Thursday, February 26, 2015

Driving in Manila for Foreigners - Tip #4: Driving in Manila requires BALANCE.

The previous posts in this series have dealt mainly with some pre-requisite information needed to drive here. But now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of info you'll need to successfully navigate an automobile around the streets of Manila. The first piece of nitty gritty advice I can give you is that successfully driving here requires a delicate balance of driving with extreme offense and extreme defense. The BALANCE is the important part here. Excessive defensiveness and it'll likely take you forever to get anywhere (remember from the first post in this series that my definition of a "successful" drive includes a "minimal amount of time" factor). Excessive offensiveness and you'll likely end up in a test of bumpers with a Passenger Jeepney, or of the excessive number of huge buses whose drivers wield their people-carrying behemoths as if they were whipping around the city in a small Toyota Vios. Trust me, that is one test that you will fail.

So balance is the key word. With time and experience in Manila you'll learn how to pick and choose your battles. You'll learn when to push and when to back down. You'll learn what you can and can't do. Much of my own personal "education" about driving in Manila came from the first few months after we moved here. During that time, we only had one car so our hired driver would have to drive me to and from work in Makati; about a 30 minute to 1 hour drive each way depending on traffic. Whenever he drove me around, I paid close attention to how he drove and how other people drove to get a feel for what was and wasn't "acceptable" here. To get a feel for what to expect from other drivers, and what other drivers would expect from me.  

In hindsight, our driver at the time was pretty skilled. Unfortunately, he didn't really grasp the idea of balance though. He leaned a little more on the offensive/aggressive side and that eventually resulted in a fender bender with a Mitsubishi Montero Sport. So the moral of the story here is that balance is definitely key. If you can find the happy balance between offensive and defensive driving you'll be well on your way to "successfully" driving in Manila.

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