- Manila Travel Requirements & Guidelines | COVID-19 New Normal
- 1. Who are allowed to go to Manila?
- 2. What are the entry points in Manila?
- 3. What travel requirements do you need to prepare?
- 4. What are the guidelines and protocols to follow when you're in Manila?
- Best Time to Go to Manila
- Holiday Season | September to December
- Dry Season | January to April
- Climate and Weather
- What to Wear
- How to Get to Manila
- Getting Around Manila
- From the Airport
- Public Transportation
- Where to Stay in Manila
- Types of Accommodations
- Neighborhoods and Areas
- Accommodation Highlights in Manila
- What To See and Do in Manila
- Explore Intramuros
- Go Museum-Hopping
- Go on a Food Trip in Binondo
- Shop in the Malls
- Experience the Nightlife in Poblacion
- What to Eat and Drink in Manila
- Practical Information and Tips
- Safety Tips
- What to Pack
- Commuting Tip
- Sample Itinerary in Manila
- Day 1: Intramuros + Food Tour + Museums
- Day 2: Modern Manila Tour + Modern Museums + Mall of Asia + Pub Crawl
Visit the bustling metropolitan center of the Philippines, Manila! Read about how to get around, top tourist spots that you should visit, the best places to stay in, and where to eat in this guide.
Manila serves as the center of culture, economy, education, and government in the Philippines. It is the most populous region of the country and one of the most densely populated in the world. It is also the main gateway for international travelers going to the Philippines by flight.
When you say “Manila,” it can mean two things. First, it can refer to the City of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Manila is made up of 16 administrative districts, including Binondo, Ermita, Intramuros, Malate, and Quiapo, among others.
Second, the greater Metropolitan Manila area is also referred to as Manila. It is officially known as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. It is made up of the City of Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Parañaque, Pasay, and Taguig, to name a few.
It can be a bit confusing. Make sure to do your research beforehand, so you don't end up staying in an area far from the main attractions you want to visit.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll refer to Manila as not just the City of Manila but also Metro Manila and the other big cities in the Philippines' bustling urban center. You’ll learn about Manila’s top tourist spots, the best way to get around, where to stay, and where to eat.
Manila Travel Requirements & Guidelines | COVID-19 New Normal
Tourists can visit Manila and its outdoor attractions. But because of the pandemic, everyone must follow health and safety guidelines to ensure a hassle-free visit. Take note that some LGUs may have different requirements than others, so be sure to check with the LGU of your destination before you visit.
1. Who are allowed to go to Manila?
Domestic tourists are allowed to go out in Manila, but the LGUs may impose reasonable restrictions, so double-check with your LGU of destination before you travel.
Filipinos, balikbayans, and foreigners with existing visas who are coming from other countries are also allowed to fly to Manila but must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, otherwise, they need to provide a negative COVID-19 test. For more information about inbound travel to the Philippines via Manila, read our guide on the Philippine travel requirements.
Manila hotel staycations are allowed, but some hotels may require guests to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative COVID-19 test.
2. What are the entry points in Manila?
If you're flying to Manila, you'll need to do so via the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If you're coming from nearby provinces, you can also enter Manila via land transportation.
3. What travel requirements do you need to prepare?
A valid ID is required when entering Manila. Some establishments also only allow entry to fully vaccinated individuals, so bring your vaccination card if you are fully vaccinated. Some LGUs may have additional requirements, so check in advance before you travel.
For those who are planning a staycation in Manila, check the requirements of your accommodations, as some may require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
4. What are the guidelines and protocols to follow when you're in Manila?
Here are some of the guidelines and protocols you need to take note of on your visit:
Minimum Health Standards
Tourists are encouraged to wear face masks, wash hands frequently, and observe proper social distancing, especially in public areas.
Best Time to Go to Manila
Manila is a great destination, all-year-round. Unlike island destinations in the Philippines, you can still do activities here during the rainy season.
But if you want to experience Manila's outdoor attractions fully, take note of the months with the sunniest days.
Holiday Season | September to December
The best months to go to Manila are during the -ber months of September, October, November, and December, when the city is full of festive lights and Christmas decorations.
