Jeepneys make a fun and easy way to get around the city. They cover the whole city and run 24 hours a day. Simply spot one of these colourfully decorated vehicles, flag it down and hop onboard. The ride may be a little hair-raising but it's cheap and probably the most practical method of getting around the city with ease.
Taxis are plentiful in the city and should run by the meter, which ensures they don't overcharge. Make sure to get your driver to turn on the meter as soon as you depart to avoid being taken advantage of. There are several companies running taxis and all have varied rates. EMP, R&E and Avis are some of the trustworthy companies.
Avis, Budget and Hertz all offer car rentals in Manila. However, you should know that driving conditions in the city are far from what you would find in Western countries. Traffic jams, aggressive drivers, lack of adherence to the traffic laws and horn-honking are just some of the problems you can expect to encounter as a driver in Manila.
There are several metro lines running throughout the city, all with limited coverage of Manila. The trains shutdown early and tend to run along commuter lines rather than following touristy hotspots. If you're looking for particular parts of the city, the metro will take you there. However, it may not be best for short-stay tourists who just want to see the sights.
As unpredictable as the city might be, the weather is one thing you can generally rely on in Manila. Tropical and equatorial, the temperature rarely drops lower than 20°C. During the warmer months though it has been known to exceed 38°C. The rainy season fluctuates but typically begins May, making it a more popular destination over June, July and August to avoid the humidity.
Tagalog (Filipino) is spoken by the vast majority of Filipinos and is most widely spoken in Manila. Along with English it is one of the Philippines' official languages. English tends to be the language of business and in government proceedings, so it is very widely spoken. While most Filipinos prefer to speak Tagalog, most have an understanding of English as well.
Manila has a reputation for theft due to its huge poverty issues. Take precautions to avoid pickpockets and purse-snatchers and avoid wearing any valuable jewellery. Never walk through the city alone, especially after dark, and be aware that taxi drivers often try to charge hiked-up fees. Once inside the taxi, lock the doors immediately – tourists make popular targets for criminals.
Tipping is expected in Manila, even when service charge is included. A good rule of thumb is to always add 5% to 10% onto any restaurant bill. In hotels, 5 to 20 pesos, depending on the quality of the hotel, is common, while rounding up with an extra 5 pesos for cab drivers is expected no matter the destination.
Leave from either Auckland or Wellington airports. Get there from Wellington in 16 hours, with a stopover in Sydney, flying Qantas.
From Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport you can take a private car to the city centre for a relatively cheap price. The airport is within easy reach of the city – just 20km – and cars to take you directly to your hotel can be easily arranged at the airport or in advance through your hotel.
Some local bus routes run services from the airport to points around Manila and surrounding areas. While shuttle buses run between the four terminals to make international and domestic flight transfers a little bit smoother, you can take advantage of bus services that stop at the airport when heading into the city. It's definitely a cheaper transfer option.
Taxis are plentiful and run from the airport to anywhere in and around Manila. Some rogue drivers have a habit of trying to take you to a specific hotel, for which they get a commission, so be sure to confirm your destination with the driver beforehand. Hotel taxis are significantly more expensive but will at least take you where you want to go.
If you prefer to tackle the roads your own way, you can book ahead and hire a car to pick up from the airport. There are several car hire companies that operate out of the airport, so compare prices for the best deal. Make sure to get insurance as the traffic in Manila can be a little hectic at the best of times.
Manila is a city of many parts and it's nothing if not diverse. Get a feel for it with a city tour where you can explore both the commercial and the historical. Tours will take you through Makati, known for its entertainment and malls, as well as Intramuros, which was the seat of the government during the Spanish colonial period.
At 1,250 feet above sea level, you can see an awful lot. But the most incredible sight Tagaytay Ridge offers is that of the smallest flowing volcano in the world – Taal in the middle of Taal Lake. The tour includes an extensive history and the People's Park in the Sky, which has excellent views of Manila and a trip to a local museum.
