Metro Manila, also called Metropolitan Manila, is officially the National Capital Region (NCR) and the center of the Philippine government. It is one of the three defined metropolitan areas of the Philippines along with Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. Being the capital region of the country, Metro Manila is the center of everything – economy, politics, and education. It may be crowded and chaotic almost all the time but it’s definitely worth a visit with all its shopping, food, night life, theme parks, entertainment, and historical attractions.
This quick guide to Metro Manila will let you know how to get there, what to do, eat, and drink, where to stay, and must-see spots.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: Booking for summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Metro Manila in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
Cubao Bus Terminal
EDSA Pasay Bus Terminal
PITX Terminal Paranaque
TITX Terminal Taguig
Valenzuela Gateway Bus Complex
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Metro Manila: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. We have provided the major ports of entry for this destination below.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Metro Manila …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Metro Manila.
1 | Revisit Philippine History at Intramuros
Intramuros, Latin for within the walls, is a historic walled area that served as a seat of government during Spanish colonization. Presently, it houses several centuries-old historic structures including Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, Plaza de Roma, Casa Manila, Baluarte de San Diego, and Bahay Tsinoy. It is designated a National Historical Landmark while the San Agustin Church is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One can also experience riding a bamboo bike in Intramuros.
2 | Have a Food Trip at Binondo
Dubbed as the Oldest Chinatown in the World, Binondo is one of the best places in the country to satisfy your gastronomic adventures. There are over 100 restaurants in the area serving dishes that will surely make the trip there worth it. Some of the most favorite eateries include Dong Bei Dumplings, Cafe Mezzanine, Wai Ying Fast Food, and The Original SaLido Restaurant.
3 | Visit Manila’s Best Art Galleries
Manila’s art scene has been gaining its much-deserved attention over the years. There are several art fairs and exhibits organized even if it’s not February in which the country celebrates its National Arts Month. To take a look at the local art scene, some of the interesting spots to consider include Galleria Duemila, Vinyl on Vinyl, The Drawing Room, Pinto Gallery, and 1335 Mabini.
4 | Spend Day at Manila Ocean Park
Manila Ocean Park is a world-class marine theme park located in Manila. Its main attraction is the Oceanarium which houses 14,000 sea creatures from 277 species local to Southeast Asia. The park also boasts of its penguin facility, bird sanctuary for Brahminy Kites, birdhouse, and world of creepy crawlies. The sea lion show and bird show also takes place daily.
5 | Explore the National Museum Complex
Museums are the best spot to know more about the country’s history and culture. They held the country’s natural and cultural heritage such as jars, pots, tools, figurines, paleograph, plates, as well as human bones and clothing. The complex houses the National Museums of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, and National Planetarium.
6 | Catch a Show or Performance at the CCP
CCP which stands for Cultural Center of the Philippines is a performance and exhibition venue for both local and international productions. Some of the performances include film arts, musicals, theater and visual arts, ballet, and many others.
7 | Shop in the Largest Malls in Asia
Filipinos love their malls! They consider the malls not only a place to shop but also to meet up with family and friends, to eat, to pay bills, or simply to enjoy the mall’s air conditioning. Hence it’s no wonder that one of the largest malls in the world and three in Asia are found in the Philippines. From local names to international brands, it’s not impossible to find something you need or want.
8 | Try all the rides and attractions in Enchanted Kingdom
Located in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Enchanted Kingdom is a theme park where magic lives forever, at least according to their slogan. It has around 20 rides and attractions including a roller coaster, 130-ft high ferris wheel, carousel, motion simulator theater, go-kart race track, giant swing, river rafting ride, and many others. Trying all the rides and attractions is definitely an adventure!
9 | Indulge in a Luxurious Dinner
If you can, why not enjoy a fancy dinner or two in some of Manila’s best restaurants? Check out Spiral in Sofitel, Lemuria Gourmet Restaurant, Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge, and Heat in Shangri-La on your next trip to Manila.
10 | Experience Manila’s Nightlife
This guide is not complete without talking about nightlife in Metro Manila which is no doubt the best in the country. It has several spots from bars to clubs and of course, red light districts. For clubs, head out to The Palace Pool Club, Valkyrie, Revel at the Palace, and Prive Luxury Club. The best bars include The Curator, OTO, and The Back Room. You may also want to join Manila PubCrawl, a bar-hopping trip through 5 of the most popular pubs and bars in the metro.
