More Things to Know Before You Go to Manila: Hidden Urban Gems

The Philippine capital is truly chaotic— of course, mostly in a good way! Weave your way through the urban bustle with these essential things to know before you go to Manila.

Chinese architectural details in Manila

Manila, the pulsating heart of the Philippines, is not just about 500,000 square-foot malls and tales of long gone eras. It’s a city teeming with hidden spots— from tranquil green oases to off-the-beaten-path art galleries. 

As we take a detour from the familiar tourist paths, let insiders tell you the best things to know before you go to Manila, that can guide your journey to discovering its many concealed wonders!


Planning your trip to Manila requires careful consideration on when to visit and how to budget for your stay. Of course, add to that choosing the right accommodation to suit your needs. 

So, without further ado, here are a few essential things to know before you go to Manila:

When to Go and How to Budget

  • Best Seasons: The dry months from December to February offer comfortable exploring weather. A word of caution, though: Manila can be quite crowded during these months due to the long Yuletide celebrations and influx of tourists to major tourism spots like Baguio or the beaches.
  • Budgeting: Set aside PHP 1500-2500 ($30-$50) daily for a deep dive into local life, including visits to lesser-known sites.

Where to Stay

  • Budget-friendly: SM Southmall Couple Suite provides a cozy base with easy access to local life in the quieter parts of the city.
  • Mid-range: Azumi Boutique Hotel stands out with its minimalist charm and proximity to Alabang’s hidden culinary spots.
  • Upscale: The North-West Loft places you in the heart of Manila with a stunning view, perfect for those who wish to explore Manila’s upscale yet understated side.

How to Get Around

The city’s lesser-known areas are best navigated by a mix of walking and local transport. For ease, download the Grab app for reliable and safe travel options to hidden gems (while also serving as your food delivery app too!)

Inside of an interactive 3D museum in Manila


Understanding the local customs and language when in Manila can truly enrich your experience and facilitate smoother interactions. 

Keep these things to know before you go to Manila in mind.

Local Customs and Etiquette

  • Greetings: Warm yet respectful; a slight nod with a smile goes a long way.
  • Dress Codes: Casual wear is widely acceptable, but modest attire is appreciated in less touristy areas, schools, offices, and sacred places.

Language Tips

  • Many are still surprised how English is widely spoken. That’s because many Filipinos learn it as their second language at school. Still, learning basic Tagalog phrases like “Kumusta” (How are you?) can truly enrich your interactions and world vocabulary. A translation app can also help with specific local dialects.


Manila is a city teeming with activities and cultural sites that cater to all types of travelers. 

Here’s a quick list on what you can explore to make the most of your visit, including more things to know before you go to Manila.

Must-Visit Attractions

  • Paco Park: A circular park that’s a former burial ground, now a venue for quiet afternoons and occasional concerts.
  • Escolta Street: Explore Manila’s old downtown area for a glimpse into its architectural past with a twist of modern-day artistic pop-ups.
  • La Mesa Eco Park: An ecological nature reserve offering hiking, swimming, and picnicking in an expansive forest setting, perfect for those looking to escape the urban hustle.
  • Mystery Manila: Challenge yourself with interactive escape room games that are a thrilling way to explore the city’s creative side.
  • Bahay Tsinoy: A museum detailing the Chinese influence in Filipino culture, offering insights into the intertwined histories of the two cultures in a less frequented setting.

Food and Drink

  • Venture into Kapitolyo in Pasig, for a range of under-the-radar dining spots known for innovative Filipino cuisine.
  • For a local brew, visit The Curator for coffee by day and cocktails by night.

Local Experiences

  • Binondo Food Crawl: Delve into Manila’s Chinatown for an authentic fusion food crawl.
  • Art in Island: An interactive 3D art museum that offers quirky photo opportunities and artistic fun.
Manila nightlife and clubbing scene


While Manila is generally safe, it’s always best to keep your personal belongings secure when in public. With that, do stay aware of your surroundings, especially in less crowded areas. Stick to bottled water and ensure you have travel health insurance. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended for all travelers.

Discover All the Things to Know Before You Go to Manila with ThisCityKnows

Manila’s hidden gems provide a unique lens through which to view this dynamic city, from its serene parks to bustling local eateries. Armed with these things to know before you go to Manila, you’re set to uncover the layers that make this metropolis truly captivating.

Eager for an adventure off the typical tourist radar? 

Plan your travels with ThisCityKnows and let us lead you to the lesser-known corners of Manila. Dive deeper into the city’s heart with us, and experience Manila with ThisCityKnows as your trusted guide.

Patty O.
Author: Patty O.

A city girl through and through, Patty has always planned her adventures in and around urban areas. Through her travel writing, she aims to make a compelling case for the global city as a place of endless discovery and satisfaction. Her goal is to detail how urban exploration can fulfill the desires of anyone and everyone, from cultural and culinary adventurers to historical and supernatural enthusiasts.

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