Thousands of articles about Palawan travel guide abound in the net so here in my article I focus on mistakes to avoid when hitting Palawan. Palawan is an amazing, amazing island. Its got all the ingredients for the recipe to make the most beautiful island in the world. Emerald-hue waters, towering limestone cliffs, dishes that look weird you cannot believe that it taste delicious, secret beaches, lagoons here, there and everywhere, mix it all up, blend in its colorful people and their wide equally colorful tricycles and there you have it folks, the most beautiful island in the world.
Palawan is an island-province located in the south-west part of Luzon region of the Philippines. There are many ways to reach this beautiful elongated island reaching out to the most western part of the country. Palawan has 3 major international airports and major sea ports from the main Luzon island and is easily reached from Manila or from Cebu via domestic flights.
To get stoked when visiting the many vibrant towns of Palawan where you can count more foreign heads than locals, you need to avoid this top 5 mistakes. So read on!
Not bringing cash
Palawan maybe Philippines’ top drawing island and one of the more popular tourist destination in the country but everything here is kept simple. Most establishments and shops still transact on cash basis only. Puerto Prinsesa maybe OK because this is the island-provinces’ city capital and financial hub. But for the rest of this elongated island, mostly the rule is no plastics and its money down mah friend.
It so happened that I needed cash during my stay in El Nido. I found a bank with an ATM outside the branch office and for some reason known only to the lone guard of the bank, it cannot dispense cash. And it was the only ATM on that side of the island. Moral of the lesson? Don’t expect that lone ATM will work. Not when you’re in an island and in dire need of boardshorts.
Not joining a tour, any tour
The small islands scattered around the main island of Palawan is where the action is! You should join the many tours to enjoy what Palawan has to offer. But at the same time, expect to shell out about PHP1500 on the average, depending on the tour. Make sure to join the Puerto Prinsesa Underground River tour, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature!
When in Coron, join the tour that includes the snorkeling in Kayangan Lake, probably the most photographed lake in the world. I included the link for a travel guide to Coron. So if you want to include Coron in your Palawan itinerary, click the link below.
When in El Nido join the more popular Tour A and Tour C where you will be ferried to the secret beaches and beautiful lagoons. The tours in the entire town of El Nido is grouped into 4, Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D. I joined Tour A for PHP1000.00 (got a 20% discount from the hostel where I stayed) and summarized my fun experience in a 60 second video below.
Not being a local
The only way to experience Palawan, or any new destination for that matter, and see it from its authentic angle is being a local. Have a taste of the island’s street food or the meaty crocodile sisig served on a sizzling plate, take a ride in its roomy tricycles that lit up the streets at night with its colorful dancing neon lights. Walk its streets, shop from its many tiny and sometimes quaint souvenir shops and people watch from the many eateries and cafes in every corner.
Open your 5 senses when in Palawan. You’ll never know what will surprise you.
Doing too much in a day
Aside from the many tours with its fliers shoved under your hotel door and kiosk and banners that line the narrow crowded streets of El Nido, Coron or Sabang, there are also boatmen or tour operators that offer to take you to more island destinations during your island hopping tour for an additional fee, of course. This maybe tempting, assuming you are only staying for a few days in the island. Thinking that for PHP2000 the tour will take you to 7 islands, might as well take it since you’re already there, seated in his boat and in the middle of the sea.
But believe me when I say, that 5 destinations in a normal island hopping tour is enough to drain your body. You will realize this only after you get back to your hotel, tired and longing for a cool shower after the whole day tour under the baking sun.
Do not try to pack too much activity in a day. Like your phone and gadgets, your body needs to recharge at the end of the day too. If you’re hurrying yourself from one island to the next, posing only for photos and without any time to idle around and hopping off to the next, where’s the fun in that?
In the afternoon, I advise you to grab a seat facing the sea in the many resto-bars lining the beach, order the coldest beer they got and lazily watch the sunset.
Lastly, not doing enough research
Palawan is big island and there’s so much destination to choose from. If you have an itinerary of 5 days, getting to all the main tourist attractions may not be possible. Not unless you can teleport yourself to every one of them.
Travel time to from El Nido to Puerto Prinsesa is 6 hours. Give it an allowance of another hour for traffic and breaks. Of course the same thing from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido. Most vans leave El Nido on hourly basis starting from 5AM. So if you’re flying off from Puerto Prinsesa, do not, I repeat do not book your flight on the same day. This is to avoid the inconvenience of missed flights or messed up itinerary.
Travel time from Puerto Prinsesa to Sabang is around 1 hour and half. The road is really takes on many curves and zigzag roads. It can really be a nauseous ride for some. So if you’re one of those prone to motion sickness, pack your meds.
Boat trips from El Nido to Coron is easily booked anywhere too. Just walk along the Serena street in El Nido and approach the many tour shops lining the street.
These are the things that you have note for when planning your Palawan itinerary. I’ve heard of many stories of tourists missing their flights to Manila from Puerto Prinsesa because they took the same day land travel from El Nido. This is too risky if you ask me. Some of the van drivers will ask you when are you leaving Puerto Prinsesa so they can advise you on the timings and if you need to make changes with your itinerary.
Do a bit of research. Nothing rocket science, just be an informed traveller and you will appreciate the destination more.
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