Manila Basic Information
Be sure to sure to sort yourself out with a local SIM card if you plan to stay in Manila for any extended period of time. The country is the ‘texting capital of the world’ with 350 to 400 million SMSs sent daily by 35 million cellular phone users in the Philippines – that’s more than that of the United States and Europe combined. For more need-to-know info before you go, we’ve collated some tips for you.
Australian passport holders do not require visas to enter the Philippines for visits of less than 30 days. In order to travel under these terms, you must hold a valid passport with at least 6 months’ validity for the dates you are travelling. Please be aware this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute information, contact the Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines in Sydney.
The Philippines uses the Philippine Peso. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and the Philippine Peso changes constantly, so keep an eye on the exchange rate and purchase your cash when the rate is at its best. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit or debit card.
Manila has some pretty unusual delicacies like balut – a developing duck embryo that’s boiled alive and eaten in the shell (little bones, feathers and all). It’s even been featured as eating dares on reality TV shows. Not all locals eat balut, but if you give it a go and actually keep it down, they’ll respect you for it. There’s pretty much no part of a pig (or chicken) they won’t eat in Manila – intestines are a particular favourite. Of course, Filipino street food isn’t all raw eggs and intestines, there’s some great contemporary eating and dining experiences too. The food truck phenomenon is booming in Manila – every Friday to Sunday, Glorietta Park turns into a pop-up food truck market with live music. Shawarma Bros cooks up roasted seasoned lamb, chicken and beef with biryani rice. For dessert, try Merry Moo’s fresh homemade artisan ice-cream. Café Juanita on West Capitol Drive in the Pasig neighbourhood is as close to Filipino home cooking as you can get; the pork adobo, angel-hair pasta with aligue (crab fat) sauce and deep-fried asohos (whiting), and laing (taro leaves in coconut milk) come highly recommended. A big one on the Manila food trail is Seafood Dampa – a fresh seafood market with literally every known edible, seafaring creature on offer. Pick up a few kilos of your favourites between friends and head over to the nearby restaurants who’ll take the seafood off your hands and cook it up into a delicious meal especially for you.
Manila nightlife summed up in one word: videoke (video karaoke). To say Filipinos love to sing would be an understatement. If a local hands you the mic – you take it! Live music is also big in Manila – head to Club Dredd in Eastwood City to catch local indie-rock bands or if dancing to DJs is more your style, Warehouse 135 in Makati has international DJs spinning the latest hits. For cocktails, track down Blind Pig – Manila’s first speakeasy. The bar isn’t signed except for Braille lettering, and you’ll need to ring a doorbell to get in, but from there it’s a gold rush of smoky prohibition-era concoctions – you could easily mistake yourself for being in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1920s and not buzzing 21st-century Manila. Ermita and Malate neighbourhoods are good for nightlife – Roxas Boulevard is full of cheap and cheerful bars frequented by students, however don’t arrive too early as the party doesn’t get going until after 10pm and lasts until the sun comes up. Makati is also a popular area for tourists and expats, and Quezon City has a growing reputation for live music and up-and-coming local acts.