Beautiful pristine waters, grand rock formations, beautiful people.. El Nido, Palawan is beautiful alright.
Here’s some tips:
1. ATM is unreliable. Whenever I go to the ATM to access money, it is not working. You might want to load enough cash before coming to El Nido to make sure you enjoy in this paradise, 1000php a day is acceptable if you have activities that you plan to do in El Nido. There are alternatives though, hope your accommodation accepts credit cards. Here’s more of my Palawan budget tips too.
2. Zigzag roads or great waves might make you vomit. It’s a 5-6 hour drive from Puerto Princesa, and the roads are winding.. Make sure first aid kit comes in handy just in case you or a travel companion gets dizzy. Throw up bag is also useful.
3. If you arrived in the wee hours of the morning, you can sleep on the bus and wait for the sunrise to set before you go off. Once I took the last trip from Puerto Princesa to Taytay (a small town before El Nido), but since we arrive at around 1AM, I didn’t want to go down Taytay and the scaredy cat in me decided to head to El Nido instead.. but when we arrived in El Nido, it’s still very early.. Good thing the bus conductor said, we can sleep in the bus so there were around 5 of us who took advantage of the “free accommodation”. At around 6am, I traveled back to Taytay.
4. Tricycle fare around town is always 10-20 pesos.. If tricycle drivers asked you for 50 pesos, then you are being asked for tourist price. You can always have the option to look for another tricycle. If you arrived in the bus/van terminal, usually fares are cheaper when you walk away from the terminal and walk down the street.
5. There’s traffic in El Nido. The town did not anticipate that it will be famous one day, so when huge crowds of tourists came in, human and vehicle traffic became apparent. It will be a culture shock to those living in the mountains that rarely see people.
6. If you are traveling in off peak season, it is optional to book an accommodation in advance because there are lots of places to choose from that are not listed in the internet. It is better if you have contacts with locals or someone that can get you a better deal on places and tours because El Nido can really get expensive if you don’t plan well. I was booked at Northern Hope Tours, you might want to check them out too.
7. Restaurant dining can get really expensive. If you have the money, you won’t really be bothered by 200 peso (5usd) coffee or a 300 peso (7.5usd) course meal. But for the budget conscious like me, there are alternative options to look around. Restaurants near the church are affordable and it offers healthy home cooked meals for 70-100 pesos (1-2USD) only; you may want to check it out. And you wanted a cool yet affordable coffee shop? Find the coffee shop of Gawad Kalinga at the other end of El Nido town proper.. their views are nice too.
8. There’s cheap buys in El nido.. El Nido can be expensive at first sight. But if you look around, you can actually shop and buy a short for 20 pesos (or ~0.5 USD)
9. Make sure you bring extra money when going to boat tours because you’ll pay extra for paddle boats, coconut juice, etc on islands. You’ll pity yourself if you didn’t hire the paddle boat to go to the small lagoon specially if you don’t know how to swim.
10. El Nido to Coron is a difficult route. If you decide to head over to Coron, make sure you check the weather and the waves.. I tried that route and it topped my list as one of the scariest boat rides of my life. If you want to experience how terrifying it is, follow your desire and travel from El Nido to Coron on rainy season.
There are indeed more hidden challenges like lack of potable water (yep) and electricity outages that most of you might never experience because you came to Palawan as tourists.. and thus you will never know the joys and pains of being a local in Paradise.. I might write about this for another story, we’ll see.
So there you go. Did I miss anything? Do you have any addition to the pointers above? No matter what, the best island in the world is still a beauty and I recommend you should visit it at least once in your life. For those who are already going, hope you have fun in El Nido. ^_^