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Traveloka PH

25 Oct 2021 - 5 min read

Travel to Manila: The Heart of the Philippines

Manila serves as the center of culture, economy, education, and government in the Philippines. It is the most populous region of the country and one of the most densely populated in the world. The city of Manila is made up of 16 administrative districts, including Binondo, Ermita, Intramuros, Malate, and Quiapo, among others.

The city is filled with activities and tourist spots such as museums, shops, parks, and churches, plus enough nightlife to last until dawn. Other notable destinations within Manila would be the Money Museum, National Museum Complex, and iconic churches such as the Quiapo Church.

Visitors to Manila would be astounded at the different destinations and attractions within the city. You can also tour the Manila Ocean Park that is home to around two seventy aquatic species.

How to get to Manila?

Travelers headed to Manila via flight will be landing in one of the four terminals of Manila Airport, specifically in either Pasay City or Parañaque City, depending on the airline. Some flights may also land in Clark International Airport (located in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga) as this airport caters mainly to low-cost carriers such as Air Asia.

The Philippines comprises a few thousand islands, so numerous airlines fly between all major destinations throughout the Philippine archipelago. Those interested in reaching Manila by flight can check out these local carriers – AirSWIFT, Cebu Pacific, and Cebgo – as they connect Manila to popular destinations like Cebu, Puerto Princesa, and El Nido.

AirAsia Philippines, Philippine Airlines (PAL), and Cebu Pacific are the main domestic carriers. These three carriers are also the only airlines to offer a traditional cabin service, such as snacks and drinks, with PAL and AirAsia Philippines veering towards the more expensive side of the budget.

Best Places to Visit in Manila

Metropolitan Manila or Manila is fast becoming a major tourist destination. Here are some amazing places in Manila that you must explore.

Intramuros

Built by Spanish colonial powers, Intramuros is the oldest district and one of Manila's best places to stay. It was founded in the late 1500s. In the past, the walled city was the only city—the rest of the sprawling capital has since sprung up outside the walls.

There are churches, monasteries, convents, courtyards, palaces, grand private homes, museums, schools, old government buildings, and more. It’s a must-visit place in Manila for anyone wanting to travel back in time and glimpse into the city’s past.

Apart from basking in the quaint old-world atmosphere of Intramuros, travelers can experience riding a calesa (a traditional horse-drawn carriage), riding in a tricycle, or renting a bicycle to explore the historic streets.

History lovers can explore the past at museums like Casa Manila, which is filled with period furnishings and objects from the Spanish colonial era, or the lesser-visited Bahay Tsinoy, which tells the history of the Chinese-Filipino community.

Location: 5th District of Manila
Admission Fee: Free

Fort Santiago

Located along the Pasig River, Fort Santiago is a 16th-century bastioned citadel commissioned by the Spanish governor and navigator Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. It was built in the northwest corner of the then newly established Intramuros in 1593. It is one of the most significant historical sites in Manila.

It served as a military base of Spanish and other foreign colonizers. Within the fort lies the dungeon where many political and war prisoners died or were executed, especially during the Spanish regime and World War II.

The most prominent historical figure imprisoned here is the country’s national hero Jose P. Rizal. At present, Fort Santiago also houses a museum dedicated to the hero. Visitors will also notice on the ground the bronze footsteps symbolizing Rizal's final steps from his prison cell to his execution site.

Location: Intramuros, Manila
Admission Fee: PHP75 (Adults), PHP50 (Students & PWDs)
Operation Hours: 12 pm – 8 pm (Daily; Last entry at 7 pm)
Maximum Capacity: 100 pax at a time

San Agustin Church

The San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines, triumphed over natural disasters and wars. Modeled after grand Augustinian churches in Mexico, the enormous church saw looting by British invaders, survived large earthquakes, was used as a hospital, and was used as a concentration camp by the Japanese during World War II.

The church, although unassuming when you look at it from the outside, serves as a library of historical events and architectural wonders. Its structural design was inspired by the churches in Mexico but simpler.

Housed within an old monastery, San Agustin Museum takes visitors back in time and provides interesting insights into the city's colonial past and religious culture. The 16th-century building has many eye-catching frescoes and carvings, and the rooms are filled with informative displays and varied exhibits.

Location: Intramuros, Manila
Admission Fee: PHP200 (Adults), PHP160 (Students, PWDs, Seniors, & Frontliners)
Operation Hours: 8 am – 12 pm & 1 pm – 6 pm (Wednesday to Sunday, CLOSED on Mondays & Tuesdays; Last entry at 5 pm)
Maximum Capacity: 100 pax at a time

Travel Tips to Manila

The best months to go to Manila are during the last few months of the year, such as September, October, November, and December when the city is full of festive lights and Christmas decorations. This is considered the coolest time of the year, which makes it perfect for a day of walking around the city. If possible, avoid visiting during Holy Week, which is the week before Easter, beginning on Palm Sunday. Shops, restaurants, and many local businesses would usually close to observe Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, resuming business on Black Saturday.
With the COVID-19 situation is still being monitored, be sure to check on the latest travel requirements to Manila before planning your trip. It is crucial especially special documentations, COVID-19 test requirements, quarantine period, and the likes.
For those taking a flight into Manila, it is best to prebook airport transfers. Many travelers have been caught in scams upon arrival at the airport. Travelers arriving during rush hour should consider using airport transfers as it’s a set price. Alternatively, travelers can also opt for Grab or a metered taxi.
Make sure you know the peak traffic hours. Travelers should not underestimate how long it’s going to take on the road, and this mistake can potentially lead to a missed flight. Manila is dubbed to have some of the worst traffic on earth and is rated the 9th worst place to drive in the world. The peak hours are typical during the morning & evening commute 7.30-9.30am and 5–10 pm.

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