Metro Manila (Filipino: Kalakhang Maynila), in the island of Luzon, is the national capital region of the Philippines. With a population of about 24 million people, it is smallest administrative region of the country but the most populous, contributing to no less than 37% of the Philippines' GDP. It is the country's center of administration, business, education, diplomacy and entertainment, a huge metropolis with massive social contrasts which may even exceed those in Latin America, and are reflected in the contrasts of urban landscapes.
With massive traffic jams and a reputation for insecurity relative to other Southeast Asian cities, Metro Manila is often considered to be a challenging city to explore, but in reality, the contrasts are precisely what makes the city a great destination to both most spoiled and the most adventurous travellers.
As in the rest of the Philippines, expect local customs and behaviours to be different from you own. Locals however have more sophisticated behaviors that are less odd over those in the countryside, yet expect many of the jarring behaviors you find anywhere in the country.
The bustling, crowded and noisy City of Manila, which in Metro Manila terms is the "old city center", is home to much of the country's history and culture. It is the only city in Metro Manila which is divided into districts, of which there are sixteen.
|Eastern Metro Manila (Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, Mandaluyong, San Juan)|
Quezon City is the largest and most populous city of Metro Manila, also containing some of the country's best universities. In this area you can find some of the largest parks and shopping malls of the Philippines, as well as one of Manila's main business districts, the Ortigas Center.
|Camanava Area (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela)|
A largely working-class area, it has a notorious reputation for being flood-prone during rainy season, with some areas below sea level. Also known as the gateway to central and northern Luzon, it is home to heritage houses and Metro Manila's largest fish market.
|Southern Metro Manila (Makati, Pasay, Taguig, Pateros, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas)|
Contains the Ninoy Aquino airport and some of the most affluent areas of Metro Manila, as well as major business districts (including Makati, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and Filinvest City in Muntinlupa) and a plethora of entertainment, including the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay and the Entertainment City in Parañaque. It is in some sense the "modern" city center of Manila.
Metro Manila is home to the country's business districts, wealth extremes and major shopping centers, with a combined population of 11 million and growing.
- 1 Manila — Metro Manila's historical core, although partly dilapidated by the World War II, contains a rich colonial history, a vast collection of excellent museums and monuments, as well as some of the city's most colourful, vibrant neighbourhoods
- 2 Quezon City — The largest and most populous city of Metro Manila and its major Information Technology hub is where the Quezon Memorial Circle is located, as are important universities, government buildings, and gigantic shopping malls
- 3 Caloocan — The main hub of people from the Northern Philippines. Known to be one of the 4 original cities of Metro Manila, along side Manila, Quezon City, and Pasay City
- 4 Parañaque — Containing the Entertainment City with four giant casinos and attached shopping malls and entertainment venues
- 5 Pasay — Home to the gigantic Mall of Asia and the attached music venue and festive amusement park, and to the Resorts World Manila casino and integrated resort
- 6 Pasig — A city named after the river next to it, the Pasig River. It is an industrial town with a booming business district in the uptown Ortigas Center. Downtown Pasig is home to more rustic churches, American period houses, and excellent cuisine.
- 7 Makati — Metro Manila's largest business district famous for its tall buildings, luxurious hotels, vast shopping malls, lively entertainment spots, and numerous restaurants, but also containing the historic Poblacion neighbourhood which is the city's Koreatown
- 8 Mandaluyong — Nicknamed the shopping capital of the Philippines for its collection of numerous shopping centers.
- 9 Taguig — First a thriving fishing community which slowly developed into an urbanized city. Contains one of the city's wealthiest and most pedestrian-friendly areas, the Bonifacio Global City, the McKinley Hill neighbourhood with its copies of Italy, and the beautiful and serene Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
Locals and foreigners refer to Metro Manila simply as Manila. Administratively speaking, however, "Manila" is the name of one of the cities that composes the Metro Manila. Consisting of 16 cities and 1 municipality in 630 km², the metro is the national capital region, and the center of Philippine culture, arts, commerce, industry, and tourism. Metro Manila likewise serves as the pivot point to other exciting, popular destinations in the Philippines such as Boracay, Cebu City, and Davao City.
Metro Manila is more a "Los Angeles" than a "New York City" type of city, meaning that it is a multi-polar city with major business, shopping and leisure areas scattered across the city, rather than concentrated in a compact Downtown. However, southern Metro Manila containing Makati, Bonifacio Global City and the Entertainment City contains a large share of the city's most upscale areas and wealthiest residents, whereas Manila city proper concentrates much of the city's historical heritage and cultural options.
Metro Manila in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, and further observation can mean Manila further grows into the suburban sprawl in the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, and even Batangas, along the expressway corridors composed of North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in the north, and South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR Tollway) in the south. This travel guide, however, covers only the area that form Metro Manila, and all nearby suburbs outside it are part of their respective provinces.
First-time travellers to developing metropolises will meet Metro Manila with culture shock; you may find yourself around cacophonous traffic, crowding, urban blight, corruption, and jarring behaviors. That's why Dan Brown have labelled Metro Manila as the "gates to hell" on Inferno after a character told her experience as a NGO worker in the metro's slums (spoiler alert!), despite the public backlash when it made headlines. Once you got around the chaotic environment, you may find the cultural diversity abound. Staying in sterile areas of the metro, avoiding travel during rush hour or rough weather, and maintaining a high level of vigilance can help you get around hassle-free.
Unlike some other Asian cities, in Metro Manila most people can speak English, can read and write in Roman text, do not feel comfortable with chopsticks, and enjoy more watching basketball and boxing rather than football and badminton.
Manila has a unique blend of Asian and Western elements. While one can say that it is the same for other Asian cities such as Singapore or Tokyo, in Manila many Western elements are an intrinsic part of the Filipino identity and culture, rather than being introduced during the city's modernisation and integration to the globalised world. This blend can be found in the language (e.g. written English vs. spoken Tagalog), in the religion (e.g. Christian mausoleums sitting next to Buddhist ones at the Manila Chinese Cemetery in Santa Cruz), in the cuisine and many other aspects of day-to-day life - for instance, both trishaws and American World War II vehicles are used as main public transportation forms.
Chinese influence is also large, and fundamentally different from other Southeast Asian countries in that sense that many Filipino-Chinese have adopted Christianism and both integrated themselves to and shaped the Filipino culture, rather than forming a separate community.
Metro Manila's population is a diverse mix of multi-racial people and people from different classes — from the richest businessmen to the poorest of the poor. The streets of Binondo in Manila is Metro Manila's Chinatown, while the district of Paco is known as Little India and Japantown. European and American enclaves are found in Business districts where urban life is enjoyed and much similar to western lifestyle. Koreans forever everywhere and anywhere have resulted to Koreatown which is in Makati City's Burgos St. which features many Korean restaurants, shops and groceries. The growth of immigrants is due to cheap cost for education and living in the Philippines. This is also a home to many of the rich and famous which most reside in Forbes Park, and is home to many homeless and poorest of the poor who seek job opportunities in this metropolis. Efforts have been made to clear slums in order to clean the Pasig River which have been reportedly successful and sustainable.
Religion is a major key role in a local Filipino's life, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian temples are found, the Golden mosque is in Quiapo; the Filipino-Muslim district, while cathedrals, churches and chapels of various Christian denominations are scattered around mostly of Roman Catholic faith. Processions of holy images are carried through in some cities of Metro Manila and during these times streets are crowded with a little space to move around or sometimes no space to move around.
Metro Manila is a haven for investors and businessmen and the region accounts about 30% (US$124 billion) of the total GDP of the Philippines. It is also where major Filipino companies have their headquarters. Business, commercial and financial districts include Makati, Ortigas (Pasig and Mandaluyong) and Taguig, which is where the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSEi) is located.
The Metro Manila sits on an archipelago just at the edge of the Asian continent, some 14° 35' N, 121º 00 E'. It’s 700 miles (1,100 km.) or 2 hours flight time from Hong Kong, 1,400 miles (2,200 km.) or 3 hr 15 min from Bangkok, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) or 3 hr 35 min from Singapore, 1,900 miles (3.000 km) or 4 hr 15 min from Tokyo, and 1,800 miles (2,800 km.) from 4 hr 25 min from Beijing.
