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Book your Philippines MadPass today: 15 or 30 Day Passes: Unlimited Stays in Cebu City, Dumaguete, Panglao, Siquijor & Manila 🇵🇭🏝️🎉

Aerial view of Manila, photo courtesy of Alexes Gerard

Hey globetrotters! Ready to dive into Manila’s bustling streets and colorful culture without burning a hole in your wallet? Manila, the dynamic capital of the Philippines, isn’t just a stopover; it’s a full-on adventure. From sizzling street food to vibrant nightlife and historic sights, this city offers a thrilling mix of experiences for the budget-savvy traveler. Whether you’re a solo backpacker or rolling with your squad, getting around Manila like a local is not only easy but super affordable. So, buckle up as we guide you through the coolest, most wallet-friendly ways to explore Manila’s urban jungle.

1. Understand the Transportation Options

Explore various options of transportation in Manila, photo courtesy of Canva

Navigating Manila means getting familiar with its iconic and somewhat eclectic transport options. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Jeepneys: These are not just vehicles; they’re a cultural icon! Riding a jeepney is a must-do and the cheapest way to get around. They follow specific routes, which can be tricky to master at first, but are great once you get the hang of it. Pro tip: Always carry small change and pay as you enter.
  • Tricycles: Perfect for short trips within neighborhoods. They’re quick and can maneuver through traffic much easier than cars. Prices are negotiable, so don’t shy away from haggling a bit.
  • Buses and MRT/LRT: For longer distances, buses and the metro rail systems (MRT and LRT) are your best bet. Avoid peak hours to dodge the crowd. Investing in a stored value card can save you time and spare you the hassle of buying tickets for every ride.
  • Taxis: Taxis are convenient for getting around, especially with luggage or when you want a more comfortable ride. While generally affordable, make sure the meter is running before you get in to avoid any fare disputes.

Each mode of transport offers a unique window into the daily lives of locals. Whether you’re squeezing into a bustling jeepney or hopping on the MRT, each ride is a story in itself!A fast and affordable option, especially for shorter distances. Download the app (Angkas/Joyride) or hail a Grab motorbike for a fun and breezy ride. Remember to wear a helmet for safety!

2. Utilize Ride-Sharing Apps

Use apps like Grab, Angkas, or Joyride for convenient transportation, photo courtesy of Canva

In a city as spread out as Manila, sometimes a jeepney or tricycle just won’t cut it. Enter ride-sharing apps like Grab, which are a godsend for navigating longer distances or when you’re out late at night. It’s safe, and reliable, and you can see your fare upfront—no haggling necessary! Plus, for those of you who might find Manila’s public transport maze a bit daunting, these apps offer a convenient way to get directly to your destination.

Don’t miss out on local ride-sharing options too; they often provide competitive prices and can give you more of a local feel. Apps like Angkas and Joyride are fast, affordable options, especially for shorter distances. Simply download the app and hail a motorbike for a fun and breezy ride. Remember to always wear a helmet for safety.

3. Take Advantage of the Pasig River Ferries

Escape Manila’s traffic and enjoy sightseeing with the Pasig River ferry, photo courtesy of Michael Buillerey

Want to escape Manila’s notorious traffic while taking in some sights? Check out the Pasig River ferries. This under-the-radar option offers not only a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle but also provides a scenic route to several key destinations. With stops at places like Intramuros and Makati, it’s both a practical and picturesque way to travel. Plus, fares are surprisingly cheap, making it a budget-friendly choice for sightseeing. Just make sure to check the schedule in advance as services can vary throughout the day.

4. Walk and Explore

Discover Philippine history with a walk through historic Intramuros, photo courtesy of Canva

For all you intrepid explorers, sometimes the best way to absorb the essence of Manila is on foot. Areas like Intramuros, the walled city filled with history, or Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, are perfect for walking tours. Strolling through these neighborhoods lets you discover hidden gems and intricacies you’d miss otherwise. Plus, it’s free! Pack comfy shoes, stay hydrated, and get ready to explore alleyways filled with artisan shops, street food stalls, and centuries-old architecture. Remember, Manila can be hot and bustling, so pace yourself and take breaks to enjoy a halo-halo or cool down with some buko juice.

5. Cycling and Bike Rentals

Cycle through Manila’s historic sites, photo courtesy of Ann Aleonar

Manila might not first come to mind when you think of cycling cities, but it’s getting there! Renting a bike can give you the freedom to explore areas at your own pace without waiting for buses or paying cab fares. Look for bike rental services, especially around tourist-friendly areas like Rizal Park and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In Intramuros, the bamboo bike tours offer various rates and routes for visitors to explore Manila’s historic area. The tours include options like the Intramuros Tour for 1200 PHP per person, the Intramuros Express for 600 PHP per person, the Intramuros Night Experience for 1200 PHP per person, the Intramuros Sunset Tour for 1200 PHP per person, the Poblacion Community Tour for 1200 PHP per person, the Intramuros Filipino Tour for 600 PHP per person, and the Bonifacio Global City Mural Art Tour for 1200 PHP per person.

These guided bike tours provide a safe and informative way to discover the city from a local’s perspective. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable cycling adventure, it is recommended to wear a helmet, keep an eye on your belongings, and follow local traffic rules while exploring the city on a bamboo bike.

6. Tips for Budget-Friendly Travel

Purchase a Beep Card for smoother transportation, photo courtesy of Samson Katt

Travel smart and keep your expenses low with these savvy tips for getting around Manila. First off, skip the tourist traps where prices are hiked up. Instead, mingle with locals and ask them about the best deals around—Filipinos are famously friendly and love to help! Opt for multi-ride passes if you plan to use the MRT or LRT frequently; these can save you both time and money. Also, consider traveling during off-peak hours to avoid crowded commutes and the higher costs that can come with peak travel times.

7. Cultural Etiquette and Tips

Mind your personal space and make sure to smile, photo courtesy of Canva

Understanding a bit of local etiquette goes a long way in enhancing your travel experience. When using public transport in Manila, a simple ‘thank you’ in Tagalog (“Salamat”) can make a daily interaction more pleasant. Be mindful of personal space—even in crowded vehicles—and always offer your seat to the elderly, pregnant women, or those with disabilities. Lastly, remember that smiling is universal! A friendly attitude and openness to new experiences are your best assets when exploring Manila’s vibrant cityscape.

Ready to Party in Manila?

Experience the vibrant energy of Manila, photo courtesy of Keith Brian de Leon

If you’re gearing up for an unforgettable adventure in Manila, why not kick it off at Mad Monkey Hostel? Known for its vibrant atmosphere and epic social events, it’s the perfect spot to meet fellow travelers and dive into the local scene. Whether you’re here to party or just chill, Mad Monkey has something for everyone. Check out what’s on offer and book your stay today at Mad Monkey Hostels. Get ready to make some incredible memories in Manila’s coolest hostel!


View of sunset in Manila Bay, photo courtesy of Paolo Syiaco

Now that you’re armed with these tips, you’re all set to navigate Manila like a local without spending a fortune. Embrace the hustle and bustle, indulge in the local culture, and make the most out of every moment in this lively city. Manila is not just a destination; it’s an experience filled with vivid colors, friendly faces, and unforgettable adventures. So pack your bags, grab your map, and get ready to explore every corner of this incredible city. Happy travels!

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