Our first stop in the Philippines like most people flying in internationally was Manila. We spent 4 days in the capital exploring and it blew our socks off. There's a lot of blogs and videos out there warning people to skip Manila and that it's too dangerous etc. but from our experience we absolutely loved it; the Jeepneys, the buzz around the streets, the traffic, the food stalls and the brand new faces it was a sensory overload but if you're travelling the Philippines looking for culture, Manila has plenty of it.
Things to know
Population - 1.78 million
Currency - Philippine Peso
Popular Street food - Banana-Que, Buko (coconut), Balut (duck embryo) yikes.
There are obvious places to avoid or just be more wary of but most of the time it's just using common sense, if something doesn't feel safe or you are out at night in a dark area then you probably shouldn't be. The best advice is to stay in Makati or close to the CBD, and if you are unsure of the area ask people in the hotel where is safe to go and they are really helpful and knowledgable of the area. We were greeted with huge smiles every morning by the local guys outside the hotel, that's one thing you'll quickly learn about the Filipinos, they have the most welcoming smiles!
When you land at Ninoy Aquino Airport you're going to need to get to your hotel or hostel. There are lots of ways of getting around Manila but before you leave the airport, you can jump on the free Wifi to order yourself a Grab Taxi or an Uber. You can also get a taxi right outside the airport which might be slightly more expensive. Once you get to your place you can get around Manila numerous ways from Jeepneys to trains, pedal bikes or scooter.
What to do?
The first morning we had in Manila we headed to the esplanade for the sunrise. We saw the big ferris wheel, all the morning runnings and the skyline of Manila from the front. It was bloody beautiful and so cool to see so many people up and at it in the morning. After that we headed in to town for a wander about. We tried some street food (Banana-Que - banging!), and just took in the sights and smells, although some will rock your soul and make your chin curl up some of the smells were lovely, but mostly pooey. The next few days we spent going to the Rizal Museum, walking around the old town and up and down Makati avenue. There's lots of history, museums, PLENTY of shopping, lots of cool eats and sights to see in Manila. If you're a keen street photographer or people watcher then this city is not to be missed!
Top 5 things to do in Manila
Where to Stay?
On both of our visits to Manila we stayed in Makati. The first time we stayed in Hometown Hotel near the airport, and on the second visit we stayed in Z Hostel which was a bit more central. Both areas around those hotels were really friendly/safe and anywhere in Makati is usually a safe bet.
So there you have it, a quick guide to Manila! If you are stopping here en route to some of the more popular spots in The Philippines then check out some of these links below on where to stay, what to do and how to get about: