Manila and Jakarta may be two of the largest cities in Southeast Asia, but that’s not the only thing that they have in common. In recent years, both cities have had notable developments in terms of economic standing and urban infrastructure. Plenty of tourists regard both cities as top travel destinations when it comes to cities in Asia they want to visit. Manila and Jakarta have constantly been compared to each other, especially in terms of livability. From quality of weather, to transportation, each city has their pros and cons.
But which should I prioritize as the next Asian city to visit, you may ask? Of course, the best solution would be to visit both! As appealing as that solution may be, we only have so many days of leave we can take every year. To help prospective travellers out, we tackle this Manila vs Jakarta debate head-on here! We will do so by ranking these two cities to find out which one should be first featured on your next trip! Read on to find out more!
When it comes to cost, a lot of people will say that it’s fairly affordable to stay in either city. Whether you just want a short vacation, or you’re planning on staying a while longer, hotels and accommodation shouldn’t cost you a fortune. But which city would better fit your travel budget?
Relatively cheap compared to most of Asia, Manila has almost everything a wandering soul might need. From cultural museums to high-end shopping malls, this city offers a lot of exciting activities at a surprisingly low-cost. You are looking at spending around 25–122 USD a night for a room for two at a pleasant hotel. However, if you’re planning on staying at some of the more luxurious accommodations, then expect to pay at least 60–185 USD per night. Food is amazingly low-priced here by international standards, with full meals running the gamut from 10–20 USD. Transportation is also a bargain, so you may find yourself traveling from one city attraction to another! Thus, you will definitely be able to enjoy Manila thoroughly without burning a hole through your pockets.
As Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta is packed to the brim with hotels for travelers and locals to stay at. If you’re looking for a decent hotel, the average cost for two is 30–125 USD per night. Fancier accommodations will cost around 150–200 USD. This is not bad for a city filled with interesting attractions and spots to check out. Staying in Jakarta is also convenient since there are neighboring towns you can easily travel to if you feel like seeing and doing more. For instance, you can visit Tangerang City, where you can visit a heritage museum. You may also find plenty of food is offered at a reasonable price, ranging from 3–5 USD for snacks and 5–15 USD for a full meal!
The weather doesn’t have many differences as both cities have tropical climates, hence the remarkable dry spells that can be found at certain times of the year. Let’s find out which city has the ideal weather for your planned trip
The temperature in Manila rarely goes below 68 °F (20°C) or above 100.4 °F (38°C). That means there is not much variation in terms of weather throughout the year. The city of Manila is mostly hot and humid except during the rainy season that starts in late May or June. This period of time features periodic downpours. Expect a cool and dry season from December to February, which is what a lot of Filipinos consider to be the most pleasant weather of the year, but may not be the best time to visit due to the holiday rush.
Jakarta may also have a tropical climate, but unlike Manila, the wet season covers the majority of the year and runs from October until May. Wet season rainfall peaks between January and February, so the months of May through to September may be the best time to visit as it only sporadically rains. Regardless of the season, Jakarta is overall still a delightful city to explore! Take note though, during the time between August and September is Indonesia’s peak dry season. This leads to a spate of forest fires and hazy weather conditions. During this time, depending on which direction the wind blows, Jakarta might be shrouded in haze. Take note to avoid visiting Jakarta during this time, especially if you’re travelling with infants, the elderly, or those with respiratory issues like Asthma.
Convenient transportation is essential for any traveler, but with huge cities like Manila and Jakarta, getting around may not be as easy we’d like. Though you may enjoy the advantage of budget-traveling in either city, the drawback is that both are known to be susceptible to severe traffic jams on a daily basis. But in which city do you have a better chance of exploring without getting stuck on the road?
There are a lot of ways to get around Manila. You could take a cab, a bus, the MRT, or the most common local transportation: a jeepney. They’re cheap and would only cost you around 1–2 USD for roundtrips within the city. Most tourists opt to rent a private car service here though, due to the comfort it provides as well as to avoid crowded public transportation. Additionally, taking the mass transit may be a little off-putting for some tourists as the main roads are increasingly congested during rush hours. In conclusion, while transport in Manila may be cheap, it can be a hassle to get around due to the roads being heavy with traffic.
