Drew Binsky

I'm Drew Binsky

I’ve been to
ALL 197 Countries Now I want to help you become a better traveller & save money

YouTube
3.3M

Facebook
4.5M

Instagram
810K

TikTok
525K

Snapchat
573K

LinkedIn
15K

Twitter
71K

Travel Guide to Manila

Travel Guide to Manila

Contents

Written by Drew Binsky

Manila is one of the best cities out there and I keep going back for something new. Below, I’m going togive you an overview of the city and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based on my own experiences.

General Thoughts

The Philippines, as a whole, is one of my favorite countries on earth. But the bustling capital of Manila might be different than you expect.

Manila doesn’t have natural beauty like the other 7,106 islands in the country.  So, if you’re looking to visit the Philippines for its beautiful beaches, then you might want to skip Manila. However, what this mega-city does have is lots of character and a special charm that keeps me coming back.

Manila is very affordable, which makes it an attractive place for budget travelers.  Along with Vietnam, the Philippines is the cheapest country in Southeast Asia.

The entire city of Manila was nearly destroyed during World War II, and has since been rebuilt to a bigger metropolis that is the heart and soul of Filipino culture. Manila is still being reconstructed today, as you’ll see dozens of new skyscrapers and malls being built.

Another thing to note about Manila is the giant gap between rich and poor. For the number of upscale areas you’ll find around town (Makati and The Fort are amazing), you’ll uncover just as many slums. Essentially, there’s a lot happening at the same time, and all contrasts are visible right in front of your face.

On one hot afternoon, I witnessed a poor woman breast feeding her son on the side of the road, begging my leg for money. That same day, about one block away, I went to one of the most luxurious bars in the world on the 71st floor of a luxury condo complex overlooking the city. It’s hard to wrap your head around.

Public Transportation

Getting around in Manila is kind of a nightmare. There is HORRIBLE traffic 24/7. Prepare to spend a lot of time getting from point A to B in a taxi.

There really isn’t any efficient public transportation. There is a ‘sky train,’ but it’s dirty and not a place that you will want to be.

Most people get around by Jeepneys, or shared taxi buses that carry their own distinct character. Jeepneys are customized with colors, photos, graffiti, and accessories (some even blast music inside).

I almost always get around by taxi or Uber — which are both very cheap. You won’t pay more than $5 USD to get across the city. Just try to avoid going anywhere during rush hour.

Quick Facts

– Population: 1.8 mil (city), 22 mil (urban)

– Language: Tagalog and English

– Currency: Philippines Peso (PHP)

– Manila is one of the 16 cities that makes up Metro Manila, the capital region

– Manila is the most densely populated urban area in the world with 46,000 people per square kilometer

– In 1571, Spanish Conquistadors arrived from Mexico, and founded present-day Manila in what today is Intramuros

– Manila became the center of Spanish activity in the Far East and one end of the Manila x Acapulco Galleon trade route, linking Spanish America with Asia

– Towards the end of WWII, during the Battle of Manila, most of the city was flattened by aerial bombardment by the US Air Force

Culture & People

The Philippines is one of my favorite countries because of its people.

Filipinos are some of the friendliest, most heart-warming and down to earth people on this planet. The hospitality is impossible to beat. I’ve never felt more welcomed anywhere in my life! You will ALWAYS be greeted with a “hello sir” or “hello ma’am” with a giant smile. No other culture in the world calls me “Sir” like the Filipinos do, and I love the respect.

Another thing I love about Manila is that there is no language barrier. English is actually considered a national language in the Philippines. In fact, the Philippines is the 4th largest English speaking country in the world.

Everyone I came across was conversational at worst, and most people are fluent English speakers. This makes travel so much easier!

WHAT TO DO?

There are certain (modern) areas which are worth checking out, and the other parts of the city don’t have much happening.

The two best areas to hang out are Makati and The Fort (Bonifacio).

