Habal-Habal 🏍️ Filipino Motorcycle Taxis

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Habal-Habal 🏍️ Filipino Motorcycle Taxis

In the enchanting archipelago of the Philippines, a unique mode of transportation exists which captures the essence of adventure – Habal-Habal.

But what is ‘Habal-Habal’? and why is it widely used by locals and foreigners alike?



Unveiling the Habal-Habal Mystique

In the bustling streets of the Philippines, the term “Habal-Habal” is more than just a means of transport; it’s a way of life.

Typically consisting of an extended motorcycle with customized seats, this mode of transport has become an integral part of the Filipino travel experience.

This form of transportation is known for its flexibility and adaptability to various terrains, including rough and unpaved roads. Habal-Habal rides are a popular and unique mode of transport, particularly in rural and remote areas where traditional public transportation may be limited.

Indeed, Habal-Habal (motorcycle taxi rides) provides an alternative form of public transport, and is available throughout the Philippines.

We first became aware of this unique style of getting around while walking alongside the main road through the town of Loboc, in Bohol. A motorcyclist pulled up in front of us, gesturing to the empty pillion seat, and repeating ‘Habal-Habal!’.

Hotel Options in Bohol

Habal-Habal comes in Various Forms

The simplest form of Habal-Habal is a pillion ride for one passenger on the back of a motorcycle. You will sometimes find young guys offering these motorcycle-pillion services outside busy train or bus stations. A sort of private budget taxi service.

The traditional Habal-Habal takes the form of a motorcycle with an extended seat protruding over the back wheel. This usually accommodates four people, including the driver, who moves forward over the gas tank for better balance.

Exceptionally, a fifth (smaller) person may also sit sidesaddle on the gas tank in front of the driver.

Mirror - Signal - Manoeuvre

Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre

The most precarious form of Habal-Habal can seat up to thirteen people as well as their baggage. In these situations, the motorcycle has extensions consisting of wooden planks placed across the back seat of the motorcycle to create extra seats for the passengers.

Baggage, vegetables, chickens and even goats, are lashed around this construction in strategic positions. Obviously, this type of transport requires a delicate balancing act between the driver and passengers.

Skylab? No, you’re not watching ‘Terminator’

How this term was coined is anyone’s guess.

  • One theory is that Habal comes from the Visayan dialect, meaning to load or carry (reflecting the nature of this unconventional ride).
  • Another is that the word derives from the Cebuano language, meaning to ‘mate’ (as in animal copulation). Doubling up the word to Habal-Habal means ‘looks like mating’, referring to the number of people tightly packed onto this specially converted motorcycle.
  • An alternate term is also used for these motorcycle taxis: Iskaylab. Since these motorcycles often have seat extensions that take the form of a T-shaped crossbeam, some say this is due to its crude resemblance to the Skylab space station which orbited the Earth in the 1970s.
    Others say Iskaylab is a contraction of the Filipino phrase ‘sakay na, lab’ (‘get on, love!’).

Arnold: “I CAN TAKE YOU FOR TEN PESOS” | John Connor: “…Hasta la Vista, Dork!”

Habal-Habal is in greater use in provinces of the Philippines where jeepneys and tricycles can’t handle the rough, steep terrain and narrow roads.

A trip on a Skylab is definitely not for the faint hearted. The extended construction doesn’t offer any handles to grasp on to. You have to try to keep your balance by holding the seat or the cargo.

Despite its popularity, Habal-Habal is actually an illegal mode of public transportation.

Get to Bohol from Manila

Connecting with Local Communities

Habal-Habal services are widely used for short-distance travel within local communities, connecting people in areas where conventional transportation options may be scarce. These motorcycles play a crucial role in providing accessibility, especially in regions with challenging terrain.

The Habal-Habal has also become a popular choice for adventurous travelers seeking a more immersive and off-the-beaten-path experience.

Riders often serve as local guides, taking tourists to scenic spots, cultural sites, or destinations that are not easily accessible by conventional vehicles.

This adds a unique and authentic element to the travel experience, allowing visitors to engage with the local community and witness the beauty of the Philippines beyond typical tourist routes.

Safety First – Tips for a Secure Ride

While the thrill of riding a bike is undeniable, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some essential tips to ensure a secure and enjoyable adventure:

  • Wear Protective Gear: Helmets are a must. Ensure that both the rider and passengers have proper headgear to guarantee safety on the road.
  • Negotiate Fare in Advance: Discuss the fare with the rider before embarking on your journey. Clear communication ensures a fair deal for both parties.
  • Travel Light: Habal-Habal rides are not designed for heavy luggage. Pack light to ensure a comfortable and balanced ride.
  • Choose Experienced Riders: Opt for experienced drivers who are familiar with the routes and can provide a smooth and safe journey.
  • Check the Condition of the Motorcycle: Before hopping on, give the motorcycle a quick inspection to ensure it’s in good working condition. Safety should never be compromised.

Habal-Habal has become more than just a mode of transportation. It embodies the spirit of Filipino resourcefulness and hospitality, offering an exciting and memorable way to explore the diverse landscapes and communities of the Philippines.

Hotel Options in Bohol

If you enjoyed this article, check out Central Philippines – Cebu & Bohol. You may also like:


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May 19, 2024at 3:25 pm

It literally means “to mount” as in the way animals -ehem – procreate.

The story goes that riders are so tightly packed on the bike that people used to say “sikit kaayo sila sa motor mura jud sila gahabal” (theyre so tightly packed on that tiny bike that they looked like animals having s@x”.

Sir Michael

March 22, 2022at 9:26 am

I saw ten on a motorbike in Lahore.

Gerald McKenna,LMHC

July 1, 2018at 5:14 pm

Are there any other speedy but safe inexpensive transportation available on Luzon?


    July 5, 2018at 10:58 am

    We found the buses and coaches to be the most flexible and inexpensive way of getting around. They are comfortable enough, but can take an age to get in and out of cities due to the chaotic traffic.


November 30, 2017at 1:37 am

I always see them with the 2 person Toyota cabs. Never have I ever seen a lot of people hanging on for dear life. But I have only been to Cauayan City, Manila and Puerto Princessa.

Austin Agbo

September 30, 2017at 9:02 pm

Kinda scary

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