Travel Budget: El Nido

I’m back in Manila and I’m sorely missing the beach in El Nido. I’ve prepared a series of blog posts about this trip, and I hope you guys find it useful for planning your own El Nido vacation. First up is of course, the travel budget.

The perception of many is that El Nido is a very expensive place to travel to. It actually is, considering that direct flights to El Nido from Manila can cost as much as Php 13,000 per person. The cheaper alternative is to go via Puerto Princessa, but you’d have to deal with rough roads and cramped spaces inside vans or buses (or if you’re hardcore, saddled on an off-road motorcycle). The best place to stay for budget travelers is El Nido Town. There are several resorts and lodges that offer cheap accommodation to fit every budget. The same go for restaurants and shops.

El Nido’s main attraction, of course, are the spectacular limestone formations and sparkling white sand beaches of the islands in the Bacuit Archipelago. To visit these islands, you can either hire your own boat or go with a group tour. The group tour aren’t so bad, and they’re usually limited to about 8 to 10 passengers. If you’re a fairly large group (5 and up), you can try sweet talking the tour operator to let your group have the entire boat to yourselves. Tour of the islands usually start at Php 500 per person and already includes lunch.

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This is certainly not my cheapest domestic trip, but considering that it’s a 5 day, 4 nights trip in one of the most amazing places in the Philippines, it’s worth every peso.

El Nido 2010
February 24 – 28, 2010

Air and Land Transfers
Seair PHP 0.00 1

Manila Airport Terminal Fee PHP 200.00
El Nido Airport Terminal Fee PHP 112.00

Taxi to and from Manila Domestic PHP 390.00
Tricycle to and from El Nido Airport PHP 400.00 2

Marina Garden Beach Resort
Deluxe room, 2,250 per night PHP 3,426.00 3
Php 320 per night for extra person

Food expenses
Meals, snacks and drinks PHP 1,250.00 4

Island hopping tours PHP 1,290.00 5
Environmental fee PHP 200.00 6
Snorkel and mask rental PHP 175.00
Souvenirs PHP 110.00
Other things I will not enumerate PHP 61.00

Total PHP 7,614.00

1 Thank you, Seair! Flying with Seair to El Nido is the easiest way to go to the island. They offer two direct flights a week: Wednesday and Sunday. To maximize your stay in beautiful El Nido, take the Wednesday morning flight to the island, then take the Sunday afternoon flight back to Manila.
2 Unless you have a pick up from your resort, the only means of getting into town from the airport is via tricycle. It’s pricey, specially since the most that one trike can carry is 2 passengers plus their luggage. But it’s a rather comfortable ride, since you have the trike to yourself, instead of squeezed in with a bunch of strangers and their bulky backpacks and suitcases.
3 Admittedly not the cheapest accommodation in El Nido town, but the resort has the best stretch of beach for sunbathing and swimming. The room rate is good for 2, and you’ll have to pay additional fees for the extra bed and breakfast if there’s three or four of you sharing the room.
4 Includes 2 relatively expensive meals and several cups of dirty ice cream and Choco Mucho.
5 We were able to get a Tour A package for Php550 each (plus Php 50 each for tip to the guide and boatman) and a Tour C package for Php650 (additional Php 40 each for supposedly extra trip to Snake island but ended up in Ipil 2 beach instead)
6 What I like about El Nido is that the environmental fee for ALL island is just Php 200 per person and it’s good for up to 10 days. If you’re just staying in the town, there’s no fee.
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El Nido.xls (10k)
El Nido.pdf (62k)

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 14 Comments
  1. chyng says:

    wow, you also went to El Nido. Kainggit! Based on the expenses, mura lang pala. I thought very expensive sa El Nido.

    which is better, El Nido or Coron?

  2. An earlier edition of LP Philippines raved so much about the Bacuit archipelago that there was a line saying “dare we say it: it’s way better than Vietnam’s Halong Bay and Thailand’s Krabi”.

  3. nina says:

    Chyng: Expensive ang El Nido if you’re flying and staying at the El Nido Resorts. But there’s a cheaper alternative naman to go there (via Puerto Princessa/Taytay/Roxas), and if you stay in El Nido town. Between El Nido and Coron, it’s El Nido hands down. I love how I can just walk to the beach and swim in El Nido. You can’t do that in Coron.

    The Nomadic Pinoy: I can’t say it’s better than either one of those because I haven’t been there yet. But I’ll see if it is, when I go to those places in June ;)

  4. Bryan Karl says:

    Palawan seems to be a good place for vacation. And based on your budgeting mukhang ok naman. Worth it talaga siguro. I’ll wait for the right time to travel nalang. And I’ll keep that budget info on hand. thanks!

  5. Nikki says:

    Hi Nina!

    Our common friend, (demented)Chris, pointed me to your travel blog, because I asked for tips for Palawan travel. :) Thing is, it’s not exactly for me (for some visiting relatives, who are all adults), so…

    I was just wondering:
    1. Do you know of flights to El Nido in November?
    2. Are there are activities, like snorkeling or cave tours or dolphin watching, available in the El Nido area?
    3. Which would you recommend, El Nido or Puerto Princesa?

    I hope to hear from you soon. Hehe. Thanks! :)

  6. Chichi says:

    We spent almost the same amount, although mine included Puerto Princesa. I’ll post a detailed expense report on our blog soon…

  7. nina says:

    Chichi: Looking forward to your 7K challenge results! :D Definitely mas win yan kasi kasama Puerto Princessa!

  8. Jackie Menor says:

    Hello. I am from USA and coming to Philippines in August for a short vist to see family. I would like to visit El Nido for about 3-4 days before flying to Laoag area. Is August a good time to visit El Nido? Will there be flights during the month of August? Is 3-4 day enough time to see the highlights of El Nido?

    • nina says:

      Hi Jackie, I have a friend who went there last July and he said the weather has been lovely. I’m not sure about August, but there might be some showers and gusts of wind. I’m not sure if Seair would have flights to El Nido during August, but ITI might have some. Otherwise, you’d have to fly to Puerto Princessa and ride a van to El Nido. Three to four days is enough for El Nido.

  9. karla says:

    i noticed that the plane fare’s zero… so you got a free flight? :)

  10. gideon300 says:

    Hi! Been dreaming and now planning for my trip to el nido. Here’s my plan. Want to go there by summer 2013 with a friend, and with my inflatable kayak. Our activitites will be island hopping mainly somewhere in Miniloc and Matinloc islands. I don’t intend to make reservations in resorts ‘coz our first option is to just camp by the beach on the first nights. Probably just walk-in on the next night to a cheaper room in one of the resorts just to have a shower and a decent food. Then next day will be paddling again, and so on….

    My questions are… where would I pay for environmental fee, or would we still obliged to pay even if we will not avail tour packages? Would the plane crew allowed us to carry around 25 kg inflatable kayak in a duffle bag?

    Tnx in advance

  11. Was just here last week for 6 days naman and naisipan ko lang dumaan dito sa blog mo hehe. Parang ganyan din range ng budget ko. A family hosted my stay for 4 nights, tipid sa accommodation, pero ang gastos ko sa food! HAHA I miss!

  12. cath says:

    Hi Nina! We’ll be in Palawan this Nov.21-26. 3-4 days sa Puerto Princessa and 2 days sa El Nido. May ma-recommend ka bang contacts/tours na SUPER affordable? Also, can you give more details dun sa island hopping mo? Thanks! :)

  13. Hello. San ka nag avail ng tours? :D Very informative post btw

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