Following an overnight stay in Rome, the first stop on our 20-day trip to the Philippines was Manila. However, in order to keep our city-stays to a minimum we had decided to skip Manila completely on our way in. Our plan instead was to arrive at Manila airport, clear customs, then take the first flight out to Cebu. To do this we would need to negotiate ourselves around the Manila airport terminals.
We understood that we would be spending 6 hours at Manila airport (Terminal 3) following a long-haul flight from Europe, but it would save us time and costs in the long run. We would have to leave from there anyway at the end of the trip, so we had reserved our last 2 days in the Philippines for that.
I admit to not looking forward to our transit through Manila. I had read a lot of negative reports about Manila Nasay International airport. The place has a terrible reputation for chaos, noise, lack of services, and massive check-in queues. If we did a short stay in Manila before heading off for the islands, we’d have to experience the airport twice during our trip (including the return).
We concluded it may just be better to wait in the airport for a connecting flight, and head off again as soon as possible.
We had booked an early flight from Manila online with Philippine Airlines. Leaving at 5 am (about 6 hours after our arrival), and arriving in Cebu city an hour later.
Transit at Manila Airport Terminals 2 & 3 – Not so bad after all
As it turned out, my worries were unfounded. It was a pleasant surprise to arrive in Terminal 3 to find a clean, modern, and organized place. Several decent eating places were open at 1am, plus an information desk and free shuttle services to the other terminals.
We had 6 hours to kill before our onward domestic flight to Cebu, so we loaded up on snacks and took the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 (its much further than we thought – a good 20-minute trip). The shuttle service seems to run every 40 minutes or so.
Terminal 2 also seems to be a decent functional place (contrary to reports), though I didn’t find any shops or eateries.
Did I speak too soon? The whole terminal just blacked out with power cut while I was using their free laptop station to charge my phone. It came back on again after a few minutes, so fingers crossed.
There’s also free WIFI here, which I didn’t even find in Dubai airport.
We had another short power cut in Terminal 2 before boarding the plane. I understand this is just something you generally have to get used to in the Philippines.
More importantly, there were a couple of snack bars open opposite the boarding gates after check-in, and another free WIFI and charging area. The short flight to Cebu with Philippine Airlines was comfortable, with snacks, and it arrived on time.
All in all, our 6-hour layover at Manila airport turned out to be pretty relaxed by any standards.
We would be arriving in Cebu very early in the morning, so we would have plenty of time to kill before checking into our hotel. This would be a good opportunity to try our first meal in the Philippines – albeit breakfast!
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