Frequently Asked Questions

 

SMOKEY TOURS GENERAL

What should you wear during the tour?

For the Slum Tour we recommend that you wear covered shoes (preferably rubber) as you may walk in the dirt, especially when it rains.

For all our other tours, you can wear comfortable clothing. Women do not need to worry about dressing conservatively but like every culture, by wearing revealing clothing, you can sometimes invite unwelcome attention. We also recommend modest clothing if you intend to enter churches or religious places. Please do not forget to bring a hat and use sunscreen, because when the sun is out, it can get extremely hot!

When is the best time to visit? Do you ever have to cancel tours because of the weather conditions?

We run our tours right throughout the year, but the weather can be a little more unpredictable during the rainy season (roughly from June to November). We will cancel tours 2-3 hours in advance depending on the strength of the rain or winds. We will also cancel tours if a storm signal (number 1 and above) has been declared in Manila before your tour starts. 

Tours will be cancelled :

  • For Typhoon signal number 1 to 5 affecting any part of Metro Manila

  • For Rainfall orange or higher alert level affecting any part of Metro Manila

 Please check PAGASA’s website and/or their Facebook page for weather and typhoon updated advisories.

Website:   https://web.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/index.php/general-weather/philippine-cities-weather-forecast

Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/PAGASA.DOST.GOV.PH/?fref=ts

What is the difference between the Group tour and the Private tour?

Group tours allow other people to join the tour. Participants pay the price of the tour per person. Group tours start on the regular schedule given by bookings and cannot be changed. Waiting time for participants of group tour is only up to 15 minutes past meeting time before tour leader starts the tour. Please also note that joining a group means that the itinerary is fixed. 

A Private tour means you lock the tour to you and your group only. The price is also set regardless of the amount of people joining. That type of tour shows more flexibility concerning the start time or the itinerary, according to your preferences. Please note that the no camera policy (on Slum and Cemetery Tour) is still implemented on Private tours. 

Can I be picked up from where I am staying in Manila?

We are a small organization, we do our best to help our guests. In exceptional cases, it might be possible at an additional cost depending on where you are staying and the itinerary of the tour on the day. 

How do you maintain the quality of the tours?

All our tourleaders coming from different areas covered by the tour so they can give you specific inside information. Our tour leaders go through extensive training before going on the tours and information is reviewed and shared so that it is as accurate as possible. Please note that the tour leaders didn't completed education in tourism. 

We value greatly what our customers think and we ask for feedback by using a questionnaire. Questionnaires are a way to see the areas for improvement of both our tours and our tour leaders. 

Chris Way, from Reality Tours and Travel, which runs similar well established tours in India, has been acting as our consultant since March 2013.

Do you do the tours in other languages apart from English?

Unfortunately, our tour leaders do not speak any languages other than English and Filipino. 

How do I get to your meeting points?

All the meeting points for our tours are located near LRT-1 stations. We usually meet guests at a restaurant/cafe near the LRT-1 station and this information is given via email which is for guests confirmation. 

From Makati, Gil Puyat is probably your nearest station on LRT-1, but is quite far away from the hotel area. 

On the LRT, there are intervals of about 5 minutes between trains, which can get very busy. Pedro Gil to Tayuman (Slum and Cemetery Tour meeting point) when you are on the train takes about 20 minutes. 

The roads in Manila can get very busy. In order to arrive on time for your tour, please allow at least 30 minutes from Malate and at least 45-60 minutes from Makati City.

How easy is it to use the LRT or MRT (similar to sky trains)?

The LRT and MRT are very simple to use. You can either buy a single journey ticket (about PHP 15-25) or buy a 'BEEP' card (PHP 20 FOR THE CARD AND YOU CAN LOAD UP) which you can use multiple times. 

Queues can be long for buying tickets and trains can be very crowded at peak times (7am to 10am, 5pm to 7pm). You might have to wait for 2 or 3 trains to pass before you can able to board the train.  

When I get to the meeting point, how will I know who is the tour leader?

They will be smiling, wearing a Smokey Tours T-shirt and ID.

Can I do more than one tour in one day?

It is possible to book two tours in one day. The tours are timed in such way that it should provide enough time to travel from one meeting point to another by taking the LRT-1 line. The longest time it takes to get from one meeting point to another meeting point by taking the LRT-1 is 40 minutes (not yet without waiting time for buying ticket and for getting into one). 

I want to donate, can I bring goods to the Slum Tour?

Please be aware that we don't distribute goods during our tours. This may cause unwanted attention and is distracting for other people who attend the tour.
Donations (food, school supplies, shoes etc) can be dropped off at the end of the tour and our tour leader will talk with the social worker about proper distribution of products.
Note that if you decide to bring the donation with you to the tour, our Tour Leader does not carry the luggage/bag you bring. We discourage bringing very heavy luggage during the tour.

 

BOOKING/PAYMENT OF TOURS

Can I just turn up for a tour, or do I have to book in advance?

You need to book and confirm all tours in advance. You cannot turn up on the day at one of the meeting points without letting us know as tour leaders may not be there because they could be assigned to other tours. Only go to the meeting point when you have received an emai, text or call from us with information on when and where a specific tour starts. Please don't just show up at the meeting point, to avoid possible disappointment and confusion. All tours need to be confirmed with us via email. You will need to reply to the email from our Bookings Team, which will provide you with specific details about your tour.

How far in advance do I need to book?

Please book at least 3 days before the tour is scheduled to commence, preferably via email. Then we can check if there are still enough spots available on the requested date and can confirm this to you. Our tours can book out fast, especially in peak season. If you send us a booking request less than 24 hours before the tour starts, we cannot garantee that we can get back to you before the tour starts. If you want to book less than 24 hours in advance, we would advise you to dropby our office, make an appointment beforehand. 

How and when should I pay for the tours?

Please pay online and bring your payment slip, otherwise please pay on the day at the start of the tour in cash. 

Where does my tour fee go?

We will educate the tour leader, and we have marketing and administration costs. We try to have as much as volunteers as possible to keep the overhead costs low.

What are the terms and conditions of booking the tour? Can I amend or cancel a tour having booked it?

Please see terms and conditions of booking a tour. In particular please note the "Assumption of Risk'' clause. If you need to amend or cancel a tour, please let us know as soon as possible.

I am traveling by myself. Can I still do the tour?

Yes! We have no minimum number of participants. Group tours are still conducted even if only one person confirms and shows up on the tour as scheduled. 

Will there be other people on the tour? Can I book a private tour?

Yes, there might be other people on the tour. In case you don't want it, you have to book a private tour. 

SLUM TOUR

How do I find the meeting point of the Slum Tour?

The meeting point of this tour is in front of Jolibee Tayuman near the LRT-1 Tayuman Station (southbound). If you get a little late for the meeting time (not more than 20 minutees), the tour leader could be upstairs on the 2nd floor giving introduction to guests. Please take note that the tour leader can leave earlier if the confirmed participants have already arrived. 

Here is the map of the Slum Tour meeting point.

How long will it take to get to the meeting point from Makati/Malate/Ermita/Global City/Pasig City/Eastwood?

The meeting point should be 25-35 minutes from Malate area via taxi and could be shorted as there are more road options. Taking the LRT-1 from UN Avenue/Pedro Gil/Malate stations (northbound) could take 15-20 minutes not including time to get into the train. 

For Makati, please allot more time. It could be as short as 25 minutes on some days (Sundays and holidays) but could be as long as 45 minutes to an hour or more if traffic is heavy. Please take note that getting a taxi in Makati in the morning could be difficult in the mornings of work days. 

For Global City (Taguig/For Bonifacio), Pasig City and Eastwood, allot 1,5 hours of travel time. 

Will we visit Smokey Mountain? Is this also the Smokey Mountain Tour?

We have replaced the Smokey Mountain Tour with our new Slum Tour because the Smokey Mountain area was seized and closed by the government for public visits in June 2014. We will still tell you about the story of the two Smokey Mountains during our Slum Tour. 

