These seven incredible things to do in Manila are the guide for your next trip to the capital of the Philippines. Whether you’re on a long layover or just visiting for 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 than 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 400 euros if one knows how to search for a dirt-cheap ticket. Otherwise, a flight to the Philippines costs almost a thousand euros. Manila airport NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) is one of the airline networks in Asia for international flights and budget airlines. You can fly inexpensively from here to any country in Asia.
The disadvantage of cheap air tickets
I booked a low price for a multi-city ticket on this trip with QatarAirways – starting from Brussels, through Doha, continuing to India, and returning from Manila. The drawback with a low-priced ticket is that you will have a long layover in Doha, Qatar – see my post on what to do on a long layover in Doha.
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. With the low-cost airline in the Philippines, Cebu Pacific, you can sometimes fly cheap, as low as 500 pesos one-way to Manila.
Philippines Tourist Visa
Most visitors to the Philippines receive a free 30 days tourist visa on arrival. Bear in mind; that you need a return ticket. It is not always in demand, but sometimes if the immigration officer is 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. And there’s a minimal fee of 30-50 euros. The best alternative before your visa expires is to book the cheapest flight to the neighboring countries and return to the Philippines. Then get a new stamp for 30 days for free.
How to get to Manila Center: grab or taxi
You can choose between the taxi and grab – it’s like an Uber in the Philippines that you can pre-book through an app. They’re slightly cheaper than a taxi.
When you walk out of the arrival building, you will likely be implied by cab dispatchers who tried to get you in a coupon taxi that cost much more than a metered one but ignored them. So you see a white (coupon) and yellow (meter) cab.
If you have booked the grab taxi, you must tell the driver which number of bays you are waiting for so he will find you. However, if you prefer to take a cab, take one with a meter. They are cheaper than the coupon taxi.
Yellow metered taxi at Manila airport
To get to the yellow metered taxi, walk right to Bay 14 – you see the large concrete pole number. The only downside of taking the meter taxi is a long line depending on flight arrivals. Usually, as soon as you board, the driver will turn on his meter. And coming from the airport, the taxi meter starts at 70 pesos. So, generally, a ride to Makati, Ermita, Malate, and Pasay should not go over 500 pesos, depending on traffic.
Also, 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 long layover in Manila?
You’re free and choose the best for you. But when in Manila, take advantage of visiting the city’s highlights!Book a hotel if you have a long layover or want to visit Manila in one day. It’s hard to stay awake, especially in humid temperatures. 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 departed at 9 pm the next day. Thus, we have 24 hours in Manila. If 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’s history.
Learn the Filipino culture
It’s a disgrace that most travelers often skip the capital city of the Philippines. On the contrary, there’s so much to do, and it’s a pretty enjoyable place. So if you are a history buff, go for historical sights. As for the shopaholic, you can shop till you drop, as there’s no shortage of shopping malls in Manila.
As for people with interest in food, Filipino cuisine is the best in the world. And for the party-goers, there are dozens of clubs and bars in Manila. So there’s absolutely no time to get bored.
Enjoy your time in the capital, and get to know the Filipino culture in one day.
Which district of Manila is best
Manila city consists of different districts. 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 in these areas are high, and you’re a little away from the city’s highlights.
Ermita, Malate, and Pasay are budget-friendly areas to stay in, but you must remain vigilant, particularly at night. As far as safety is 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.
Where to stay?
You have so many choices in Manila if you check Booking.com. We were staying in Ermita at Manila Lotus, close to a shopping center, Robinson. It’s only a 10-minute walk to Rizal Park. This beautiful, budget-friendly hotel is an ideal place to stay in Manila.
Nicely furniture room is neat and clean. For the price and its location, it was worthy and included a good buffet breakfast. Last but not least, they have a pretty fast Wi-Fi reception. 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 unless you can handle the heat, humidity, and the city’s 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. Please don’t count on taxis; they’re the most expensive ones.