Ever so physically endowed, it is sitting in the throes of two notoriously dangerous volcanoes - Pinatubo to the north, which made headlines in 1991 when it spewed dust all over the world and dropped global temperature by 2°, and Taal to the south which always makes headlines every decade or so, while this city straddles the Pacific Rim of Fire underneath. What more, it lies in the path of the tropical monsoon bringing those more and more powerful typhoons during the second half of the year. It is fringed to the south by the idyllic Laguna de Bay - a veritable scenic showcase of Hispanized native folk and traditional culture, and farther south by cool and refreshing Lake Taal.
Communication with the locals is easy because almost everyone is bilingual. Filipino is the language of the locals. It is the chosen language at home to most. It is also the language of the media and movie industries as Manileños watch TV and movies and read newspapers in Filipino.
English is widely spoken in urban areas of the Philippines. It comes second as a medium of instruction in any institution. It is the language of the government, and the preference for written communication, be it in school or business.
Taglish ("Tagalog-English") is effectively a mix n' matching English words and phrases with Tagalog and vice versa, and is part of everyday life of Manileños. It is frowned by official education but common in day-to-day life and on media, including movies and operas.
Spanish-speakers may recognize some words in Tagalog, since some of its vocabulary is Spanish-derived. In Binondo, Manila's Chinatown district, Hokkien is widely spoken by Chinese-Filipinos, although English and Filipino are most commonly spoken at home. Mandarin is often used for ceremonial or official purposes by the Chinese-Filipino community but not widely spoken; similarly to the way that Arabic is used by the Filipino-Muslim community.
Manila's economic growth has attracted people from provinces with a delusion that a better life can be attained in the city, these people had brought a diversity in Manila's culture from their hometowns with tongues that speak Ilocano from the Ilocos regions, Kapampangan from Pampanga, Bicolano from the Bicol Region, Hiligaynon from Western Visayas, Cebuano from Cebu and Waray from Leyte and Samar.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)  (MNL IATA), 8 km south of Manila in Pasay and Parañaque, is the main airport serving Metro Manila. The airport is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 (previously known as the Domestic Terminal). Terminal 1, long regarded as one of Asia's worst airport terminals (if not the worst), is being renovated, and several areas of the terminal have been completed. The newer Terminals 2 and 3 are regarded as being far nicer than Terminal 1, with more amenities to boot.
A variety of public transportation options connect NAIA with Metro Manila.
- Taxi: Yellow airport taxis have a stand at the arrival area of all terminals. The flagdown rate is ₱70, with an additional ₱4 surcharge for every 250 m. At Terminal 3, you can hail a white city taxi from the departure area: just take the escalator or elevator up to the departures hall and exit to the departure ramp. Coupon taxis are special taxis with fixed rates according to the destination: inquire at the information desk for rates.
- Bus: Eight city bus routes connect Terminals 1 and 2 with the rest of Metro Manila. These buses have a "MIA/6-11/Tambo" signboard posted on the dashboard, and generally serve points along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and Commonwealth Avenue, with fares usually starting at ₱12 (₱10 for students). Terminal 3 is served by the Citylink bus (₱29), connecting it to Eastwood City in Quezon City via Circumferential Road 5 (C-5). In addition, Ube Express operates a premium bus service. Unlike the regular city buses, Ube Express actually enters the curb side of the terminal and serves the Makati central business district, the city of Manila (via Roxas Boulevard), and Entertainment City. It costs between ₱150-300 but it includes complimentary WiFi, GPS tracking, and more comfortable seats.
- Train: The airport is served by two train stations: LRT-1 Baclaran station near the Domestic Terminal, and Nichols railway (PNR) station near Terminal 3. Both stations however are 2-3 kilometers away from the airport proper. Jeeps which serve Terminal 3 and Villamor Airbase stop near Nichols station.
- Jeepney: Jeepneys which serve Terminal 3 will have "NAIA Terminal 3" or something similar written on the side route panel. Jeepneys which serve Terminals 1 and 2 will have "MIA" written on the route panel.
- Hotel transportation: Major hotel representatives are available on arrival and have chauffeur services which you can book on advance. The cost is around ₱750-950.
Clark International Airport
The Clark International Airport (CRK IATA) in Angeles City, Pampanga is 85 km north of Manila and is a popular hub for low-cost carriers. AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and SEAIR maintain hubs at Clark, with other airlines—including legacy airlines such as Asiana Airlines and Dragonair—also connecting Clark with points throughout Asia.
Some airlines which serve Clark have dedicated bus transfer services that transport passengers between Metro Manila and the airport via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx). There are also four daily direct buses operated by Philtranco between Clark and its terminal in Pasay via SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, which costs ₱300 (to SM Megamall) or ₱350 (to Pasay). Jeepneys also connect the airport to bus terminals in Angeles, where it is also possible to take a bus to Manila.
All ferries and most boats serving Metro Manila dock at the Port of Manila in Manila proper, which is divided into two halves: the North Harbor on the northern side of the Pasig River in Tondo, and the South Harbor on the southern side beside Ermita and Intramuros. 2GO Travel, the largest ferry operator out of the Port of Manila, operates out of the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal at Pier 15 in the South Harbor, though a few ferries operate from Pier 4 in the North Harbor, which was expanded with the construction of the newly-opened Manila North Port Passenger Terminal. Cruise ships docking in Manila will dock at either terminal, though most dock at the Super Terminal.
Some boat services do not dock at the Port of Manila: these include Sun Cruises ferries to Corregidor Island, which dock beside the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay, and boats to Cavite and Bataan, which dock at the SM Mall of Asia further south.
The Philippines' two major expressways: the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), terminate in Manila. While there is no direct interconnection between the two (Stage 3 of the Metro Manila Skyway, when completed, will connect both expressways together), both expressways terminate at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue: the North Luzon Expressway terminates at the Balintawak Interchange in Quezon City, while the South Luzon Expressway terminates at the Magallanes Interchange in Makati, with a further expressway-like segment continuing on as the Sergio Osmeña Highway between Magallanes and Quirino Avenue in Paco, Manila. A third expressway, the Manila-Cavite Expressway which connects Metro Manila and Cavite, terminates at the intersection with MIA Road in Pasay, and continues on as Roxas Boulevard.
Other highways of the Philippines also terminate in Metro Manila. The MacArthur Highway (formerly the Manila North Road) to northern Luzon, which for much of its length runs parallel to the NLEx, terminates at Monumento in Caloocan, while the Manila East Road, connecting Metro Manila, Rizal and Laguna, terminates in Pasig. The Pan-Philippine Highway (Asian Highway 26), the national road which stretches from Laoag to Zamboanga City, is not signposted in Metro Manila, but major thoroughfares which are part of the Pan-Philippine Highway system in Metro Manila include NLEX, EDSA, C-4 Road, Radial Road 10, Bonifacio Drive, Roxas Boulevard, and SLEX.
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) system has made it easier to travel between islands by car, and major islands are connected by roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ferries which can carry cars, buses and cargo trucks. The SRNH system connects to the Pan-Philippine Highway network, which continues on to Metro Manila.
Buses to Metro Manila from other parts of the Philippines are cheap and efficient, particularly to destinations in more northern parts of Luzon (such as Baguio). However, taking a bus to Metro Manila can be very bewildering, as it is one of only two major cities in Southeast Asia (the other is Singapore) that does not have a central government-run bus terminal. Each bus company (and there are dozens) usually has its own exclusive terminal—in many cases two or more—serving its own set of destinations. However, the good thing is that bus terminals are normally clustered around a particular part of the city, so it is not that difficult to find a bus to a particular destination.
Bus terminals in Metro Manila are normally clustered around the following areas:
- Monumento in Caloocan has trips to northern Luzon on Victory Liner (trips to Zambales, Dagupan, Tuguegarao, and Baguio), First North Luzon Transit, and RJ Transport.
