Manila Travel Guide
For first time travelers to Manila the maze of busy streets, frenetic traffic combined with tropical heat and pollution can be intimidating. But looking beyond that, there are lots of shopping and entertainment options and Manila boasts some of the best restaurants and most exclusive shopping venues in the Philippines. Heavy bombing during WWII devastated most of Manila and as a result few colonial landmarks remain today. Reminders of the towns colonial past can be found around Intramuros the old city created by Spanish. The tourism infrastructure is centered around the adjacent districts of Malata and Ermita. Located conveniently close to the airport is the business district of Makati, with a range of upmarket hotels, restaurants and bars and another popular place to stay. The city of Manila is the capital of the Philippines and forms together with 16 neighboring districts the Metro Manila. It is located on the shores of Manila bay in the Southeastern part of Luzon and split by the Pasig river. The population is still growing and currently there are already over 20 million inhabitants in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, making it the fifth largest urban area in the world by population. The city hosts the countries best universities who are attracting students from all over the Philippines as well as foreign students, mainly from South Korea. Manila is also Philippines' economic powerhouse and most international companies have some form of presence here, tapping into the cities growing amount of young educated workers. Internet & communication Staying connected while travelling is ofcourse important. Finding a place to stay connected in Manila is fortunately easy with the availability of free WiFi networks and paid internet cafes. All of the SM malls are offering free wireless access in their grounds, although connection speed can be frustratingly slow during
peak hours. Free internet access is also available on the international airport. Some bus companies like JAC - and Victory liner even have free WiFi access in a selection of their buses. Paid internet access cafes offering cheap VoIP calls and printing services are scattered throughout Manila and malls usually have them on their top floors. The area code for Manila is 02. Pay phones are very common and most Filipinos also have a mobile phone. Globe and Smart are the two main carriers and are offering roaming services to international visitors. If you want to avoid high roaming costs, you can buy a local SIM card for as low as 50php at many outlets in malls or on the International airport. Topping up your prepaid sim card is easy and prepaid phone cards are sold in almost all convenience stores. Weather There are two seasons dictating the weather in Manila. A dry season between November and May and a wet season during the other months. The most pleasant time to visit Manila is between December and April when the temperatures are relatively cool and the skies are clear. Daytime temperature during this time are hovering around 30째C and at night it cools down to a pleasant 23째C. From May, temperatures are heating up and rains starts to pour in. Typhoons usually occur between June and September and can bring the city to a halt for a day or two. Visa extension Most travellers are issued a free 30 days tourist visa on arrival. Another 29 day visa extension is generally easy to obtain without leaving the country. You can apply for one at the Bureau of Immigration in Makati City on the ground floor of the Board of Investment building on Gil Puyat Avenue or in Pasay City on Roxas Boulevard on the ground floor of the PEZA building. A dress code applies so be sure to dress appropriately.
Money ATMs connected to international payment network of Cirrus or Plus are dotted all over the city and the most hassle-free way to get cash. Most banks levy a 5 USD service fee for withdrawals by guest users. Best place to exchange money is at official money changers inside the malls, as they offer the best exchange rates and the location makes them safe. Aside from pesos most upmarket places tend to accept US dollars as well as Mastercard and Visa credit cards . Staying safe
Manila is reasonable safe for travellers, but as in all big cities you should take precaution against pickpockets and luggage snatchers. Violent crime targeted against foreigners is rare and you should experience no problems if you stay alert and watch your belongings. In case you are casualty of a petty crime you should always file a report with the police department. Its unlikely they get your belongings back, but you need the report for your insurance company.
Highlights Manila The walled city of Intramuros build by the Spanish to keep out foreign invaders should be on your itinerary. Within the walls, you can do an easy full day walking tour by visiting Fort Santiago and the Rizal Museum located within the premises of the latter and just across Fort Santiago is the Manila Cathedral, which is the prime basilica of the Philippines.
