Manila travel guide
Manila, the somewhat daunting capital and pulsating hub of the Philippines, is situated on the east coast of Luzon, the most northern Filipino island, as well as the largest and the most developed. The city was founded in 1571 on the site of a Muslim settlement. The city is made up of 16 areas which were once towns in their own right, and its major tourist attraction is the old Spanish walled city known as Intramuros, which contains some historic buildings and ruins.
Manila was once known as The Pearl of the Orient and was an important centre for South East Asia. However, during the second world war the city was ravaged by the some of the most destructive urban battles of the period - as a result, much of the old Manila was destroyed. Today, Manila is a morass of traffic and people, polluted and chaotic, it grew from the ashes of war and is the cultural and political centre of the archipelago. Thick, congested traffic is juxtaposed with expansive parks, modern high-rises with polluted slums, all of which conspire to make Manila a difficult but enthralling metropolis.
Most visitors to the Philippines use Manila as a spring board for their exploration of the other provinces and islands, as most flights must land at Nino Aquino International Airport; however, it is possible to fly into Cebu and Aklan on select airlines and from particular locations. Manila is also within easy reach of day and weekend getaways on the island of Luzon, which makes it a good base for travellers intent on touring. One thing no visitor should miss is a famous Manila Bay sunset: a light show created out of the high humidity conditions coupled with the effects of cloud over the city's harbour. View the sunset from Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard or from a cruise boat that circles around the bay.
The oldest part of Manila is the walled Spanish enclave of
Intramuros on the southern bank of the Pasig River. Intramuros is a
feast of historic buildings and churches, many of which are being
or have been restored. The reconstruction of Intramuros has allowed
for the inclusion of several parks and performing venues, art
galleries, souvenir shops and restaurants, so that the area has
become an attractive, entertaining and interesting tourist hub.
Fort Santiago, for example, was where political prisoners through the ages, from Spanish to Japanese occupation, were held, tortured and sometimes executed. Today it is a lush park full of flowering trees and homing pigeons, where visitors can take a ride along the promenade on a horse-drawn carriage. Then, in the Barrio San Luis along Juan Luna Street there are five colonial residences that have been beautifully restored.
The area is full of street artists and stalls selling food and there is usually something going on, which gives it a festive atmosphere. All in all, a visit to Intramuros is a must for tourists to the Philippines.
The 58-hectare (143 acre) Rizal Park is named for Dr Jose Rizal,
a Philippine anti-colonialist, writer and philosopher, whose
execution in 1896 sparked the Philippine Revolution. The
Declaration of Philippine Independence from American rule was held
in the park in 1946, and it has been the heart of several political
rallies in the city, making it a symbol of Filipino pride and
The park is one of the largest in Southeast Asia, and it is a green lung much used by the residents of Manila for recreation and entertainment. Rizal Park features numerous ornamental gardens, a chess plaza and a skating rink, as well as a children's playground, an aquarium and a planetarium. In a pond on the east side of the park the Philippine archipelago has been recreated in miniature, and there are also some museums and public buildings within the park. After sunset a sound and light exhibit featuring a recreation of the martyrdom of Dr Jose Rizal is displayed.
Every morning martial arts classes and various fitness groups gather in the park for morning exercise, and on Sundays there is a free concert in the open-air auditorium. Rizal Park is a wonderful place for tourists to go and soak up a little of Manila's everyday life, in a lush and beautiful natural setting.
San Agustin Church
Within Intramuros stands Manila's oldest stone church, San
Agustin, which was completed in 1607 and has since survived the
ravages of time and successive invasions. The church was the only
public building left undamaged after a terrible earthquake in 1863,
and it has withstood a number of destructive earthquakes since.
The church has a magnificent and intricately-carved door, a Baroque pulpit, and an 18th-century pipe organ. Along with three other churches in the Philippines, San Agustin has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective title 'Baroque Churches of the Philippines'. It is also a National Historical Landmark. A museum is housed in the monastery (administered by the Order of Saint Augustine) alongside the church, which holds paintings of saints and other religious art.
