Although Manila can be quite intimidating and scary to many foreigners (even locals), it has a lot to offer past the hellish traffic and pollution. If you’re planning to visit Manila any time soon and are terrified of what to expect, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you better prepare for your trip and ease your mind.
Best time to visit
The Philippines has only two seasons: wet and dry. Although it’s warm and humid all year round (as expected from a tropical country) the two seasons can overlap. Typically, the dry season is between January and June while the wet season is between July and December. The best time to visit is during the months of December to February when it’s cool and dry; however, for those on a travel budget, manila hotels have higher rates during peak season which starts in November and ends in April.
Arriving in Manila
Most international flights arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. Your best options for getting from the airport to your hotel are by Grab followed by a metered taxi. Grab is an app-based service you can use to book a ride to your destination. If you aren’t able to get a wifi connectivity or aren’t able to use your mobile data, you can find a green booth usually at the arrival curbsides with a sign that reads Grab and they can book the ride for you. For metered taxis, a dispatcher will jot down information about your destination and the plate number of the taxi you’re in. Make sure the driver flags down the meter. If he refuses to do so and tries to negotiate a fixed price, step out of the taxi and fall in line again.
Where to stay
Apart from the usual 5 star hotel in Manila, there are other accommodations around the capital to suit your taste. There are budget hotels, boutique hostels, apartment and condo rentals, bed and breakfasts, and even capsule rooms. If you prefer to be at the central business district, you can easily find accommodation in Makati. If you’re looking for a more tranquil part of Manila, head south to Alabang, Muntinlupa and you’ll find a few accommodations where some of the best hotels in Manila with pool are home to.
Where to exchange currency
The currency used in the Philippines is Philippine peso. Notes come in denominations of ₱20, ₱50, ₱100, ₱200, ₱500, and ₱1,000. The coins come in 25 cents and ₱1, ₱5, and ₱10 pesos. The best place to exchange currency is at a money changer where the rates are relatively better than in banks. You can find money changers in malls and even on the streets. Ask the hotel where you can find the nearest money changer is.
How to get around
The safest way to get around Manila is through commuter apps such as Grab and Uber. Although they’re not the cheapest options, they’re the safest and most convenient. Many regular taxis have a reputation for extorting from their passengers. Public buses are a no-go as well because most bus drivers drive like a maniac and there’s always a risk of getting pick pocketed. Lastly, unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t go near the MRT stations.
Getting around Manila is the difficult part; once you’ve familiarized yourself with the transportation system, you’ll discover a whole lot more about the metropolis and learn that this chaotic city is just a work still in progress.
||The Heritage Hotel Manila