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Travel Route Philippines: Visayas & Manila

III. Part: Trip Route (Visayas & Manila)

This is the subsequent blog of the Philippines Island Hopping Trip, with the previous part Travel Route for Palawan including the travel route.

Be excited for whale sharks, typhoons and Jeepney rides!

whale shark on the philippines The Philippines is one of the few places, where you can snorkel and dive with these gentle giants of the sea.

8. Puerto Princessa, Palawan - Iloilo, Panay - Caticlan, Panay - Boracay, Panay

Type: Transportation
Date: 29.12.14
Distance: 651 km
Duration: 11 hours

1.Transportation: 29.12.14 / 10:25 - 11:30 Puerto Princessa - Iloilo
Type: National flight (5J 262)
Airline: Cebu Pacific (2/5)
Distance: 430 km
Duration: 1 hours
Cost: 83 €
Comment: This flight connection exists only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
Tip: Taxis at the Iloilo Airport offer somehow ridiculous prices, try to get a cab outside of the airport.

2. Transportation: Van from Iloilo to Caticlan (3/5)
Type: Van
Distance: 220 km
Duration: 5 hour
Costs: 10 €
Comment: We shared a private van with other travelers, so we had enough space and stopped for lunch on the way. Alternatively you can take a bus from the Takbak Terminal for 7 €.

3. Transportation: Caticlan - Boracay (2/5)
Type: Ferry
Distance: 1 km
Duration: 20 min
Cost: 5 €
Comment: You have to buy seriously three different tickets: terminal fee, environmental fee and the ferry ticket, which is by the way the cheapest one. The ferry runs 24/7. On Boracay take a tricycle to your final destination.

9. Boracay, Panay (2/5)

Type: Small island
Date: 29.12.14 - 2.1.15
Comment: Boracay was once an exotic small island with fisherman villages and a 4 km long white beach. The beach remained, but nowadays it turned into a mass tourism place like Kuta on Bali or Ballermann on Mallorca, with hotel bunkers, McDonalds and Starbucks right at the beach and shopping malls, of course! Expect mostly package holiday tourists, interesting enough they are from all over the world, like China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Europe, USA, Australia or South Africa. That’s why you will also find all kinds of international restaurants, but also with European prices! There are many bars and clubs with mostly techno music, but don’t expect beach parties and if there are, like on New years Eve, the area is fenced and you have to pay 10 € entrance. We also didn’t have luck with the weather, but nevertheless I would not recommend people to go there. This is not the real Philippines…
Tip: You can dive and windsurf on Boracay as well!
Picture: You are not alone on Boracay island!

Boracay

Accommodation: Orchids Resort (2/5)
Type: B&B
Cost: 52€ per night AC-room with double bed and private bath
Comment: Bamboo Hotel with orchid garden, 100m away from the beach (station 3). Thin walls and cockroach alarm!
Tip: Try to get a fan to save money or try next door at Bora Bora Inn or Dave’s Straw Hat Inn. Book in advance during peak season, like Xmas, New Years Eve or Easter.

Food:

  • Bei Kurt & Magz (3/5)
    Type: Restaurant
    Cheap beer during happy hour (60 Cents) and German food.

  • Swiss Inn (3/5)
    Type: Restaurant
    Good drinks and good cheese fondue for 30 € for 2 persons.

  • D’Talipapa Market (3/5)
    Type: Market
    You can buy fresh fish or seafood at the seafood market and nearby restaurants, so called palutuan or paluto will cook it as you wish for you for a small fee, around 3 €. Even when you bargain good (half of the first price) it will not be cheaper than in other restaurants, but it’s fun somehow to hunt your own food.

Entertainment:

  • Pat’s Creek Bar (4/5)
    Type: Beach Bar
    Live music at the beach and cold beer buckets.

  • Exit Bar (4/5)
    Type: Beach Bar & Disco
    Dancing in the sand to good electronic music, which is really rare on this side of the planet.