- Cubao serves trips to both northern Luzon, southern Luzon and the rest of the Philippines by ferry.
- Manila's University Belt has terminals for trips from northern Luzon on Victory Liner (trips to Zambales, Ilagan, Roxas and Santiago City in Isabela, Baguio, Aparri, Tuguegarao, and Tabuk) G.V. Florida, Ohayami, and Dalin. The Recto-Rizal junction at Santa Cruz district are served by companies such as Bataan Transit, ES Transport, Genesis, Philippine Rabbit and Santrans
- Buendia in Pasay mostly serves buses headed for CALABARZON on companies such as Alps, BBL, Ceres/Gold Star, DLTB, Jac, Jam, and KL.
- EDSA-Pasay mostly serves companies serving southern Luzon and the rest of the Philippines like DLTB, Elavil and Philtranco, but some operators serving the north (Genesis Transport, Five Star, Victory Liner) also terminate here.
- Alabang has two centralized termini for buses headed for Southern Luzon on AB Liner, Alps, Ceres/Gold Star, Dela Rosa, HM and Worthy. The area also have ticket booking for buses headed for Bicol on DLTB, Peñafrancia Transport, Philtranco and Raymond Transport.
The three new centralized terminals are:
- Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX, in Parañaque) - Opened November 2018. It serves buses headed for Cavite and Western Batangas (Nasugbu, Calatagan, Balayan). This is a multistory structure with multiple amenities, such as air-conditioned waiting rooms, food court, taxi stand, and an interfaith prayer room. Bus departures are shown on screens, similar to the departure screens on airports.
- Valenzuela Gateway Complex (in Valenzuela) - Already open in 2018, but it still sees no provincial services. Buses headed for northern Luzon are expected to terminate here once the EDSA provincial bus ban and the terminal closures are implemented.
- Santa Rosa Integrated Terminal - Opened March 2019, it is expected to be the terminal for all trips from Southern Luzon and the rest of the Philippines that serve Cubao. It is outside Metro Manila (at the SM mall in Santa Rosa, Laguna), but there will be buses heading to Manila from here.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates two overnight intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. Additional services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. Train service is comparable to (or slower than, due to delays) buses in terms of speed, but is more comfortable.
Long-distance trains terminate at Tutuban Station in Tondo, Manila, close to Divisoria and west of the LRT-1 Doroteo Jose station and MRT-2 Recto station. In addition to Tutuban, long-distance trains stop at España Station in Sampaloc, close to the University of Santo Tomas. Pasay Road Station in Makati is the most central long-distance station, just outside the Makati central business district.
Beep is a prepaid card used to pay fares for public transport, the LRT, MRT, and some buses; it replaced the incompatible magnetic stored value cards used on the LRT and MRT. Consider buying a Beep card if planning to use public transport extensively for long-term stays. Using the card is straightforward, and works the same way as similar cards in other major cities.
Although primarily used on the LRT and MRT, it is possible to use Beep cards to pay fares on:
- The BGC Bus system in Taguig
- Point-to-point buses operated by Delta Neosolutions (DNS), Fröhlich Tours, HM Transport, RRCG Transport and TAS Trans
- Some city buses, including Citylink buses between Eastwood City and NAIA Terminal 3, and HM Transport buses running the Airport Loop service.
You can also use a Beep card to pay for goods at 7-Eleven, Ministop, FamilyMart, and Circle K stores in most parts of Metro Manila, and pay tolls on the North Luzon and Manila–Cavite Expressways, avoiding the hassle of bringing bills or coins for payment. Since 2018, Beep has also been accepted for payment at Binalot restaurants and Robinsons MovieWorld cinemas.
Beep cards are available for purchase at LRT and MRT stations, as well as at FamilyMart branches and bus terminals around Metro Manila. A card can hold a maximum amount of ₱10000, and can be topped up at LRT and MRT stations, FamilyMart stores, Bayad Centers, SM Bills Payment centers, and at some large pawnshop chains. The card's balance is displayed once tapped against a reader.
The backbone of Metro Manila's public transportation system is in its train network, with service being provided by two separate systems: a three-line rapid transit system and a commuter rail service operated by the Philippine National Railways (PNR).
The LRT and MRT
Metro Manila's three metro lines are arguably the fastest way to get around the city, capable of zipping through the city's perennially congested streets. The Light Rail Transit (LRT), owned by the state-owned Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), is notable for being the first rapid transit system in Southeast Asia, connects Manila with its neighboring cities, while the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), operated by the national transportation department, operates along Metro Manila's busiest transit corridor.
- Line 1, also known as the Green Line, serves Manila, Caloocan, Pasay and Quezon City, zipping above Taft, Rizal, Jose Abad Santos and Epifanio de los Santos Avenues in a general north-south direction. This line is particularly useful for reaching key tourist areas, including Malate, Ermita, Intramuros, Binondo and Quiapo.
- Line 2, also known as the Blue Line, serves Manila, Quezon City, Marikina and San Juan, going over Recto Avenue, Magsaysay Boulevard, Aurora Boulevard and the Marikina–Infanta Highway in a general east-west direction. Although this line serves very few areas important to tourists, it does serve Quiapo and Cubao.
- Line 3, also known as the Yellow Line, serves Pasay, Quezon City, San Juan, Makati and Mandaluyong, running along the median of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in a rough semi-circle. Notably, this is the only line that does not serve the City of Manila. This line broadly serves the four major commercial areas of Metro Manila: Cubao, Ortigas Center, the Makati Central Business District and the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, as well as Quezon City's Triangle and Scout Areas.
Trains start running at around 5:30AM, while the last trains stop just after 11PM.
Trains can get very crowded during rush hour, and while the journey itself can be fast, expect to wait a long time before riding. Like other overpopulated cities in Asia, you should be prepared to be surrounded by other people. Expect long queues at the entrance as security personnel will check to see if bags are loaded with prohibited items, and while trains are air-conditioned, the sheer number of people riding at any one time can mean long, hot rides during rush hour. Be mindful of your personal belongings as pickpockets are not uncommon, and if you have a backpack, put it in front or on your feet to reduce the space you take up. Women (including those that are pregnant or with children), students, disabled persons, and the elderly must be given priority in seating. All three lines also have women-only sections where you, if you are male, must watch out for.
Fares for the trains start ₱15, and increase in increments of ₱1-3 depending on the distance. Entering the system requires either a Beep card or a single-journey card, which can be purchased either from manned kiosks or ticket machines and are collected at the end of the journey. There are no free transfers between the three lines, and each transfer will count as two separate fares.
In the last year, Line 3 was suffering from frequent service interruptions and train breakdowns as a result of deferred maintenance, inconveniencing thousands of passengers daily. While Line 3 remains the easiest way to traverse EDSA without the hassle of unending traffic jams, service interruptions can still happen despite recent improvements in reliability.
Philippine National Railways
In addition to the LRT and MRT, the Philippine National Railways also operates the Metro Commuter rail service between Metro Manila and the neighboring province of Laguna. Although the PNR only operates two lines (the aptly-named North and South Main Lines) from its main hub at Tutuban in Tondo, it operates four different train services:
- The Metro South Commuter runs only along the South Main Line and parts of the North Main Line, connecting Manila to its northern and southern suburbs. 16 South Commuter trains run per day, serving Manila, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque and Taguig, while two of those trains are rush-hour trains that extend all the way to Calamba in Laguna. Notably, the South Commuter provides the closest service to NAIA, and is the only rail service operating in Manila's University Belt.
- The Metro North Commuter runs along both the North and South Main Lines, connecting the northern suburbs from the Governor Pascual station in Malabon to the rest of Metro Manila. Four North Commuter trains a day run between Malabon and Tutuban through Caloocan, while two bypass Tutuban to connect Malabon and Taguig using the North and South Main Lines, complementing existing South Commuter service.
Connections to the LRT and MRT are available at Blumentritt (for Line 1), Santa Mesa (for Line 2) and EDSA (for Line 3).
