What's it really like?
It’s hot, sticky, crazy busy, and full of life! The gay Manila nightlife scene is not huge but has plenty of lively characters. Most visitors love the city for its trendy food, crazy entertainment, and of course bargain holiday shopping.
The Philippines is often referred to as one of Asia’s leading nations for LGBT rights and for gay life. The predominantly catholic religion of the Philippines has created some cultural challenges but the local community are pushing for rights and protections. The district of Malate was once the center of gay Manila, however, gentrification has pushed the gay scene out. Gay bars and clubs are now spread in small pockets across the city.
Manila is a diverse metropolis that blends the unique aspects of Filipino heritage with Spanish, American and Chinese cultures. Like most capital cities, life in Manila is unlike the rest of the country. While the city is modern and looks to be prospering, the rest of the country remains poor and in some parts underdeveloped. Parts of Manila can be sketchy, especially at night, so make sure to use your common sense.
Gay Manila’s scene has reduced in past years, and the city no longer has a gay village or center. The biggest gay bars in Manila are F Club and O Bar, and most of the bar and clubs are spread across the city. This makes bar hopping difficult, especially since Manila suffers from chronic traffic jams. Luckily, most of the bars are fun and lively, and are a great place to spend a night.
For a megacity, while the number of bars is small, the city packs a huge amount of character and spirit. If you can, check out Gay Manila during Pride weekend to see the city at its fullest and gayest.
Gay Manila has two main gay saunas. All gay saunas in Manila are private member clubs, so expect to pay around P200 ($6 USD) to join. Additionally bring at least two pieces of government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s license, for registration. It is important to note that gay saunas in Manila have been raided by the police in recent years with reports of patrons being arrested.
Looking for luxury at a bargain rate? Manila is a great city for booking 5-star hotels for international affordable rates. You can expect to pay as little as $100-150 USD for a night in a 5-star luxury hotel.
Many LGBT travelers choose Malate as the district for them, since it is walking distance from Manila’s main sights such as Baywalk and Roxas Boulevard. The financial district of Manila in Makati offers many great hotels, along with shopping malls and restaurants, and is convenient for travelling around the city.
A 2013 survey ranked the Philippines as the 10th most gay-friendly country in the world, and the highest-ranked in Asia, with 73% of respondents claiming homosexuality should be accepted. This reflects the country’s reputation for being remarkably gay-friendly, despite a devout Catholic population.
There are a few reasons for this, one of which being that Filipino indigenous cultures had a very progressive attitude to gender roles and sexual norms, which has survived to this day. Though gay marriage is not legal, the issue has been hotly debated in the government for years.
There is still some homophobia present in the country as a whole but, as the cosmopolitan capital, Manila presents no issues for gay travelers.
It’s simple and easy to get tested for HIV and STIs in Manila. TestMNL provides up-to-date information on where and how much it will cost to get tested in gay-friendly clinics across the city.
When people talk about Manila, they are often referring to Metro Manila, a group consisting of the city itself as well as other surrounding cities such as Quezon City and Makati.
Malate – Malate is Manila’s main centre of tourism and commerce, along with Ermita. Originally an area for Manila’s affluent elite, it became a bohemian hub of creativity and counter-culture in the 20th century. It used to be the center of Filipino gay life, but the area’s development has forced a lot of establishments to shut. That said, a few good gay bars and clubs remain, such as Jefz Cafe. Despite its status as a tourist district and its history, it can be quite gritty and run-down in places.
Ermita – Ermita is like the city center of the city, holding a lot of its business, finance, and governmental institutions. During the day, it has some of the city’s best shopping and, at night, some of its busiest nightlife. It is the location of Rizal Park, probably the best in the Philippines.
Quezon City – This is the largest city in Metro Manila and in the Philippines. It is home to a lot of the country’s entertainment industry, and has a good selection of gay bars including The One 960 Entertainment Bar. This is where most of Manila’s high-end gay nightlife is.
Taguig – This city is one of the most modern and urbanized areas in Metro Manila. It contains Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Manila’s main business district.
Makati – Another of the Metro Manila cities, Makati is often considered the cleanest, safest, and most pleasant part of the greater city. This makes it an attractive option for tourists, allowing them to stay away from the city’s less appealing neighborhoods. Makati has high-end hotels, gleaming shopping malls, and some great restaurant options, but a bit less personality than other areas of the city.
Binondo & San Nicolas – Binondo is home to the world’s oldest Chinatown, a fascinating area filled with delicious Chinese food and traditional shophouses. The architecture, blending Chinese and Spanish influences, is beautifully unique to the Philippines.
Intramuros – The walled historic center of Manila. It has several noteworthy buildings and attractions and is worth a visit for those interested in the history and architecture of the city.
From Ninoy Aquino International Airport – A convenient bus service connects the airport with various key areas of the city. The Light Rail Transit (LFT) system runs from Baclaran Station to the city, but you would need to get a taxi or bus to Baclaran either way. You can also get a taxi to the city, which should take about 20 minutes, assuming no traffic. You can either take a white taxi, which works on a fixed rate that you pay at the airport counter, or a yellow metered one.
Jeepneys – These old US Army trucks are an iconic part of Manila, known for their bright and colorful decoration. They are common all over the city and are used as local jump on jump off transport for short trips. They can be very tightly packed and confusing for a visitor, but are definitely worth the experience.
Tricycle – Manila’s tricycles are similar to a tuk-tuk, and are a good option for short journeys. These will cost you P40 to P50 (under $1 USD). There are also pedicabs in certain areas of the city.
Taxi – Metered taxis are plentiful and comparatively cheap. As is the case around the world, taxi drivers do try to take advantage of visitors so make sure they have their meters on and watch out for rapidly escalating prices – they could have been tampered with.
Buses – Manila has an extensive bus network, but it is confined to the city’s often gridlocked streets. As a general rule, buses are slow and difficult for foreigners to navigate.
Trains – Both LRT and MRT are great for getting around the city, as they avoid traffic. However, long queues and pickpockets are common, especially during rush hour, and the trains don’t cover much of the city. For the most part, you will be combining trains and taxis.
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