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How to commute in Puerto Princesa aka How NOT TO GET SCAMMED by Tricycles

Puerto Princesa Tricycles

There are several ways to commute in Puerto Princesa, Palawan but the main mode of public commute are tricycles. If you’re new to Palawan, or the Philippines, and don’t know what tricycles are, tricycles (or trikes for short) are motorcycles with sidecars. You can think of these as motorcycle taxis similar to the autorickshaws in India or tuk-tuks in Thailand. And like taxis, they also charge by distance except they don’t have meters. Tricycles drivers and passengers “guesstimate” the fare based on how far they “think” they traveled. Not too efficient but it works. Sort of…



How to commute in Puerto Princesa

It’s easy to commute in Puerto Princesa. Here’s how:

  • Hail an empty trike
  • Tell the driver your destination
  • Pay the driver when you reach the destination

Trikes are practically everywhere so it’s easy to hail one BUT the farther you go from the airport, the harder it is to get a ride. So if you’re looking for a place to stay, we recommend that you stay close to two major roads: Rizal Avenue and Manalo St. Staying along those roads will make it easier for you to commute in Puerto Princesa. Also, commercial establishments and restaurants are west of the airport so it’s easier to get a ride there. Nothing much happening farther east of the airport though so getting a ride may be challenging.

Aside from hailing a trike along the road, you can also get a ride from parked ones lined up in popular tourist destinations and restaurants. DO NOT ride those though. I’ll explain why later.

Once you’re inside the tricycle, you should see a fare chart that would tell you how

Fare Guide (Puerto Princesa, Palawan)
Once you’re inside the tricycle, you should see a fare chart that would tell you how much you need to pay for your ride. The government requires that drivers post this in a visible location.

much you need to pay for your ride. The government requires that drivers post this in a visible location. We recommend that you use Google Maps to determine how far your destination is and pay accordingly. The minimum fare if P8. Customarily though, people pay a minimum of ₱10 per passenger since drivers don’t really earn much plus ₱10 is a good round number.

In case you get a ride and the fare guide is not visible anywhere, BEWARE. It is very likely that your driver will scam you and ask for way more than the actual fare. My sister, March (Event Singers PH), and close friend, Tin (Katrinissima), were asked to pay P180 for their ride. That’s 20x more than the actual fare!!! Don’t want to get ripped off? Read on.

When you reach your destination, get off the trike, pay the driver, and confidently walk away. This order is key. First off, make sure that you know the fare matrix and how far your destination is (again, Google Maps). Then get out of the trike BEFORE paying. This will save you from unnecessary arguments with the driver that can ruin your wonderful Palawan experience. Also, pay the exact amount as much as possible. Some drivers tend to give less change or not give the change at all. And lastly, thank the driver and confidently walk away. The driver will not chase you because this gives the signal that you know the fare. If he complains, then let him know that you do know the fare guide. You can go as far as reporting them to the Tourist Police if you’re inclined to. (We’ll tell you how later)

So if you’re staying at the “House of Big Brother”, for example, and you want to go to the Baywalk Park; checking Google Maps, I see that this is 2.4 kilometers away. The fare for 3 kilometers (rounded up) is P9.25. When you get to Baywalk Park, get off the trike, hand the driver P10 (again, that’s the minimum you want to pay), and confidently walk away. Confidently walking away is important. Think runway fashion walk.

One last tip, most touristy places are less than 4 kilometers away so make sure you stock up on P10 coins or P20 bills.

How not to get scammed by tricycle drivers

Unfortunately, tricycle drivers will scam you as soon as arrive in Puerto Princesa. It’s just a reality that you need to be prepared for. There are a few things you can do about it though.

Stay away from tricycle queues. These drivers usually wait at the popular tourist destinations and restaurants as tourists are easy prey. You can easily avoid this by making sure that you only ride the trikes that you hail along the road. Queued up tricycles use the excuse that they ask for more because they’ve been waiting for passengers. Any excuse you hear are just that, excuses. Save yourself some trouble by avoiding these altogether.

Be informed. Be familiar with the fare chart and your destination. Drivers usually prey on uninformed tourists and being informed saves you from that. Know the fare guide for the commute in Puerto Princesa. Each city has its own fare guide but prices should be fairly similar. Also, make sure you sound as local as you possibly can. Mention road names, let them know that you know the fare, and act confidently. Nothing tips off scammers faster than confused tourists.

Report scam drivers. You can report scam drivers to the Puerto

Puerto Princesa Tourist Police Unit contact details
You can reach the Puerto Princesa TPU using these information.

Princesa TPU (Tourist Police Office) by calling their hotline 0999-994-1355 or 0906-007-2784. There are also TPU outposts in popular tourist destinations. The problem with tourist outposts is that the tourist police officers themselves are either clueless or are so used to these scams that they think it’s “normal”.

We experienced this ourselves when we reported scam tricycles in front of Kinabuchs restaurant (horrible restaurant, but that’s another story). Police Officer Manlavi, the person assigned to the area, told us that that’s normal and refused to do anything about it. When we pressed him for questions, he turned his back on us and walked away. At this point, I called the TPU hotline and when he realized that we knew what we were doing, he started talking to B and asked her what we WANTED him to do. Long story short, the TPU office told us that they’ll be dealing with it. We did make a few more reports after this so we had a chance to talk to the TPU office even more and we’ve been told of the actions they took. We’re not in Puerto Princesa anymore so we can’t verify if they did but we’ll continue to report these kinds of activities.

This brings an interesting question though…

As tourists, should you bother reporting scammers?

If you want to report scammers like these, make sure to take note of the tricycle drivers plate number when you call the TPU office. If you can record them saying how much it costs, even better.

The question still remains though, should you bother reporting scammers? On the one hand, these drivers are confident that they can steal money off of tourists because nobody’s reporting them. And the less people care, the more rampant this kind of cheating will be.

On the other hand, reporting this can be a hassle. You have to deal with angry drivers, wait for the police and waste a lot of time which you should be spending relaxing. This is a vacation after all.

  • Would you report scamming drivers when you’re traveling?Let's Discuss
  • Do you think it’s worth the time lost in the process of reporting?
  • Is it everybody’s responsibility, including tourists, to report scammers?

Head over to the comments and let’s discuss.



2 thoughts on “How to commute in Puerto Princesa aka How NOT TO GET SCAMMED by Tricycles

  1. Hi Mel!

    I definitely agree with your tactic; walking away puts them in a vulnerable position (people seeing them scamming a foreigner). It’s really sad that the local government doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. It’s apparent in how confident these drivers are in overcharging people who look like tourists.

    My fiance (Canadian) and I are planning to stay here for several months and I hate the thought of having to deal with this every time we go anywhere. That’s why we’re considering getting a motorcycle instead. It’s only a matter of time before taxis, once they get popular, will be the preferred transportation by tourists if these drivers keep on scamming people.

    Ugh.

    1. I really wish the local government would be more vigilant regarding this. To be fair though, they take action when people take thr time to report them.

      Public commute is still a more cost effective than renting a motorcycle. But there’s something fascinating about driving a motorcycle that we absolutely enjoy.

      Have fun in the Philippines! Please reach out if you need help with anything.

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