It is also cooler during these months, which is great if you’re planning to do a lot of walking around. However, traffic can get worse than usual during the Christmas season. It is also during this time when a lot of people flock to the malls for their holiday shopping.
Dry Season | January to April
If you have a lot of outdoor destinations included in your Manila itinerary, it's best to explore during the dry months of January to April.
While there is rainfall throughout the year in Manila, January to April has the least chance of rain. Make sure to bring water bottles, caps, and an umbrella with you if you're planning to do a lot of walking in Manila.
Climate and Weather
During the dry season, the temperature in Manila is warm. Take note that the hottest months in Manila, are typically from April to May, with an average daily high temperature above 33°C.
If you plan to visit during these months, always bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated while exploring Manila. Additionally, make sure to check for weather updates and the forecast on the days of your trip.
Here's an overview of the average monthly Manila temperature and rainfall
Source: Weather Spark
When visiting Manila, expect a tropical climate. So dress in casual breathable clothes, especially during the dry months. If you're in the malls or outdoors at night, especially during the holiday season or rainy season, it's best to bring a light jacket with you to keep you warm.
How to Get to Manila
Manila is accessible from both international and local destinations by flight. You will be landing in one of the four terminals of Manila Airport, depending on the airline.
- Find cheap flights to Manila:
- Read our guide on airports in the Philippines
Note that there are four terminals in Manila, which are not connected by subway systems. It can be confusing for many first-time visitors, so make sure to find out which airport you're landing in before making transfer arrangements.
Getting Around Manila
Exploring Manila by public transportation can be overwhelming, but don’t worry, we have you covered. First, you have to find your way to your hotel once you arrive at the airport. Then you have to learn how to get around the city by using public transportation.
From the Airport
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 is located in Parañaque City, while Terminals 2, 3, and 4 are in the neighboring Pasay City.
The metro or subway system does not connect these airport terminals at the moment. The only way to get there and out is via private transport, shuttle buses, or taxis.
There is a free shuttle bus going to all terminals that runs every 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Given the heavy traffic in Manila during the day and early evening, it may not be the best idea if you are pressed for time (e.g., if you have a connecting flight with a layover of less than 4 hours).
You can also take the Airport Loop buses from all terminals. It will take you from the airport to Baclaran, Pasay Rotonda, Taft Avenue station of the Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT), and Manila Light Rail Transit System (LRT) in Pasay. Taft Avenue is the closest light rail station to the airport. Both MRT and LRT1 have a Taft Station and are connected with each other by a walkway.
Another option is the P2P (Point-to-Point) buses called the UBE Express. Fares vary depending on your destination. These buses run on four fixed routes, stopping at selected hotels and shopping malls, while other buses stop at big bus terminals. Check the P2P bus schedules here.
All Manila airports have taxi stands. You can ride the following:
Regular Taxi - White metered taxi/cabs with a fixed flag down rate and per kilometer fee.
Coupon Taxi- Blue-marked white taxi/cabs that are dispatched by airport personnel and charge a fixed price
Yellow Airport Taxi - Metered taxi with a fixed flag down rate and per kilometer fee, but almost double than the regular taxis.
Taxi scams at the airport are common. If the driver shows you a printed list of destinations and their corresponding prices, be warned that those rates are most probably overpriced.
Another red flag is when the driver doesn't use a meter and charges you ridiculous prices. To avoid the headache of getting scammed, use the official taxis (coupon taxis and yellow airport taxis).
When someone outside the arrival area offers you a ride, say no. Often, these drivers (or their middlemen) will overcharge you. They might offer to help you with your bags, keep a tight grip on your belongings and say no, or ignore them.
By Car Booking App
Another recommended way to get out of the airport and into the city is through Grab, a ride-hailing app similar to Uber (Uber is no longer operating in the Philippines).
Grab offers GrabTaxi (accredited regular metered taxi), GrabCar (private), and GrabShare (carpooling). Download the Grab App before arriving in the Philippines in case the airport WiFi fails.
