From its incredible old architecture and towering skyscrapers to frenetic street culture and delicious food, Manila is a modern marvel that should be seen at least once. More like 16 cities in one, this world-class megalopolis is all sorts of madness and mayhem.
Being a big city, the capital of the Philippines isn’t always a bed of roses. In fact, it’s well documented for its slums, around a quarter of the population live in poverty and crime is never too far away.
That said, people still visit Manila, and so should you. We have created a pretty epic insider’s guide that is packed full of all the information and handy tips you’ll need for staying safe in Manila. We’ll help you navigate Manila with a lot of insider knowledge that’ll have you tackling it like a seasoned pro.
We have literally everything you need to know about the safety of Manila. We’re talking about public transport, how not to get a taxi, what kind of healthcare you can expect in the city, tips for solo female travellers in Manila – and a ton of other stuff. So are you ready? Let’s go!
Whilst COVD 19 has not gone away, the world is opening up again to travellers. However, the Philippines remains under some heavy lock down measures and entry is not permitted to most foreign nationals.
For the most up-to-date safety information and what you should be doing to help, please consult the WHO and your local government.
- How Safe is Manila? (Our take)
- Is Manila Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Is it Safe to Visit Manila Right Now?
- Manila Travel Insurance
- 23 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Manila
- Keeping your money safe in Manila
- Is Manila safe to travel alone?
- Is Manila safe for solo female travellers?
- Is Manila safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Manila?
- Is Uber safe in Manila?
- Are taxis safe in Manila?
- Is public transportation in Manila safe?
- Is the food in Manila safe?
- Can you drink the water in Manila?
- Is Manila safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Manila?
- Final thoughts on the safety of Manila
How Safe is Manila? (Our take)
Let’s stress that Manila is a huge city. It encompasses the area of several cities. In all this huge space, of course, there are some pretty awesome things to see in Manila. But with such a huge population, there are some social issues too, such as poverty.
Travellers there can face some tricky and sometimes dangerous situations. For example, things like petty crime and carjackings aren’t uncommon.
Whilst the city does have a bit of reputation as one of the most dangerous in Southeast Asia, the likelihood of something actually physically bad happening to you is quite low. In fact, even with the terrorist attacks in recent years.
Not only that, but there are also traffic-clogged streets and high levels of pollution.
In Manila, what you need to do – for the most part – is simply use your common sense and travel smart. There are areas with higher crime than others, and certain neighbourhoods you probably shouldn’t wander around at night. So let’s get down to it!
Is Manila Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
We’re not going to lie: there is a high level of violent crime in Manila. However, tourists aren’t usually targeted.
The Philippines, as a whole, has a population of 104 million; around 12 million of those live in Manila (2018). In general, the population is pretty young – over 40% are aged 17 or younger and 10 million of them are under 4 years of age. That’s just one of the factors of imbalance at work in the country.
In case you were wondering, criminal gangs, do play their part in the country, and that’s still the case in Manila. Across the country from 2016 to 2018, according to Philippine National Police (PNP), the crime rate has dropped by 21.48%; things like sexual assault and physical injuries have gone down, but in Metro Manila, the murder rate has soared by 112%.
This hasn’t deterred tourists from visiting the Philippines as a whole. In fact, it welcomed 7.1 million visitors in 2018, a rise of 7% on the previous year. Japan, America, and Australia are up there as the developed countries that visit the Philippines the most.
Out of the 163 countries measured on the ol’ Global Peace Index, the Philippines ranks 134 (between Burundi and Eritrea), which is not that peaceful.
However, if visitor numbers are anything to go by, it seems that Manila is safe to visit, at least for tourists. A lot of people visit and have no trouble at all.
Is it Safe to Visit Manila Right Now?
The Philippines as a whole is undergoing a time of change. Especially with the heavy-handed President Rodrigo Duterte in power.
Currently (June 2019) the Philippines is going through an election. It’s thought there will be protests and political rallies. Any time there are elections here, you need to be aware that there can be an increase in demonstrations – and even violence related to the elections. Needless to say, steer clear of political gatherings.
