young man with backpack in the park

Urban backpacking is a travel trend where participants walk or use public transportation to explore cityscapes. The rise of affordable air travel and the recent global movement towards friendlier, more walkable cities have helped popularize the practice, with tourists and locals alike engaging in the practice for the sheer pleasure of it.

In Metro Manila, urban backpacking is starting to rise in popularity, thanks to a growing emphasis on minimalism and continuous improvements in public transportation. If you’re looking to embark on an urban backpacking adventure in Metro Manila, here are a few tips to ensure the best experience.

1) Plan Your Itinerary

Plan your itinerary to avoid wasting time and effort. Identify which landmarks, attractions, and neighborhoods align with your interests, and plan your transportation and walking paths from there. Doing this will help you optimize your time and keep you from getting bogged down in places you don’t want to be in.

2) Choose Conveniently-Located Accommodations

Because of the limited transportation options, urban backpacking in Metro Manila can be hard work, especially if your accommodations are located far away from important public transit options. To save time and energy, look for accommodations that are conveniently situated near public transportation, major attractions, and local amenities. Among local backpackers, budget hotels in Pasay are often favored due to their proximity to the MRT-3 and LRT-1 transit lines.

3) Pack Light and Smart

Urban backpacking and minimalism essentially go hand in hand, so cultivating a minimalist mindset is a good way to go about this. You can start by only packing the essentials. Choose versatile clothing items that can easily be washed in your hotel bathroom. When possible, opt for lightweight, fast-drying, and compact travel gear. Remember that you can usually buy or borrow items on the go if needed, so don’t burden yourself with unnecessary belongings.

4) Embrace Public Transportation

While some hardcore enthusiasts insist on walking everywhere, for the vast majority, public transportation is essential for an enjoyable urban backpacking experience. When backpacking across Metro Manila, familiarize yourself with the local transportation system, paying attention to commuter buses, jeepneys, and major commuter rail lines. Use maps, travel apps, and online resources to navigate the often-chaotic urban landscapes safely and efficiently.

5) Explore on Foot

couple tourist holding city map crossing the road

Walking allows you to discover charming neighborhoods and local shops that may be missed when using cars or public transport. It’s a great way to enjoy a nice day, soak up the local atmosphere, and stumble upon unexpected gems.

6) Wear Practical Footwear

Urban backpacking involves a lot of walking on concrete, and you can get injured (or end up with sore feet at the very least) if you’re not prepared for it. Invest in a good pair of durable yet lightweight sneakers or walking shoes to keep your feet and knees pain-free. Shoes made from breathable materials are also preferable, as Metro Manila tends to be extremely humid for most of the year. Also, make sure to wear good socks to avoid getting blisters.

7) Check Out Local Street Food

One of the joys of urban backpacking is experiencing authentic local cuisine. Not only is street food often delicious and affordable, but it also offers a glimpse into the local culinary scene and cultural traditions. However, before you sample any local street food, use your best judgment. If a certain stall looks unhygienic or seems unpopular with the locals, proceed at your own risk.

8) Connect with Locals

While urban Filipinos may seem less warm compared to their counterparts in the countryside, the vast majority are rather friendly and ready to answer questions about their home cities. Connect with locals at community events and other venues to converse, seek recommendations, and gain unique insights into their city’s culture, history, and hidden treasures.

9) Embrace Digital Resources

guy using his phone

The wide availability of online resources has made urban backpacking more accessible than ever before. By downloading travel apps for maps, city guides, and transportation schedules, you can easily get around your destination as well as its surrounding areas with ease. Don’t forget to check out relevant social media pages for real-time updates on events, exhibitions, and local happenings.

10) Prioritize Experiences over Souvenirs

Instead of accumulating trinkets, focus on creating lasting memories and experiences. Meaningless trinkets will only weigh you down and clutter up your home. Instead, take pictures, attend concerts, check out local art exhibitions, and participate in cultural festivals to get a better understanding of the city’s culture and traditions.

Whether you’re a traveler looking to stretch their budget or a local who wants to experience a different side of their hometown, urban backpacking allows you to fully experience a city while keeping your travel style streamlined. By following these tips, you can have an enjoyable and thoroughly meaningful urban backpacking experience, for not a lot of money.

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