Dumaguete Traffic – Motorbike Madness in the Philippines

DSC01580Dumaguete traffic may not be as bad as Manila or Cebu, but you need to keep your wits about you to survive on the roads. I have learnt to expect actions by others on the road that would seem stupid or mindless in any other country.

Just sayin.

Note that in the Philippines, traffic is supposed to drive on the right hand side of the road.  In Australia we drive on the left, so it takes a moment to get used to, especially when you are walking across a road, for a while I tended to look in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic.  Never got hit, maybe I was lucky….

Take a look at my helmet cam video to understand better, then I will give you the survival tips for Dumaguete traffic or anywhere in the Philippines for that matter.


To be honest, I have come off my bike once and recieved a bruised hip, ribs and scratches up my arm and leg.  They have all healed now with no serious injurys sustained.   This accident was not due to Dumaguete traffic however, I hit a dog, let me tell you the story.

I was riding along a dirt road in the province, there was a pedicab or tricycle parked on the side of the road.  I could not see any people anywhere near it so I continued around it thinking there would be no problem.

As I was about to pass it, a dog decides to get up and run across the road in front of me for behind the tricycle.  Of coarse it had been raining, the road was a bit slippery, so when I slammed on the brakes, although I wasn’t going very fast, between the bike skidding and the dog clipping the front wheel, the bike went side ways and I kept going.    I did a bit of a hand walk coming to the ground and then slid to a halt on my side.

I think my ego was bruised more than my body because it was a bit of a gathering place for locals.  I got the “Hey Joe – Woo Hoo – Yeh”  Broncs cheer from about 30 Filipino’s.  Would have made their day to see a foreigner have a stack in the mud.

Hurt or not I was getting out of there, I have never bounced before but that day,  I did.  From the moment I ground to a halt, I was up, brushing what mud I could off, gabbing the bike, preying it would start again so I wouldn’t have to walk it away.  Luckily it did start and I was gone.

I had to assess the damage to both the bike and myself once I had cleared the crash site/embarrassment zone PMLOL…..

A bit of a bent foot peg on the bike and a few dents and scratches on me, along with a bruised ego is all that really happened.  Moral of the story I guess is “Expect the unexpected”.

So as you can see, whether you are in the Dumaguete traffic or out in the province, it’s borderline madness. Keep reading for survival strategies…. lol.


Dumaguete Traffic – Survival Techniques

After experiencing traffic in several cities around the Philippines, Dumaguete traffic is pretty tame really.

I have devised a way to at least stand a fighting chance whilst negotiating the traffic here.

See Below.


What Happens at Intersections

IMG_1416In Dumaguete traffic, there are no traffic lights, stop or giveway signs.  Occationally you will see a traffic cop waving his hands around in the major intersections, but this is only during peak hour in the evening.  Even with these traffic cops it is still every man for themselves.  There are motorbikes going in and around cars and trucks pushing their way to the front, most of the time on the wrong side of the road or on the footpath on the inside.  It’s chaos PMLOL.

I have found that when trying to cross an intersection it pays to go through next to a car or a pedicab, effectively using them as a shield.  That way if someone decides to drive or ride straight through without looking, which is quiet possible, they will hit them and not you.  Rather brutal but self preservation is a must here.

Dumaguete traffic seems, from what I’m telling you, as absolutely not negotiable.  Please don’t get that impression, it’s not really that bad, you just need to keep your wits about you and learn to understand what to expect.  See below the general set of rules I have devised to safely survive travel in Dumaguete, or any Philippines road.

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Dumaguete Traffic – Expect The Unexpected – 11 Rules to Live By.

      1. Intersections, find and use a larger vehicle to hide behind.
      2. If there seems to be no traffic when about to cross an intersection, there is a motorbike about to fly through without looking, expect it.
      3. When you see a side road coming onto the road you are riding on, there will be a motorbike or car about to pull onto the road without looking, I have had to swerve several times to avoid a collision.  I suggest moving more towards the center of the road, it reduces the risk.
      4. If you see a big yellow Ceres bus coming the other way, slow down and pull right over to the right of the road.  These buses will drive completely on the wrong side of the road to pass anything in it’s way.  Motorbike are like insects to them, hit them and wipe off the mess at the next bus stop lol.  It is widely believed with locals here, that if you are hit by a Ceres bus, they will stop and reverse over you to make sure your dead.  Apparently the company only pays 6000 peso to the family of the victim, which is enough to pay for a funeral.  Any more than that then the driver pays, hospital bills and medical expenses would far exceed 6000.  Believe it or not…. You make the call.
      5. When riding at night, there will not be as many vehicles, but you will need to keep a very close eye out for stray dogs.  The road seems to be their play area.
      6. Pedestrians, seem to walk along on the edge of any road, whether it’s a highway or aside street.  So if your riding around a blind corner, be wary.
      7. Pedicabs or tricycles are worried more about finding a fare than the road rules.  They will stop at any point in time, swerve from the center of the road to the side without indication, or pull a U turn right in front of you.  The key for this is to watch the driver and see where he is looking, this will give you some idea on what to expect.  Unless you make eye contact with the driver, expect that they will do what you think they shouldn’t.  Just sayin…
      1. Parked cars, trucks or motorbikes, will pull onto the road without looking.
      2. General rule, the size of the vehicle determines the order in the food chain.  Give way to anything bigger than you, even if common sense road rules suggest you shouldn’t have to.
      3. Flying motorbikes.  Always look over your left shoulder before trying to pass anything because there will quiet possibly be a young Filipino absolutely flying along on the wrong side of the road passing you.
      4. If you are travelling in opposite direction to the peak hour traffic, know that there will be a motorbike pop out from behind a car and ride along the wrong side of the road around them.  So try and hang on the right hand edge of the road.

Bonus Rule.

Take it easy, be aware and you will get where you want to go.   Simple as that.


Negotiating Dumaguete traffic seems daunting from what I have told you, but really if you take note of the rules above, they will become second nature and you will feel safe to travel anywhere you like in the Philippines.

If you have had an experience with the traffic in the Philippines, share it with a comment below, I would love to hear it.

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