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration has “specifically warned foreign nationals against participating in public protests and political rallies” – so follow their advice.
Another thing that affects the Philippines’ safety at the moment is terrorism. Of course, Manila, being the capital, is a target. Places like public transport, places of worship, malls and airports have been and may be targeted. In 2017 there were two explosions in Quiapo; in 2016, explosives were found in the US Embassy in Manila and in the same year there were explosions at a boxing match. In fact, across the Philippines, there are problems with terrorist groups and insurgents, including Abu Sayyaf.
Also, there has been an increase in kidnappings. Not in Manila, but because of that (and other reasons) there is currently “a state of emergency on account of lawless violence.”
Away from people, there’s nature. Between June and November, the Philippines is hit by approximately 20 typhoons per year. If you’re staying in a nice concrete building, you should be totally fine. But it could definitely affect your travel plans around the city, roads could flood, and shops will probably be shut. Stock up on food and monitor what’s going on with the news.
Earthquakes also can happen. From 2016 to 2017 there were around 30 earthquakes of note that happened in the Philippines. That just shows you the amount that they happen – and they don’t stop!
At the end of the day, don’t let all that put you off. It’s safe to visit Manila right now – just be careful and be aware of the potential dangers.
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? Even if you’re only going for a few days, that’s more than enough time to get smote by wrathful angels. Have fun in Manila, but take it from us, overseas medical care and canceled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.
Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home.
We have used World Nomads for years now and I have personally made several claims. Why not get a quote from them yourself?
Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing travel insurance companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurances out there, so don’t feel limited.
So you want to go to Manila. That’s cool! But of course, you’ll definitely want to be safe in this city. It’s a big place, and wandering around like a lost tourist could get you into a spot of trouble. Don’t worry though, help is at hand. We’ve got together some of our top safety tips for travelling to Manila so that you can truly get the best out of your trip to this frenetic and colourful capital city…
- Be on your guard at night – especially wandering around by yourself. Avoid shady characters and unlit roads.
- Steer clear of certain districts, too – like Tondo, which isn’t great after dark.
- Smokey Mountain is basically no-go – unless you’re working with a charity. This genuinely poverty-stricken area (a former landfill site) is full of desperate people.
- Be careful of traffic – not only will it take you a long time to get around, but it can be dangerous – keep your wits about you!
- Keep your belongings close to you – on the MRT and even if you’re out drinking, pickpockets will likely target you. Wear a money belt to hide your cash.
- No matter who you are, keep an eye on your food and drink – spiking, and subsequent robbing, isn’t unheard of.
- Beware of friendly strangers – most likely people who approach you in a city won’t have friendly intentions. Be polite though.
- Taxis can be a headache – there are issues, but we’ve got a whole section on that coming up!
- NO DRUGS – don’t bother. Philippines prisons aren’t nice, penalties are very severe.
- Carry a copy of your passport with you – you have to show this if asked and a copy is totally fine.
- Don’t carry your actual passport – if those go missing, you’re screwed!
- Don’t look flashy – anything that makes you stand out as a rich person will definitely single you out as a target to thieves.
- And don’t flash cash either – any display of wealth, and that you’re being so stupid with it, will also make you a target.
- Try to blend in – a big backpacking backpack, hiking trainers, activewear… all that stuff may make you a target for petty crime, too.
- Watch your luggage at the airport/hotel lobby – it can go missing, so keep it close!
- Use a money belt – any area of Manila, you can still be a victim of petty crime (we’ve got a great recommendation for you below!)
- Be very careful of moneychangers – particularly on A Mabini Street in Ermita. Sketchy, tricksy, shortchanging kinda place.
- Keep aware of your surroundings at ATMs – you never know who saw you took out all that cash -be discreet.
- Watch out for political developments – keep an eye on the news and follow government advice.
- Avoid protests, demonstrations, etc. – it’s not a good idea; even the Philippine government says not to.
- Don’t underestimate typhoons – these can literally shut down Manila. Watch the news, stock up on food, stay inside.
