Ferries depart from Dumaguete's central port multiple times a day, providing very flexible means to get to Bohol. It’s a short ride, and even more so, pleasant, as the cabins are air conditioned and always have bathrooms. Make sure to bring some filipino pesos with you, to give porters tips for carrying your luggage, or for overweight luggage fees.
The Philippine island of Negros is split into two provinces: Negros Oriental in the south and Negros Occidental in the north. Although both sections of the island are open for travelers to visit there's only one city to head to if you've got plans to depart for the island of Bohol, and that's Dumaguete. This port city is situated in the southern province of Negros and has long been well-regarded for its intellectual, yet laid-back, vibe thanks to its well-established student communities.
Things to do in Dumaguete, other than taking the ferry across the Cebu Strait to Bohol, include strolling along Rizal Boulevard and checking out the street food stalls in the Pantawan district, where you can get everything from tempura to fish balls. A great time of year to visit Dumaguete is during festival season in October. The central areas of the city, and along the coastal promenades, feature lots of live music and even more carts selling delicious snacks and drinks straight off the streets.
Once you decide to depart Dumaguete for Bohol there's only one mode of transport available and that's by boat. Ferries come in three different classes: Open Air, Tourist and Business. The first two are the most affordable and tend to attract more local people and backpackers whereas the Business Ferry is all about the air-conditioning and relaxing on reclining seats. Whichever class you opt for on the ride from Dumaguete to Bohol you can expect to reach your destination in around two hours. The crossing is direct and the earliest departure time is just before 10am and the latest is 2.30pm in the afternoon.
On your arrival on Bohol it's a good idea to have accommodation booked in advance. In this way you might be met at Tagbilaran City Port Terminal by a friendly face holding up a card with your name on it. If you prefer to take things in your traveler stride there are bound to be lots of expectant taxi cabs around the gangplank who will happily take you into the city center, and beyond! Bohol Island, itself, is actually quite large and has a coastline which stretches for 261 kilometers (162 miles).
The majority of visitors come for, at least a look at, the island's world-famous limestone hills which turn a chocolate-brown color during the scorched summer months. Hence the name, the Chocolate Hills. However, there are plenty of other things to do on Bohol other than hiking in those hills. Zip-lining, cave exploring and lazing about on Bohol's beaches more than add to the attraction, with hundreds of tiny islands and islets just a speedboat ride away. Bring it on!
No matter which ferry type you take to travel from Dumaguete to Bohol - Open Air, Business or Tourist – the chances are that you're going to be able to see pretty much the same thing: sunshine, sea and islands in the distance. Catching the Open Air Ferry means that the sides of the vessel are, you guessed it, open. This means that you'll get to see some sea spray and smell the salty sea air as it splashes against the sides of the boat. Business and Tourist Ferries, on the other hand, have closed cabins with air-conditioning. Seats are comfortable and Business seats recline. All ferries also feature onboard bathrooms but not much else in the way of facilities.
A great way to pass the time over the two hour ferry crossing to Bohol from Dumaguete is to get to know a few of your fellow passengers. From Filipinos visiting friends and families to backpackers and travelers hoping to spot dolphins or trek over Bohol's brown-colored Chocolate Hills, you never know who you'll bump into; which is half the fun really, isn't it?
All ferries are direct to Bohol from Dumaguete and most leave for the island in the morning. There are six daily ferry crossings in total with the earliest departing at 9.50am and the latest leaving at 2.30pm. High season falls from December to February and so it's a good idea to book ferry tickets and accommodation in advance if this is when you intend to travel.
Taking a ferry
Making the most of your Philippine pesos on an island hopping vacation is always the best advice and the most affordable way to get from Dumaguete to Bohol is via the Open Air Ferry. What it lacks in air-conditioning it more than makes up for in sea breeze and it also will get you over to Bohol in the same amount of time as Tourist and Business Class Ferries (2 hours). A seat on an Open Air Ferry costs from $18.
Alternatively, Tourist Ferries are air-conditioned and also include an outdoor seating area where you can watch wistfully over the waves and catch a tan at the same time. This is an efficient and affordable (same price as an Open Air Ferry) option for travelers and a great way to meet like-minded folk heading over to Bohol Island.
The Business Ferry crossing to Bohol from Dumaguete is not that much more in price than Tourist and Open Air equivalents. Tickets start from $26 and include the added comfort of air-conditioning and a reclining seat. This can make quite a bit of difference if you're looking to get some rest which is why it's the most popular mode of transport for island hopping travelers.