Most traveler arrive in the Philippines via the capital city Manila. Manila is a massive city with on one side the skyscrapers, western malls and luxurious hotels and on the other hand the poor, unsafe neighborhoods, local shops and busy streets. Busy streets are everywhere to be honest. I didn’t spent much time in Manila. Only one night upon arrival after my 15 hour direct KLM flight from Amsterdam via Taipei and one day before my departure back to Amsterdam. Manila did not appeal to me that much and I heard from many people that you could better spend the time on the islands than in this big city; and that was exactly what I did.
The traffic is busy in Manila but still the taxi is the main transport to get to the center of Manila. My hotel was in the business district called Makati and took me about 30 min and cost me ±200PP.
Tip: Download the Grab app to book a safe and cheap taxi. Grab is the Uber here in the Philippines. At the airport there is a booth outside where they book the Grab car for you, if you haven’t downloaded the app yet.
But first things first; get yourself a SIM card with some credit to be online during the trip. At the airport you can buy the SIM card at one of the booths at the terminal (3). I bought a Smart with 18G for 4 weeks for 1.000 Philippine Peso/± 19 USD.
Be aware that the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), has 4 terminals. I arrived and departed my international flights from terminal 3 and used terminal 4 for national flights. The terminals not in walking distance from each other so take that into account if you have a stop-over.
Restaurants and Accommodation
I booked a nice room at the New World Makati Hotel and I tell you why?! My planning was to come back to this hotel the day of my departure one month later, but I would not sleep here and only use the facilities. When I arrived around 20:00 after long flight and went straight to my room for shower and to bed. The next day I left in the morning to catch my Cebu Pacific flight to Siargao. I asked the hotel to use the facilities one month later to store my luggage, use the bathroom and pool. This was all fine; perfect deal! When I arrived back in Manila at 11:00 with AirSwift from El Nido; I went shopping in the Greenbelt Malls, chilled at the hotel swimming pool, changed my cloth in the bathroom and booked a Grab taxi back to the airport around 18:00. Efficient planning!!
Tip: Invest in your hotel room so you can use the facilities (preferably a swimming pool and chill area) the day of your departure! Or you can book the night before and request a late check out or store your luggage. But I could spent a day longer on the islands instead of the busy city.
I liked the safe Makati neighborhood with the Greenbelt Malls and park within walking distance. Another advantage is that this neighborhood is close to the airport which is a must with the busy Manila traffic. My hotel was flexible and the service is very high. I found the service in the entire Philippines very high, friendly people that help you with everything.
I went to the Starbucks in Greenbelt Park for breakfast and had lunch on my last day at the Wholesome Table at Greenbelt Mall 2. The last one is a real recommendation for any meal or coffee of the day, perfect styled and great organic food.
I know not much on Manila, but more time this beach girl could spent on the beach and in the water snorkeling, surfing and sailing!
Next stop like me Siargao? Or are you going to Palawan (El Nido or Coron)?!