A Trip To Manila, by Rich Paschall

Reaching the Philippines from the middle of the United States can be a long process in both time and distance whether you decide to head east or west. It is almost the same distance no matter which way you go. Westbound from O’Hare International airport to Manila is about 8100 miles as the crow flies. Since you are not a crow, you must take an airplane. This will make your trip a little longer.

On my latest adventure, I decided to head to the Philippines to visit with a friend and see a show (Ohm-Nanon’s 1st Fan Meeting in Manila). I looked for the shortest travel time and for the best price. Since there was no direct flight from ORD, I needed to choose the quickest way. All Nippon Airways (ANA) offered a direct flight to Tokyo’s Narita Airport with a connection to Manila. The first flight was over 13 hours and the connection was almost 5 more. When you consider the connection time, the trip was supposed to take about 21 and a half hours.


No matter what the itinerary tells you, it is going to take you longer to get there. A lot longer. I got up at 6 AM to start my day. The morning flight was scheduled to be off the ground at 10:40. It was almost 6:40 AM when I called for Uber to take me to Terminal One. That meant I was headed to one of the busiest airports in the world as the rush hour traffic was starting to build. I know, it was not the greatest plan. I made it in plenty of time.

At the ticket counter, I asked what it would cost to upgrade to business class for the first flight. I thought USD 450 was reasonable, all things considered, and went for it. Some airlines and locations will view this upgrade request differently. Some may think that it is close to flight time and they should take any additional money they can get. If the flight is mostly full anyway, they have the additional provisions on board. Other airlines may think that you are desperate to seize the last chance for an upgrade and they will request an outrageous amount to move you up in class. Some travel bloggers will advise you to dress nice and talk sweetly to the gate agent in hopes they will bump you up for free. I doubt this works as often as they suggest.

At the ANA lounge at Narita airport, I asked what it would cost to upgrade for the flight to Manila. The agent advised it would be USD 3000 to upgrade. I told her I did not pay that much for the entire trip, including the USD 450 upgrade. This was the case of trying to get every Yen possible, but they did not get it from me.

Dusit Thani hotel, Makati, Philippines

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located just a few miles south of Manila. The large international airport looks modern, but it is sorely lacking in organization. Once we arrived at Customs, it took over an hour to get through at 10 PM. My friend arrived at 9 PM to be there in time to meet me. He waited 2 hours. Before leaving the airport I used the currency exchange to get some local currency. Usually, an airport is a terrible place to exchange money, but hotels are worse if they will do it at all. I learned I would not have done much better in the city anyway. I received 54.20 Philippine Pesos for the US Dollar.

When we reached the hotel, I had been up for almost 28 hours. This may be okay for a young person, but I would never attempt it again. I should have planned a day at the first stop. I had never been to Tokyo before so some rest and a quick tour around may have been a better plan.

The Manila area hotel was Dusit Thani, owned by a Thailand company. It is rated as a five-star facility there. I would have been lucky to get a three-star facility in Europe for the same price. You will quickly discover that rates are low and the US dollar will go far in the Philippines. If you are looking for an economical vacation this may be it. On the other hand, transpacific airfare will not come cheap, no matter the airline.

Tour guide and me at SM Makati mall

We found good deals and prices at the giant shopping mall SM Makati just across the street. At the food court, you can pick up a complete meal for just a few dollars. I congratulate myself for getting through a meal using chopsticks. I can not say how many times I dropped food back into the bowl but I did finish. I admit I avoided the more exotic choices and dishes that included unfamiliar foods.

Transportation is cheap and we were able to catch a cab as needed. When we got a cab at the hotel and at the theater, the attendant or security guard would write down the cab company, license number, date, and time on a small form and hand it to you. It includes several emergency numbers, including the police. This practice is apparently meant to discourage cab drivers from taking advantage of tourists and others. Locals might also have the Grab app, a ride-share service like Uber.

When we got in a cab to go to the show at Samsung Hall, the meter was not on. This is a red flag and you should probably get out of the cab. The driver wanted 2000 pesos to take us to the show. My friend offered him 150 since this was the rate we paid the previous day to go to the same location, including the tip. We settled on 200 rather than arguing further. Considering the exchange rate, it was inexpensive to me.

View from the hotel

For your return trip, it might be best to get to MNL at least 5 hours in advance. You must stand in a long line to get into the area of ticket counters where you will stand in a line there, followed by the security line. None of these lines will move quickly. The first line seems totally unnecessary and a person who travels frequently and now lives in MNL says 4 to 5 hours in line is not unusual.

The Philippines is made up of over 7600 islands and covers an area of about 120,000 square miles. It lies south of Taiwan and north of Indonesia. With diverse cultures and locales, it can provide an interesting vacation. The warm weather during a cold Chicago winter was certainly a plus.

See also: “A Trip To Manila,” photo gallery, “rjptalk,” Sunday Night Blog, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.

Categories: Rich Paschall, Travel, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Wow! Fascinating! I loved reading about your travel to the philopenes! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those long flights are very tiring so I’m sure your upgrade helped although I agree a stopover in Tokyo probably would have been a good idea.
    I think that all the standing in line at the airport would be what would have got to me the most. I would find that way more painful and tiring than the flight. I can at least sleep on aircraft pretty easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A porter took pity on me at MNL airport and walked me past the first line to the ticket counter lines. There was still a lot of waiting but not the many hours some went through. I can rarely sleep on a plane and ANA was particularly uncomfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think either of us could deal with a journey that long unless we were very coddled in first class and even then, I think it would probably be a bit overwhelming. I always wanted to go east, especially to Japan, but really, it’s a whole continent I’ve never seen in person. I envy you your journey, however arduous it may have been. I’m sure you will never regret it. I’ve never regretted any of the journeys I’ve taken. In the end, they are always worth it. You forget the hassles and just remember the joy of it — and that happens pretty much as soon as you arrive home. And what a lovely place to stay, too!

    Liked by 1 person



Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: