Manila traffic is pretty bad on a regular day – and it’s worse for special occasions, like the visit of the Pope or this week’s APEC Leaders Meeting, November 16 – 20, 2015! If you are planning to visit, you should check out my travel tips below to make the best of a bad situation!
The APEC meetings in the Philippines have been going on since February with events in different places, but the Leaders Meeting is the grand finale this week. To make the event go as smoothly as possible for the participants and ensure safety, the Philippine government is closing a number of streets and managing airport traffic will will impact locals and non-APEC visitors alike. Here are the official traffic advisory and my recommendations:
Roxas Blvd (near Manila Bay) and streets around the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) will be closed November 16-20 and streets around SM Arena (near Mall of Asia) will be closed on November 18th.
What does that mean? Roxas Blvd has some of the worst traffic in the metro area on a good day, so you should stay away from the area during the time.
What should I do? If you had plans to visit the historic district of Intramuros to see St Agustin Church, the Manila Cathedral or Fort Santiago, you should postpone it till Sunday, November 22nd when traffic will be much lighter! If you were hoping to shop at the Mall of Asia, you should pick a mall near the hotel you are staying at! While there are “alternative roads” published, they are little side streets who can’t handle the traffic and will be a complete mess!
A lot of the APEC attendees are staying in hotels in Makati, the financial district. To allow them to travel to the meetings easily, two lanes of EDSA, the major East-West thoroughfare in Metro Manila, have been dedicated to APEC vehicles and cross-traffic will be stopped for them!
What does that mean? 2 out of five lanes doesn’t sound too bad – until you realize that the two outer lanes are clogged by buses and jeepneys, leaving only 1 lane for regular cars and taxis. The three lanes can’t handle typical traffic on regular weekdays, causing complete stand-still most of the day. Cutting it from 3 to one will make EDSA pretty much impossible to use during the summit. Because cross traffic will be stopped at will to allow APEC cars to pass means that North-South traffic that has to cross EDSA will be stopped even more than usual – we travel regularly across it and a 10 minuted ride without traffic can easily turn into 45-90 minutes to cross EDSA.
What should I do? You should plan on staying where you need to be for business. If you have meetings in Makati, stay in Makati and walk, it’ll be faster than driving, or arrange for transportation early!
If you are in town for leisure, plan your day in the area around your hotel. You can go to the mall, enjoy great Filipino food or go to one of the many spas, with massages starting under $10!
What about Flights? Security will be very tight around all of Manila’s NAIA terminals November 17, 19 and 20 and there will be a no-fly zone established. The airlines serving Manila have cancelled countless flights for this week and you can expect them to make adjustments as the week goes on. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific allow for changes and will try to accommodate passengers, but there will be a lot of changes, customer service agents are not as empowered as at US or European airlines and you should expect things to take lots of time and not go smoothly, if you have to or are trying to make changes. I would avoid flying on those days, if you can. If you are scheduled to fly on these days, check with your airline to confirm or try to change it, if you can. If your flight is going this week, be prepared to leave for the airport very early (allow for 2-3h drive from Makati, for example) and plan on arriving at least 3h early! Or, try to change your flight – did I mention that before?
Where should I stay for leisure? With all the above said, you want to avoid anywhere near the Manila Bay, the airport or along EDSA. If you arrive at Terminal 3 (your best choice in any case), you could stay across the street at Resort World Manila, including the Marriott hotel and Remington Hotel. There is also a mall, lots of restaurants and entertainment. You can walk to all of them from either of the hotels! You’d need a short taxi ride to Resort World or, if you have no luggage and are very, very brave, could try to walk across the airport road, something I have never attempted!
Your best bet is Fort Bonifacio – it’s a short ride from the airport, has plenty of food, shopping and entertainment along High Street and some of the newest hotels in town with the boutique hotel Seda, the brand-new Ascott and the more affordable F1 hotel! You can easily walk everywhere you need to be!
I am staying in Fort Bonifacio and plan to just stay in the neighborhood for the rest of the week. Good luck and save travels, hope you can make the best out of your visit to Manila!
If you are staying longer, check out my recommendations for the top things to do in Manila or where to stay! If you don’t have plans to visit – read why you should visit Manila!