Let’s start out with the basics: I like trikes. In Dumaguete they are ubiquitous and pass by constantly. It’s rare that it takes more than a few minutes to grab a trike. I’m height challenged, so I can, unlike some foreigners, fit in a trike. Yes, I did post about actually breaking a trike’s seat but that was an aberration (I think). Trikes are generally cheap (which is the topic today) and while uncomfortable, for the short ride, they work well for me. Since I purchased a car several weeks ago, I take them less often but I still take them; sometimes it’s just more convenient than driving and parking.
So today, let’s discuss how the process of trike taking works. I know I know, I’ve lived in the Philippines for all of 6 weeks but I’ve been on plenty of trikes over the years and my lack of time as a resident of the Philippines never stopped me from giving my opinions before.
Now in Dumaguete, like many cities in the Philippines, trike rates are regulated. No, really – I’m serious. I know a lot of guys who complain about getting beaten out of major amounts of pesos but in reality there is a system to the way trikes charge. This is true whether you are in Dumaguete, or the small town of Alcoy, Cebu where Janet is from; there is a regulated rate.
In the core area of Dumaguete there is a rate. Now don’t ask me exactly what it is because I have heard various figures. Actually it’s 8 pesos/person, but that gets a bit complex because that is technically only for the 1st kilometer. Each additional kilometer is .5 peso, which can add up to big money 🙂 When Janet and I take a trike in the core area of Dumaguete I usually give the driver 20 pesos for the two of us. If I am in a particularly generous mood (meaning I’ve had a San Miguel or 2) I will give the driver 25 pesos.
So now we come to Tip #1: Know the rate as best you can and don’t ask what it is. If you get in a trike and ask the driver to take you somewhere in the core area and then ask “how much” you may get pissed off by the answer you get. The 1st time Janet and I were in Dumaguete a few years ago, I made the mistake of asking the driver “how much.” “50 pesos, Sir,” I was told. I answered, “I thought it was 8 pesos per person.” Without missing a beat, he responded, “It is, Sir, but perhaps you’d like to give me a tip.” The point being tell him where you want to go, get on the trike and just pay at the end.
BTW, the official Dumaguete rates can be found here.
Tip #2: Now here’s where it gets complicated. Let’s say you want to go somewhere outside the core area. There are fixed rates for many towns, and they can get pretty high by trike standards. But most trike drivers will negotiate. In the first few weeks after we arrived , Janet and I took many trips to the town of Sibulan, north of Dumaguete. All the car dealerships are there as was the place where we ordered furniture. So in this case, the trike stops and I would say “Ford Dealership in Sibulan. Near the airport.” One of several things happens. The driver may look at me like I am an insane kano and drive off, because he doesn’t want to drive all the way to Sibulan, which can take as long as 30 minutes. Generally the driver will not even say “no” – he’ll just drive off. Don’t feel rejected; the next driver will want your pesos.
Or, the driver might state a price. It’s your choice to accept it, reject it or negotiate. If you get agreement, he’ll nod and you get in the trike. Or if you’re married to Janet, she will yell and if you’re lucky an agreement will be made, you’ll get into the trike and then hear about what a terrible deal we made 🙂
In the 3rd scenario, the driver will ask what you are willing to pay, putting the ball squarely in your court. If you’ve made that Sibulan run a bunch of times like we have, you know what you will probably have to pay. Depending on whether you are in a rush you might lop 10 pesos off the price you usually pay and start there for negotiating. The driver might accept it or might simply drive off. They don’t tend to throw the bird much in the Philippines but this basically means the same thing.
The 4th scenario – and I’ve only had this happen a couple times – is the driver will actually say, “whatever you wish to pay, Sir. Its up to you.” Don’t count on this happening, but it might. If it does, thank your creator or whomever you believe in, then give the driver a decent amount to encourage his great behavior.
Tip #3: Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Let’s say you want to go somewhere off the beaten path. One of the reasons the regulated rates in the core area are so cheap is that the driver is likely to find other passengers along the way. But if you want to go to Timbuktu (or the Philippines equivalent) he’s unlikely to find anyone else and you are essentially hiring the driver exclusively. It’s called Pakyaw (pronounced Pacquiao, not to be confused with Manny). Again, negotiation is the call of the day but expect to pay more.
Tip #4: Tips. It seems that most Filipinos at the end of their trike ride, get off, hand the driver some coins and wait for their change. I just hand over whatever I have decided to pay and get the hell out of the trike; which often involves some groaning and banging of the head. In other words, tips are optional but I always try to give a few (but not too many) extra pesos.
Tip #5: While I just talked about Filipinos getting change, we are talking about a few pesos. Do not give the driver a 500 peso note and expect change. He won’t have it and will look at you like a fool, as will all the other passengers.
Tip #6: If you find a driver you really like for those off the beaten path trips, you might consider getting his phone number. In fact, he might suggest it as well. That way when you want to go back to that unusual area you can call “your guy” and both of you will know what to expect.
Tip #7: Don’t overpay. I know I know, you’re rich, the rates are dirt cheap, and you’re trying to impress your girl. You might even rationalize that you’re helping the poor driver. Stop it! You are only perpetuating the notion that every foreigner is rich and this only leads to drivers wanting to overcharge said rich foreigners. Besides, despite your generosity, the driver will still think you’re an idiot! And so will your girl! So do us all a favor and don’t overpay or overtip.
Tip #8: Unless you are Janet, don’t start arguing with the driver. And for God’s sake, don’t start claiming you’re being taken advantage of because you’re a foreigner or start spitting out “long nose tax.” If you genuinely think the price is excessive, don’t get on the trike. Janet and I have literally had a trike driver pull over if we felt uncomfortable for any reason.
If you look at the rates quoted in the link above, you’ll see that the trip from Dumaguete to Sibulan is 120 pesos, Janet and I generally paid 70 for the two of us from our apartment, which is south of Dumaguete. Knowledge is power. If you know what things are supposed to cost, you will get taken advantage of far less frequently.
As I said at the beginning I generally like the trikes. If you can fit into them, you might also. Enjoy!