El Nido is located in the north of Palawan, about 230 kilometers from Puerto Princesa. In this article, we will see how to travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. What is the fastest way? What is the cheapest way? And how to organize yourself so that you don’t have to wander around Puerto Princesa International Airport to find a van or a bus going to El Nido? I will answer all these questions – and a few others that might interest you as well. You will know how long it takes to go from “Puerto” to El Nido, how much it costs and who to contact to book your trip.
Note that we will only consider how to travel by land. There are no flights connecting Puerto Princesa and El Nido, and traveling by sea has very little interest (except if you fancy very long and very uncomfortable trips). But before seeing what are the specificities of traveling in Palawan by bus, by van or with a rental car, let’s answer a simple question…
How long does it take to go from Puerto Princesa to El Nido?
The time it takes to go from Puerto Princesa to El Nido mainly depends on which mean of transportation you’re using. To give you an overview, here is a table with an estimate of the travel time by mean of transportation, as well as the average price it will cost you:
|Mean of Transportation||Travel Time||Price|
|Van||5 to 6 hours||500 to 700PHP|
|Bus||6 to 9 hours||380 to 480PHP|
|Rental Car||Around 5 hours||2000 to 3500PHP/day|
As you can see, travel times range between 5 and 9 hours. If you checked on Google Map prior to reading this article, this could be a bit surprising for you as Google Map indicates a 2h59min road from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. But it obviously doesn’t take into account the state of the road, nor its numerous turns and hillsides. You just can’t drive at an average of 77kms/hour on this road. For a van or a car, the high average speed would be around 50kms/hour, and for a bus it’s as low as 30kms/hour.
That being said, let’s have a closer look to every traveling option you have to go from “Puerto” (the local nickname of Puerto Princesa) to El Nido, with their pros and their cons.
The Van: The Most Popular Way To Rally El Nido, Palawan
For tourists, the van is probably the most popular way of going between El Nido and Puerto Princesa. There are several companies commuting the two towns and each one of them runs several trips a day. Here are the two main ones: Eulen Joy and Lexus Shuttle.
As you’ll step foot outside of the Puerto Princesa Airport, you’ll probably be approached by van drivers asking you if you need a ride to El Nido. So, in a way, you won’t have to look for a van… But there are a few things to take into account.
What is the normal price for a van ride?
People who are used to taking the van between Puerto Princesa and El Nido (locals and expats) will generally get a fare of 500PHP (or even a bit lower). But the prices asked to tourists can be a bit higher. They generally range from 600 to 700PHP.
What are the van schedules?
After you booked your ticket, you could suppose that you’ll be going soon. But you have to be aware that, most of the time, the van company will wait until the van is fully book to start going. Sometimes, you may even have to wait a few hours (basically, until the next flight has arrived) which can a bit be frustrating. Unfortunately, nobody will tell you that prior to booking.
Can they come pick you up at your hotel?
Some van shuttle companies can come to pick you up at your hotel in Puerto Princesa. This is normally the case of Lexus Shuttle. The most tricky part is to contact them without having to go to the San Jose bus terminal (from where Lexus Shuttle operates).
How goes the trip?
The trip follows Puerto Princesa North Road, which goes though Roxas, San Vicente and Taytay. You will then ride along the Taytay-El Nido Highway (which, as of now, is not fully finished yet). About half-way, near Roxas, the van will stop in a “canteen” where you will be able to eat some typical Filipino food.
After 5 to 6 hours, you’ll arrive to Corong-Corong bus terminal, which is just a few minutes away from El Nido town proper. You can take a tricycle from there. It’s preferable to avoid walking to El Nido town (especially at night) as there are no sidewalks. Walking on the road is both disturbing for the drivers and exposing you to serious accidents.
Is the van ride confortable?
The van companies tend to fit a maximum of people into one van, sometimes adding removable extra seats. It’s not rare to have 13 to 14 people into one van, driver included. So, if you’re 6 feet tall and stuck in the last seat row, you won’t be very confortable – notably because you won’t have much space for your legs. Here are a few tips for tall people…
The best seats in the van are in the front seat (it’s perfect for a couple, for example) and in the first seat row behind the driver where you will have more space for your legs. Note that these seats are generally the fastest to be taken. Thus, if you’d like to have them, you should ask if they’re still available before booking and duly specify you want to sit there.
Most of the vans are air-conditioned (and sometimes even a bit too cold!). Their general confort depends on their age and on the model. For sure, a 20 years-old van will be less confortable than a brand new. If you’re really picky on that kind of stuff, you can still ask to see the van before booking!
