Shopping at Malls in the Philippines: What YOU Need to Know

Written by Patrick
Travel Insurance

The Philippines may be a small country but several of its cities house a large number of shopping malls of varying sizes and designs. After all, Filipinos go to the mall not only to shop but also to relax, do errands, meet friends or to simply enjoy the air conditioning which a large number of Filipinos do not have at their homes. “Malling” has become a part of their lives and proof can be seen in the number of people crowding the malls especially during weekends and holidays. In fact, one of the biggest malls in the country made it to the top ten biggest malls in the world, and they are still crowded all the time.

While the Philippine shopping scene is greatly influenced by the USA and other western countries, there are many differences between malls in the Philippines and the said countries. If you are exploring the country anytime soon, the following is what you should know about malls in the Philippines.


Uniqlo in SM City Iloilo

Caption:  Uniqlo in SM City Iloilo

Mall hours are typically Monday to Sunday between 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM but it’s common for the management to extend mall hours in December to accommodate the influx of shoppers during the holiday rush. Mall hours are then shortened for employees during All Saints and All Souls Day, Holy Week as well as Election Day.

Expect a lot of security before being allowed inside. Cars are checked before being allowed into the vicinity of the mall. At the entrance, bags will be checked by a security guard and everyone needs to go through the security scanner. Exempted from passing the security scanner are those with medical device such as pacemaker and the likes.


Vikings Luxury Buffet, SM City Iloilo

Caption:  Vikings Luxury Buffet, SM City Iloilo

Several locals go to malls just to eat since there are a variety of options and types of cuisines. For affordable and quick meals, there are fast food chains like McDonalds, KFC, and the country’s very own Jollibee and Mang Inasal. These chains often get crowded during lunchtime so better be there before all the tables get occupied. There are also several restaurants offering a particular cuisine – with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese being the most popular aside from Filipino and American.

Additionally, there is also a large area used as food court or food hall in almost every mall in the country.

Events & Promos

Shopping malls in the Philippines are popular venues for events organized by schools, private companies, and government offices alike. A local celebrity sometimes grace such events and usually entertain the crowd with a dance number or rendition of a song. Alternatively, the management of a celebrity or band may be the one to organize an event to promote the star’s latest project like a movie, soap opera, or music album.

Aside from events, some malls have fitness programs and exercise classes for anyone interested. During summer break, a handful of indoor sports like table tennis and tae kwon do are also organized for students who are looking to learn the sport.


Movie Theater in SM North Edsa

Caption:  Movie Theater in SM North Edsa | Image Source

While several malls have regular or old cinemas, some malls have an IMAX theater, Dolby Atmos theater, Director’s Club theater, and/or a VIP cinema. Most malls in the Philippines show movies without subtitles. The only movies shown with subtitles are those that are not in English language.

Food and drinks are allowed into the movie theater but with restrictions. Glass bottles, tin cans, stews, and foods with sauce are typically not allowed.

Bills Payment & Government Offices

Aside from shopping and dining, one of the reasons Filipino flock the mall is the accessibility of bills payment and government offices. Almost every mall in the country has a payment center wherein customers can settle their utility bills such as electricity, water, internet and cable as well as loans and insurance. Some schools and universities even accept payment through the mall’s payment center. A minimal amount ranging from P5 to P20 is charged to customers for service fee.

Though not all government agencies have offices in malls, and not all malls house government offices, the few mall-based government offices are a great option for Filipinos considering that these offices are always crowded with people seeking to use their services. Some of the agencies with mall-based office include the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), PhilHealth, Social Security System (SSS), Pag-IBIG Fund (housing), and PhilPost.

Medical Services

Several hospitals and medical companies have branches in malls to make it more convenient for people to seek medical help. Routine check ups, laboratory procedures, and radiologic exams are the most common services being offered. 

Markets & Pharmacies 

Filipinos love convenience so a grocery at the mall is a common sight. Aside from basic commodities, bigger grocery stores carry imported items to cater to foreign customers or even locals looking for such things. 

In addition to grocery stores, pharmacies are also found inside malls. A mall may even house multiple pharmacies at the same time.

Mall Map

SM Seaside Cebu Mall Map

Caption:  SM Seaside Cebu Mall Map

Shopping malls in the Philippines are quite modern. Most malls provide an electronic directory to locate and guide you to your destination. Some even have digital maps which offer the option to view in different languages.


Restrooms are called comfort rooms, or CR for short, in the Philippines. Toilet paper may or may not be available. Same with soap and paper towels.  Therefore it’s better to always bring your own travel-size toilet paper and sanitizer.

Some malls now offer an all-gender comfort room.

Bigger malls in the country have travellers lounge wherein one can take a shower for a fee.

Breastfeeding Area

Breastfeeding advocates work hard to promote the cause and breastfeeding moms are now reaping the fruits of their effort since many big establishments including malls have put up their own breastfeeding stations. It’s typically just a small room with chairs and small table but it means a lot to those who need a comfortable corner away from the crowd and prying eyes. Some malls even go as far as providing additional amenities and supplies like sink for handwashing, soap, paper towels, and the likes.


Festive Mall Iloilo Transport Hub and Parking Area

Caption:  Festive Mall Iloilo Transport Hub and Parking Area

Parking is usually free for both cars and motorcycles, be it indoor or outdoor parking. For bicycles, there are racks provided so owners can park safely.


Inside the Public Bus in SM City Seaside Cebu

Caption:  Inside the Public Bus in SM City Seaside Cebu

Most malls are highly accessible to public transport since they are usually a hub for buses, jeepneys, and other forms of public transport. And since they’re usually located within the business district, walking is one of the most common methods of transport to and from the malls. Taxis are common too, but not as affordable as the other methods of transport mentioned.

READ MORE:  A Complete List of Malls in the Philippines

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About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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