I. Why going to Manila
Things to do / to see
Manila is a living region, very dense. It’s the kind of place where you will always find activity in the streets, no matter what time it is. People love to go out, even in weekday, and most of the time they go out late. It’s becoming more and more modern every day, and it’s nice to see that people keep their way of life and don’t let their tradition get lost in globalization. People are kind, helpful and they try their best to enjoy life. Most of them speak English. They are the real treasure to discover in this metropole.
So no big touristic things here. A few world-class museums though. If you want to spend a week visiting temples, monuments or beaches, you should probably take another plane real quick for a neighbor country.
Who is Manila’s experience made for
Manila will fit to people who want to live there. The weather is warm, the cost of living way lower than the USA or eastern Europe and services are easily accessible. Or for the young one of us who want to enjoy daytime in the fast lane and crazy nightlife.
When to go
The weather is always warm. The dry season is from February to June. The colder time will be from September to January, when it will be around 26°C.
I would advise you to go in may for celebrating the festival of flores de mayo in the streets with a lot of happy people.
II. Where to find a place
Understand the map of Metro Manila
Metro Manila is actually several cities with their borders less and less visible with time. The city of Manila itself (called Intramuros by locals) is a one or two day trips to see the Spanish heritage. But it’s indeed interesting to see the roots of the catholic traditions, what is a specificity for a country in South East Asia. The main attractions will be Fort Santiago and San Augustin Church.
Malate is where you will find the best ratio between price of your hotels and activity in the city of Manila. It’s not a city but a district of Manila city. So the tricycle can bring you to Intramuros. It’s close to the universities, the casinos, and the touristic area, so it “naturally” grew malls, restaurants, and a red light district with bars, pubs and nightclubs for every kind of population. It’s more popular than Makati with similar attractions..
Makati is the city who host the original red light district in Metro Manila. It evolved to be one of the hottest center for mid-class people. Usually you will meet your friend there. So it’s basically where you want to live if you want spend time with locals. You will find everything you need night and day, this city never sleeps.
Quezon City is huge. But the interesting part is the part they want to make the new Manila from (Eastwood is a great example). It’s modern, more relax, less touristic, very enjoyable to live at. You will need a Uber to pass from an area to another, but those districts shows the evolution of Metro Manila and Philippines. They architecture worth the visit if you like modernity.
Fort Bonifacio tries to compete with Makati. The services and activities are made for attracting a young population and expats. It’s more a place to work than for living in. You won’t walk much and won’t find tricycle there, so you will use Uber to go from a place to another. But you will find a lot of food courts, outside activities, and night clubs. The high-end services will guarantee you a good time.
Living in Makati
You want to find a place around P. Burgos street. You will find there a lot of restaurants, shop, working places, bars, pubs, night clubs for locals and foreigner.
It’s easy to find all kind of hotels and hostels there, even last minute.
From there you will be able to walk to other districts pretty easily and come back without paying for expensive transportation.
You will also be close to Saturday and Sunday special food markets.
Living in Manila city
Find a place near Robinson’s Place, in the district of Malate. You will be next to the cost. There is no beach, but the view on the bay is enjoyable. You will be close, also, to the zoo, the ocean park, and the night light activity.
There are 4 public transportations in Metro Manila. Tricycle, jeepneys, buses and trains.
You will probably not use any of them (I’d really love Uber or Grab to sponsor this article…).
Going inside a city
Potentially, you might be too lazy to walk 10 minutes. We are not judging (I mean… we do but we won’t say it). If you walk is to go for an area to another inside the city, you might consider taking a tricycle. Even if it looks a lot like a private transport, people share it to up to 5-7 people to reduce the costs. The tricycles are bond to their city, so be sure the area you want to go to is in the city you are in, or you will have to take two different tricycles.
Going to another city in metro Manila
But most of the time, you will use Uber/Grab, or their cheaper car sharing equivalent Uber Pool/Grab Share. Even for the 10 minutes walk you want to avoid.
This is not a tourist thing. Most of locals you will meet there use these apps daily. They are way more convenient and trustful than taxis. Avoid taxis. If locals don’t trust them, you shouldn’t.
Going outside of metro Manila
To go for a few days outside of Manila you will find buses lines going from the terminals of Cubao Station, Pasay city. A few agents will come to you to help you find your bus. They might look like trying to sell you something, but you can trust them on the price of the bus. They are really here to help you.
First, know how much is one peso in your currency :
You will easily find ATM and exchange offices everywhere in Manila. More and more places accept credit card payments, but be ready to pay cash most of the time.
In metro Manila, you will find hostels for 250 to 800 pesos a night. Hostels are the less expensive accommodation you will find.
You will find double rooms in hostels and in traditional 0 to 5 stars hotels. The average price should be around 1300 to 1900 pesos a night.
Luxury hotels are everywhere. The prices climbs along with the services.
You can eat for 50 pesos in markets. Most of the time it will be traditional Filipino food. You will also find street munchies for around 20 to 50 pesos.
In the malls and fast foods, you will find a meal with drink for 150 to 300 pesos.
Good mid-class restaurants will cost around 250 to 500 pesos.
A 10% tip is supposed to be given for good services when not already included in the bill.
The tricycles will cost between 8 and 40 pesos for a ride.
The Uber will cost between 70 pesos and 300 pesos depending on the trafic. Grab is supposed to be less expensive during rush hour because it consider only the distance, not the time of the car trip.
Globe and Smart are the main phone providers. They offer almost the same data plans for prepaid sim cards.
You will have for around 300 pesos a month of internet connection on your phone. But be careful to choose the right amount of data you need. The best value when this article is written is 50 pesos for 3 days including 1.5 GB.
Museums’ entrance should be around 20 pesos max.
Night club entrance can be up to 500 pesos. But if you nicely ask to the people outside if you can be on their guest lists and arrive early enough, you might be able to enter for free in most of the famous clubs.
When someone helps you in the street (not giving you a direction, but really helping you in parking, carrying stuff, guiding you somewhere, translating a conversation) consider tipping 5-15 pesos.
V. Getting ready
Things to do before taking the plane
- Have a ticket to leave the country. The border police might ask you to show your ability to leave before your permitted stay expires.
- Install Uber and Grab on your smartphone. It will be your main transportation. You can pay cash in Manila.
- Power outlet are mostly type A and deliver 220V.
Some hotels have 110V outlets and in modern places you will find multi types outlets. You can find an adapter for 100 pesos in markets in Manila.
- Have an extra phone and a power bank… To use Uber and Grab if you are away from your hotel.
- Pack a hat for the sun and fan the warmth, a light jacket for the air conditioner.
- Stomach pills for the street food. Just in case if you’re sensitive.
- Anti-thief backpack. Pickpockets are getting used to tourists.
- In some part of Manila there is a risk of dengue. There is no risk of Malaria in Manila, but in the countryside, yes. So be prepared.
- Have a high capacity wallet. You will pay everything cash.
- Unlike other countries around, people are ok with shorts and tank tops, so enjoy.
If you miss any of these, don’t rush. You can buy everything for cheap in the markets.
What to do when you reach the airport
- Don’t listen to people. Even the airport security might lie to you for you to use the taxis.
- Exchange 800 pesos. It should be enough for getting out of the airport.
- Get a free sim card. Both main phone network providers (Globe and Smart) offer free prepaid sim cards to visitors. At those spots, you can by a load card of 100 pesos. Use it to have 3 days of 4G internet on your phone.
- Get a Uber with your new sim card and go to your hotel.
Phone country code: +63
Sunrise: 5:30am – 6:30am
Sunset: 5:30pm – 6:30pm