- Capital of the Philippines, with a metro population of 11.5 million (1.6 million in the city).
- The country’s political, cultural, historical, commercial and educational center.
- Has a rich and turbulent history as a key trading port in the Pacific.
- Nicknames: Pearl of the Orient.
- Currency: Philippine peso (PHP).
- Spoken languages: Tagalog (though most locals speak English).
- Best time to visit: from December to May (cooler temperatures).
- Arriving via airport: public transport to the city costs starts at 8 PHP (on “jeepneys”), while a taxi ride will be around 40 PHP.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many hotels in Manila, ranging from affordable overnight inns or motels to more posh accommodations. The best hotels are around the Roxas Boulevard, along Manila Bay. Roxas Boulevard will accomodate visitors of any budget – you will find both old and new hotels.
- Jeepneys have routes to almost all popular tourist destinations – taking a jeepney ride will truly give you the local Filipino experience. Keep in mind that roads can be packed, making the experience slightly uncomfortable for longer journeys.
- For faster traveling, you can take the MRT or LRT – the train system. Stops are conveniently located minutes away from tourist attractions. Tickets are about 10 PHP to 16 PHP.
- Taxis are another popular mode of transport, and you will see them everywhere! Just flag one down – it will be faster than figuring out the way with public transport.
- You can also rent a car, but traffic congestion will likely waste your time. Not recommended, unless you know the city’s roads well.
- Drinking age is 18, no official last call (bars usually close in the early morning).
- Trendy scene: Bonifacio Global Village in Taguig has several trendy bars.
- Hip/local scene: the Baywalk area along Roxas Boulevard.
- Note: Filipinos love karaoke/videoke! If you get a chance, get your vocal chords some exercise in one of the many karaoke bars around town.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Intramuros (“the walled city”) is a throwback to the period of Spanish colonization. Go inside the walled city to see the San Agustin Church and the famous Fort Santiago.
- Kilometer 0 of the country (Luneta or Rizal Park) is where the country’s national hero was executed. The park is a great place to unwind and have a picnic.
- The National Museum of the Philippines and the National Library are great places to learn about the country’s history.
- Walk along Ongpin Street (through Chinatown) to try some new food and buy Chinese goods.
- Walk through the Manila Ocean Park, a modern attraction for people from all age ranges. It is located near the Baywalk, where you can enjoy the breeze from Manila Bay.
- Note: walking around Manila can be tiring, as it gets hot during the day and there are not too many covered areas. If you are planning to do a fair amount of walking, opt for the late afternoon or evening.
- Warning: avoid street foods if you don’t want to risk your health, as street kitchens can get quite dirty. Many street foods are served from mini stalls (especially on Claro M. Recto Avenue and in the Quiapo area).
- Traffic can be very troublesome in Manila – rush hour starts around 6 AM. Traffic starts clearing up after 9 AM. In the evening, rush hour is from 5 PM to about 8 PM.
- For a local shopping experience, check out the areas of Baclaran, Quiapo, and Divisoria, where goods are often sold in bulk.
- Dangerous areas: generally, Manila is a safe place. Be wary of beggars, who will follow you around. Young beggars are especially troublesome, unless you firmly say no and decline to give them anything. Keep your bags close to you, especially when in crowded places – there have been many cases of bags slashed open by thieves in public.
RECOMMENDED MANILA GUIDE BOOKS
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days