UBDATE 2018: uber no longer operates in Manila and has been replaced by grab – read how to use grab at Manila NAIA Airport instead!
When you are arriving in a strange airport and have to deal with taxis, your trip can be off to a rough start, especially in developing countries, with frequent hassles, scams and annoyances. Uber is a great alternative, offering set prices without tipping, safety of knowing the driver and no risk of being taking for a ride with receipts including a map of the drive! Read my insider tips on how to best use them at Manila’s confusing airport, avoid the long taxi lines and high fixed fares!
UPDATE: As of April 16, 2018, uber has shut down operations in Manila and is no longer available. Grab acquired uber’s South East Asian operations and is currently the only ride-hailing app in Manila.
Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA or MNL) is fairly well organized with metered and fixed fare taxis available (read my taxi tips here), yet still “features” the touts so common in the region who are trying to trick you into overpriced transport. You’ll also face long lines for the metered taxis and high prices for the fixed fee taxis, but now you can use uber from the airport – uber introduced some new features making it easy for the first-time visitor to Manila to arrange for uber from the airport.
The first thing you need is a data connection for your smart phone. You can activate roaming (convenient), buy a local SIM card for your phone or tablet at the airport or just use free wifi at the airport! Just turn on wifi and look for an open network (“Globe” is one of the official providers and safe to use) and sign in. You have to accept the terms and conditions and might have to launch your browser to do so.
The next thing you need to know is your terminal – Manila’s airport can be confusing and has 4 terminal positioned around the airfield, with international flights arriving into Terminal 1, 2 and 3! The tips below show which airlines land at which terminal and how to get an uber easily:
Terminal 3 is the new international terminal, also used by all Cebu Pacific and some Philippine Airlines domestic flights. International flights of Air Asia, All Nippon Air, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Delta, Emirates, KLM, Singapore Airlines and Tigerair arrive here.
Once you get through immigration and exit from the baggage area, you should be able to get wifi and launch uber. Wifi should reach to the curb for pickup, so you can go outside and still see the car. You will be greeted with a welcome screen by uber. Once past that, click on the “Pickup location” at the top of the screen – you will get the option to specify point at the terminal you want to be picked up. Select a “Bay Number” from the pull-up menu at the bottom left – Bay 1 is all the way to the left once you exit, Bay 8 is to the right. If you exit to the right from the luggage area and follow the taxi signs, you’ll exit near “Bay 8”. The bay numbers are marked on the pillars at the curb and you will be able to see the huge signs as soon as you exit the building. Your driver will meet you there. Make sure to look at the license plate – a lot of the uber cars are the same make & model!
Insider Tip 1: Frequently, an uberx car dropping off a passenger at arrivals will accept your ride. While the map shows the car right in front of you, it’s really above you and the driver will have to exit the airport and loop around, which can take anywhere between 10-45 minutes, depending on traffic, so be prepared to wait or cancel and take a fixed-fee taxi if you are in a hurry!
Terminal 2 is dedicated to Philippine Airlines and all their international flights arrive there. Connect to wifi while you are in the luggage area and call an uber as soon as you exit. The pick-up area is near the terminal and wifi should reach out to the curb. Click on the “pickup location” (top of the screen) to specify the place to meet and select a “Bay Number” (pull-up menu, bottom left corner of screen) to specify your pick-up location. The bays are numbered from 2 (far left side of terminal when exiting domestic arrivals) to 11 (middle of terminal, between domestic and international) and to 23 (far right side of terminal when exiting international. You can see them marked on the pillars curbside. Make sure to pick the bay number once you see them – it’s a long walk from one end to the other!
Terminal 1: All remaining international flights not listed at Terminal 2 & 3, arrive at the old (recently refurbished) Terminal 1. You’ll be able to call an uber from the terminal and have to specify the pick-up location with a letter. Typically, people go by the first letter of their last name. Make sure to request the uber and wait for the car assignment, before leaving the terminal. The pick-up area is across the street and you won’t have wifi. Make sure to take note of the driver name and car license place to find them, exit the terminal and cross the street towards to meeting area. You’ll have to walk down a crowded ramp and will see posts with letters to to match the “bays” on uber. The cars will stop in front, but it is very crowded, so you’ll have to look closely for the cars to arrive and identify by the make, model and license plate!
Insider Tip 2: uber allows for subcompact cars to be used for uberx, typically a Toyota Vios or similar, but I have had cars as small as the tiny Kia Picanto! While it fits 2 people with luggage, more people or large luggage won’t. For a family of four with luggage, I’d recommend uber Black, which usually is a mid-size SUV, for example a Toyota Fortuner with room for 7 or for 4 people with lots of luggage.
Insider Tip 3: If you fit into an uberx, and face the dreaded surge pricing due to high demand, try the uber Black rates: uber Black is about 2x the uberx price, but doesn’t have surge pricing as often. So, if uberx surge pricing is higher than 2x, uber Black is not only more comfortable, but cheaper, too!
Insider Tip 4: Terminal assignments for airlines and flights change frequently, so make sure to double check the terminal of your arrival at the official NAIA website here!
Check out my other Travel Made Easy tips to get into the city and around town here!
Read my Mini-Guide Manila for more information about the city!