These seven incredible things to do in Manila is the guide for your next trip to the capital. Whether you’re on a long layover or just visiting in one day, it’ll give an insight into how to spend your time in Manila.

Manila is a chaotic and less attractive city in Asia compared to its adjacent countries. Therefore, not on the list for many travelers.

But occasionally, an international flight to Manila is a bargain, mainly if coming from Europe. You could fly for 250 euro if one knows how to search for a dirt-cheap ticket. Otherwise, it cost almost a thousand euro for a flight to Asia.

I don’t want to spend so much money on flights. If we’re flying somewhere, I spend hours on the internet searching for bargain tickets. Read my tips on how to find the cheapest flight.

Manila airport NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) is one of the airline networks in Asia for international flights, as well as for budget airlines. 

The Disadvantage Of Cheap Air Tickets

The drawback with a low-priced ticket, you have multiple stops—a benefit of discovering new places.

We come a long way on this trip with 10 hours stopover in Doha, Qatar. If you ever have the same flight with Qatar Airways, see my blog post what you can do on a layover in Doha in the evening. Our journey continues to India, where we spend two weeks touring the Rajasthan.

Our final destination in the Philippines is Cebu. But flying straight to the island from Europe is expensive. So the best alternative is through Manila, and book a separate ticket with a budget airline to Mactan-Cebu.

I also found a bargain ticket with Cebu Pacific for 400 pesos one-way, but not refundable. And due to some problems with our flights with Air Asia from Brunei to Kuala Lumpur, I have to cancel the trip. And I booked a last-minute ticket to Cebu, which cost a lot more, bummer.

Manila International Airport And Tourist Visa

For most visitors to the Philippines, receive a free 30 days tourist visa on arrival. Bear in mind; you need a return ticket. It is not always in demand, but sometimes if the immigration officer not in the mood, they’ll ask for it.

Suppose you want to stay longer in the Philippines, you can ask for an extension and stay in the country for another 29 days. But you should apply three to five days before the expiration of your visa as it can take some time for the process.

The best alternative before your visa expires is to book the cheapest flight to the neighboring countries and come back. Then get a new stamped for 30 days.

Getting From Manila Airport To The City Center

A taxi is the easiest way to the center. When you walk out of the arrival building, you’ll be approached by cab dispatchers who tried to get you in a coupon taxi that cost a lot more than a metered taxi. 

You see a white (coupon) and yellow (meter) cab

To get to the yellow metered taxi walk right to Bay 14 – you see the large concrete pole number. The only downside if taking the meter taxi there’s a long line depends on flight arrivals. However, if arriving in the evening, nearly no people in the row.

Usually, as soon as you boarded, the driver will turn on his meter. And coming from the airport, the taxi meter starts at 70 pesos. So, in general, a ride to Makati, Ermita, Malate, and Pasay should not go over 300 pesos.

Also, to remember – if the driver asks to take the skyway (tool-fee) to avoid the traffic, you’ll be the one paying 45 pesos for the toll. To prevent this, it’s you to decide.

One Day Or A Layover In Manila?

If you have a layover or just want to visit Manila in one day, book a hotel. There are plenty of budget places to stay in the capital.

To give an overview of our itinerary, our flight arrived at 9 pm, and our connection flight departs at 9 pm the next day. Thus, we have 24-hours in Manila.

When arriving at night, there’s nothing much to do except search for restaurants and have a good dinner.

We’ve been here before, and each time we came to Manila, we visited the same things over again. Sounds tedious, right? Not for me, I love my native land history.

You’re free and choose the best for you. But when in Manila, take advantage of visiting the city’s highlights!

It’s a disgrace that most travelers often skip the city. On the contrary, there’s so much to do and its pretty enjoyable city. If you are a history buff, go for historical sights. And for the shopaholic, you can shop till you drop.

As for the person with an interest in food, Filipino cuisine is the best in the world. For the party-goers, there’s no shortage of clubs and bars in Manila. There’s absolutely no time to get bored. Enjoy your time in the capital, and get to know the Filipino culture in one day.

In Which Part Of Manila The Best Stay?

The city consists of different districts, which reminds me of Prague and Portugal. The best areas to stay are Makati, Ermita, Malate, and Pasay.

Makati is a top-end stay and the safest part of the city. But the lodging prices are a bit expensive and quite away from the highlights.

Ermita, Malate, and Pasay are budget-friendly areas to stay. But you need to stay alert, particularly at night. As far as safety concerned, it’s one of the reasons that backpackers are not crazy about Manila. The latter was the best choice district in Manila because it’s close to Intramuros.

 Lotus hotel Ermita in Manila

We were staying in Ermita at Manila Lotus close to a shopping center Robinson, and only a 10-minutes walk to Rizal Park. This beautiful budget-friendly hotel is an ideal place to stay in Manila for the night.

Nicely furniture room neat and clean. For the price and its location, it was worthy and included a good buffet breakfast. 

They have superb personnel, but that’s typical for Filipinos – a joyous people. Last but not least, a pretty good wifi reception and super fast. As our flight departs later in the evening, we extend our stay with an additional fee.

How To Get Around In Manila

To get around, you have some options – from free to expensive ones. Walking is free, and usually, the best way of exploring the city that if you can handle the heat, humidity, and pollution. 

Nevertheless, you have choices on public transport; bus, jeepney, metro, and taxi. If your orientation is pretty good, these were the cheapest way around. Uh, please don’t count on taxis, it’s the most expensive ones. 

Like any big city in the world, you have to be careful with taxis in the Philippines. Taxi scams in Manila can occur to both foreign and local passengers by swindling the meter. 