By Car Rental
There are car rental services in Manila that you can avail of, including Manila van rentals, SUV rental in the Philippines, and luxury car rentals in the Philippines. Self-drive car rentals in the Philippines like budget car rental in the Philippines are also available in all Manila airports (except Terminal 4). Just make sure you have the requirements to rent a car in the Philippines. You can book a car rental in Manila in advance so you can pick up the car at the airport or their designated pick-up points in Manila.
If you're driving in Manila, we highly recommend using GPS navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze. Traffic in Manila needs a lot of patience and excellent driving skills, so make sure to prepare yourself if you're driving here for the first time.
For first-time visitors, Manila can be a bit overwhelming to explore by public transportation. When exploring Manila tourist spots, you’ll need to learn about the several types of public transit that ply the roads of this bustling metropolis.
The fastest way of getting around is via train. Three lines are operating in Manila: Manila Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT1), and Light Rail Transit 2(LRT2). The other modes of transportation are the tricycle and jeepney, both unique to the Philippines.
You can also hail a taxi or use car booking apps or a motorcycle booking app if you want to explore Manila.
MRT and LRT
The Manila Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) run across major roads in Manila and connect Manila's north and south areas. The MRT traverses Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue (EDSA), while LRT1 and LRT2 have routes crossing Pasay, Manila, Caloocan, and Quezon City.
If your hotel is somewhere in the city of Manila, Makati, Pasay, or even Quezon city, you can ride the MRT or LRT. Be warned though, that the MRT and LRT are very crowded during rush hour (7 AM to 9 AM and 5 PM to 9 PM on weekdays).
However, if you travel during the off-peak hours, the MRT and LRT offer the quickest way to slice through Manila's notorious traffic jams.
You can purchase single-journey tickets/cards (one way) or stored value cards (reloadable BEEP cards) in any station in MRT, LRT1, and LRT2. Reloading can be done at any station, as well.
The single-journey tickets are exclusively used in each line where you purchased them, while the reloadable BEEP cards can be used in all three lines. If you'll be riding the MRT and LRT a lot while in Manila, purchasing a BEEP card is highly recommended.
Source: Light Rail Transit Authority
MRT runs along EDSA, from Taft Avenue to North Avenue in Quezon City. This line gives travelers access to Roxas Boulevard, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and Quezon City. You can take this line if you want to explore Makati tourist spots and Quezon City attractions.
LRT1 and LRT2
There are two LRT routes, LRT1 and LRT2. LRT1 is the first among the three light rails in the Philippines, while LRT2 is the newest. A walkway in Doroteo Jose station connects LRT1 and LRT2.
LRT1 runs from Baclaran to Monumento. It lets you explore areas in Roxas Boulevard or Pasay area, Makati, Manila, and Caloocan. Beyond Caloocan are mainly residential areas not frequented by travelers.
LRT1 cuts through most of the city of Manila, which makes it the best transit to ride to get to popular Manila attractions such as Binondo, Intramuros, and Rizal Park.
LRT 2 has the shortest route. It runs through Metro Manila's East to West areas. It starts in Manila and ends in Marikina City, with stops along Quezon City and San Juan City. LRT 2 may be the shortest line, but it can still take you to Manila tourist spots. You can ride the LRT 2 to get to Binondo and San Sebastian Church in Intramuros, which is the only all-metal building in the country.
Jeepneys or jeeps are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines along major and some small roads. These are initially the US-made military jeeps left over from World War II.
Jeepneys have become an iconic symbol of Philippine culture and art. These can accommodate up to 20 passengers, depending on the size of the jeepney. Riding these open-aired vehicles in the streets of Manila offers an interesting experience for first-time visitors.
You can hail these anywhere on most Manila roads, but take note if there are designated loading and unloading stations in the area. Each jeepney has a sign on its windshield that indicates its last stop and 1 or 2 other significant stops along its route. Find out first which route you need to take before riding a jeepney.
Payments are handed to the driver at the front during the ride. If you're seated at the far end of the jeepney, the other passengers can pass it to the driver for you.
