Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is also the most common gateway to the archipelago of 7,641 islands. It is a highly urbanized city – composed of high-rises one minute and then rugged houses on the next. Virtually unappealing, Manila often turns off travellers who stay only for a day, if they even leave the airport at all, before catching their connecting flight to the country’s many beautiful islands like El Nido and Siargao.
Manila is often confused with Metro Manila, the national capital region which is composed of the old Manila and 15 other cities. These include the common business destinations (Makati and Taguig) and gateway points for bus travels (Pasay City and Quezon City).
Metro Manila is a maze of modern buildings, old houses, luxury malls, wholesale markets, bustling streets often dotted with illegal vendors, and a vibrant mix of people often in a hurry to get to their next destination.
When you say “Manila” to a local, they will most probably point you to the old bayside city that boasts of historic churches, colonial-style museums, iconic streets, and walled towns. Manila is the actual capital and seat of power. This city is located some 10 km from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila Airport) and is about 30mins away considering the normal traffic.
How to get to Manila
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Manila Airport (Ninoy Aquino)||25 minutes-2 hours||from 150 PHP ($2.60)||Manila Airport to Manila|
|Banaue||5-11 hours||from 820 PHP ($14.50)||Banaue to Manila|
|Boracay||2-13 hours||from 1,300 PHP ($23.00)||Boracay to Manila|
|Coron||1hr 50m-14 hours||from 1,350 PHP ($24.00)||Coron to Manila|
|Donsol||3-15.5 hours||from 1,220 PHP ($21.50)||Donsol to Manila|
|El Nido||1hr 25m-14.5 hours excl. transfers||from 1,720 PHP ($30.50)||El Nido to Manila|
|Legazpi||1hr 20m-14 hours||from 1,100 PHP ($19.50)||Legazpi to Manila|
|Sagada||7-11 hours||from 1,090 PHP ($19.50)||Sagada to Manila|
|Siargao||2-32 hours excl. transfer time||from 1,600 PHP ($28.50)||Siargao to Manila|
Where to Stay in Metro Manila
If you’re planning to stay a day or two in Metro Manila, we recommend picking a city that suits your taste. Our top 3 picks are Makati, Taguig, and old Manila.
Makati is the region’s central business district and was named the 4th safest city in Southeast Asia according to an online survey. It is also a food haven, particularly the trendy areas of Poblacion, Legaspi Village, and Jupiter St., all offering international cuisine for affordable prices. A warning: visiting them might ruin your diet! Our top picks are Nikkei Nama Bar (Japanese), El Chupacabra (Mexican), and Sweet Ecstasy (American).
Taguig, particularly the Bonifacio Global City (BGC), is the lifestyle district. It offers a totally different feel with its luxury hotels and premium malls. As the upscale part of the metro, don’t be surprised if everything is more expensive here. Its heart is in Bonifacio High Street, from where any shop or restaurant you want to visit is within walking distance. The only downside is the bottleneck traffic when going in and out of BGC. Makati and BGC are both located some 20mins from Manila Airport.
If you want a taste of the country’s history, we recommend the old Manila. It used to be marred with traffic and pollution, but is now undergoing revival to show at least a glimpse of its former glory. Big thanks to a recent change in governance, Manila is being cleaned up big time. Walls and streets covered in dirt and grease for years are finally showing intricate details that locals didn’t know were there. Also, illegal vendors have been relocated to ease traffic and make roads safer for passersby.
Manila actually played a huge part in Philippine independence. And because of these recent changes, tourists can now comfortably explore the city even on a very exposed ride like the traditional kalesa (local horse-drawn carriage). The walled city of Intramuros should be a great starter!
Many travellers think Metro Manila is not a very safe place to visit. But we beg to disagree. Particularly in Makati, you can walk the streets at night without any worries. If you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll see that there is so much more to the metro than what is usually said in guidebooks.
Manila is a bustling metropolitan city that can be slightly overwhelming at first. Not just because of the busy streets and towering skyscrapers, but also because of the number of hotels to pick from. There are a lot!
No matter your price range, we’ve found some great places to stay in the best locations so you don’t have to do that research.
Before you start reading about our favourite stays, it’s good to know a bit about the best areas to stay in Manila. That way, you’re picking the best accommodation in the area that’s right for you.
- Makati is our favourite area to stay in Manila, and where most of our favourite stays are. It’s one of the most upscale areas in Manila and is known for its shopping malls, restaurants, and nightlife.
- Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is a newer development in Manila and is known for its modern architecture, restaurants and shopping centres.
- Malate is a lively area known for its bars, nightclubs and restaurants. It’s also close to several tourist attractions, such as Rizal Park and Intramuros.
Somerset Central Salcedo Makati - Treating Yourself
Area: Makati City centre — approx. 10-minute walk to shopping malls and business centre
As soon as you step into Somerset Central, you forget about the hustle and bustle going on outside the doors. Inside the hotel you’re met with luxury, relaxation and a chance to rejuvenate yourself in the gym or outdoor pool.
The grandeur of the hotel continues in the rooms, decorated in a stylish and modern design. The highlight of the room are the beds. They’re huge and super comfortable, guaranteeing you a great night’s sleep.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- A la carte restaurant
- Continental breakfast included
Double rooms start from $50 per night
Hotel 101 Manila - Mid Range
Area: Along Mall of Asia complex — approx. 10-minute drive to shopping malls and airport
Hotel 101 Manila has everything you could ask for from a city hotel. It has a refreshing outdoor pool, a delicious on-site restaurant and it’s close to the airport — perfect if you’re flying in or out of Manila.
The rooms are large, comfortable and exceptionally clean. With their incredible hospitality, the staff make you feel like you’re staying in a 5-star hotel.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- On-site restaurant
- Amazing staff
- Great and convenient location
Double rooms cost $30-$50 per night
Hop Inn Hotel Makati Avenue - Budget Friendly
Area: Makati City centre — approx. 5-minute drive to nearest shopping mall
Only passing through Manila? Hop Inn Hotel is perfect for those spending just a few nights in the busy city. It’s clean, modern and has all of the basic amenities that you could possibly need.
Modern minimalism would be a good way to describe this place. Plus you won’t be spending too much time in your room as you’re located in Makati, one of the best neighbourhoods in Manila.
- Clean and modern rooms
- Great location
- Air conditioning
- Helpful staff
Double rooms cost $15-$30 per night
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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.