The Sacristy houses a collection of richly embroidered vestments, and Philippine notables are buried in the crypt. San Agustin is an active church with regular services and is a very popular wedding venue; visitors can view the interior of the church for free during mass.
Address: General Luna St, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines.
National Museum of the Philippines
The large and comprehensive National Museum and Art Gallery of
the Philippines preserves and showcases the cultural, historical
and natural heritage of the islands with collections housed in two
different buildings (both located within Rizal Park). Exhibits are
categorised in five divisions: art, botany, zoology, geology and
anthropology. Among the many archaeological exhibits is the skull
of 'Tabon Man', the oldest human remains found in the archipelago.
The section devoted to the Filipino People includes the preserved
remains and treasures of the San Diego Spanish galleon that sank in
Philippine waters in 1600.
Although reportedly short on funding, the museum is well-kept and clean with good facilities and air conditioning which proves extremely welcome on hot days. Photography is permitted but not flash photography. Although perhaps not what one would call a world-class museum, the National Museum of the Philippines is a deeply interesting place to visit for tourists looking to get to grips with the local culture and history.
A visit to the museum can be enjoyed by people of all ages, making it a good attraction for those travelling with children in the Philippines.
Address: Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines.
The Malacañan Palace is the seat of government and official
residence of the Philippines head of state. This gracious villa has
been a noble residence on the north bank of the Pasig River since
the 1800s, when it was built for a Spanish aristocrat, transformed
from its humble beginnings as a place for fishermen.
In 1825 the Spanish Government bought the property as a summer house for the Governor General, but it later became the permanent seat of the head of state. There is now a museum housed in the palace that features national treasures, historical artefacts, and mementos from each of the Philippines presidents, including the notorious Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. The building itself is very attractive and the rooms are furnished beautifully; the museum still has the feel of a palace and historic state rooms can be viewed.
There are great views over the river from some of the windows. Guided tours are compulsory and very informative. Photography is permitted but visitors who want to bring in cameras have to register them at the entrance and sometimes the number of cameras per group is limited. Visitors may have to go through security checks.
Address: Malacañan Palace, JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines.
Opening time: Tuesday to Sunday, 8am until 6pm.
American Cemetery and Memorial
Providing a quiet spot to retreat from Manila's rat race, the
American Cemetery near the Makati commercial centre is a welcome
oasis, much visited by tourists, especially veterans of World War
II. The hillside cemetery contains thousands of white marble
crosses marking rows of graves of those who died in battle.
The circular memorial contains the names of those missing in action engraved in marble columns; while huge wall mosaics depict battle scenes from WWII, and a small memorial chapel is located on site. The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial contains the largest number of American military dead from World War II in the world. Most of the 17,201 men buried here lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. The cemetery is peaceful, with plenty of shade and lovely views, Additionally, anybody with an interest in history will enjoy the extensive memorials and maps which give some insight into the war in the region.
A staff member is always on duty during opening hours to answer questions, give tours and escort visitors to particular graves and memorials. The cemetery is big and beautifully landscaped and maintained and it is one of the most popular, and moving, attractions in Manila.
Address: Taguig City, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening time: 9am - 5pm, Monday to Sunday.
Las Pinas, 12 miles (19km) from the centre of Manila, has now
been swallowed up in the suburban sprawl of the city, it has kept
its character and is a favoured stop on most tours of Luzon because
of its famous bamboo organ. The organ is housed in the San Jose
(Saint Joseph) Church, and has a very unique sound that draws
international organists here every year in the second week of
February for an Organ Festival.
The church is charming and would be worth visiting even without the remarkable organ, which is the only one of its kind in the world. It is an active church and visitors are welcome to attend services. Another attraction at Las Pinas is the Sarao Jeepney Factory, where visitors can watch these unique Filipino vehicles being assembled and learn how they came to be the favoured form of transportation on the islands.
Las Pinas is celebrated for being clean and eco-conscious, which is refreshing in the Philippines. It is a fun area to explore, preferably in a jeepney, and there are some fantastic restaurants and guesthouses in the village. Saint Joseph Church is in the oldest part of the village, making it a good starting point.
Tagaytay is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the
Philippines, famous for the Taal Volcano. The volcano is unique in
that it sits on an island in a lake, and has another lake within
its vast crater. The views from the ridge on the access highway to
the volcano are legendary.
