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Ultimate Guide to Manila

Guide to Manila

Where to work?

Our recommendation is:

Get an apartment with decent internet and work from there. If that’s not your thing there are several coworking spaces all over the city. Unfortunately most of them are pretty expensive and rather target big companies than digital nomads. I can recommend LUB D in Makati which is free if you order food and drinks at their bar (if you are one of their hostel guests it’s free anyway). Another good option is BayBayIn Hostel. It is very local but has good internet and is close to MOA and the airport.

If you are the coffee shop guy, be aware that many Coffee Shops all over the Philippines DO NOT offer Free Wifi. They stopped offering it because many remote workers (which is the most common non BPO/Hospitality job here since the pandemic) stayed the entire day and blocked the place for paying customers.

Malls usually provide you with 30-120 mins of free wifi. But often you need a local number to use them.


Where to stay?

If you stay in Manila just for a night or two:

Stay close to the airport. Everything that is close to Mall of Asia (MOA) will give you access to all kinds of food and it’s never more than 1h to the airport, even in rush hour.

If you don’t mind staying with locals, stay at BayBayIn. BayBayIn offers private and dorm style accommodation and comes with access to its coworking space. Get delivery from MOA or eat like a local for less than 2 USD.

Manila is (in)famous for its parties. 24 million people live there – Most clubs and bars are packed from Monday to Sunday! If you want to stay close to the action, stay in Poblacion, Makati.

There are many hotels and Airbnb in the area. Be aware that in rush hour it can take you up to 3h from Poblacion Manila Airport, which is only 8km away!

Stay for a week or longer:

I recommend you to stay in the Makati, BGC or Ortigas area (from 30k PHP/month). Those are the “rich” areas with plenty of western style accommodation, malls and high-risers with some local (cheaper) quarters in between.

If you are on a budget but still wanna stay in the most expensive city in the Philippines, we can recommend small Asian style houses at Poblacion (Makati) or BayBayIn in Pasay. But don’t expect western comfort. (from 15k PHP/month)


Where to eat?

Of course that highly depends on where you stay.

Most people will stay in Makati, that’s why I will focus on this area.

Every mall will have plenty of food options for cheap prices compared to western countries. So for the quick bite, Filipino or western style (Burger, Pizza) food just go to the closest mall and it will satisfy all your cravings. Malls are everywhere, you won’t have trouble finding one!

One mall that stands out is Mall of Asia. It’s the biggest in the Philippines and faces Manila Bay and is in Pasig. Perfect for a romantic but still affordable dinner. The biggest mall area in Makati is called “Greenbelt”.

The most famous restaurant and bar area is Burgos Street and pretty much the whole Poblacion area in Makati.

I do not recommend specific restaurants but rather areas. Restaurants open and close frequently. We recommend you to use google maps for your own food research.

In Poblacion you find high end and local restaurants side by side. There are also local street food markets. Street food markets usually offer a live band and live music as well.

For vegans / vegetarian diets:

International restaurants usually have at least one vegetarian option.

Local food is often with meat or fish/seafood. If you eat fish and seafood you won’t encounter any problems. If you don’t eat any meat, I recommend cooking for yourself and buying vegetables from markets or supermarkets.

There is a small market at Poblacion in Makati and you will find supermarkets at every mall. Look for “The Marketplace” if you value quality and can afford the price.

Like a local:

In general, you can find small “Cantinas” everywhere where you can find normal 1-3 story houses. In general, local women cook local dishes. You can eat there for 1 USD. Make sure your stomach is ok with this because hygiene in big cities is often questionable, and you can imagine that the pieces of meat for 1 USD are not the “good parts”.


Where to go?

Manila itself provides everything you can expect from a major city except decent public transport and nature…

If you have to travel during rush hour you are screwed. Period.

You can escape the city easily by plane. Just go wherever you want to go but in this section I focus more on things you can do as a day or weekend trip from Manila.

