Manila Travel Guide

In a nutshell

A gateway to the country's more than 7,000 islands, Manila is the centre of power, culture, and business. It's an Asian metropolis with none of the snobbishness most megacities are known for.

Why go to Manila

Whether you're in the city for a long layover or staying for a few days, discover its many hidden charms.

A visit to the walled city of Intramuros makes for a brief introduction to the country's rich and lengthy history. If you have a whole day, we suggest boarding a ferry to the island fortress of Corregidor – an enduring testament to the courage and heroism of the Filipino and American soldiers during the Second World War. At the end of the day, head to the oldest Chinatown in the world located in Binondo for a sumptuous Chinese dinner. If you want a more relaxing time, you can spend your day in one of the city's humongous shopping malls such as the aptly named Mall of Asia or Greenbelt in Makati for some retail therapy.

When to go to Manila

The coolest months in Manila are January to February so it's the best time to go if you hate heat and humidity. Remember though that this is still a tropical country so don't expect temperature to go below 21°C. December is also relatively cool but can get crowded with the holiday rush. March and April are both generally dry however it can get uncomfortably hot with temperature going up as high as 35°. June to August mark the rainy season.

Where to stay in Manila

Where to stay in Manila depends on what you'd like to see and do. If you want to be close to historical sites like Intramuros then choose a hotel somewhere in Malate. Dorm beds come as cheap as PHP350 while there are also full service hotels with rooms selling as high as PHP14,400. Keep in mind though that this area is very touristy and can be grittier compared to other places.

For first time visitors, we can recommend Makati for a number of reasons. It is very convenient and generally safer with lots of shopping places and restaurants and isn't too far from the airport.

If you don't want or don’t have time to venture too far away from the airport, you can opt for a stay in and around Pasay. There's also a hotel offering capsule beds for around PHP800 for those who are not claustrophobic. Lots of posh hotels around Manila Bay, too.

Where to eat in Manila

As of late, the city has seen a growing food park trend. For a quick and delicious food stop, you can check out The Yard in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Gastro Park in Kapitolyo, Carnival Food Park in Marikina, and StrEat Food Park in Maginhawa just to name a few. Food parks are an easy, no-fuss way to indulge in mouth-watering treats whether you're craving for fast food staples like burger and fries to a more experimental fusion dishes.

If you want a bite of quintessential Pinoy street food, head over to Mang Larry's in UPD or Isaw Republic in University of Sto.Tomas and feast on grilled chicken intestines, congealed pig's blood, gizzards, and more.

For traditional Filipino favourites, there are pocket friendly options such as Gerry's Grill that has branches all over the metro. We keep coming back for their sizzling gambas, sinigang na baboy, and crispy pata.

How to get around Manila

Going around Manila by public transport can be challenging especially if you're not very familiar with the streets. However, you can always get a regular taxi or use a ride-hailing app such as Uber or Grab with a base fare of between PHP30 to PHP90. One important thing to note when flagging a regular taxi down is to always make sure the driver turns on the meter when you get in. Do not agree to a fixed price.

The Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit are perhaps the cheapest and most convenient way to get around. LRT 1 runs from Baclaran to Monumento while LRT 2's route is from Recto to Santolan. Fare is between PHP12 to PHP15. The MRT on the other hand runs along EDSA from Taft to North Avenue with single ride tickets from PHP13 to PHP28.

Jeepneys meanwhile are the most iconic form of transportation in the Philippines. While it can be uncomfortable during rush hour, make sure to give it a try at least once. Minimum fare is only PHP8 for the first 4 kilometres.

Lastly, aircon and non-aircon buses ply the streets of Metro Manila and can easily transport between 50 to 100 people for a minimum fare of PHP12.

How to get to and from Manila

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the main gateway to the Philippines and is one of the two international airports serving Manila Area, the other being Clark International Airport which is about two hours away in Pampanga.

NAIA has three terminals that are being utilized for international flights while the fourth terminal is exclusively used for domestic flights. There are infrequent airport shuttle buses that connect all four terminals for only PHP20 but if you're pressed for time, it is always best to grab a taxi.

The quickest way to get around the country is by air and this option has become more affordable in recent years thanks to budget airlines Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Philippine Airlines is the country’s flagship carrier. If you book a few months in advance, one-way flights around the country can costs between PHP1,500 to PHP3,000. Flying from Manila to Cebu takes around 1.20-hour while Manila to Davao takes about 1.5-hour. Flight time to Kalibo if you're headed to Boracay is from 45 minutes to 1.20-hour.

Getting to and from Manila to other parts of Luzon by bus will take about 2 -12 hours depending on your destination with fares ranging from PHP140 to PHP1,100. Terminals are located in Cubao and Pasay.

It is also possible to travel by boat with ships docking at Manila North Harbor Port. There are several shipping lines that ferry passengers to other parts of the country such as 2GO Travel, Romblon Shipping Lines, and Moreta Shipping Lines.

Is Manila a safe place to visit?

Besides the horrendous traffic, there are a few things to watch out for when in Manila. When commuting, do not flash your valuables and try not to stand out. Be extra cautious when in shady areas like Tondo and Divisoria. Do not walk in dark alleys. Wear your bags in front in crowded places. Keep your wits about you and you should be fine.