Manila is a strange, decaying place that brings together tropical heat, busy, sociable people poverty, and Latin-American machismo with a few well-heeled neighborhoods and business districts. It gets more than its share of bad raps. In his novel “Ghosts of Manila, for example, James Hamilton-Patterson wrote, "Nothing had prepared me for the sheer ugliness of this city, much of which looked like a parody of the grimmer parts of Milwaukee." The Valley Fault System, a group of faults, running through the western section of Metro Manila, can produce strong earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 or greater. Typhoons often strike the city and many areas are flood-prone. April and May are the hottest months. Typhoons are most likely to strike from July to September. Sometimes it is hard to believe it was once called the “Pearl of the Orient.”

The first thing you notices when you step out of the air-conditioned airport terminal into Manila is the oppressive humidity. The next thing that grabs your senses is the smell of diesel fumes from thousands of jeepneys — the local mode of transportation — lurching through the city. Most traces of the colonial charm that the city must have once possessed have been swallowed up by concrete offices, unmaintained buildings, strip malls, decrepit barrios, street corner hustlers, piles of garbage, cigarette-selling children, massage parlors, hostess bars and cheap karaokes. The concrete and asphalt roads are constantly in a state of disrepair, and get worse in the rainy season; side streets are often narrow and dangerous. Traffic is slowed slowed by potholes of all sizes and it seems like it always congested, not just during rush hours. Driving is not orderly. Air pollution is unavoidable. People have died because ambulances could get through the traffic to the hospital.

But that doesn’t mean Manila should be avoided. The city is certainly not boring. Approached in the right way it can be a lot of fun. Like passengers in a jeepney, the past, present and future sit shoulder to shoulder, making their way down Manila’s streets. Run and jump on. Try to get a seat. If there is no room you can put your head out the window and let your hair fly in the wind. Architectural styles produced over 400 years of Spanish domination, nearly 50 years of American rule, and fits-and-starts modern development flash by. The people are Asian, Occidental, rural, urban, cosmopolitan and provincial all at the same time — and work hard, fear God and enjoy having a good time. The majority of Filipinos speak English but retain many Spanish-Catholic customs.

Manila is the cultural, commercial, business and political center of the Philippines, not to mention its only really large metropolis and its capital. Manila metropolitan area is home to 13 percent of the Philippines’s people — about 13 million people — and generates 30 to 40 percent of its wealth. Manila proper has 1.8 million people living in it. By 2025, more than 16.5 million are expected to live in metropolitan Manila. There may that be that many now because doing censuses are difficult and its hard to tell who is coming and going. Residents of the city are called Manilenos.

There are not many very tourist sights, especially after Imelda Marcos's shoe collection was removed from Malacanang Palace (some can be seen at Marikina Shoe Museum) — and for that matter not that many tourists either. Manila's main attractions are its nightlife, busy streets, sleaze and kitsch. Even within heritage districts such as Rizal Park and Intramuros, you won’t be far from a branch of local fast-food giant,Jollibee. University students pile out of kalesas (horse-drawn carriages), then walk the old fort’s walls to get to class. The Light Rail Transit (LRT) trundles past as families picnic on Luneta park grass. And there are some things about Manila that just lovably weird. As former Talking Heads singer-songwriter observed: “Yellow was adopted [as the colour of the 1986 “People Power” revolution] due to the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” which was adopted in celebration of the return of [Ninoy] Aquino to the Philippines — the welcoming crowd wore yellow. Surreal, these pop connections — a connection between Tony Orlando and Dawn and a grass roots uprising that overthrows a dictator — it makes my head spin.”

Tourist Information: 1) Tourist Information Center in Manila, G/F Ramona Apt. Bldg., 1555 M. Adriatico Street, 1000 Ernita, Metro Manila; 2) Department of Tourism, DOT Building, T.F. Valencia Circle, Rizal Park, Manila; 3) 24-Hour Tourist Assistance Hotlines, Tel: 524-1660; 4) 6 Days-A-Week Tourist Information Service 7:00am to 6:00pm Tel: 524-1703, 524-2384,523-8411; Website:

History of Manila

Manila began as a tiny tribal settlement on the mouth of a natural harbor ruled by a Muslim rajah. In 1571, the Spanish under López de Legaspi moved their capital here from Cebu island and began building a walled city in place of the kuta (fort) of Rajah Soliman. This city, now known as Intramuros, grew around one of the most formidable European-style forts outside Europe.

