The Essentials - A First Timer's Guide To El Nido Palawan



It has been more than a week now since I set foot to the beautiful island of Palawan from my home country. I just posted a teaser photo of the 30+ Photos That Will Make You Want To Book A Flight To El Nido, Palawan and believe it or not, it got a whopping 2k page views in 3 hours all viewers from the Middle East Region alone!

You won't believe it but living in the Philippines for more than 20 years, I wasn't able to fully explore our country. That is because we have more than 7,100 islands surrounded by big bodies of water, going places isn't that easy. So as a first time visitor, I'm sharing with you guys a few travel tips that might be of help if you are planning to visit El Nido.


BUT FIRST, FLY TO PH

photo of Emirates Airlines Business Class

I had a short vacation from Nov. 17-28th this year and flew from Dubai to Manila via Emirates Airlines. There are different international airlines flying daily to Manila and I got my ticket on sale (woot woot!), riding one of the best airlines in the world (best crews, I swear!). It was a long 8hour flight but if you are riding Emirates, you won't feel it. I had a good sleep when I travelled and watched several movies. And they have free wifi too so... :)

Since I am a Philippine passport holder, I didn't have any problems getting past through immigration. Other nationalities might have some issues, here's a resource that you need to read if you plan on visiting my home country:


Good news: passport holders from Middle East countries like Oman, Qatar, KSA, and UAE may enter my home country for thirty (30) days or less, hooray! 

THEN, TRAVEL TO EL NIDO 

photo of Puerto Prinsesa Airport


There isn't any international flight to El Nido unfortunately, and you really have to stop in Manila and take a domestic flight at Manila International Airport Terminal 3 or 4. You can travel to El Nido in any of these 2 convenient ways:

  • Direct flight from Manila to El Nido via Air Swift (1 hour duration) - this is the most expensive way and a round trip ticket starts at USD 185 per person and up depending on seasonality.

AirAsia Airbus


  • Fly from Manila to Puerto Prinsesa and take a van/bus to El Nido (8 hour duration) - this is what regular travellers and backpackers like myself take, the round trip budget (air tickets and van/bus) is normally at USD 120, maybe lesser if you book it earlier or during low season. There are several airlines flying to Puerto Prinsesa daily, I took AirAsia this time because they are the cheapest. Contrary to the bad things I've heard about the airline, the return flights I had were on-time - we were even 30mins ahead on my flight back to Manila. Very impressive.

tours provider in El Nido Palawan


I arrived in Puerto Prinsesa in the morning of Nov. 22nd, I wanted to save an extra hour so instead of taking a bus from a friend's recommendation here, I took a shared van which has a terminal just outside the airport (the name of the transport operator is Miroju, you can prebook via +639217219979). 

The 5hour drive was a little bumpy, the driver seems to be in a hurry. We had one stop to have lunch and was also surprised to see 'halal' signs on the menu. Note that the stop is nothing fancy and they serve meals the local way, I explored the restaurant further and was happy to see that our Muslim brothers and sisters are warmly welcomed in the island. 



A meal at the stop-over: Kilawing Tanigue (Filipino version of Kish Fish Ceviche) and rice for USD 2.50

I missed Filipino food so much I had Kilawing Tanigue and rice for lunch. We stopped for 20 minutes and went back on the road. After a few more hours, we reached the town proper of El Nido.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT HOTEL IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN

photo of Corong-corong Beach
Corong-corong Beach has a fantastic view of the sunset, try to get an accommodation in this area to fully enjoy El Nido

There isn't much luxury hotels in El Nido, majority are local inns which can be found in the town proper. I don't, however, recommend staying at the town proper no matter how accessible the shops and transportation are. Why? The town is pretty congested and noisy at night (I stayed in one of the hostels at USD 12 for a small fan room, it was ok but I really had a hard time sleeping).  It's more like  Station 2 of Boracay Island. There are some accommodations in other districts, like the one where I have stayed on the remaining nights located in Corong-corong.

photo of Dormitel and Ecohotels



My second night was booked at a backpacker style hotel called Dormitels (roughly USD 10 -25 per night depending on seasonality) and my last night was in a more upscale boutique hotel called Ecohotels (around USD 50-85 depending on seasonality). Both hotels are located in Pops District in Brgy. Corong-corong which is about 7mins away from the noisy party scene of El Nido. I'd be sharing more details and photos of these facilities separately because they do deserve it. But here's a preview of the rooms just in case:

photo of a backpacker room at Dormitels El Nido
Dormitels - El Nido, Palawan

photo of a room at Ecohotels El Nido
Ecohotels - El Nido, Palawan

MY THREE DAY ITINERARY IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Island hopping in El Nido