Albeit having multiple transport options to choose from, Jakarta’s traffic situation may just be a little worse than in Manila. Whether you decide to take the Transjakarta Bus or the mass transit (more commonly called ‘angkot’) you will realize that public transport in Jakarta tends to be a little disorderly. If you happen to get stuck in a tie-up, you could try hopping aboard an ‘ojek’ AKA a motorcycle bike to get to your destination faster. Be careful though, as it may not be as safe as other forms of transportation. When it comes to fare, any kind transport you take will only cost you 1–2 USD for roundtrips, but their cost may be the least of your problems. Ultimately, it’s better for tourists to get a car rental for their whole stay here instead.
After you’ve figured out how to get around the city, what is next on your list of things to do is to check out the local attractions! Manila and Jakarta sure have plenty all around! Both cities have been under colonization by the Spanish and Dutch respectively, so it makes sense to see plenty of culturally and historically significant locations here, like old towns and monuments. Now, which city has sights that will best suit your wandering taste?
With a city as progressive as Manila, you will never run out of things to do and places to see. Whether you just want to enjoy a nice view of the city or learn about its history, there’s a highly recommended location perfect for you. Manila is a city filled with remnants of the past, so sightseeing is definitely something you should look forward to. The National Museum of Natural History in Manila is a good place to start, followed by the Rizal Park—a historical, urban park in the center of the city. Situated close to both spots is Intramuros, another historic area filled with picturesque walls that were built when the Spanish colonized the Philippines. If you’re still not tired from sightseeing come night time, you can enjoy the view of the beautiful city landscape in Antipolo. There are just so many fun things to do in Manila without even having to venture out of the city!
Like Manila, there is no lack of interesting attractions in Jakarta. Aside from being a good place to learn about Indonesian history, Jakarta is full of cultural and historical locations like mosques and the famous Monas Tower—a symbol of Indonesia’s independence after Dutch colonial rule. There are also plenty of museums to visit here, such as the Museum Bank Indonesia, which is famous for its range of interactive exhibits. For theme park fans, head over to Dunia Fantasi: Jakarta’s answer to Disneyland. Compared to Manila, Jakarta has more public parks like Merdeka Square and Lapangan Banteng. Both these green spaces are fruits of the government’s efforts to develop a child-friendly city. In conclusion, while Manila may have a lot to offer visitors in terms of attractions, in this regard, Jakarta wins out. Jakarta is a far cry from a boring city!
Travel tip by Manila Local Expert - Laarni
Both Indonesia and The Philippines are countries rich in culture. For most travelers, it’s very important to learn about the culture of the places they are exploring firsthand. Manila and Jakarta are an amalgam of fascinating influences from the past up to the present. Each city has something excitingly different to offer, hence the high scores of both countries!
The Philippines is made up predominantly of Roman Catholics and is the 4th largest Christian country in the world. So don’t be surprised to find chapels built here at various spots in the city and even inside malls! Moreover, Filipinos are known to be extremely hospitable and friendly. You will find that almost everyone in Manila speaks good English, so a language barrier will not be a problem. You will also notice western influences everywhere in this city when it comes to fast food chains. Local youngsters follow many U.S. fashion trends without fail, so expect to see familiar brands like H&M and Forever21 in malls here everywhere. Manila is definitely a city any traveler will find easy to blend in with!
As the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta has a massive selection of historical and architectural attractions. It is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, and because of that, it’s quite hard to identify a common culture. To add to that, many natives from other parts of Indonesia flock to this capital, bringing with them their customs and traditions. Jakarta’s cultural influences include its legacy as a former Dutch colony as well as Chinese and Arab migrants. Locals in Jakarta may not be as fluent in English as the people from Manila, but they are just as accommodating and friendly. Tourists setting foot in this city will enjoy how fun it is to interact with locals and sample the various strands of different cultural flavors here!
6. Food & Drink
One of the most important parts of a vacation is the food on offer. If an interesting flavor sticks out in your memory, whether in a good or bad way, you’ll know that the trip is one for the books! Some of us go to great lengths to try all the local food we can, no matter how exotic they might appear. As we all know, Asian countries are known to have a lot of unconventional-looking, albeit delicious food, so let’s see what Manila and Jakarta has in store for us when it comes to mouth-watering meals!
