El Nido, the “promised land” of Palawan. Thousands of pilgrims make the journey to Palawan each year to witness the somewhat unadulterated beauty of the tropical municipality. Tourists across the world are lured in by Instagram filter laden images of El Nido, spreading virally across the Internet.
Palawan is one of the tourist hotspots in the Philippines. It is situated between the South China Sea and The Sulu Sea; separating the central cluster of Philippine Islands from Malaysia. There are three main destinations in Palawan which seem to attract most tourists. These are Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and Coron.
For those wanting to visit Coron, you simply have to book a ride on a ship leaving from Manila which will take you directly to the island. For those wishing to visit El Nido, it will require a little extra work.
El Nido, despite its reputation, is still a relatively small town. It does have an airport there, but the airport usually accommodates smaller airlines which can be expensive. There are no regular flights made by the countries large commercial airlines going there. The next option is to travel to El Nido by land which is easily the more popular choice.
Flights leave daily from Manila to the largest city in the region, Puerto Princesa. Once you arrive there, you can either arrange to be picked up by a van the following morning and be taken directly to El Nido, or you can take a bus from the terminal which also goes directly to El Nido, although frequently stopping to pick up passengers along the way.
Once we arrived in Puerto Princesa, I spoke with a few of the locals. The consensus was that we should take the van to El Nido, despite the price being almost double that of the bus, the van was able to save us a significant amount of time.
So after staying several nights in Puerto Princesa, we were picked up by a van outside of our hotel which would then take us to El Nido. We were the first ones in so I had no idea of what lay ahead. After about 15 minutes we had driven to a couple more locations to pick up the rest of the passengers. By that time I was not feeling very confident about the journey at all.
I was sandwiched in the backseat with three other people. My legs were pushed hard up against the seat in front of me. I’m 6’3, these seats were not meant to accommodate somebody my size. The vans took minimising leg room to a whole new level. I had to try and distract myself from the realisation that I would be stuck in that position for the next 5+ hours; besides the brief stop over along the way.
By the time we got to El Nido, I was about to crack. The muscles in my legs were cramping up from being in such an awkward position for so long. I was also starting to feel sick from so many people being in such a small space for that period of time. I have never felt more relieved to leave a vehicle and just be standing out on the street breathing fresh air. It felt amazing to move my arms and legs freely after that trip.
We then went on to spend seven days in the social media photography, Mecca. I had the time of my life in El Nido, though I just couldn’t shake the feeling of the inevitable moment where I step back into one of those vans to make the journey back to Puerto Princesa.
The day eventually came when we had to leave. I couldn’t do it, I woke up that morning not caring if I have to waste 2 – 3 hours; I was taking the bus. All I cared about at that point was having the room to move. I was not going to spend another 5 hours jammed in one of those vans with 12 other people.
We went to the bus terminal and spoke to one of the drivers. The bus fair is almost half the price of the van, so that was our first win of the day. I went and bought some snacks with the money we saved and then walked back over to the bus.
It was such a relief to be on the bus, we sat in the front seat, so I was able to stretch my legs out in front of me and then have all my stuff laid out across the dashboard. Once the bus ride began, I was able to lay back in my seat spread myself out and enjoy the ride.
5 hours and 45 minutes later we were back in Puerto Princesa! I could not believe it, I was expecting a 7 – 8-hour ride. After everybody telling me how slow the buses were, I had assumed they take significantly more time than the vans – not just 45 minutes!
So the bus had been a lot cheaper, more comfortable, uncrowded and only took 45 minutes longer than the van. For me, I feel like the bus is undoubtedly the better option. I thought maybe the bus driver had been driving a little faster than how the bus drivers usually drive. But, I was then talking to some other tourists who told me that they had taken the bus to El Nido and it had taken them 5 hours and 30 minutes to get there.
If I ever find myself travelling back to El Nido, I will be taking the bus, without question, I feel like travelling in comfort while you are on holiday is ideal.
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