NOTE: The Aliwan Fiesta occurs annually in Metro Manila on the month of April or May.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Metro Manila.
1 | The Aristocrat
One of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Manila, The Aristocrat is recognized as a historic site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The Aristocrat, with several branches throughout Metro Manila, serves traditional Filipino dishes and is known for its honey-cured chicken barbecue.
2 | Ilustrado Restaurant
Illustrado Restaurant lies within the historic walled city of Intramuros. It is a fine dining Filipino-Spanish restaurant serving not only Spanish and Filipino cuisines but global cuisines as well. Aside from its hearty dishes, the restaurant is also known for its impeccable service and Hispanic architectural design which once welcomed dignitaries including the King and Queen of Spain.
3 | Café Ilang-Ilang
Located in the historic Manila Hotel, Café Ilang-Ilang screams luxury. The restaurant has a chic ambiance and offers extensive buffet delights including Asian, Mediterranean, European, and Western cuisines. It has various open kitchens, live cooking stations, dessert station, and an Italian kitchen featuring a wood-fired pizza oven.
4 | Café Adriatico
Café Adriatico is an iconic restaurant that has been around for close to four decades. It is a Filipino-Spanish restaurant serving traditional Filipino dishes as well as bread, pasta, sushi, and dumplings.
5 | Sky Deck View Restaurant
On the top of The Bayleaf Hotel lies Sky Deck View Restaurant. It offers an unobstructed 360-degrees view of the entire Manila including the world famous Manila sunset. With its relaxed and sophisticated vibe, the restaurant serves a mix of local and international dishes with tapas as crowd favorite.
6 | Harbor View Restaurant
Harbor View Restaurant allows customers to choose live seafood from the aquarium and have it cooked in any way you desire. Apart from that, it offers a good mix of Asian and Western cuisines in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Add to that the scenic view of the Manila Bay which makes the ambiance romantic.
7 | My Kitchen by Chef Chris
My Kitchen by Chef Chris is an Italian restaurant housed at Oasis park Hotel. It offers topnotch Italian dishes made of fresh and high quality ingredients. The restaurant is famous for its panizza and risotto.
8 | Lydia’s Lechon
Complete your trip to the Philippines by trying one of the country’s most famous dishes – lechon. Lydia’s has been serving this scrumptious pork dish along with its signature sarsa(sauce) since 1965. The restaurant also serves other Filipino dishes such as dinuguan, laing, Bicol express, and lechon paksiw.
9 | Max’s Restaurant
Max’s Restaurant, or simply Max’s, is a Philippine-based restaurant that grew into popularity due to its fried chicken hence the slogan, the house that fried chicken built. It also serves traditional Filipino dishes including kare-kare, sinigang, crispy pata, nilagang baka, and litson kawali.
10 | Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen
Agimat pays tribute to local produce by using ingredients coming from different provinces in the country. Their cocktails may include toasted heirloom rice, kalingag (local cinnamon bark), kamias (bilimbi), kamote leaves (sweet potato), santol (cotton fruit), sineguelas (jocote), aratilis, and sampinit (wild berry). The bar, along with its ambiance, is inspired by Filipino folklore. The term agimat is the local term for amulet.
KNOWN FOR: Adobo, Balut, Bistek Tagalog, Champorado, Crispy Pata, Dinuguan, Halo-Halo, Pancit Malabon
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Metro Manila.
1 | Lub D Philippines Makati (Budget)
2 | Hop Inn Hotel Tomas Morato (Mid-Range)
3 | Conrad Manila (Luxury | Resort)
When doing research online of where to stay for specific destination, we use the following sites to conduct our research:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Hop Inn Hotel Tomas Morato is the best property to experience this destination.
This chart is your guide to get an idea of how much to budget daily in Metro Manila. The actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind that these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs in Metro Manila in 2020:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to this destination. This is your guide on what you need to know BEFORE you go to Metro Manila!
Tips & Hacks
This guide includes our Top 10 Tips when visiting Metro Manila and Philippines in general:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Metro Manila, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling in Metro Manila or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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