Is the Slum Tour run on bicycles?

No, the Slum Tour does not run on bicycles. It is a walking tour that also uses public transportation (jeepney, pedicabs and tricycles) to get into areas. 

What will I see in the slum area?

The main businesses in the slums are recycling and scavenging. You see how the people live their lives from these industries and others. 

We will also pass through the narrow alleys of the residential areas, where you really get a feel of how the people are living and you see the sense of community that exists in the area. 

Is the slum dangerous?

Although we cannot take responsibility should anything happen, we believe that the area is safe as long as you follow the tour leader and the rules. There is a strong police presence in the area and we have written permission of the district we pass during the Slum Tour. 

Is it appropriate to bring small children on the tour?

Visiting the slums may not be suitable for some children especially with the heat and the cleanliness conditions. We require children to be at least 6 years old when they take the tour as some areas could be very slippery if very young children are allowed to walk on their own. We also recommend children get shots/vaccine before taking the tour for further health safety.

Why can we not bring cameras on the Slum Tour?

We like to go into the slum area and be as inconspicuous as possible. We do this by having small groups and by not allowing cameras. We have a STRICT NO CAMERA POLICY as an agreement with the baranggays (local communities) that we visit. Media and writers who were able to take pictures didn't join group tours and they requested their own permit from the baranggays. 

Is it appropriate to bring small children on the tour?

We see no problem with bringing children of any age on the tour. 

I don't like going on organized tours. Is it possible to visit the slum area on my own?

It would be a little uncomfortable going by yourself, particularly without the written permission of the baranggay (local community) which we have obtained. Although the residents are very friendly, they might be a bit concerned at what you are doing and might report you.The area is like a maze and you will not gain the same insight as with one of our tour leaders. Not all slums have the same character. Some slums could be very peaceful and welcoming, but some might be very dangerous to visit even for locals without someone from that slum accompanying them.  

How does Smokey Tours give back to the community?

Smokey Tours gives 100% of its profits from the Slum Tour (minus the tour allowance for the tour leader and the transportation costs) to a beneficiary NGO that supports that community in different ways (typhoon and disaster relief, medical and construction training and help in organizing small centers). You could check the page about our new beneficiary NGO. We also support some local livelihood especially the pedicabs and tricycles and all our tour leaders are from the different areas covered by the tour. 

Why does Smokey Tours no longer donate its proceeds to BYSMP?

Since 2011 Smokey Tours donated 100% of its proceeds to Bahay at Yaman ni San Martin de Porres (BYSMP). BYSMP provides child education sponsorship, medical assistance and nutritious meals for children. As BYSMP has been empowered for four years, other NGOs may need help more now. Smokey Tours has started donating its proceeds to a new beneficiary NGO, CREST. They provide relief and preparedness for typhoons and other disasters, which affect the slum areas very badly. You can read more on the page about our new beneficiary NGO.

Can I bring something for the children? Should I give money to the people living there?

We ask you not to give anything to individuals, either for the children or adults. This is to avoid unwanted attention as well as the bad feeling of others if they don't get any from you. However if you would like to bring stationery or sweets, then we can distribute them to a suitable NGO in the area. 

Is there any other way that I can help the people in the slums?

Helping the people or families in the slums by giving them money directly may not be the best thing to do as this can cause unwanted attention and bad feelings for those people who may not get the help. You may check with the NGO visited during the tour and see how you can help either by donating to them or volunteering for them if you have more time in Manila!

 

BICYCLE TOUR

How do I find the meeting point of the Bicycle Tour?

The current meeting point of this tour is inside JOLIBEE along Gil Puyat near the LRT-1 Gil Puyat Station (Northbound). You may see the map in the "Bicycle Tour" Tab of our website. Please refer to the detailed map and landmarks.

The Bicycle Set up Point is in COFFEE AND BICYCLES (locally known as Auring's Place). This is still near the LRT-1 Gil Puyat Station (northbound). The place is near along Taft Avenue and the best landmark is Greenstar Bus Line. The Bicycle Set up Point is behind the blue fenced area. 

