“Air Asia flight Z2 422 bound for Puerto Princesa, please proceed to gate…”, the PA called. I found myself standing at the front of the line before the full announcement could be made.
It was the first time we weren’t rushing to the airport for a trip. Already checked-in, comfortably waiting at the lounge and still had an hour to spare before our early-ish flight of 7:25 am. It was quite a feat. You see, we do not consider ourselves morning people, my travel buddy and I. We’re more under the lunch-time/afternoon-snack kind.
The excitement of visiting El Nido, Palawan is a more effective alarm than any smartphone app. That, and the fact that it’s been a year since we last went to a somewhat far away place from Manila, Caramoan.
Puerto Princesa to El Nido
The most common way to get to El Nido from Manila (the one we took) is by flying to Puerto Princesa then taking a five to six-hour van ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. There are several shuttle services to choose from as soon as you step out of the airport. Air Asia even offers a discount with a tie-up they made with a local operator.
You may also take the bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, if that’s more your thing. The RO-RO buses we saw looked fairly new. You’d have to ride a tricycle to San Jose Terminal to get to the bus station. The bus also picks up passengers along the way so travel time may take longer.
Then there’s the direct flight from Manila to El Nido. It will cost you an arm and a leg. Two legs! But you’d get there more comfortably and much much faster. More time to enjoy paradise.
Some things to note when traveling from Puerto Princesa to El Nido:
- Shuttles are no longer allowed inside El Nido town proper.
- Drop off is at El Nido Integrated Terminal, a short tricycle ride from town (Php 30-50).
- Shuttle schedule from Puerto Princesa to El Nido (vice versa) starts as early as 5:00 am and the latest at 6:00 pm.
- Shuttle schedules are not strictly followed, they may leave earlier as soon as the van is full.
- There’s a good number of tourists traveling from Puerto Princesa to El Nido year round, book early.
Booking a Seat
First on my list was Daytripper. I figured if you’d be sitting in an enclosed moving box for six hours, might as well do it with some level of comfort. Daytripper has these nice looking seats, you see. They are also the only shuttle service allowed inside El Nido town proper. Their online booking showed no available seats. Palawan Lexus Shuttle, AirAsia’s tie up, was my second choice. They have the most positive feedback on TripAdvisor for shuttles plying the Puerto Princesa to El Nido route.
After re-confirming with Daytripper about the unavailability of seats, we approached a group of uniformed ladies, standing outside the airport, carrying AirAsia and Palawan Lexus Shuttle banners. According to the lady we talked to, Jackie, the 9:00 am van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido is already full and the next will be around 11:00 am.
Seeing the frown on our faces, she quickly whipped out her phone and booked us a 9:30 am shuttle from Puerto Princesa to El Nido via Eulen Joy. She asked for my number, saying that she will arrange for a contact person to pick us up at El Nido who will assist us with our island hopping tours. I was hesitant, to say the least. Trusting our fate to a complete and total stranger turned out to be a very helpful thing. Stay tuned for more articles in the coming days. :D
Php 700/person/way wasn’t a bad deal. We were expecting to pay north of Php 800, as what’s suggested by most blogs and forums. You may choose to book a return ticket to Puerto Princesa, as we did. Payments are made in advance. You’ll be provided with a receipt that you’d need to show the dispatcher on your return journey.
Pick up and drop off at your hotel (Puerto Princesa only) is part of Eulen Joy’s service. They also have a terminal at a cafe right beside the airport.
Eulen Joy’s shuttle is a standard passenger van, like most in the Philippines. Four rows of seat. Four people in each row. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel as crowded as the ones we took when we went to Caramoan. Airconditioning is comfortably cool.
09094009924 / 09153707781
09129167822 / 09051052370
Not sure if all these numbers are still okay. Found these printed on their receipt.
Fast, Scenic, Bumpy
While researching, I noticed that a lot of people are complaining about the reckless, high speed driving of shuttles plying the Puerto Princesa to El Nido route. Some even mentioned running over a dog, which we had the terrible fortune of witnessing. I’ll write about the dogs of Palawan on a separate post. I promised the dogs I will. :(
Get ready for a fast ride! It’s true, what they say on the forums. They do drive fast! The fastest they go is 80 to 120 km/h, according to the speedometer. You have to consider that the road from Puerto Princesa to El Nido is a National Highway. Towns are few and far between. Other vehicles, even less.
If you’re not a sleeper, it’s quite a scenic drive. You’ll pass by karst mountains, bays, forests and a glimpse at the local life. I was particularly affected seeing children walking long distances to get to school.
There are some sections of the road that are still unpaved. Mostly during the last two hours of the journey from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Construction work are in full swing during our visit. Once the roads are all done, it should be smoother sailing for everyone who wants to have a piece of the paradise that is El Nido.