Farmboy and I traveled to the Philippines over Christmas 2010, and even though it was a number of years ago, the information posted here has been verified and will still be useful for you when planning your trip to this beautiful country. Things will have changed since then, but we have had numerous friends travel there since we were there using our travel tips so this guide should at least provide a basic overview of places to see and things to do. I have checked all the links that they do indeed go to the right hotel/websites but if anything isn't linking up, please leave me a comment below.
Farmboy and I met up with his brother and sister in law in Seoul and then made our way to Incheon airport for the 5 hour flight to Manila. We flew Cebu Pacific from Incheon to Manila, and then had a domestic flight to Puerto Princessa. We had an 8 hour wait for the flight to Puerto Princessa, and as it was late at night we decided to 'splurge' and book into a hotel just outside the airport for a cold shower (it was HOT!) and a quick nap before our flight the next day. We spent 3 days in Puerto Princessa, 6 days in El Nido (click here) and then 1 more night back in Puerto Princessa before flying back to Korea.
Once arriving in Puerto Princessa we headed to our accommodation for the next 2 nights, at Albon Pesion. We were picked us up at the airport (something I would highly recommend as you don't have to fight over taxis and waste time haggling for a fair rate). Albon Pension was a very reasonable, basic place to stay, but the staff were very friendly and the location was very central. We were able to walk to most restaurants and cafes and it was clean.
There are lots of tours that leave from Puerto Princessa, the most famous being the under ground river in Sabang. The Underground river has recently been declared one of the Natural Wonders of the World and is a must if visiting Puerto Princessa. There are also a number of boat rides you can take through the mangroves which are well worth a trip. In 2010 the mangrove tour cost us $5 a person, and the underground river tour was $35 pp including lunch. Albon Pension arranged the tours for us, including the 2.5 hour bus ride to Sabang in an airconditioned mini van. The ride to Sabang itself was beautiful, and the driver will stop along the way for you to get some scenic shots.
We also booked a day trip to Honda Bay, and onto Snake Island. It was a short drive to Honda Bay and from there a short boat ride to the island. We again booked this with Albon Pension. The weather wasn't too great and the water was quite murky, but we still were able to see a few fish while out snorkelling. We also had our first taste of fresh fish for lunch which was a fun experience, especially sharing a table with the locals.
Back on the mainland, there are lots and lots of great restaurants to eat at with seafood buffets and loads of other interesting dishes. We spent our last 2 days in Puerto Princessa after our 6 days in El Nido (post to come soon) and had a great time wondering around the markets and buying fresh water pearls as gifts for friends and family. We all put our left over cash together and booked a room in one of the fancier hotels in Puerto Princessa for our last night as a treat. We slept so well that night and really enjoyed the hotels pool and breakfast buffet the next morning. It was a great way to spend our last night in the Philippines.
I will be posting the second half of our trip where we spent 6 days in El Nido and the surrounding islands soon.
Useful Travel Info for the Philippines
- 30 day visa free entry for citizens of South African, USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia (and a number of other countries...click here for more info).
- Pack an emergency medicine kit. As this was only our second trip to Asia, none of us had packed the basic supplies like flu/stomach cramps/pain pills. After the food poisoning I went and got full on flu and just had to live through it for the last 4 days of our holiday...make sure to pack some nose spray/decongestants to help with any flu symptoms you may have. Rather be safe than sorry!
- Use travel apps like Orbitz to book hotels/hostels if you can (they often give discounts for using the app and you can score some great deals!)
- Pack a travel towel/cotton sarong that you can wet at night and sleep under if you don't have airconditioning. This will help keep you cool if you only have a fan in your room (and this will especially help you sleep at night if you have no fan/electricity).
- Buy a waterproof bag to store your valuables in when going on boat rides. At the very least have a few spare ziplock bags handy to store passports and cash in, just in case your bags get wet.
Do you have any recommendations of things to do and see in Puerto Princessa? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!