Manila is the capital of Philippines and where you want to go -if you are coming from another country- passes through a stop in Manila. To be honest, you may have to stay overnight there, because the flight options are not very frequent and if you want to play safe to not miss your flight, the best way is staying there for a night. Our flight arrival was at 4 PM and there were no flights to El Nido after that time. Only departures were to either Puerto Princesa or Coron. We thought a fast ferry early in the morning from El Nido to Coron is better than taking a ferry from Coron to El Nido in afternoon, so Coron was not a good option for us. Although there was a flight to Puerto Princesa and it was not safe, it requires 6 hours roadtrip to reach El Nido which was not possible. You may ask why I didn’t stay in Puerto Princesa. It was just due to our time constraint to have a feasible plan for all of us. Next time, I will go Puerto Princesa first but again I will prefer to have an overnight stay in Manila instead of Puerto Princesa. You will understand what I mean when you read my airport transfer section in this post.
Manila has four terminals and I got one of the worst airport experiences. Our international flight arrival was to Terminal 1, however our next day departure to El Nido was from Terminal 4. There is no access between terminals and there is no frequent shuttle services between terminals. You may be lucky to catch a cheap shuttle option, however you really need a luck. Otherwise you may have to wait at least 45 minutes for a bus and there is no guarantee that you can get in the bus.
The best way to make transfer between terminals is using Grab application. Using Grab application in Manila is very popular. They have Grab spots in airport and in popular spots. If you are not using the application due to several reasons, you may find these spots. They are highlighted with green color, so you will find them. Just do not get convinced by local taxi drivers, prefer Grab. It is cheap and trustworthy.
I had no problem on our first arrival, because we had an overnight stay in Manila Hotel close to Terminal 4. However, once we returned to Manila from Coron, I had another flight to Kuala Lumpur and really what a mess. I spent more than 4 hours just to go from one terminal to another and completing my ticket and luggage activities. So, really play on the safe side. Losing a day is better than losing two days. Do not try to leave only 2 hours between your flights just to add two more hours for your next location.
Travelling around and What to Do
Reaching our hotel 6 PM give us only 4-6 hours of chance to explore Manila. Many of the locations were closed, so we had almost no chance to go anywhere. However shopping malls and outdoor parks are always good options for these kind of situations. So, we again used our Grab app and decided to go Mall of Asia. This mall is not close to center, but close to the airport which is a perfect option for us. If you have one more day to spend in Manila, I recommend you to experience jeepney instead of a standard car. Jeepneys are colorful, crowded public transportation option. It is extremely cheap and very frequent at every hour. Jeepneys are actually converted from old U.S. military jeeps from World War II. You will see lots of souvenir gifts having jeepney figure on it.