The Bus Mafia in El Nido, always the same

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 5th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Philippines.
Bus mahem in El Nido

Bus mahem in El Nido

El Nido to Puerto Princesa – I’ve traveled this route many times. My last would be no less typical.

The choices are: book a mini van for 600, or take the bus for 300. I was on the bus.

I was there and ready at 6am for a 7am kick off. And already problems. It was broken down.

The thing is with El Nido is –  they know a tourist is completely stuck up there. And, they usually have a flight to catch later that day. So, if the bus breaks down, or is “over booked” a lot of people will pay for a mini van, or charter a private vehicle.

On this occasion the mini vans were already full. I also asked a local if everything was alright with the bus at about 6.15am. They confirmed it was broken, but strangely many people were still piling on board.

I approached the conductor. “You have another bus?”

He looked at me blankly.

“I live here long time my freind,” I scowled. “Where other bus?”

He tried to take my bag as a good will gesture and we walked to another stationary bus. Straight to the back row.

“Front seat taken?”

He gave me another blank look as I placed my bag on the vacant front seat next to the driver.

Outside there was minivan trouble. Two tourists showed up and were told there was an over booking for their minvan. There was another large group of tourists waiting at the office desk. The two tourists asked for another van, but there was none. The large group were all together. It would seem the two tourists had been pushed out so the van could take the larger single group.

Kicking aside a solo travelers seat for the chance of booking the whole van for a group is quite a common thing up here.

The couple managed to get their money back with no problem, and then ended up on my bus by the sheer luck that it was beside them.

Over the next hour I watched as some people dribbled over to my new bus. Others still packed into the old broken one. Then as the driver got in beside me the commodtion began as someone made the annoncement. Within minutes the former bus was evacuated and the new bus was brimming with people.

I looked back as a small group of tourists showed up just before 7am. They were not happy. They had prebooked tickets, but in El Nido that doesn’t matter.

The remain few tourist stood around bewildered as our bus slowly moved forward in silence. A new bus would be resurrected from somewhere for them, but only if there were enough people. Or a minivan would appear at a price to offer a ride.

Meanwhile our silent new bus soon spluttered to life. A 50 foot push start was the start of my journey back to the capital of my short term island home.

Coming Soon:

My clash with the backpackers … what’s desert island life done to me??

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3 Great responses to The Bus Mafia in El Nido, always the same

  1. jessiev says:

    interesting, the ways things work. i bet a lot of people are clueless.

  2. Chris says:

    Something like that happened to us while in Thailand. At first I was nervous but after my girlfriend (Marta) asked me if I would rather be at work instead of waiting for their bus, my state of mind completely changed, I then happily waited for it.

    • -jessiev- Takes a while to see the scams. If I’d not been there for so long I might have fallen myself. Only here, there’s not much choice :)

      -Chris- Yep, there are much worse places to be in alight! Though still it’s good to keep eyes in the back of your head I feel. Takes time, and soon you get used to the majority of scams. Always pays to remember them, and take your time rather than rush at bus stops. Its the people rushing at borders, or bus stops that the taxi/bus mafia target more than the go slow and take your time types ;) (at least that’s what I’ve experienced!)