After a very chilled three night stay in Port Barton we decided it was time to move on and see what all the fuss was about in El Nido. Following the rough mini-bus trip from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton, we weren’t feeling enthusiastic about the long bus journey ahead of us. We saw local jeepney buses scooting locals around the island and thought the open sides might help levitate any motion sickness – plus they look like great fun to travel around in! So we decided to try our hand in getting all the way from Port Barton to El Nido via local buses, instead of a stuffy little mini van.
Not only did none of us get motion sick but we also had loads of space to spread out, we felt alive from the breeze coming into the bus AND saved some Pesos by travelling the local way. So if you’re wanting a local way of travelling to El Nido, or simply looking to find the cheapest way to travel from Port Barton to El Nido, then this is the way to do it!
Travel from Port Barton to El Nido, Palawan
Palawan has a main highway, which is a mostly tarmacd road that connects the southern city of Puerto Princesa to the Northern tourist hub of El Nido. Port Barton is a still relatively quiet beach town and not yet on the main tourist trail around Palawan. As a result, the side road which links Port Barton to the main highway has poor infrastructure and is little more than a dirt track.
The total distance from Port Barton to El Nido is 179.9km and can take anywhere between 5-6 hours to travel.
How to get from Port Barton to Roxas
To take local buses from Port Barton to El Nido you will need to split up the journey as there is no local bus that goes the whole route. The first part of the journey is from Port Barton to Roxas and for this part of the trip you will travel in a jeepney. The daily Port Barton to Roxas bus leaves at 8am(ish). Our host helped us book the jeepney to come pick us up the night before (your accommodation should be able to do the same). There is only one jeepney a day so if you want to travel by local bus to El Nido, you will need to book it the night before.
Roxas is a small Filipino town on the highway connecting Puerto Princesca and El Nido. It’s only 37.2km from Port Barton but due to the poor road quality this part of the journey can take anywhere upwards of an hour and a half to two hours (for us it took about 1.5 hrs). The local jeepney bus from Port Barton to Roxas costs 150 pesos (£2.10 / $2.90).
NOTE: If you were thinking similar to us that you might be able to hire a bike in Roxas to drive the rest of the route to El Nido then be warned that there are no motorbike rentals on offer in Roxas, only motorbikes for sale and repair shops.
Getting from Roxas to El Nido
Upon arrival in Roxas there were a number of different buses on offer – both minivans and local buses going in all directions. It would have been easy to get straight onto another bus if we has been pressed for time!
After a quick wander around the town to pick up some snack supplies we were able to hop aboard a local Cherry bus from Roxas to El Nido. This wasn’t the tourist Cherry bus which comes with AC, but the local one which has open windows and lots of empty benches to stretch out on. It even had a TV playing recent movie as entertainment.
This part of the trip from Roxas to El Nido was much smoother and had a few rest stops where you could get out for snacks and the bathroom. This second part of the journey from Port Barton to El Nido took 3.5 hours including the stops and cost us 170 pesos (£2.40 / $3.30). From our experience the local Cherry bus left from Roxas Bus Station at 10:45, though I imagine a more accurate timing would be 10:30.
The cheapest way to travel from Port Barton to El Nido: Jeepney + Local Bus
The jeepney bus cost us 150 pesos, plus the onward bus to El Nido costing 170 pesos gave us a total trip cost of 320 pesos per person (only £4.50 / $6.20 ). That’s 180 pesos (£2.50/$3.50) cheaper than getting the minibuses which are quoted at 500-600 pesos per person from Port Barton to El Nido. Its also substantially cheaper than getting a boat to El Nido priced over 1000 pesos per person. This makes taking the local bus the cheapest way to travel to El Nido from Port Barton.
You aren’t going to save mega bucks by doing this but considering the lack of ATMs in Port Barton it might be a great way of making your cash stretch a bit further until you get to the next ATM.
All in all, our experience of taking the local buses to El Nido was great fun! We would definitely recommend it!
What is your preference: Locals buses for a more interesting experience but longer journey or a minibus that will take you there more efficiently but cost more?
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For more on Philippines:
- Sleeping in a Treehouse in Port Barton (coming soon)