The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport is located inside the Clark Freeport Zone in the Province of Pampanga. It serves both domestic and international flights for destinations as close as Manila to as far flung as Palau.
The terminal is new and has pretty good facilities. Toilets are clean, food choices are slightly better than in the airports in Manila (personal opinion) and wifi is free. There are not as many flighs flying into Clark, so the airport doesn’t get as crowded as the four airports in Manila.
As much as I like flying in and out of Clark, my main problem with it is the transport from my home. If you have your own car, driving to DMIA is a breeze. The North Luzon Expressway offers a fast, smooth drive all the way to Angeles. Traffic slows down as you make your way from the Angeles exit and into Clark, but once you’re past the Clark gates, it’s a smooth 10-minute drive to the airport. There’s even a reliable long-term parking service, so you don’t have to think about how to get home when you come back.
It’s a whole different ballgame if you’re commuting, though. Last February, I took the Philtranco bus from Megamall that goes directly to the airport. While it is very convenient, I dislike the fact that I still had to go to Megamall, which is about 30 minutes south from where I live. Total cost for this Clark airport transport option: Php 440 (Php 140 taxi to Megamall, Php 300 bus to DMIA).
Yesterday, I decided it was time to try out commuting to Clark without relying on Philtranco. Since I live in the northern part of Quezon City, I decided to head to Victory Liner’s Caloocan terminal. I was directed to the bus headed to Dagupan, since I was going down at the Dau terminal. The bus left at 5:30pm, and by 6:30pm, we have exited NLEX into Angeles. The conductor told me that there are jeeps going to Clark Airport at the terminal right across the Marquee Mall. So I decided to take a gamble and got down to look for this jeep. Turns out there were only jeeps there that takes passengers up to the Clark gate, not the airport. And one just got full and left, so it was a 20-minute wait for the next to fill up.
A tricycle driver offered to take me to the gate for Php 100. I read in the forums that the trike from Dau to the gate costs Php 70, so I figured it’s okay (and I’ve no choice anyway). It was a 10 minute ride to the gate’s transport terminal. There were a lot of loading bays and no signs, so I had to ask where the jeep that goes to DMIA was. I found two, but both had no drivers. The third one that I saw, the barker says it goes to the highway, not the airport. There is a jeep that can take you there, he said, for Php 200. This is the standard price, as I’ve read in the forums. Besides, it’s not as if I have any other choice, right?
I finally arrive at the airport at 7:10pm, almost 3 hours from the time I left the house. Total damage to my wallet: Php 504.50 (Php 82.50 cab to Victory Liner Caloocan + Php 112 bus to Dau + Php 100 trike to Clark + Php 200 jeep to DMIA). If I didn’t take a cab to the terminal and rode the trike from Dau, the total would go down to about Php 416. Given these figures and the amount of effort and time that it took, the Philtranco option is the better value.
However, this changes if you’re a big group. Let’s say there are 5 of you traveling together. The high cost of the jeep in Angeles can be divided amongst yourselves. A jeep from the Marquee Mall terminal to the Clark airport costs about Php 500, and you might even be able to haggle it down to Php 400. You only pay for Php 100 for the ride, instead of Php 300 if you’re traveling solo. Given the same circumstance, the fare for each person would come to just Php 238.50 (Php 16.50 for the taxi + Php 122 for the bus + Php 100 for the jeep).
At least it’s going to be easier going home. Aside from Philtranco, there are other bus lines that set up shop in the arrival hall, all vying for the passenger’s attention. I can ride a bus going to Cubao right outside the airport, get off at Trinoma and just ride a jeep home.
So as much as I like DMIA, I’m sticking to good ‘ol NAIA. I’d have to deal with the horrendous EDSA traffic and the crappy facilities, but at least I can just hop in a cab and fork over Php 300 to the driver. I’m just so frustrated about the limited airport transport options we have in the Philippines. I wonder if I would have found these jeep had I got of at Dau as planned, since there are shuttles there, but there were also reports that these jeeps are nowhere to be found. I suppose I was spoiled by last month’s experience with the Bangkok Airport Link, but is reliable airport shuttle service too much to ask for?
[EDIT October 25, 2010] I took a flight back to Clark last October 15. Since it was already late, the ladies vying for passenger’s attention before the airport exit were long gone. When I got outside, there was a guy holding a sign that says “Dau Terminal, SM Clark” I spotted the Philtranco bus, but it won’t leave until 8pm. My work starts at 9pm. There was a guy sitting by the side, saying that his jeep would leave in a couple of minutes, which would take me to the Dau bus terminal.
Turns out it was the official DMIA shuttle. However, instead of charging Php 40 for Dau and Php35 for SM Clark, they charge a flat rate of Php 50, whether you’re headed to Dau or SM, as Ed and his friends were. The jeep was comfortable though, and it drops you off right outside the Dau terminal. Lloyd, a reader, comments that jeeps going to the airport wait outside Chowking. Just wait for the white and green airconditioned jeep.
[EDIT October 26, 2010] Lloyd is a wealth of information! He shares his experience in going to DMIA from the Dau Terminal and taking the Manila airport shuttle that takes you from the MRT Taft to all NAIA terminals including the domestic terminal.