Afterwards head to the opulent Casa Manila, a reconstruction of a Spanish colonial houses and end the tour with a visit to the oldest church in the Philippines: the San Augustin church. Two museums in Manila are well worth a visit. The National Museum of the Philippines is hosted in the old Congress Building and showcases paintings of Filipino masters. The adjacent building is the former Ministry of Finance and currently houses the National Museum of the Filipino people. The museum includes the skull of the Philippines earliest known inhabitant as well as treasures recovered from a Spanish galleon. A trip to Manila is not complete without visiting a Mall. The Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world and boasts a dazzling range of shops and entertainment options. The well stocked foodcourt offers cheap and good eats, while in the IMAX cinema you can give your legs some well deserved rest after hours of hard shopping. A large congregation of fine restaurants and fashionable bars and nightclubs can be found in the Fort Bonifacio Entertainment Center (or the Fort) in Makati as well as in nearby Serendra. Get a taste of traditional Filipino food in Abe restaurant in Serendra and indulge your taste buds with a delicious Pork Sinigang. After that dance and drink the night away in the Archema with its 5 bars and 2 dance floors divided over three floors.
Corregidor island strategically located in the bay of Manila has been the scene of many battles throughout history and was involved in both WWII and in the American-Spanish war. There are several fortresses, tunnels and war relics scattered over the island, as well as a hotel and attached restaurant. Day tours from Manila are leaving from the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Roxas boulevard. Tour agencies have 3 day tours including accommodation in the Corregidor hotel and buffet style eating.
Activities Manila Relax in a Spa Venues offering a wide range of massages are quite common in Manila. Usually advanced booking is not necessary and waiting times are short, but advanced booking through group buying sites might get you a better deal. We have pampered ourselves in the following Spa's: Toccarre Spa in Antel Suites, Makati The Spa with branches at Makati, Ortigas and Quezon City ACE water spa in Quezon City Hourly massage rates are around 400php and above depending on the spa. Most spa also offers free usage of their sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi and shower room. Swimming There are a couple of public swimming pools in Manila, but most of them are in a state of despair or located far away from the city center, so your best option is to use a pool from one of the luxury star hotels. The Hotel Sofitel on Roxas Boulevard has a large outdoor leisure pool. Other good options are the Shangri-La hotel and The Peninsula Manila. The Manila Ocean Park http://www.manilaoceanpark.com/ also has a swimming pool amongst other amenities and is conveniently located close to Intramuros. Golfing
There is a small, but challenging golf course inside Intramuros surrounding Fort Santiago. The 18-hole, par- 66 course can be completed in under two hours and is open for non-residents, which have to book at least 2 days in advance. Day rates for non-residents are 40 USD including the 5 USD caddy fee and evening rates are 70 USD. Cooking Classes Cooking classes are gaining popularity under locals and visitors alike. Most cooking schools offer handson classes where you will prepare and eat your own dish. We received good reviews from the following long standing schools: Center for Asian Culinary Studieshttp://www.cacschef.com/ and the Heny Sison Culinary Schoolhttp://www.henysison.com/Courses/Life_Courses.html . Both schools offer a wide ranges of courses; day courses start around 40 USD. Walking tour The historical part of Manila is easily explored on foot and together with a professional guide give you an insight into the life of earlier inhabitants of Manila. Tours guided by Carlos Celdran are deservedly popular and leave from the Fort Santiago - Santa Cara Street in Intramuros and no advance booking is required. For details checkout his blog onhttp://celdrantours.blogspot.com/ . Yoga Traveling can be stressful on the mind and body and some Yoga exercise might be a good way to relief some of this stress. Yoga schools in Manila are open to walk-in visitors. Yoga Manila -www.yogamanila.com is operating from a couple of studios in Manila. The most central location is in Makati - Greenbelt Mansion. Walk-in visitors pay 12 USD for a single session. Prepaid cards with 6 or 12 classes are better value a 55 USD and 88 USD. Ice skating Want to cool down after a day in the tropical sun? Why not go skating on real ice in the Mall of Asia. Cost for unlimited ice skating is around 9 USD. For more information have a look on their website: http://smiceskating.com/
Cinema Almost all of the malls have cinemas equipped with state of the art audio and video systems. The latest Holywood blockbuster are played with their original soundtrack for just 4 USD. There are a couple of IMAX theatres in Manila, with ticket prices double that of a normal theatre, the most central IMAX theatre is located in Mall of Asia. Details of movies and showtimes are listed on www.clickthecity.com and in local newspapers.