MANILA Quickstart Guide [Better Than Bangkok?] – UPDATED 2019

If you’re a single man thinking about going to Southeast Asia, chances are you’re deciding between Thailand and the Philippines.

You’ve heard that both are nightlife destinations, that it’s relatively easy to meet local, attractive women and that costs of living are low.

I’ve been to both places (currently living in Thailand) and have traveled extensively in the Philippines (Manila, Angeles City, Olongapo, Subic).

Based on my experience, I believe that Thailand is the better option for the majority of men.

In the video below, you get a preview of what Manila nightlife looks like 😉

I can only recommend the Philippines over Thailand if

  • it’s important to you that most locals speak fluent English
  • you want more of an exotic factor (fewer tourists)
  • don’t want to deal with Thailand’s visa extensions

That being said, if you decide to visit the Philippines and enter via Manila airport – here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get settled in.

1. Visa Free Access

If you’re from a yellow country, you can stay in the Philippines for up to 30 days without a visa (return/onward ticket required).

The visa free access is no different than what you’d get in Thailand.

The difference lies in the fact that you can extend your stay over and over again – without having to leave the country.

In Thailand, you can only extend your tourist visa (or visa free arrival) for an additional 30 days and that’s it.

After 30 days, you have to leave the country – no matter what.

In the Philippines, you can extend beyond 12 months, all while staying in the country. (Also, there are other options; but for someone eager to stay long-term, these visa rules are less of a hassle than Thailand’s.)

2. Philippines SIM Card

The two biggest cell phone carriers in the Philippines are Smart and Globe. You can get a Prepaid SIM card with data directly at Manila Airport.

Internet speed in Manila is good.

If you travel outside of Manila (such as Angeles City), you will notice that the Internet is slower but not to the point that it would be an issue.

Every hotel I have ever stayed at had free WiFi.

Here’s the Internet at a hotel in Angeles City.

Still good enough for YouTube or browsing the web.

NOTE: Just make sure you bring an unlocked smartphone when coming to the Philippines. Meeting girls, using navigation, ordering a GrabTaxi … it’s a hassle without a working smartphone.

I know because for my first visit, I had brought a brand-new phone from the US which was region-locked. In other words, it could only be used with a U.S. SIM card.

3. Airport Taxi

Arriving at Manila airport (Ninoy Aquino International Airport), I recommend you choose between one of those options:

  • Yellow Taxi (metered; cheapest)
  • White Taxi (metered; slightly more expensive)
  • GrabTaxi (fixed price)

If you want to go from Manila airport to the city center, pick one of the options above. DO NOT jump into a random car, even if someone approaches you and claims he’s a taxi driver.

This is how scams and kidnappings start.

4. Best Manila Hotels

Which Manila hotel is right for you will depend on your preferences. Do you want to visit P. Burgos Street (Manila Red Light District) and take a girl home?

Do you want to meet Filipina girls via online dating?
Are you with a girl already and simply want to chill?

I actually prefer AirBNB over hotels (in most cases), so below I provide a mix of recommended hotels and AirBNB places.

Hotels near P. Burgos Street

These accommodations are great if you plan on visiting the Manila Red Light District (barfining girls, etc.)

  • Royal Bellagio Hotel
  • The Gramercy Residences (AirBNB)
  • Knightsbridge Residences (only if you find available AirBNB listing)

Manila Hotels near Greenbelt

Ideal for online dating in Manila. The mall is within walking distance; I recommend you simply use a coffee shop there as a meet up location.

  • RedDoorz Premium Greenbelt (just across the mall)
  • Greenbelt Excelsior (AirBNB)
  • Prince Plaza II Condotel

All three options are ~$45 per night and walking distance from Greenbelt mall.

If you look at the map above, just below Greenbelt Park you see Cafe Havana. That’s a freelancer/hooker bar. If you strike out on online dating, this can be your inexpensive back-up option.

Manila AirBNB Makati (Nightlife Area)

If you’re all about meeting local Filipina women (non-hookers), then staying in Makati makes sense. This is where some of the biggest Manila nightclubs (such as Valkyrie) are located.

  • Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences
  • The Gramercy Residences (AirBNB)

Whether a hotel or AirBNB condo is right for you is a matter of personal preference. I find that staying in a rented condo provides more of a ‘I live here’-experience compared to a hotel.

5. Taxis in Manila (Public Transportation)

Despite what you might have read online, I have found Manila traffic to not be THAT bad.

It’s like any other major city – just like Bangkok during rush-hour; Sukhumvit road is one massive traffic jam – for hours on end!

Manila does have the MRT which connects Manila and Quezon City. It’s very easy to use. (See video below)

Getting around via taxi, I recommend you use either UBER or GrabTaxi. Both apps work well in Manila – I have only ever used GrabTaxi.

6. Philippines Online Dating

There are multiple options to choose from – Tinder, FilipinoCupid, PinaLove, DateinAsia. In my opinion, the easiest one to setup (and free option) is PinaLove.

You sign up with your email and are able to message most girls. No need to upgrade (optional) and don’t even need to upload profile pics.

Didn’t even have a profile pic yet; overly excited Pinay 😉

Then you simply get the girls phone number or messenger ID and can talk freely off the platform. Popular messenger apps are Viber and WhatsApp.

Tinder in Manila works as well, but it’s more effort setting everything up and you’ll match with lots of ladyboys – essentially wasting your time.

Using Tinder in Thailand, you have more options but also more competition.

7. Condoms in the Philippines

You know the drill.

You go to Asia, you gotta bring your own condoms.

This is true when it comes to Thailand and it’s no different if you’re visiting the Philippines.

If you go to a drug store (such as Mercury Drug), you’ll be disappointed by the limited selection and small sizes.

The only time I have ever bought condoms there was when I ran out of my own. Definitely not recommended. Couldn’t even put them on – 3 condoms wasted.

8. Manila Nightlife Guide

You have arrived safely, settled in at your hotel and now what?

What’s there to do in Manila’s Nightlife?
How about the Manila Red Light District?

This isn’t meant to be an extensive Manila Nightlife Guide; instead, I will give you a rough overview to get started.

Manila has multiple Red Light Districts, but really only one of them is geared towards Western tourists: P. Burgos Street

Not quite as many gogo bars to choose from as in Bangkok, but you can still find your hottie of the night. Here are the bars which I recommend (keep in mind prices are higher than in Bangkok also!)

  • Kojax Gogo Bar Manila
  • High Heels Manila
  • Bottoms Gogo Bar

I don’t recommend getting a girl from the street as quality (looks) is pretty bad. You are better of using Smooci in the Philippines if you don’t want to go out or to a gogo bar/club.

If you’re not into pay for play, simply head to one of the regular clubs. The biggest ones are the following. Just keep your expectations in check as it’s mostly locals in groups/with friends.

  • Valkyrie
  • Club ZZYZY (mostly freelancers)
  • Exklusiv

If you want clubs with even fewer tourists, head to Timog Avenue in Quezon City. Here’s me going to Oblivion in Quezon City.

Guilly’s Island Tomas Morato is another popular club in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed when I was in the area 🙁