Unlike the LRT and MRT, the PNR mostly runs diesel-powered trains. Trains are mostly air-conditioned, with the exception of a few locomotive-hauled services pulling coaches with ceiling fans installed. Schedules are also shorter, with the first trains just before 5AM, and the last trains stopping at 7:30PM, with frequencies every 30-60 minutes. Fares start at ₱15, and go up in ₱5 increments depending on the distance, with the maximum fare (from Tutuban to Calamba) being ₱60. Beep cards are not valid on the PNR, and payment for fares is cash-only.
That said, riding the PNR is not for the faint-of-heart. Decades of deferred maintenance and neglect have led to poorly-maintained trains that are the subject of frequent delays and cancelations, which would make Line 3 look orderly by comparison. Inclement weather can cause significant delays, especially during the rainy season. As the system is not grade-separated, vehicular accidents are common, despite trains having the right of way. Congestion can be worse than on the LRT and MRT, not helped by the fact that for many people in southern Metro Manila, this is the fastest means of getting to and from work. Should you decide to take a ride on the PNR, many of the same precautions you should take while riding the LRT and MRT should also be observed here.
Jeepneys are the most common means of public transport in the Philippines. The introduction of more modern buses and the more efficient train lines have lessened the importance of the jeepney. They still do travel all over the city, particularly on routes which are too small to be serviced by buses - but know exactly where you are headed before getting on. Once inside, pay your fare or "bayad" directly to the driver by telling him where you want to get off and how many people you are paying for. It is a norm all over the country that if you are seated far from the driver, one just need to say "Bayad po" while extending the hand with your fare to the driver and someone will readily take your fare and pass it until it gets to the driver. Giving back of change or "sukli" if the fare given is in a large denomination will come in a similar manner, and a polite expression of "Thank you" or "Salamat po" as a sign of gratitude is encouraged.
The fare structure begins with a minimum fare for the first four kilometers and increases every additional kilometer thereafter. Minimum fare is ₱9 and the rates goes higher depending on your destination to ₱15 (as of Jan 2019). Do not expect that a driver will be able to give change for large denominations, e.g. ₱500 or ₱1000.
You can also request the driver to inform you that you are near to your destination. Loading and unloading zones for jeepneys are rarely followed so people hop on and get off practically at will. Saying "para" or "para po!" is the standard way to tell the driver that you need to get off. Jeepneys are designed to carry small people - and can get very cramped for anyone over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall particularly if the jeepney is fully loaded! This arrangement is cramped even for the size of the locals who are small by Western comparison and some would regularly complain. Though not widely practiced, some people would pay for the price of two to avoid getting cramped by someone else as the fares are anyway extremely cheap. Jeepneys usually seat anywhere from 0 to 30 people.
Modern jeepneys, which look more like minibuses, have higher headroom and standing space, far more convenient than the traditional vehicles. Some modern jeepneys do retain the design of the ubiquitous vehicles, but with air conditioning and a front door, resembling a bus. Beep cards (see above) can be used on the latest jeepney models, in addition to the usual payment of coins and bills.
Taxis are very affordable by western standards but pretty expensive for locals and almost all are now air-conditioned and use a meter to compute for the final fare. The taxi rates start at ₱40 for the first 500 m and an extra ₱3.50 for every succeeding 300 m or 2 minutes of stopping.
Some drivers may take advantage of tourists, but closer regulation by authorities and even by mall operators, as well as the competition with Grab, are curbing this practice slowly. Many taxis are in a poor state of repair and drivers drive erratically. The LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) has now instituted hotline numbers to report erring drivers. Take note of the cab name and number. Mall operators also closely monitor the operations of taxis that use their taxi racks by ensuring that cab drivers do not choose only passengers bound for nearby destinations. Do not hire taxis waiting at bus terminals; they will charge much higher fare (100% more than normal fare). Just walk out from any main bus terminal, and you will find plenty of cabs.
During traffic as drivers will ask for a minimum fare higher than what the meter requires you to pay. Also during rush hour (morning and evening), and other times when there is heavy traffic (such as heavy rains), it is not unusual to see taxi drivers hesitant to drive you if your destination involves EDSA or an area full of offices; it is extremely difficult to hail a cab during these hours. During the early morning, passengers are strongly advised to bring smaller denominations of bills (and coins) as drivers usually don't have ready change.
The e-hailing app Grab is ubiquitous in Metro Manila, and basically the only choice after Uber pulled back from Southeast Asia in March 2018. Basically you can use Grab to order a "GrabCar" (with fixed fare) or a regular taxi with metered fare; for the latter, you can check the most likely range of fares beforehand to evaluate which is the most economical option.
While generally a data plan or Wi-Fi is required to use a Grab, Manila's airport and many shopping malls have kiosks where you can order a car or taxi using Grab without any internet connection. Many hotels will just use the Grab app when you request a taxi in the reception.
Knowing your buses
Metro Manila's public buses are generally divided into air-conditioned and ordinary (non-air-conditioned) classes, each providing different levels of comfort, and as a rule of thumb, air-conditioned buses are cleaner, comfortable and safer while ordinary buses tend to be filthy, cramped and unsafe. Characteristics of those bus classes, including fares, are as follows:
Buses are common in the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila and most will pass through EDSA. The common routes are as follows:
|Baclaran||Navotas||EDSA and Ayala/EDSA alone|
|Baclaran||SM Fairview||EDSA and Ayala / Quezon Avenue and Espana|
|Baclaran||Malanday||EDSA and NLEX (North Luzon Expressway)|
|Baclaran||Sta. Maria, Bulacan||EDSA, Ayala, and NLEX/MacArthur Highway|
|Grotto||Ninoy Aquino International Airport||EDSA and SM Fairview|
|Malanday||Ninoy Aquino International Airport||EDSA|
|Alabang/Pacita||Navotas||SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) and EDSA|
|Alabang/Pacita||Novaliches||SLEX, EDSA and NLEX|
|Alabang||Malanday||SLEX and EDSA|
|Alabang||SM Fairview||SLEX and EDSA|
|Quiapo||Cainta||Ortigas Avenue, San Juan and Sta. Mesa|
|Quiapo||Taytay||Ortigas Avenue, San Juan and Sta. Mesa|
Conductors collect your fare once on board and they are ready with change although it is suggested you have coins during morning rush-hours ready. Just tell him/her where you want to get off. Like the jeepneys, buses do not have route numbers identifying their routes and often do not observe loading and unloading areas except for some highly regulated zones where they are bound to get a ticket for not doing so, most notably in Makati's central business district. As such, it is not uncommon for people to get on and off in odd places. Buses sometimes load and unload in the middle of the road and couldn't care less about the traffic they may cause. Furthermore, they don't have a timetable for when to stop at a particular area although buses bound to the same place stop at a particular area seconds from each other. The fare structure of buses is almost the same as that of jeepneys where a fare matrix is provided and fares increase at a constant rate per kilometre after the first few kilometres. While EDSA has a bus lane (two lanes wide on each side), these are generally packed with buses from city/provincial routes funneling down the thoroughfare, and are rarely followed. It is not uncommon to see that a bus won't go until it is fairly packed so it's best to avoid an empty bus. This is because the drivers and conductors are paid depending on how many passengers they take-in. If your route/destination is along EDSA, it is best to take the Line 3 (see below) to avoid the traffic.
Premium point-to-point buses
Fröhlich Tours operate premium point-to-point (P2P) bus services. These buses go non-stop between only two points and depart on a regular schedule. Full-fare tickets cost ₱55 (working days), ₱40 (Saturdays), and ₱35 (Sundays/holidays). All buses are air-conditioned, and some vehicles provide free Wi-Fi and individual entertainment units for passengers. Payment can be made in cash or through the new Beep card. The most common routes are:
- Centris (in Quezon City) to Glorietta 5 (in Makati City)
- Trinoma Mall (in Quezon City) to Glorietta 5 (in Makati City)
- SM North EDSA (in Quezon City) to SM Megamall (in Mandaluyong)
Other routes (and their schedules) can be found at the P2P Bus website; you can also consult the specific city articles for those.