How long will it take to get to the meeting point from Makati/Malate/Ermita/Global City/Pasig City/Eastwood?

The meeting point should be 15-25 minutes from Malate area via taxi and could be shorter as there are more road options. Taking the LRT-1 from UN Avenue/Pedro Gil/Malate Stations (southbound) could take 10-20 minutes not including time to get into the train but the northbound line could be crowded.

For Makati, it could be as short as 15-20 minutes for some areas but could be as long as 30-45 minutes if traffic is heavy. Please take note that getting a taxi in Makati in the morning could be also difficult in the mornings of work days and the traffic can be also heavy so allot more time.

For Global City (Taguig/Fort Bonifacio), allot 30-45 minutes. Time could be affected also by traffic situation in Makati area.

For Pasig City and Eastwood, allot 1,5 hour of travel time to make sure you get on time.

Here is the map of the Bicycle Tour meeting point.

Manila has lots of traffic. Isn’t cycling dangerous?

We cycle as much on smaller roads and in some cycling paths but we also cycle on main roads with some pedicabs, tricycles, jeepneys, taxis and other vehicles and these roads cannot be avoided to get to the main areas visited. With a large group of participants a second tour leader can accompany on request. Our bicycles are checked before each tour and you could also request for a helmet if you want to feel safer. Our tour leader gives you first a safety briefing before the tour so please pay attention to it and follow to ensure your safety.

I want to see some of the tourist sites properly, is this possible?
We allocate time for you to explore some areas on your own like the Rizal Park (one area), the walls of Intramuros (one area), San Agustin Church (when open) and Fort Santiago (when there's enough time as exploring the place may take a lot of minutes and delay the tour).

Does the tour get us to visit Chinatown or the Smokey Mountain?

The route for the Bicycle Tour only goes up until Intramuros and not up to Chinatown or Smokey Mountain. The streets and roads in Chinatown and more so going to Smokey Mountain may not be the safest for cycling add it would also really affect the length of the tour.

What are the bicycles like?
The bicycles are Japanese folding bikes. They’re in good quality and checked regularly. We don't have bicycles with side cars, every participants must be able to cycle on their own.

Is there a minimum or a maximum age for the Bicycle Tour?
The miminum age for the Bicycle Tour is 12 years. To ensure the safety of kids, the other guests on the tour and our tour leaders, children of 12 years and older comfortable riding a bicycle can join the Bicycle Tour. There is no maximum age, guests are welcome to book the Bicycle Tour if they would like.

I'm not physically very fit. Will I get tired on the tour?
There are no hills and the tour is not very physically demanding but you have to be able to cycle for 3-4 hours. In cases, we adapt the speed of the tours to our participants but also be mindful of the other guests. We make stops, so you can drink water, take pictures and rest.

What happens if it rains? Will the tour still take place?
Yes, we still continue the tour even if it rains, unless it is very heavy or there's a storm declared before the tour starts. Please bring a waterproof jacket. If rains gets stronger, we sometimes take stops in covered areas and wait for the rain to stop or weaken before we continue.

Is the Bicycle Tour available in the hot season?

Please check or inquire our latest schedule. In the hot season we have Bicycle Tour, make sure you use sun block and drink a lot of water.

 

MARKET TOUR

How do I find the meeting point of the Market Tour?

The Meeting Point is in McDonalds in Good Earth Plaza, UNDERNEATH the LRT- I Carriedo Station. There is only one McDonalds underneath the LRT Station.

How long will it take to get to the meeting point from Makati/Malate/Ermita/Global City/Pasig City/Eastwood?

The Meeting Point should be 25-35 minutes from Malate area via taxi and could be shorter as there are more road options. Taking the LRT-1 from UN Avenue/Pedro Gil/Malate Stations (northbound) could take 15-20 minutes not including time to get into the train.

For Makati, please allot more time. It could be as short as 25 minutes on some days (Sundays and holidays) but could be as long as 45 minutes to an hour or more if traffic is heavy. Please take note that getting a taxi in Makati in the morning could be also difficult in the mornings of work days.