- Know what to do in the event of an earthquake – read up. It’s better being prepared a little rather than not at all.
- If you have respiratory disease (e.g. asthma) protect against air pollution – air quality can be seriously bad in Manila; wear a mask.
That may seem like a lot to think about, but trust us: you’re going to need these travel tips in Manila to stay safe. Chances are you’ll be totally fine, however, make sure you travel smart. Make sure you are aware of the situation in the Philippines, understand that Manila can be overwhelming, and know that you should do your best to not stand out as an unwitting target!
Keeping your money safe in Manila
If there was ever a more annoying thing for someone travelling around the world than losing money, we’d like to know! Honestly suddenly realising you’ve got no cash totally sucks.
Unfortunately, in Manila, there are chances of this happening at the hands of some petty thief. There’s a lot of pickpockets about, but the simple solution would be to, you know, wear a travel money belt.
The simplest way to stop a pickpocket in their tracks is to have nothing in your pockets to pick. Before you even start googling the world of backpacker-oriented money belts, we’ve got a stand-out recommendation for you guys.
This thing totally pays for itself. We totally love how basic it is – but in a good way. All you have to do is unzip the little pocket, stuff whatever cash for the day in there that you need, and boom – you’ve enacted Pickpocket Prevention Main Rule. Even if you end up losing money from your main stash yourself, you’ll always have a little bit to get by if you keep your money belt stocked with money!
If you need a little more room for your passport and other travel valuables, have a look at a full-size money belt that tucks under your clothes instead.
If neither of those options appeals to your refined fashion sense, don’t compromise! Opt for an infinity scarf with a hidden zipper pocket.
There are a lot of benefits to solo travel. We’re not going to list all of them, but the very fact that you’re by yourself means that the only person you can rely on is yourself. Cue overcoming challenges and growing as a person, which is all pretty rewarding stuff.
Then again, it’s not always amazing – sometimes it can be pretty dull. In a city (especially one like Manila), you can feel even more isolated and overwhelmed. With that in mind, we’ve got a few pointers for solo travel in Manila to help your trip go super smoothly.
- Book a decent hostel in Manila. We’d say don’t opt for ultra-budget to make sure you’ve got a nice stay. Go a cut above and stay somewhere that’s nice to return to after a day of exploring the frantic hustle and bustle of Manila. We’re talking comfy beds, a bit of style, places to chill out with everyone else – an oasis, basically.
- Research. No good staying at a nice hostel that’s totally boring if that sort of thing is going to drive you insane. Likewise, staying at a party place if you’re not into partying will also drag you down. Read reviews and find the hostel that is going to suit you best.
- Ask the locals. People in the Philippines are pretty friendly so finding someone to hang out with shouldn’t be too tricky. Even just asking people their recommendations on what to see in the city.
- Make friends with people staying at your hostel. This is done as much as by simply chatting to them in the common areas, or even getting talking to them on a walking tour organised by the hostel. The latter you should also get on, as it’s a good way to see a city, learn about it and maybe make a few new mates too.
- Consider taking private transport. You might think you’re saving money by getting public transport, but honestly private transport (i.e. a taxi) isn’t much more than public transport. Plus it will get you where you want to go a lot quicker than something like a jeepney.
- Cool yourself down. Manila is a pretty hot place. If you’re by yourself it’s perfectly fine just to duck into a shopping mall for a bit of aircon.
- Try to blend in a bit whilst you’re doing that though. Going around looking like you’re on some sort of urban trek isn’t a good look, so take a look at what the locals are wearing and dress down a little. It will also help you not look like a tourist/target for petty crime.
- If you need a bit of respite from the busy bustle of the city head to Rizal Park along Manila Bay Walk. This is a huge green space where you can watch the sunset, enjoy dinner, simply stroll around and do some people watching.
- Make sure you carry around small denominations. Lots of places in Manila are cash-only and won’t appreciate you coming in with your big wads of big bills. Plus the chance of you being shortchanged if you have only large denomination bills is also more likely.
