The MRT Survival Guide

As with every war ever fought, you can't win without coming prepared. These days, taking the MRT along EDSA has already become an everyday battle among Filipinos. Before you even set foot on the station platform, you know that you're about to enter a warzone.

Whether it's gearing up for insanely long lines, anticipating MRT breakdowns, or swearing to yourself you would finally work out so you can squeeze yourself into the packed train – it is best to come armed and ready for a ride aboard the MRT.

So here are 10 tips to help you survive Manila's busiest train line – or at least make it somewhat bearable.

1. Avoid rush hour

The best thing you can do is to avoid rush hour when the lines are long and the trains, jam-packed. The best time is either before sunrise until around 6 am, or after the morning rush from 9:30 am until early afternoon. Lines begin to form again at 4 pm, but the worst of the afternoon rush hour starts at around 5:30 pm. Just pass the time somewhere first to avoid the hassle and come back at around 8:30 to 9 pm for a late night travel along EDSA. 

A word to the wise, though: a train ride during so-called "light hours" would not  guarantee a comfortable seat. You will likely still be standing, especially when you come from any of the stations between Quezon Avenue (going south) and Magallanes (going north). It just means you won't be squished like sardines in a can.

2. Dress for success

You will sweat. You will get stepped on. No matter how much perfume you use,  you will not smell so good when you alight from the MRT. Therefore, wear the right clothes.

As much as possible, wear closed shoes. The heels, the newly-polished leather shoes, the suit and the pretty dress – stuff them all into your bag. Wear a shirt and jeans. This way, you won't appear at that all-important meeting dripping not only in your own sweat but other people's too. On that note, bring a small towel to wipe off the communal sweat.

You may also want to bring a coin purse for insurance. This may save you from losing your primary wallet, along with your credit cards and cash, to thieves – on the premise that they get sloppy and miss your real wallet.

3. Location, location, location

The MRT is notoriously crowded, but some stations have less passengers than others so you might want to scout them. You can always count on Cubao to be the most crowded station but Santolan is nearby, so try that station instead. GMA Kamuning also has less people compared to Quezon Avenue. The same with Magallanes compared to Taft station, and Ortigas over Shaw.

Don't forget to find the best location once inside the train, or else, you risk standing face to face with someone breathing down your face. On the flipside, your behind might be pressed against someone else's behind. Also, mind sharp objects from other people's bags or luggage. Strategize your position. You don't want to get hurt.

There's one more important location you must remember as well: Your location on the platform. See photo below.

4. Roll out the Stored Value Card

Having a Stored Value Card – the pre-loaded card worth P100 – means you don't have to line up and buy a ticket for every MRT trip. Each card is valid for 3 months, so don't allow yourself to ever run out of these convenient little cards. That's one less line you have to endure each trip. Trust me, that Stored Value Card is a life-saver.

5. Stand your ground

More often than not, you will be standing inside the train, sometimes without the help of hand rails. Your entire balance will depend on every single person around you and on the strength of your own two feet. You have to be conscious of the train's movement. Brace yourself at all times so you won't lose your balance.

As a side note, if you do get to grip the hand rails, make sure you sanitize your hands afterwards. 

6. Hold onto your assets

It's a general rule to keep all your valuables safely tucked in your pockets or bags. But inside the MRT, it's more common for people to clutch at their gadgets, considering the sheer lack of personal space where unwanted hands can easily make their way to your valuables, unnoticed. Whatever you do, always keep gadgets and and wallet in check. Place your bag in front of you at all times.

7. Mind your manners

Just because it's every human for himself or herself in the MRT doesn't mean you should all act like savages. Being considerate of everybody else and following the rules can only make things better for every passenger.

Don't push. Don't shove. Wait for your turn. Let people alight first before entering the train, and when you do, stay in line. And please, please don't hang around the door. Move to the middle of the train so more people can get in. If anything, the part where the coaches are connected is actually the coldest part of the train. If you're still not convinced, let me tell you that oxygen and elbow space is abundant there – you can breathe freely and not get pushed around!

8. Females to the 'front'

There is a reason the first two coaches are reserved for females. Use them. Jockeying for position against men in the other coaches can hurt you. And although women can be just as ruthless, the special coaches are less likely to have gropers.

9. Have the proper mindset

Before you take one step out of your house, psych yourself for the inevitable – your train ride will not be easy. Prepare contingency plans for MRT breakdowns or when it's one of those weird days when public transport just would not cooperate with you and the MRT is seemingly conspiring against you. Manage your expectations.

10. Distract yourself

Lastly, shift your attention away from the chaos. You may be cramped with dozens of people in one tiny space of this planet but you can still shut out the world and all its negativity. Plug in those earphones and listen to your favorite artist to pass the time. Music or podcasts are the ideal distractions for those on their feet. If you chance upon a seat, a good book will drown out everything else around you.


What are some of your tips and tricks for surviving the MRT? Share them, along with your train ride experiences, in the comments below. –