Travel & Transportation

Traveling by Bus in the Philippines

Written by Patrick

While it’s not as popular as jeepneys, the bus is still a widely-used means of transportation to get around the Philippines, especially on larger islands and for long-distance travels.  It is even used to transfer from one island to another in conjunction with the country’s RoRo System or the Road Roll-on/Roll-off Terminal System, a vehicle transport system in the Philippines.

This article covers information about buses including the types of buses, Philippine Nautical Highway System, and useful tips when riding a bus in the Philippines.

The Philippine bus

Like the jeepneys, buses in the Philippines come in varying sizes and colors.  But unlike jeepneys in which one person can own a unit, buses are usually with a company and there are lots of bus companies all over the country.

Passengers can get on and off a bus in bus terminals but it’s not unusual to see one stop and pick up or drop off a passenger along the road.  Bus terminals in major cities are usually well-built structures complete with restrooms, cafeterias, and even ticket booths and ATMs.  But in some parts of the country, bus terminals are merely makeshift sheds without even a restroom.

Buses run on schedule but it’s not unusual for them to be late since most drivers leave only when the bus is full.

Types of buses in the Philippines

Buses in the Philippines are categorized into two:

Provincial Bus

The big bus seen on national highways is a provincial bus.  It plies through provinces and connects major cities or towns.  The provincial bus is classified further depending on its amenities.

  • Ordinary.  Also known as regular, you can identify this class by simply looking at it even from the outside.  Its windows are kept open as it is not air-conditioned.  It has 2- layout with 6 in the last row.  It is also known for its frequent stops and overloading.
  • Air-conditioned.  Like the ordinary bus, it has 2-3 layout but is slightly more comfortable as it is air-conditioned.  It doesn’t stop as frequently as the ordinary bus and when it does, they are further apart.
  • Deluxe.  This class is air-conditioned and has a 2-2 layout but with better legroom than the first two classes.
  • Super deluxe.  This one has a 2-2 layout and with reclining seats.  The bus may have restrooms, entertainment screens, blankets, and complimentary snacks.  Stops are limited to major cities and towns only.
  • Luxury.  With 2-1 layout, this bus has 22 to 26 fully reclining seats which turn into bunk beds on overnight trips.  It either runs non-stop or stops only at major cities.  Aside from the entertainment screen, free Wi-Fi, and restroom, each seat/bunk bed has its own set of curtains for privacy and its own charging port.

City Bus

Considering that most streets in the cities are narrow, the bus is not the most favored means of transportation to get around the city as it can intensify the traffic congestion.

They are available in two classes:

  • Ordinary.  This class has a 2-3 layout, open-air, and often gets crowded.
  • Air-conditioned.  It’s layout is either 2-2 or 2-3.

The Philippine Nautical Highway System

With more than 7,000 islands, traveling from different cities and island to island can be challenging as it takes longer hours and costs higher but with the birth of Philippine Nautical Highway, it is not the case anymore.  No, there aren’t new bridges connecting all these islands.  The Philippine Nautical Highway is an integrated network of highway and vehicular ferry routes for nationwide vehicle transport.  It connects the islands, particularly the major ones namely Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The RoRo bus is transported to another island through a RoRo ship which has a ramp for vehicles including buses to drive on and off. 

Tips when riding a bus

  • Know the bus schedule before your departure date and book in advance if possible.
  • Dress comfortably, especially when going on a long journey.
  • Bring a light jacket, blanket, or anything to layer on and prevent you from getting cold when riding an air-conditioned bus or when taking an overnight trip.
  • Pack enough food and water to keep you going.  While you can always buy at rest stops, they may be overpriced and choices may be limited.
  • Be mindful of your valuables and pack them in your carry-on baggage.  You’d be able to enjoy the ride better if you’re not constantly worried about something expensive left in your luggage in the holding section at the bottom of the bus.
  • Consider bringing earplugs and an eye mask to enjoy the ride in peace or if you’re hoping to sleep during the journey.
  • Aside from entertainment screens provided by the bus, you may want to bring your own entertainment such as downloaded TV series or movies, a book, or magazine.
  • Rest stops are not only for toilet breaks.  It’s an opportunity to walk around, stretch, and take some fresh air before the next league of the journey begins.

READ MORE: Transportation in the Philippines

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About the Author

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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