- Protect yourself from the sun and the heat. A hat, keep hydrated, sunscreen – it’s a deceivingly sweaty city. Even if it’s cloudy you can still get burned, people!
- Get yourself a sim card with data and keep in touch with people back home. Obviously having a sim card with data will help you with maps and stuff like that, but having a sim also means being able to chat with your friends and family. Make sure they know where you are, what you’re doing – plus it’s good to keep you grounded talking with someone familiar.
- Don’t feel like you need to do everything. That is the best way to get burn-out. Manila is a big city and seeing all the sights you can every single day, packing in all the “recommended” activities and “must-see” stuff is going to wear you out pretty quickly. So the best thing to do? Go at your own pace. Have rest days if you don’t feel like sightseeing and go chill at a cafe, or bum around a shopping mall.
Going it alone in Manila is obviously not going to be the easiest thing to do in the world. For one thing, it’s Manila – already it’s a challenging city to navigate, get around and get into at the best of times, let alone on your own. Follow our tips and make sure that you give yourself a good grounding for exploring the city: nice hostel, people to chat with, common sense, taking it easy. You’ll soon be loving it.
Is Manila safe for solo female travellers?
Manila is a stop off for many solo travellers who are backpacking the Philippines. As a solo female traveller to Manila, you might be pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Why? Because Manila is a busy city and – especially if you’re not used to travelling by yourself – you could quickly feel overwhelmed by your new, very frenetic surroundings.
That said, Manila is obviously filled with people and a lot of them are women. And there are also a ton of travellers in the city too, plus there are going to people out there with tips to help you out. We’ve also got some safety tips for solo female travellers in Manila, so you’re all good!
- First things first: accommodation. The hostel scene in Manila is newer than in places like Bangkok, so don’t expect a lot of choices. Still, it pays to research. So make sure you book yourself into somewhere that’s going to make you, as a solo female traveller, feel comfortable.
- Research. Try to find a hostel or accommodation, that’s 1) easy to get to from a main road, that’s 2) a few minutes’ (at most) from a public transport stop and which is 3) near eateries and cafes. This will make it cheaper since you won’t have to pay for taxis all the time, plus it will make your stay safer with less walking by yourself to do.
- A lot of hostels in the Makati City area will have free group tours. This is a simple, stress-free way to see the city and make friends with fellow travellers. We’d really recommend booking yourself onto one of these, especially if you’ve only got a few months’ worths of solo travel under your belt.
- Feel free to also hire your own guide. If you don’t want to go on a group tour, that’s fine. Make sure, however, that someone can vouch for them, that they come highly recommended, and that you can trust them.
- Hit up online groups for solo female travellers. Tips and hints on solo travel for females on pages like the Facebook group Girls Love Travel are endless, plus you’ll find large female-only travel communities on Instagram if you search certain hashtags (e.g. #girlsabroad and #girlslovetravel). A good way to find people to meet up with, too.
- Go out at night and enjoy the city, but this is probably best done with a group of people. Being in a group you’ll all look out for each other and most likely steer clear of any trouble.
- Be very careful with your drinks. We said this before, but we’ll say it again: drink spiking happens. This is especially an issue for women. Assaults and robberies have been known to occur after food and drink being spiked. Don’t accept food and drink, therefore, from strangers.
- When it comes to what to wear, you can pretty much wear what you like. However, if you don’t want too much attention, it’s probably better to dress on the conservative side. A good rule of thumb is to copy, as much as you can, what the local ladies are dressed like. It’s probably the best way to go.
- Tell someone what you’re doing. Whether that’s friends back home, your parents, your new dorm buddy, the staff at your hostel, you should let them know if you’re heading out for the day by yourself. It’s always better to not go completely off-grid when you’re exploring alone.
- Of course, it’s all good to challenge yourself but don’t let that “challenge” turn into a dodgy situation or outright danger. Top tip, if you don’t feel comfortable and you really don’t want to do something that everyone else seems to be doing, don’t do it – think of your safety and know your limits.
There are tons of ways to store valuables and goods while traveling but a travel scarf has to be the least obtrusive and the most classy.
The Active Roots Zipper Scarf is your run-of-the-mill infinity scarf but with a hidden pocket that’s big and sturdy enough for a night’s cash, your phone, a passport and (hell with it) some snacks too!
Though a big urban sprawl with problems of pollution and poverty, Manila isn’t that scary of a place to visit. It’s an exciting place where you can get to know (at least the urban) culture of the Philippines. Being a solo female traveller here doesn’t mean a limited experience.
Of course not. There are loads of female travellers who have done all this before you, so pertinent hints and tips and handy information will be at hand within a few clicks. You could even meet up with other solo female travellers through cool Facebook groups. Love it!
Keep in mind our travel advice too: stay in the right area in Manila, make friends, and – if it’s all too overwhelming – get yourself on a tour. Solo travel doesn’t have to mean being uncomfortable and overwhelmed the whole time. It’s your trip, so get on a tour for ease and learn stuff!
Is Manila safe to travel for families?
Despite being considered “unsafe” by some, Manila is safe to travel for families.
It’s definitely a unique place to take your family. Your children will get to experience a mix of cultures here, which is always pretty cool. People here are friendly, especially to children, and whilst it’s not going to be the most easygoing place in the world, you’re bound to have a good time here.
Often Manila works as a stop-off point for families that are heading off to different parts of the Philippines, which makes sense. That said, there are still a fair few child-friendly activities you can get involved with too.
For example, the Mind Museum is a cool place for kids. There are a load of interactive exhibits here, a planetarium, and a ton of displays from dinosaurs to spacecraft. There’s also Star City, an amusement park packed full of different rides for different ages. A super cool place, however, is Art In Island – not only will your kids get to see the artwork, but learn about the history and even get involved with stuff too.
Rizal Park is a good place to head if you’ve got kids in tow. There are playgrounds and fountains and you’ll find other local families enjoying the relative chill of this area, too.
There are a few considerations, however. One of these is the season, which is either dry or wet. From March to May, things get super hot with temperatures often hitting 40 degrees C. So you’ll want to make sure everyone’s covered up from the sun and hydrated.
Pollution is also a big problem in the Philippines, but especially in Manila. This may be a concern for those with small children, or if your little ones have respiratory problems.
Getting around the city with kids isn’t the best. We’d recommend taxis. The trains can get super busy and will no doubt be stressful to navigate with children.
There are plenty of family-friendly hotels with family rooms though, and you’ll be able to get your hands on things like nappies and formula – stuff like that – pretty easily.
Whilst cool, Manila can be a little crazy. If you’re dead-set ongoing, but you don’t want to navigate the sometimes overwhelming city by yourself, consider getting a guide or a car complete with driver. This will take the stress off. If you do plan on that, then make sure you read reviews and only get yourself somebody to show you around who is highly recommended and trusted.
Is it safe to drive in Manila?
Traffic in Manila is mental and pretty horrendous, to say the least.
Driving around the city is not for the faint-hearted. Manila’s roads are often clogged with traffic and locals have some pretty scary driving habits that you may not be used to.
We wouldn’t particularly say it would be safe or even sensible to drive in Manila. For those who do want to rent a car, however, it can be a decent way to see sights outside the city centre which can’t be reached by public transport.
You can rent a car from an international company (recommended) at the airport, or some hotels, fairly inexpensively. All you’ll need is an international driving license and a very comprehensive rental insurance!
Another good option, especially if you’re in a group, is to pay for a driver to take you around. You can negotiate with a driver to pay them for the day, or you could ask at your accommodation for recommendations. Hiring a driver will always be more expensive than a car, but it’s so much less stressful. You won’t have to deal with the craziness of Manila’s roads for yourself, and on top of that, it will probably save you a lot of time. The driver will have local knowledge, will know the best routes, will be used to the heavy traffic and questionable driving of some of the city’s motorists.
To sum it up: driving in Manila isn’t safe and we wouldn’t recommend it at all. If you really want to, it can be done, but you should be a confident driver and definitely have some experience of driving in a developing country.