Head out of the city for a day and explore Hidden Valley, a protected natural area boasting a huge, 300-foot deep crater. The crater shows off a 110-acre extinct volcano, natural springs, rock pools and wildlife including ferns, trees and rare orchids. Just one hour out of Manila, it's a must-see when you travel to the Philippines.
Get your culture fix with an evening of traditional Filipino food and a display of traditional folk dances, in costume, from both the north and south of the country. There's plenty of audience participation so don't leave your dancing shoes at home. There are several restaurants throughout the city that offer show and dinner packages, so book ahead to ensure a night of entertainment.
If you're looking for somewhere special to indulge in a little of the local cuisine, La Cocina de Tita Moning has the x-factor. Set in a turn-of-the-century home, the food mirrors that of the late 19th century with plenty of Spanish influence. A night here includes a tour of the house, a multi-course set menu served on antique china and cocktails on the patio area.
One of Manila's most popular Filipino eating houses is well worth a visit on your travels. The local cuisine is more expensive than you'll find in other areas of the city but it offers a great introduction to Filipino favourites. The restaurant has hosted kings, queens, presidents and celebrities, making it one of the city's most prominent dining spots – and well worth the price.
Home-cooked Filipino cuisine is the most authentic you'll find, but Café Juanita is surely the next best thing. With décor to die for and a menu featuring pork adobo, deep-fried whiting, angel hair pasta with crab fat sauce and taro leaves in coconut milk, this is one of the most pleasant – and delicious- ways you'll find of getting to grips with Filipino food.
High-end and very aspirational, this is the ideal spot to step away from the craziness of Manila and impress a romantic date. Sala Restaurant serves up some of the finest food in town, including foie gras, Kurobuta pork and Angus beef. Primarily a steak restaurant, portions are big, well presented and of the highest standards – with prices to match.
Lacking all pretention, this down-to-earth venue is one for those of a certain age. My Brother's Moustache offers timeless folk music and a friendly, beer-swilling crowd and is likely to be lively right up until closing time. Set on one of the most popular bar streets, you'll be among like-minded revelers.
Hobbit House has a great selection of beers and some excellent live music, but the real reason visitors have flocked here since the 1970s is the wait staff, who are all little people. This unusual novelty has made Hobbit House one of Manila's most popular bars and tourist destinations.
A favourite of arty types, Conspiracy Bar focuses on live music, art exhibitions and cheap beer. There's a patio area for drinking outside and a large indoor area. If you're looking for low-key drinks and a chance to meet Manila's cool crowd, this is the place to be.
Formerly Penguin Gallery, this bar has a long history of being a favourite among the hip and bohemian crowd that live in and pass through Manila. It is still home to reasonably priced drinks, live music sets and interesting art exhibits, including installations. Drop by for some fantastic drinks or just a bite.
Get to know Manila by Jeepney. The city is quite disjointed but easy to get around. Intramuros makes the most spectacular stop-off, especially if you have more than a passing interest in the Spanish colonial past of the Philippines. Top off an afternoon of culture at a Filipino restaurant, where specialties include braised pork or paellas.
Manila is all about shopping. Experience its consumerist culture for yourself by heading to one of its best malls, the Mall of Asia in Pasay. One of the largest malls in Asia, it takes a good half-day to do it justice. Once you've shopped 'til you drop, head to Makati's restaurants and bars to wrap up your big day.
Pack your camera and take a short one to two-hour trip out of the city to visit Tagaytay Ridge for excellent views of the lake and volcano. There are options for staying overnight in the area, but it's also doable in a day, if you get an early start. Hit up one of Manila's famous entertainment restaurants for a show and dinner to cap the evening off.
Take a day trip to Corregidor Island 48km away from the city. During World War II, the island was fortified to be part of the Philippine's defense against the Japanese. It was attacked heavily, and now serves as a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives there. After a thought-provoking day, head back to the city for a subdued evening of drinks in Antipolo, overlooking the Manila sunset.
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