Driving in the Philippines is a pretty interesting content to cover.
A fitting comprehensive guide and hacks are much needed.
Our country is eminent for many things: our mangoes, tropical beaches, welcoming people, and frightful traffic jams.
Traffic is ubiquitously present in the great majority areas in the country and is felt in just about every city and road possible.
The lack of proper urban planning, proper vehicle regulations imposed by the national government, unrehabilitated roads, not so efficient public transportation system, and most of all driver behaviors.
Band-aid solutions were presented with ride-hailing apps a few years recently.
However, over-capitalization and vague government regulations provide yet another grey area to pacify the traffic and logistics problem.
However, anyone who’s ever been behind the wheel can’t deny the liberating feeling that driving provides.
You have the freedom to go wherever you want, put as much stuff you want in your trunk, and you control your own playlist!
We, at CITI Cars, have created this comprehensive guide to serve as an FAQ and driving hack manual. If you’ve just landed in the Philippines and thinking of driving during your stay and to those who have been here in the country and a refresher course is fitting!
1. You will need a driver’s license.
For foreigners: You’ll need a license to drive, especially if you’ll be renting a car from a rental company. Applying for a license isn’t complicated and it’s pretty easy if you already have a license from your place of origin. You are warranted to use it 90 days after the date of arrival in the country. Should you be staying long in the country you may opt to apply for a Philippine Driver’s License.
Converting your foreign driver’s license to a Philippine driver’s license
Obtaining a Philippine Driver’s License will not be difficult if you already have a valid driver’s license from your country. It is stated in the first paragraph of Chapter III, Sec. 21 of the Republic Act (RA) 4136, otherwise known as the “Land Transportation and Traffic Code”:
“Bona fide tourists and similar transients who are duly licensed to operate motor vehicles in their respective countries may be allowed to operate during but not after (90) days of their sojourn in the Philippines.”
You may only be allowed to convert your foreign driver’s license to Philippine driver’s license once you have stayed within a period of 90 days from the day of your last arrival in the Philippines. You can apply through the main branch of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) along East Avenue, Quezon City. The classification you must apply for is Non-Professional Driver’s License if you are not driving for a living (e.g. coach drivers, chauffeurs, etc.). You must bring and complete the following requirements:
- • Duly accomplished Application for Driver’s License (which can be obtained at the office or downloaded here
- • Original and 1 copy of foreign license (if such license is not written in English, you must submit an official English translation from the consular or Embassy of your country)
- • Original and machine copy of valid passport showing the latest date of your arrival in the Philippines
- • Original copy of Medical Certificate issued by LTO accredited physicians.
- • Original copy of a negative drug test result issued by the Department of Health (DOH) Accredited Drug Testing Center or government hospitals
- • If your foreign license is expired, you will undergo written and practical examination
- Proceed to the Customer Service Counter to get your checklist of requirements. Get a queue number and wait for your number to be called.
- When your number is called, proceed to evaluator counter and submit all the required documents and have it checked for completeness and authenticity.
- Proceed to the Photo-taking/Signature Area to have your picture and signature taken when your name is called.
- Proceed to the Cashier when your name is called for payment of necessary fees and obtain an Official Receipt.
- Proceed to the Releasing Counter when your name is called, present the Official Receipt and claim the Card type license.
Applying for a student’s permit and new Philippine driver’s license
If you do not have an existing driver’s license from your country and wish to apply for a new one in the Philippines, your application will follow the regular procedure. You must acquire a student’s permit first at the LTO East Avenue Branch. To apply for this, you must submit the following requirement hen you apply for a student’s permit:
- • Duly accomplished Application Form for Driver’s License (which can be obtained at the office or downloaded here)
- • Original and photocopy of passport with visa duration of at least 5 months from the date of application
- • Original ACR (Alien Certificate of Registration)
- • Fees for Student’s Permit here
- Go first to the Customer Service Counter to get your checklist of requirements. Get a queue number and wait for your number to be called. Customer service would mean: The only person sitting behind a wooden desk outside the counters. Have all your application papers ready for checking.
- Once your number is called, proceed to evaluator counter window and submit all the required documents and have it checked for completeness and authenticity.
- Go to the Photo-taking/Signature Area to have your picture and signature taken when your name is called.
- Go to the Cashier when your name is called to pay the necessary fees and obtain an Official Receipt.
- Go to the Releasing Counter when your name is called and present the Official Receipt and claim the Student Driver’s Permit.
***Student’s permit is valid for 6 months and can be used to apply for a non-professional driver’s license after 1 month. The whole process of applying for a new one will be similar to converting a foreign driver’s license.
Important Note: This takes a lot of waiting and they process via number queing. It is advisable to go pretty early.
2. Driving Laws in the Philippines
It gets even more challenging when you have to put up with a large number of people committing traffic violations. A driver’s license cannot be confiscated by a Traffic Enforcer during traffic apprehensions except on the following situations:
- Disregarding traffic signs
- Illegal Parking
- Illegal counterflow
- The driver was involved in a traffic accident
- The driver has accumulated three (3) or more unsettled violations
- Allowing another person to use the driver’s license
- Fake driver’s license
- Illegal transfer of plates/tags/stickers
- Tampering of OR/CR/CPC & other documents (spurious documents)
- Undue preference/unjust discrimination
- Using motor vehicle in the commission of a crime
Top Mobile Applications
Waze is probably the most downloaded navigation app in the country by having more than 40,000 active users who proactively report traffic jams, obstructions, and other relevant traffic information useful to other Waze users. You can send your map navigation to your friends to inform them about your location and estimated time of arrival.
Google Maps has always been a pre-downloaded app on our iOs and Android smartphones. Having built-in indoor maps to easily help you find your way into big places. The biggest plus is Google’s ‘Street View’ option for locating your destination in the fastest and convenient way as possible.
What are your rights when you get apprehended by a traffic enforcer?
- You have the right not to give out your license until the enforcer tells you the specific reason why he’s asking for it.
- You have the right to say “no” when an MMDA officer asks you to step out of the car.
- You have the right to ask them for their mission order. Each Traffic Enforcer has his/her own written mission order that’s issued by the MMDA Central Administration. Mission orders indicating their Jurisdiction area, official role, time of duty, and if they really can authorize to issue tickets.
You may question why you’re being apprehended by the enforcer and/or even refuse to give up your driver’s license especially if;
- • You weren’t involved in any traffic accident
- • You have not accumulated three or more unsettled violations
- • You haven’t violated any of the slated traffic laws slated above.
What to do during an accident?
- Safety First. The principal concern during a car accident is the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Check if anyone needs an immediate medical attention.
- Take photos of immediately of the actual accident for documentation purposes. You will need these photos for your third party insurance claims and for any legal purposes.
- Prepare the following documents to present to the attending traffic enforcer/police assignee:
- • Car registration copy
- • Driver’s license
- Both parties who are part of the accident will be escorted to the nearest police station to give out each statement of what has happened.
- • You will be given a blank piece of paper to manually write the incident as you’ve recalled. Affix your signature and then submit to the attending police desk officer.
- • Both parties will come into an agreement regarding insurance/repairs/other arrangements.
Having a police report on hand can assist in speeding up the insurance claims process.