Like any big city, you must be careful with the Philippines’ taxis. By tricking the meter, taxi scams in Manila can occur to foreign and local passengers. The city taxis meter starts at 45 pesos. My tricks when taking a cab I use my google map to follow the driver if he’s not taking 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 of April to June is the so-called summertime in the Philippines. The term summer sounds funny when the temperature is continually 25 to 35 degrees. It’s a school holiday, and the locals spend their time on the beach, primarily 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 it is the off-season, and the accommodation is relatively 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, staying in Malate or Ermita is convenient as you are close to Rizal Park and other sights like Intramuros, the heart of Manila. As you see below, these are things we’ve done in one day.
Strolling the Rizal Park
Rizal, or Luneta, is a renowned park in Manila. The 58 hectares of public park is one of the massive terrains in the city. It is set between the large commercial buildings right along the crowded Roxas Boulevard in the middle of the center.
The Park is integral to old Manila tales that played some significant moments in Philippine history. The Park got his name from a brilliant resistance fighter Jose Rizal who the Spaniards executed. There you will find the hero’s bronze statue in the Park. Rizal Park is a meeting place for the local people 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. It’s a free entrance!
Take a ride with a Kalesa (Horse Drawn Carriage)
Manila doesn’t have a tourist bus like the hop-on hop-off bus. But the good thing is, you can do it by this horse-drawn carriage called (Kalesa) in native. It’s unique in Manila and the most comfortable way of seeing the city’s highlights.
It can be expensive, and the prices start from 500 pesos for 30 minutes, which can sum up to 2500 pesos if you want a more extended tour. So you have to do it once. It’s an enjoyable ride; we just let ourselves go without looking at the time, but still a good value for money.
Where to find the kalesa? You will find them in Rizal Park. There’ll be someone who approaches you offering a horse-drawn ride. They’ll show you a list of things to see on the way, like the Malacanang, Intramorus, Chinatown, etc. You can decide for yourself how long you will take the ride.
A leisurely walk through Intramuros
It’s an excellent place to spend a couple of hours as there is so much to see around. As for historical buff could spend a whole day here. So we hopped off the horse-carriage tour and spent one hour in the area. 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, apparent with the construction of the walled city—you’ll see some of the buildings built in the 16th century. The fascinating area was stepping back into history that one cannot miss while in Manila.
Keep in mind Intramuros are pretty spread out and would take some effort to walk through the entire place. It’s a free entrance!
Don’t miss Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago is the national landmark and a sanctuary for 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 and the excellent view of Manila skylines.
In the same place, you can visit the museum of Jose Rizal, the national hero imprisoned inside the Fort before being executed by the Spaniards. The cell is part of the Rizal memorial site, a small museum established in honor of the national hero of the Philippines. The entrance fee is 75 pesos!
Gondola ride at Venice Grand Canal Mall
Venice? That’s right! The modern shopping center in Taguig City that opened a few years ago 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. You can also stroll inside the malls with lots of shops and small 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 typing Venice Grand Mall. The taxi price should not exceed the mentioned price. The correct address is at Mc Kinley Hill, Taguig City.
Shopping till you drop
Manila is a shopping paradise, a city comprised of shopping complexes and markets. Divisoria is the largest market that offers various products, from clothes, bags, shoes, books, jewelry, etc. Nevertheless, if shopping is less appealing to you, a stroll inside the mall is satisfying for cooling the outdoor heat. Besides, you can find something like body massage or beauty care for a low price.
If that still not interest you? How about going for the food? All shopping malls in the Philippines are equipped with food courts where you can enjoy some Filipino cuisine. Be sure to visit one of the shopping centers and food court area; your eyes will be too small to see all the food stands.
Watch the sunset at Manila Bay
Suppose you have time left, particularly in the afternoon. Take a stroll at Manila Bay; these were the best places to walk and mingle with local Filipinos. The beautiful wide boardwalk along Roxas Boulevard in Malate is a great place to see the sunset. It can get busy in the afternoon, yet the atmosphere is still relaxed. Very likely, you were already tired from walking all day and no longer have the strength to walk. Across the Bay are several restaurants where you can sit and order drinks while watching the sunset.