How to book a public or private van?
El Nido Paradise now offers online booking for your van transfer from Puerto Princesa to El Nido or for your van transfer from El Nido to Puerto Princesa. You can access it through the online booking section.
If you’re traveling as a group, you can book a private van. The cost is around P6,000 in total and you can now reserve your private van online by clicking here for a private van to go to El Nido, or there for a private van going to Puerto Princesa.
The Bus: The Cheapest Way (But Is It Really?)
This is the second most popular way for travelers to go from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. There are two companies you can choose from: Roro Bus and Cherry Bus. Both companies operate from the San Jose Bus Terminal, which is 7 kilometers away from the airport. Here is the location on the map.
How much does it cost to get to the San Jose Bus Terminal?
There is a 10 to 20 minutes (depending on traffic) tricycle ride to go from Puerto Princesa Airport to the Bus Terminal. The last time I checked, the official price (displayed inside the tricycle) was of 120PHP. For Philippines, this is an expensive ride. You may get it cheaper or be able to share the cost if you are two or three in the tricycle.
What are the bus fares to go to El Nido?
The bus fares range from 380-385PHP for a normal Roro or Cherry bus to 480PHP for an air-conditioned Cherry bus. The prices depend on the model of the bus. They stay the same, no matter the hour of the day or night.
How goes the bus travel to El Nido?
There are buses going to El Nido every one or two hours during the day. These are the one that can take the up to 8 or even 9 hours. The reason is simple: during daytime they make a lot of stops along the road, especially at the hours when school starts and finishes.
In Philippines, you basically just have to stand along the road and wave to the driver to make a bus stop. When the kids are on their way to school or home, the bus will stop many times to pick and drop them off. You should also know that the bus allowance is not limited by the number of seats. Thus, on certain parts of the road, you can sometimes have almost as much people standing in the ally as there are people sitting.
After a time travel varying between 6 and 9 hours, you will arrive in Corong-Corong bus terminal, where you can take a tricycle to El Nido town proper.
Are there night buses?
You can get a night bus since the Roro company also operates during nighttime (the last and first departures should be at 10PM and 4AM). If you’re on a budget, this can be a way to save a night at the hotel. Plus, during the night the bus are usually not full and you may be able to get a seat row for yourself (which definitely is better to sleep). During the night, the ride to El Nido can take only 6 hours, because it will make only a few stops.
Comparing the bus and van costs for going to El Nido
Taking a tricycle to go from the airport to the bus terminal in San Jose (around 120PHP) is something you have to add to the total price. If you get a normal bus, it will add up to 500PHP. If you take an air-conditioned one, it will make a total of 600PHP. As you can see, a bus ride is not necessarily cheaper than a van ride. In any case, it will take you more time to arrive in El Nido.
Renting a vehicle to go from Puerto Princesa to El Nido
You can find companies to rent a car or a motorbike in Puerto Princesa. Prices for a motorcycle (type Honda XRM 125) will be around 500PHP/day, and a little bit lower if you rent for a longer time. More powerful models will be more expensive, around 800PHP to 1000PHP/day. To rent a car that you’ll be able to drive on all roads up to El Nido, count on 2500 to 4000PHP/day, depending on the model. Driving a car between Puerto Princesa and El Nido can definitely be something you’ll enjoy: the road has very beautiful parts. If you’d like to book a rental car in Puerto Princesa, it’s now possible with our online tool. Just click here to do so: Rent a Car in Puerto Princesa.
Is it a good idea to rent a motorbike to drive until El Nido?
It clearly depends on your motorbike skills. 5 hours on a motorbike can be a exhausting (I did it several times on a XRM 125, so I speak from experience…), especially for a non-expert driver. Above all, you must be aware of the dangers on Palawan roads. There are a LOT of stray dogs and they probably are the first cause of motorbike accidents in Philippines. My only advice is that you drive carefully. And know that if you enjoy riding a motorbike, there are plenty of places you can rent one from in El Nido, starting with our booking (which is located just in front of the Altrove pizzeria).
We didn’t speak here of the other ways to come to El Nido (airplane and ferry) and only focused on how to come from Puerto Princesa. The best option is probably to take a van from Puerto Princesa airport. Taking a bus or renting a car can also be interesting solutions, depending on your budget and the time you arrive in Puerto Princesa.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or to send us a message from our contact page. Also, don’t hesitate to check our page on El Nido island hopping Tours and our all-inclusive (transportation, accommodation and island hopping tours) El Nido Tour Packages. I hope this article was helpful and wish you the best stay in El Nido!