Manila Tourism Information
The Manila Cathedral is the most visited building in the fortified "old Manila"
The name of the Philippines came by, in honor of King Philip II of Spain. (Felipe II). Eventually the name "Las Islas Filipinas" would be used to cover all the islands of the archipelago. Manila, the capital of the Philippines has a very rich history, as the influence of the Spanish conquerors is present in much of the old city. Its a vibrant metropolis, compacted with many apartment blocks, shopping centres, markets and residential areas extending for miles out of the city. It has a big traffic congestion problem, this meaning dense pollution and fumes are often unpleasant in some areas of the city.Nevertheless Manilla has a unique charm, very interesting places to visit, friendly locals and dozens of places where to eat authentic local food.
Metro Map Manila
Manila's public transportation system is far behind from many big Asian cities by comparison to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala-Lumpur or Taipei. However the city is building up its metro system and now has 3 major lines.
Travelling from the airport is still not possible by metro. However the most reasonable transport is to take the Premium Bus Service, recently introduced in 2016, from any terminal to Central Manila. There are 5 lines, but the most popular is the Robinsons line which leaves you in Malate, the last stop being the Robinson's Mall, which is a great location for Hotels, entertainment area and close to the metro station of Pedro Gil. The cost of a one way ticket is 200Php. Trip duration is up to one hour depending on traffic conditions. The bus has an irregular schedule so it's worth checking online for the times at UBE Express.
Another option, not that more expensive and travel faster is by taxi. If you use applications such as Uber or Grab, you can get private taxies costing about 250 Php to your hotel door. Normal taxis will cost round 250 to 400 Php on normal traffic conditions, though be aware they might charge more with luggage. When travelling by taxi from the airport, be sure they switch on the meter. They often charge foreign passengers much higher prices than locals.
Attention! There are many companies offering private transport service to your hotel as soon as you come out of the arrivals hall. For a set price. (700-1000 Php) they are quite expensive considering the options mentioned above.
Travelling in the city is good by metro or LRT (Light Metro) if you are in walking distance to the stops. The Metro does get very crowded at peak times and very long queues are to be expected. Trains are equipped with air-conditioning but again they get very full at busy times. The feeling of being "packed like sardines" will cross your mind for sure!
If you are able to get the Jeepney, this is a very popular mode of transport and cheap, though not many tourists are able to find the ways to their destination. However in the tourist areas, Malate and Intramuros it's enough to go walking or you can get into a Tuk-Tuk style bike ( one or two passengers with a bike or scooter).
Around Manila there are also busses which connect the different districts, yet again these busses are not easy to tell where they travel to unless travelling with a local, or asking around. It's advised to travel with locals rather than on the busses alone in case of pick-pockets.
Also a fun way to travel in the congested city is by bike, many drivers will often offer you a seat on their bike or scooter. Be sure to negotiate the price before starting the trip and make sure they provide you with a helmet.
Manila is a huge city, divided by many districts. Each of them being very different from the rest and appealing to visit for different reasons.
The main districts to highlight and the places of tourism interest are listed below:
Intramuros is essentially the old city, the foundations of the city lay here. Manila started as a small town sorrounded by a fortress. Many of Manila's monuments,museums, arquitectural buildings from the conquering era are built inside the fortress walls. As the city expanded you will see many famous buildings even outside the old walls. It's a beautiful area to walk around, also for being safe and quiet as there is a limitation of the traffic which comes inside the city walls.
The following sites and historical buildings are worth seeing:
Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, Rizal Monument, San Agustin Church, Plaza de Armas, Casa Manila and Rizal Park (also knows as Luneta park).
Tip: Visit Rizal Park as the sun sets from 8 to 10pm, to watch the fountains come into life offering a light and sound show. Popular Filipino songs are played as well as the latest chart hits!
Suggestion, take a tour:
Staying in Manila a few days would be enough to see the basic sites of the old city and explore around Intramuros. However its very recommended you take a few tours out of the city. Tours are possible from your hotel often or from local street travel agencies. (cheaper than buying online).
If you are travelling solo, tours are much more expensive unfortunately, so try to join with more people and prices will drop considerably.
The best tours and places to check out are:
- Tagaytay and Taal Volcano: About 2 hours away from Manila, spectacular views, crossing a lake by bamboo boat, a Donkey ride amongst other activities.
- Corregidor Island: A historical island, where two battles between the Japanese and US took place.
TIP: Be aware than many extra costs are not included in the basic tour package. Be sure to know what is you are getting inside the tours and take enough cash to pay for extra activities.
Tagaytay and Taal Volcano Photo Gallery:
Hotels are very cheap, and for a budget conscious traveller staying in Manila is worth paying a little more for that extra comfort and convenience. Most recommended locations to stay are Intramuros and Malate which are in the heart of the tourism and entertainment areas.
Hotels range from basic 1 star to top chains, but be sure to check the reviews of the hotel as often it seems that Hotels in Manila are not renovated enough and are in a bad condition. Having Wifi in the room can be difficult if you choose very basic hotels (even they say they offer Wifi).
Noise can also be a problem staying in Manila, try to stay away from main streets, ground floors or facing any local hen farms.
Regarding safety, Hotels and accommodations in Manila often have a security guard day and night, but its not advised leaving personal belongings around in the room. (keep them locked up in your case or in a safe).
Recommended Stay Duration:
Visiting Manila can be ideal for only 3 nights if you plan to only visit the city centre and the old city. But if you prefer to explore a little more and get to know the other districts of the city plus enjoy a couple of tours out of Manila then its recommended you stay 4 to 5 night.