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
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:
THEN, TRAVEL TO EL NIDO
- 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.
- 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.
|A meal at the stop-over: Kilawing Tanigue (Filipino version of Kish Fish Ceviche) and rice for USD 2.50|
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HOTEL IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN
|Corong-corong Beach has a fantastic view of the sunset, try to get an accommodation in this area to fully enjoy El Nido|
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:
|Dormitels - El Nido, Palawan|
|Ecohotels - El Nido, Palawan|
MY THREE DAY ITINERARY IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.