Is Uber safe in Manila?
There is no Uber in Manila. However, there is Grab, and it’s safe. In fact, it’s probably the best, safest and most convenient way to get around.
It works basically like Uber except the cars registered are actually licensed taxis. You won’t language barriers, you can pay in-app, won’t have to worry about negotiating prices, get to track your journey etc. All the benefits of cab-hailing apps.
The best thing about Grab in Manila is that you can use it even if you don’t have the internet. There are Grab Booths, which may not be in the city itself but are at the airport, at Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4, and make it easy to get yourself a ride to your accommodation when you’ve just made it through customs.
Are taxis safe in Manila?
Taxis in Manila are a bit sketchy. They don’t have a great reputation – and we’re talking even amongst residents of Manila themselves.
You’ll have to watch out for a lot of things. One of these is something you’ll notice as soon as see one: taxis in Manila are often run-down and a bit worse for wear (to say the least).
Often the drivers will “forget” to put the meter on, and end up overcharging you – sometimes as much as twice the amount it’s supposed to be. They could also shortchange you, so it’s super imperative that you have small denominations to avoid that.
However, taxis in Manila are all over the place. You’re not exactly going to have trouble finding one. On top of this, they’re pretty cheap.
If you use them, insist politely that they put the meter on. If they tell you it’s “broken” or suggest the fare is “up to you”, just get out and find another taxi – it’s not worth pushing your point and getting into an argument about it.
Note: if they quote you a price, it’s likely to be around double the regular fare.
In rush hour, getting a taxi can be pretty tricky. It’s sort of the done thing that you offer more than the meter says at the end, just for the trouble of having to drive in rush hour.
Watch out at the airport for taxis whose meters seem to be ticking over faster than they should be. This is a scam. From the airport, you might want to have transport pre-arranged with your accommodation. Otherwise, there’s always those Grab Booths.
You’ll know a taxi when you see one – it looks like a taxi. They’re usually white with the company name and maybe something like “AIRCON” stencilled on the side in red, blue or green, for example. Some are yellow.
With all taxis though, it’s important to know that scams do happen. Be aware of this and know that you can always avoid it by simply declining and finding an honest driver in the first place.
To sum up, whilst taxis in Manila are safe they’re just a bit tricky. We’d recommend Grab, instead.
Is public transportation in Manila safe?
Manila comes complete, as all major capital cities do, with a selection of public transport on offer. These different options cover the vast 1,475 square kilometres of the city, taking you from the historical centre to hotels and attractions, making it easy to get to all the stops on your Manila itinerary.
Walking is an option, but as we said, it’s vast and the city gets super hot. Plus that traffic ain’t nice to be wandering next to all day.
First off: buses. Local buses are pretty badly run-down (in some cases) but can be quite handy to get around the city. A decent-ish alternative to the ever-busy MRT. They’re pretty cheap and it’s not likely that you’re going to get overly confused; people speak pretty good English and drivers can tell you where you need to get off if you need to know, or you can ask them if a bus goes to whatever place you’re heading to. Be aware though that some bus drivers are pretty crazy behind the wheel.
Some bus routes are going to be better for you as a tourist than others. For example, there’s one route that links Makati and The Fort every ten minutes, which is handy. Some are even air-conned (yes, that means some aren’t!).
Next: jeepneys. These colourful contraptions are the iconic, customised and brightly decorated public buses that traverse Manila. They’re called jeepneys because they were originally made out of US military vehicles (i.e. Jeeps) following the Second World War. You should use them at least once just for the experience, but be aware that they’re not really comfortable. They run along routes, like buses obviously, and the rates are super cheap. It’s about 8 pesos for a short ride, which if you don’t know is extremely affordable.
If you’re having trouble pinning them down, there’s an app you can use! It’s called Sakay.ph. This has managed, somehow, to map the vast public transport system of Manila, including jeepneys.
Then there’s the MRT and the LRT, both of which are, sadly, not very user-friendly. If you can get to grips with either system or want to use them, you can by all means. However, it’s not something that’s going to be fun to use. And it gets even less fun during weekday rush-hours (7-9 AM and 5-9 PM) so you might want to avoid it then.
