How I Spent a 6 Hour Layover in Manila

In July 2015 I flew to the Philippines for $0.58 USD (plus extras and fees). The Philippines is made up of thousands of small islands. I chose to spend most of my time in Cebu, but I had a long layover in Manila before I could get to paradise.

Thanks to my prior research I learned that Manila’s NAIA airport is absolutely not entertaining enough to spend 6 hours waiting for a domestic flight that will likely be delayed. I also learned that there is a free shuttle that connected the airport with a nearby casino (Resorts World) and mall (Newport Mall). As if the promise of gambling ( a forbidden activity in the UAE) a bit wasn’t alluring enough, I sweetened the deal by booking an appointment at the spa on the 5th flood of the casino/mall (Island Spa).

When I landed almost 90 minutes later than my scheduled arrival time, I realized there was no way I was going to make my spa appointment, so I got a local sim card to call and reschedule. The sim card was a 7-day plan with unlimited data, 30 minutes of voice calls, and 35 text messages for 540 PHP ($14 USD). Having a local sim comes in handy when booking trips or meeting up with people while on vacation. After I called the spa I quickly went off to the left baggage service. For 200 PHP ($5 USD) my small bag was secure for 3 hours and my load was considerably lightened. I later learned that I could have left my bag at the casino customer service desk for free while I gambled. Oh, well! Live and learn.

Off I went to the Resorts World Casino and Newport Mall. The guy at the left luggage counter told me the free shuttle left from Bay 4. Imagine my surprise when I saw it at Bay 3 instead. I waited for the driver to unload all of the passengers and their baggage when he told me that pickup was actually at Bay 12. “Sir! I hope you’re not gonna leave me since I’m walking to 12 and you’re driving.” He didn’t leave me. Actually, he didn’t even leave Bay 12 for another 10 minutes after I boarded.

Shuttle to Resorts WorldThe ride to the casino area took less than 5 minutes to reach the first stop – Remington Hotel. Anxious to get to the spa, I hopped off and walked down the street to the casino and mall.

I booked a 2 hour massage in a private room with ensuite bathroom so I could wash the travel funk of an overnight flight away. Once showered and relaxed with a yummy cup of ginger tea, the masseuse proceeded to give me the best massage I’ve had outside of Thailand. I felt like a brand new woman when she was done with me. On my way out of the spa I exchanged business cards with a gentleman who gave me a ride back to the airport via his driver. He then sent another one of his drivers to transport me to my AirBnB rental once I landed in Cebu. Niceties like this happened often while I was in the Philippines. Once Filipinos found out I was traveling alone, they did small acts of kindness to make sure I enjoyed my first visit to their country.

I didn’t see much of Manilla that day, but that’s OK. The short time spent away from the airport was just what I needed to start my summer vacation in Asia.

If you have a longer layover in Manila, you can do what I did on my way back from Cebu and visit the Mall of Asia. If shopping isn’t your thing, you can go on a walking tour of the city. If you land in Manila before 7am and have at least 12 hours before your next flight, try hiring a driver for a day trip to Tagaytay. While there you can visit Taal Lake and the beautiful volcano. Whatever you decide to do, please heed my advice. Do NOT stay in the airport. There are plenty of ways to enjoy what Manila and other areas has to offer on a long layover.


This post is part of a series on my Philippines vacation. Stay tuned for what’s coming next.

  • Lechon! Good eating in Cebu
  • Spending a day with Filipino Seniors
  • Day trip to Bohol
  • Snorkeling with Whalesharks in Oslob
  • Chasing waterfalls in south Cebu

That Time I Flew to the Philippines for 58 Cents

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Cebu Pacific Air is currently having a sale on flights from Dubai to Manila for around 967 AED ($263 USD).

DXB MNL Feb 2016

DXB MNL fare

They also have flights from Manila to the nearby island of Cebu for 3,288 PHP ($69 USD). If you’re already in the middle east, this is a good deal.


In January of 2015 this same airline had a mega sale. Thanks to a deal alert posted on Secret Flying, I was able to take advantage of the sale to plot my solo summer vacation in Southeast Asia.

