The capital city of the Philippines is a unique holiday destination, and Manila has something to offer every traveller. You will enjoy the juxtaposition of colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers whether you are interested in traditional food or the historic 16-century walled city of Intramuros, perfect to explore on one of the locally made bamboo bikes. Across the river, Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world and an exciting and traditional dining location.
Manila is easy to navigate on two or four wheels. The economy in Manila has been booming in recent years, so you’ll find plenty of recognisable sights in the more than 100 malls, ice rinks, bowling alleys and IMAX cinema. As you taste your way through Manila, end your culinary journey at the Dessert Museum on Manila Bay. Here you can tour eight dessert-themed rooms, before making your way over to the Bay to watch the sunset.
If you want a direct flight from Australia to Manila, it will take between seven and eight hours with:
Other airlines flying from Australia to Manila include:
It is most likely that you will be flying into Manila Nonoy Aquino International Airport when you arrive from Australia. If you are able, it is ideal to pre-book your airport transfer as you will be able to secure a set price.
If you don’t pre-book your transport from the airport, you will want to look for a white taxi (not a yellow one) in the upstairs departures area. Look for a taxi which has just dropped someone off, and flag them down. Ask the taxi driver to turn on the metre, rather than quoting you a set price, which is often far above a metered price.
It is also important to know that Manila is rated as the ninth-worst place in the world to drive and has some of the worst peak hour traffic. It can take just ten minutes to get to the airport from the city during the day, and up to an hour in peak times. This is more important to remember when you are heading back to the airport for your flight home, so allow extra time if you’re travelling between 7.30 and 9.30 am and 5 and 10 pm.
Uber no longer exists in South East Asia. Grab is now the only ride-sharing operation available in Manila. To access your ride-sharing apps, you’ll need to activate your global roaming or buy a local SIM card. You can also access an open network – Globe is the safest to use in Manila. Booking a ride with Grab also means you will know the rate upfront and won’t have to negotiate with a taxi driver to use their meter. If you are taking toll roads with your Grab driver, you will be responsible for paying the tolls.
If you are only able to stay in Manila for a day or two, the best way to see the city is on a tour. You can join a World War II sightseeing tour of Corregidor Island, or head out to see one of the Philippines’ most active volcanos, the Taal Volcano.
Intramuros is the heart of Spanish culture in Manila, distinguishing the city’s culture from that of its neighbours. The walled city of Intramuros was destroyed during World War II and has been traditionally restored. This is the ideal location to escape the often-chaotic atmosphere of Manila. Fort Santiago inside Intramuros is a citadel, with arched gateways and barracks originally used by the Spanish and American soldiers, now offset by gardens, fountains and plazas.
If you like to go out and party like a local when you’re on holiday, join the nightclub scene in Makati. Here you’ll also find delicious and authentic restaurants such as El Chupacabra. Makati also hosts dwarf wrestling, which is full of entertainment even if you’re not normally a wrestling fan.
A rooftop bar is a great way to enjoy a new city, and one of the few rooftop bars in Manila is at Z Hostel. You will have to buy a wristband with a chip reader in it and load it up with some funds to pay for your drinks, but this does make for smooth service at the bar. You’ll have a view over almost the whole city, friendly service and great music.
If you’re looking for authentic street food, you can’t go past a market. Manila’s Quiapo Market is in the old downtown and is a free market with plenty of local experiences to immerse yourself in. You can choose from the tusok-tusok skewers of pork or chicken intestine, or the mami noodle soup. You’ll also be able to enjoy freshly made lumpia spring rolls.