A jeepney in Zamboanga City
Credit: Zack3g

So what the heck is a jeepney?

If you've ever wondered about that, read on!

Well, the jeepney's history goes back to World War 2. Originally they were US Military jeeps that have since been converted to passenger buses used for public transportation. The jeepney is rather unique to the Philippines and that is part of its charm.

Jeepneys come in two main varieties, the old style which are made from converted jeeps and the new style which are freshly built from the ground up for that purpose. Both are common, and as the old style jeepneys die off they are increasingly being replaced by the newer style.

A new style jeepney
Credit: Zack3g

The older jeepneys are the most interesting. They are all styled differently, but a common theme among them is shiny parts, lights, horns, and sirens. It is a commonly held belief that the flashier, louder, and wilder a jeepney is, the easier it will be to attract customers. There may be some truth to this, as I found myself paying more attention to the jeepneys that were dressed up as opposed to the more bland newer ones.

An old style jeepney with accessories
Credit: Zack3g
A new style jeepney with lots of accessories
Credit: Zack3g

Now that you know a bit about the history of the jeepney, it's time to learn something about how they operate. Most, if not all of them operate on a more or less fixed route between two or more points. The jeepney will start at one point and will usually have a scheduled depart time that is occasionally subject to change. It will then travel along its route picking up and dropping off passengers until it reaches its destination, where it will turn around and go the opposite way.

Allow me to expand a bit on the depart time. The jeepneys may have a schedule, but it is not fixed in stone. If the jeepney is scheduled to depart at 8am, for example, and all the seats are filled at 7:30, it will leave ahead of schedule. If 8am rolls around and there are still empty seats, the jeepney will wait until the seats have been filled or paid for by passengers that do not wish to wait.

It is possible to rent a jeepney to take you places by yourself or with a small group and the drivers are happy to negotiate a fee for this service, usually a couple hundred pesos depending on where you want to go.

Interior of a new style jeepney
Credit: Zack3g

Riding a jeepney is not that hard to do, as there are lots of them and you will usually see one passing by every few minutes.

To get on one, if it's not already parked and waiting for passengers, you simply need to wave at the driver. If there's room for you to get on, the driver will pull over to allow you to board.

Once you're in your seat, you need to pass your fare up to the driver. If you're not sure, ask the driver or his assistant (if present) and they will help you out. You can expect a fare of around 7-10php for a short ride 4 kilometers or less, with 1-2php per kilometer over that. This may be different depending on where you are in the Philippines. As you can see, it is a very economical way to travel.

When you are approaching your destination or a mid-trip jeepney change, a knock on the roof signals the driver that someone wants to get out and the jeepney will stop to allow this.

Sometimes you may have to ride more than one jeepney to get to your final destination, so pay attention to the routes your jeepney travels. It is usually marked on the side of the jeepney or on the windshield. The driver's assistant, if present, will also be able to tell you the route. It's good to at least have a general idea of the area and how to get to where you're going to avoid getting lost.

Remember that jeepneys are all about filling those seats, so they can get a bit cramped at times. Be wary of pickpockets, and always pay attention to what's going on around you. Situational awareness is important and that cannot be stressed enough.

For more information on transportation in the Philippines, check out this article: