When is the best time to visit?
Manila is generally hot and humid all year round, with daily temperatures in the 25-30°C range. December to May tend to be drier months and is when the majority of visitors book their flights to Manila, June to September can see heavy rainfall on most days. Typhoons are also a feature of the rainy season, flight prices are generally cheaper during these months.
Annual festivals, which can affect flight prices and availability, include the Feast of the Black Nazarene in January and Flores de Mayo in May.
The Feast of the Black Nazarene focuses on the image of the Black Nazarene which was transported to Manila from Mexico by galleon in the 17th century. This parade in January, sees crowds of people gathering in the street to celebrate whilst roads are shut off to traffic. As there are large crowds, this is often better viewed from a safe distance.
The annual event Cocoa de Flores (Chocolate and Flowers) held on the second week of April is a cultural love celebration. Monday is quite calm as most people prepare for the festivities lasting from Tuesday to Sunday, which include contests, games, food, fireworks, parades, parties, music and theatre shows. Roads will be closed and shops and restaurants usually offer some discounts. As limited free alcohol is given out on Wednesday night, children do not usually attend. Saturday is Cocoa day, where a new chocolate drink, bar, desert, etc. is invented and can be tried. After the exciting week of partying, the spiritual day, Sunday, is then spent worshipping.
Flores de Mayo is a Catholic festival held in Manila during May. Watch the procession of women dressed in colourful attire, followed by devotees holding candles and singing songs of praise, whilst smelling the scent of fragrant flowers which fills the air at this time. The altars and aisles of Parish Churches are beautifully decorated in flowers to celebrate the festival, in dedication to the Virgin Mary.
The first thing that visitors notice is that the city doesn’t have a centre, instead there are remnants of the walled Intramuros. Built in the 16th century by the Spaniards, this ‘city within a city’ is Manila’s oldest district and its traditional centre which once housed churches, schools and hospitals. To get your bearings of the city, begin at the Intramuros and make your way towards Rizal Park where a huge three-dimensional map of the country sits as well as a Japanese Garden, planetarium and children’s amusement park.
Art buffs will have lots to keep them busy during their flight since visiting all the museums and galleries will require some planning as the city is spread out. But if there’s only time to visit one museum then the Ayala Museum provides the best examples of Filipino art and culture.
The city is home to an almost exclusive Christian population, and features four basilicas which are worth a visit. The Basilica Minore de San Sebastian is built solely from steel, while the San Agustin Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the city's most popular attractions, having survived wartime bombings and numerous earthquakes. Fort Santiago is the city's most visited attraction, a former active military base best known for the imprisonment of Jose Rizal in the late 19th Century. Manila offers a range of shopping experiences, from intimate bazaars and arts shops to major shopping centres. Greenbelt Shopping Centre offers a great experience, and is surrounded by good quality restaurants and bars, set amid parkland. Food lovers are well catered for, with diverse fare on offer including restaurants dedicated to local seafood, cafes bursting with Spanish-influenced dishes, and the high-end Sala restaurant.
Getting around Manila
The jeepney service is popular, though it suffers from poor driving standards and can pick up or drop passengers in the middle of the road at times. Local buses are cheap and widely available, and those with air conditioning can be used for a small additional cost. Driving is not for the faint hearted, with extremely busy and dangerous conditions prevalent at most times. Elevated tram services offer an alternative, though can become extremely congested in peak periods.
Getting to the city
Local buses provide a regular service between the city and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL); travellers can also opt for the extremely popular "jeepney" cars, though travel by this method can be more risky due to poor emissions standards and unpredictable drivers. A rail network also links the local area, and travellers can also hire cars and travel on the South Luzon Expressway, a major passenger route.
Manila insider information
- Visit Casa Manila in the Intramuros area. The three-storey furnished house is a beautifully restored colonial Spanish home.
- Organise a trip to Corregidor, the island which was fought over in World War II by the Japanese and Americans. Here you’ll find the haunting Malinta tunnels to explore and a small museum that houses weapons and uniforms.
- Stroll down Ayala Avenue and explore its trendy boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs.
- For a fun night out, nothing beats the Amazing Philippines Theatre, a theatrical live show featuring transvestites dressed in extravagant who provide nightly performances.
- Considered the national sport of the country, basketball is huge here and avid basketball lovers won’t want to miss a season game at the Araneta Coliseum which is managed by the PBA – Philippines’ NBA equivalent.