Public transport in Manila is safe, generally, but you should always keep your belongings close to you, especially when public transport, like the MRT, is at its busiest. Always keep aware of your surroundings and keep your stuff safe!
When moving from place to place, you shouldn’t store travel documents in a bag, even if it’s under your seat or overhead.
A full-sized money belt that stays tucked under your clothes keeps your documents and cash organized during your travels and assures nothing critical gets left behind or stolen.
Is the food in Manila safe?
The Philippines has a ton of amazing food – and it goes without saying that you can find a whole lot of that in Manila. From Chinese influenced fish balls (bola-bola) and . deep-fried quails eggs (quek-quek) to food courts full of choice, there’s a lot on the food scene here.
But there’s other stuff that gives Filipino food a different kind of reputation. Balut for instance; a quick google image search on that one will show you that maybe you won’t want to eat that. But there’s loads of nice stuff to try – here are the best ways to go about it!
- Don’t be afraid of street food. It’s the best way to get to grips with the city’s culinary scene. However, it’s sensible to take yourself a street food vendor or food stall that seems to have a bit of a queue going on – especially if it’s with locals. Doing this will ensure you’re eating something popular, and therefore probably tasty and not likely to do your stomach harm, either. Also, wealthy locals consider it less hygienic but don’t let it discourage you. It’s no cleaner or dirtier than any other street food in Southeast Asia.
- Opt for stuff that’s been flash-fried on a super-high heat, or deep-fried. The high temperatures obliterate germs so stay on the safe side. On the same point, avoid uncovered, pre-cooked stuff that looks like it’s been sitting around all day.
- Head to the trendy neighbourhood of Poblacion. Here, you’ll find the newest developments in the city’s food scene. There are tons of hip joints around here, interesting restaurants and local lifestyles to soak up – even though it may be a little rough around the edges.
- Be careful with seafood. Seafood can be great – if it’s fresh. If it isn’t, prepare for a particularly bad bout of food poisoning (tip: if it smells, or tastes weird, stop eating). The best way to eat seafood, obviously, is fresh. The Seaside Market has a ton of very very fresh sea-to-plate sort of places where you can enjoy tasty seafood.
- If you’re hankering for a hamburger, make a beeline for Jollibee. This is a homegrown, Filipino establishment of fast food with everything from burgers to fried chicken. And it’s honestly it’s so good, way better than McDonald’s. Try it out!
- Another thing to sample is a boodle feast. What is that? This is a totally Filipino experience, whereby a table is piled high with a whole lot of different foods to try out, all laid out on banana leaves. An awesome local buffet that’s a good way to get to try out what’s going on with the food here.
- Go easy. There’s a whole mix of food on offer in Manila, from local stuff and aforementioned fast food to Chinese and Indian cuisine. Mixing everything together so much, and overeating is probably not going to be good for you, and will likely cause you more than just a little bit of stomach upset.
- Wash your hands! Manila’s urban sprawl can leave you with some pretty grubby hands, so get some soap (or hand sanitiser) on them before you tuck into stuff – especially if it’s something you eat with your actual fingers.
There you have it. Dining in the Philippines is exciting, and Manila itself is fast becoming a place where you can not only tuck into traditional but also trendy food, and we’d say it’s safe to do so. You shouldn’t be scared to eat at somewhere that looks a bit rough and ready – many people do!
That includes street food. Don’t be afraid to try this out: you won’t regret it. There’s so much on offer, and at reasonable prices, that you shouldn’t just stick to Western stuff and chain restaurants. It’ll help you, or at least your stomach, to properly fall in love with Manila..
Can you drink the water in Manila?
Water in Manila is probably not best drunk if you’re a traveller there. It’s not safe to drink for tourists.
Locals drink it, of course, but you? You’ll probably get a stomach bug.
Avoid it and opt for bottled water (sorry, Earth). If you’re staying in a hotel that has filtered water, bring a refillable bottle with you and some water purification tablets just in case, too. Read our in-depth review of the best travel water bottles here if you decide to do so.
