Here what we do to try to take Manila taxis safely. We like Manila and the people of Manila and find most (but not all) of the taxi drivers to be good guys just trying to survive, but some are not so good and will try to cheat you or worse. Manila is more dangerous than a place like Hong Kong. One has to be more alert and resourceful in Manila about personal security. What can go wrong? The driver can demand more money than the meter shows is owed, or maybe he never turned on the meter and demands an arbitrary amount. Worse, your taxi driver can turn into a dark alley where accomplices are waiting to rob you. If you are a foreigner, or an overseas worker just arriving in Manila, you can be expected to have money, and nice cameras and cell phones.
If you are staying in a high end hotel, your hotel may provide transport from the airport to the hotel. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs considerably more than a taxi. If you are not taking a hotel van to your hotel, you have a couple of other choices.
The first is the official yellow airport taxi as shown above. After collecting your baggage and going through customs, watch for transportation and taxi signs and then for a line of the yellow airport taxis. The taxi stand worker will ask where you are going and assign you a taxi. These taxis are in good condition. The flag down rate for these taxis is P70, whereas an ordinary taxi is P40. The rate per kilometer is also higher. In total, you pay about twice as much as you would taking an ordinary taxi. Taking a yellow airport taxi to Ermita will cost P400 or 500 versus about P200 for a ordinary taxi.
If I am traveling alone or if it’s nighttime, I will pay the extra for the yellow airport taxis. However, if I have a travelling companion and it’s daytime, we will take an ordinary taxi. Here’s how. Arrivals are on the lower level of the airport, departures on the upper level. To get an ordinary taxi, do not exit the arrivals area. Look for an escalator up to the lobby of the departure area. Exit the departure area and cross the road immediately in front of the departure hall. There is an island where ordinary Manila taxis are dropping off departing passengers. Take one of these taxis. Before you get into any Manila taxi, open the door and tell the driver where you want to go and that you want “meter” — that is the fare will be determined by the meter. If he does not agree, just choose another taxi. Sometimes, if traffic is bad we will agree to meter plus an additional sum, say P50. Negotiations over, get in and make sure the meter is set to the P40 flag down rate. Make sure the taxi doors are locked. If your door is open and you are stuck in a traffic jam, you can be robbed.
Here’s another trick I use. As the taxi moves off, I pick up my cellphone and call my wife. I loudly tell her I am just leaving the airport in taxi number such and such and that I’ll call her back when I get to the hotel. The taxi driver will know that my wife will have his taxi number and so will be cautious about any nefarious plans.
It also helps if you know, or seem to know where you are going so you don’t seem the inexperienced lost lamb. Besides, your taxi driver may not know where the place you want to go is located. Try to be prepared.
When you arrive at your destination, don’t pay the driver until you get your luggage out of the trunk. If you pay him first, he may drive off with your luggage. If a taxi driver has been good, I generally tip them. They have a tough life!