Locals say "Bayad po, " (Here's my payment) when handing the money to the driver. It is so the driver can compute how much your fare is since it varies on your pick-up point and destination.
When you're about 5 to 10 meters away from your stop, locals will say "Para po!" (Please stop) to notify the driver to slow down and stop at the nearest unloading station.
Motorized tricycles, or simply tricycles, are the local form of the auto-rickshaw similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuk. These public utility vehicles ply a set route in inner roads. They are usually found in terminals where passengers line up to wait for their turn to board one.
These can also be hired like taxis in some areas if their route allows it. Built in a variety of styles that differ from city to city, these are usually made locally by building a sidecar affixed to a motorcycle. These can usually accommodate 2 to 4 passengers only.
Taxi or Car Booking App
For those who only have a short time in the city and want a hassle-free journey, the best option is to take a taxi or book Grab using the Grab App.
While Grab is usually more expensive than riding jeepneys or buses, these can ensure you can get around safely and in comfort. You don't have to do multiple transfers, which is convenient for travelers coming from and going to the airport.
More adventurous travelers can choose to book with the Angkas app, which is similar to Grab Motorbike in other countries like Vietnam.
If you are traveling solo, you can use the app to hire a rider to pick you up and take you to your desired location. It is especially significant if you are in a hurry since motorcycles can navigate through heavy traffic easily.
Where to Stay in Manila
Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism
Manila is made up of multiple cities, and traveling from one city to another can be time-consuming, especially during rush hour. It's important to plan where your home base will be in Manila so you can easily go to the attractions included in your itinerary.
This section will run you through the common types of accommodations you'll find in Manila for your staycation in the Philippines. Whether you're on a tight budget or you're someone who prefers to spend more on luxurious accommodations, it's always better to plan before traveling. Whichever you prefer, you're bound to find what you're looking for in a metropolis as big as this one.
Types of Accommodations
It's essential to research Manila hotels and other types of accommodations before your visit. Be sure to check if the property accommodates the number of people you are traveling with. If you're looking for budget hotels in Manila, vacation rentals, or luxury accommodation, Manila has them all.
Whether you're staying for work or leisure, there are various hotels in Manila, ranging from budget to luxury. Luxury hotels in Manila offer amenities such as a swimming pool and a spa, while budget hotels in Manila provide basic amenities and furnishings. Make sure to follow the check-in procedure to avoid getting an extra charge.
If you're looking for privacy, renting a private condominium or house within Manila will work best. There are several vacation rentals throughout Manila, from Pasay City, Makati City, Mandaluyong City to Quezon City. It's better if you're in a group so you can share the expenses.
Perfect for solo backpackers, hostels in Manila usually offers dorm-type rooms and single rooms but with shared bathrooms. You can find several hostels in Makati. Hostel common areas are ideal for meeting new people, and some even have rooftop bars where you can chill at night.
Neighborhoods and Areas
Location is a significant factor when booking your hotel in Manila. The ideal location would either be one nearest to the airport or where most of the activities you plan will be concentrated around.
However, if you are planning to stay a little longer, then you should have ample time to explore Manila thoroughly. Your choice of where to book your accommodation depends on your budget and itinerary.
For business and leisure travelers who want modern conveniences, creature comforts, and luxury hotels, the best place to stay would be in the central business districts or CBDs. Manila has several central business districts to choose from, including Makati, Bonifacio Global City, and Ortigas Center.
Aside from the CBDs, cities like Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, Pasay City, and the city of Manila also offer an excellent selection of quality accommodations.
If you want to explore more of the capital city of the Philippines, then you should book a hotel in Manila. If you plan to go on a Binondo tour, a National Museum trip, or go on an Intramuros walking tour, you don't have to stray too far. You can find a lot of hotels in Manila.
There are luxury hotels and budget hotels in Manila that are near the attractions mentioned above. The best views are in the hotels lined up at Roxas Boulevard, where you are treated to breathtaking sunset views of Manila Bay.
If you are looking for hotels in Manila near the airports, Pasay is your best option. It is also near the best Manila attractions.