As Tagaytay itself is the favoured 'summer capital' for Filipinos wishing to escape the Manila during the unpleasant summer heat, the area provides plenty of recreation opportunities, as well as top quality hotels and restaurants. Other sights in Tagaytay are: the 'Palace in the Sky', an unfinished complex originally meant to be a home for former president Marcos and now used as a viewpoint and park; and the huge flower farm, abloom all year round, on a slope at Barngay Guinhawa. Visitors can also enjoy activities like horseriding, golfing, snorkelling and diving, ziplining and boat rides, and there are camping, hiking and picnicking facilities.
The area became famous for its natural splendour and the scenery is indeed spectacular; sadly, however, the city is slowly becoming a victim of its popularity and commercial development may eventually obliterate the natural appeal. Tagaytay City is conveniently close to Manila and getting there by car or bus only takes an hour.
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Subic Bay is a unique project on the site of a former United
States Naval base. It was buried under ash after the eruption of
Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and has since been transformed into a
buzzing eco-tourism and commercial hub, only five minutes from the
Philippines International Airport and a two-hour drive northwest of
Manila. Most of the area, which is enclosed by a security fence, is
covered in dense forests teeming with flora and fauna, including
rare butterflies and bats.
There are also lovely unspoiled beaches to enjoy, exceptional scenery, forest trails, watersport activities, coral reefs and shipwrecks to explore, numerous sports facilities and duty-free shopping centres. Attractions include Ocean Adventure, an open-sea marine park where visitors can swim with dolphins and scuba dive, guided hikes through the beautiful Pamulaklakin forest to learn about the local flora and fauna, and the Zoobic Safari Forest Adventure Park which features a variety of wildlife, including tigers, and can keep travellers happily occupied for at least a full day.
The most popular activity in Subic Bay is probably scuba diving as there are so many phenomenal dive sites, including many wonderful shipwrecks. Subic Bay is ideal for diving because the dive sites tend to be conveniently close to shore, the shipwrecks are all within recreational diving depths and the sheltered waters enable year-round diving.
Established in 1594, the city of Manila's enclave of Binondo is
the oldest 'Chinatown' in the world and remains to this day one of
the largest, most authentic, and most culturally intriguing.
Binondo was established by the Spanish at the end of the 16th
century, when they gave some tax-free land that lay outside the
bounds of Manila to Catholic Chinese immigrants, along with
The immigrants, who hailed mainly from China's Fujian province, soon established a bustling community and now Binondo is one of modern Manila's most vibrant areas, constantly buzzing with trade and activity. Most visitors to Manila visit Chinatown to shop at the wholesale stores, where everything under the sun may be purchased (and usually at good prices), or else to sample the wide range of exotic cuisine. One of Binondo's best features is its converted movie theatres, which now house top-quality restaurants turning out traditional Chinese fare.
Manila's Chinatown is a crowded, bustling place and amid the excitement visitors should take care of their possessions as pickpockets and bag snatchers are known to operate here.
The cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines, there is plenty to see and do in Manila. The city is full of history and this is evident in the ruins that still stand in Intramuros, located on the south bank of the Pasig River, which was the original capital of the Spanish East Indies, founded in 1571. The surrounding area is full of performing venues, art galleries, shops and restaurants, making it a popular tourist hub. History buffs will love the National Museum, which exhibits sunken treasure dating back to 1600, and the Ayala Museum, which educates visitors on the history of the Philippines. Manila sustained heavy damage during WWII, but has since rebuilt itself into a major tourist destination.
Travellers should note that many Filipinos are Catholic, which is evident in the multitude of ornate churches found across the city. A prime example is the San Agustin Church, which dates back to 1606 and has survived invasions, earthquakes and wars. Moreover, Manila also has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, where one can find exotic Chinese goods and delicious cuisine. The Malacañan Palace, which is the residence of the Head of State, is also well worth a visit, while the American Cemetery and Memorial honours those who died during WWII and is a peaceful retreat from the buzz of the city.
