How to use grab at Manila Airport and in Manila

Grab is the uber of South East Asia, offering ride hail services, food delivery and courier services, and since the acquisition of uber, your only choice to hail a ride in Manila! And while it was certainly inspired by uber, it has made adjustments to the local needs and using the service is a little different. Check out my tips, how to hail a grab ride from Manila airport to the city or how to catch grab in Manila!

Ever since grab acquired uber in South East Asia, it has become your only alternative to taxis in Manila. Manila’s taxis are notoriously unreliable, unsafe and while the majority of taxi drivers are honest and working hard to earn a living, I’ve experienced enough scams myself and heard enough about crimes and violence to never want to ride a taxi in Manila again, if I can help it. 

Download & Sign-up: Download the grab app from the app store before your trip to Manila and sign up for an account.
I’ve had issues with a US number, so I recommend  signing up with an email address rather than a foreign phone number, as delivering the needed validation code to foreign numbers seems to be problematic! 
If you use my referral code GRABDREAMTRAVEL, you’ll get a discount on your first ride – and I do, too. Thanks for supporting the blog!

Payment: The default payment in grab is cash. While that’s necessary in very much cash oriented Manila, it’s less convenient. You can add a credit or debit card to make payments as well. Grab still has problems with accepting credit cards, so you might have to try with different cards. I haven’t been able to find a pattern of rejection, one of my cards worked on one phone, but not the next, so just keep trying till it is accepted.
Grab will charge a small amount for each credit card you store, consider it a convenience fee! You can identify a card as “primary” or default payment, but the app is very unreliable: It frequently will revert back to cash as payment option, leaving you in the awkward situation of having to pay in cash when you were not planning on it! Make sure to check before booking each ride by clicking on the “cash” button to change it to your card. It should show a little “Visa” or other credit card logo instead!

Ride Booking at Manila’s NAIA airport: To hail a ride with grab on your smartphone, you first need a WiFi or mobile connection. NAIA offers free WiFi throughout the terminals and you can connect once you reach the arrival hall. Globe is the official provider and safe to use. You may have to accept terms & conditions in your browser to activate. If you are unable to establish a data connection, go to the grab booth outside, it’s green with the white grab logo – staff will call a car for you! You’ll have to pay cash and won’t be able to track your ride, taking away some of the convenience of the service
Alternatively, you can purchase a local SIM card from Globe or Smart at small booths in the arrival hall. Staff is friendly and will assist you with activating the service on your phone. It’s a lot cheaper than roaming charges, with approx. $6 for 1GB or more valid for 30 days!
Once you have a data connection, check your location! NAIA consists of four terminals and can be confusing, so make double check what terminal you are at. 
grab, similar to uber, will default your location based on the GPS signal, and offers multiple pick-up points at each terminal. At international Terminal 3, the pick-up points are clearly marked bays curbside. Look outside to confirm your spot. At Philippine Airline’s Terminal 2, pick up is also curbside with multiple pick-up locations. At Terminal 1, the pick-up is based on the first letter of your last name.
You can select your destination by typing or on a map, with some frequently used destinations showing up prior to typing in. grab generally accepts destinations in the Manila Metro area. If you are planning a longer ride into the provinces, like Subic or Baguio, you may not able to use grab as the driver would have to return empty. I recommend to hire a car & driver instead prior to your arrival, starting at P2,500 + gas & surcharges by distance. If in doubt, head to the grab booth outside and ask for assistance!
The next step is to select your car. grab offers regular GrabCar, which are supposed to fit 4 people, but can be tiny subcompacts with little trunk space. If you are a larger group or have multiple pieces of luggage, you can upgrade to a GrabCar (6-seater) van or a GrabCar+, typically an SUV or mini-van! Usually a little cheaper are GrabTaxi, which will result in a regular taxi arriving, or depending on the city, a regular GrabCar, or you can select GrabShare, for a shared ride with other riders.

Similar to uber, grab has surge pricing during periods of high demand, marked by 3 red arrows pointing upwards next to the price! Unfortunately, since the departure of uber, there is no competition and in all my rides since, 90% of the time surge pricing is in effect in Manila, so there is no point in waiting for it to stop! The price should be between P200-400 for a ride to Makati, Bonifacio Global City or the casinos at Manila Bay. You can get a fare estimate with the grab fare calculator! If it’s too high for your taste, you can use a regular, metered white taxi, a metered, yellow airport taxi or a fixed-fare coupon taxi – read about other transportation options  here but under no circumstance should you follow any of the touts offering transportation, they are all scams charging up to 10x the regular rate! 

Once a driver has been assigned, take a screenshot of the car, license plate and driver. You may loose your wifi connection. grab’s app is unreliable and sometimes the ride information disappears, If that happens, go to History and check whether the ride is still in progress or has been cancelled.
Proceed to your meeting spot, curbside at Terminal 2, Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 and at the marked bay or door as you specified in your pick up spot. You will have WiFi here, so it shouldn’t be a problem to spot your driver!
At Terminal 1, the meeting area is across the street. There is no wifi in the meeting area, so you’ll need that screenshot to identify your ride! Wait tll about 5 minutes before the car is to arrive. Then, cross the street outside arrivals, follow signs to the meeting area, go down a ramp and look for the sign with a letter of your last name. 

The Ride:  Once you have met your driver and are departing, the app should indicate In Transit. The driver may ask you for the route or if he should follow the navigation system (often Waze) and I’d recommend to always follow navigation. Manila’s traffic is notoriously bad and navigation has been a blessing!
Your driver is likely to take the Airport Skyway, a new tollroad that greatly reduced time spent and is worth the small fee of about $1. If the driver requests cash to pay, ask him to pay and charge you through the app. Different from uber, this is a manual process in grab! If you do give the driver cash, make sure to get a receipt and change.
At the end of the drive, wait for the driver to end the ride and watch whether he enters any fees manually – I’ve been double-charged for tolls after paying cash for it already!
If there was a problem with the ride, you can report it through the app. I found customer service to be very responsive in the Philippines!

Bottomline: Unfortunately, since the exit of uber, grab is your only choice for ride hailing in Manila and fares have gone up. But it’s still the most convenient, reliable and safest ride from Manila Airport to the City or around Manila. I recommend to download the app, sign-up and not worry about taxi scams. Use my referral code GRABDREAMTRAVEL for a discount on your first ride (and my next one – thanks!).
Now, you can plan your trip to Manila – check out my Destination Guide Manila for tips where to stay, what to see & do, where to eat and how to get around!




How to use grab at Manila Airport and in Manila — 10 Comments

  1. hi…try to add my debit card to Gran , rejected as (sorry our service reported an error ..bad input… Please try again later).
    I may cannot add my card here in london unless I will arrive Maniala !!!

    • I’ve had similar problems adding credit cards, etc. Just try to add the card again later or after you arrive…

  2. Your referral code GRABDREAMTRAVEL isn’t working. When I entered the referral code the App said Something went wrong! Please try again. I tried many times but without success.

    • Thank you for trying the code. I checked and it is still correct. It only works for new members signing up, not for users who already have an account.

    • You can use a US iphone, but you need to download the grab app to book a ride. You can use free WiFi at the Manila terminal to use the app.

  3. Downloaded the app for my upcoming trip to Manila and entered code GRABDREAMTRAVEL but response was “Friend and referre must be from same country?”

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