The very best advice that can be given to a foreign visitor about driving in the Philippines is don’t! Don’t even think about it. Even if you are a professional driver of 80,000 pound semi trucks with two million miles under your belt; don’t drive in the Philippines.
The right hand driving pattern is used here as it is in America and Canada etc. The road markings and highway signs are pretty much the same. And even the traffic laws are much the same as most western countries. But that is where the similarities end.
For reasons too numerous to go into in this short post I will just say that no matter what happens; no matter who is at fault in a traffic accident here. You, as the foreigner will almost always be found in the wrong. Even if you can show proof that you were not at fault, chances are you will still be held at fault and responsible by police for repairs and medical expenses of the other party.
Sounds crazy, but their philosophy is that as a foreigner, if you were not in the country the accident would not have happened in the first place!
Having said that; it is important to also note that I have been living in the Philippines for the past eight years and breaking my own rule the entire time.
So far, I have been very lucky and have had only one minor accident in that time.
As with most other aspects of living here, vehicle repair is very low cost and good mechanics are quite easy to find. The main problem in repair service is that there is no AAA auto club or towing services easily available if a breakdown occurs on the road. For that reason as well as fuel economy most people drive a motor cycle or motor cycle with a sidecar attached.
On more than one occasion I have had vehicle problems when out and around and found it much easier to push my motor to a mechanic or tire repair place than to push a car or van.
As mentioned earlier, repair costs here are very affordable. This morning I took our 155cc motor cycle to our favorite repair shop for it’s normal tune up.
A tune up here includes a clutch adjustment, removal and complete breakdown and cleaning of the carburetor, removal of the engine head and adjustment and cleaning of the valves and lifters, as well as adjusting the engine timing.
The entire process took less than 30 minutes and the total cost was only $2.00us dollars with two qualified mechanics working on the bike. Pretty good value for the money I’d say.
So for anyone visiting the Philippines or moving here as I did that is determined to drive, at least the cost of repairs will be low and usually of good quality. And with all the money you will be saving on repairs you might even have enough saved to pay damages and medical expenses as a result any accident you may have.
And be sure to always wear a helmet when driving. The police are always on the lookout for the unsuspecting foreigner that is in violation of any law they can think of.
If you are caught and fined in cash for a violation of any kind; it will give new meaning to the expression of “support your local police” as you will leave the scene knowing you have just bought the officers lunch or helped put food on the table in the home of one of his many wives he is “working” so hard to support…