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Is Manila safe to live?
Manila is obviously a popular place to live for many people, which is why it’s such a busy place.
How safe you are in Manila will depend, quite a lot, on where you choose to actually live in the first place.
For example, the Central Business District is a popular place for foreigners to live and comes complete with a vibrant nightlife. But there’s also Makati, with a lot of Western-style accommodation and businesses in the area you’ll feel right at home; just a few pickpockets here and there. Malls are ten a penny.
These kinds of areas are more expensive than the usual sort of Southeast Asian accommodation in places like Saigon or Bangkok. These pockets of living space are like living in a developed country, as opposed to other places in the city.
To up your safety levels (and levels of detachment from the place you’re actually living in) you could even choose to live in a gated community – though it comes at a cost. There are lots of these sorts of developments; some of them are literally walled villages, complete with parks and green spaces, all away from the “squalor” of the city.
Another thing to think about is pollution. This can literally affect your health. You may scoff at the idea, but you may want to think about wearing a facemask if you venture outside on particularly smoggy days.
The traffic in Manila, as we’ve mentioned, is terrible and really not safe. It can really make you late to work – depending on where you work in the city in relation to where you live.
But generally, Manila is safe to live in. Obviously, it depends where you choose to live, and to some degree how much you pay, but still you’ll have all that the capital offers: nightclubs, big hotels, shiny business districts, malls, boutiques, fashion stores, bars, restaurants, parks.
All the safety stuff we mentioned already like petty crime as much as typhoons, you’ll need to take this into account perhaps more since you’ll be living there long term. Being in the know and having some level of street smarts will get you a long way though.
How is healthcare in Manila?
Here’s a fun fact: the Philippines is 8th in the world when it comes to being a medical tourism destination. That just shows you how well-developed healthcare in the Philippines is, if you have the money for it.
Cebu, but more often Manila, are the centres of this medical tourism. People are drawn particularly to the capital for quality of the hospitals, the modern treatments, and the relative affordability compared to their home countries.
There are several, large private hospitals in Manila to choose from; St Luke’s Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital and Makati Medical Center are some of the best.
If you feel like you need some sort of medical advice, then you can go to a pharmacy. Often open 24/7, these are usually well-stocked, can give advice in English about what might be wrong with you, and treatments, and help direct you to a good clinic. You can also go to a supermarket that will stock basic medication without a prescription. Hospitals often have their own 24-hour pharmacies, too.
Walk-in clinics are available – no appointment required, which is always a plus (though there might be a wait). The doctors at the clinics will be more than competent and be able to treat you sufficiently and prescribe you something for what ails you.
All Filipino/Filipinas are entitled to free public healthcare (not visitors, though); when it comes to public hospitals, the doctors are well trained, but the facilities might not be up to scratch. Most hospitals, however, are privately run.
When it comes to being treated at a private hospital, make sure you have your travel insurance handy. Before you even travel, you should make sure that it includes private healthcare; sometimes it doesn’t, so check that fine print!
Final thoughts on the safety of Manila
We’re not going to lie, Manila is mental. This city takes the top spot when it comes to the craziest Southeast Asian capital cities. The amount of poverty, skyscrapers, people, and actual other cities that make up this one super city… It’s enough to leave you reeling and wondering if you should explore this huge city?
However, most of it comes down to knowing what you want to do and spending less time aimlessly wandering around like you might do in more compact, less intimidating cities around the world. Then there’s the whole “crime” thing. An easy way to not have any crime committed against you is exactly to spend less time wandering around aimlessly.
There’s no end of stuff you can see and do in the capital of the Philippines. It’s an interesting city, we can’t fault that. How much you end up loving it depends on how much of an open mind you approach it. We’ve talked a lot about how overwhelming it can be (and it can be) but it doesn’t have to be. Be smart with how you travel, take it easy, be kind to yourself, and you’re less likely to experience your own thriller in Manila.
Don’t forget: life can be unpredictable, so always get travel insurance!
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.