Kidnap Free in Manila
Before we travelled to Manila, unfortunately, we were told multiple tales of people who know people, who were kidnapped after they had got into an unlicensed taxi. You know the kind of thing that you hear about happening in South America. We even heard one story of a woman who was shot in the head in the back of a taxi! Understandably we were quite cautious when we did have to get taxis around Manila.
However, I would say, like with everywhere in the world, bad things do happen. That’s a fact of life. Fortunately though, from my experience and contrary to what people might say, taxi kidnappings do not seem to be a regular occurrence in Manila.
Where & Where Not to Stay in Manila
While we were in Manila, we stayed in Malate. We arrived in Malate quite late at night, after the taxi ride from the airport (taxi cost us ₱250 ($5.40) from the airport to Malate). We had booked one night at a hotel before we arrived, due to the reason we knew we would be arriving late at night. As the taxi pulled up to the hotel, we had a quick look around and I have to say this was probably the roughest looking area we stayed in since we started our journey in Bangkok (the fact that it was dark probably made the area seem a lot worse, but it still wasn’t great in the light).
The hotel which we were staying was called Leesons Residence. I could handle staying in a rough area, as we were going to move hotels the next day anyway, however, I could barely handle what was going to happen next. When we booked the hotel, it was for payment on arrival. Unfortunately, we did not have enough cash with us to make the payment for the hotel, so we asked if we could pay with a card. The hotel did not have a card machine, which was fair enough, but what certainly was not fair enough was how rude the staff were. We were replied to with a blunt ‘no’ and very little help when we asked where the closest ATM was.
Off we went in search of an ATM. After a few minutes of looking, luckily there was one just up the road. There we were thinking just a couple more minutes, we’d have some cash and then we would finally be able to get some sleep. I tried my card, ‘decline’, OK I thought, that’s a bit annoying, but Olivia had her card with her. We then tried my Olivia’s card, again, ‘decline’. This certainly wasn’t going as well as expected. Back to the hotel it was, to ring our banks, as we didn’t fancy getting mugged for our phones whilst using them in the street.
We got back to the hotel and I made the suggestion to the staff that, as we had a bit of cash with us, could we make a deposit tonight with that and then go back to the ATM tomorrow when we had phoned our banks. Once again, we were greeted with a very abrupt and unhelpful ‘no!’ by the receptionist. Cutting a long story short, we then unblocked our cards after a very expensive phone call to our banks and finally got the cash for the room. The moral of the story here, I guess is always carry a reasonable amount of cash with you, or if you are arriving in a new country on a late flight, get cash out at the airport.
Needless to say, the next day we did find ourselves another place to stay. We moved about 15 minutes down the road, to a slightly nicer area of Malate, to Where 2 Next Hostel. I’d definitely recommend this hostel as a place to stay in Manila. A bed in the dorm cost us ₱500 ($10) each per night.
On one of the days we were in Manila, we travelled out of the city to the nearby Taal Volcano. From the coastal mall terminal in Manila, we jumped on the bus to Tagaytay, costing us ₱74 ($1.50) each. The journey from Manila to Tagaytay was around 2 hours each way.
Once we reached Tagaytay and got off the bus, we then caught a tricycle to the nearby boat terminal, which was a 30-minute ride away, costing us 200 Pesos. Taal Volcano can only be reached via boat, hence why we made our way to the boat terminal. Once we were at the terminal, we were advised that the return boat journey to the nearby volcano is set at a fixed price of ₱1500 ($32) per boat. It’s a good idea to find some other travellers at the boat terminal if there is only yourself or a couple of you, in order to keep the costs down.
There is a small village on the same island which the volcano is located. Once you reach the village, the locals will try to tell you that you need a guide to reach the volcano crater. I can definitely tell you that you do not need a guide to reach the crater. The journey to the crater is along a straight path, also you will see others walking to the crater along your way, so you will know you’re on the right path. The walk to the crater isn’t too strenuous but can be quite tough in the heat and humidity.
The views of the crater are pretty amazing. It’s also quite incredible to know that you are looking into the crater of the second most active volcano in the Philippines. Although the volcano hasn’t actually erupted since 1977, there have been signs of unrest since then, with the latest eruption scare coming in 2011. The crater of the volcano is filled with glittering turquoise water, I’ve got to admit I didn’t expect the crater of an active volcano to look like that. Also, as you reach the final few hundred metres before the crater, you start to notice stream streaming from small holes in the ground.
If you’ve got a day or two to kill in Manila before your flight, get yourself to Taal Volcano. It was great to get out of the hustle and bustle of inner city Manila for the day.
As I have mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t really recommend going out of your way to visit Manila. Granted, a flight into the Philippines via Manila is usually cheaper than Cebu, it was certainly was for us anyway, so you may have to make the trip to Manila. However, I would keep your time in Manila down to one day, two days maximum.
To Visit Manila or Not?
In terms of things to do in Manila, we didn’t find there was an awful lot. To be honest, if someone was to ask me whether I would recommend visiting Manila, I would say only if you have to, as we did on both occasions we found ourselves there. The reason we had to is due to the majority of international flights in and out of the Philippines go to and from Manila International Airport. Although some international flights do go to and from Cebu.
Have you been to Manila before? Did you find it more enjoyable than I did, or are you in agreement with me that it only should be used as a transport stop over?