Our Manila city tours provide a unique insight into life in the Philippines. These are not any of the usual culture tours, they are raw, unmediated, up close and personal. The tours below take place in three different and unique settings: BASECO Slum, Manila North Cemetery, and the Carriedo/Quiapo Market. Those locations are a window to the way as many as 50% of the residents of Manila live their everyday life, which is utterly different than yours.
Some live under unusual conditions, some have strange spiritual beliefs and superstitions, and even a simple trip to the city market will expose you to local habits and traditions. These tours may take you to the “ugly” sides of the Philippines, but they will leave a great impact on you. We can’t tell what will be your own personal impression, but be sure you’ll be challenged. These tours are all important, interesting, fun and more than everything, essential to your full Philippines experience.
For this reason we have partnered up with Smokey Tours, an NGO committed to raising awareness to social issues, and bridging the gap between communities in the Philippines. Their expertise in these areas allows us to bring tourists to the more authentic parts of Manila. All profits from these tours go back to the weakest communities in the Philippines, very much like the ones you’ll visit.
The tours are run in a safe manner, and as long as you’ll follow your guide you won’t get lost. The guides will also instruct you to watch your belongings, and not to wear any flashy jewelry. Even though it’s safe, these tours can be overwhelming and too dirty for some people. However, they are perfect for people who seek cultural immersion, and are willing to keep an open mind and try unorthodox experiences. So book any of the tours below, and be a part of the change we all need in the Philippines.
Manila Smokey Tours are perfect for people who stay in Manila for a short period of time. Each tour is merely 3 hours long, so you can fit it into your morning schedule if you have plans to leave the city in the evening. If you want a longer itinerary it's optimal to go on two tours on the same day. You can start with either the slums or cemetery tour, then continue to the market.
If you want an extended tour in Intramuros, the historic quarter of Manila, you can also combine it with any of the tours in this page. Starting the day in Intramuros and then continuing to the Market Tour for instance, will make a wonderful family trip in Manila. Book any two tours, and it will look very much like the sample itinerary below, or contact our experts for a personalized plan.
|Whole day Manila culture tour|
|09:00||Meet in McDonald's in Good Earth Plaza in Rizal Ave.|
|09:15||Take a tricycle to BASECO slum|
|09:30||Start your walking tour|
|12:15-13:30||Free time in Intramuros, and a perfect opportunity for lunch|
|13:45 - 14:15||Meet your guide and Start the Market tour|
|16:30||End of Market tour. Your guides will assist you in catching a taxi|
The flagship of the Manila Smokey tours, this tour was originally in Smokey Mountain, a famous dumpsite which was also home of impoverished scavengers. Since then the site was cleared and tours are no longer allowed there.
However, 50% of the population in Manila live in slums, so a new site for the slum tour wasn't hard to find. BASECO, one of the biggest squatter areas in Manila, is the place you'll go to instead.
This is a hands on tour that will take you into the heart of the squatter town, where you'll meet and get to know its people. It means that you'll walk through the mud and filth, use public transportation (tricycles), and experience the place like than the ones who live there do. This tour is short yet very impactful. In order to make full use of your time we think it's best to combine it with the Market tour featured below.
The guides leading this tour are actually from BASECO itself. They're the only ones able to guide you there and make the trip both pleasant and comprehensive. Without them to point out the things that are going on under the surface, you will just see a dumpsite, and not a resilient community, making the most out of the little they have.
Newer than the Slums Tour, the Cemetery tour's purpose is to reveal the Filipino mourning rituals, and their ways to honor their dead.
Interestingly, a subculture of graveyard dwellers is very common in most cemeteries in Manila, so you'll also be exposed to the way that many people choose to live among the dead and their motives to do so. You'll get to understand how Filipinos cherish their deceased loved ones and their spiritual beliefs.
Same as all of Smokey's tours, you'll use public transportation to explore the sites of Manila North Cemetery and its surroundings. It means that you'll get to be a part of the experience, go around and witness actual funerals carried out in a unique Filipino way, meet and talk with the cemetery dwellers.
You'll start the tour in Dangwa Flower Market, the biggest flower market in the Philippines. You'll then continue to the Cemetery itself and learn about the different options one can choose for his final rest and the motives behind each. At the same time you'll see how the deceased are taken care of, and how the caretakers live as well, getting a glimpse to the local superstitions.
This tour is intense despite its relatively short length. Even though it's different than the Slums Tour, it share some similarities, and doing both on the same day might be overwhelming. It's best done in the morning before it's too hot, so you can continue to tour the old historical Spanish Quarter of Manila for a lighter experience, or go on the Manila market tour.
Public markets are one of the best windows to a country's culture. The new tastes and smells, exotic fruit and vegetables, and strange local delicacies all give you a glimpse of what it's like to live here.
You'll get to meet the locals doing their everyday errands, or enjoying some quick pastime activities. This tour is the best choice families with children or as an addition to either the Slum Tour, Cemetery Tour, or Intramuros Tour.
This is a walking tour that leaves from Carriedo LRT Station. You can either get there directly for the tour, or you can book your transportation with us. Once there, the professional guides who are from that area will show you around, and buy some exotic local food for you.
You'll also get to visit Quiapo Church and see the famous Black Nazarene, visit local herbal medicine stalls and fortune tellers, and even get a quick tour of the oldest China Town in the world.
If you want to enjoy the Market Tour as a family, you'll need to book it privately. It will allow the guide to focus on the children, and make the tour more understandable to them. You'll also go on your own pace, slower if your kids find interest in a certain thing, or faster if they lose their patience.
The food selection is also adjusted to appeal to children. The cost of a private Market Tour is 96 USD, as you get a guide all to yourself, who will attend to you special needs.
The market tour is best done in the afternoon, when you had the chance to build your appetite, as it involves a lot of food tasting. So we believe it is best done in combination with any of the tours on this page, while having a short lunch or coffee break in between. The guides will assist you from the meet up moment, to a place where you can have lunch, to the second tour, so be sure you'll be in good hands.