UV Express (formerly called GT Express or FX) is a passenger van service, with fares more expensive than jeepneys, but cheaper than taxis. UV Express follow the jeepney practice of having a fixed route but like taxis are usually air-conditioned. You likely will have to share the ride as the UV Express can take up to 10 passengers at a time, but it is reasonably comfortable.
Tricycles (motorcycles with modified side cars) These are common for short trips in areas where jeepneys do not travel. In Manila proper you are unlikely to see any. However, in outlying suburbs and towns they are more common. Other variants are the pedicab, which is merely a bicycle with a side car, and the kuliglig which is a pedicab with an outboard motor engine (though the latter has almost been phased out due to noise concerns). Electric tricycles or CNG-powered Bajaj tuk-tuks can be sighted in parts of the metro.
As most large Southeast Asian cities, Manila is definitely not a city made for pedestrians. Street sides are often infested with vendors and peddlers, dirty or smelly, and crossing the street requires double attention even when pedestrian lights are green. Yet, as in most cities in the with, walking can still be the best way of getting close to the local daily life, as long as you take precautions about traffic and safety.
Jaywalking is illegal in most places, but many locals still stick on that practice because of the distance to the nearest crossing or overpass/underpass, or the usual refrain that the overpass is too high. It is best not to do what the locals do, as traffic laws are being enforced more rigorously. Since 2019, jaywalking is more strictly enforced, with penalties being a ₱500 fine or community service, rather an embarrassing experience for an unwary traveller (and for Filipinos, will add to their criminal record).
Surprisingly, Manila has a few very pedestrian friendly-areas, such as Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and the Ayala Center in Makati, with ample pedestrian walkways, shelter and traffic rules that seem to work. In particular, the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig is a lively and charming pedestrian street with plenty of shops, gardens, alfresco bars and restaurants, and open-air contemporary art that definitely deserve a stroll on both day and night.
The metropolis has an extensive system of highways connecting the various cities and municipalities. The major roads include ten radial roads, which branch out from central Manila and five circumferential roads which form concentric arcs around downtown Manila. Most of these roads are very important transportation arteries. One is the C-4 (Circumferential Road 4) also called Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or more popularly known as EDSA. Some other important roads are R-1 (Radial Road 1) or Coastal Road/Manila-Cavite Road; R-3 or South Luzon Expressway (SLEX); R-7, which consists of Espana Avenue, Quezon Avenue, and Commonwealth Avenue; R-8 or the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX); and C-5 going from Bicutan to Libis (simply referred to as C-5).
However, driving in a private car is not recommended for people who are unfamiliar with Manila because many drivers there ignore such things as stoplights and lane markings and most also have no idea what right of way means (although this behavior has been decreasing significantly over the years). Parking tends to be scarce, and can be expensive in downtowns and CBDs. Public transport is very cheap, but it may get very crowded during the rush hours in the morning and early evening (7AM to 10AM and 4PM to 7PM). Traffic also tends to crawl during these times so best avoid being on the move in these occasions. Just like any city in South-East Asia, drivers in Manila tend to be reckless, but road signages are very common, though some are not that visible, and are also well abided and respected by at least 75% of Manila drivers.
Traffic congestion is also another reason to avoid driving, so, if possible, take public transport instead. Yet, the lack of efficient public transport in some areas, means that you may need to take a car to reach them. In fact, Metro Manila's traffic jams are worse that those in São Paulo and Jakarta, and increasing car sales are also one factor for increasing congestion. If unavoidable to use a private car, you may stick on finding alternate routes, especially the Mabuhay Lanes, but, as with the rest of Metro Manila, expect traffic congestion and obstructions on those routes. EDSA (from Caloocan to Pasay via Quezon City), C-5 (Taguig to Valenzuela via Quezon City), Alabang-Zapote Road (between Las Piñas and Muntinlupa), and Dr. A. Santos Avenue, and Ninoy Aquino Avenue (all in in Parañaque) are worthy of mention for frequent congestion, usually rush hour traffic (see above), and better take alternate routes if possible, but if your destination is found along those roads, please expect hours for traffic to move smoothly. Cities with many gated subdivisions, like the suburban cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque, tend to have traffic jams as worse as EDSA's, and unless your vehicle have a sticker issued by the homeowners' assocation or local government (which you can only get if you have a residence or frequently visit a location inside the subdivision[s] covered), there is no choice but to drive through the already clogged roads.
Traffic enforcement tends to be lax, and enforcers typically bribe violators or are bribed by those, but this situation begins to change with high-definition CCTV cameras being placed in most major intersections and choke points.
When driving, be cautious of pedestrians crossing illegally. Be also aware when driving in narrow streets, where children usually play, given Manila is a crowded metropolis. Be also aware of the existing Number-Coding Scheme, where some vehicles are not allowed to ply Metro Manila streets from 7AM to 10AM, and from 3PM to 7PM, Mondays to Fridays, i.e. cars with license plates ending in numbers 1 and 2 should not go out of the street on the said schedule every Mondays, 3 and 4 every Tuesdays, and so on and so forth. Makati however observes the Number-Coding scheme the whole day.
Right turns on red are legal, unless explicitly prohibited by signage. Dedicated left turn lanes are rather common in wide avenues, and expect to slow down for a left turning vehicle in most major intersections. Some major thoroughfares, like EDSA and Commonwealth Avenue, have left turns provided by U-turn slots instead of a direct turn through the intersection. In EDSA and Commonwealth Avenue, dedicated public utility vehicle and motorcycle lanes are implemented, and more rigorous enforcement through no-contact apprehension using CCTV cameras makes use by cars illegal. Some roads, like Taft Avenue over Baclaran or Claro M. Recto Avenue across Divisoria, are rarely passable by traffic due to streetside vendors and heavy pedestrian traffic.
School buses, commonly using vans (because of narrow streets) in yellow paint and rather a staple by private schools (where tricycles are the norm in public schools), are a common sight during school days. There is no law covering stopping where a school buses picking up or shopping off, but slow down for children, as in school zones, even when locals, especially motorcyclists, pass without giving way.
The price of petroleum is relatively comparable to that paid in the US but expensive in the eyes of locals. Fuel prices fluctuate on a weekly basis.
Sun Cruises has tour packages to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Prices range from ₱2000 for a day tour with a buffet lunch, to ₱3000 for an overnight stay at the island. The tour guides are very informative, and the island is steeped in history, particularly about the battles that raged there during World War II. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.
Manila might not generally be a place to take a leisurely stroll, but it has interesting neighbourhoods that definitely deserve to be explored on foot:
- Intramuros, the Spanish-built walled city that is the historical center of Manila. Largely destroyed during the World War II, it is not a charming colonial city center in the likes of Vigan, but a fascinating place where memories of the past and the realities of the present mix;
- Binondo is Manila's bustling Chinatown with an unmatched festival of colours, tastes, and smells;
- Makati's Poblacion is the historical core of Makati, containing both Metro Manila's Koreatown and hipster areas popular among backpackers;
- Makati's Ayala Center is a large cluster of shopping malls in Metro Manila's most important business district, which is itself an eye candy for skyscraper afficionados;
- Bonifacio Global City is an ultramodern business, commercial and affluent residential district in the likes of Singapore, and likely the most pedestrian-friendly area of Metro Manila.