Pasay City in itself also offers fascinating attractions like The Dessert Museum, Lakbay Museo, and the Upside Down Museum. It also has entertainment hubs like Resorts World Manila, and the amusement park, Star City. If you want to go shopping, you can find the Mall of Asia, the fourth largest shopping mall in the Philippines, in Pasay City.
If you are looking for hotels in Makati, the central business district (CBD) is your best bet. Makati CBD is the area along Ayala Avenue lined with towering buildings. Exploring this neighborhood by foot is possible, too, thanks to the underpasses equipped with escalators in every section.
Makati is a melting pot of international affairs and is quite famous for its multicultural lifestyle. Makati It is also known for its array of Makati hotels and luxury malls, most of which can be found in Makati's prime shopping and entertainment hub, Ayala Center.
Many international retail brands have made their home in department stores in Makati, located in Glorietta Malls and Greenbelt Malls.
The hotels in Makati aren't just centralized in the CBD. You can also find accommodations in the revitalized hip neighborhood of Poblacion. This area boasts a vibrant nightlife that attracts the millennial workforce of Manila.
It is also where most backpacker hostels in Makati are located. A few minutes walk or drive from Poblacion will take you to Rockwell Center, most known for being the location of the Powerplant Mall.
It is reputed to be the best area in Manila for first-time visitors, since shops, nightlife, and sights are easily accessible. It also offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to upscale hotels in Makati.
Bonifacio Global City
Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in the city of Taguig is a booming financial and lifestyle district in Manila. It is also called Global City and The Fort. Besides being a hub of corporate offices of multinational companies and startups, BGC is a popular Friday night destination for millennials because of its vibrant nightlife. You can find the hottest clubs and bars in BGC.
Additionally, BGC has several malls like the Market! Market!, SM Aura, and Uptown Mall. Bonifacio High Street is BGC's central retail and entertainment hub. It boasts open-air shopping blocks with several high-end retail outlets and features a diverse array of restaurants that offer international and local cuisine.
BGC is also home to upscale residential condominiums. So, if you’re looking for plush vacation rentals or luxury hotels in Manila that are close to restaurants, clubs, and shopping malls, then look no further than BGC.
Quezon City (or QC for short) was the old capital of the Philippines. It is also currently the largest and most populous city in Manila. The city has developed into a premier and vibrant metropolis filled with delightful attractions and activities. The city is home to several historical monuments, such as the Quezon City Memorial Circle and the EDSA People Power Monument
Additionally, restaurants in Quezon City have become favorite eating spots for food lovers everywhere. Maginhawa Street is a well-known street where you’ll find some of the best restaurants in Manila. It has become a food haven that offers various delicious meals; from local cuisine to international gastronomical treats. If you’re into food trips, then book your accommodation in Quezon City.
Accommodation Highlights in Manila
Depending on your budget and preference, it's essential to note the following: location, price, and service. While it's okay to stay in a cheaper place, one should consider the number of people staying. If you're in a group, it might be better to rent a private house or stay at Manila hotels that offer family rooms.
Manila has many options to fit the needs of backpackers or travelers who’d rather spend more on the sights than on the hotel. These two come highly recommended among budget-conscious travelers.
Lub D Hostel (Makati City)
Photo by Solitary Wanderer
Lub D Hostel in Makati Avenue is the largest hostel in Manila. This hostel prides itself on its casual and friendly vibe that inspires you to mingle with its local and international guests.
They offer mixed dorms, ladies' dorms, private rooms, and family or group rooms. Lub D Makati also boasts a stunning rooftop restaurant, a deli bar, a cafe, and even a co-working space. Other facilities include a 24-hour front desk, laundry facilities, a TV room, and meeting rooms.
Red Planet (Binondo, Manila and Poblacion, Makati)
Photo by Red Planet Hotels Philippines
Red Planet is a hotel chain with branches all over Manila. Red Planet Binondo and Poblacion are strategically located in the tourist hotspots in Manila. Red Planet Binondo in Manila is situated near the famous Chinatown and other historical places in Manila.
