Complete Guide to Manila Taxis and Scams to Look Out For!

Manila taxi drivers have a bad reputation. When I first arrived it was one of the first things that the locals would warn me about. I was told that they will always try to rip me off because I am a foreigner. On my first night out here that is exactly what happened. This was through my own stupidity more than anything.

To sum up the story i made the following mistakes:

  • I was noticeably drunk
  • I asked how much the fare would be rather than just getting in and starting the meter.
  • When asking about the fare i said i was going to a hotel, another indicator that i had zero experience in the Philippines.
  • The meter was then started at the agreed fare, and went up from there.
  • I was comparing the amount to Australian dollars and despite the excessively high fare it was still a reasonable price in comparison

So the outcome was i paid about p700 for a fare that should have been about p120 on a normal day. It is embarrassing to admit now, and i have a good laugh about it. I have no one to blame but myself though and I really invited the guy to do what he did through my naivety.

While my first experience was not good, this was the only time that i let this happen to me. For the record, i think the vast majority of taxi drivers are decent and honest people. From who i have dealt with it could not be more than 20% of the drivers i have dealt with that are looking to rip you off, and you can usually spot them a mile away.

If a taxi driver slows down to pick you up and asks you through the window where you are going, don’t bother. Let them go. More often that not you will be offered a fare two or three times the regular fare.

If you get in a taxi and when say your destination they start complaining about traffic in that direction, best to just get out and find another taxi. They will sit there complaining about traffic and say they will take you for a certain number, or meter plus extra. I get annoyed very quickly at these people so i just get out before being drawn into a pointless argument. It is Manila, show me one place that doesn’t have fucking traffic… Idiot!

Aside from these two red flags you shouldn’t have too many problems upfront. Many will try and drive off without turning on the meter, but if you ask they will do it without a fuss. If they don’t turn it on though you are leaving yourself open to them making up whatever number they like at the other end and there will be little you can do about it.

Thankfully, modern technology has come along and solved the frustrations of dealing with these problem drivers. New Apps like Uber and Grab have made getting around a breeze compared to how it used to be. Especially in rush hour! No longer do you have to stand on the side of the road for hours trying to wave down a vacant taxi and jump in it before someone else grabs it off you.

Both of these services offer driver profiles as well. So you have that extra safety net knowing who your driver is, and there is an avenue to provide feedback on their performance and report any dodgy behaviour. There are still some drivers who are just plain assholes, but it is a minor occasional annoyance.

Uber

This is my pick for the best App in town. The pricing is very good unless you are in super peak times. The drivers are generally very friendly (i have only had a bad experience once) and the cars nice and clean. The tracking on the App is usually fairly reliable and the wait times normally just a few minutes. You get the odd driver who is unfamiliar with the area and take forever to arrive but this is rare.

Just this week Uber seem to have moved to a fixed price system for their fares, so you know exactly what you will pay as long as the destination or wait times are not excessive. I am yet to have an opinion on this but i do think that it will result in slightly more expensive fares. They are going to round up rather than down.

Grab

Since launching Grab have expanded their claws into every type of transport you can imagine. Taxis, cars, motorbikes, couriers and even helicopters. I would love to try the Grab-Copter one day.

I stopped using Grab a while ago after being a daily customer for about a year. Their fares were just going up and up to the point where I discovered that Uber was half the price.

The Grab Car was always a good option as it worked out to be about the same price as a taxi. The taxi fare is calculated as the meter, plus a booking fee. This changes all the time and has moved between p40 and p70. This makes the fare very uncompetitive when you consider a 5 minute trip to the other side of town may cost p60, plus a p70 booking fee. The p130 total for a taxi compared to a p80 Uber fare makes the choice very easy.

With the fixed price Grab car it usually worked out to the about the same p110-p130 fare. For the extra comfort it was worth paying. The fare then started to climb to p140, p150, p160…. then it seemed to stay at the p170+ mark. This was not a demand thing, they had just jacked up their pricing structure so i said goodbye to Grab. I was once a devoted user and big advocate for the brand. Over to Uber i went, and i am now a devout fan.

So gone are the days where the foreigner must be weary of the local taxi driver. They offer a second rate service to the other options on the market now. This is unfortunate for the many good trustworthy drivers out there. I hope they find their way over to these new services and contribute there. As for those who make a living taking advantage of people, there is no room for your antics in the new age of transport. I will have no sympathy for any hardships you endure as a result.

Scams

After dozens and dozens of trips from the airport to the city I thought that I had come across all of the possible airport taxi scams that could be thought up. This one took me by surprise! Was well times too with my recent post commending most drivers as being good honest people, with just a few bad eggs giving them all a bad name. Well I hit one of the bad eggs.

I have tried the regular taxis, the coupon taxis and the yellow airport metered taxis. I always found that the yellow cabs were the best combination of cost, convenience and aggravation. Assuming there was not a two hour wait to get one – in which case walking across the road and getting an Uber is an easy enough option.

The meter runs faster than a regular public taxi and you could expect to pay double the rate here. In most cases you will get a ride much faster than the regular taxis though. Being the cheapest option they also have the most people scrambling to get one.

My regular trip in the yellow metered taxi would usually be somewhere between p280 and p350 depending on traffic. Given that I have never had a problem with these taxis I just wasn’t paying attention to the meter. By the time we got off the skyway on the Makati exit I was surprised to see the meter at p380!

I was surprised, but thought maybe they had just put the rates up. We hit some traffic and without moving more than 50 metres the price had climbed to p400. At this rate I was looking at a p1,000+ fare! So I had to say something.

The driver did not argue at all when I asked if his meter was broken. He just asked what I normally pay, we agreed on that, and the meter was turned off. After sitting in Makati Av traffic for 15 minutes he then asked for more. I did not engage in that conversation. I just looked at him in the rear vision mirror, shook my head and said I should be reporting him.

The scam was not very sophisticated, just a bit of meter tampering. To anyone who had not taken this trip before though they would be in a losing position on this one. The receipt you get at the taxi stand does set out the rates. If you didn’t think anything was up then you may never look.

Scamming new arrivals is the worst first impression a country can make. I have commented previously on the vultures circling the arrivals hall that should all be thrown in jail. These are the things that leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and would be recounted to all their friends when they go back home. It would be very easy to clean this up and the potential benefits massive!

Tourism is one of the biggest opportunities the Philippines has to build a prosperous country that could drag hundreds of thousands out of poverty. Little things like this will forever limit people’s willingness to come here, and further a reputation that is already questionable to any mainstream tourist market.

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