Manila was developed by Spanish missionaries and became an important commercial center under Spanish rule. The city was taken by the English in 1762, but was recaptured for Spain two years later. Under the Spanish, Manila was the center a very lucrative Asian operation that revolved around Spanish making annual runs to Acapulco, Mexico, laden with valuable goods from China, Japan and Asia..The Spanish endured for more than 300 years until their fleet was destroyed by Admiral Dewey in the Battle of Manila Bay (August 1898) in the Spanish-American War. The United States won control of the city, moved in and began modernizing and industrializing it.

The Philippines was invaded shortly after Pearl Harbor and Manila was claimed by the Japanese in January 1942 after the defeat of Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Corregidor. MacArthur returned to the Philippines in 1944 and Japanese were thrown out in a brutal bloodbath known as the Battle of Mnaila that rivaled the Rape of Nanking, and left over100,000 Filipinos dead. Manila was leveled by Allied bombing. The only allied city that sustained worse damage in World War II was Warsaw. Much of the 16th-century Spanish architecture of the old walled city, Intramuros was reduced to rubble; only the Church of San Agustín was spared.

After World War II Manila was almost completely rebuilt. Only a handful of buildings and neighborhood predate the war. Manila Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic archdiocese, was rebuilt in 1958. Manila was the home of People Power I, which threw out the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and People Power II, which got rid of the elected president Joseph Estrada. A shrine has been erected at Edsa (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue), Manila’s main thoroughfare, where the protests took place. The city was spruced up somewhat in the early 2000s after the American actress Claire Danes told Premier magazine that Manila was "ghastly and weird" and "smelled of cockroaches."

Orientation of Manila

Metropolitan Manila is located on the main island of Luzon along the coastal lowlands of Manila Bay and the Pasig River. The bay forms one of the largest and finest nearly landlocked natural harbors in the Far East due to its size and strategic geographical location. The lowlands are framed by distant mountains. Roxas (formerly Dewey) Boulevard, which follows the shoreline for several miles, is a major thruway. It is lined with modern office buildings, embassies, hotels, restaurants, the Philippine Cultural Center complex, and large apartment complexes. This boulevard, and the modern commercial and residential areas of suburban Makati, are the most modern, developed and richest parts of Manila. Many poor have traditionally lived in the shanty town of squatters built on land reclaimed from Manila Bay.

Metropolitan Manila includes Manila and 16 other cities and municipalities, including Makati, Quezon and Marikina, which are spread out over an area of 630 square kilometers on the east side of Manila Bay on an alluvial plain of south-central Luzon. Across the bay are the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island. Flowing through the city is the Pasig River, which empies into the bay. Most places of interest to tourist are located near Manila Bay on the south side of the Pasig River. Immediately south of the river is Intramuros (the old Spanish town) and Rizal Park, also known as Luneta, is the most important shrine in the country. Further south around Ave. de Pillar is Ermita, the city's sex and entertainment district.

On the north side of town is Makati, Manila's main business district. Many of the city's large commercial hotels, upscale shopping malls and fancy restaurants are in Makati. Makati is also the home of Manila’s stock exchange, investment banks, large department stores, designer shops, cinemas and exclusive sport clubs. More hotels and some convention halls and located around the Tourist Belt around Roxas Boulevard, which runs along Manila Bay. Pasig City is another area with some hotels and businesses. It is also boasts some of the best mall shopping in Manila.

Greater Manila' includes Quezon City, Pasay City, Caloocan City, and Pasig. Although the official capital of the Philippines is Quezon City, 20 kilometers from downtown Manila, its development remains in the planning stages and only a few government agencies are located there. In the suburbs of Manila, Forbes Park. Corinthian Gardens and Dasmaris are regarded as the most upscale neighborhoods in Manila. Marikina is a suburb of Manila with about a half million residents. It is the home of the Philippines’s shoe industry which has fallen on hard times in recent years. There are still some old stone houses here that predate World War II.