Plazas, Parks and Nature Reserves
When it comes to parks, Luneta Park and Intramuros are the most popular destinations. Luneta Park (also called as Rizal Park and Rizal Monument) is home to the Rizal monument; a statue of the Philippines' national hero, Jose Rizal. It is one of the most significant and most important places in Philippine history from the Spanish colonial era to the EDSA revolution. The walled former city of Intramuros served as a settlement for the Indianized-Malay-Muslims, then it was taken over by the Spanish and fell into ruins during the World War II, it is one of the most popular icons of the Philippines. See Plaza de Roma in Intramuros where a statue of King Carlos IV of Spain stands, Plaza de Goiti or now known as Plaza Lacson is where a statue of Arsenio Lacson; said to be one of Manila's greatest mayor stands, next to it is Roman Santos building which would again make you think you're somewhere in Rome, Italy because of it Greco-Roman architecture. Plaza Miranda stands infront of Quiapo Church in the Filipino-Muslim district of Quiapo, an unfortunate event occurred here on 1971; the Plaza Miranda bombings. Manila Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoos in Asia. It is criticized for its inadequate care towards animals and its dirty surroundings and animal rights activists are demanding to free the animals due to this while Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center have rare animals such as water monitors and the Philippine deer, it also treats injured animals even if it isn't part of their zoo. La Mesa Dam EcoPark is the haven for most Filipinos after a tiring week of work and a getaway from the noisy and polluted metro, not only is it an ecopark but is also a dam which provides water to Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Manila Ocean Park is larger than Singapore's Sentosa Underwater World, construction is incomplete however it had already opened to the public, tickets cost ₱350 for a child, ₱400 for adults. Quezon Memorial Circle is a shrine and a national park, it is where the remains of late President Manuel Quezon and his wife are rested. While Greenbelt Park is in Makati and is worth seeing.
Places of worship
Religion is one of the major aspects of life of a Filipino, the diverse population of the Philippines follows the world's major religions; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and some following the Jewish faith and part of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, some forms of paganism, animism or any other kind may somehow exist. Manila's population follows almost all of those religions.
See Basilica Minore de la Immaculada Concepcion or Manila Cathedral in simple words in Intramuros, it is a historic church which served 2 funerals for 2 Filipino presidents and for bishops' funerals. Basilica Minore de San Lorenzo Ruiz or Binondo Church in Chinatown caters to Chinese Filipinos, seen here is the synchronization of Western architecture, Catholic faith and Chinese influences. Our Lady of China chapel is in this church. See the miraculous Black Nazerene or Itim na Nazareno in Basilica Minore de Jesus Nazareno or Quiapo church which is believed to give miracles and blessings. During January it is crowded as are the streets of Metro Manila, as a procession is held, during Fridays the church is filled with devotees.
- San Sebastian Basilica Minore de Mount Carmel
- Epifanio de los Santos Shrine
Churches and sanctuaries
- San Agustín Church.
- Redemptorist Church (Baclaran Church).
- Remedios Church (Malate Church).
- Santuario de San Antonio
The Golden Mosque is in the Quiapo district which is somehow the Filipino-Muslim district of Manila, its dome is made of gold and is built in order of the Marcoses.
- The National Museum of the Filipino People
- Metropolitan Museum
- Filipinas Heritage Library
- Ateneo Art Gallery
- Ayala Museum
- Lopez Museum
- The Museum at De La Salle University-Manila
- Museum of Contemporary Art and Design at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
While some might consider creepy to visit cemeteries as a tourist, some of Manila's cemeteries easily stand among the cities' most impressive sights. The most famous are the Manila Chinese Cemetery in Santa Cruz, a real "city of the dead" with intricate and ornamented mausoleums, and the sombre Manila American Cemetery and Memorial and Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig dedicated respectively to the American and Filipino soldiers who died in the Philippines during the World War II. The Manila North Cemetery in Santa Cruz, a bizarre but fascinating "slum-cemetery", is not a place for independent sightseeing but can be visited via a guided tour.
- Monumento de la Revolucion
- Rizal Monument
- People Power Monument
- Quezon Monument
- Bonifacio Monument
You can find almost all major festivals in Metro Manila. There are two New Years. The Gregorian New Year every January, is characterized by noise and merrymaking; the crackles and bursts of firecrackers and fireworks complete the Filipino New Year, believing it will scare misfortunes away, but can be dangerous and messy, with the day after characterized by scattered debris, used fireworks barrages and unexploded firecrackers, smoke, trash, and the most dreaded result, injured celebrators, victims of their firecrackers, fires. Then, there's the Chinese New Year, at various dates between January and February, with the firecrackers and the Dragon Dance; Filipino Chinese offer money inside ampaw (red envelopes) and eat sticky but tasty tikoy.
There are many religious festivities held annually. The Feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila every January draws millions into Manila, where devotees flock to touch the wooden statue. The festivities begins with the tradition of pahalik, where devotees kiss and rub their towels onto the image, and the actual procession, Traslación every January 9, is a very crowded situation, where personal space is almost unimportant, as people climb into and pull the carriage (andas) from the Quirino Grandstand, through parts of Manila, and back into Quiapo Church. Another major festival is the Feast of St. John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista) in San Juan, characterized by dances, and most notably, water fights at the streets, reminding you of Songkran in Thailand or Holi in India, so be warned, it's not a spectator sport for the ordinary tourist, especially if you look obviously foreign.
Metro Manila has good cinemas, with the average ticket price at about ₱200, a bargain to Western standards but slightly steep to the average Filipino. Most cinemas are rather part of mall chains, and gone are the glory days of downtown movie houses. Old-style cinemas found at the heart of cities are now rare to find, but most have become seedy locations that show illicit X-rated, hardcore porn films. Modern Philippine cinemas are up to the modern standards, and expect wearing 3D glasses on some Hollywood films. IMAX cinema can be found at malls at various points in the metro.
Metro Manila is one of Asia's largest gambling hubs, containing no less then twenty casinos. Some of them have true Las Vegas or Macau standard, being not only casinos but also integrated resorts, entertainment venues and luxury shopping malls. These are mostly in the Entertainment City district of Parañaque, including the Solaire, the City of Dreams, the Okada and the future Westside City, whereas the Resorts World Manila is in the Newport area of Pasay.
Horse racing is no longer hosted at tracks in Metro Manila. The two major racetracks, the Santa Ana Racecourse in Makati and San Lazaro Leisure Park in Manila are converted into malls and commercial property (SM City San Lazaro and The Circuit Makati respectively), and are moved to Carmona and Naic in Cavite, respectively.
Metro Manila has a lackluster sports scene compared with other large Southeast Asian metropolises, but it is the center of Philippine sports. Large sports arenas do exist, like Araneta Coliseum, Mall of Asia Arena, PhilSports Arena, and San Juan Area (Filoil Flying V Arena), but the number did not catch up with the increasing population. Unregulated urbanization are also suspect, so spaces better suited for sports activities instead gave way to large mall complexes lacking any space for sports activities. That said, there is a vibrant sports scene, centered on the Philippines's favorite sport, basketball.
- See also: Shopping in the Philippines
There are generally two kinds of shopping destinations in Manila: the mall and the tiangge ("chang-ghe").
The Manila mall is more than just a shopping experience but a cultural destination as well. The largest malls in Metro Manila are practically their own cities within the city: complete with boutiques, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, cinemas, medical facilities, hotels, schools, offices, gyms, serviced apartments, spas, convention centers, art galleries, bowling alleys, museums, ice skating rinks, and even a chapel for Sunday masses.
The SM City North EDSA in Quezon City is the largest mall in the Philippines and 6th largest mall in the World. The second largest mall in Metro Manila is the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, followed by the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay. The Ayala Center in Makati is not a single mall, but a cluster of four large shopping malls which combined together, might offer more shopping options than the aforementioned super-malls.
While the typical image of shopping malls are of bland concrete boxes, many malls in Manila use innovative architecture and concepts including large open spaces, contemporary art exhibitions, and popular markets. In particular, the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig is a real "shopping mall turned into a pedestrian street", the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay contains a bustling amusement park facing the Manila Bay, Festival Alabang in Muntinlupa contains a park with a river, and the Venice Grand Canal in Taguig is, well... a replica of Venice.
However, if you wish to experience the "ultimate Manila shopping experience", one has to shop at a tiangge. Tiangges are small makeshift stalls clustered together that sell anything and everything you can imagine think bazaars). But at bargain basement prices. In these places, one has to haggle, particularly if you are buying wholesale (defined as at least six pieces of the same item). The best tiangge complexes are in the Greenhills Shopping Center, Tiendesitas, Market! Market!, St. Francis Square, Tutuban Center Mall, Divisoria Mall, and 168 Mall. Go crazy buying quality clothes and shoes, pretty fashion jewelry and things for the house at very reasonable prices!
