Cycling the Philippines.

Cycling the Philippines.

Some tips and advice

if you are planning a cycling tour

around the Philippines.

Rural road in the Philippines.

Rural road in the Philippines.

Is cycling in the Philippines a good idea?

As a whole, yes it is.

 

Some parts are better than others but all in all this is a pretty good cycling country once you are out of the hustle and bustle of Manila.

Like all other places there are some challenges but they are possible to overcome and part of the adventure and when cycling you will get out to see the part of the Philippines that is not overrun with tourists yet.

There is more to the Philippines than Manila, Boracay and El Nido.

 

Bicycle store in Cartimar.

Bicycle store in Cartimar.

If you plan on buying a bicycle in the Philippines then you should do it in Manila and nowhere else.

While the rest of the country is quite good for getting spare parts and getting your bikes fixed but in terms of getting a touring bike there is no way around Manila.

Good news is that most good bicycle shops are located in the same part of the city.

It’s a place called Cartimar in Pasay which is one of the oldest malls in Manila and it’s quite run down and nowhere near as fancy as all the new malls you see all over Manila these days.

But Cartimar is full of bicycle shops and it’s the perfect place to go hunting for a bicycle as you have a few dozen shops within a 10 minute walk and you can get all sorts of bikes there from the very cheapest to the very best and the prices for bicycles there are quite good.

Cartimar also has a lot of pet shops too just in case you feel like buying a parrot a goldfish or a hamster to put on you bike 🙂

 

What are the roads like in the Philippines for cyclists?

Road scene from the Philippines.

Road scene from the Philippines.

You have varying quality of road surface in the Philippines but in general it’s ok for a cyclist as long as you are not on a racing bike with thin tires.

The quality of road surface can be very different from place to place though as it’s the local governments who take care of them so some parts of the country they are full of pot holes and in others they are nice and smooth, all depending on how well the local government functions.

But from a cyclists point of view they are generally ok as they mostly have a nice shoulder for soft traffic and this is in general your main concern as a traveling cyclist.

 

The jeepneys are a cyclists friend.

Jeepney

Jeepney

I often have filipinos asking me if all the jeepney’s aren’t a problem for me when I am cycling in the Philippines.

Jeepney’s are the local mini busses in the Philippines and in reality old military trucks that were converted in to public transport when there was a lot of US army present in the Philippines but they soon became so popular that they started producing them in factories, so these days you have these colorful little vehicles plying the roads of the Philippines in all corners of the country.

And the good news for us cyclists is that they have no opening doors as the people get in and out from the back where is no door and the drivers seat has no door either so no opening doors to worry about there for us cyclists and that really means a lot when you are in urban traffic where opening car doors often poses danger to the cyclists.

As a cyclist I will rather share the road with 1000 jeepney’s than with 500 regular cars.

 

Accommodation along the road in the Philippines.

Selfie in a philippine sex hotel.

Selfie in a philippine sex hotel

When cycling around the Philippines you will also get to parts of the country that sees almost no tourists and this is one of the great things about traveling by bicycle.

At times it can be challenging to find a hotel for the night when cycling the highways of the Philippines but what you can usually find if there is no ordinary hotel is a hotel that is rented by the hour.

These hotels cater mainly to people who come there to have sex, but they almost always have a deal for people who want to stay there for more than just an hour or two and they can be useful to resort to if you are stuck even if they are not a first choice for me.

But beds are usually very comfortable and you have mirrors on the ceiling where you can study yourself if you are a lonely cyclist.

 

Getting food along the way when cycling the

Philippines.

Lechon. Philippine food at it's best.

Lechon. Philippine food at it’s best.

One big surprise for me when cycling the Philippines was that food could be a problem.

In almost all other parts of Asia the street food is fantastic and very healthy so you can easily cycle all day after eating that, but in the Philippines I found that many rural areas are so poor that it can be hard to get anything but rice, bananas and deep fried meat of very bad quality.

It’s really a problem for a long distance cyclist if a burger is the most nutritious thing you can get and this is sometimes the case in rural areas in the Philippines, so try to prepare yourself a bit if heading to rural areas.

I love to buy the local food both because I like to try it but also cause I like to support the local economy in the small towns and villages I pass, but I found that in the Philippines I sometimes need to bring a little extra food along myself.

 

Your name is Joe when you cycle around the Philippines.

Hey Joe, says the cycling philippine family.

Hey Joe, says the cycling philippine family.

One odd thing about cycling the Philippines is that almost all children shout “Hey Joe” when you cycle past them if you are a caucasian male.

This goes back to the time when there was a lot of american military in the Philippines and the locals used to nickname all americans Joe.

So these days your name is Joe if you are a caucasian male in the Philippines.