Five ring roads serve the metropolitan area. Circumferential Road 4 (C4), the most heavily used ring road, forms a semi- circle through eastern sections of Metro Manila. Most of C4 is known as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). EDSA section begins near SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, and ends in Caloocan at Monumento Roundabout (monument to Andrés Bonifacio). Circumferential Road 5 (C-5 or C-5 Road) is also known as Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Avenue.

Entertainment in Manila

Manilenos like to party and a night for them includes a late dinner and stops at a karaoke or a disco or salsa club. Ballroom dancing is big. Concerts, plays, ballet and Filipino dance performances are held in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), a lovely arts complex that contains the Coconut Palace. Some of the major hotels have supper clubs with floor shows. Other have lively dance clubs and discos. There are the large casino complexes at the Bay area or near NAIA Terminal 3.

Manila’s nightlife is one of the most vibrant in Asia. Get a taste of it at the different hotspots around the metro: Malate, Manila; Greenbelt, Glorietta, and Rockwell Center, Makati City; The Fort at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Resorts World Manila, Pasay City; Timog and Tomas Morato Avenues, and Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City; Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

Movies are popular among Filipinos, and several first-class, air-conditioned theaters exist, particularly in the new suburban areas. First-run American and European films may be seen, as well as Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Bollywood films. Movies do not have long runs, however, sometimes showing only for three days. Admission prices are reasonable. There are some comfortable movie theaters in Makati. Currently-running films are advertised in the newspapers.

The magnificent Cultural Center of the Philippines on Roxas Boulevard has a 2,000-seat auditorium and a smaller theater with 450 seats. The Folk Art Theater, used for concerts, bazaars, and pageants, is a covered, open-air building, where many local and foreign musical artists perform. The Cultural Center also includes the Philippine International Convention Center.

The Bayanihan Dance Group, which has made several successful world tours, and several other folk dance and ballet groups present performances throughout the year. The Manila Symphony Society, with guest conductors, presents several concerts and at least one opera or operetta annually. A number of other active local orchestra groups and choral societies also perform.

Sports: On Sundays, cockfights are held at numerous places around Manila. Some tourists used to check them out at the Roligon Megapit and the Araneta Coliseum. There is also a jai alia fronton—the Harrison Plaza—in town. It is now an architectural landmark; the sport is no longer played. Club Intramuros Golf Course is used by foreigners and the local elite.

A calendar of events can be picked up at tourist offices and major hotels. Also check out local entertainment magazines, the Thursday and Friday entertainment supplements in English-language newspapers, posters put up around town and Lonely Planet Books and websites.

Bars, Clubs and Pubs in Manila

Most upscale discos, bars and nightclubs are found in the Makati area. Most of the sex bars, low-life karaokes and loud rock clubs patronized by foreigners are in the Ermita and Ave. de Pillar area. There are also a number of bars, pubs, dance clubs, cabaert shoes and restaurants around Nakpil Street in Malate, sometimes called the Greenwich Village or Left Bank of Manila. Malate is known for its clubs, pubs, and quirky bars.

In Makati, there is the Greenbelt, Glorietta, The Fort, Jupiter St. and J. P. Rizal Street. In the city’s capital, Manila, nightlife is diverse. There is something for everybody in Malate, and in the newly revitalized Roxas Boulevard and its Baywalk. Quezon City is a popular destination of locals as the club prices are a little lower than those in Makati. Most clubs are close to each other so common to bar hop. Try the establishments along Timog & Tomas Morato Avenues and Quezon Boulevard, and in Eastwood City in Libis.

The Hobbit House, a bar staffed entirely by dwarves, closed in 2018 after 45 years in business. It was one of the best places in Manila to see live music. The waiters, waitresses and even the musicians and cooks were dwarves. Among it patrons were Marlon Brando, Francis Ford Copolla and the crew for the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now.” The Thriller Club, a girlie bar where the girls were clad in English boarding school uniforms, closed down not long after the U.S. Navy was kicked of the Philippines.