A tourist or visitor may be amused or perplexed to see Filipinos eating most of the time. Apart from the three major meals of the day, there are snacks in the morning and in the afternoon called merienda which are integral part of a typical Pinoy's everyday life. Metro Manila's diverse racial community had brought the rise to international cuisine, from just one corner of the street a Filipino would be eating Shawarma (more commonly known as Doner or Kebab for some westerners), another one would be enjoying his kimchee, while others would enjoy their night with sushi, some would desire Indian and Thai curry for their lunch while some would prefer the typical American breakfast in fastfood stores. For Chinese cuisine go to Chinatown where they serve Hokkien dishes; American steakhouses, high class Japanese, Korean, Indian and Thai restaurants that lurk around Makati, Koreantown have cheaper options as does Japantown (Little Tokyo). Usually if you prefer to splurge, Makati is one of the best options. Typical Filipino cuisine and streetfood are found in the streets of Manila which provide the best options, the cost could be US$1-2 per serving or even lower.
America's influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you'll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds and KFC. Filipino fastfood chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Philippine tastebuds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of fastfood chains that have branches all around the Metro, and in many cases around the country.
- Jollibee. The most well-known Filipino fastfood chain of all, Jollibee can boast of over a thousand stores in the Philippines and more than 300 stores around the world. Typical fastfood fare for the most part, but the burger dressing will taste different (read: sweet) to most foreigners. For something a little different, try the pancit palabok, which is a vermicelli dish with an orange sauce. US$1-2 per serving.
- Greenwich Pizza. The second of Jollibee corps' trifecta of fastfood chains, Greenwich Pizzas are your typical fare, but once again with the slightly sweeter than usual tomato sauce. Some seasonal offerings may be on offer though, like the sisig pizza, so check the menu. US$2-3 per serving.
- Chowking. The Filipino version of Chinese food, also owned by Jollibee. For good sampling of their food, try the Lauriats, which feature a viand (beef, pork, chicken), rice, pancit (fried noodles with meat and veggies), siomai (dumplings), and buchi (a sweet rice ball covered with a sesame-based coating. US$2-3 per serving.
- Tapa King. Tapaking is where you get the ubiquitous tapsilog (fried beef strips, fried garlic rice, and egg), which is popular breakfast fare, along with other local delicacies. US$2-3 per serving.
- GotoKing. This where you go to get the localized version of congee called goto and lugaw (rice porridge), with different kinds of toppings like chicken, roasted garlic, egg.
- Mang Inasal. A relative newcomer, Mang Inasal brings a variety of barbecue called "inasal" into Metro Manila from the smaller city of Bacolod (further south in the Visayan region). They offer other grilled meats, and soups like sinigang (a sour, tamarind based soup). US$1-2 per serving.
- Goldilocks. The place to go for your baked treats and sweets like mamon (a spongy round cake), polvoron (a tighly packed powdery treat) ensaymada (bread baked with cheese and sugar), and host of other delicacies for those with a sweet tooth. A must try savory treat is their fresh lumpiang sariwa (light and fresh spring roll with peanut sauce).
Where to eat
- Greenbelt Lifestyle Center - the widest selection of food choices, which also happen to be the trendiest and most unique, can be found in the Greenbelt Area at heart of Ayala Center in Makati City. With everything upscale, you can find yourself munching tapas with a glass of sangria or having a gastronomic delight of french treats.
- Tomas Morato - Before midnight strikes, the strip is becoming increasily famous among locals for comedy bars. However, restaurants with gastronomic delights of every kind or dish abound from end-to-end.
- The Promenade at Greenhills
- Baywalk - This used to be the most famous location for an abundance of affordable, delightful street food, by the bay. However, it has been closed by the city government for certain issues. Nevertheless, a visit to this area provides a different perspective of the old city of Manila.
- Eastwood City - Peppered with a lot of choices that offer comfortable dining in airconditioned or al fresco style, this place appeals to the upbeat, on-the-rise professionals and more affluent members of the Filipino society. There are lots of things to enjoy from good food, music, to midnight movies and shopping. Very appropriate for the night owls and nearby universitarians.
- The Fort Strip and Serendra in Global City, Taguig - Trendy, classy, isolated yet warm, surprising and fulfilling. From Makati City, it is easy to reach the newest dining and entertainment hub in the Metropolis by private car or cab.
- Tiendesitas - literally "little stores", This place seems to have been primarily built with returning Filipinos in mind and for foreigners interested in some kind of cultural immersion. It is a confluence of some 450 traders from the three major islands of the Philippines, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, selling specialty merchandise. So much to choose from but the food pavilions are the busiest.
The epicenter of Metro Manila's famous nightlife is the Greenbelt in Makati where some of the city's best restaurants, cafes, bars and karaoke joints cluster around a park in the middle of the main business district. The Fort, Serendra and Bonifacio High Street are three different clusters that offers high-end restaurants, bars and shops in the nearby city of Taguig. Bohemian Malate and the adjoining Baywalk contain a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol and live music in Manila. Other nightlife clusters in the Metro are Eastwood, Araneta Center, and Timog all in Quezon City.
The introduction of American hip hop music has had a noticeable effect on Philippine night life, serving as the soundtrack to a high-spirited Manila youth culture. Many nightclubs now rival first-world standards both in terms of luxury and vibrancy.
Check city articles for listings
Due to Metro Manila's horrible traffic, those who came for business are advised to stay in the business district they are visiting or as near as possible. Backpackers tend to favour Malate or Makati's Poblacion as they are both atmospheric areas with cheap food, bars, and accommodation. Those who want to avoid gritty side of Manila typically stay in more affluent districts such as Makati's Ayala Center or Bonifacio Global City.
Standard hotels range from ₱500 to ₱10000, but you can spend more if you want to stay in a luxurious place. Popular hotels such as Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental are found in Manila and Makati while Marriot hotels just opened a branch in Newport City. Hotels include common frills such as laundry service, telephone, and TV. Motels have a bad reputation and perception by Filipinos as they are viewed as meeting places for illicit sex and things, but they are a cheap option. Condominiums, now easily rented even for short stays via websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com, are found around financial districts and often near commercial establishments.
Metro Manila has its share of common problems for first-time travellers: opportunistic robbers and pickpockets, corrupt cops and bureaucracy, run-down residential areas and shanty towns, and chaotic traffic. If you are first time travelling into the region (or not used to chaotic conditions in other places), do not forget to keep your guard up at all times. The metro has its numerous rough areas where you are unlikely to visit without any good reason.
Violent crime is quite evident in some parts of the metro, but this usually happens among locals, and tourists should not worry a lot, since there are many police and frequent police patrol cars within Metro Manila, especially tourist areas.
Bag-snatching is also common, but, of course, common sense will reduce that threat. Most victims are rich locals.
Theft is prevalent, but common sense will help you avoid being a victim. Avoid wearing jewelry when going to crowded areas, as they attract attention to thieves. Be watchful when carrying electronic gadgets, as bring those in public may attract criminals. Avoid leaving your valuables inside vehicles, even in secure areas, as criminals may take advantage by breaking the windows (the Basag-kotse modus operandi), plus, most management of parking areas waive rights on protecting items inside the vehicle, that they would not be responsible for any damage or loss.
Beware of the dreaded Budol-budol gang, which employs hypnotism to gain the trust of their victims. While locals are mostly singled out by this gang, it is easy to spot a budol-budol member, usually a well-dressed woman, through the attractive or decent dress the gang employs to deceive victims. Just don't trust anybody attractive who approaches you, otherwise, they will set you up for theft once they gained your trust.