The city taxis meter starts at 40 pesos. My tricks when taking a cab I use my google map to follow the driver if he’s not take up the longest road and keep an eye on the meter as well.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Manila

Manila can be visited all year round; however, the best time is from October through March. The month April to June, the so-called summertime in the Philippines.

It sounds funny the term summer while the temperature is continually 25 to 35 degrees. It’s a school holiday, and the locals spend their time on the beach and mostly students going on a trip.

July and August are the rainy seasons, the wettest month with the possibility of flooding.

September to November is a great month to travel because of the off-season, and the accommodation is quite cheap at the time of the year. December to March is ideal as the weather is cooler, though not as chills as European summer, but a pleasant temperature.

Manila In One Day: Seven Incredible Things To Do

If you have one day in Manila, it’s convenient to stay in Malate and Ermita as you are so close to Rizal Park and other sights around like Intramuros, which is the heart of Manila. As you see below, these are things we’ve done in one day.

Strolling The Rizal Park

Luneta, Rizal Park in Manila

Rizal or Luneta is a renowned park in Manila. The 58 hectares public park is one of the massive terrains in the city. It set between the large commercial buildings right along the crowded Roxas Boulevard in the middle of the center.

The Park is an integral part of old Manila tales that played some significant moments in Philippines history. The Park got his name from a brilliant resistance fighter Jose Rizal who was executed by the Spaniards. There you will find the hero’s bronze statue in the Park. 

Rizal Park is a meeting place for the local people and to evade the city’s bustle. For the most part, an excellent place to start the city tour as you have the following tourist attractions nearby. 

Free admission

Take a ride with a Kalesa (Horse Drawn Carriage)

The Kalesa (horse-drawn) in Manila

A supplemental thing to do is taking a city tour with a horse-drawn carriage (Kalesa). It’s unique in Manila and the most comfortable way of sightseeing.

These were not free, and it can be expensive. The prices start from 500 pesos for 30 minutes, and that can sum up to 2500 pesos

It’s an enjoyable ride; we just let ourselves go without looking at the time. Therefore, the tour was unexpected overpriced but still a good value for money; you have to do it once.

Where to find the kalesa? While walking at Rizal Park, there’ll be someone who came to you offering a horse-drawn ride. They’ll show you a list of things to see on the way like the Malacanang, Intramorus, China town, etc. You can decide for yourself how long you will take the ride.

Price starts from 500 pesos

A Leisurely Walk Through Intramuros

It’s an excellent place to spend a couple of hours as there is so much to see and do. For the historical lover could spend a whole day. Somehow, we did the horse-drawn tour and have seen the entire area in one hour. 

Intramuros is the oldest historic center with a long and distinct period in Philippines history. A walk through felt like walking in a Spanish town, and there’s no doubt about it. 

The Spaniards bent over 300 years in the capital, which is clear to see with the walled city’s construction—most of the buildings built from the 16th century. Intramuros is a fascinating area stepping back into history and can’t be miss in Manila. 

Keep in mind Intramuros is quite spread out and would take some effort to walk through the entire place. Other options are taking a ride with the Kalesa (horse-drawn) if you haven’t much time.

Free admission

Don’t Miss Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago in Manila

The Fort Santiago is the national landmark and a sanctuary to the hard-won freedom of the Philippines. There’s a lot of history about the Fort. The best part I like the most is the slums in Manila across the Pasig River, as well as a good view of Manila skylines. 

In the same place, you can visit the museum of Jose Rizal. The national hero who imprisoned inside the Fort before being executed by the Spaniards. The cell is part of the Rizal memorial site, where a small museum has set up in honor of the national hero.

Entry fee 75 pesos

Gondola Ride At Venice Grand Canal Mall

Venice Grand Canal Mall in Manila

Venice? That’s right! The modern shopping center in Taguig City that opened a few years ago had replicated the Venice piazza in Italy. An iconic attraction appropriate with gondolas, an unusual sight in Manila. 

For 500 pesos, you can take on a boat ride and let you carried away for half an hour. It is not comparable to the one in Venice, yet fun to see while in Manila. Additionally, you can pleasingly be ambling inside the center where you have the stores and restaurants.

How to get there: A taxi costs 250-300 pesos if coming from Ermita and Malate. I suggest following the map from your phone and type Venice Grand Mall – the price of a taxi should not exceed the mentioned price. The correct address is at Mc Kinley Hill, Taguig City.

Gondola ride cost 500 pesos

Shopping Till You Drop

Venice Grand Canal Mall in Manila

Manila is known as a shopping paradise, the city compiled with shopping complexes and markets. Divisoria is the largest market that offers a wide variety of products from clothes, bags, shoes, books, jewelry, etc.

Nevertheless, if shopping less appealing. A saunter in one of the shopping centers is an excellent escape from the outdoor heat. Besides, you can find something like body massage or beauty care for a low price.

If that is not you – go for the food. All shopping malls in the Philippines are equipped with food courts where you can enjoy some Filipino cuisine. Surely visit one of the shopping centers, and to get the most of it I recommend SM Mall of Asia, the biggest one in Manila.

SM Mall of Asia (MOA) located in Pasay

Watch The Sunset At Manila Bay

Suppose you have time left, particularly in the afternoon, go to Manila Bay. The beautiful wide boardwalk along Roxas Boulevard in Malate from the edge of the water. It’s a great place to see the sunset and to interact with locals.

Though it gets busy in the afternoon, yet the atmosphere is still relaxed. Very likely that you were already tired from walking all day and no vigor to walk anymore. Across the Bay, are several restaurants where you can sit and order drinks while watching the sunset.

Free admission

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