Take the Pasig ferry to commute or see the sights

There’s another way to get around Metro Manila and it will avoid the traffic-clogged roads. That’s riding the Pasig River Ferry which not only offers a way to beat the traffic, it also offers a smooth ride that allows you to read a book or take a nap.

The best thing about it? It’s free as of this writing and it follows a schedule. If you’re lucky, the ride can even be a tour where you learn some historical information and trivia about the buildings or the areas the ferry passes. The staff onboard gives short narrations to call attention to the significance of the buildings or areas, including the boats the President uses when he crosses the river.



ONE OF EIGHT vessels operated by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for the Pasig River Ferry Service. (MB/Pancho Parian)

The Pasig River, which runs from Manila Bay to Laguna Lake, served as an essential transport route during the Spanish occupation and it supported economic activity. After years of neglect due to pollution and industrial development, the river was declared biologically dead in the 1990s. However, it still serves as a route for commuters who know about the ferry system.

Along the 25-kilometer stretch of the Pasig River runs the Pasig River Ferry Service (PRFS). It is operated by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which started ferrying commuters in early 2007. The service was offered for free starting in 2019.


PASSENGERS DISEMBARK at Guadalupe Station in Makati City after riding the Pasig River Ferry Service. (MB/Pancho Parian)

Commuters and tourists now use the PRFS to get around the bustling Metro Manila through its 13 ferry stations located along several cities. You can find a station in the city of Manila in Escolta, Lawton, Quinta Market, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Sta. Ana, and Lambingan stations; Makati City in Valenzuela ferry station and Guadalupe ferry station; Mandaluyong City in Hulo station; Pasig City in Maybunga, San Joaquin, Kalawaan, and Pinagbuhatan stations.

The ferry system is convenient in a number of ways. It follows a schedule usually at an hourly intervals, with only a few minutes in between stops. Along the route, passengers can experience the metro from a different view. While avoiding traffic in the streets above, you get to see various murals painted on the riverbanks along the route. Some stations are also near tourist attractions.


One can disembark at Escolta and walk to Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, or cross the bridge toward the Walled City of Intramuros. One can also disembark at Lawton station to visit the Manila Central Post Office or walk toward the historical Metropolitan Theater. Another would be to disembark at Quinta Market which is within walking distance to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, or Quiapo Church.

According to the MMDA website, passengers must present a valid ID at the station where they board. They are required to wear face masks and go through a temperature check. They will also be asked to fill out a passenger manifest before boarding one of the eight non-air-conditioned diesel-powered boats currently in operation.


FERRY BOAT CAPTAIN of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) navigates through the Pasig River Ferry System. (MB/Pancho Parian)

It is advisable to arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes before the departure time to make sure to be allowed to board as some popular stations have a waiting line, especially at peak hours. The ferry operates on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Fur parents may also ride the ferry as long as their pets are placed in a carrier or cage. Bike commuters can also ride the ferry with their bicycles which can be place in a specific area on the ferry. But if one doesn’t want to bring their bike, they can also leave it locked at the bike racks available at the ferry terminal.

The rules when riding the ferry prohibits smoking, talking, or eating. Throwing trash in the river is prohibited. MMDA personnel also remind passengers that photography or videography along the vicinity of the Malacañang Restricted Area between Quinta Market and PUP stations are not allowed.

LIFE VESTS are present overhead the vessels operated by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for the Pasig River Ferry Service. (MB/Pancho Parian)

When passing the vicinity of the restricted area, the speed of the ferry is limited to only three to five knots compared to the ferry’s top speed of 15 knots. The ferry may also be subject to random checks by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) or the Presidential Security Group (PSG), where a K9 unit boards the vessel checking passengers and cargo to make sure that there aren’t any illegal substances aboard.

But other than that, riding the ferry is relatively smooth throughout the whole journey.

According to a report by the MMDA in 2021, the PRFS accommodated a total of 436,931 passengers from April 2014 to October 2019. While 149,167 people rode the PRFS boats from January to November 2022, with ridership peaking at 16,226 passengers in September of that year alone.


The upstream (Escolta to Kalawaan) ferry trip schedule of the Pasig River Ferry System (PRFS). (MMDA PRFS Facebook page)
The downstream (Pinagbuhatan to Escolta) ferry trip schedule of the Pasig River Ferry System (PRFS). (MMDA PRFS Facebook page)
The vice-versa ferry trip schedule of Guadalupe to Maybunga stations of the Pasig River Ferry System (PRFS). (MMDA PRFS Facebook page)

The PRFS offers free rides to draw commuters to use the ferry as an alternative to other modes of transportation like public utility vehicles or private vehicles when navigating the crowded metro. (Pancho Parian)