I searched and I read the guide book. All made mention that the road from Sabang to El Nido was terrible. Some mentioned 16 hour trips of bum numbing hell. Others mentioned having to take 1 tricycle, a local bus, wait 2 hours at a cross road, then another 8 hours in an overcrowded bus to El Nido.
I pretty much gathered already from my 250 peso 5 hour trip to Brooke’s Point there was a great deal of untruth in all that. Something to do with El Nido being a tourist spot. Something to do with having arrived at Peurto Princessa’s Airport and hearing the “Elite Tourists” offering big money for flights to El Nido, or at worse chartering a private car.
I was not feeling so sick anymore when I reached the local Jeepney by the tourist office in Sabang. From asking around I was told the Jeepney goes to Peurto. 2.5 hours. Or, you can get of at Salvation Junction and wait for a bus that leaves Peurto to get there and take you to El Nido.
Getting to El Nido from Sabang
It was 6.15 am when I arrived at the jeepney in Sabang. It was departing at 7am. But, I got to see the sunrise, and grab a front seat. I was still feeling ill, and didn’t like the idea of being squashed into the back. At least this Jeepney had the side on seats changed to be like a bus, bigger too.
Then the crowds came. Tourists, locals and the odd dog and chicken. A few tourists tried to get on the roof. Why I don’t know. Well, yes I do. But good luck to them in the current heat and dust. And rain :)
The jeepney took off and the front window remained opened. And, jet more locals jumped on. This time, the sides, the front, the everywhere. The reason, free lift to the local school. Which = stop every 1.3 minutes for someone else to jump on.
School passed we continued on and the wind blasted in through the front screen. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know I have a chest infection, it was getting better …
My choice was simple. Get off at Salvation junction, and wait for an overcrowded public bus to El Nido to appear at some stage and spend an alleged 8 hours on it getting to El Nido.
Go straight to Peurto, and take a direct mini van to El Nido.
I had taken the number of the minivan company I used in getting to Brooke’s Point.
“Yes sir, bus leave at 10am.”
It was 8am. I had time. I figured that it was better going back to Peurto Princessa rather than waiting in the heat for an over crowded bus to El Nido. I really did not want to get sick again.
As we arrived at Puerto at 9.30 Dan Dan from the bus company gave me a big wave; he had reserved my seat on a mini van. Everything about Palawan being a nightmare to get around seemed a lie.
The mini van didn’t leave at 10am, it left when the driver had enough passengers to fill it up. Which he explained and apologized for once it was 10.30am. There were other minivans in the bus park leaving, but I was fine sitting there having an late breakfast.
11am we were off and the road was fine for the first 2 hours. Then it became rough. But in the air conditioned mini van it was absolutely no problem.
6 hours later and we were in El Nido. As I searched for a place to stay within my budget I caught a glimpse of some of the tourists who’d left Sabang that morning with me on the first jeepney, but got off at Salvation Junction for the local bus. They were also looking for a place to stay. They were fairly weather beaten looking and dusty, and must have just arrived as well.
I have no problem taking local buses. In fact 98% of my travel is on local transport. But sometimes, especially when your sick it makes sense to go another route. This time it did.
Below are some of the times, and prices for the Sabang . Peurto Princesa to El Nido journey:
Peurto Princesa to Sabang (local big bus) – time 2.5 hours. Cost 150 pesos. Leaves 7am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and or when it’s full.
Sabang to Salvation Junction (jeepney bus) – time 1.5 hours. Cost 100 pesos. Leaves 7am or when full, can be earlier.
Salvation Junction to El Nido (local bus) – time 8 hours (break downs and punctures aside). Cost 300 pesos. Leaves whenever it gets there.
Peurto Princesa to El Nido (mini van a/c) – time 6 hours. Cost 600 pesos. Leaves every 2 hours on average.
There are also boats plying this route. But they can get expensive as 1,500 peso to 2,000 per person. Make sure your boat has plenty of life jackets, and take not of the time of year. The South China sea can get quite rough. The journey is around 6+ hours.
El Nido, is this what people call paradise? Maybe so …