  • Picture: Party hard at the beach during a typhoon on new years eve.

NYE in Boracay

Activities:

  • White Beach Divers (missed)
    Type: Dive
    Cost: 58 € for 2 dives
    Comment: Due to the bad weather we couldn’t go diving. There is supposed to be an airplane and container ship wreck nearby in 30 m depth.

  • Cliff Diving (missed)
    Type: Tour
    Tour Operator: Ariel’s Point
    Duration: 6 hours
    Transportation: Boat
    Food: BBQ and unlimited drinks, including beer and mixed drinks
    Cost: 38 €
    Comment: We didn’t have enough time and although it is not cheap, it looks like big fun; The deal is you get drunk and jump from 15 m high cliffs.

10. Boracay - Caticlan, Panay - Kalibo, Panay - Cebu City, Cebu

Type: Transportation
Date: 2.1.15
Distance: 301 km
Duration: 8 hours
Comment: We flew from Kalibo, because the flights were much cheaper than from the Airport in Caticlan and you get from Caticlan only to Manila.
Tip: In case you are on Panay during middle of January, you should check out the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo. It is the biggest carnival-like festival of the Philippines on the 3. weekend of January. Definitely book accommodation ahead!

1. Transportation: Boracay - Caticlan (1/5)
Type: Ferry
Distance: 1 km
Duration: 1,5 hours!
Cost: 3 €
Comment: It seemed like half of Boracays visitors left on the 2.1. so the ferry were totally overcrowded. It took us 1,5 hours instead of 15 min to get to Caticlan and we nearly missed our flight… again!
Tip: Make sure you have enough extra time when headed to the airport.

2. Transportation: Van from Caticlan to Kalibo (2/5)
Type: Van
Distance: 70 km
Duration: 1,5 hours
Cost: 3 €
Comment: We bought the transfer ticket to Kalibo airport already at the ferry station in Boracay. The van was totally packed, we even had to put our baggage on our knees. This combined with not knowing whether we would make it in time to the airport made this drive unpleasant.

3. Transportation: 2.1.15 / 11:55 - 12:40 Kalibo - Cebu (1/5)
Type: National flight (5J 417)
Airline: Cebu Pacific (2/5)
Distance: 230 km
Duration: 1 hours
Cost: 42 €
Comment: Of course the airport was totally full of tourists as well. There was a long queue to get inside the airport, due to the bottleneck called x-ray machine. Luckily the plane had 2 hours delay, so we caught our flight, despite our late arrival.
Tip: To get from the Airport to Cebu Uptown go to the international arrival terminal and take a white taxi (5 €) who are half the price than the yellow cabs from the national arrival!
Picture: Just a normal situation at the overcrowded airports in the Philippines.

Cebu Airport

11. Cebu City, Cebu (3/5)

Type: Big City
Date: 2.1. - 3.1.15
Comment: Third biggest city of the Philippines with a colonial city center, good restaurants and hectic city life.

Accommodation: Casa Escano (4/5)
Type: B&B
Cost: 41€ per night AC-room with double bed and private bath
Comment: Old colonial hacienda in uptown with quite rooms and fantastic breakfast and great restaurant. This luxury has of course its price.
Tip: For cheaper accommodation check out Cebu Guesthouse (12€ for fan room)

Food:

  • Don Merto’s Deli & Restaurant (4/5)
    Type: Restaurant
    Restaurant of Casa Escano; Spanish-Filipino fusion and western food like burgers and sandwiches.

  • Mesa, Ayala Terraces (5/5)
    Type: Restaurant
    Modern and best Filipino food we had so far. Try the Boneless Crispy Pata, a roasted pork knuckle for 10 € and enough for 2.
    Tip: In this complex next to the Ayala Mall you find lots of in- and outdoor bars and all kind of international restaurants.
    Picture: The Filiponos love roasted pork, so do we :)
Food

Entertainment:

  • The Highlights (4/5)
    Type: Bar
    Cheap beer and drinks at the chic rooftop Bar of hotel Harold’s.