This small island, shaped like a tadpole, is a memorial and
open-air museum commemorating the World War II victory of Filipino
and American troops against Japanese forces. The island is the
largest of several at the entrance to Manila Bay, lying off the tip
of the Bataan Peninsula, about 26 miles from the city. Its
strategic position made it a prime candidate for the last stand
against the Japanese in the Pacific War, and its three-and-a-half
square miles (9 sq km) of dry land remains littered with the
detritus of battle.
Guided tours of the island are available by arrangement with the Corregidor Visitor's Information Centre and through numerous tour operators in Manila. Attractions on the island include the Pacific War Memorial, the Filipino Heroes Memorial, the Japanese Garden of Peace, and the Malinta Tunnel where visitors can now view an audio-visual presentation of the island's history.
Transport: There are regular ferry services available from Manila.
The island of Palawan is an elongated stretch of thickly
forested landscape bordered by coves, beaches, lagoons and
limestone cliffs, stretching from the southwest of Luzon towards
Malaysia. The island is staggeringly beautiful, with irresistibly
clear, gem-coloured water, lush jungle, and a coastline that is a
maze of rocky islets and hidden coves.
Puerto Princesa, which is centrally located, is the primary gateway to the island and from the city most travellers head north, where the most picturesque scenery can be found. The main attraction out of Puerto Princesa is the underground river, St Paul's Subterranean Cave near Sabang, about two hours by road from Puerto Princesa; however, there are plenty of hiking and spelunking opportunities as well.
In the north of the island, travellers will find El Nido, Palawan's most popular destination: a small, lively beach town geared towards island hopping (there are innumerable options on this front), but with plenty of places to eat out, party and buy local handicrafts.
From El Nido, travellers can choose to take a boat to the neighbouring island of Busuanga and the town of Coron. Here, visitors will find fewer niceties than on Palawan's main island, but will be richly rewarded by the aquamarine lakes on Coron Island, some of the best scuba diving in the region, and arguably one of the Philippines best beaches, Malcapuya.
The island's Tubbataha Reef is extremely ecologically important to the Philippines as a feeding ground and nursery for marine life, and the area is archaeologically important too, as palaeolithic remains have been discovered on the island dating back approximately 22,000 years.
Palawan can entered by flying into Puerto Princesa from Manila (or Cebu, for that matter), or by taking an overnight ferry from Manila to Coron, which is generally more cost effective.
The northern reaches of Luzon Island, far from the urban sprawl
of Manila in the south, attract intrepid travellers in search of
adventure and an authentic experience of traditional Filipino
culture. North Luzon is mountainous and lush, known for its beauty
but not its infrastructure. Some lovely beaches beckon travellers
in the far north but excursions north from Manila are usually
planned to take in the unspoilt mountain and forest landscapes and
the region's tribal cultures.
In a string of villages around Banaue, one of the most popular regions for travellers in North Luzon, people still live according to age-old tribal traditions. The main attraction in the area is the Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site dubbed the 'eighth wonder of the world' by locals. Constructed about 3,000 years ago, the terraces start from the base of the Cordillero Mountains and extend upwards for thousands of feet, cleverly irrigated by channelled streams and springs. There are also waterfalls and natural pools nearby as well as scenic hiking trails to explore.
Another popular travel hub in mountainous North Luzon is the little town of Sagada, which has become a sort of backpackers' haven. Hiking and caving are rewarding activities in this picturesque area but the main draw card is a series of ancient burial caves in the mountainside, where remarkable 'hanging coffins' can be seen perched on limestone outcrops. A hike through the jungle in the Valley of Echoes will bring travellers to these rather haunting cliff tombs, taking in jungle scenery along the way.
Villa Escudero is an old colonial plantation owned by the
Escudero family, located just south of San Pablo on Luzon island.
The property is 800 hectares and spans three municipalities in two
provinces. Originally a sugar cane plantation, Don Asrenio Escudero
converted it to a coconut plantation in the early 20th century
after inheriting it from his father. The plantation went on to
become massively successful and featured the Philippines' first
hydroelectric power plant (to power the coconut factory). The
Escuderos became pivotal to the battle for Filipino independence as
their wealth and resources allowed them to aid many independence
fighters by oprovding them with shelter and supplies.