Red Planet Makati is right in the center of Poblacion, Makati’s lively nightlife hub. Red Planet boasts minimalist and modern private rooms at affordable prices. Although their rooms have basic amenities, you can expect maximum comfort during your stay.
Manila is home to several 4-star and 5-star hotels offering world-class facilities and services. If you're looking for all the creature comforts of a hotel but still want bang for your buck, you should stay in this type of accommodations.
The Manila Hotel (Manila)
The Manila Hotel in One Rizal Park is a historic 5-star hotel that was built in 1912. This hotel showcases the elegance of authentic Filipino interior design in its 570 rooms and suites.
The Manila Hotel boasts a posh deli, an outdoor pool bar, a lobby lounge, and five high-end restaurants, including Cafe Ilang-Ilang, one of the best buffets in Manila, that offer a wide array of local and international cuisine. They also have a swimming pool, a garden area, a spa and sauna, and a gym equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
The Entertainment City, an area in Parañaque, is a gaming and entertainment complex. It is a top choice for business or luxury travelers as it is also near the airports. Here are two highly-recommended hotels in the area.
Okada Manila (Parañaque City)
Photo by Okada Manila
Okada Manila is a 5-star casino resort and hotel complex that offers a world-class luxury experience. Aside from their stunning private rooms and suites, they also have an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, restaurants, an in-house casino, an indoor beach club, a day-to-night club, art galleries, meeting facilities, and retail shops.
City of Dreams is the first-of-its-kind boutique Nobu Hotel in Asia. This top-notch hotel offers world-class facilities and luxurious amenities. They have an in-house casino, a fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, and top-notch rooms and suites. The City of Dreams also boasts an excellent selection of Japanese cuisine.
What To See and Do in Manila
For first-time visitors in the Philippines, the best thing to do is zero in on the famous historical places in Manila. Going on a museum tour and a food tour should be on top of your list of things to do in Manila. Whether it's history, food, culture, shopping, or nightlife you're interested in, you're sure to find something fun and unique to do in the metro. Here are a few of our top picks:
Video by the Philippine Department of Tourism
Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. Known as the "Walled City," this landmark walled area within the modern city was the seat of government and political power when the Philippines was still under Spanish rule. What makes Intramuros fascinating is that it is the only remaining district in Manila where visitors can even see Spanish-era architecture.
Go on an Intramuros guided bike tour along its cobblestone streets and visit historical monuments, statues, and landmarks. A bike tour will take you to Plaza Luis, a cultural and commercial complex composed of five houses. You will pass by the Japanese cannons, the beautiful Puerta Real Gardens, and the Puerta Del Parian.
- Book Intramuros tours
You will also get to visit the historic Manila Cathedral, which is the very first cathedral in the Philippines. You will also get to see Fort Santiago, one of the oldest Hispanic stone fortresses in the country, and the San Agustin Church, which has been rebuilt three times due to war and natural disasters and is part of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines that are collectively deemed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You won't run out of things to do in Intramuros.
Another option is to ride a horse-drawn carriage that will take you around the highlights of Intramuros.
One of the best ways to learn about Philippine history and culture is by checking out the museum in Manila. The National Museum of the Philippines houses a vast collection representing various aspects of Filipino art, culture, and history.
It is divided into several sections: Fine Arts, Anthropology, Natural History, and a Planetarium, all located within the same complex in Rizal Park or Luneta Park. In the same area is where you can also find the Rizal Monument, a memorial for the Philippines' National Hero, Jose Rizal.
You can also check out The Metropolitan Museum of Manila. It is located within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Complex along Roxas Boulevard in Malate. The Metropolitan Museum boasts an impressive collection of modern and contemporary visual arts by local and international artists.
Besides historical museums and art galleries, Manila also offers unique exhibits such as The Dessert Museum, Lakbay Museo, and the Upside Down Museum in Pasay.
- Read more about the best museums in Manila
Go on a Food Trip in Binondo
Binondo is a vibrant and historic place to visit in Manila. Established in 1594, Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world. Like other Chinatowns, you will find bustling alleys filled with hole-in-the-wall joints, traditional bakeries, and budget-friendly streetside eateries, alongside family-style buffet Chinese restaurants in Binondo.