Batangas: About 3h away from Manila (1.5h at night). You can find several nice beaches and diving spots in the surroundings of Batangas. Car or guided excursion required.

Puerto Galera: Take a 1.5h ferry from Batangas Port and you arrive at the beach town of Batangas. You will find some nice beaches and all kinds of water activities here. There are some nice hikes and you can also do ATV tours.

Rizal: Go for a hike or explore the untouched nature via ATV Adventures Rizal.

Tagaytay: Weekend Getaway for wealthy Manila people. Situated at the edge of a massive caldera overlooking the Taal Volcano. Perfect if you want to escape the heat.

Zambales: You want to disconnect from the world? Go to Zambales! Some beaches are accessible by car but you can also take a boat to San Antonio to Anawangin Bay or Talisay Cove and enjoy a night under the stars in a tent without signal.

La Union*: 5-8h north from Manila, you have one of the best surfing spots in the Philippines. The beach is dark, but you can enjoy great waves and a laid back surfer village.

Stay in town:

Intramuros is the hidden gem of Manila. Go there without expectations and you will be surprised! Small parks nestled in the old colonial walls, a great museum and some nice views along the Pasig river.

Special Advice:

The city of Manila is actually just a part of Metro Manila. But if somebody says “Manila” he always refers to Metro Manila.

Metro Manila is divided into 17 cities you can find on the map on the right.

Which other names will be used very often in order to refer to a city area?

  • BGC / Ortigas – Former US-Military Base and now upscale quarters of Makati and Pasig.
  • Intramuros – Old Manila. Intramuros is the old colonial Manila, which was destroyed in World War II. The old colonial walls are still there and the cathedral was rebuilt but most other buildings are replaced or in a bad shape.
  • Burgos – Red Light and bar / restaurant district of Makati
  • Ermita – Former prime area in Manila, but most good bars, clubs and restaurants have relocated to Burgos or other areas in Makati.
  • Malate – Red Light District of Manila

Be aware of the traffic:

If you stay in Makati, BGC, Ortigas or Ermita/Malate it can take you up to 3h to get to the airport! Always take the Skyway which costs 1-3USD extra. It will save you up to 2h in Rush hour!


If you have to move from A to B and you don’t mind the heat in general it’s best to call an Angkas (Motorbike-Taxi) but in Mandaluyong it’s forbidden to ride a motorbike with two men. The driver is always a man. ⇾ Sorry guys you can’t take Angkas in Mandaluyong.

How to get to Manila from: CLARK!

  1. Bus: From Clark International Airport or Clark Freeport Zone, you can take a bus to Manila. Several bus companies operate routes between Clark and Manila, with terminals located near the airport. Look for buses heading to destinations such as Pasay, Cubao, or Manila, and choose the one that best suits your destination within Manila.

  2. Shuttle Service: Many hotels and resorts in Clark offer shuttle services to Manila. If you’re staying at one of these accommodations, inquire about their shuttle schedules and rates. This can be a convenient option, especially if you’re traveling with luggage or prefer a direct transfer to your destination in Manila.

  3. Taxi/Grab: Taxis and ride-hailing services like Grab are available in Clark and can take you directly to Manila. This option offers flexibility and convenience, but it may be more expensive compared to buses or shuttles.

  4. Private Car Rental: If you prefer a more personalized and flexible transportation option, you can rent a car and drive from Clark to Manila. Several car rental companies operate in Clark, offering a range of vehicles to suit your needs.

  5. Train: The Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates a commuter train service between Clark and Manila. However, as of my last update, this service is limited and may not be the most convenient option for travelers.

  6. Flight: If you’re short on time or prefer to fly, you can book a domestic flight from Clark International Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. Several airlines operate daily flights between these two airports, offering a quick and convenient travel option.

How to get to Manila from: CEBU!

  1. Flight: Book a flight from Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila. There are numerous daily flights operated by various airlines between these two airports; the flight duration is around 1hr 30 mins. Check the flight schedules and prices of different airlines to find the option that best suits your itinerary and budget. Arrive at Mactan-Cebu International Airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time to complete check-in and security procedures.