On the current nightlife scene in Manila, Nyx Martinez wrote: “One thing is clear, be it a weekday or a weekend — Filipinos like to go out. That's why there’s more to Manila than karaoke bars. Raring to party? Then head straight from the airport to the bar. Nightlife kicks off in nearby airport venues like Opus Lounge, where the smart set can drink and dine amidst Renaissance murals and DJ sounds. Next door, Republiq remains one of the city’s super clubs — and that means the hottest musical guests in town playing for a crowd that’s ready to dress sharp and party hard. These two venues are found within the gaming and entertainment cluster called Resorts World. To spot a local celebrity, head instead to Bonifacio Global City’s exclusive Prive bar.

“More particular about well-prepared mixes? M Café in the Greenbelt Mall is popular among locals and expats for its alcohol concoctions and chill-out space. Still in the Makati city area, though seemingly a world away, the bicycle-riding, dreadlock-banging locals keep it low-key at The Collective. Here, occasional reggae nights and offbeat music events take place in a warehouse setting. But if you really want something more eclectic, go to Quezon City. You can marvel at the mismatch of a church located on the same street as the bars. Your experience wouldn’t be complete without stopping by a comedy club like Klownz, where gay moderators get Filipino volunteers to come up on stage and, what else? Belt out a tune!

Opus Lounge, 2/F Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City
Republiq, Unit 8, Second Level, Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City
Prive, Unit C, The Fort Entertainment Center, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
M Café, Greenbelt 4 (across the Ayala Museum), corner of Makati Ave. & Dela Rosa St., Makati City
The Collective, 7274 Malugay Street, San Antonio, Makati City
Klownz, Quezon Ave. corner West Ave., Quezon City

Restaurants in Manila

Filipino food, Chinese food, Indian food, Italian food, Thai food, Malaysian food, Japanese food, Middle Eastern food, Korean food and other international cuisines are all available in Manila. There are also McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza places. Jollibee is the best known Filipino fast food chain. The best restaurants are generally located in the large hotels and in Makati. The Fort refers to a complex of trendy restaurants in Fort Bonifacio.

There are lots of bars, cheap restaurants and food stalls in the backpacker areas around Ermita and Ave. de Pillar area. There are also good choices of restaurants in Malate, Binondo and Intramuros. Chinatown has lots of good places to eat. It is around Ongpin Street and Carvajal Street. The wet market there is a good place to get fresh fruit. Keep an eye out for an ihawan (hawker-style grill) that serves the tasty kebabs and barbecues.

Fujian and Cantonese cuisine are featured in Binondo. Outside the restaurants you will see vendors of dragon fruits and other tropical fruits at bargain prices. Serendra in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City serves dishes like lamb adobo (stewed in vinegar and soy sauce) with popped garlic, binukadkad na (butterfly style) crispy pla-pla or tilapia, and bamboo rice with shrimp and mushroom. Café Juanita, Forbestown Center, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City boasts chandeliers draped in tulle with glass beads hanging over brightly set tables. Among the popular dishes are two-way adobo, kare-kare and bagnet.

The tourist offices and major hotel may be able to provide you with lists of restaurants. Newsstands in areas frequented by tourists usually sell restaurant guides in English. Also check lists of restaurants in local entertainment magazines, the Lonely Planet books, and restaurant sites and bloggers online.

Shopping in Manila

The best shops and shopping malls are located near the large hotels in Makati. Ermita and Chinatown are good places to shop for souvenirs. In Makati there is the huge Ayala Center , which includes Glorietta, Greenbelt and the boutique shops of 6750 Ayala Avenue. SM City North EDSA is a large shopping mall located in Quezon City. It is the largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the eighth largest shopping mall in the world. SM Megamall is the second largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the ninth largest in the world. It is located in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong. Nearby is Robinson’s Galleria.

