Guide to Manila Layover in the Philippines: What to Do, Where to Go, Important Tips

Guide to Manila Layover in the Philippines: What to Do, Where to Go, Important Tips

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Manila Layover ActivitiesPhoto from Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake Tour and Intramuros Bamboo Bike Tour

Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines, is home to Ninoy Aquino International Airport or Manila Airport, the main hub for connecting flights. The city boasts a vibrant metropolis with a blend of modern establishments and developments in the country. It is known for its lively streets and warm hospitality, featuring destinations and hubs for entertainment and leisure.

For travelers going to Manila, the city serves as a gateway to numerous top destinations in the country. From the historic walled city of Intramuros to the vibrant shopping districts like Makati and Quezon City, there are tons of places and things to do in Manila that many tourists can experience. The city is renowned for its landmarks, such as Rizal Park, Fort Santiago, and Binondo Chinatown.

Layover in ManilaIf you find yourself with a Manila layover and have some extra time before your connecting flight, consider exploring the nearby destinations and attractions for a quick city, nature, or beach getaway. Tagaytay, with its picturesque Taal Volcano, Batangas, with its beautiful beaches, and Rizal, with its scenic landscapes, all offer a refreshing escape from the urban hustle.

The Manila Airport not only serves as a main gateway to the Philippines but also opens the door to the city and nearby destinations. So, whether you're in Manila for a layover or a short stay, this article will give you some ideas for places to visit and things to do while waiting for your next flight.

Do I need a visa for a layover in Manila? Can I leave Manila Airport? 

Manila AirportFor most foreigners or nationalities, a visa is not required for a short layover in Manila. However, it's important to check the specific visa requirements based on your nationality. If you're eligible, you can leave Manila Airport during your layover to explore the city and nearby attractions, making the most of your time in the Philippines. Always confirm the latest visa regulations and entry requirements before your travel date.

Top Manila Layover Activities or Tours 

Layovers can be a little boring as you wait for your next flight. To make the most of your time while waiting, there are Manila layover tours and activities you can do within and beyond the city that can accommodate various schedules. Whether you have a 6-hour or an overnight layover in Manila, there are activities and tours you can book based on the time you have available.

Activities Best for Short Layover in Manila

There are plenty of places to visit in Manila and some fun activities to do while waiting for your connecting flight. These Manila tours and activities are best for 5- to 10-hour layovers and just  about 2 to 8 hours long that can help maximize your time in the city. 

Binondo Chinatown Food Tour

Binondo Chinatown TourPhoto from Manila Binondo Shared Walking Food Tour

Go on a culinary adventure during your short layover in Manila with a Binondo Chinatown walking food tour. Binondo, the world's oldest Chinatown, offers a wide range of Chinese delicacies like dim sum, dumplings, and noodles. You'll find food stores and restaurants lining the streets, allowing you to savor the best Chinese snacks and cuisine. 

During this Binondo food trip, you'll visit some well-known markets and food establishments like Eng Bee Tin Grocery, Lord Stow's, Ling Nam Noodle Factory, and Eng Ho Bake Shop. Perfect for a short layover, this Binondo tour provides a quick yet delectable experience, filling up your tummy before catching your connecting flight.

Tour Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 18 KM

Intramuros Manila Historical Bike Tour

Bamboo Bike in IntramurosPhoto from Bambike

If you have about a 5-hour layover in Manila, maximize your time through an Intramuros bamboo bike tour. Ride in a Bambike or bamboo bike and discover the city's storied past as you pedal through the cobblestone streets of Intramuros, a centuries-old walled city known for its iconic landmarks like Fort Santiago and San Agustin Church. 

Other places to visit in Intramuros are Plaza España, the Japanese Cannon, and Puerta Real Gardens. If you have more time, you can upgrade to a half-day tour to fully explore the rich heritage of Intramuros. You can also opt for an Intramuros walking tour if you're not comfortable riding a bike during the tour. 

Tour Duration: 1.5 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 11 KM

Okada Manila Walking Tour with Foot Massage

Okada ManilaPhoto from Okada Manila 

Okada, a renowned luxurious resort and casino near Manila, offers a perfect escape for those with a quick layover in the Philippines. If you have about a 10-hour layover in Manila, immerse yourself in luxury and relaxation with an Okada Manila walking tour with a foot massage. This indulgent experience allows you to explore the luxury of Okada Manila's prime facilities, from the stunning Crystal Corridor to the serene Coral Lobby and the vibrant Cove Manila. 

After your tour, treat yourself to a rejuvenating foot massage at the Sole Retreat Foot Spa and Reflexology Center, designed to ease travel fatigue and leave you feeling refreshed for your next journey. You may also consider booking other Okada day tours, some of which offer unlimited BBQ or dining credits at one of the resort's exquisite restaurants.

Tour Duration: 3 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 3.7 KM

A 2-hour Relaxing Massage

Relaxing Massage for LayoverPhoto from Manila 2-Hour Sentro Spa

For a truly revitalizing experience during your stopover in Manila, consider a massage at Sentro Spa. If you booked a hotel for your layover, this spa and wellness center can arrange for a massage therapist to visit you. 

