Ultimate Guide to Renting & Driving a Car in Manila

Although renting a car in Manila for tourists is not really advisable because of the horrible traffic and the headache of trying to find a suitable parking (you can always choose to take public transportation or grab a taxi), there are some cases where renting a car in Manila might be a great idea, and that is when you want to make Manila as your home base and then go on a road trip and drive to the nearby beaches and provinces.

Although you can conveniently explore the provinces by bus, driving a rental car along the scenic Philippine countryside is a surprisingly relaxing and educational experience, one you would not be able to do when you’re stuck on a bus from point A to B, like take a stop over at that interesting farming activity you saw from the expressway or that nice, quaint beach town you have just passed by. Whatever your reason is, we’ve created this guide to all your options and what you need to know when renting a car in Manila and the rest of the Philippines.

Are foreign tourists allowed to drive in the Philippines?

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: Are foreigners allowed to drive in the Philippines in the first place? The answer is YES, and you can even drive using your license from your home country. If you will be staying in the country for just 90 days or less, you are free to just use your driver’s license issued by your home country (provided that it is in English – if not, you can get an official translation in English from the local embassy of the issuing country).

If you will be staying in the Philippines for more than 90 days, however, you need to apply for a local driver’s license from any branch of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). There are tons of LTO branches in Metro Manila, and they even have satellite offices in malls so finding one nearest you shouldn’t be a problem. When applying for a local driver’s license, you can either choose to convert your foreign license to a local one, or get a new one from LTO.

You will need the following documents when applying for a local driver’s license at the LTO:

  • Original and photocopy of valid license
  • Original and photocopy of valid passport, and visa stamp or ACR
  • Medical Certificate (most LTO offices have their own in-house clinic so you can easily have your health, especially your vision checked for road-worthiness. They offer this service for less than P500)
  • Completed application form

In case you need to contact LTO, call them up at the LTO Central Office hotline (02) 922 9061 to 66, or call the licensing section directly at (02) 926 7081 and (02) 921 5370.

Renting a car for travel within Manila is easy. Just be prepared to deal with the traffic.

Renting a car in the Manila: How/Where to Rent a Car

There are a number of car rental companies with different branches in Metro Manila so you’ve got many options, and aside from renting self- driven cars, most rental companies also offer chauffeur-driven cars, just in case you wish to get around in style. You have also plenty of options if you prefer a certain vehicle type to suit your trip – be it a sedan for a couple, an SUV with provision for surfboards, a minivan/bus for a whole team, or even a bridal car if you wish.

Most car rentals are priced on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and that means the more days you rent a car, the cheaper the whole package will be. car rental prices also differ depending on availability, season, and demand, so contact them to get updated rates.

Here are some Manila car rental companies you can get in touch with:

The rental process is pretty straightforward. You just have to arrange the pick up and drop off dates and settle your balances plus provide the required documents, and then you’re good to take off.

Here are the commonly required documents by car rental companies

  • Valid passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Major credit card (visa, MasterCard, Amex)
  • Proof of billing abroad
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Security deposit (commonly P10,000)
  • In some cases, a copy of your flight ticket

Aside from the above, you can also book direct with Expedia for free cancellation and insurances. If you just need a quick day of exploring around complete with your own driver but without the taxing requirements and processes, this private car charter would be a great deal.

A relaxing drive from Manila through the scenic Philippine countryside is one of the best experiences when visiting the Philippines. An obligatory stop at the small farming or beach towns is a must, too.

What you need to know and tips when driving in Manila and the Philippines

  • The Philippines uses the left-hand side for driving, so if you are from countries that use the righ-hand drive, it may take some getting used to.
  • Obey the traffic rules, and if possible, request from the car rental company if they can equip you with a dashcam to protect yourself in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  • Exercise caution and safety at all times.
  • If your car rental company provides additional insurance and it fits your budget well, consider getting one
  • Expect heavy traffic when driving within Metro Manila. When stuck in traffic, do as the locals do – turn the music on and relax, and not stress yourself out too much.
  • There is a number coding system in Metro Manila where you cannot use your car on a specific weekday depending on your car’s plate number (or else you will be ticketed). This does not apply to most provinces.
    • For plate number ending in 1/2, car cannot be used on Mondays
    • For plate number ending in 3/4, car cannot be used on Tuesdays
    • For plate number ending in 5/6, car cannot be used on Wednesdays
    • For plate number ending in 7/8, car cannot be used on Thursdays
    • For plate number ending in 9/0, car cannot be used on Fridays

Alternatives to renting a car in Manila

You can always take the taxi or take the public transport when going around Metro Manila to avoid the hassles of getting stuck/looking for a parking that’s nowhere to be found. When going to the provinces for a quick getaway, most Philippine destinations can be reached by bus from Metro Manila – these bus companies nowadays offer upgraded first class service for those who are more meticulous, if you want to cough up the additional cash, that is.

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