Makati is the financial center of the Philippines, and it has the highest concentration of multinational and local corporations in the entire country.  Here you will find major banks, department stores, and foreign embassies. Makati is also home to a vibrant nightlife scene and it’s a major cultural entertainment hub.

The Fort (also known as Bonifacio) is located 11 km southeast of Manila’s city center. Over the last few years, the Fort area has experienced tremendous growth through the sale of military land. Here you will find modern buildings, night clubs, nice restaurants, shopping malls and more.

Visit the Mall of Asia – The MOA is the 11th biggest mall in the world, and it has every store you could ever hope for…

Go Shopping – Speaking of shopping, you can find anything under the sun in Manila for about half the price as anything in the USA.

Visit Binondo – This is the world’s first Chinatown, and it’s an awesome place to stimulate your senses. Walk down the busy streets and see thousands of people eating, shopping, and going about their lives.

Hike Mt. Taal – Mt. Taal is located about 2-3 hours away from Manila, close to a town called Tagaytay. It’s the world’s smallest active volcano!

Food

I hate to admit this, but Filipino food is my least favorite in Asia. Don’t get your hopes too high. Except for this roast pig called Lechon (seen below) — that is amazing!

There are a few other local dishes that I enjoyed, like sinigang (a sour and savory beef stew), and lumpia (fried egg rolls) — but these dishes don’t have anything on the tasty foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Japan or Korea.

Much of the local “Filipino foods” are plain rice and fish. It gets old after a while.

Also, Manila has a lot of fast food all over the place — both American food chains and local joints. I tried McDonald’s and Wendy’s in Manila, and both were the lowest quality I’ve ever had.

Nightlife

Manila’s nightlife is CRAZY, and I’d put it in the Top 5 best party cities in Asia. It was so unexpected, and I had a legendary time raging with new Filipino friends.

The nightlife scene mostly consists of young, flashy and sexy party goers who are looking for nothing more than to have a great time.

There’s something for everyone. All of the upscale bars and clubs are in either Makati or The Fort area. Some of my favorites were Club Valkyrie, Pool Club and Club Chaos and House Manila.

Lastly, The Philippines is home to one of my favorite beers in Asia called Red Horse. It is really cheap and strong (like 9%) and it’s sold all over town. If you don’t like beer this strong, then try some San Miguel — it’s also local.

Where To Stay?

From cheap hostels to luxury condos, Manila has a large variety of places to stay that will satisfy your budget. Below is a list of my favorite places around the city.

For a more comprehensive list of accommodations in Manila, check out this page on Agoda.com and book your stay today!

Z Hostel (Book online now)

Z Hostel is the only hostel I’ve stayed at in Manila, and I absolutely recommend it for budget travelers. It’s one of the most well-kept and friendly hostels that I’ve ever been to, in the heart and center of the bustling Makati district. Z hostel is 7 stories tall and offers affordable private rooms as well as dorm rooms. The building has a wonderful hostel vibe with friendly staff, a variety of backpackers from all over the world, a really delicious cafe, and my favorite rooftop bar in the city (you have to see the view).

City Garden Hotel (Book Online Now)

The City Garden Hotel is located right off Makati Ave. This mid-price hotel offers huge rooms with nice size king beds, fast wifi, and a spacious floor area. There is a solid gym, pool area, and a buffet with genuinely great local foods. The staff will make you feel right at home!

Sofitel Plaza Manila Hotel (Book Online Now)

Sofitel Manila is as good as it gets! This luxury hotel has the most spectacular buffet I’ve ever enjoyed. The service is just as amazing as the cleanliness and comfortable rooms. Head down to the relaxing pool to drink a martini while watching the golden sun set over the bay. Highly recommended!

Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to Manila? Comment Below!

