Bustling with activity around the clock, Manila is a kinetic blend of commercial hub, heritage centre, and cultural and culinary wonderland
The ceaseless crowds are part of the city’s personality: it’s lively, it’s pulsing, it’s on all hours, and it can be a lot to take in. But innovative and self-styled spokespersons for the city have found and organised ways to better appreciate pockets of the city: on foot.
Lively tour hosts like Carlos Celdran, who takes visitors around the walled city of Intramuros, and Ivan Man Dy, whose expertise is on his home turf of Binondo, offer great insights into how this dense city evolved – from an important port town during the years of the Galleon Trade, to an American project paved with wide boulevards, and finally, to its present sprawl of dining, entertainment and cultural hubs.
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When to go
The best beach weather comes to most of the Philippines in late November until February, when the temperature is mild during the day and can get nippy at night (you might need a light sweater), as well as the summer months of March to April. It can and does get scorching hot in the summer, as high as 38°C, so pack along a hat and sunnies, drink lots of water and use high-SPF sunscreen.
All year round there are fiestas that take place across the country, come rain or shine. Among the biggest festivals to catch are the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo City and Sinulog Festival in Cebu City (January), the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City (February), the Kadawayan Festival in Davao City (August), and the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City (October).
In the big cities, the best way to get around is by metered taxi. Metro Manila, which has an overhead train system, offers the option of moving around by MRT and LRT. There’s also the jeepney, a colourful, repurposed relic from World War II, which takes approximately 16 passengers on short distance routes. It can stop anywhere.
Away from the big and busy cities, there’s the option of the tricycle, similar to the tuk-tuk, for short distance rides. On all these transport systems, fares vary depending on distance travelled.
Travel time 20-60 minutes
Taxi Approx PHP40-200