Choose from a variety of massage types, including Swedish, Shiatsu, or Thai, all tailored to your preferences and time constraints. This quick and refreshing massage is the perfect break from travel stress, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and ready to continue your journey.

Activity Duration: 2 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 6.1 to 7.6 KM

Manila Ocean Park Day Tour

Manila Ocean ParkPhoto from Manila Ocean Park

One of the fun activities in Manila that you can do during your layover is a visit to Manila Ocean Park. With a Manila Ocean Park ticket, you can explore the Oceanarium's underwater tunnels, where you'll meet a variety of sea creatures. Don't miss the encounter shows, where you can see different species of birds performing amazing stunts and sea lions showing off their unique skills. 

Head to the trails of Antarctica to see adorable penguins sliding, swimming, and walking around the snow, and be amazed at the dancing and glowing jellyfish in the Jellies Exhibit. A day at Manila Ocean Park offers both entertainment and education, ensuring you make the most of your layover.

Tour Duration: Up to 8 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 9.2 KM

Poblacion Makati Nightlife & Food Street Party

Poblacion Makati Street Food and DrinksPhoto from Poblacion Makati Street Party

One of the most popular Makati tourist spots to visit is Poblacion, which features an array of trendy bars, lively clubs, and street stalls selling delectable food. If your quick stop in the Philippines is at night, and you're into fun and lively nightlife activities, then you can enjoy a Poblacion, Makati nightlife and food street party

Dive into the energetic atmosphere and savor a mix of international and local cuisines, Filipino street food, and alcoholic drinks. Experience  "Kalye-style inuman" or street-style drinking, and try different Filipino snacks that are grilled, fried, or steamed in Tambai Yakitori Stackhouse. You will also have a stop at Agimat At Ugat Foraging Bar And Kitchen for cocktails and drinks.

Activity Duration: 3 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 10 to 13 KM

Activities Best for Long Layover in Manila

For those with longer layovers in the Philippines, there are activities and recommended day trips from Manila that you can book so you can explore the city and nearby areas while waiting for your connecting flight.

If you have an overnight layover in Manila, there are Manila hotels near the airport that you can book for your short stay. To explore Manila and nearby attractions hassle-free, you can book Manila Airport transfers and inform the driver where to take you. For your convenience, you can also opt for a car rental in Manila so you can explore on your own. 

Tagaytay City Highlands Day Trip

Taal Volcano view in TagaytayPhoto from Batangas Calatagan Little Boracay & Tagaytay Tour

Escape the urban hustle with a day trip to Tagaytay City highlands. Just a scenic drive away, Tagaytay boasts breathtaking views of Taal Volcano and a refreshing highland climate. It is located in Cavite, in the southwestern part of Luzon, just about 1 to 1.5 hours away from Manila. The city is known for its picturesque landscapes and cool, crisp air, which many locals and tourists visit to get away from the intense heat of the city. 

Explore the iconic People's Park in the Sky and indulge in local delicacies. Other top attractions in Tagaytay that you can visit are Twin Lakes, Sonya's Secret Garden, and Pink Sisters Church. Don't forget to visit Rowena's Pasalubong to buy local snacks and souvenirs. 

Tour Duration: Up to 8 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: About 70 KM

Coffee Farm Tour near Tagaytay

Coffee farm tour at ECHOfarmsGet a taste of Philippine coffee when you go on a coffee farm tour in ECHOfarms and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. Technology Center. Located in Amadeo, Cavite, ECHOfarms and the PCBI Technology Center is just a quick drive from the popular Tagaytay City.

During this tour, you will learn more about the different kinds of coffee grown on the farm and see how they are processed in the two facilities. You’ll also get to sample the different varieties of coffee created on the farm, and if it’s harvest season, you can try your hand at soaking and drying coffee beans yourself. 

Of course, you’ll also be given the chance to buy different coffee from the ECHOstore that you can take home with you.

Activity Duration: 3 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: At least 47 KM

Mt. Pinatubo Volcano Crater Lake Day Tour

Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

Photo from Mt. Pinatubo Day Tour

Embark on a day tour to Mt. Pinatubo Volcano Crater Lake if you want to have a quick and thrilling adventure. Mt. Pinatubo is located in Central Luzon, on the tripoint boundary of Zambales, Pampanga, and Tarlac. Its historical eruption in 1991 left ashes in its surrounding provinces, creating popular gray-ash sand beaches, particularly in Zambales islands and coves. Today, Mt. Pinatubo has become a tourist spot for adventure-seekers who want to trek and visit a volcano crater lake. 

This Mt. Pinatubo excursion features a challenging trek to the stunning turquoise lake nestled in the volcano's crater. You'll navigate rugged terrains as you hike to the top of Mt. Pinatubo with the assistance of a tour guide. As you reach the entrance to the lake, you will be rewarded with a view of the alpine-like rock formations of the majestic caldera. Ride a 4x4 jeep when you go back to the jump-off point for a more fun experience. 