Three days is actually pretty short to fully explore El Nido, Palawan but here's how I have planned mine:

photo of El Nido sunset


  • Day 1: Sunset Watching at Republica Sunset Bar - I arrived at 3pm in El Nido on the 22nd of November so I wasn't able to do much however, I made sure not to skip sunset watching at Republica.  BEST SUNSET VIEWS. With people clapping their hands for this beautiful view. And trust me, they have the best music mix. Like hella lovable music whoever their awesome DJ is. Beer is cheap too, and here's a hack: visit them after sunset and you'll get discounted price for food and drinks. 


photo of Republica Sunset Bar

photo of sunset taken at Republica Sunset Bar


  • Day 2: Booked Tour A for Island Hopping Adventure - I booked a tour from the same operator that handled my transport from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido and back. I relied on my friend's blog for the recommendation although I took Tour A all because the new friend I met during the van ride booked the same tour. We weren't on the same trip sadly, but I met new people along the way which made it crazier and fun. Tour A is basically going around lagoons and beaches of El Nido. Our stops include 7 Commando Beach, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon.  I paid USD 24 for this whole day trip with tourism fee and buffet lunch included.


photo of food in El Nido


  • Day 3: Visited Nacpan Beach, Nagkalit-kalit Falls, and Las Cabanas beach via tricycle - On my last day, we hired a tricycle to go to 3 other places with less tourists roaming around he area.  It cost us roughly USD 40 to hire a tryke with entrance fees to access both Nacpan Beach and Nagkalit-kalit Falls (there were 3 of us on the trip). What I enjoyed the most is the lunch at Prince restaurant in Nacpan, very tasty seafood options and very affordable too. The only downside I guess is that there is usually a very long wait between 12-1pm so if you are planning to go for lunch, come in early. 






OTHER THINGS YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR WHEN TRAVELING TO EL NIDO


There are a few things that I am already aware of, plugs for example, as I am originally from the Philippines. But just in case, here are a few other useful tips and things that I think are very essential to take note when you plan to visit El Nido Palawan:


  • Do not drink tap water in El Nido - El Nido doesn't have a water system yet and the water from faucets are unsafe to drink. Always buy bottled water for drinking.
  • Transportation around El Nido - if you will be travelling to nearby places with the radius of the city centre, you will ride a tricycle. You can have it all to yourself by paying special fee (Php 50) or share it with other locals paying only Php 10 per person.  Anywhere far you will have to rent the tryke for whole day fee.

  • Plugs and sockets - most facilities in El Nido has a flat power socket (Type A) AND HOTELS DON'T NORMALLY HAVE ANY SPARE ADAPTOR so make sure to carry a universal charger. 
  • Money - the currency in Palawan is Philippine Peso, make sure to stack up your wallet with enough cash. There is only ONE bank branch with 2 ATM machines in El Nido which is located at the town proper (it's called BPI bank). There is a very very few facilities with credit card terminals so again, bring cash.
  • Cellular network and internet -  in the Philippines, there are 2 cellular network providers: Globe and Smart. Smart is stronger in the city proper and Corong-corong area in terms of network (both voice and internet)  but if you go further to Nacpan beach, Globe works better. Tip: do not sign up to any unlimited internet network offer on any networks. Some hotels have available wifi  and just try to maximize it. All those I have tried are actually weak so let your friends and family know that the coverage in El Nido is intermittent. 
  • Carry with you a great headset with noise cancellation capabilities - trust me you'll be needing this especially for a long ride from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido OR if you are having problems getting your sleep. Luckily, I have with me this very great headset piece from Parrot that lasted for days on full power. It's a Zik 3 headphones that is VERY comfortable on the ears and has a right ear cup that is touch-sensitive - tap it to play/pause, slide up and down to change volume, and flick right and left to change. Awesome? Yes I know.

  • Request for the tourism/environment fee receipt from your island hopping tour provider - The fee for this is Php 200, you will need this receipt  when you go to other trips and tours in El Nido so you will no longer pay for extra. 
  • Bring A Mosquito Repellent Lotion/Oil - I wasn't prepared for the mosquito bites thus, I went back to Dubai with red rashes that I got when I stayed at the town proper during the first night. You can buy repellent lotion at the pharmacies or at the airport. 
  • Before hopping on an island tour, make sure that your gadgets are safe from water and get a pair of swim shoes to protect your feet from sharp things - there are available water proof bags all over the island sold for as low as USD 10. Majority of the time, you will be getting off the boat and will also swim your way to the beach so try to secure your belongings in a waterproof bag. There are a lot of sharp corals as well, swim shoes can be rented for USD 2 for the whole day.  
This is yet another long travel essentials post, I will be sharing with you where I have spent my nights with on separate posts shortly! Is there anything important that I missed to share? Place it in your comments below!

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Photos are mine unless specified. This post is in collaboration with Dormitels and Ecohotels Philippines.

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