  • Mango Square Mall (2/5)
    Type: Bar & Disco Complex
    Many bars and clubs, who fight for every costumer. None of them looked really pleasant for us, also due to the prostitutes and their potential clients around.

Sightseeing: Downtown (3/5)
Type: City walk
Duration: 2 hours
Comment: From the old colonial city center not much remains, but you can visit by foot the quite nice Fort San Pedro, the basilica Minore de Santo Nino with the oldest holy relic of the country (Santo Nino) and the Magellan’s Cross and the colorful Carbon market with agricultural and handcraft products of Cebu.

12. Cebu City, Cebu - Tan-Awan, Cebu

Type: Transportation
Date: 2.1.15

Transportation: Bus from Cebu via Oslob to Tan-Awan (1/5)
Type: Bus
Distance: 130 km
Duration: 4,5 hours
Cost: 5 €
Comment: The buses to the south of Cebu are leaving at the Southern Bus Terminal. The bus drive is actually quite nice, as long as you are not driving with the small buses with open windows. They are very packed, the bus stops every few minutes, because people hop on and off and you certainly seem to have hara-kiri drivers behind the steering wheel. With fear of death we had to change the bus and waited for a bigger one, as they can not accelerate as fast as the small buses can.
Tip: Take a big AC-bus, you will feel much more comfortable

Picture: Anyone needs a ride? Tricycles are the #1 vehicles for local transport. Funnily they look different on every island.

tricycles in Cebu

13. Tan-Awan, Oslob, Cebu (2/5)

Type: Village
Date: 3.1. - 4.1. 15
Comment: This is the closest place for the whale shark watching. You can also stay in Oslob 9 km north or Dumaguete on Negros and get an early ride or boat to here. In Tan-Awan there is just a small stony beach and nothing to do at night.

Accommodation: BCD’s Place (2/5)
Type: B&B
Cost: 27 € per night AC-room with double bed and private bath
Comment: Very unspectacular rooms, with plastic wrapped mattresses, but all in all very clean.

Food: Sunrise Grillhouse (4/5)
Type: Restaurant
Friendly guitar playing staff is serving fresh fruits and simple food at the beachfront next door.

Activities:

  • Oslob Whale Shark Watching (3/5)
    Type: Snorkeling or Diving
    Cost: 9 € from the boat (30 min), 18 € for snorkeling (30 min), 27 € + dive costs for diving (1 hour)
    Comment: These biggest fish are absolutely fascinating, but unfortunately the local people made a tourist-money-making-machine out of them. They are always around between 7 and noon, because they get feed You get to this place, which is close to the beach by rowing boat. We snorkeled half an hour with around six whale sharks, who come really close to you, so that you have to pay attention not to get hit by their tail fin. Meeting these gentle giants in the wild and not having 30 other tourists around you is probably a much more sublime moment then here.
    Tip: Be there early between 7 and 8 a.m. because during the day the whale sharks disappear, when they are full or there is too much trouble for them. You have a good chance to find whale sharks without feeding in Donsol at East Luzon.
    Picture: Vis-a-vis with a whale shark is a bit scary, but luckily only dangerous for plankton!
Swimming with a whale sharks Tourists lined up as a string of pearls for swimming with the whale sharks is the other side of the medal... Tourists with a whale shark
  • Boat trip to Sumilon Island (3/5)
    Type: Snorkeling, Beach
    Duration: 5 hours
    Transportation: Boat (Outtrigger boat)
    Number of passengers: 2
    Cost: 27 € for 2 person for getting there and back
    Comment: You can book a boat ride to Sumilon island. Ask if they can drop you at the reef for snorkeling.
    Tip: There is nothing on the island, beside a nice sandy beach, reefs and an exclusive beach resort. Food and drinks are supposed to be very expensive there (20 €), so better bring your own.
    Picture: Sumilon Island as many other reefs between Cebu and Negros are great places for snorkeling and diving in the Philippines.
Reef Sumilon Island

