Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is the gateway to the Philippines and a hub for Philippine Airlines. The airport has come a long way in recent years, but frankly, it’s still not a great airport – especially if you have to change terminals. So, what should you know if you have a stopover in Manila?
Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Manila stopover.
A special thanks to Melburnian1 for contributing to the Manila (MNL) Stopover Tips thread.
Manila’s four airport terminals
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has 4 terminals which are not directly connected. Philippine Airlines uses Terminal 2. Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Cebu Pacific all use Terminal 3 in Manila, which is the airport’s most modern terminal.
Terminal 1 is used by many international airlines including Malaysia Airlines, Jetstar, Japan Airlines and some Philippine Airlines services. This terminal was previously voted one of the worst in the world, but has recently had renovations. Terminal 4, meanwhile is used by some domestic flights and is a crowded, single-level building with no jetbridges.
If you’re transiting through Manila, you’ll have a much easier time if you don’t need to change terminals. If you do, there is a free shuttle bus service to take you between the terminals. But this can be slow and unreliable, so some people prefer to take a taxi. Either way, allow plenty of time! Genji88 writes:
Unless you’re really pressed for time, know that there’s a free shuttle bus to take you between terminals. However if you’re worried about making your connecting flight, taking a cab is recommended as the shuttle bus isn’t the most reliable.
Ensure that the meter is turned on. The taxi’s at NAIA are notorious for overcharging.
How to get from Manila’s airport to the city
If you plan to leave the airport during your Manila stopover, buses and taxis are available. A ride-sharing service called GRAB also operates in Manila. If you are planning to take a taxi or GRAB in Manila, Melburnian1 has a few tips…
Apart from GRAB (Uber sold its SE Asian operations to GRAB a couple of years ago), there are white (everyday) taxis and yellow airport taxis available, plus ‘coupon’ taxis, the latter also white. Avoid the ‘coupon’ ones as they are an immense ripoff. 95 per cent of white taxi drivers now turn on their meters but threaten to decamp if you strike one of the remaining cowboys. The yellow taxis’ meters run much faster than the everyday white taxis: the latter remain very, very cheap, similar to some other Asian nations. At least one of the three terminals with international flights has a GRAB booth, taking the hassle out of ordering one. My limited experience of GRAB in Philippines has been positive.
There is not yet an airport train service in Manila.
Where to stay during a Manila stopover
If you just have a short overnight layover in Manila, it’s best to avoid travelling too far from the airport as the traffic can be horrendous. There are airport hotels available in Newport City, which is connected by a pedestrian walkway to Terminal 3. For a shorter layover at Terminal 3, there are also airside sleeping pods available.
If you have time to leave the airport during your Manila stopover, Melburnian1 recommends staying around Manila Bay, Pasay City, Entertainment City or Makati for their relative proximity to the airport. Specific hotel recommendations include:
- Rizal Park Hotel
- The Bayleaf Intramuros
- Hotel H20 (which features “aquarium rooms”)
In the Manila Stopover Tips thread, Melburnian1 also offers some advice on things to do and where to eat in Manila.
The best Manila airport lounges
The quality of airport lounges in Manila varies greatly. Some are very poor indeed, and even Philippine Airlines’ flagship lounge in Terminal 2 is not especially great.
PR’s T2 international airside Mabuhay Miles lounge is poor despite having been renovated in the last five years. There is one shower. It didn’t renovate the toilets, which retain that old style marble look (I’m not a fan). The range of food available is poor, especially if one doesn’t like the rice porridge arroz caldo.
Qantas Club members flying to Sydney with Qantas are sent to the PAGSS Lounge, which is fairly average. If you’re flying with Qantas or another Oneworld airline from Terminal 3, and you have Qantas or Oneworld status, your best bet is to use the Cathay Pacific lounge.
Do you have a great Manila stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Manila (MNL) Stopover Tips