A stopover for one day in Manila was not planned at all. Due to the timing of our connecting flight we had no other option but spending a night in the megacity. We thought to stay overnight is ok but we definitely do not want to stay longer. After all we are happy that we have spent one day in Manila. Despite all our preconceptions, we think Manila is pretty cool. Read on to find out why we changed our mind.
When planning our holidays to the Philippines we read a lot about Manila in the media and other blogs. Our image of Manila was: It’s a dirty, stinky and noisy city. We were prepared for the worst. We had preconceptions. Many of them, to be honest. The day we arrived our first impression was great. We expected endless traffic jams. Luckily that was not the case. We also did not experience it as stinky or dirty, at least not where we have been to during our short stay for one day in Manila.
Good to know when arriving in a new city
We arrive in Manila at noon. Immigration goes well and we get the stamp for a 30 day stay. The immigration officer welcomes us and even gives us a smile. What a great start of our trip in the Philippines.
We travelled a lot in our lives but still, it’s a challenge every time when arriving in a new country. For us it’s the first time to the Philippines. Whenever we travel to a new country or city we want to be prepared for some major things.
What to do before you arrive in a new city:
- Book the first night
- Print a map of the location of the accommodation
- Check how you get to the accommodation
- Check how much the transfer to your accommodation should cost
- Organise local currency before leaving the airport (for the transfer, snacks, drinks)
- Get familiar with the local currency
All of the above will help you to be self confident. If you know the local prices in advance, you can avoid scams and you are prepared to bargain.
What taxi to take at the Manila airport: Yellow or white?
There is chaos at the airport in Manila. We know that the yellow taxis are the cheap ones and the white taxis are more expensive. Of course the drivers of the white taxis are more aggressive and want to sell us a ride to a ridiculous price. The big advantage would be we could hop into the taxi right away. No waiting time. But well, that has its price.
We decide to wait for the yellow taxi. There is a long queue and the waiting time is one hour. That’s quite a long time for just a 10 minute ride. Cost wise it is worth to wait. We pay PHP 300 (USD 6.30) for the short ride to the hotel in Makati. The white taxi would have cost us PHP 1’400 (USD 30).
The PHP 1‘400 was the first offer made by a white taxi driver. We are pretty sure that you could bargain the price down to PHP 1‘000 for the ride. But still, that’s more than 3 times the price we paid for the yellow taxi. Our priority was the price and not to get to the hotel as quick as possible. Some hotels offer pickup service too. Check with your accommodation.
The Mall of Asia – Perfect if you only have one day in Manila
Manila is huge and depending on where you stay you can visit one of the many shopping centres, strolling along the China Town, visit a park or a museum.
We have no energy for sightseeing but we do not want to stay in the hotel either. What can we do if you only have one day in Manila? Shopping!
We know that the famous Mall of Asia is about a 20 minute taxi ride from our hotel. That’s where we go. We hail down a taxi and for PHP 200 we get to the Mall of Asia in less than half an hour. We agreed on the price before we left our hotel. Most of the taxis are metered. Ask the driver to switch the meter on. Taxis are a convenient and cheap way to get around the city.
The Mall of Asia offers everything you need. There is food, clothes, electronics, cosmetics, and, and, and… lots of Christmas decoration.
Outside the mall there are lots of different restaurants, food and drink stalls. Wherever you go you hear Christmas songs and everything is decorated. We enjoy the atmosphere even if it’s a bit strange for us to think about Christmas when it’s 30 degrees outside.
Fantastic! The Mall of Asia is in walking distance to the sea. The sun sets soon and therefore we’re heading down to the esplanade to enjoy the sea view. Currently the sun sets at 5.30 pm and the temperatures drop to a perfect 26 degrees.
The esplanade is right at the Bay of Manila. It’s a popular place for the locals to spend some time after work or to go out. There are many restaurants along the esplanade with lots of choices. The restaurants serving seafood specialities are full of Filipinos and Chinese tourists. We fancy a pizza.
We never ever would have imagined that we are going to eat pizza under the stars and with sea view in Manila.
It is pitch black at 8 pm. We are full, tired and ready to go back to the hotel. At the entrance of the Mall of Asia there are plenty of taxis waiting. Surprisingly this time we even pay less for the ride.
Taxi driver with a heart of gold
Back to the hotel Marcel realises that his Smartphone is gone. How can that be? What happened? We think hard and try to figure out where he could have lost it. There is just one possibility. It must have happened in the taxi. The phone probably slipped out of his pocket. Well, losing a Smartphone in one of thousands of taxis in a city like Manila is probably the worst that can happen.
Marcel is giving up. He thinks the phone is gone and he’ll never see it again. I try to call the number, but there is just a message that the phone can’t be reached at the moment.
We go to bed and suddenly I realize we should at least inform someone that we lost a Smartphone. If nobody knows that we miss it, it can’t come back either. I go down to the reception and tell our story. The receptionist looks at me and says: “Mam, I have an idea. We can call the taxi company and they can contact the driver. There might be a slight chance to get the phone back.” I was very surprised and thought it’s worth to try. But how can we find out which taxi company it was.
Well, there is a security guard who registers all taxis bringing and picking up guests. He also takes a note of the taxi company and therefore it’s easy to find the driver. But still, the driver can be anywhere or another passenger has found the phone and took it. The lady at the reception informs the taxi company and the only thing we can do now is waiting.
About 3 minutes after I returned to our room the phone is ringing. I can’t believe it. The receptionist tells me to come down to reception and says: “The taxi driver is here with the Smartphone.”
I’m literally flying down the stairs to the reception and WOW… the taxi driver is sitting there with a big grin and he’s holding Marcel’s phone. OMG! This is just unbelievable. We would never ever have dreamed to get that Smartphone back. We are super happy and totally amazed about the Filipinos.
We only spent one day in Manila but our first impression of the Philippines: friendly, helpful and welcoming people. We are looking forward to our stay in the Philippines.
Thank you, Manila. You are a big surprise. We definitely give you a second chance.
Manila can be different, that’s for sure
We experienced Manila as a friendly and welcoming city. But of course we can’t tell too much about it because we only spend a few hours there. We stayed in Makati and the area is known for its shopping malls. We have not been to the very center of Manila and therefore we have seen a tiny little bit of the city. From other travellers we have heard stories about the “ugly” Manila. In our blog post we do not want to create a wrong impression of Manila. It is what we have experienced and we know that it can be different. We liked it so far and if we go back, we will stay a few days longer to find out more about it.
Have you been to Manila? What are your experiences with the megacity? Share your story with us. We are very curious about what you think about it.