Manila beckons you to peer through its daunting façade to unearth its beautiful spirit, lively culture, and way of life.
With its hazy skies, looming skyscrapers and chaotic ambience, Manila could certainly look intimidating at first glance. But if you look beyond that, you will discover a world of unrivaled hospitality, edgy fashion, amiable personalities, distinctive arts and music.
Manila is a shopping haven that offers you the opportunity to visit the biggest mall in Southeast Asia or test your haggling skills at the world’s largest Chinatown. Famous for its all-night parties every night, Manila’s nightlife is energetic and fun. This bustling city is especially great for young couples and friends who are looking for an exciting adventure.
The most practical way for international tourists to get to Manila is by flying to Philippine’s main international airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. As the hub of the country’s ferry network, you can also get to most major cities from the Manila South Harbour. Additionally, several buses connect Manila to cities in the north and south of the island.
The official currency used in Manila is the Philippine Peso (PHP) and other currencies are rarely recognised. To be safe, you should only exchange your money at banks, though sometimes a minimum amount (usually around US$100) is imposed. ATMs that accept major credit cards are available all over the city and you can withdraw up to 25,000 pesos per transaction. Most merchants in commercial areas will accept credit cards and sometimes require a minimum amount of purchase too.
The most popular time to visit Manila is during its dry season from November to April, peaking in December during the holidays. The best time to go would be just after the Christmas rush in January or February when it is still sunny, but the temperature is cooler than in the summer months of March and April.
Manila is well connected by several train lines, buses, and jeepneys. For short distances and certain hard-to-reach places, you can travel via tricycles or pedicabs, which should display a fare matrix for the areas they serve. Should you want to travel long distances by tricycles or pedicabs, you will need to negotiate a fare with the driver beforehand. Taxis and ride hailing apps apps such as Uber and Grab are also available and widely used.
More than the exotic embryo eggs and whole pig’s head that most people think is representative of food in the Philippines, Manila offers a wide array of food choices, from delectable local favourites to authentic Spanish cuisines. Try a bowl of hearty adobo, the unofficial national dish, consisting of chicken or pork stew. Head to an upscale restaurant that serves the familiar steak and potatoes or Chinatown for a variety of Asian eats. If you are short on time, you can always grab a quick meal at one of the many fast food joints all over the city.
Manila is not for the faint of heart, rewarding those brave enough to uncover the soul of the city. But once you see past its daunting demeanor, you will discover a world of English-speaking friendly people, thrilling nightlife, chic fashion, and intriguing adventures.