14. Tan-Awan, Cebu - Liloan, Cebu - Sibulan, Negros - Dumaguete, Negros

Type: Transportation
Date: 4.1.15
Distance: 25 km
Duration: 2 hours

1. Transportation: Tan-Awan - Liloan (3/5)
Type: Bus
Distance: 10 km
Duration: 30 min
Cost: 1,50 €
Comment: Just stop any bus passing by and head down the road to the ferry terminal in Liloan.

2. Transportation: Liloan - Sibulan (3/5)
Type: Ferry
Distance: 7 km
Duration: 30 min
Cost: 1 €
Comment: There are ferries leaving every 30 minutes from 5:00 until 7:30 p.m.

3. Transportation: Sibulan - Dumaguete (3/5)
Type: Tricycle
Distance: 6 km
Duration: 20 min
Cost: 2 €

15. Dumaguete, Negros (4/5)

Type: City
Date: 4.1. - 5.1.15
Comment: Dumaguete is said to be the city of friendly people, which we can confirm. When asking the price for tricycle ride, the answer was mostly “up to you”. We probably still paid too much, but this way it feels much more comfortable, then the usual bargaining. Although we had bad weather during our stay, which is obviously normal during that time of the year, we enjoyed our stay in Dumaguete. There is a nice waterfront with lots of small food stalls at night, manifold restaurants and some bars and clubs. It is also a good hub to explore the nearby underwater world.

Accommodation: Harold’s Mansion (4/5)
Type: Hostel
Cost: 15 € per night AC-room with double bed and private bath
Comment: Cheap Backpacker’s hostel with free coffee, tea, water and Wi-Fi and a big rooftop with a restaurant. In house is the Harolds Dive Center, which offers trips to the whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu, dive trips to Apo Island and dive safaris.

Food: Bo’s Coffee (3/5)
Type: Cafe
Located at the seafront. Starbucks Filipino style with good coffee, unfortunately in paper cups.

Activity: Diving at Apo Island (missed)
Type: Dive, Snorkeling
Tour Operator: Harolds Dive Center
Duration: half day
Transportation: Boat (Outtrigger boat)
Cost: 60 € for 3 dives
Comment: We didn’t have time left, but Apo Island is supposed to be one of the top 10 dive sites in the Philippines, including sharks, turtles, rays, barracudas and a beautiful macro life.

16. Dumaguete, Negros - Manila, Luzon (2/5)

Type: Transportation
Date: 5.1.15
Distance: 660 km
Duration: 7 hours

1. Transportation: 5.1.15 / 13:55 - 15:10 Dumaguete - Manila (2/5)
Type: National flight (5J 628)
Airline: Cebu Pacific (2/5)
Distance: 645 km
Duration: 1 hour 15 min
Cost: 77 €
Comment: Guess what, the flight was delayed…

2. Transportation: Manila Airport - Manila Ermita (2/5)
Type: Taxi
Distance: 15 km
Duration: 2 hours
Cost: 10 €
Comment: Due to our late arrival we got caught in the rush hour. You can choose to go instead with the yellow cabs (cheapest, but in our case very long queue), white taxis (prepaid and more expensive, but “only” 30 min queue) or you get ripped of by one of the taxi touts, who will sell you a prepaid taxi for 25 €!
Tip: You might have more luck and less queueing one floor up at the departure hall. When the drivers don’t want to use their meter, make sure you don’t pay more then 14 € to Quezon City, 10 € to Ermita or 8 € to Malate or Makati.

