Manila has for sure not the best reputation as a safe city and I haven’t met so far anyone who liked it or were keen on visiting the capital of the Philippines. I personally, would not recommend choosing Manila as first destination when you are traveling solo for the first time and you are not familiar at all with the Philippines because it could be a too big culture shock and a bit intimidating for first time (solo) travelers. One person I met at the hike on Mount Pinatubo arrived from Manila and described it as scary there. The poverty is pervasive, and there were many people begging.
From the station where is the stopped it’s possible to get by Jeepney around. How to find a Jeepney that goes to your Point of interest? Ask your way around. Even though there were not always people speaking English and my Tagalog is non-existent it’s possible to get around by Jeepneys in the Philippines as long as you know where you are heading. “Intramuros?” and a bit of hand language were the key to get around. They key here as well is patience because somehow we ended up first somewhere different and nobody around us spoke English… or another language we knew. I think they next time I will work harder on memorize some phrases in Tagalog. Even though we got a bit lost first, but then we found our way to Intramuros.
Intramuros is the historical Spanish part of Manila and it was less crowded than the rest of the city. You should be only prepared that there are many people that will be persistent in offering you a ride with a tricycle around. I personally, enjoyed walking around Intramuros a lot. San Augustin Church which as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Intramuros. Fort Santiago, former military headquarters is also in that area. Nearby there is also a golf course, which might seem a bit bizarre when you see the poverty around. Manila Cathedral has a beautiful fountain in the front and it’s possible to go inside.
As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of poverty and slums. After exploring Intramuros we were walking into a slum. I just read recently that there are walking tours with guides offered for the slums in Manila. First, I was not very into this idea, also because I was not sure if this would be safe for us or not. During the walk there it is impressive to see how the houses are built, the people there looked curious at us and so did we. No dangerous situation occurred there to us, as I’m aware that tourists are seen everywhere in the world as wallets on two legs. But to be honest, I have no idea about the general safety on walking around at the slums in Manila, so I can’t give any recommendations whether this is a good idea or not. I only found before the trip to Manila information that Rizal Park in Manila is supposed to be a dangerous place for tourists at night. I just listed to my gut and to apply common sense in every situation. During my time in the Philippines I experienced genuine kindness from people. Why can’t more people be that helpful and nice?
All in all, it was interesting to visit Manila for a day. It was very different from everything I’ve seen before. I wouldn’t want to spend there more than one day because it would be just too stressful for me. I was also quite surprised that Manila has MRT, even though the underground system is not as developed as in other big cities. Before you can enter the station, you have to pass the security check for bags, so it can get already packed in front of it.
Would you visit Manila?
If you’ve been there, I’d love to hear your opinion about Manila!