For Global City (Taguig/Fort Bonifacio), Pasig City and Eastwood, allot 1,5 hours of travel time. 

Here is the map of the Market Tour meeting point.

I am allergic to certain foods, can I participate in the Market Tour?

Yes of course, but be aware of certain foods if you have any allergies. Please advise your tour leader at the start of the tour if you have food restrictions/allergies.

Can I buy things while on the Market Tour?

Definitely! However, inform your tour leader if ever you want to make some purchases so that you won't be over charged for items and to also avoid the possibility of paying to someone who is not really working for a shop. Make sure your tour leader is informed when you give your payment and when you get your change - make sure to always count your change before leaving. 

How is the safety during the Market Tour?

Quiapo, the area where the market tour takes place, is relatively safe. Keep in mind that the place is often very crowded so be aware of the potential pickpockets.

Can I take photos during the Market Tour?

Yes, you can take as many photos as you want! Again, it is best to ask your tour leader before taking photos so they can keep an extra eye on your belongings.

 

 

CEMETERY TOUR

How do I find the meeting point of the Cemetery Tour?

The meeting point of this tour is on the 2nd floor of McDonalds in Tayuman Center near the LRT-1 Tayuman Station (Northbound).

How long will it take to get to the meeting point from Makati/Malate/Ermita/Global City/Pasig City/ Eastwood?

The meeting point should be 25-35 minutes from Malate area via taxi and could be shorter as there are more road options. Taking the LRT-1 from UN Avenue/Pedro Gil/Malate Stations (northbound) could take 15-20 minutes not including time to get into the train.

For Makati, please allot more time. It could be as short as 25 minutes on some days (Sundays and holidays) but could be as long as 45 minutes to an hour or more if traffic is heavy. Please take note that getting a taxi in Makati in the morning could be also difficult in the mornings of work days.

For Global City (Taguig/Fort Bonifacio), Pasig City and Eastwood, allot 1,5 hours of travel time.

Here is the map of the Cemetery Tour meeting point.

Can I take photos during the Cemetery Tour?

Please note that taking pictures inside the cemetery we visit is not allowed as it is a policy by the city administration. We try to be as less intrusive as possible and to minimize any discomfort our tours can cause to locals. At all other stops during the tour, cameras are allowed, but please inform your tour leader if you want to take photos inside jeepneys or in busy places.

Can I go back to the cemetery after the tour and take pictures?

You can go back to the cemetery, but if you want to take pictures you need to get permission from the administration of the cemetery and they accompany you to take only photos in certain areas (not of the community). People caught taking pictures inside the cemetery (both local and foreigners) without permission would be first repreminanded then if seen again, brought to their office and pictures would be deleted (you could be also fined). Officials roam around the cemetery in a car or on a motorcycle and could stop you if they see you taking photos.

Can I buy flowers during the tour? Why is it not allowed for guests to wear red?

Filipinos can be very superstitious and these advice are given to follow some practices. The guests can buy flowers if they want during tour but the reason why it is not recommended will be told during the tour. Wearing red is considered inappropriate by some people living in the cemetery. 

How does Smokey Tours give back to the community?

Smokey Tours does give part of the tour fee to the community living in the cemetery. And we support the local livelihood especially the tricycle drivers who make their living inside the place. There are guests who have taken the tour and decided to return again to donate clothes and some decided to distribute food or school supplies but do it discretely or not in crowded areas to avoided unwanted attention.

Some of our guests planned to organize feeding, medical missions or teaching sessions in the area. Should you decide to do so, you may coordinate with the administration office of the cemetery to ensure it would be in order.

 Should I give money to the people living there?

We ask you not to give money to individuals, either for the children or adults. This is to avoid unwanted attention as well as the bad feeling of others if they don't get any from you. 

Are there restrooms inside the cemetery?

Yes there are, but you might have to pay PHP 5 entrance to the restrooms, because water in the area is bought.