  1. Ferry from Cebu City to Manila: Travel to Cebu City, where you’ll find several ferry terminals offering trips to Manila. The most common departure point is the Port of Cebu. Purchase a ticket for a ferry bound for Manila. Several ferry companies operate on this route, offering both overnight and daytime trips. Board the ferry at the designated departure time and settle into your seat or cabin for the duration of the journey. Ferry travel time from Cebu to Manila can vary depending on the type of vessel and route, but it typically takes around 24-30 hours.

  1. Bus from Cebu City to Manila: Head to the Cebu South Bus Terminal, where you’ll find buses departing for various destinations across the Philippines, including Manila. Purchase a ticket for a bus bound for Manila. Several bus companies offer both regular and deluxe bus services with varying levels of comfort and amenities. Board the bus at the designated departure time and prepare for a long journey. The bus trip from Cebu City to Manila can take approximately 24-30 hours, depending on traffic conditions and rest stops along the way.

How to get to Manila from: DAVAO!

  1. Flight: The most convenient and quickest way to travel between Davao and Manila is by air. Book a flight from Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. Several airlines operate daily flights between these two cities, offering various schedules and fare options to choose from. Be sure to check for flight availability and book your tickets in advance to secure the best deals. Arrive at Francisco Bangoy International Airport well in advance of your flight departure time to complete the check-in process and clear security screening. Once checked in, proceed to the designated boarding gate for your flight to Manila. The flight from Davao to Manila typically takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on factors such as airline, aircraft type, and weather conditions. Upon arrival at NAIA in Manila, follow signs to the baggage claim area to retrieve your luggage. After collecting your belongings, proceed through customs and immigration control. Once cleared, exit the airport terminal and proceed to the transportation options available for onward travel to your destination within Manila.

  2. Transportation from NAIA to Your Destination in Manila: From NAIA, you have several transportation options to reach your final destination in Manila. These include:

    • Taxi: Taxis are readily available at NAIA terminals. Look for the official taxi stands outside the arrival area. Make sure to use metered taxis or agree on a fare before starting your journey.
    • Ride-Hailing Apps: You can also use ride-hailing apps such as Grab to book a private car or taxi to your destination in Manila.
    • Airport Shuttle: Some hotels in Manila provide shuttle services for guests arriving at NAIA. Check with your hotel in advance if they offer this service.
    • Public Transportation: For budget-conscious travelers, you can take public buses or the airport shuttle service to various parts of Manila.

Once you arrive:

  1. Hotel Transfers: Many hotels in Manila offer airport transfer services for their guests. Before your arrival, make arrangements with your hotel to arrange for a pick-up service. Look for your hotel representative holding a sign with your name in the arrivals area. They will assist you with your luggage and transport you to your accommodation.

  2. Taxi or Ride-Hailing Services: Metered taxis are available at designated taxi stands outside the arrival terminals at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Alternatively, you can use ride-hailing apps like Grab to book a private car to your hotel. Be cautious of unofficial taxi operators and negotiate fares or use metered taxis to avoid overcharging.

  3. Airport Shuttle: Some hotels in Manila provide complimentary shuttle services for their guests. Check with your hotel in advance to see if they offer this service and where to find the shuttle pick-up point at the airport.

  4. Public Transportation: For budget travelers, public transportation options are available from NAIA to various parts of Manila. The airport is connected to the Metro Manila Integrated Bus Terminal (MMIBT) by the Airport Loop shuttle service. From MMIBT, you can take buses or jeepneys to different parts of the city. However, using public transportation may involve multiple transfers and navigating through crowded terminals, so it’s recommended for those familiar with the area.

  5. Tricycle or Motorcycle Taxi: While tricycles and motorcycle taxis are not commonly found at NAIA, they are widely available for short-distance transportation within Manila. You can find them at street corners or near public transportation terminals. Negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in and be mindful of traffic regulations and safety precautions.