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Being equated with terms like “hated” “nightmare” and “worst” has been the fate of Manila International Airport for some time now. The overcrowded and piecemeal operation consists of four passenger terminals – T1 through T4. Many passengers would expect to find the standard means of terminal connection: a skytrain, buses, underground walkways, but forget everything you know. At Ninoy Aquino connecting in terminals is an ordeal.
NAIA difficult to transit through, especially if the connecting flight leaves from a different terminal. All four buildings can only be reached by ground transportation outside the arrivals hall of the terminal one flies into.
This may seem easy enough, now imagine a massive traffic jam of humanity, free shuttles with drivers trying to charge you, taxi’s running scams, rigged meters, an hour wait for a metered taxi outside, Lines just to get into the departures building of your next terminal. Paying the departure tax PHP550 is required if the flight being transited to is going out of the Philippines.
Persons needing a visa to enter or transit the Philippines will have to collect baggage and cross immigration like anyone else arriving to enter the country, because you need to go out into the country to get to another terminal if transiting.
The recommended time to have at your disposal from airplane to airplane in a transit situation is 3-4 hours. You will most likely need all of it. Sometimes baggage claim and immigration goes fast, other times it goes slow. Then you most likely can wait up to an hour or more getting a metered or coupon taxi or one of the free shuttle busses which may not run on schedule or be packed with people. Also know that domestic airlines close their check in desks 45 minutes before expected flight departure.
The airport shuttle buses are supposed to run every fifteen minutes, but come in roughly around every 20-30 minutes and sometimes not at all. Official times of operation are 3:30am-1:30am and the cost is PHP 20. Shuttle drivers may try and charge more or offer to take off sooner for a bribe. The shuttle stops are as follows:
NAIA 1 to the far right when coming out of the arrivals hall
NAIA 2 On the arrivals level outside the international section
NAIA 3 Across the road on the right side from arrivals hall
NAIA 4 Outside departure level on left hand side
Passengers on PAL and PAL express (Phillipine Airlines) can make use of their own private shuttle service between NAIA 2 and NAIA 3 terminals. Simply follow the signs.
Many travelers will choose to get a taxi if the shuttle is delayed in coming or they simply do not have enough time to wait. Know that lines for taxi’s are long, some people don’t respect the lines and traffic is congested even for these vehicles between terminals.
Coupon Taxi’s: These taxi’s are considered safest because the receipt one has means the amount to be paid is already given. Thus it can get most tricks and negotiations out of the way, still be on your guard. The cost of this peace of mind means you are paying more (3x higher) than the other services and you still have to wait in line for a cab.
Metered Taxi’s: These yellow cabs are considered the best value and they are often clean and the drivers are relatively well behaved. There is a line to take the taxi and the flag down fee is PHP 70. After that the meter calculates a fare for every 300 meters driven. Rates can hover around PHP 100 for a trip but waiting time in traffic jams can add to that.
Street Taxi’s: These white colored cabs are not allowed to run the inter-terminal routes but they do so because someone may jump in when they are dropping someone else off in departures. Because they are already operating illegally they have no problem trying to charge tourists 20x more than the official fare. One should not consider this option unless one is very familiar with the routes, prices and is a strong negotiator, not to mention willing to break the law.
It is not possible to walk between all of the terminals, if one is thinking of this as a solution. There is nowhere to go without being in the road and it is dangerous. The only possible walk is from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 (and vice-versa) via the International Cargo Terminal, using the same road used by public buses and jeepneys. This walk will take around 15 minutes.