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The Philippines are becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and the country really has a lot to offer for visitors with over 7000 islands. Also, the Philippines can not be compared to Malaysia, Thailand, etc. because they have their very own charm.

Philippines – arrival and first impressions

Here you can read our experience report on our arrival and the first days in the Philippines.

How to get to Manila

Unfortunately, direct flights to Manila are not offered from Germany, you will have to plan with a stopover. Good hubs are Dubai, Istanbul or Hong Kong. From there you can fly directly to the Philippines. From many of the surrounding countries in Southeast Asia you can also reach Manila well, e.g. from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City etc. A good overview of airlines, prices and times is available at Skyscanner.

If you want to travel to Manila from another location within the Philippines, there are bus and boat connections in addition to domestic flights, with ferries leaving at irregular intervals, e.g. from Caticlan (Boracay) in 17 hours to Manila.

Buses are a good option if you are coming from the north, e.g. from Sagada, Baguio City and a few more. A popular company is Victory Liner. However, it is a bit uncomfortable for newbies, because many bus companies have their own bus terminal. Your hotel will be happy to help you. Otherwise you can find many connections as well as private taxis at 12go.asia.

Accommodation in Manila – our hotel tip

The Red Planet Manila Bay lies, as the name suggests, on the Bay of Manila. The location is fantastic for exploring some sights such as the Rizal Park or Intramuros by foot. The friendly staff and clean rooms speak for the Red Planet. Furthermore, the rooms are equipped with air conditioning, television, free WiFi, a safe and a fridge.

More hotels in other districts of Manila, such as Makati or Quezon City can be found here.

Arrival in Manila. The capital of the Philippines is very hot and humid also at night, like a typical Southeast Asian city. But that can’t impress us anymore. After a 4-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur and a trouble-free entry to the Philippines (with verification of the return ticket), we were looking for a taxi to get us to our hotel.

We have to admit that we never prepared ourselves for the Philippines and read only very little about the country. In other words, we haven’t done our homework because we’re always too lazy for planning. Our motto is like: Just go and see where it takes you.

The taxi ride

Although we took a metered taxi from the airport to our hotel, the ride was way more expensive than we expected (about 500 pesos = just something under € 10). Alright, the driver had to locate the hotel and went up and down the street (partly backwards, because it was a one-way street) to find it, but we expected the ride significantly more favorable.

The first big positive surprise was that the Filipinos speak pretty good English. I mean everybody, even the taxi driver and old women. Sometimes they even talk English among themselves and use “thank you” instead of “salamat”. In general, the Filipinos are really nice, friendly and helpful. This makes traveling over here much easier and comfortable.

But it’s not that easy and cheap to go around with a taxi in Manila. First, it’s really hard to get a free taxi. Second, many of the drivers won’t turn on the meter (at least with tourists) and name a fixed price for some weird reasons (mostly it’s because of the “traffic”).


Jeepneys in the city of Manila, Philippines
Jeepneys in the city of Manila

The next morning. As in almost every city we visit for the first time, we started to explore it by walking. Like here in Manila.

The city is really different – not like Bangkok, Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur. As we were looking for a breakfast or rather a lunch, we noticed that there aren’t too many food stalls with street food like in the other Southeast Asian cities.

So we walked quite a while around the district of Malate until we found a small shop were we tried the “Caldereta” and “Pork Adobo”.

Dear Filipinos, please just skip this paragraph. Unfortunately, we had to realize that the Philippine cuisine isn’t quite as good as we hoped for. Even after 10 days in the country we didn’t change our mind about this. Until then, we didn’t have a single dish that knocked our socks off. If you’ve never been to Southeast Asia before or if you’re visiting the Philippines for the first time, then the food is alright. If you are used to delicious Thai or Vietnamese food, you will be quite disappointed.

Typhoon Hagupit (aka “Ruby”)

After an unexpectedly beautiful day in Manila’s Rizal Park and Intramuros, the old colonial district, we went back to our hotel and noticed in the news that there was a super typhoon heading to the Philippines.

Splendid. Because the next day we were supposed to fly to Boracay, which was almost located on the route of the typhoon. According to Google, many flights were already canceled and the boat service to Boracay was closed down.

On the next day we drove to the airport and headed straight to the ticketing office of the Philippine Airlines to ask for a refund of our ticket. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible because the flight was on schedule and the typhoon didn’t arrive at Boracay yet. This was in my opinion a irresponsibility of the airline! A reasonable change of the booking wasn’t also possible. It would have cost more than buying a new ticket.

However, we didn’t have another choice than spontaneously buy a new ticket to Palawan on the very same day. What a pity Philippine Airlines, you could have managed that in a better way!

El Nido

'Welcome to Palawan' banner at the baggage belt of Puerto Princesa

Finally we arrived on Palawan. After spending the first night in Puerto Princesa, we left in a completely overcrowded minivan to El Nido. To paradise.

Again we were unlucky or rather followed by typhoon “Ruby”. It was raining cats and dogs for about 2 days and it was really windy, not what we imagined on a paradise island. At least we were able to use that time to work on our blog and publish our first German ebook about Thailand.

In total we spent about one week in El Nido and in the end we did like it much better than in the beginning. The weather was better and we’ve seen many paradise-like islands with amazing beaches. More on that in some articles later.

Paradise Beach on Cadlao Island, El Nido (Palawan)
Paradise Beach on Cadlao Island, El Nido

First conclusion

We just had some bad luck and not the best start in this country but it got way better. Now we are even looking more forward to Boracay…

Manila: Tours and Tickets

Do you prefer to travel with a guide who knows the area very well? Then we recommend a guided tour with a local. This way you can get to know Manila in a completely different way. GetYourGuide offers a wide selection of exciting tours for Manila and the Philippines.


Hi, I'm Tobi, a passionate travel blogger and freelancer in translations and copy writing. Mostly I travel around Southeast Asia and work remotely from different locations. If you want to know where I am or what I'm doing, just follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.