Top offers

Get Access To Exclusive Travel Tips &
My Travel Secrets In Your Inbox

Get Access To Exclusive Travel Tips &
My Travel Secrets In Your Inbox

Everything I Recommended

Sony a7R III A Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera with FE 20mm f/1.8 G Full-Frame Lens and Accessory Bundle (6 Items)

Sony Alpha a7 III - 24MP UHD 4K Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) - AC-UUD12 AC Adapter - ALC-B1EM Body Cap - Accessory Shoe Cap - Eyepiece Cup - Micro-USB Cable - NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (2280mAh) - Shoulder Strap - Sony 1 Year Limited Warranty - Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS E-Mount Lens
Newly Developed - Full-frame 24.2MP Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS Image Sensor with Evolved Image Processing
Wide ISO range - of 100 - 51200 (expandable to ISO 50 - 204800 for still images) and 15-Stop Dynamic Range at low sensitivities
World Class AF system - featuring 693 phase-detection AF points covering 93% of image area, 425 contrast AF points and fast and reliable Eye AF
Continuous Shooting - at up to 10 fps with either Mechanical Shutter or Silent Shooting and full Auto Focus/Auto Exposure tracking
Details

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, Apple M1 Max chip with 10‑core CPU and 32‑core GPU, 64GB RAM, 1TB SSD) - Space Gray - Z15H00109

10-core - CPU, 32-core GPU
64GB - Memory
1TB - Storage
Details

TEVA Men's Hurricane Xlt2 Sandals with EVA Foam Midsole and Rugged Durabrasion Rubber Outsole

Quick-dry webbing - made from recycled plastic using traceable, verifiable REPREVE polyester yarn by Unifi supports your foot and stands up to abuse
Injection-molded strap - ends for quick and easy grip and adjustability, Easy hook-and-loop closure comes on and off quickly and gets the fit just right
Robust EVA footbed - for enhanced comfort built for all-day wear
Nylon shank - stabilizes and supports your foot on uneven terrain
Best for - day hikes, light hikes
Details

Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Stuff Sack 3-Piece Set (2.5L, 4L, and 6.5L Ultralight Stuff Sacks)

Set of three ultralight - water-resistant stuff sacks for organizing gear and clothing in a backpack or bag, for any outdoor or travel adventure
Manufactured - from lightweight 30D Ultra-Sil Cordura nylon; slippery finish makes it easy to slide bags into tight spaces for better packing
Drawcord top opening - with durable pull tab for quick and easy access to bag contents
Round base - has a reinforced webbing pull handle for easy carry; stress points are bartacked and seams are double stitched for durability
Includes three stuff sacks - 2.5 liter (open dimensions: 4 x 10 inches, weight: 0.5 ounces), 4 liter (open dimensions: 5 x 12 inches, weight: 0.5 ounces), 6.5 liter (open dimensions: 6.5 x 13 inches, weight: 0.6 ounces)
Details

LaCie Rugged USB-C 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD & Rugged Mini 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD - USB 3.0 USB 2.0 Compatible, Drop Shock Dust Rain Resistant Shuttle Drive, Orange

Product 1: - Quickly and easily connect to the latest Windows and Mac computers with Rugged’s reversible USB-C cable, or legacy computers using the included USB 3.0 adapter
Product 1: - Enjoy fast USB-C 5Gb/s file transfers, backups, and image browsing
Product 1: - Confidently tackle any terrain with drop, crush, and rain resistance
Product 1: - Take advantage of a complimentary one-month membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan for access to awesome photo and video editing apps
Product 2: - Shock, drops up to 4 feet, dust and water resistant for all-terrain use
Product 2: - For Mac compatibility this Hard Drive requires reformatting. Refer to Application Guide for more details
Product 2: - Password protection built in
Product 2: - Uses USB 3.0 which is up to 4 times faster than USB 2.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
Details

OlimpiaFit Quick Dry Towel - 3 Size Pack of Lightweight Microfiber Travel Towels w/ Bag - Fast Drying Towel Set for Camping, Beach, Gym, Backpacking, Sports, Yoga & Swim Use