Nana Caragay wrote: “Every time I’m in Greenhills in San Juan City, I’m still dazzled by the wall-to-wall stalls peddling everything from South Sea pearls to knock-offs of the latest limited-edition sneakers...In many more locations scattered around Manila, from Divisoria, Baclaran, and Tutuban, to Parañaque’s “The Ruins,” you’ll find an assortment of tiangges (market stalls) where you can practice the Filipino art of tawad (haggling).

“But the Philippines is not just a place for dirt-cheap bargains. If you’re missing your high-rollin’ friends Louis, Jimmy, and Salvatorre, head over to malls like Greenbelt in Makati, Newport Mall in Pasay, Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, and Bonifacio High Street at Bonifacio Global City. Even in posh surroundings, Filipino hospitality wins out — you can be assured you won’t get the snooty treatment when you walk in.

“But the best part about shopping in the Philippines is the never-ending surprise, wherever you go — from the elegant Rustan’s, the ubiquitous SM, to the ukay-ukay (thrift stores) that sell quirky selections of second-hand clothing — you truly never know where the next major find will be. Then walk a few blocks to try your luck at the wholesaler’s haven of Divisoria, where the more you buy, the cheaper it gets!”

Accommodation in the Manila

There are 12,000 hotel rooms in Metro Manila alone. Manila has quite a few deluxe hotels including the the Peninsula, the Mandarin Oriental, the Shangri-la, Ritz-Carlton and Inter-Continental in Makati. There is also a Shangri-la in Pasig City. In the Tourist Belt around Roxas Boulevard is the venerable Manila Hotel and the relatively new Pan Pacific.

On the next rung down are the Hyatt and the Manila Diamond around Roxas Boulevard, the Duist and New World Hotel in Makati and the Galleria Suites and Richmonde Hotels in Pasig City. Other top hotels include EDA Plaza, a Sheraton, a Best Western and a Holiday Inn. There are also quite a few standard hotels, hostels, guest houses, and YMCAs.

Budget travelers usually hunt for cheap hotel and guest houses around Avenue de Pilar (the red-light district) in Ermita. Be warned that many of he cheap hotels also serve as brothels. The tourist office in Manila and the hotel information desk at the airport can help you find a luxury or standard hotel. The Lonely Planet books have good lists of cheap accommodation options.

Transportation in Manila

There are taxis, jeepneys, minibuses, buses, and taxis are the primary providers of public transport in Manila. . Most of these vehicles are privately owned and buses in Manila. Manila has a relatively new mass transit system. It is a privately financed venture like the one in Bangkok. You can ride a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) through the historic streets of Binondo and Ermita. Jeepneys are the primary means of transport for residents. The number of motorcycle taxis has increased in recent years. They make sense when driving through traffic-clogged streets as they can easily skirt traffic jams. There are also some tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars) and pedicabs (bicycles with sidecars) but these ar not as common as they are in other parts of the Philippines.

Rental bikes and scooters are available but are not recommended due the accident risk. But people still do. David Byrne of Talking Heads is among that have had a good time cycling around Manila. Cycling is becoming more popular in the suburbs of Manila. In Marikina, for example, bikeways link residential areas with commercial and industrial areas, schools, and several public transport stations, including LRT stations. Bikeways are clearly marked and have lighting.

Several privately-owned bus companies provide transport in the city. Local buses use arterial routes in the metropolitan area, but are banned on most streets in the city center. Fares are higher for air-conditioned buses. Service are provided from 5:00am to 11:30pm. Many roads in the metropolitan area are narrow and heavily traveled. Buses and jeepneys are banned on many of these roads. Motorctcle taxis, tricycles and pedicabs (bicycles with sidecars) are the primary providers of public transportation on these roads.

According to the U.S. State Department of State: “Taxis are the recommended form of public transportation. However, the following safeguards are important: do not enter a taxi if it has already accepted another passenger; and, request that the meter be used. If the driver is unwilling to comply with your requests, it is best to wait for another cab. It is also a good idea to make a mental note of the license plate number should there be a problem. When driving in the city, make certain that the doors are locked and the windows rolled up. All other forms of public transportation, such as the light rail system, buses, and “jeepneys” should be avoided for both safety and security reasons.”