17. Ermita, Manila, Luzon (4/5)

Type: Megacity, Capital
Date: 5.1. - 7.1.15
Comment: Manila does not have a good reputation, but more than any other metropolis in Southeast Asia it is an exciting melting pot of colonial heritage, business city, shopping malls, slum, Chinatown, American fast food restaurants, seafront, 24/7 nightlife and traffic jam.
Tip: As most travelers will pass by Manila anyway it is worth staying here two to three days and explore the city. We decided to visit Manila at the end of our trip. To get around fast avoid the rush hour from 7 - 9 a.m. and 5 - 8 p.m.
Picture: The normal madness on Manilas streets.

Accommodation: _Oasis Paco Park Hotel_, Ermita (4/5)
Type: Hotel
Cost: 36 € per night for huge superior room with AC, TV, double bed and private bath, free newspaper, free Wi-Fi and welcome drink.
Comment: Luxurious Hotel with pool in a quiet area; Good price-quality ratio;
Tip: For cheaper accommodation check out Wanderers Guesthouse in
Malate (16€ per night for a double room)

Transportation: Driving with a Jeepney (5/5)
Type: Minibus
Cost: Starting with 10 Cent
Comment: Just jump in any Jeepney and take a ride, but better not during rush hour, else you might get a carbon monoxide poisoning.
Tip: Jeepneys drive on fixed routes, who are written in front of the windshield or on the side of the Jeepney. If you are not sure you can ask the driver or other passengers to let you know once you reached your destination.
Picture: Cheap hop-on hop-off tour with a Jeepney. You will just have no clue where you are when getting off.

Jeepney Manila

Food: Zamboanga, Ermita (4/5)
Type: Restaurant
Try the seafood platter for 10€, which serves two. There are also live folk dances from 8 - 9 p.m.

Entertainment:

  • White Moon Bar, Intramuros (4/5)
    Type: Bar
    Sunset Bar at the 2. floor of the Ocean Park
    Picture: The sun goes down over the Bay of Manila, while a father and his son are trying to get a catch in their small canoe. Rich and poor is in Manila just a heartbeat away.
Manila Bay
  • Library Comedy Bar, Malate (3/5)
    Type: Comedy Bar
    Cost: 3 €
    Filipino Comedy, unfortunately mostly in Tagalog

  • Hanging out around the Remedios Circle (4/5)
    Type: Bar Complex
    Crazy nightlife 24/7; Cheap food and drinks at food stalls in M. Adriatico.

  • Club ZZYZX, Malate (3/5)
    Type: Disco
    We had lots of fun in this packed “club” at the Remedios circle, not because of the strange techno music, more for the ridiculous party rules, like not to dance with drinks in your hand, “bouncer” securities everywhere and the crazy local party mood! It is worth it checking it out, it is free, at least on Mondays and there were mostly locals around.

Sightseeing:

  • Colonial heritage in Intramuros, Manila (4/5)
    Type: City walk
    Duration: half day
    Comment: Former Spanish colonial quarter, which got destroyed during the second world war. Reconstruction ongoing, but you can feel nevertheless the moving history here.

  • Transportation: Horse-drawn carriage in Intramuros (4/5)
    Type: Carriage ride
    Costs: 7 € for 30 min
    Comment: Some stories from the coachmen and relaxation for the feet.

  • San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila (3/5)
    Type: Church & Museum
    Cost: 1 €
    Nice and only original church left in Intramuros

  • Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila (4/5)
    Type: Fort
    Cost: 1,50 €
    Former Spanish military defense base and heart of the old Manila; Includes as well a museum of the imprisoned and killed national hero Rizal
    Picture: At the reconstructed gate of Fort Santiago in Intramuros.

Intramuros, Santiago, Manila

Epilog: I hope we could give you some travel inspirations and an idea of how a travel route through the Philippines could look like. For a more authentic feeling you have to get yourself on one of the 7107 islands of the Philippines. We would be glad to hear from your experiences at the comments or by adding our hashtag #trackfellas to your posts.

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It was a pleasure,

Moritz from Trackfellas


Note: The publisher does not accept responsibility for the correctness, accuracy or completeness of the information.