10 Travel tips if you are going to El Nido, Palawan

10 Travel tips if you are going to El Nido, Palawan

Beautiful pristine waters, grand rock formations, beautiful people.. El Nido, Palawan is beautiful alright.

palawan best island
And you think to see that beauty is an easy journey? Well not for some. There are still visitors who came unprepared for the challenge of being in this paradise.. Going to El Nido, Palawan may not be an easy tick in your bucket list but once you overcome challenges by preparing yourself on what to expect, then definitely, you will enjoy the best island in the world.

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.

northern hope tours

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.

el nido jeep

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)

cheap finds in El Nido

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.

palawan best island3

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. ^_^

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Remembering that boat ride from hell in Palawan (El Nido to Coron to Mindoro vv route)

I am recalling my challenging boat experience when I was in beautiful Palawan. People always remember the beautiful side of travel, I recall both beautiful and scary experiences.. not to make you scared but just to have a reality check for you. Well, I’m still alive, not sure if it will be your case if it happens to you so good luck.

palawan tourist spots

Last December, when my trip to Palawan was about to end, I decided that my route should be boat travel from El Nido to Coron to Mindoro to Batangas then finally Laguna.

el nido coron mindoro trail


I was browsing the internet for blogs with a similar route and I only read very few mentions about it. Now I know the reason why it’s a route less travelled..

The boat ticket was not that cheap. In fact, an airline promo ticket was much more cheaper. But then I just want to try the route since very few people have documented it in the internet.

I thought it will be just another fun ride.. besides the journey is just 8 hours. I regularly ride ships from Luzon to Visayas for more than 8 hours so I was thinking it will not be a problem.


During the first few minutes while lovely dotted islands in El Nido are becoming smaller, everything was all calm.. in fact, it was really very calm for the first few hours.. until waves begun to get bigger.. and bigger.. until the waves were as big as the boat itself.

I thought I will be fine.. but some people started puking.. the pungent smell made me puke too!

The next few hours was a horrifying ordeal.. a few people inside the boat are laying on the floor while someone wailing that she can’t take it anymore and feels like she’s gonna die. There were around 30 people on boat, some are kids that are puking too.. Halfway thru the ride, the engine got busted, good thing boatmen fixed it despite huge waves.

It was a delirious situation for 8 hours. After that, I just spent the night in Coron and the next day, I have to go to the same drama again for another 8 hours from Coron to Mindoro!

Sorry no pictures of the ordeal. I actually don’t want to remember the scenario. But then, I also would like to warn you of what might happen if you take the similar route on a rainy season. There was no typhoon but still the waves were so high. Thank God we didn’t sink.

That incident made me not want to travel for a very long time..

Now after 3 months, I have recovered a bit. In fact, I bought tickets to a new destination, and is at the planning stage again..

During travels, I might take boat trips again but I must remember to check on the weather before going so I won’t encounter such horrors again.

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5 Palawan Budget Tips: The world’s best island on $23 a day

5 Palawan Budget Tips: The world’s best island on $23 a day

Palawan is the world’s best island. That’s what posh travel magazines such as Travel and Leisure said.

It’s great that I didn’t need to travel that far to see this beautiful place because it is located in my country, Philippines. Actually it’s not just an island, Palawan is a province in the Philippines and it’s really got beautiful dotted islands that you should see if you’re into island hopping.

palawan on a budget
I traversed the long island starting with Puerto Princesa, then Taytay, then El Nido, then Coron on a budget of course yet there are still places down south that needs exploring.. I will definitely need to come back and stay longer.. or probably forever.. we’ll see.

I swear I can spend a lower budget than $23/day, but since I was good this year, I splurge a bit so I can give a gift to myself. Besides, despite expensive activities, I still manage to spend an average of P1000 or $23 a day, so I’m patting myself at the back because I was able to have a little bit of luxury yet still be on budget.

Yes, it’s possible. Paradise need not be expensive and I’m gonna show you what to do, where to stay, where to go in Palawan without ruining much of your budget.

palawan tourist spots

**Please note that I stated the average expenses, there were days that I spent more than 1 thou but there were days where I spent way less.

Ok, enough blah. If I was able to do it, you can do it too… Here’s how to have a luxury on a budget trip in Palawan:

Budget tip 1: Save on accommodation.