Activity Duration: 8 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: About 130 KM

Villa Escudero Day Trip

Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon

Photo from Villa Escudero Plantations & Resort Quezon Day Pass

For cultural activities in the Philippines during your short layover, go on a Villa Escudero day trip and immerse yourself in history and nature. Just a short journey from Manila, this historic plantation-turned-resort, located in Tiaong, Quezon Province, offers a glimpse into the Philippines' rich heritage and features a cultural show with traditional music and dance. 

The main highlight of Villa Escudero is to dine beside a man-made waterfall for a unique experience. As you munch on some local cuisine, admire the backdrop of the flowing falls and enjoy the serene beauty of the surrounding lush greenery. You can also explore the museum, which showcases local artifacts, and try bamboo rafting in the waters. 

Activity Duration: 9 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: About 93 KM

Treasure Mountain Rizal Day Trip

Rizal Treasure MountainPhoto from Rizal Treasure Mountain Day Pass

If you want to challenge yourself while maximizing your short layover in the Philippines, enjoy a scenic day trip to Treasure Mountain in Rizal. Just a short drive away, this natural gem offers panoramic views of the Sierra Madre mountain range and features a mesmerizing sea of clouds. Climb to the summit for photo opportunities, test your skills in the obstacle course, and try out the spider web activity. During your time here, you'll also trek to Bosay Falls, which features a natural pool that is perfect for a quick dip. 

Treasure Mountain is an ideal quick nature getaway, allowing you to immerse yourself in the serene landscapes of Rizal before returning to Manila, refreshed and energized for the next leg of your journey. 

Activity Duration: 10 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: 62 to 64 KM

Timberland Highlands Resort Rizal Day Tour

Timberland Highlands Resort in RizalPhoto from Timberland Highlands Resort Day Pass

Maximize your brief layover with a Timberland Highlands Resort day pass in Rizal, a peaceful getaway near Manila. Relax amid the greenery of the Sierra Madre mountain range, taking in the picturesque views and breathing in the crisp mountain air. With a day pass, you can make use of the resort's amenities, like the swimming pools, the fitness gym, the multi-use court, and the badminton court. 

You can also spend dining credits at the resort's famous Ridge Cafe, which is known for its delightful all-day meals and cuisine featuring local and international dishes. Timberland Highlands offers a brief but rejuvenating experience, allowing you to relax amidst nature's beauty before returning to the bustle of Manila. 

Activity Duration: Up to 9 hours

Distance from Manila Airport: About 43 KM

Important Tips for a smooth Manila Airport layover

Manila Layover TipsFor a smooth layover in the Philippines, make sure to follow these important tips to make the most of your time while waiting for your connecting flight. 

Bring and pack a day bag

For a smooth Manila Airport layover, pack a day bag with essentials, a change of clothes, toiletries, snacks, and all necessary travel documents. This allows you to comfortably explore the city or nearby attractions without carrying heavy baggage.

Expect heavy traffic outside the airport

Manila is known for its traffic, so plan accordingly and check the maps for navigation. Rush hours are from 7 AM to 9 AM and 5 PM to 7 PM, so try to avoid these times on your flight booking. Make sure to allot enough time going back to the airport due to traffic so you can catch your next flight without a hassle.

Also, consider downloading ride-hailing apps like Grab, Angkas, or Joyride for convenient and efficient transportation options, helping you navigate the city's traffic with ease. For hassle-free travel, you may book Manila transfers from and to the airport. 

Prepare Philippine Peso cash

Credit cards are widely accepted in big establishments in Manila, but it is advisable to bring some Philippine Peso cash on hand. Small vendors, local transportation,  and other local establishments may not accept cards, so if you plan to visit some destinations or purchase anything from stores, it's best to have cash with you.

Stay at a hotel near the airport

You may stay at a hotel near Manila Airport to maximize your layover in the Philippines. This allows for quick and easy access to the airport, minimizing travel time and ensuring a comfortable rest if you decide to take a nap or freshen up before your next flight.

Take note of your airport terminal

Manila Airport consists of four terminals, so it's important to know your arrival and departure terminals. Familiarize yourself with the layout to avoid confusion and unnecessary stress. It’s also important to note that the terminals in Ninoy Aquino International Airport are not connected to each other, unlike other international airports. Being aware of your terminal helps with a smoother layover process and ensures you make it to your connecting flight on time.

Transform your quick layover into an exciting adventure in the Philippines

Manila Layover Activities and Tours

Make the most out of your short layover in the Philippines. Explore historic sites, savor culinary delights or venture into nature escapes just outside the city. Whether you're on a tight schedule or have a bit more time to spare, these activities ensure a memorable layover experience in the dynamic and culturally rich capital of the Philippines. If you're looking for a thrilling adventure or a quick nature getaway, there's a place for you to spend your time as you wait for your connecting flight. 

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