Things to Know Before You Go to Manila: A Bustling City with Spanish Legacy

Explore Manila, where Spanish heritage melds seamlessly with modern zest. Prepare for an unforgettable journey filled with the best things to know before you go to Manila.

A traditional 'kalesa' ride through the cobbled streets of Manila.
A traditional ‘kalesa’ ride through the cobbled streets of Manila.

Did you know that Manila was once the seat of power during the Spanish colonial period in Asia? This, along with many other interesting facts from its storied past, paves the way for an enchanting exploration. 

Discover the country’s profound historical significance in Asia, and more things to know before you go to Manila to ensure a fulfilling adventure! 

Getting Ready for Manila

Timing and budgeting are always crucial for a fulfilling trip. While Manila holidays are mostly considered to be inexpensive, some exclusive tours, entertainment, and accommodations might require you to cough up a few more bucks. 

With that, here are some of the essential things to know before you go to Manila you should consider so you get the most bang for your buck:

Best Times to Visit and Budget Tips

Opt for the dry season from December to February. For most visitors from the West, this is the most ideal weather to roam around the city. If you’re there to immerse in local customs, don’t miss lively festivals such as the Feast of the Black Nazarene in January and Manila Day every June. 

Manila is surprisingly affordable with local street food and transport costing very little, though carrying cash is advisable as many places do not accept credit cards. With that, choose to keep your wallet and valuables in safer concealed parts of your clothing when in crowded areas. 

Accommodation Options in Manila

When planning where to stay in Manila, you will certainly have options that fit your budget and preference. Remember, Metro Manila and Manila are different from each other with the former comprising 16 cities other than the capital and 1 municipality.  

For those looking to stretch their funds without sacrificing the authentic local vibe, Quezon City is an ideal choice with its basic, yet genuine accommodations. Do note that the metro’s traffic can take up most of your time while light rail trains are usually congested during rush hours. So get up and about earlier if you’re planning to stay in Quezon City and explore the city of Manila. 

If you prefer a middle ground with comfortable amenities and convenient access to shops and restaurants, Makati is perfect, blending ease and comfort seamlessly. 

For travelers seeking luxury, Bonifacio Global City (BGC) offers upscale living with top-notch amenities and access to high-end shopping and dining. 

Each area provides a unique perspective on life in Manila, ensuring visitors can choose a base that best suits their travel style and needs.

Navigating Manila’s Streets

Jeepneys and tricycles provide a true Filipino travel experience at a low cost. If you’re riding a jeep, telling the driver “Para po sa tabi” is every local’s way of pointing their stop. For convenience, consider renting a car or using the Grab app, which can also help you avoid the daily heavy traffic in major thoroughfares like EDSA or C-5. 

You can also opt to ride the LRT and MRT systems but do so during the mid-day when there are less passengers. 

Alt text: Visitors walking along the historic Intramuros walls in Manila with a clear sky above.

Cultural Insights for Manila

Understanding and respecting Manila’s culture can greatly enhance your visit and endear you to the hospitable locals wherever you go. 

Some key customs include the following:

Understanding Manila’s Social Norms

A respectful ‘Mano po‘ gesture, where you take an elder’s hand and bring it to your forehead, is highly valued as a form of respect. Always dress modestly at religious sites and know that while tipping is customary, it is not mandatory; however, a 10% tip is always appreciated where service charges are not included on your receipt.

Communicating in Manila

Although Filipino is the national language, English is prevalently spoken, making it easy for travelers to communicate. Still, knowing a few basic Filipino phrases like ‘Salamat‘ (thank you) and ‘Magandang araw‘ (good day) can go a long way.

Of course, considering a translation app in less urban areas is never a bad idea as some locals who previously hailed from far-flung provinces are more accustomed to speaking their native dialects.

Manila’s Top Experiences

The capital of the Philippines is teeming with must-see attractions, culinary hotspots, and history of things to know before you go to Manila.

Here are the top spots to note on your next visit:

Manila’s Can’t-Miss Sights

Don’t miss Intramuros, the historic walled city from the Spanish colonial period, and the energetic Rizal Park. For a unique experience, head to the National Museum of Natural History to delve into the country’s rich biodiversity.

Eating Out in Manila

The Manila culinary scene spans from street-side vendors offering local delicacies like balut (incubated duck egg) to upscale dining in nearby Bonifacio Global City. Vegetarian and international options are also widely available across commercial areas.

Unique Activities in Manila

Try riding a ‘kalesa‘ or a horse-drawn carriage ride in Intramuros, or partake in a guided food tour to savor the local cuisine. Book these experiences through reputable local tourism offices for best practices and fair prices.

Alt text: An opulent hotel lobby in BGC, Manila, decorated with Filipino artwork.

Ensuring a Safe Manila Trip

As mentioned, be vigilant in crowded spots and steer clear of less populated areas especially at night. 

Health-wise, consult your doctor for recommended vaccinations before your trip. It’s also best to stick to bottled water as tap water may not always be safe to drink.

Plan Your Manila Experience

Manila’s fusion of historical treasures, vibrant activities, and welcoming locals promises a rich, memorable experience for all travelers. Keep these things to know before you go to Manila in mind to make the most of your visit.

Plan your next adventure in Manila with ThisCityKnows. We’re glad to share expertly curated insights and practical advice to help you navigate this vibrant city. 
Dive deeper into our extensive travel guides and discover more destinations with ThisCityKnows, making each journey unforgettable!

Author: Nine

Nine delves into cities with a thirst for the untold and the overlooked, weaving narratives that bring destinations alive. They spotlight the heartbeat of places—through the lens of locals and the whispers of streets less traveled. With Nine, every story is an invitation to see the world through eyes wide with wonder.

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