Generally, it's a good idea to have your own private vehicle in Metro Manila. That way, you have total control over your driving route, your gasoline consumption and your personal safety. Still, it won't hurt to try out the Metro's public transportation every now and then.
For one, they're cheaper. At the minimum, buses charge Php12 per ride, while jeepneys charge Php7.50. A one-way trip on the LRT costs at least Php15, while the same costs Php13 on the MRT. Even when you account for back-and-forth trips, and switching transportation within each trip, you spend less than if you drive your own car.
Also, if you're the adventurous type, public transportation is one of the best ways to explore Metro Manila. Wherever your vehicle stops, it's a great opportunity to look around and notice places you haven't noticed before. And if you get lost, you can always ask locals for directions. Being true to the Filipino spirit of hospitality, they'll be more than happy to help you.
Of course, that assumes you're already familiar with the basics of riding public transportation in Metro Manila. If you aren't, here's a quick rundown of them:
Most road-based public utility vehicles (PUVs) have designated pick-up/drop-off points. In Makati, for example, the "Loading/Unloading" system is strictly enforced from Mondays to Saturdays. Drivers can pick up — but not drop off — passengers from the "Loading" areas, while the opposite is true for "Unloading" areas.
Also, PUVs tend to be crowded during the hours before 8 A.M. and after 5 P.M. If you plan to ride a bus, for instance, be prepared to stand up and hang on (literally) throughout the entire trip. As for jeepneys, their drivers wait for as long as it takes to fill up every bit of space in their passenger seats. Granted, you can always wait for the next (and, hopefully, less crowded) vehicle to come along, but if you're pressed for time, you won't always have much of a choice.
Lastly, and this bears repeating, keep a close eye on your valuables. Yes, Makati is one of the safest places in the Metro, but considering that all types of people use public transportation, it's best to err on the side of caution. Make sure your bag's zippers are closed, avoid wearing fancy jewelry in public and be wary of suspicious-looking individuals near you. As the old saying goes, "Better safe than sorry."
Now that we've gotten those out of the way, let's tackle the specifics of each type of transportation. We won't go into too much detail about the routes of each, since (1) they are more than adequately covered on resources like the Makati City Area Transit Map; and (2) there are navigation apps specially designed to help you find your way around the Metro. Instead, what we will discuss are the actual — as opposed to theoretical — things you can experience from each type of transport.
Without further ado, here they are:
If you're on a major road in Metro Manila, chances are you'll see buses. They usually display their drop-off points prominently on their windshields. Also, the conductor — the one who hands out the tickets — will often get off the bus and holler passengers on board. Once you get on and pay for your ticket, remember to keep it 'til the end of the trip. The conductor will shout the names of each drop-off point once the bus gets there, so keep your ears peeled.
In case you're not sure whether a bus will pass by your destination, don't hesitate to ask the conductor. Not only will he give you a straight "Yes" or "No" answer, but he can also give you a tip or two about how to get where you want to go. You may need to prod him about this, but for the most part, he's willing to help anyone who asks for it.
Ah yes, the much-maligned jeepney. It's true that they're dirty, and spew out tons of black exhaust smoke. However, they're also useful for travelling in smaller areas where buses can't pass.
Once you ride a jeepney, you say "Bayad po (Payment please)" to the passenger(s) closest to the driver, and hand out your cash to them. Don't worry about not getting all your change; it'll usually come back to you in one piece. Also, as soon as your destination is close, say "Para! (Stop!)."
If you're not in a hurry, your best bet is to look for a nearby loading station for jeepneys. That way, you can easily pick a seat that's most convenient for you. As we mentioned earlier, jeepney drivers tend to load their vehicles to the hilt, so getting a comfy seat will help with a long — and traffic-filled — journey. Oh, and one more thing: Grab on to the railings directly above your head. Trust us, you'll need them for safety.
You might've heard not-so-nice things about taxis in the Philippines. And it's true: There are plenty of unscrupulous drivers who, quite frankly, shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a steering wheel. At the same time, there are plenty of good ones too, if you know where to look for them.
For example, you can call one of 8 taxi service companies in Manila. If you live in a condo, ask the security/administration whether there are nearby services that offer private transport. You'll be surprised at what you find out!
Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT)
Of all the ones on this list, the LRT and MRT are the most convenient. They only stop at designated stations, and don't get slowed down by traffic. To ride them, you can either use a Single Journey ticket (which, as the name implies, is only valid for a single trip) or a Stored Value one (which allows you multiple trips until the stored balance is used up). As with the other modes of transport mentioned, you need to familiarize yourself with their routes to make the most of them.
And that's about it for the most common modes of public transport you'll find in Metro Manila. Each of them has their pros and cons, so weigh those carefully before you ride on any of them. Meanwhile, if you've had personal experiences with any of these, don't hesitate to share them in the comments section.