Manila has an abundance of casual and fine dining restaurants that offer not just famous dishes, but exotic ones as well. You need not worry about limited yourself to a number of meals per day here. You can sample all sorts of food at food parks here! These food parks can be found all over the city, and they offer all sorts of different cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for some sushi or Korean beef, all you have to do is go to the mall or Google the nearest food park from your location. Themed cafes are also everywhere here, for those who like to enjoy a drink with cats or dogs. If you feel like tasting some local stuff, dishes like Adobo (seafood, meat and vegetables simmered to perfection) and Sinigang (a delectable sweet and sour local stew) are highly recommended! While Isaw (barbecued and skewered pig or chicken intestines; we swear that they are more delicious than they sound) and Kwek-kwek (a tempura-like dish consisting of deep-fried quail eggs) are some interesting street food you can try. There’s just so much in Manila when it comes to food that is guaranteed to leave your stomach full without emptying your pockets.
Jakarta takes great pride in its local cuisine! In Jakarta, each local dish tells a story about Indonesian culture. This city has a vast array of available food that highlight the unique influences of different regions in Indonesia. Food stalls like the traditional, Padang-type Indonesian restaurants and affordable, but great eateries like the Warung Tegal restaurant are found all over Jakarta. Jakarta is also home to a great street food scene! Visit these outdoor eating venues and you can enjoy street food like Nasi Goreng (flavourful fried rice served with sausage, eggs and traditional Indonesian crackers), Sate (skewered meats) and Siomai (dumplings reminiscent to those found in China) are famous even with tourists. When it comes to variety, Jakarta has a lot more to offer due to the massive range of culinary fusion dishes found here that hail from different places in Indonesia. So if you want to sample a full-scale range of different dishes, including, but not limited to authentic Indonesian food, then this city is not a bad place to start!
We can all agree that most cities come alive at night. When we say this, we’re thinking parties, bars, and clubs. But Manila and Jakarta have other things to offer come nighttime as well. If you’re seized by wanderlust, you might want to explore Jakarta or Manila at night. You won’t be disappointed with what you find. Let’s rank which city makes a great nest for wandering night owls both local and foreign.
There’s no denying that Manila is famous for its lively bar scene. Manila has numerous bars and clubs lining its streets. Unlike other cities in Asia, most bars in Manila don’t close until the wee hours of the morning. It’s fairly common for young people to go straight to nightclubs after work to dance and unwind after a hard day. For those who prefer to chill and listen to good music while having a drink, bars and bistros are aplenty in this city, so there shouldn’t be a problem finding the perfect locale for you! One interesting place you can visit here is the Buddha Bar Manila. It is a lounge that serves great food as well. One must-try dish that they serve is their signature Spicy Tuna Maki.
Jakarta’s nightlife is not too far behind and very similar to that of Manila’s. This city is teeming with bars, clubs on the streets, and swanky restaurants and pubs. It comes to life with lively ambiance and bustling night markets. If you want to make the most of your night, be it clubbing or a going on a food trip, this city will definitely deliver! One interesting clubbing place found here is called Dragonfly. While you’re here, you can expect to dance to great beats from a live DJ as you’re swept away by the infectious party atmosphere.
Even on a budget, no trip is complete without a little shopping. Luckily, there’s no shortage of shopping opportunities to be had in Manila or Jakarta. Both cities boast grandiose malls you can roam around. From high-end malls to night markets and thrift shops, Manila and Jakarta are hot spots when it comes to shopping options!
Manila is home to some of the world’s biggest shopping malls, so it’s usual to see a lot of big malls all over the city. From international and local brands, to affordable and high-end restaurants, you will find everything you need here in this metro. Aside from that, you will also see a lot of shopping malls here like Greenhills and Divisoria, where a lot of things are sold wholesale at a bargain! A lot of tourists flock to these locations to do last minute shopping, and purchase souvenirs to take home. These spots are traveler-friendly, so you can be assured that shopping in Manila is worth every penny!
There’s stiff competition in Jakarta when it comes to shopping! This city has a potent mix of both high-end, exclusive malls and bulk-shopping opportunities as well. Shopping centers like the ITC (International Trade Center) Mangga Dua and Pasar Baru are the most popular shopping attractions due to the wide range of products sold there. Expect anything and everything you can think of to be available here at these locations. They are also wonderful places to grab bargains!
So what is the verdict?
In conclusion, it is fair to say that both Manila and Jakarta are very similar cities at a glance, but are unique upon closer examination. Both Manila and Jakarta can hold their own as global attractions. Both cities are rich in culture and are budget-friendly for globetrotters, so there’s no question about which one is better. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or just a cultural wanderer, one thing’s for sure, you will definitely enjoy what either Manila or Jakarta have to offer.
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