Travelers from all over the country and the rest of the world can reach Manila via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City. All flights from Philippine Airlines exclusively use the NAIA Terminal 2, while other flights from major international airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon Airways, and AirAsia are served in Terminals 1, 3, and 4 (Domestic Airport).
From the airport, you can ride a taxi or book a ride via GrabCar to your intended destination in Manila. You can also take the premium airport bus, which stops at Manila Hotel near the heart of the city.
Traveling by sea to Manila from major local cities is also an option. Shipping companies like 2GO Travel have travel routes to Manila from Bacolod, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga to name a few. From Cebu, the travel time is 22 hours. From Puerto Princesa, it’s 31 hours. From Zamboanga, it’s 42 hours.
Travelers from nearby provinces, especially from Northern Luzon, can also go to Manila by bus. GV Florida, Genesis, Five Star, and Fariñas are just some of the bus lines that head directly to their terminals in Manila’s Sampaloc district.
How to Get Around
By Jeeps and Tricycles
Jeeps are the main modes of public transportation in the city. Tricycles and sidecars (the local version of a rickshaw) are also available for short distance trips.
You can also ride trains when moving around the city. The LRT-1 passes through Taft Avenue, taking you from R. Papa Station in the north to Vito Cruz Station in the south. You can also ride LRT-2 from Recto (the western terminus station) to V. Mapa in Sta. Mesa. Another option is the Philippine National Railway, which runs from Tutuban in Divisoria all the way to Vito Cruz.
By Taxi and Ridesharing Services
Taxis are the most convenient way to get around the city. Another way is to book a ride through ridesharing services like Grab and Uber.
What to See
The capital of the Philippines, the City of Manila is a booming metropolis bustling with people from all walks of life. During the Spanish colonial period, it was the center of trade and commerce in the pacific, earning the title “Pearl of the Orient.” Beyond the commercial growth, Manila itself is an ideal tourist destination with interesting landmarks that reflect its rich history and a modern lifestyle waiting to be experienced.
In the heart of the city is one of the country’s most important landmarks, Rizal Park. More than a leisure spot where families hang out during weekends, the park is also historic for being the place where national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was executed on December 30, 1896. The focal point of the Rizal Park is the Rizal Monument, another popular landmark and perhaps the most photographed spot in the city. It is also where the remains of Dr. Rizal were enshrined.
Not too far away from Rizal Park is the walled city of Intramuros. It is the oldest district of Manila which once served as the seat of government during the Spanish colonial period. The fortress was built and designed to withstand both natural and man-made disasters, including attacks from foreign invaders. Much of Intramuros, however, was heavily damaged during the Second World War. Today, the walls of this ancient district still stand, including several Spanish-era structures that see its share of tourists. Intramuros is also home to educational institutions (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Mapua Institute of Technology, and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran to name a few), churches, monuments, and several business and government establishments.
The San Agustin Church is a remarkable church located inside Intramuros. This Baroque church was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Having been completed in 1607, it holds the distinction of being the oldest structure in all of Metro Manila.
The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the Manila Cathedral, is also found within Intramuros. The cathedral was established in 1571 and has undergone several renovations since it was built. The cathedral serves as the see of the Archbishop of Manila as has been visited by three popes in the past: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis.
Another important church in Manila is The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. More popularly known as the Quiapo Church, it is where the iconic image of the Black Nazarene is enshrined. The basilica takes center stage every January 9 in celebration of the annual feast of the Black Nazarene.
Another distinct church in Manila is the San Sebastian Church, also located in the Quiapo area. Built in 1891, this Gothic church is known to be the only all-steel structure in the country.
Other important landmarks to visit in the City of Manila include The Malacañan Palace, also known as Malacañang, the official residence of the President of the Philippines; and The University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in Asia. Lastly, the Manila City Hall is a recognizable establishment in the city because of its imposing clock tower—the largest of its kind in the country.
With a coastline of 190 kilometers, the glorious Manila Bay is a sight to behold along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Every day, city dwellers visit the promenade to take a stroll, jog, or to watch the stunning sunset.
The National Museum of the Philippines is found near Rizal Park and just minutes away from Intramuros. It is composed of the National Art Gallery, the National Museum of Anthropology, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Planetarium. These places are highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the history, arts, and culture of the Philippines.
Not too far away is the Manila Ocean Park, an oceanarium behind the Quirino Grandstand. The Manila Ocean Park has several sections showcasing different types of fascinating sea creatures. There are also facilities where you can enjoy live interaction with the animals, a mall with marine-themed memorabilia for sale, and a hotel where you can enjoy “sleeping with the fishes.”
The Museo Pambata and the Manila Zoo are other kid-friendly places in the city. The Museo Pambata is located in Ermita, right along Roxas Boulevard and near the US Embassy. It is an interactive museum where kids can interact with the exhibits using their total senses. The Manila Zoo, on the other hand, is located in Malate and has been around since 1959. The zoo is home to about a thousand animals including a Bengal tiger, Malayan civet, monitor lizards, and a hippopotamus. An Asian elephant called Mali is the zoo’s oldest resident, having lived there since 1977.
Events and Festivals
Each district in the city celebrates its own feast every year. The most anticipated, however, is the Feast of the Black Nazarene every January. This event draws in more than a million devotees to the streets of Quiapo to join the procession of the holy image of the Black Nazarene or Traslación. Donning yellow and maroon shirts, devotees try to get close to the Andas or carriage to hold on to the large ropes that pull the Black Nazarene forward as panata or religious pledge.
While the Philippines is known to celebrate Chinese New Year every year, the grandest celebration is held in the district of Binondo, also known as the oldest Chinatown in the world. The festivities are complete with fireworks displays, dragon dances, concerts, bazaars, and the grand countdown. Business also thrives because of the numerous shops that sell charms, figurines, round fruits, and tikoy—a sticky rice cake known to attract luck and prosperity for the new year.
Where to Eat
Café Ilang Ilang in Manila Hotel offers a world-class dining experience preferred by numerous families in Manila. This buffet restaurant treats you to an array of Asian, Mediterranean, European, and Filipino dishes that are sure to tickle your palate.
Those who crave Chinese food can visit Wai Ying in Binondo. Their delicious and pocket-friendly dimsum are very popular among foodies. Hakaw is the crowd favorite, which is best enjoyed with their refreshing lemonade.
If you’re into Middle Eastern dishes, then head over to R. Salas Street in Ermita where you’ll find Shawarma Snack Center. For some hip Japanese food, Ippudo in Robinsons Place Manila serves delicious bowls of ramen, while Yabu: the House of Katsu is the go-to place for some tender katsu.
For good ‘ol Filipino dishes, The Aristocrat is one of the most sought-after places in the city. Located right in front of Malate Church, the restaurant is known for their chicken barbecue and their java rice. Their sotanghon soup, mechado, pinakbet, and crispy pata are also popular among its patrons. The restaurant itself has been around since 1936.
Aside from Starbucks and Coffee Bean which are dime a dozen in the city, coffee lovers must visit the Korean-themed Café Travel in Taft. Beyond Coffee in the Sampaloc area is also another must-try, especially for their butterscotch caramel mocha beverage known as “sexy blend.” For desserts, Café Breton has a delectable selection of crepes, while Café Mary Grace offers succulent cakes and their signature ensaymada.
Bars and Clubs
The Malate district is known as the party central of the City of Manila. The Orosa and Nakpil Streets are lined with bars and clubs where you can enjoy great music and drinks. Some of the favorite nightspots in the Malate area are Oarhouse Pub, Tambayan Gastrobar, EXKLUSIV, and Hobbit House. The Sky Deck in Intramuros is also a classy place to check out.
Where to Shop
There are several shopping malls in Manila for shopaholics. Robinsons Place Manila is located right in the heart of Ermita district, making it easily accessible for commuters. Meanwhile, SM Manila is just beside Manila City Hall and just within walking distance from Intramuros.
But when it comes to bargain shopping in Manila, Divisoria comes first on the list of the locals. This market district has gazillions of stalls or tiangge that offer the cheapest deals on almost everything you need: clothes, shoes, accessories, homeware, food, furniture, electronics, appliances, toys, school supplies, novelty items, and many more. More stalls are located in 168 Mall and The Megaworld-owned Lucky Chinatown Mall, which are also found in Divisoria.
Fare: PHP 2,700.00 to PHP 15,000.00
Air fares to Manila from various points in the Philippines can cost anywhere between PHP 2,700.00 to PHP 5,000.00. From other countries like Hong Kong, flights to Manila can go for as low as PHP 7,000.00 to as much as PHP 15,000.00.
The boat fare to Manila from the provinces costs anywhere between PHP 600.00 and PHP 4,000.00. The bus fare, meanwhile, range from PHP 100.00 to PHP 800.00 for a one way trip, depending on your point of origin.
When riding public transportation in the city, the base fare for a jeep ride is PHP 7.00. A bus ride costs PHP 15.00, while LRT fares start at PHP 15.00. For taxis, the flag down rate is PHP 30.00. Every succeeding 500 meters or 90-second waiting time costs an additional PHP 3.50.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 5,000.00
There are many restaurants that serve good food at pocket-friendly prices. On average, you’ll have to spend PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 for a full meal. For fine dining in Manila, a budget of PHP 1,000.00 to as much as PHP 5,000.00 per person is ideal.
Shopping: PHP 400.00 to PHP 900.00
A good pair of jeans at most popular stores in malls cost around PHP 900.00. But you can also find affordable ones in Divisoria for less than PHP 500.00 a pair.
Accommodation: PHP 1,400.00 to PHP 8,000.00
The city has many lodging facilities that suit every taste and budget. For backpackers and budget travelers, hostel accommodations are available for as low as PHP 1,400.00 a night. Top-notch rooms are also available in the city for as much as PHP 8,000.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 100.00++
Most of the popular attractions in Manila are free of charge. The National Museum, Rizal Park, and Intramuros don’t charge entrance fees. The entrance fee to Museo Pambata is PHP 250.00, while the Ocean Park charges PHP 700.00 per head.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining in most restaurants, tipping is no longer necessary since a service charge is already included in the bill. You can still leave tips behind if you wish. A small amount of PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 would be enough.