As long as I can remember I’ve been wanting to visit the Philippines. Crystal clear water, snow-white beaches and uninhabited islands. It seemed like a good idea to take a break from Bali and visit the Philippines. But how are you supposed to do that if you want to take good care of the world by not flying too much, when you have to choose between 7641 islands and you’ve only got 18 days?!
Usefull tips & facts:
If you want to stay in the Philippines for less than 30 days, you just have to demonstrate on arrival that you have another ticket leaving the Philippines. If you want to stay longer than 30 days you can request an extension for 29 days. Note that if you exceed these 59 days, you can be deported. Better be safe than sorry!
In the Philippines you pay with the Philippine Pesos, which still stems from the Spanish influence. The easiest way is to withdraw money is at the airport, because if you travel directly to the smaller places, there is a chance that you won’t be able to find a working ATM. Take into account that the machines only let you withdraw a maximum of approximately 10,000 pesos per day, and you pay around 250 pesos each time.
Tip! If you’re looking for a quick way to convert money, you can divide the amount by 50. The amount won’t be exact, but at least you’ll know approximately.
I flew from Bali and paid €150 for a one-way ticket to Coron with a quick layover in Cebu. If you book far in advance, a return trip to the Netherlands – Philippines will be approximately €550, depending on the city to which you are flying.
Many places and islands can be reached by boat, so I took the boat from Coron to El Nido with Buhay Isla Expeditions instead of going by plane. From El Nino you can easily take the bus to any other place on the Palawan island, for example to Port Barton or Puerto Princessa. This will cost you around 500 pesos.. To get off the island, then fastest and easiest way is to fly.
WHERE TO STAY
Curious about the places I stayed at, my honest opinion about them and how long in advance I booked? You can read it soon in my article on ‘Places to stay in the Philippines!
Since I only had about 2 weeks and wanted to see as many islands as possible, I decided to skip the capital Manilla. I booked a one-way ticket from Bali to the Coron with a layover in Cebu.
When you arrive at the airport in Coron, there are small vans waiting to bring you to your stay in the center for 150 pesos (approximately 3 euro). I was exhausted and as soon as I arrived in my hostel, I fell asleep. My first day in te Philippines did not go as planned.
The second day I had a good start at a super cute vegan restaurant, Full Lotus. I highly recommend this place since there are barely any other vegan places/options outside of the center. In the Philippines it’s a habit to eat a lot of meat or fish with rice and little veggies for every meal.
I stayed at Dayon Hostel in Coron outside of the touristic center. The village is small and easy to explore by foot. The people are very friendly and have a basic level of English.
One of the few things to do in Coron is climb the Mount Tapyas, a mountain with 742 steps and a huge Coron sign and luminous cross at the top. The sunrise from there was breathtaking and the view traveled over the entire city.
After climbing the mountain it was time to go to the harbor of Coron to go on a 3-day Expedition from El Nino to Coron with the Buhay Isla group. This tour was so special, I would do it again without hesitation.
If you would’ve taken the boat without making all the hops and stops on the 11 islands, it’ll only take you 3 hours.
I had two days two spend in El Nino, which was way too short. The village has a bank where you can safely withdraw money. There is an agent outside writing all your info down including the amount you’re going to withdraw. There are multiple 100% fully vegan spots, among which Taste.
The people are very kind, protective, open and generous, no matter where I went. One thing I remember is one night where I went on a walk alone in the dark. I felt safe but wasn’t sure if it actually was safe and walked back to the hostel to go ask if I should maybe be accompanied. The girl from the reception reassured me that it was really, really safe outside. And to be 100% honest, that’s exactly how it felt!
FROM EL NIDO TO PUERTO PRINCESSA
I bought a bus ticket to go from El Nido to Puerto Princessa, which takes about 5 hours. The bus departs 4.30 AM, 7 AM, 11.30 AM and 2PM with a minimum of 6 people. One option is to make a long stop in Port Baron, or go straight to Puerto Princessa.
On top of my list of things to do in Puerto Princessa was visit ‘The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm’, which looks more like a big village (26 hectares) then a prison. A return ticket on the tricycle cost me 800 pesos and the driver waits for you while you’re inside. The prison has a wired fence instead of concrete walls and when I enter the premises, the guard gives me a smile and nods that I can enter.
If you want to read more about my Iwahig prison experience, keep an eye on the website, the article will be online soon!
If you’d rather skip the prison, the Undergroud Rivers might be an option for you, 50 km north of Puerto Princessa. In 2007 a list of the ‘7 wonders of Nature’ came out of which Underground River is one of the seven.
In Puerto Princessa I found this little gem as my accomodation with a wonderful host; Erven.
From Puerto Princessa it was a necessity to fly because I had to leave the island Palawan, back to the city so I could catch my flight to Siargao. Unfortunately, because of a typhoon my flight got canceled which meant I was stuck in Cebu City. I booked this hotel close to a vegan restaurant, which turned out to be the best decision ever. Because of the storm we were adviced not to leave the hotel, but they did let me go to the restaurant. I do hear Bohol is a beautiful place to visit, 4 hours by bus from Cebu City.
Because of my canceled flight I stayed in Siargao for only 3 days, instead of 8. What a beautiful and peaceful island. Most tourists and surfers stay in General Luna. The feel is bali-like, except less busy and not so spiritual. My accomodation was just outside of the main street but still surrounded by the feel of the village. Even though Siargao is known as being the perfect surf island, it’s more then perfect to get some well deserved rest if you don’t surf.
Because I was in Siargao for such a short period of time, I booked an “Island hopping” day tour, where you visit 3 islands in a small boat with about 6 to 8 people. Daku island, Naked Island and Guyam Island. The tour will cost you around 1200 pesos.
Tip! Bring earplugs! The engine of the boat is so loud, it might even damage your ears.
Daku Island is fairly quiet with wooden huts where you can order food and coconuts.
Together with a small group you explore the islands by boat. You leave at 8 and you’ll be home around 4pm.
Guyam Island is a bit more touristic with a lot of people and moored boats.
Curious about all the vegan spots in Bali? You can read about it here!
BACK TO CEBU
Before coming to the Philippines I booked a one night stay in Cebu so I could see something from the city. Little did I know that half way through my travels I would get stuck in Cebu because of a typhoon. My one and only goal that day was to collect vegan food in the impossible Mactan, a little place close to the airport. Below you can see what I found.