The family's wealth also allowed them to build beautiful colonial-style Filipino haciendas which members of the family continue to reside in today. Moreover, the men of the family were renowned for being renaissance men in that they pursued a variety of interests and travelled widely - as a result, there is now a museum on the property which houses a fascinating collection of antiques and natural finds, like an enormous rare butterfly collection and taxidermied animals indigenous to the Philippines.
The plantation is open to guests and tickets can be bought at the front office on arrival. The plantation also houses a traditional Filipino restaurant which sits at the bottom of the old hydroelectric plant - visitors get to eat delicious food while dipping their feet the cool water that runs underneath the restaurant's table. Moreover, there also Carabao rides and swimming pools to keep visitors entertained. If the trip back proves too taxing, there are chalets available for rent, although booking in advance is essential.
Villa Escudero is approximately three hours bus ride from Manila.
Address: Villa Escudero, Km 91, Tiaong, Quezon.
Transport: Take a bus to San Pablo from the Buendia Bus Terminal in Manila. This should cost around PHP180, which you can pay to the conductor once you board.
Established by the Spanish in the 16th century, Vigan is a
charming town, full of gorgeous architecture and redolent of the
Philippines' colonial history. Located about 250 miles (400km) from
Manila on the island of Luzon, Vigan is said to be the
best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in the
whole of Asia - a distinction which has seen the town earn a place
on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
Full of cobblestone streets and buildings which fuse Spanish-Colonial architecture with Filipino and Oriental designs, Vigan is a fascinating and highly photogenic place. There is much to see and do in Vigan, including a visit to the hugely impressive Baroque-style St Paul's Cathedral, a ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the cobbled streets, and the opportunity to spend a night in one of the grand colonial houses built by wealthy Chinese traders in the city's 'Mestizo' district, some of which now double as hotels.
Many of the streets are lined with shops selling trinkets, clothes and souvenirs and just strolling around is a pleasure. The best time to visit Vigan is in January, when the annual Fiesta celebrations bring parties, variety shows, beauty contests and a carnival-esque atmosphere to the streets.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located
in the province of Palawan, about 36 miles (58km) north of the city
of Puerto Princesa. The underground river has recently seen a
massive increase in tourist visits owing to its title as one of the
New 7 Wonders of Nature. As a result, there are myriad choices for
tour operators who can provide safe and reliable transport to and
from the national park, with many tours often including lunch.
The well-maintained National Park contains an area with a limestone karst mountain landscape, and the famed river follows a five mile (8km) course through a large cave complex before merging with the South China Sea. Visitors will be taken on a guided boat ride through the cave complex which includes fascinating rock formations and a lively bat population.
The tiny, butterfly-shaped island of Boracay in the western
Visayas is a major hotspot for international sun-lovers, and has
become one of the Philippines' most popular resort destinations.
Thousands have sung the praises of the powder-white, palm-studded
beach, which stretches for two miles (4km) and is said to glow at
Despite its popularity Boracay remains impressively unspoilt, offering a range of about 350 hotels and guesthouses, a fun nightlife, good restaurants and a huge array of water sports. The island's dress code is barefoot and informal, and the transitory holiday population is truly international. Boracay has won multiple awards and is lauded as one of the best beach resort destinations in the world by various travel authorities and magazines.
The main tourist area, White Beach, is on the western side of the island and the best time to visit is during the Amihan season, between October and May, when there is little or no rain and the prevailing wind blows from the east, leaving the west of the island calm and sheltered. For those who tire of relaxing on beautiful beaches, activities include scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, kiteboarding and cliff diving.
Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro, consists of several
towns and beach resorts that have melded together on a protruding
piece of land shaped like a whale's tale to form the Philippines'
fifth-largest urban area. The Spanish traders used the natural
harbour created from the land formation as a refuge in the 16th
Century, hence the name, which means 'Port of Galleons'.
