Female Travel Hack · Hacks For Wanderlust · Philippine Gems

A Manila Shopping Guide For Tourists

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Manila is known for their malls. However, you’d be surprised to know that the best of Filipino shopping isn’t necessarily always done at the malls. Most tourists and balikbayans (Filipinos returning to the country) look forward to shopping not only because of the cheaper prices but also because of the great finds. The stuff you’d find here are basically from China or Bangkok (Bangkok for me will always be the shopping haven in Asia), but nonetheless if you’re visiting the country, you’re bound to pick up a few stuff here and there. And if you are, you might as well do it right. Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know on shopping– Manila style!

GREENHILLS

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Greenhills is the shopping mecca for tourists. From souvenirs to house decorations, from clothes of different styles to replica designer bags, and from iPhone cases to any gadgets you may need– Greenhills has it all! There are over a hundred tiangge, (stalls) lined up from one floor to another. The energy is full in the entire building. You’ll hear vendors offering goods and prices at every customers that passes by, haggling wars, and maybe luring customers at the back for some of their “specials”, which are usually replica LV bags (somehow fake LV bags aren’t completely legal to sell there so they hide them in the back). Haggling is a necessary skill to have once you fully commit to experiencing the real Greenhills shopping experience. But even if you aren’t very well trained in the area, you would still come home with bags of cheap finds. Go gaga over $20 replicas (even suitcases!), 2 for $3 sunglasses, $10 shoes, generously discounted phones, and anything else you may need for whatever matter.

Pros: Cheap finds, great variety, haggling allowed, airconditioned

Cons: Pushy vendors, no dressing rooms, clothes are mostly limited to Asian sizing

Watch out for: Heavy crowd on holidays, pickpockets, low quality gadgets (it may look appealing, but remember this is Replica Land)

Tip: For bargaining, you may have probably heard that going 50% lower will be offensive. But you don’t need to worry about that because these are not handmaid stuff that they’re selling. Plus, it is a fact that they do raise the prices MUCH higher for foreigners, so try to start with 50% until you can meet and agree on a decent price. It’s also best to come with a local here. I make sure my husband, who doesn’t look very Filipino and does not speak very good Tagalog, is not next to me when I’m trying to make my bargain game strong.

DIVISORIA

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If the tourist shopping mecca is Greenhills, Divisoria is the local’s. If Greenhills was inexpensive for you, wait until you see the typical prices in Divisoria. They have mostly the same goods you’ll find in Greenhills, although others argue that you’ll find better qualities in Greenhills. On another hand, Divisoria is bigger and offers much more variety. It has basically EVERYTHING else. Aside from the malls (168 Mall and 999 Mall) that hosts hundreds of tiangge, there are also plenty of stalls lined up outside in the streets where the prices are even lower. Locals who own shops and businesses usually come here to purchase their materials in bulks. You can find all kinds of beautiful fabric for less than a quarter a yard. People come here to shop for giveaways and party souvenirs too (actually, even party materials as well). You can get costumes, accessories, household materials, knick knacks, tools, and whatever you may desire. Most of the owners of the stores here are Chinese and haggling is still applied. Another great thing about Divisoria is that it’s a short jeepney or tricycle ride away to China Town (the world’s OLDEST) so you can head out there after shopping for amazing hole in the wall dimsum restaurants.

Pros: Extremely cheap, whole sale available, endless variety, haggling allowed, close to Chinatown

Cons: Not airconditioned everywhere, heavy crowd on the daily, traffic, pickpockets, not for the faint of heart, limited to Asian sizing

Watch Out For: PICKPOCKETS at any time of the year and at any time of the day, impossible amount of crowd during holidays

Tip: Same bargaining rules apply. See Greenhills tips.

MALLS AND DEPARTMENT STORES

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While the Philippines have plenty of them, they don’t always have the best stuff. International brands are much pricier than its regular price so I wouldn’t really suggest shopping here if you’re looking to get more branded and high end products. But if that is what you’re looking for, Manila has pretty attractive malls such as Greenbelt and Serendra at The Fort. You’ll probably see a lot of SM or Robinson’s Department Store all over the metro and they actually do have some pretty cool stuff for affordable prices there.

Pros: Airconditioned, clean, organized, good quality

Cons: Pricey to expensive, less variety

Watch Out For: Sales employee following you around the store– it’s annoying but they do that here

Tip: No tips, it’s a basic mall, you know how to shop there.

UKAY UKAY (Thrift Stores)

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If you fancy digging for rare vintage finds, make a beeline to the ukay ukay stores! Manila has plenty of them and although it takes some dedicated work to find the good stuff, your variety is endless that going home empty handed is unlikely. Compared to what you’re probably used to, Filipino thrift stores is a little less organized. You will literally have to dig and search to find the goods. It helps a lot if you’ve got a good eye for things, since none of the stuff are laid out attractively like they usually are at the malls. Absolutely not for the picky shoppers, you need patience and time here. But if you do, you will be rewarded with some pretty awesome finds. Best part? They’re dirt cheap! Starting as low as 20php, you’ve got a great variety here!

Pros: Extremely cheap, great variety, unique finds, vintage galore

Cons: It takes work and a good eye, must be ok with second hand stuff, possibly might have a funny smell, not always airconditioned

Watch Out For: Items in bad condition– remember this a thrift shop, so it’s usually a hit or miss!

Tip: I usually have to be in the mood to shop at ukay-ukay. I find it quite an adventure. You may also try ukay-ukay outside the city, I’ve been told they have better finds. I love the stores here in Tagaytay where I’m currently based at. Amazing finds, I tell you.

TIANGGE (Stalls)

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Just like the stalls in Greenhills in Divisoria, you may find tiangge (chung-geh) in the streets. It’s easy to spot them in the markets too. A good time to find a big tiangge line up is during the holidays and during a town fiesta. It’s very common to have night markets with lots of tiangee during those times.

Pros: Night markets are fun!

Cons: They don’t always have the best stuff.

Watch Out For: Pickpockets

Tip: You may find street food vendors around, have some fishballs with the sweet and spicy sauce for a break!

Essential Sentences For Shopping In Manila:

Magkano po? – How much; Tawad po – Lower the price, please; Salamat – Thank you

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41 thoughts on “A Manila Shopping Guide For Tourists

  1. Shopping in areas like Greenhills and Divisoria seems fun but it also looks tiring! Lol. The crowd’s really thick. Anyway, thanks for the guide!

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  2. I’m from Manila and yet that is the kind of shopping I’ve yet to really fully experience. I’m a bit of an oclophobic, so my past attempts to do this had been somewhat frustrating and futile. I remember excitedly coming to Divi to buy me some clothes and it was just too crowded, I couldn’t see the difference in the stuff I was looking at and the world just started to whirl. My friend had to take me out of there.

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  3. Too crowded for me, I remember I visited those places when I was younger. I think the excitement of finding a great item will make me want to come back for the challenge. Hopefully, next time there will be zero percent pickpocketers.

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  4. I have never been to Manila. I’m already sick with Cebu City’s traffic to gamble time going to Manila. But I know I’ll go there someday – the need to go there will surely come. And for sure I will visit each places you mentioned for good picks.

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  5. Well, shopping here in the Manila only could take away your soul into another dimension especially the traffic, crowd and the heat…and foods! Shopping malls are trending and it feeld so good to shop with cool environment. Nearby malls shopping is easy and not in Manila. Fernando Lachica

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  6. These are actually great tips for anyone who dares explore Manila shopping. I recently went to Tutuban, and I found that it has improved greatly, and there are more police and guards patrolling the area for safety! Still, we have to be vigilant.

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  7. Nice lists for foreigners who would love to shop for pasalubongs or for their souvenirs, a proof that they’ve been in the Philippines. me, I often go to Greenhills for something cheaper!

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  8. I think I will go crazy in both Greenhills and Divisoria, my husband will have a hard time stopping me from shopping till our luggage is filled to the brim, haha! Thanks for sharing these venues on the blog 😉

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  9. I really hate going to Divisoria (although I had to before to get shirts for my co-staff at work) because it really gets super crowded, people can be scary (might get your wallet) plus it’s super hassle when rain pours.

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  10. Personally I like to just go to the mall and shop quickly. I do not really like going around Divisoria or Greenhills to buy things. I do not really like to strike bargains too. I am glad I have my wife to do that. 🙂 – Fred

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  11. I’ve only been to Divi once and couldn’t get over the crush of people the whole time. I never went back even though I know how inexpensive stuff there are! I’m just not into crowded places haha.

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  12. it will really be great to recommend those places for a tourist in order to feel the vibe of what shopping is all about in the Philippines. We just need to give them ample warning about pickpockets, among others that might put them in jeopardy.

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