Join a Binondo tour and get ready to chow down on Chinese and Filipino delicacies like dumplings, pork chop noodles, xiao long bao, lumpia, oyster cake, kampong, stir-fried tofu, and Wintermelon tea.
Shop in the Malls
If you’re looking for a place where you shop, dine, and find entertainment in air-conditioned comfort, malls are the best places to go to in Manila. The SM Mall of Asia (MOA), in particular, a shopping mall in Pasay, is the most popular spot for foreign and domestic travelers who like to go on a retail spree.
MOA is the fourth largest shopping mall in the country, and it is home to numerous restaurants, bars, boutiques, cinemas, and an IMAX theater.
There's also a seaside esplanade and baywalk that offers a stunning view of Manila Bay during sunset. The Mall of Asia Eye, a 55-meter (180-foot) tall Ferris wheel by the bay, offers a spectacular view.
Another must-visit mall in Manila is the Venice Grand Canal Mall, also known as the Venice Piazza in McKinley Hill. Aside from being in an upscale neighborhood and having an impressive array of retail shops, the Venice Piazza is famous for its replica of the Venice Grand Canal.
The mall even has the signature turquoise water and gondolas of the iconic Venetian waterway. If you're looking for beautiful scenery to pose in for an Instagram photo, Venice Piazza is the perfect spot!
Experience the Nightlife in Poblacion
Poblacion, the old downtown area of Makati, has been revitalized into one of the hippest districts in the city. This trendy neighborhood is one of the top places to visit in Makati and is the cultural and entertainment heart of the city, catering to international travelers, ex-pats, and locals.
After sunset, Poblacion transforms into a vibrant club scene where you can do a pub crawl tour. The streetside restaurants, bars, and clubs in the area come to life. Within the vicinity, you can also find high-end shopping retail centers and venues for concerts and special events.
What to Eat and Drink in Manila
One of the best things to do for first-time travelers in Manila is to enjoy traditional Filipino cuisine and culture by patronizing dining establishments that offer a cultural experience. Manila is a foodie haven.
There's no one cuisine that best represents it as a whole since the region is such a melting pot of multicultural lifestyles. Thanks to its diverse community, you can find cuisine from various areas of the Philippines.
Barbara’s Restaurant in Intramuros is a must-visit for travelers who want a taste of Filipino heritage. This restaurant offers live entertainment and music featuring Filipino folk dances and songs.
Guests can enjoy classic Filipino dishes like kare-kare (peanut sauce-based stew), caldereta (tomato-based meat stew), adobo, lechon (roasted pig), gulaman (grass jelly drink), and palitaw (rice cake). To make your experience more immersive, you will be dining in a beautifully restored 18th-century building that reflects the Spanish colonial period's best architectural design.
While dining, visitors are treated to dance performances from the Spanish era to the folkloric Philippines, including tinikling. The live music makes use of all local Filipino Instruments like rondalla and guitars.
Photo by Locavore Kitchen & Drinks
Locavore serves locally grown and produced Filipino dishes with a unique twist for those who want a more modern take on traditional Filipino dishes. With bestsellers like sizzling sinigang, lechon oyster sisig, and kare-kare wings, this modern and innovative restaurant is an excellent choice for adventurous foodies.
Locavore has several branches around Manila, including in Kapitolyo, Pasig, Taguig, Makati, and SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
Another place to check out is Islas Pinas, a fiesta-inspired Food Hall in the Double Dragon Plaza in Pasay City near Mall of Asia that features dishes from all over the Philippines.
It aims to bring Filipino cuisine to global prominence by showcasing regional specialties, local home-cooked dishes, and elevated street food in a unique cultural setting.
Practical Information and Tips
For a destination as comprehensive as Manila, it can get overwhelming with all the information you need to digest. Before you start planning your Manila trip, take note of these essential practical travel and safety tips for a hassle-free and safe vacation:
Major establishments in Manila accept credit cards. There are also several money changers and ATM throughout Manila. However, it's better to bring enough Philippine Peso (PHP) with you, in smaller bills in 20, 50, and 100 denominations for faster transactions.