I flew from Dubai to Manila for a whopping 2 AED ($0.54 USD) and then from Manila to Cebu for 2 PHP ($0.04 USD) plus taxes and fees. This is my best sale fare to date. Now, I’ll be honest with you. Cebu Pacific Air is a no-frills airline. Think one shake above the dreaded Spirit Airlines of USA. Know what you’re getting into when you book. There will not be a personal in-flight entertainment system or charging area at your seat. The flight will likely be delayed. Your flight will be uncomfortable if the plane’s AC was on low like it was when I flew. But because you’re likely to be one of very few non Filipinos on your flight from Dubai, going through customs in Manila may be a breeze. You’ll probably wait what feels like forever for a checked bag to arrive, but it’s ok. You and your belongings will get there safely and that’s all that really matters… Mostly.

In addition to the logistics above, let me warn you that Cebu Pacific Air is a nickel and dime you airline like any other budget airline. They likely make most of their revenue from the add-ons. You may be charged to pick a seat in advance. You will definitely be charged if you check a bag – for each leg of the flight. If you’d like to eat on the 9 hour flight from Dubai to Manila, you will have to purchase meals onboard your flight, or bring your own food. All of those additional fees can add up, but you’ll do well to avoid them. Or, be like me and suck it up.

dxbmnlfullfareBecause I don’t enjoy sitting in the middle seat, I chose to reserve a window seat in advance. I also had a very complicated itinerary that involved multiple flights between Dubai and Manila, Manila and Cebu, then later between Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, and New York City. I purchased trip protection and travel insurance for peace of mind. I could have easily opted not to have add-ons and retained my super cheap fare, but even my frugal behind has her limits. Once I was done with extras, the total cost of my roundtrip flights to Manila and Cebu came to about 310 AED ($84 USD).

A little closer to the flight I realized I wasn’t going to be #teamcarryon. I’m better at this now, but there was no way I could figure out how to fall within the 7kg weight limit for carry-ons and include everything I thought I would need for a week in the Philippines, 2 weeks in Thailand, and 2 weeks in the USA. I had to check a bag on each leg of flights, which added another $45 to my total costs. Of course I overpacked and didn’t need half the stuff I brought with me, but having that bag also meant that I had space to bring back my market and mall finds. And I’ll hold on to that instead of kicking myself for going from flights that cost $0.58 USD to paying over 220% more at $130 USD for the same cheap flights and extra fees. Learn from my mistakes, people! Learn from my mistakes!

Yes, I know I’m bugging. Paying $130 USD for a roundtrip international and roundtrip domestic flight is still a mega steal. Especially when those same flights are currently pricing around $332 USD.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my week in the Philippines. Deal or no deal, I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone reading. They say “It’s more fun in the Philippines” for good reason. I’ll be sharing some highlights from my trip in upcoming posts, so stay tuned. Some topics I’ll cover:

  • How I spent a 6-hour layover in Manila
  • Lechon! Good eating in Cebu
  • Spending a day with Filipino Seniors
  • Day trip to Bohol
  • Snorkeling with Whalesharks in Oslob
  • Chasing waterfalls in south Cebu
  • Visiting the Mall of Asia


So, what are you waiting for? Book your flight then come back to this space to read more about my adventures. 🙂

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Oktoberfest in Abu Dhabi

While in a beverage shop 😉 last month I saw an advert for Oktoberfest in Abu Dhabi. Wait. What? Yes, I still live in a very Muslim country.




A much smaller version of the original festival held in Munich, this one was held on one of my favorite islands here, Yas Island – home of the famous Ferrari World and Formula 1 racetrack.  I invited a coworker to join me for what I was sure would be a good time. Was it ever! Continue reading “Oktoberfest in Abu Dhabi”

That One Time I Went to Kenya

There was a holiday in the UAE recently, Eid Al Adha. I opted to reward myself for paying off a student loan with a short vacation. While I initially had plans to visit Thailand, all of that went out the window when a travel buddy, Mo, told me about the $400 (1600 AED) flight she found to Nairobi during that time. I swiftly invited myself on her vacation and we got to planning. Looking back, I’m so very glad I did this as it was an awesome experience. Here are a few highlights of my trip to Kenya:

Continue reading “That One Time I Went to Kenya”