Taxis are plentiful and cheap by European and American standards. Hotel taxis have a fixed rate. Most drivers use the meter. If the meter isn't running agree on the fare before setting off. Taxis can be hailed from the streets, caught at a station or taxi stand, or arranged for you by your hotel (there is often a charge for this). The rate goes up mile after midnight. There is usually an additional charge for luggage. A tip of ten percent is given to taxi drivers for long rides. For short taxi rides people round off the fare. Sometimes drivers have difficulty making change for large bills. Most drivers speak English. It is a good idea hurt to have a map and an address for your destination and a nearby landmark near where you are going written in English or Pilipino. Radio-taxi service is the most secure transport option. Call to arrange transport.

Long distance buses out of Manila leave from numerous bus company offices scattered about town. Complicating matters is the fact that some companies have buses leaving from different offices. When you get to Manila inquire at your hotel or the tourist office for schedules and the locations of the bus companies going to where you want to go. Check the Lonely Planet guides for locations of the bus stations.


Jeepneys are the preferred means of transportation by many locals. They are decorated and elongated jeeps with benches in a cab in the back that can carry six to twelve passengers. They are very cheap; have their destinations written on the front, the sides and boards posted on the windshields; and run designated routes like buses except you can stop anywhere along the route. You pay after the driver a fare set according to distance when you get in and hiss, bang on the roof or shout "para" when you want to get out. Air conditioned ones are about a third more expensive. Jeepneys are the primary means of transport for residents. Security is often poor. Visitors should avoid using jeepneys unless they are familiar with the city.

Jeepneys are one of the world's most idiosyncratic modes of transportation. Often decorated with dangling tassels, Christmas lights, gaudy paint jobs, and mirrors, they are United States army jeeps that have been stretched out at special factories so they can accommodate about a dozen or so passengers.

Some jeepneys have velvet paintings and plush interiors and look like bordellos on wheels. Some have mirror balls and colored lights that pulsate to rhythms of Filipino pop music blaring from the vehicles sound system. While others look like psychedelic Ben Hur chariots ready to grind and slash anything that attempts to sideswipe them.

In addition to being colorful, jeepneys are a reliable and convenient way to get around—that is if you don't mind sitting elbow to elbow with other passengers and hunching over so you don't bang your head on the ceiling of the cab when the jeepney hits a pot hole. It is also hard to see anything out the windows. Passengers are often packed in as the driver is more concerned with profits from multiple passengers than theor comfort.. There is little overheard room or leg room. Many don’t have air conditioning. But you can’t beat the price. A ride of four kilometers is still less than 50 US cents in Manila.

Manila Metro and Light Railway Systems

With road traffic always a concern within Metropolitan Manila, the Light Railway Transit (LRT) is the fastest and most economical way to travel throughout the metropolis. It consists of: LRT Line 1, which goes to and from the Roosevelt in the north to Baclaran in the south; and 2) LRT Line 2, which goes to and from Recto Avenue to Santolan St. in the eastern part of the metropolis. 3) The Metro Rail Transport (MRT) Line 3 goes through Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), Metro Manila’s main circumferential road. Stations are located at major intersections of Makati City, Ortigas, and Cubao.

Metro Light Rail Line 1 (LRT Line 1 or the Yellow Line) runs north-south through metropolitan area; links Baclaran Station in Parañque City to Monumento Station in Caloocan City. The LRT 1 provides a fast alternative to the regular jeepney routes. The stations are not handicap accessible. The entire line is elevated. The first coach on Yellow Line trains is reserved for women. Buses, taxis and jeepneys provide transport to and from stations.

Metro Light Rail Line 2 (LRT Line 2) runs east-west through metropolitan area, linking Santolan Station in Marikina City to Recto Station in Manila. Also known as the Purple Line, the LRT 2 traverses five cities in Metro Manila: Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila) along the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda and Recto Avenue. Stations are handicap accessible. Escalators are available.

