Traffic is no joke in the Philippines. It’s so bad in most cities – and especially Manila – that it’s an ever-present physical entity, like war, taxes, and rain. In fact, people make and change plans just based on traffic, such as not daring to go out on a Friday evening or choosing not to get into a long-distance relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend across town. The reason I mention traffic is because most people who visit the Philippines – or live here, as I do – end up coming in and out of Manila’s airport, and therefore spend time sitting in traffic.
I mean A LOT of time. For instance, on my last trip to visit Angeles City (their crazy little version of Las Vegas), which is only about 100 km from the Manila airport, I sat in traffic for more than 4 1/2 hours – just to leave the city! Once we were clear of Metro Manila, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing and took less than an hour.
The Clark Airport in Pampanga
For those reasons, Clark Airport is an absolute Godsend for travelers who would rather circumvent Manila airport and avoid sitting in traffic half of their natural life. Clark is located about 100 km north of Manila like I mentioned, in the province of Pampanga.
It’s notable because Clark International Airport (CRK) used to be the site of an American airbase. As far back as 1902, the U.S. military was landing planes and housing troops there (it was called Fort Stotsenburg then), and later, Clark Airbase played an important strategic role in WWII as well as the Vietnam and Korean wars. However, in 1991, nearby Mount Pinatubo erupted, burying the surrounding towns in ash and forcing the U.S. military to abandon the base, which was turned over to the Philippines government.
Now, the airport shuttles tourists from all over the world, not troops, and the international airport is the perfect size and super convenient. It’s clean, modern, orderly, and benefits from high-security like any major airport, but you rarely need to wait in line more than a ten or fifteen minutes to check in, and you definitely don’t need to be there two hours before a flight.
Philippines Air, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, Tiger Air, Asiana, Jin Air, Cathay Dragon, Emirates and Qatar Airlines run flights out of Clark, with direct service to Korea and even the middle east. Cebu Pacific, the low-cost local airline of choice in the Philippines, offers plenty of convenient and affordable direct flights out of Clark, including to the major air hub of Cebu, as well as Puerta Princessa and Coron on Palawan, as well as the major city of Davao.
There’s even a very popular 9 PM nightly direct flight to Cebu. It only takes about ten minutes to get to Clark from just about any hotel in adjacent Angeles City, but there is a snag: they don’t allow trikes on the airport grounds, so you’ll have to arrange a taxi, which will cost about $7 USD for a ridiculously short ride.
But it’s well worth it, and I fly in and out of Clark as much as humanly possible to avoid Manila airport – and sitting in traffic!