COMPACT DESIGN - This sports towel set is packable for the gym, beach, and anywhere else you need them. They can easily be condensed in size 4x smaller than a camping towel of the same size.
FAST DRYING - Made with fibers that are much thinner than a standard microfiber towel, our quick dry towels have 4x as much surface area, allowing them to absorb more water and dry up to 3x as fast.
MULTIPURPOSE - Each set includes 3 lightweight travel towels in the sizes 50"x30", 30"x15", and 15"x15". Use them as swim towels to dry off, gym towels during a workout, or small beach towels on vacation.
HIGH QUALITY - Every microfiber travel towel is made with premium material that shares the same smooth qualities as satin. They're also super absorbent, odor-resistant, and won't smell after drying.
SOFT - If you're looking for a packable beach towel or swim towel, give this one a go! It has a slip-resistant surface and extra plush microfiber that is oh-so-gentle on your face, body, and skin.
Details

GoPro HERO10 Black

More Power. More Clarity - More Stability. Revolutionary Processor: Faster. Smoother. Better. The powerful new GP2 engine changes the game—snappy performance, responsive touch controls and double the frame rate for amazingly smooth footage. Designed specifically for the demanding nature of the GoPro, the GP2 “system on a chip” is by far our fastest ever.
MORE STABILITY - Groundbreaking HyperSmooth 4.0 is our most advanced stabilization ever. 8X SLO-MO. - HERO10 Black captures up to 240 frames per second for astonishing 8x slo-mo. MORE ACCELERATION. - Record mesmerizing time-lapse videos with LIVEBURST - Record 1.5 seconds before and after your shot. Find the best pic or share it as a short video.
KEY SPECIFICATIONS - SCREEN SIZE - 23MP GP2 Chip with Improved Performance - 5.3K60/4K120/2.7K240 Video, 23MP Photos - New Front Display/Rear Touchscreen - Cloud Connected, 1080p Live Streaming - Enhanced Low-Light Performance - HyperSmooth 4.0 Image Stabilization - 33' Waterproof without a Housing - Time-Lapse & Night-Lapse, 8x Slo-Mo - Built-In Flip-Out 2-Prong Mount - 1720mAh Capacity Battery
Night-Lapse Video - In-Camera Horizon Leveling; Live View Front Display & Intuitive Rear Touchscreen; Webcam Mode & 1080p HD Live Streaming. Standard, Activity, Cinematic, Slo-Mo & Custom Presets; Voice Control; Portrait Orientation; RAW Photo Mode; Built-In Mounting
Bundle Includes – 1 x GoPro HERO10 Black - Waterproof Action Camera with Front LCD and Touch Rear Screens, 5.3K HD Video, 23MP Photos, 1080p Live Streaming, Stabilization | 1 x Compatible Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery | 1 x Extreme Pro 64gb microSDXC Card | 1 x 6AVE Electronics TM Microfiber Cloth
Details

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack

Meets carry-on size - restrictions for most domestic airlines - Dimensions 21.5h x 14w x 9d IN.
U-zip - zip access to main compartment with lockable zippers on main and laptop compartments - 46L total volume
Shoulder straps - and hipbelt can be tucked away when the bag is checked
Protected rear - panel zip laptop sleeve and front panel vertical zippered pocket for books or other documents
Tuckaway web loops - to attach a shoulder strap (sold separately)
StraightJacket compression - straps compress the bag to a smaller size when it isn’t full
Dual internal zippered - organization side pockets and front panel organization with zippered pocket and key clip
Reinforced cord loops - to attach an Osprey Daylite daypack (sold separately)
Details

Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple devices - Black (Wired 3.5mm)

Apple compatible devices - Applies to: QC 25 noise cancelling headphones Apple devices The remote and mic are compatible with the following Apple devices: iPhone 3GS or later iPad iPod touch 2nd generation or later iPod classic 120GB, 160GB iPod nano 4th generation or later
Deep, powerful sound - for the music you love
Lightweight, comfortable around - ear fit you can wear all day long
Control your music - and calls on Apple devices with inline mic/remote
Details

Top Offers

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 points

Explore More Travel Tips

Travel Tips

Advertiser Disclosure

Drew Binsky has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Drew Binsky and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Editorial Disclosure

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Editorial Disclosure

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.