Planning a solo trip to Manila? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Capital of the Philippines, with a metro population of 12 million.
- 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). 100 PHP = ~1.70 USD.
- Spoken languages: Tagalog (though most locals speak English).
- Best time to visit: from December to May (cooler temperatures).
- Arriving via airport: public bus takes 1 hour (20 PHP), while a taxi ride (30 minutes) will be around 300 PHP.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Manila hostel for solo travelers: Crossroads Hostel. Friendly staff, clean rooms, with an on-site restaurant & cafe. Steps away from a local market where you can try some street food. Easy transfer options to/from the Airport. Book ahead to reserve your spot!
- The best hotels are around the Roxas Boulevard, along Manila Bay. Roxas Boulevard will accommodate 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 distance-based, and cost between 15 to 30 PHP.
- Instead of taxis, do as the locals do: order a ride through GrabTaxi (Grab app).
- 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.
- Makati: head to Poblacion area (lots of bars, restaurants, and clubs).
- Filipinos love karaoke! Head to Arko Karaoke Hub to experience the real deal. (Just don’t try to sing Frank Sinatra unless you know what you’re doing!)
- Great bars for solo travelers: The Curator Coffee & Cocktails, Run Rabbit Run, Lost & Found 37 (Malate), Odyski Bar, After Hours Bar, Dusk Till Dawn Bar (sports bar).
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.
- Great restaurants to try: Crosta Pizzeria (Makati), Sarsá Kitchen + Bar ($$ – Philippino), Italianni’s Restaurant – Greenbelt 2
- 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 trip duration: 2-3 days