Cebu's taxis are wonderful in the sense that they help you realize that your own country's taxis aren't that bad after all. Otherwise, they are one of the few unpleasant aspects of life in Cebu City. Almost all cabs are worn out, dilapidated, and filthy.

This is only partially the fault of the drivers. Taxis are owned by operators who lease the vehicles to drivers for a fixed daily fee. This fee may seem low - it's usually between 600 and 900 pesos, or US $10-20 - but taxi fares are set so low that the drivers often make barely enough to cover the rental, and no money is left over for non-essential repairs.

Hundreds of cabs are unlicensed cabs (known as colorum cabs), but these are indistinguishable from the real cabs. Taxis missing interior parts and worn out upholstery are common; often the air-conditiong will be broken or weak. The cars themselves will often have difficulty climbing up hills. Sometimes the engine will whine incessantly because the alternator was replaced by a part intended for another brand of car.

Moreover, drivers have little incentive to take good care of the vehicles, since vehicles are never inspected and passengers are happy to flag any vehicle. As a result the interiors are often rather unhygienic.

You're better off riding a jeep. But if you have luggage, or your destination makes taking a cab considerably easier, here are a few things to watch out for.

First, certain companies are known to hire just about anybody, and the drivers may be active drug addicts - pushing themselves through 36-hour shifts with meth, or shabu - or criminals intent on fleecing or robbing passengers. So avoid Sunlight cabs. Sunlight cabs are almost always white Kia Prides.

Second, taxi drivers themselves are often victims of hold-ups. They make easy targets. The robber will direct the driver to an isolated area, then announce a hold-up, or simply shoot the driver. Every now and then the local media carries stories of murdered taxi drivers. Hence, many taxi drivers carry firearms - so don't pick a fight with your driver just because his conduct towards you or on the road is atrocious by your standards.

Third, you may be asked to pay a little extra. Since this may be due to the fact that you, as a foreigner, are a walking dollar sign, it is within your right to refuse. It is, however, customary to add a little to the metered amount if your destination is out of the way, where picking up a fare for the return trip is difficult, or if you are stuck in traffic for a long time.

Having said all this, the majority of taxi drivers are friendly and easy-going, especially when compared to Manila's taxi drivers. Those that do not have their stereos turned up to maximum volume will often initiate a friendly chat.


Fares start at 30 pesos. In early 2005, the Metro Cebu Taxi Operators Association (MCTOA) successfully lobbied for the flagdown rate to be increased from 25 pesos. Meters of taxicabs were recalibrated and huge orange stickers saying "METER TESTED AND SEALED" were stuck to the back windows of taxicabs. These are already starting to fade.

The flagdown rate is good for 500 meters, and increased every 300 meters thereafter. A typical trip within the city will set you back between 40 and 100 pesos. Be sure to have something smaller than a 500 peso bill when boarding a cab. Drivers often do not have change. In addition, some shifty characters will falsely claim not to have change, hoping that you - the wealthier by far - will let them keep the change.


Taxis are required to have lights on the roof which say either OCCUPIED or VACANT. This is completely unreliable. On some cabs the OCCUPIED sign is on the left and the VACANT on the left, on others it is the other way around. More often than not the sign will say VACANT when the cab is occupied, and vice versa. In some instances, drivers have changed OCCUPIED/VACANT to the name of their kids. Go figure!


Be extra careful not to leave things inside the cab. Whatever it is, you will never see it again. Technically, lost items can be traced, via the operator - cabs are required to display the operator's name on the side door. But in practice, forgotten items are almost never recovered. If the item is valuable - like an expensive cell phone - the driver will simply quit his job by never showing up again, and switch to another company.


There are a couple of good taxi companies, run by Japanese expats, that are well-maintained cars with clean interiors: Revolution and ICT. If you see a cab from either of these companies in a line, make a beeline and ignore the rest. Another tight ship is CTC, the only taxi company in Cebu to run its fleet on natural gas. CTC is owned by the Corominas family, who also run a bus company by that name.

Meanwhile, there are only two companies with a radio system, Holiday and Spyder aka Scorpion. Calling up a cab in Cebu is a theory that rarely works in practice. Usually walking to the nearest thoroughfare and flagging a cab will be faster than wearing out your fingers trying to get past the busy tone. Even if you do manage to get through, drivers will not respond to a radio call if the pick-up location is out of the way - though of course the customer wouldn't be calling the taxi company if it weren't out of the way in the first place - and operators simply hang up on you if no drivers respond within five seconds. You should definitely not rely on phoned taxis for transportation; if you must use taxis on a regular basis, then make sure that your base is within walking distance of a major thoroughfare.

HOLIDAY 345-1621

Good luck. As I said, you're better off riding a jeep or buying a car.


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