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Travelling in the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago in South East Asia, broadly divided into three main island groups – Luzon to the north, which includes the capital Manila, Visayas in the mid region and Mindanao to the south.

Getting to the Philippines is relatively straightforward, most travellers arriving in the main international airport at Manila from connections via neighbouring Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. To truly experience everything the country has to offer, it is necessary to travel between the island regions. It is worth remembering when booking your flights that if you do plan to travel around the islands, it is more economical and practical to purchase an `open` ticket. This eliminates the need for backtracking during your travels, allowing you, for example, to fly into Manila and out of Cebu.

Travel within Manila itself is via a network of light railway systems, with, in simple terms, two lines which run North to South and East to West of the city. Operating 18 hours a day, the Metro is a popular choice for travellers, being both fast and cheap. Multi-use tickets can be purchased at the stations and from ticket machines. Also popular in Manila is the Pasig ferry service, providing water bus travel around the historical Pasig river at very reasonable prices.

Inter-island travel is well served by various forms of transport. Many airlines offer domestic flights between the regions main airports. Whilst prices are relatively low, cheaper still is the option of travelling via inter-island ferries. With so many islands within the region, boat trips can last from an hour through to 24 hours and prices vary accordingly, as does the standard of transport. An overnight ferry trip operates each Friday to Coron, a popular destination with divers, enabling you to spend a weekend in the region, returning to Manila on Sunday. Fast ferries also operate throughout the Visayas area, at very affordable prices. It is worth checking weather reports before undertaking any ferry travel, as conditions can sometimes be volatile.

Probably the cheapest mode of transport is the bus and as well as services operating within the towns and cities, it is possible to travel between the major islands on scheduled bus services, via the network of bridges that connect the major islands together. Although very cost effective, you will be tied to times and schedules (which in themselves can be somewhat erratic!) if you chose to travel via any form of public transport.

Travel by car is possible, with major car rental companies operating in Manila, mainly from the main international airport. However, the quality of roads varies considerably depending where you travel to and from, ranging from modern highways through to single dirt tracks, which can make travelling under your own steam complicated and occasionally, treacherous. Travel between the major provinces is the most straightforward, via a network of expressways and national highways, some of which will incur toll charges. It is also worth remembering that high levels of traffic in Manila means that laws now only permit certain vehicles to travel in the city on specified days and times. It is essential to check with the car rental company which rules apply to your vehicle.

In addition to buses within towns and cities, a familiar site is the Jeepney (so called because they were created from the remnants of the Jeeps used by American troops in World War II). These are an extremely affordable mode of transport and provide a fun means of travel.

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