Flying vs. bus vs. van: How to get to El Nido

Palawan, known as a tropical paradise in the Philippines, never fails to charm thousands of tourists all year long. Some of the best islands in the country can be found in Coron, Puerto Princesa and El Nido. I can truly say that these islands are some of the most picturesque I’ve even been in my years of travels.

Flying into Palawan is the easiest way to get to the island. There are daily flights from different parts of the country and other international ones too. If you’re looking to get into the action directly, there are also flights to El Nido and Coron, albeit not too often.

So which part of Palawan to visit? There are many to choose from! However, let’s start with my favourite, El Nido!

View of El Nido

If you don’t know it yet, El Nido is located in the northeast of Puerto Princesa, the most urbanized city in Palawan. Most tourists coming to Palawan enter through Puerto Princesa International Airport. A typical itinerary would consist of touring around Puerto Princesa on the first few days and traveling to El Nido for the island experience! There are two ways to transfer from Puerto Princesa to El Nido– by van and by bus. 

Going to El Nido by van

Going to El Nido by van is the fastest way if you are in a little bit of a hurry as it only takes 5-6 hours to reach the bus terminal in El Nido. The fare goes between ₱550.00 to ₱600.00. When you arrive at Puerto Princesa airport, you can be picked up directly from there. When you land, gather your things and get out of the airport. Walk a bit further to look for your name or the name of the company you booked your transfer. Get inside and then you’re on your way to El Nido!

If you want to be transferred right at the front of your hotel doorstep, there are also companies that will do this for you. An even better option would be a private transfer for you and your group. You get to decide what time you leave and you don’t even need to wait for anyone! 

What are the pros and cons of going to El Nido by van? 

Going by van is already a popular option nowadays. I’m guessing that it’s probably because a lot of these tourists can’t wait to set foot on El Nido? Anyhow, if you choose to go by van, you won’t have to wait longer to get to the beach! 

Going to El Nido by bus

Another option to consider is going to El Nido by bus. This ride might take longer but you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery and get to experience a more local way of transfer. It usually takes 6-7 hours to reach the terminal but and can also save a few bucks. For less than ₱500 you can already board a bus to El Nido. 

If you prefer this option, consider booking the Cherry Bus company. Their regular air-conditioned bus costs around 480 pesos but will take a bit longer because they stop to pick up locals along the way. 

Pro tip: Take the 9AM or 9PM bus because it has more comfortable seats, it’s faster and has a toilet on board.

What are the pros and cons of going to El Nido by bus? 

Going to El Nido by bus is slower compared to going by van. If you are on a tight schedule, a bus ride might not be the right choice for you. Also, these buses have less departures. The earliest it can depart to El Nido is 9am and the latest it can go is 9pm. 

If this doesn’t bother you at all, you can catch these buses at San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa. From the Puerto Princesa airport, hail a tricycle to get to the bus terminal directly.

Which of these two should I pick? 

I have experienced traveling with both options and I can say they’re good for different reasons. I’d go with the van transfer if I’m short on time and I want a more convenient way to get to El Nido from the airport. However, I also really found the bus ride to be more enjoyable. I wasn’t in a hurry; the seats were comfortable and I get to see the countryside of Palawan.

El Nido, Philippines

Whichever choice you go for, I can only say that the feeling of arriving in El Nido and finally get to see the limestone cliffs and white sand beaches will surely make you glad you took this trip.

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