The metro has about 7 major slum areas, but a close observation will make you think there is a lot more, including decrepit communities rising beside rivers and creeks; a few just lie near tourist hotspots or business districts. Large residential communities can be as seedy as slums; Tondo and San Andres Bukid in Manila, Commonwealth in Quezon City, and Baclaran and Kabihasnan in Parañaque are just a partial list of such spots, also filled with criminals. You can spot seedy areas though the decrepit makeshift houses, narrow alleys between houses, and cluttered electricity wires. Lowlifes like drug addicts, pushers and dealers, thugs, drunkards, and teenage gangsters rule the slums and lurk on rough areas, just awaiting to do dirty business, and the greatest criminal danger if you found yourself in a slum is becoming a victim of kursonada — sudden impulsive attacks on strangers by thugs — especially if you are do not look local.
Street-level corruption is prevalent in several areas within Metro Manila, usually involving traffic enforcement (either by the local government traffic management agencies or the MMDA). Bribery is a common problem, and law enforcement may try to extort money just for their own use (usually for snacks). Foreigners, especially whites, may fall victim to corrupt law enforcement because of their supposed richness. When caught by any law enforcement, and they ask you for money as a bribe, say no.
While the region is not much of interest to foreign travellers, there remain numerous scams that you should be aware of.
- When you are taking a taxi or tricycle, beware of common scams many locals have fallen into. If you take a taxi, always insist on the meter, as there is the negative reputation on Manila taxi drivers to not use the meter or double your fare. If taking a tricycle, it is advisable to agree on a price, especially when taking it on long distances. Also, never trust drivers who pretend to know you: they might be working with touts or set you up for theft.
- If using an ATM, never trust anyone who comes to help you. Posters are placed in many ATMs about do's and don'ts, and it is always unacceptable to accept help from strangers in the ATM. Though most banks have placed mirrors on ATMs to fend off scammers, always use common sense. If someone comes for help in an ATM, especially if you are alone, cancel the transaction immediately.
- Beware also of fake money. Counterfeit peso bills are in circulation, and exercise caution when possessing ₱100, ₱200, ₱500 and ₱1000 peso bills. It is always inadvisable to exchange money in streetside stalls, as they might give you fake bills.
- In buses or jeepneys, you might encounter beggars who will ride for a short distance, and will offer envelopes for passengers to place money on. They might provide information why they need charity money, such as being disabled or homeless, but always keep your guard on: they might be part of a scam. Avoid offering money to street children climbing into a bus or jeepney: they might be exploited by criminal groups.
Street sexual harassment cases in Metro Manila is alarmingly high, and women travellers must exercise caution when walking alone. Many streets around Metro Manila are filled with male bystanders, and there are chances you might get sexually harassed, most commonly through simple cat-calls and common wolf whistles, especially if you are dressed scantily (e.g. short shorts, miniskirts/dresses, spaghetti straps). Groping is a risk in crowded locations like street markets and trains. Despite a more liberal culture, dress conservatively so you can blend with the locals and avoid unwanted sexual attention. Wearing a short sleeved blouse, jeans, or a skirt or dress with the hem below the knee will suffice. Plus, learning some key words to shout (e.g. Manghihipo! Manyak!) in case someone gropes you can help.
Women travellers are not advised to take a taxi at night alone: you might fall victim to theft, especially in cases where the driver will spray chloroform to the air conditioner where you will suddenly fall asleep and wake up with your valuables stolen (or in some cases, raped). The same also goes with tricycles drivers, but most victims are primarily call center workers or students.
The region has a high risk for terrorist attacks; security measures have been heightened, with car trunk inspections, metal detectors and bag checks being mandatory in many locations, like malls, office towers, and public transport stations. You are more likely to get hurt or killed in a road accident than a terrorist attack, as bombings are far rare (the latest attacks in Metro Manila that happened are the Rizal Day bombings in 2000 and the Valentine's Day bombings in 2005).
Be also aware of stray dogs, but they are not a problem in financial districts such as Makati CBD and Taguig and can be seen only in residential outskirts and non-commercialized suburbs of Metro Manila.
People in Metro Manila have a reputation for snobbery; Manileño folks call country people promdi (from the English phrase from the [province of]) because of different customs. It is best to behave like a laking Maynila (one brought up in Manila) so you can easily get around.
Public views of affection are tolerated, but making out is far from socially acceptable, even in this liberal region of the Philippines: locals will not hesitate to even call the police to arrest you for making a scene that violates local values. Holding hands are rather acceptable, even to locals.
Public courtesy goes a long way. You must give a seat to women, students, old people and disabled persons in public transport. Jeepneys, buses, and trains have priority seats reserved for them; trains have a women-only car at the front end, not exclusively for women, but also for elderly and disabled people. You will be told to move into the second car (or the middle of the platform at the station) if you go into the women-only area.
Metro Manila has the most relaxed dress code among all places in the Philippines; wearing shorts or tank tops is often acceptable, but without calling unwanted attention (men in tank tops or sleeveless shirts are often stereotyped as bystanders or street thugs). Churches and government offices follow a strict dress code, where shoulders, armpits and knees must be covered, that means, tank tops, miniskirts, and skimpy shorts are allowed; you will be refused entry in government offices, while you will not be allowed to take the Holy Communion in churches. Caps and slippers are also prohibited from being worn in those places.
Metro Manila has power 24 hours a day, but there is the possibility of blackouts, either due to natural disasters, line repairs, or power plant maintenance. Most outages only last a few hours, but blackouts days or weeks long is a possibility when a very strong typhoon strikes the metro. Meralco (Manila Electric Company) is the only power utility serving Metro Manila; check their website (or some local TV news broadcasters) for any scheduled outages. Most hotels around the metro will have a backup generator in case power goes out; malls and other large establishments will usually have one also, so they can operate normally while lights are out elsewhere.
Metro Manila is the center of the Philippine media market, and the major television stations, GMA, ABS-CBN, and TV5. Most media are provided in Tagalog (or a mix of Tagalog and English), though there are also predominately English-language media.
- Broadsheet newspapers, like The Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Manila Bulletin, are published in English.
- There are also free-to-watch television channels that always broadcast most programming in English, such as CNN Philippines (channel 9), ETC (channel 21) and Net25 (channel 25).
- Some radio stations mostly broadcast in English, such as FM stations like Magic! 89.9 (89.9), Monster RX (93.1), and Easy Rock (96.3).
Plastics and Styrofoam
Some cities or municipalities in Metro Manila have passed local ordinances banning use of plastics and Styrofoam for packaging, for example, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa. The rest of Metro Manila, including Manila and Quezon City, still permit their use. If you need to shop, having a cloth bag is a more environment-friendly option, and most supermarkets may offer one for a fee.
Embassies and consulates
Being the national capital, Metro Manila hosts a large number of embassies. A majority of them are clustered in Legazpi Village and Dasmariñas Village in Makati City and in Bonifacio Global City in the adjacent Taguig City. There are others in other parts of Metro Manila as well:
- Argentina, 104 H.V. Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 10AM-4PM.
- Australia, Level 23-Tower 2 RCBC Plaza 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, ☏ , (Immigration and Visa Office).
- Austria, 8th Floor, One Orion Building, 11th Ave & 38th St, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M–Th 9AM–noon & 1PM–2:30PM.
- China, 4896 Pasay Rd, Dasmarinas Village, Makati, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Germany, 25th Floor, Tower 2, RCBC Plaza 6819 Ayala Ave, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Greece, 12th Floor, Sage House, 110 Rufino St, Legaspi Village, Makati City, ☏ , (Emergencies), fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Japan, 2627 Roxas Blvd, Pasay City, ☏ , fax: .
- The Netherlands, 26th Floor BDO Equitable Tower, 8751 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City, ☏ . M-Th 8AM-4PM & F 8AM-noon.
- Norway, 12th Floor, DelRosarioLaw Centre, 21st Drive corner 20th Dr, Bonifacio Global, Taguig (Mega Plaza Building), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- South Korea, 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, ☏ , fax: .
- United Kingdom, 120 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Hill, Taguig City 1634, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- United States, 1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, ☏ (ACS), fax: . M-F 10:30AM-4:30PM.