The Metro Railway Transit (MRT or MRT 3) traverses the length of EDSA and connects North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, passing through the major arteries of Makati's financial district. Also known as the Blue Line or Metrostar Express, the MRT 3 runs along EDSA and passes through the Manila Metro area districts of Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Quezon City, and San Juan. The MRT 3 operates from 5:30am to 10:30pm. It is often crowded especially during rush hours.. Transfering between MRT and LRT lines is possible at North Avenue, Taft Avenue and Araneta Center-Cubao interchanges. Buses, jeepneys and taxis serve the interchanges.

According to ASIRT: 1) Metro is an efficient transport option. Often overcrowded during rush hour. Safety signs are in English and Tagalog. 2) the stations are not handicap friendly. The only access to stations is by stairs. 3) Alert codes inform passengers of changes in normal operations. Code Blue indicates slight delays. Code Yellow indicates longer delays. Code red means service is temporarily suspended. 4) Smoking and being under the influence of alcohol are banned on trains and in stations. 5) Hazardous chemicals and sharp objects are not permitted. 6) Folding bicycles are allowed. Skateboards and non-folding bikes are banned. 7) Metro station security guards conduct inspections and provide assistance. LRT police and police from private companies also provide security. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), PDF, 2012]

For more info on the Philippine National Railway —
The Light Railway Transit (LRT) —
The Metrotren (MRT) —

Roads and Driving in Manila

According to ASIRT: “1) Driving is not recommended, due to confusing street layout, congested, chaotic traffic and poor driving standard. Many drivers drive recklessly, use horns frequently, fail to yield right of way, weave from lane to lane and drive on the wrong side of streets. Hand signals, rather than turn signals, are the rule for indicating intention to turn. 2) Manila’s vehicle fleet is growing 6 percent annually. 3) Main routes are often congested. 4) Entry into Central Business District is restricted from 7:00am to 7:00pm on week days. 5) On Mondays, vehicles with license plates ending in 1 or 2 are banned; on Tuesdays, license plates ending in 3 or 4 are banned, etc. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), PDF, 2012]

6) Five ring roads serve the metropolitan area. Circumferential Road 4 (C4), the most heavily used ring road, forms a semi- circle through eastern sections of Metro Manila. Most of C4 is known as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). EDSA section begins near SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, and ends in Caloocan at Monumento Roundabout (monument to Andrés Bonifacio). Circumferential Road 5 (C-5 or C-5 Road) is also known as Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Avenue.

7) Crashes involving motorcycles increased 72 percent in 2010, compared to 2009. City has designated motorcycle lanes (blue lanes) on some major roads, including EDSA, Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City and Macapagal Ave. in Pasay City and Parañaque districts. Motorcyclists are required to use blue lanes except in emergencies or when preparing to make a U-turn or left turn. Private vehicles are also permitted to use the lanes, but buses are banned.

8) During December, Metro Manila identifies 45 roads as Christmas Lanes. The lanes relieve congestion on heavily traveled roads by providing alternate routes to popular shopping areas. 9) Truck traffic is banned on some major roads in city center. 10) EDSA: Ban is in effect from 6:00am to 9:00pm daily. 11) On major roads, ban is in effect from 6:00am to 9:00am and 5:00pm to 9:00pm, except on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. 12) Parking is scarce.

North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Also Known as Radial Road 8 Main transportation corridor in central and Northern Luzon. Begins at the intersection of Andres Bonifacio Avenue. Ends at its intersection with EDSA in Quezon City. Andres Bonifacio Avenue continues north as NLEX. Passes through Metro Manila, Bulacan and Pampanga Provinces. Ends in Mabalcat in Pampanga

Metro Manila Skyway System, part of the South Luzon Expressway, is a multi-lane expressway linking Makati City, Pasay City, Parañaque City and Muntinlupa City in Metro Manila. Ends in Barangay Alabang in Muntinlupa City. The Skyway has reduced congestion on the South Luzon Expressway. The elevated section of the Skyway passes over much of Metro Manila's section of South Luzon Expressway. Skyway continues as an at-grade expressway, ending in Barangay Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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