Additionally, always carry loose change. They will come in handy when you are riding public transportation or buying food and small items from vendors.
Most Manila locals use Filipino when communicating. The majority of locals can speak and understand English. Make sure to greet the locals with a simple "Hello" to initiate a conversation. Don’t worry, they’re friendly and can accommodate most of your questions.
Watch out for pickpockets when commuting and keep your valuables safe, especially in crowded areas like Cubao, Binondo, and Makati Avenue. If you’re planning to walk alone at night, make sure to keep your bags close to you. Always be aware of your surroundings.
What to Pack
Wear light clothing when going to nature parks, and bring lots of water. It's best to bring a jacket or umbrella with you in case of rain. Don’t forget to bring a small bag when you’re going on a sightseeing trip! It will be more comfortable when you're walking along minor roads, especially if you plan to shop.
The weather in Manila can get quite hot and humid, so be sure to bring drinking water while going around. Although vendors are selling bottled water everywhere, it is best to bring your water bottle to stay hydrated and minimize plastic waste.
Like in most big cities, it’s best not to wear fancy jewelry and carry all your valuables with you when doing sightseeing trips in Manila. Secure all your essential items and money in anti-theft bags.
Make sure to do some research as well on standard costs of fares and other items. Most Filipinos can speak English. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from locals if you need information on the amount paid for jeepney fares or directions if you get lost.
Sample Itinerary in Manila
For first-time visitors to Manila, here's a sample itinerary that should cover all the bases in just two days. The city offers so much for both locals and foreign travelers, so maximize your stay by planning.
Day 1: Intramuros + Food Tour + Museums
06:00 AM - Arrival at Manila airport
06:30 AM - Taxi ride to the hotel
07:00 AM - Early check-in at the hotel
07:30 AM - Breakfast
09:00 AM - Explore Intramuros
10:00 AM - Intramuros Bike Tour
12:30 NN - Food tour in Binondo
02:00 PM - Museum-hopping at National Museums
05:30 PM - Watch the sunset by Manila Bay
06:00 PM- Dinner at Barbara’s Restaurant in Intramuros
Day 2: Modern Manila Tour + Modern Museums + Mall of Asia + Pub Crawl
07:00 AM - Breakfast
08:00 AM - Modern Manila tour
12:30 NN - Lunch at Isla Pinas
02:00 PM - Shop at the Mall of Asia
06:00 PM - Dinner at Locavore
08:00 PM - Pub crawl in Poblacion
Don’t Skip Manila!
While many travelers opt to skip Manila on their way to island-hopping in the Philippines, there are a lot of things you can do in the cities should you wish to stay longer. Hopefully, this travel guide will give you an overview of how to make the most of your trip.
Best Palawan Guide: Top Tours, Where to Stay, How to Get Around
20 Most Beautiful Sandbars in the Philippines: White Sand, Longest, Vanishing
11 Best Santorini-Like Resorts in the Philippines: Near Manila, Cebu, Palawan, Vigan
15 Best Tropical Bali-Like Resorts in the Philippines: Near Manila, Siargao, Cebu, Bohol
Other interesting articles
Where to Stay in Pampanga: The Best Hotels & Resorts to BookPhotos by The Mansion Pampanga/Fontana Leisure Park If you’re planning a trip to the province of Pampanga, it’s best to reserve accommodations beforehand so you can have more options and enjoy more...Read more
12 Best Laguna Province Resorts: Hot Springs, Water Parks, Lake ResortsPhoto by Sulyap Bed and Breakfast and Sol Y Viento Mountain Hot Spring Resort Laguna, located 30 KM south of the Philippine capital Manila, is a popular quick weekend destination for local traveler...Read more
19 Best Eco-Friendly Resorts in the Philippines: Sustainable Hotels, Beach Resorts, Farm StaysPhotos by Fundacion Pacita and Iris Island Eco Resort Pristine beaches, azure waters, and breathtaking landscapes are the top images when you search about the Philippines. Wherever you find yours...Read more