Manila Taxi Drivers – A Bad Reputation Now Obselete

Manila taxi drivers have a bad reputation. When i first arrived it was one of the first things that the locals would warn me about. I was told that they will always try to rip me off because i am a foreigner. On my first night out here that is exactly what happened. This was through my own stupidity more than anything.

To sum up the story i made the following mistakes:

⁃ I was noticeably drunk
⁃ I asked how much the fare would be rather than just getting in and starting the meter.
⁃ When asking about the fare i said i was going to a hotel, another indicator that i had zero experience in the Philippines.
⁃ The meter was then started at the agreed fare, and went up from there.
⁃ I was comparing the amount to Australian dollars and despite the excessively high fare it was still a reasonable price in comparison

So the outcome was i paid about p700 for a fare that should have been about p120 on a normal day. It is embarrassing to admit now, and i have a good laugh about it. I have no one to blame but myself though and I really invited the guy to do what he did through my naivety.

While my first experience was not good, this was the only time that i let this happen to me. For the record, i think the vast majority of taxi drivers are decent and honest people. From who i have dealt with it could not be more than 20% of the drivers i have dealt with that are looking to rip you off, and you can usually spot them a mile away.

If a taxi driver slows down to pick you up and asks you through the window where you are going, don’t bother. Let them go. More often that not you will be offered a fare two or three times the regular fare.

If you get in a taxi and when say your destination they start complaining about traffic in that direction, best to just get out and find another taxi. They will sit there complaining about traffic and say they will take you for a certain number, or meter plus extra. I get annoyed very quickly at these people so i just get out before being drawn into a pointless argument. It is Manila, show me one place that doesn’t have fucking traffic… Idiot!

Aside from these two red flags you shouldn’t have too many problems upfront. Many will try and drive off without turning on the meter, but if you ask they will do it without a fuss. If they don’t turn it on though you are leaving yourself open to them making up whatever number they like at the other end and there will be little you can do about it.

Thankfully, modern technology has come along and solved the frustrations of dealing with these problem drivers. New Apps like Uber and Grab have made getting around a breeze compared to how it used to be. Especially in rush hour! No longer do you have to stand on the side of the road for hours trying to wave down a vacant taxi and jump in it before someone else grabs it off you.

Both of these services offer driver profiles as well. So you have that extra safety net knowing who your driver is, and there is an avenue to provide feedback on their performance and report any dodgy behaviour. There are still some drivers who are just plain assholes, but it is a minor occasional annoyance.


This is my pick for the best App in town. The pricing is very good unless you are in super peak times. The drivers are generally very friendly (i have only had a bad experience once) and the cars nice and clean. The tracking on the App is usually fairly reliable and the wait times normally just a few minutes. You get the odd driver who is unfamiliar with the area and take forever to arrive but this is rare.

Just this week Uber seem to have moved to a fixed price system for their fares, so you know exactly what you will pay as long as the destination or wait times are not excessive. I am yet to have an opinion on this but i do think that it will result in slightly more expensive fares. They are going to round up rather than down.


Since launching Grab have expanded their claws into every type of transport you can imagine. Taxis, cars, motorbikes, couriers and even helicopters. I would love to try the Grab-Copter one day.

I stopped using Grab a while ago after being a daily customer for about a year. Their fares were just going up and up to the point where i discovered that Uber was half the price.

The Grab Car was always a good option as it worked out to be about the same price as a taxi. The taxi fare is calculated as the meter, plus a booking fee. This changes all the time and has moved between p40 and p70. This makes the fare very uncompetitive when you consider a 5 minute trip to the other side of town may cost p60, plus a p70 booking fee. The p130 total for a taxi compared to a p80 Uber fare makes the choice very easy.

With the fixed price Grab car it usually worked out to the about the same p110-p130 fare. For the extra comfort it was worth paying. The fare then started to climb to p140, p150, p160…. then it seemed to stay at the p170+ mark. This was not a demand thing, they had just jacked up their pricing structure so i said goodbye to Grab. I was once a devoted user and big advocate for the brand. Over to Uber i went, and i am now a devout fan.

So gone are the days where the foreigner must be weary of the local taxi driver. They offer a second rate service to the other options on the market now. This is unfortunate for the many good trustworthy drivers out there. I hope they find their way over to these new services and contribute there. As for those who make a living taking advantage of people, there is no room for your antics in the new age of transport. I will have no sympathy for any hardships you endure as a result.

Update: A recent and unexpected scam i encountered in the Airport Taxis.


  1. I got a very funny/annoying experience with taxi driver last Oct. 30 all because I opted not to take Grab since the destination was just quite near. Never gonna trust non-booked taxis in Manila again.

    1. Its an unfortunate hassle to have to deal with. Technology will make taxis obsolete and i hope none of these scammers make their way to Uber or Grab.

  2. As an ex cab driver from Chicago suburbs, I will say taxi drivers have done themselves no justice by refusing longer rides, fixing rates and keeping poor maintainence on their vehicles. At least the app keeps the taxi driver in check. I don’t mess with Uber, but Grab I’ve used on many occasions. Local: Grab Taxi, long distance: Grab Car.

    1. I was in grab camp until their fixed rates climbed to a level where it was triple a cab for my regular ride to work. I checked Uber which i had resisted for a long time just out of habit, and it was less than half. Experience as good, if not better. Always good to have both on hand to navigate peak times.

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