Puerto Galera was declared a protected area by a UNESCO programme in the 1970s. This put the area on the tourist map and helped with the resurgence of interest in its marine life and coral reefs, which had been suffering because of dynamite fishing. Puerto Galera is now one of the most sought-after scuba diving locations in the world, and the island of Mindoro also offers some richly rewarding hiking trails. There are more than 30 dive sites within 10 minutes of the three main beaches; deep trenches and vibrantly colourful reefs characterise the waters, along with numerous wrecks, a shark cave and a shelf with a 164 foot (50m) drop-off.
Among the famous beaches in Puerto Galera are Sabang Beach and White Beach, which both have an active nightlife with numerous bars and restaurants lining the beachfront. There are also many tiny beaches and coves to enjoy for those wanting something a little less crowded.
Fete de la Musique
Originally an idea conceived in France, the Fête de la Musique
festival (also known as World Music Day) is now celebrated in about
100 countries around the world on the same day. In the Philippines,
the event takes place primarily in Manila where it spreads out
across the Makati area with a variety of main stages and even more
'pocket' stages. This year, the event will enjoy a second round in
Puerto Princesa, Palawan, after it finishes in Manila.
The music itself is a cocktail of everything of the best from jazz and rock, blues and alternative to electronic, reggae and ethnic percussion. A number of free and festive street parties and concerts occur on the day annually, making it a fun period in which to visit Manila. The music is commonly accompanied by all sorts of cultural festivities, often with a notably French influence, in tribute to the origins of the festival.
The Filipinos bring their own special flavour to the event and travellers will be able to experience traditional island music as well as more commercial, mainstream entertainment.
Venue: A-Venue Mall parking lot; Greenbelt 3 park; and Puerta Real Garden, Intramuros.; Date:17, 23, 24 June 2017;
Feast of the Black Nazarene
Thousands of pilgrims from all over the country flock to Manila
to be part of the procession accompanying the Christ statue known
as the 'Black Nazarene', in the hope this will protect them from
harm and ensure health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.
The sacred statue is a life-sized dark wooden sculpture of Jesus
Christ carrying the cross and represents passion and suffering.
The raucous cacophony of the procession usually lasts for about six hours. Traditionally all devotees marching along with the carriage bearing the statue and the colourful brass bands have to be barefoot. Traffic is hugely disrupted in the city centre for the duration. In 2017, about one million barefoot devotees marched in the procession, accompanied by over 4000 representatives of security and emergency forces. Every year there are some casualties resulting from the jostling of the crowds, and a few deaths have occurred from trampling.
The procession traditionally winds along the streets of the Quiapo district, but the route is sometimes altered to prevent overcrowding and to allow new neighbourhoods the honour. The procession of the Black Nazarene is taken extremely seriously by much of the population, 80 percent of which is Roman Catholic, and it is a fascinating religious ceremony which has captured the imagination of many travellers.
Date:9 January 2018 (occurs in the second week of January every year);
The nightlife in Manila is among the most vibrant and exciting in Southeast Asia, with the requisite dose of sleaze of course. You'll find bar strips, strip bars and everything in between on a night out in Manila. One thing is for sure: it will be a memorable experience!
Morato Avenue in Quezon City is a good place to start. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants before hitting a local bar or comedy club. The Hard Rock Café in the heart of the Malate district is always a good bet and with two levels, pool tables, and a stage, guarantees a really good night out. Head to the Pasay City and Makati region to visit upscale girlie bars, or for a really good variety of nightlife, the Malate district of Manila where everything from bars, nightclubs and discos to karaoke clubs, gay clubs and lounges can be found. Most bars in Manila close around 2am, but some will stay open later.
Looking for live music? Head to 70s Bistro in Quezon City, or the Hobbit House in Malate, which features live musicians performing in a very Tolkien-esque club. Or what could be more fun than partaking in a little karaoke? One of the favourite pastimes for Filipinos, there are numerous karaoke bars peppered throughout the city for travellers, tourists and just those passing through to enjoy a drink and a sing-along.
Eastwood City at Quezon City features a great selection of clubs, bars, cocktail lounges and discos to choose from, while Quezon Avenue's strip is brightly lit up after dark and all the bars and clubs are conveniently ordered in a neat little row, and seemingly always bustling with party goers, expats, tourists and ladies of the night. The Greenbelt region is another good place to head for a great choice of bars and clubs and revellers looking to dance the night away will have no problem finding a club to suit their taste. Remember, the legal drinking age in the Philippines is 18.
