that you can use on your phone to check where you are, how far you are from your destination, and the estimated time it takes for you to get there, given the traffic situation in the area.

If you find yourself without these apps to aid you, there are always friendly locals that you can ask. Filipinos helpful and they speak decent English, so there won’t be too much of a language barrier.

These are the most basic things to remember if you are a foreigner driving in Manila. Remember that you need to abide by the traffic laws and regulations of the country, read and obey street signs, and respect traffic enforcers and other motorists.

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