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Welcome to Manila

Manila’s moniker, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, couldn’t be more apt – its cantankerous shell reveals its jewel only to those resolute enough to pry. No stranger to hardship, the city has endured every disaster both humans and nature could throw at it, and yet today the chaotic metropolis thrives as a true Asian megacity. Skyscrapers pierce the hazy sky, mushrooming from the grinding poverty of expansive shanty towns, while gleaming malls foreshadow Manila’s brave new air-conditioned world. The congested roads snarl with traffic, but, like the overworked arteries of a sweating giant, they are what keeps this modern metropolis alive.

As well as outstanding sightseeing, visitors who put in the effort will discover its creative soul – from edgy galleries to a lively indie music scene. Combine this with a penchant for speakeasy bars, artisan markets and single-origin coffees, and it's clear to see that Manila's not only one of Asia's most underrated cities, but one of its coolest. (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/philippines/manila)

 

Weather  

Mar–Apr - Plan for High of 32 degrees Celsius and low of 25 degrees.

 

Money Exchange

The Philippine piso, also referred in English by its former name peso (PHP), is the official currency of the Philippines. It is subdivided into 100 céntimos. As a guide, the exchange rate on 27 Nov 2016 was 50.68 PHP to 1 USD.

 

Getting around Manila

Like many other Asian metropolises, Manila has enormous traffic problems. An inefficient light-rail system compounds the problem. Be prepared for it by packing plenty of patience. One small consolation is that taxis and Ubers are dirt cheap. Even cheaper are the jeepneys, which go everywhere in a confusing muddle, but also find themselves stuck in the same traffic despite the best kamikaze-like efforts of the drivers.

 

Health and Safety

  • Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended.
  • Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities such as scuba diving, motorcycling, skiing and even trekking: read the fine print.
  • Check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
  • Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
  • If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.
  • Paying for your airline ticket with a credit card often provides limited travel accident insurance – ask your credit card company what it is prepared to cover.

 

Dangers & Annoyances

Manila is probably no more dangerous than the next city, but it can still be dodgy and foreigners are sometimes targeted by petty criminals and car-jackers.

  • Be on your guard if walking around on your own at night.
  • Pickpocketing is rampant on the MRT/LRT and on major bar strips where drunk tourists make easy prey.
  • Traffic is the big annoyance in Manila; you’ll probably spend half your time either stuck in it or talking about it. Leave extra time to get to airports, bus stations and meetings.
  • Noise, crowds and air pollution are other major annoyances.

Scams

  • Scams that target tourists are common in Manila.
  • A common scam involves drugging tourists' drinks or food and then robbing them. Be wary of any overly friendly stranger offering you food or drink.
  • Some money changers, especially on A Mabini St in Ermita, scam tourists out of money by using sleight-of-hand gimmicks and short-change scams. If an exchange kiosk asks to recount the wad of pesos they've just handed you, don't let them.
  • Kalesa (two-wheeled horse-drawn cart) drivers around Ermita and Intramuros are notorious for overcharging tourists. Agree to a price beforehand, and make it clear that the price is per ride, not per person.

Taxi Warnings

Most taxi drivers are honest but there are exceptions. Some tips:

  • Take metered taxis from designated ranks at the airport, or better yet use Uber or Grab; coupon taxis are at least quadruple the price.
  • Any taxi driver who actively approaches you at the airport is out to scam you; stick to the ranks and under no circumstances should you follow a driver on foot to a car waiting outside the airport.
  • Rigged taxi meters are rare but they do exist, especially at the airport. If you see your meter quickly shoot up towards P500 on a short trip to Makati or Malate, you're being played.
  • When riding in taxis, do as your driver does and lock your doors.

 

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.voyage.gc.ca)
  • German Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
  • Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.anzen.mofa.go.jp)
  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • UK Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)

 

Medical Services

  • Metro Manila has several large, private hospitals:
    • Makati Medical Center
    • Manila Doctors Hospital
    • St Luke’s Medical Center Metro Manila’s most modern hospital. Also in Quezon City.

 

Tourist Attractions

Top recommended sites - https://www.lonelyplanet.com/philippines/manila/attractions/a/poi-sig/357305

 

Recommended Ten Must-Try Foods:

 

  1. Adobo - A Filipino classic, it’s a basic meat dish which is simmered in a marinade of oil, soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, and sometimes later pan fried to give it a crispy surface.
  2. Crispy Pata - A pork leg/knuckle deep fried to perfection and then sided with chili, calamansi and a variety of dipping sauces.
  3. Fresh Lumpia - Is a bit like a spring roll crossed with a burrito. It’s big and fat and filled with meat, lettuce, carrots, peanuts and coconut in there – with a sweet sauce or vinegar on the side.
  4. Chicken Sotanghon - The Philippines version of Grandma’s chicken soup.
  5. Bibingka - Type of cake made with coconut milk and baked in a banana leaf - eaten hot.
  6. Kare Kare - A classic Filipino stew, consisting of oxtail, tripe, eggplant and Chinese veges – with a strong peanut flavour and is served with shrimp paste on the side.
  7. Lomi - Consists of flat egg noodles cooked in a very thick, eggy sauce with pork, seafood, chicken.
  8. Sinigang - A tamarind based soup with commonly tomatoes, green beans, spinach, green mango and various other possibilities.
  9. Balut – For the more adventurous - a street food delicacy of a fertilised duck egg, boiled and eaten once the embryo is half developed.
  10. Bangus - Milkfish is the country’s national fish and quite often eaten for breakfast with a side of garlic rice and egg.