Manila has just about every kind of shop, boutique and specialty store under the sun, including literally hundreds of shopping malls scattered across the city. With three large signature shopping malls in the Metro Manila area that form part of the world's top 10 largest malls, it's not hard to see why Filipinos are passionate about their shopping and tourists will enjoy sharing their love of consumables.
Head to the majestic Mall of Asia on Roxas Boulevard for the ultimate shopping experience, though a bit of carbo-loading beforehand will help weary shoppers maintain their stamina as trying to conquer the entire mall in one day is virtually impossible. Boasting an IMAX theatre, science museum and an massive entertainment centre, this mall is an attraction in itself. Other shopping malls worth a visit are the SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, Shangri-La Plaza, and The Podium.
A trip to Southeast Asia wouldn't be complete without a little bargain-shopping and haggling. In light of this, travellers should pay a visit to the Divisoria Market, where anything from cookware and handicrafts, to clothing and toys can be bought at astonishingly low prices. There are also other interesting markets located at St. Francis Square, Greenhills Shopping Centre and Tiendesitas.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Location: The airport is situated four miles (7km) south of the centre of Manila.
Time: GMT +8.
Contacts: Tel: +63 2 833 1180.
Transfer between terminals: There is a free airport shuttle bus between terminals for passengers catching connecting flights; however, there are reports that this service can be unreliable. As a result, travellers may have to pay for a cab between terminals.
Getting to the city: The Metro-Rail Transit station is nearby the airport, and trains run regularly; travellers should disembark at EDSA-Taft station where there is an airport shuttle that operates between the airport and the station. There's also a city bus service that leaves from outside the arrivals areas of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. A jeepney can take passengers to Terminal 3, or one can make use of the airport shuttle service.
Car rental: Car rental is available from Europcar, Avis and National desks, among others.
Airport Taxis: Yellow metered taxi cabs leave from the stands outside each terminal. Regular, white cabs are now available in addition to newly introduced ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber.
Facilities: Passenger services at Manila airport include shops, restaurants and bars, ATMs, banks with currency exchange, left-luggage and postal services.
Parking: Parking is available near all terminals for approximately PHP 300 per night.
Departure tax: There is no departure tax at NAIA, in contrast to majority of airports throughout the Philippines.
The roads in Manila are notorious for heavy smog and traffic congestion, especially at peak hours. Public transport is inexpensive and plentiful, including the elevated light rail system (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) that has helped to alleviate some of the congestion. However, public transport can also be dangerous in the Philippines and travellers should exercise vigilance.
The elevated light rail system, travelling above the chaos, is a good option as it is fast, clean and efficient, although very crowded during the evening rush hour. There are numerous bus companies that comprehensively service the city, as well as local jeepneys (brightly coloured minibuses) that can be hailed anywhere. Buses and jeepneys are the cheapest form of transport for areas not covered by the LRT. Taxis are also inexpensive and convenient, but always agree on a fare before setting off. There are also calesas (horse-drawn carriages) used by tourists for short trips, and tricycle pedicabs available for hire. Uber and Grab ride-hailing services are also available in Manila.
Manila has hot, humid weather all year round and the city's proximity to the equator ensures that the temperature range is small, rarely dropping below 68°F (20°C) and seldom rising above
100°F (38°C). It is a little cooler between November and February and the hottest month is May, when the temperature averages 83ºF (28ºC). The rainy season is between June and October, although some precipitation is possible all through the year. The driest period is between December and May.
During the rainy season rain tends to come in heavy, short downpours and in between there is still plenty of sunshine; some travellers insist that a visit during the rainy season is ideal because it is cheaper and less crowded, and the downpours are refreshing. Between June and September typhoons can hit the city and these storms sometimes cause flooding. The hot weather and humidity is pleasantly tempered by sea breezes for much of the year. Manila suffers from high levels of air pollution and smog is very common. The most popular time to visit Manila is between January and May, when it is at its driest, but it is essentially a year-round travel destination. Tourists should be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen whatever time of year they visit.
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