When making a travel plan to the Philippines, you should arrange the domestic transportation as soon as possible. Unless you make reservations months before, you may throw away the whole plan after facing the expensive flight tickets, and even remove some islands from your itinerary. Therefore I want to explain how to get to El Nido and essential things to know about means of transport.
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Where is El Nido?
First of all, let me correct a common mistake – It’s not El Nido Island because El Nido is not an island.
There are more than 7000 islands in the Philippines. Palawan Island is the fifth-largest island in the Philippines in terms of land size. Its unique underwater world, dazzling tropical beaches, and turquoise sea make Palawan one of the Philippines’ most popular islands for summer vacation or honeymoon.
El Nido is a well-known town located on the northern side of Palawan Island. Since you visit the small islands around with boat tours departing from El Nido during a touristic visit, it is referred to as El Nido Islands.
How to Get to El Nido?
There are many different options to reach El Nido that will make you question the most important thing – your time, your money, or your comfort.
These are the most common ways of getting to El Nido:
- Option 1
- Flying to Manila, Cebu, or Clark
- From there, flying to El Nido
- Option 2
- Flying to Manila or Cebu
- From there, flying to Puerto Princesa
- Taking the van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido
- Option 3
- Flying to Manila or Cebu
- From there, flying to Coron
- Travel from Coron to El Nido by plane or ferry
How to Get to El Nido by Plane?
There is a tiny airport in El Nido. El Nido Airport (ENI), also known as Lio Airport, is 7 km away from the city center. Since Air Swift, operating domestic flights in the Philippines, is the airport owner, you can only find flight tickets from this airline.
Most probably, whole flight schedules will change after the pandemic, but there are usually four destinations where you can find a direct flight to El Nido Airport:
- Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) | Flight duration 1h 20m
- Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) | Flight duration 1h 45m
- Luzon Clark International Airport (CRK) | Flight duration 1h 25m
- Coron-Busuanga Francisco B. Reyes Airport(USU) | Flight duration 40m
All of these airports above except Coron are international. When you are about to travel to the Philippines from any country, you can select one of these destinations as the Philippines’ first arrival point.
However, the most preferred stopover is the capital, Manila, because the number of international flights is higher, as well as the frequency of flights between Manila and El Nido. I think the subject will become clear with the example routes I have listed below. PS: I took Turkey as an example of the departure country.
- Flight Route 1
- Istanbul —> Manila (THY)
- Manila —> El Nido (Air Swift)
- Flight Route 2
- Istanbul —> Doha (Qatar Airways)
- Doha —> Manila (Qatar Airways)
- Manila —> El Nido (Air Swift)
- Flight Route 3
- Istanbul —> Dubai (Emirates)
- Dubai —> Cebu (Emirates)
- Cebu —> El Nido (Air Swift)
Flight ticket prices may vary according to the season and the sale periods of the airlines. So, don’t forget to check the ticket prices on Skyscanner. You can find the best tickets by downloading the Skyscanner app to your phone or by visiting the website. Download >> ANDROID | IOS
Things to Know About Getting to El Nido by Plane
- Flight tickets are quite expensive, comparing to Philippines standards. During high season, ticket prices between Manila and El Nido start from $90 ONE WAY, per person.
- The check-in baggage allowance for the standard ticket is only 10 kg. Even if you travel with hand luggage, it is almost impossible to pack lighter. In case you have heavier baggage, you will either buy an expensive ticket with a 20 kg baggage allowance, which is equivalent to $ 120 per person, or you will confront with the penalty for excess baggage.
- Getting to El Nido Town from El Nido Airport takes around 20 minutes. You can hop on a tricycle, which costs ₱300-₱400 ($ 6 – $ 8) for two people and suitcases.
- If you prefer a more comfortable way of transportation between the airport and the city center, you can ask your hotel to arrange a van for you.
How to Get to El Nido From Puerto Princesa by Van?
The most preferred way of transportation for travelers, who have enough time to spend on the roads, is getting on the minivan from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, and vice versa. Since Puerto Princesa Airport is one of the Philippines’ main hubs, there are many cheap flights available all year round. Ticket prices start from $15.
- Getting from Puerto Princesa Airport to El Nido takes around 5 hours by the van. Depending on the traffic, the duration can be extended up to 8 hours. Our crazy conductor completed the journey in 4 hours, though.
- Even though you choose the best van company, it is not a comfortable journey at all. You can get carsick because of the extremely bendy road.
- We took a 30-minute-break during our trip. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any suitable food for us in the service area.
- Minivans between Puerto Princesa and El Nido are operated every day from 05:00 am in the morning.
- When you travel from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, I recommend making a reservation from a reliable and well-known company at least one day in advance. Besides, not to miss the plane, you’d better consider the journey as if it will take 8 hours, and keep in mind that minivans may not comply with scheduled departure times.
- You can book a van via Boutique & Art Cafe. It is the most reliable and efficient place in El Nido. We paid for the van ₱550 ($11) per person.
How to Get to El Nido From Coron by Fast Ferry?
If you’re planning a Philippines trip to include visiting Coron Island, you can travel by fast ferry between El Nido and Coron.
There are some important details you should know about the ferry journey:
- The average duration of the ferry journey is four hours. The departure times are around 07:00 am or 12:00 pm.
- There are three different fast ferry companies: Montenegro Lines, Jomalia, and Phimal. You can purchase ferry tickets either online or through an agent when you arrive there. In any case, you should book your ticket at least four days in advance; otherwise, you cannot find an available ticket.
- Attention: There are also other companies operating slower ferries – Bunso and Jessabel. It is claimed to be a 5-hour journey, but it actually takes at least 7 hours, and it is more uncomfortable. I suggest you be careful when booking.
- The ticket price for the fast ferry is $ 36 per person one way. A commission may be added to the price, depending on the agent you book. You also need to pay ₱20 ($0.4) Harbor Tax pp before entering the terminal, whether you get from El Nido or Coron.
- You must be ready at the terminal one hour before the departure time.
- There is nothing but chips to eat inside the ferry. I advise you to grab some snacks before departure.
- You might suffer from seasickness during rough weather. You may want to consider taking seasickness pills or eating some ginger.
- It is freezing cold inside Montenegro Lines because of the AC. You should travel with your heavy clothes on.
- Do not expect to find European standards everywhere. You might confront a lack of water in restrooms. (In the Philippines, it’s called as Comfort Room or CR)
Where to Buy Ferry Tickets From Coron to El Nido?
- Click here for Jomalia
- Click here for Phimal
- Montenegro Lines does not sell tickets on their website. You can use the following sites below:
Montenegro Lines is the oldest company yet operates fast ferries with AC. Therefore we booked our tickets from Montenegro Lines online. We brought the ticket printouts with us. With these ticket printouts, we obtained our original tickets from the Montenegro Lines office in Coron.
Which Is the Best Way to Get to El Nido?
If you’re planning a short-term Philippines trip such as one week or ten days,
if you will only visit El Nido in the Philippines,
if you are not used to long journeys,
if you are traveling with a child,
if you are not worried about your budget, then go directly by plane without thinking. Keep in mind that you have to spend a whole day on the road in case you choose a van or ferry. Neither ferry nor road transportation is really comfortable at all.
If you have plenty of time,
if you are trying to find the most affordable option,
if you are thinking of visiting other parts of Palawan Island (such as Port Barton, Puerta Princesa Underground River),
if Coron Island is included in your itinerary, you can consider the minivan and fast ferry alternatives.