There are lots of posh hotels in Palawan, but if you’re on a budget, skip high end luxury hotels. Exercise your social skills, be a little friendly and try out couchsurfing, or rent dorms or hostels. You can share rooms with other travellers too if you want.

I spent 9 days in Palawan this time, and I stayed 4 nights for free courtesy of local friends whom I just met there. Check out Casa Nieves, the place is lovely I tell you ^_^.. It’s actually more than an accommodation, it’s an art space as well. Thank you Direk Dante Nico Garcia for temporarily adopting me. Credit of the photo below goes to him.

casa nieves in puerto princesa palawan

In Taytay, El Nido, and Coron, I stayed in a very basic guest house that is not worth promoting yet ;D… I’ll update this as soon as those places fix themselves up! :))

Budget tip 2: Make friends with locals.

This saved me a lot! And you get to discover new places too. This pretty kid showed me around her village while I got a glimpsed of a cruise ship docked in her village. Thanks to her mom Janis for trusting me to be with the kid. Apparently, instead of me baby sitting the kid, I was the one being toured around :D

cute kid

Budget tip 3: Haggle for discounts.

In El Nido, the original price for island tours are around P1000 – P1300, but if you haggle right, you can bring down the fee at a lower price. And if you make friends with boatmen, it is possible to pay for only the boat fuel.. but please don’t be a thick face freeloader, treat them back with either food or something for goodness sake! And once you’re on the tour, I hope the islands will give you this priceless experience that no amount of money can buy.

palawan is world's best island

Budget tip 4: Pick where you eat.

If you are a girlscout, you can eat in small carinderias, or pig out vietnamese chao long noodles for P60. Bona’s chao long in Puerto Princesa is popular among locals and tourists but the last time I went, the serving take too long, and the place is not very hygienic too. There are other alternatives like Lou Chaolong Hauz, I think this is near the airport.

chao long in Palawan
Another trick is to diet at day so you can ready your tummy for a buffet dinner :D.. In El Nido, we paid P250 for a buffet dinner.. not bad.

Budget tip 5: Choose your ride.

Non aircon bus are cheaper than air con ones. You can rent a bicycle to tour around the island instead of always riding tricycles. Another best option is to have a local friend travel with you around and then you can split the cost of the fuel instead.. this way, you’ll see other hidden places that are not easily discovered when you just take public transportation.

When we were in Taytay, a rather non touristy place compare to El Nido, we discovered a beautiful natural pool, a small chapel, hidden lake called Danao, and snake along the road :D.. thanks to Ruth for being our driver/tourist guide/foster mother while we were in Taytay.. And thanks to Maria, my Columbian travel buddy, who introduced me to this lovely lady.

For those who would like to contact Ruth as a personal tour guide, you may do so at 09216119887.. nope, I’m not getting a referral fee here. ^_^

The ride from El Nido to Coron is a bit of a challenge as you will have to brave the waves on a small boat… unless you’re posh (or actually wise) enough to take the plane.. Small boat fee is 1400 pesos with free lunch but you can haggle it down too. Good luck on the waves, advise your intestines to be strong.

taytay palawan
Need more tips? This is how you can bring down the cost so you can enjoy more:

1. Instead of renting island tours in El Nido that will cost around 1 thousand pesos or more, try to rent paddle boats for 500 pesos a day, but you have to do all the paddling yourself.. great if you’re the sporty type.
2. Avoid coffee mocha :D
3. Avoid souvenir shopping
4. Stay in a place longer, landlords usually give discounts to those who are staying longer than those who are only staying for a few days.

Some expenses that you’d like to know:

El Nido Island tours – P1100 – P1400
Small Boat from El Nido to Coron – P1400
Small Boat from Coron to Mindoro – P600
Rooms for rent – P500 and above
Dorms – P350
Mocha coffee – P80 and above

So that’s it.. hope this is useful.. feel free to add more tips so we can help others to travel more and travel further. I just hope that despite the flock of visitors, the island will remain the same aura of pura vida.. please let it not be another Boracay..

My travel quote for this journey: When you leave your comfort zones, you begin to realize what is beautiful about life.

Till then, have fun in the Philippines. ^_^

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