 

Going from island to island with a bicycle.

 

Overnight ferry in the Philippines.

Overnight ferry in the Philippines.

This generally not a problem as the ferries between most islands in the Philippines are what they call ro ro ferries which means roll on roll off ferries that are meant for vehicles.

I have never had any problems getting my bike on a ferry in the Philippines and it’s mostly free of charge. The ferry rides just ads to the charm when cycling the Philippines.

Cycling the Philippines.

Cycling the Philippines.

This was a little bit of advice about tour cycling in the Philippines.

Feel free to write me with any questions if you have any and I will do all I can to help you.

Streetscene from Manila.

Streetscene from Manila.

 

Cycling the Philippines.

Cycling the Philippines.

24 Comments

  1. Hi Claus,

    Very nice and usefull story. I am intending to visit the Philippines, because I have received 2 invitations from hotels at the WTM. I have never been there before. So, your tips could be very useful for me.

    Best regards,

    Marion Borreman

    • Hi Claus and Marion,
      Well the snow is starting to get thick and deep and the temperatures are getting colder, 2 weeks ago it was -23C so am packing up my bike (I live in Calgary, Canada) and heading to the Philippines on 16 Jan!
      Claus, thanks for the info and pictures it helps.
      Marion perhaps I shall meet you on the roads, I plan to cycle through the Visayas.
      If either of you plan to cycle in Canada I would be more than willing to share my thoughts and ideas.
      Stay safe!
      Ealaine West

      • Hi Ealaine,
        Did you end up doing that cycling trip in the Philippines? Were you by yourself?
        I live in Vancouver and am looking at going for a 3 week cycle tour this summer – would you be willing to share experiences with me?

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  3. Hey Joe.? I just started backpacking and I’m planning to bike around the Philippines right after I graduate in college 3 years from now. So in the meantime I’ll just go backpacking every weekend and every school break. I’m starting to figure out how I’ll do it, and of course my first concern is the bicycle. What kind of bicycle are you using and what are your recommendations? I’m a short guy so mountain bikes aren’t for me and I prefer the minimalist look of your bike. I’m willing to invest for a good bike someday but I’d love to know a great bike that’s not way too expensive.? thanks and cheers to more adventures in life!

    • I think you should try and look in to Trek bicycles. they have some good touring versions and I have seen them for sale in Cartimar in Manila. Hope you will have a great trip mate.

  4. I plan to cycle in island where Manila situated for two weeks, not too remote areas.
    Please recommend places / towns / villages which are nice to visit and to stay
    one or two night.

    • Hi’ Kitti.
      I would suggest that you cycle north from Manila towards Baguio and then from there you can turn east towards Sagada and Banaue. This should be a really good trip and there is a fairly good choice of accomodation on that road.

  5. Hi, I’ve been living here in the Philippines for several years now and travelled throughout extensively. Thank you for your wonderful insight Claus.
    As a keen cyclist myself I would like to add just a few words of advice.
    Don’t visit Jun-Nov as this is typhoon season, be aware that certain parts of the country are no go areas for foreigners and any part of the Philippines beware personal safety.
    I’m currently living in Tacloban and I am unable to purchase the right size inner tubes for my bike, let alone any decent new tyres, so whilst in Manila ensure that you purchase some basic spares, tubes, tyre, chain easy link etc and a few essential tools. A mountain style or hybrid bike would be better purchase as the roads are usually concrete and in varying states of disrepair in the visaya. If you get a road bike, use a 28 or better still 35mm wide tyres. You should carry 2 spare inner tubes so that you don’t have to mess about trying to cold patch by the side of the road. It’s also better and easier to get your punctures fixed by a vulcanising shop and there’s many to be found along the way.
    This is obvious but make sure that you carry enough fluids on your travels as availability of food and drinks is not always available on the open roads. Cycling helmet, use one at all times. Hospitals in the Philippines are quite shockingly bad once out of the big cities of Manila or Cebu, so if you are involved in a serious accident in the visayas you will need to fly to hospital. It’s worth having a small first aid kit on your bike for small accidents… I would also suggest you carry a bike lock and use it. For navigation, nowadays Google maps and a smart phone usually suffice.

  6. Cool! I’m planning to do backpacking/bicycle touring here in the Philippines soon. This really inspired me. What bicycle did you use and what are the gears you brought with you during the whole trip? I’d also love to know your budget. Thank you and cheers to more wild rides! 🙂

    • I used a trek mountainbike that I bought at Cartimar in Manila. My budget in the Philippines is usually around 30 US Dollars per day, including everything. Have a nice cycling trip in the Philippines 🙂

  7. Where would I find information on which phone to buy or rent? If I buy a general purpose bike and use it for 3 months, will I be able to sell it when I leave? Or am I better off bringing my own bike?

