Upon arriving in Manila I was almost instantly presented with the frustration that I was forewarned I would experience when dealing with taxis… although I have now learnt how to deal with such frustrations quite effectively.
First off, you have the price: when you exit the airport, you’re approached by a few taxi drivers in suits who will quote you anywhere from between P1,300 and P1,500 for the trip into Makati, which is rather steep for a 30 minute journey. These are “special” taxis, and they charge exaggerated fares because they assume that foreigners arriving here are unaware of the metered taxis around the corner from the entrance (which charge a quarter of that price).
Sometimes, however, these regular taxis can be just as difficult to deal with. As far as the price is concerned, most drivers will try to arrange a set price as soon as you get in, usually a much higher price than it would normally be were they to run the meter (which they are supposed to by law) – and that’s if they agree to take you in the first place, as many taxi drivers will often stop, ask you your destination, then shake their head to indicate that they don’t want the fare. This can be quite inconvenient, to say the least. A taxi is supposed to stop and pick you up when you flag them down (if it’s free of luggage and/or shopping), then take you to wherever you want to go to and charge you whatever the meter indicates is the fair fare. What can make it even worse is that they often don’t know how to get to your required destination. All of these things combine to be quite irritating.
After a while you learn how to deal with the situation. First off, you have to understand that traffic in Manila is so congested that if you ask a taxi to take you on a journey that is only a couple of kilometers away (but may well take an hour to get there), he will have “wasted” an hour of his time to make very little money; and these are people who are certainly not getting rich driving taxis. You also become resigned to them asking for a set price, and you either learn to calmly ask them to activate the meter or, if you know how much a certain trip should cost, agree to a set price that’s not too outrageous. As far as tipping, giving them an extra P30 to P50 is not unreasonable.
Finally, you have to accept that taxi driving is an occupation in the Philippines that just about anybody can do – provided they have a driver’s license – and they don’t need to know the streets of Manila in any great detail (so don’t expect them to know where they’re going all of the time). Make sure you have some rudimentary information on, and directions to, your destination – and then expect to ask someone along the way once you are getting close.
In summation, my advice on the issue would be to understand their position and their reasoning, accept that the heavy traffic (for which your particular driver is unlikely to be the cause of) will always have a bearing on the situation, that most of these drivers do not have an intimate knowledge of the roads, and then learn to “haggle” with serenity. Once you adopt this approach, your time here will be much easier, and you will find that one of the more difficult aspects of living in Metro Manila in particular loses a large degree of its notoriety, leaving you free to travel around the city with relative ease.