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