    Thanks

    • I have once sold a bike back to a bike store in Cartimar, after using it for a few weeks. What you get for it is up to your own personal negotiating skills. And sorry, but I have no idea about phones, as I never travel with a phone, as I only work with a laptop and never make phone calls during my travels.

  8. You can pick up a SIM card for your mobile phone at many of the small shops(Sari Sari stores), 7-11’s or other convenience shops… Price usually 40 pesos.
    The three main phone operators are ;
    SMART
    GLOBE
    SUN
    Prepaid load can also be bought at most shops and you can avail of Internet / sms / call promotions
    Just remember to ask for the correct size SIM card for your phone ; standard, micro etc

  9. In Cebu you can also find a nice bike shop. The one where I got my nox for packing, they had 5000 dollar bicycles.

  10. Some tips

    *****Bike*****
    1. MTB bike pedals
    2. Puncture resist tyres
    3. Small chain ring =34T
    5. Light weight frame
    6. Bike full service if not new
    7. Do short rides if new bike
    8. Comfortable saddle
    *****Wearable*****
    1. Hi-vis sleeved cycling shirts
    2. Padded cycling long tights
    3. Waterproof socks
    4. MTB bike shoes
    5. Face mask
    6. Sunglasses (safety)
    7. Cycling gloves
    8. Cap for under helmet
    9. Cycling helmet
    10. Hi-vis Light weight jacket
    *****Accessories*****
    1. Cycling computer
    2. Water bottles/cages
    3. LED lights
    4. Waterproof luggage bags
    5. GPS / smartphone
    6. Bell
    7. Rear mudguard
    8. Bike stand
    *****Tools and spares *****
    1. Folded tyre or tyre repair boot
    2. Inner tubes x 2
    3. Chain splitter/rivetor
    4. Quick link for chain
    5. Plastic tyre levers
    6. Multi purpose bike tool
    7. Allen keys
    8. Wet wipes
    10. Gaffer tape / tie wraps etc
    11. Puncture kit

    These are some of the things that can make a touring trip more successful and enjoyable

    • *****Bike*****
      2 for sure. The others depend a little on you

      *****Wearable*****
      1 and two are for sure good.
      I have never used a helmet myself, but just cycle with a cab for sun protection.
      I have never worn sun glasses in any situation on or off the bike, but some people like that.

      *****Accessories*****
      I love a cycling computer, not because I need it, but because I like to see how long i cycle every day.
      I have never used a smartphone or a GPS, but some other people love that.
      Water proof panniers will save you a lot of days of drying wet clothes and wet books and so on and i highly recommend that.
      A bell is good, while a bike stand is usually no good when you have luggage on the bike, as they tend to not be able to hold a bike with weight anyway.
      I do not carry water bottle myself as I think they turn disgusting very quick. I buy regular mineral water bottle and stick them inside my panniers where they stay colder and then I stop the bike every time I feel like a drink. I’m not a racer, so i have time to stop when I need a drink.

      *****Tools and spares *****
      Folding tyres and tubes are really great to carry and the tubes are a must. If you carry two spare tubes, then you do not really need the repair kit. Just take the punctured tyre to a bike mechanic the next time you drive past one. Allen keys are probably the most important tool that i carry when I cycle as most things that tend to break on a bike are screwed on with allen keys. A wrench for the pedals is important too as they are also often a weak point on a bike. But apart from that I am not much of a tool person. I normally find that using local bike mechanics is a better thing as I have to carry less weight and they are usually very cheap anyway.

      Hope this helps you mate.

  11. Thanks Claus, yes good advice and your right a lot of what I suggested were not essential, but for me, make riding here in the Philippines more enjoyable.
    The sunglasses I use are really tinted safety glasses from the hardware shop, and as such can keep dust and insects out of your eyes as well as the bright sunshine 🙂

  12. Hi, is camping (with a tent/hammock) viable while touting the Philippines?

    • With a tent, you can do it in areas where you have beaches I would say, but elsewhere would be hard as fields are mostly flooded rice fields. If you camp in a hammock then you would have to ask the locals if it’s ok that you do it as trees in the Philippines are mostly private owned coconut palm trees.

  13. Hello … I live in the u.s and am planning on bringing my bike over in april to tour..
    Do you know what I will be charged at the airport when bring my bike into the country?

    • You will not be charged anything by the philippine authorities when you enter the country, but you will probably have to pay a fee to the airline for taking sports equipment on the plane. This charge varies, depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines will take a bike for free, but north american airlines always charge you for a bike.

  14. Hi ! I intend to spend four months in the Philippines with my bike. Your advice are really very interesting and useful. Thank you very much.

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