Travel Information/Getting Here
Jenny in Australia, via email
If you first fly into Manila Philippines as many travelers do, Cebu’s Mactan International Airport is a 1hr.10min. flight south from Manila, and there are many hotels to choose from in Cebu City, which is a 35 to 50 minute taxi ride - depending on traffic - from Mactan Int’l Airport in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu. (I've flown USA to Manila on a few different carriers, and on Cathay Pacific Airlines via their hub in Hong Kong, and CP is my personal airline of choice)
Over the past 3+ years I've chosen to stay with Cathay Pacific, as they take care of you with a superior level of service and hospitality like a 5 star hotel would, and the total flying experience with Cathay Pacific is simply the best (the CP fares are some of the very best available, the planes are new & spotlessly clean, the meals are terrific, all amenities are at your disposal on the jet, and Cathay's Customer Service is second to none)
I also recommend Plaza Premium & Travelers Lounge at Hong Kong Int'l Airport, for everything you'll need inbetween your connecting flights: wonderfull meals, relaxing & well furnished seating areas, 4 terminal internet cafe plus WiFi for your notebook, shower & comfortable sleeping rooms, day spa & more. (Plaza Premium Lounges are also at the Int'l airports of Vancouver, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Beijing Capitol Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun Airport)
It's also possible to fly directly into Mactan Intl. Airport Cebu on many International Airlines, as well as from many Philippine Domestic Airports within Luzon, The Visayas & Mindanao, and if you need specific recommendations on hotels in Metro Manila or Cebu City, please contact me.
Domestic Flights: Manila to Cebu
If for example, you fly into Manila and then need a quick 1hr. 10min. flight to Cebu, there are many travel agencies all over Metro Manila (as well as Cebu City) that can ticket you in a heartbeat, as you can walk in & request a same day flight, and the most popular domestic carrier is Cebu Pacific, and they offer good service, new planes and many flights per day from Manila to Cebu beginning around 5:30am and running every 90 minutes or so, into the evening, and you can even book online at:
Cebu Pacific's prices for 1-way flights are aprox. P1,600 (Promo Rate) up to aprox. P5,000 and most flights fall between P3,000 & P4,000…the earlier you book, the better the rates can be.
Other domestic carriers are Philippine Airlines & Air Philippines - infact, the lowest price I ever paid for a Manila to Cebu ticket was a P900 Promo Fare on Air Philippines in Nov.2006.
Please see my section on Travel Agents.
After Landing in Cebu:
Inside Tip: Metered & Fix Price Taxis @ Mactan Airport, Cebu: As you exit the Domestic Terminal in Cebu, all the taxis you'll see are FIXED PRICE at rates up to P500/P750+, so if you want a METER taxi at a better price you'll have to walk accross the pavement and up the stairs accross the street (the Security Guards can direct you) to get in line for a metered taxi at aprox. P150 - P250 depending on your hotel destination and traffic.
The currency in Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP) and the US Dollar exchange rate has recently been hovering around mid 40's; Pesos to the US Dollar [August 1, 2010 rate at 45.54 Pesos to the Dollar]
$100USD gets you aprox. P4,554 and you can change a small amount of currency in the airport for taxis & incidentals, then your hotel can direct you to where the Money Changers are, to get the better exchange rates.
North Bus Terminal Via taxi from Cebu City: make sure it’s a METERED taxi to avoid a price gouge, and insist the driver actually uses the meter (if not, just get another taxi; there's plenty to choose from without a long wait time)
Go to the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City near SM Mall: modern Ceres Coach Busses run all day at aprox. P70 to P80 from very early in the morning, to the port town of Hagnaya in northern Cebu, and from there you'll hop a 75min. Ferry to Bantayan Island.
Aircon Busses currently run only occassionally from Cebu City - Non Aircon Busses run all day long.
Holy Week 2010 pricing for these non aircon busses was P150, so expect aprox. the same for Holy Week 2011.
Security Note: as your taxi pulls into the North Bus Terminal, be sure to pay your driver right before the taxi comes to a stop - and exit your taxi quickly to get to your luggage in the trunk, as Porters/baggage handlers will see your taxi pulling in, and will swarm it hoping to wrangle your luggage for a fee (this is a normal occurrence)
…if you don’t do this quickly, you may find your luggage has already been removed from the trunk, and is en-route to the busses before you’ve even exited your taxi - worse case, you may not recover your luggage at all.…have the driver keep the trunk closed until after you exit the taxi and are ready to wrangle your own luggage, then decide if you need help from the baggage handlers...if they become insistant with you, just tell them 'NO' firmly.
Look for the yellow & white CERES modern aircon coaches, marked HAGANYA in the windshield - step in & ask the driver to confirm Hagnaya/Bantayan Island.
* Travel time is generally 3 hours (on rare occasions 2:45min) including the 10 minute stop in Carmen Cebu for a restroom break, food & refreshments.
So if you're on a 7am bus, you'll arrive Hagnaya by 10am, in time for the 10:30am Super Shuttle Ferry to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island - you’ll dock at the Port of Santa Fe at aprox. 11:45am and can be at most hotels by about 12noon/12:15pm just in time for check in.
* Note: The Ceres Bus schedules are subject to changes (most times departing at 30-45min. intervals) so just arrive early and ask for the next bus, then get a breakfast sandwich from the Dunkin Dounts booth there & relax. (busses have been known to leave as early as 4am for Bantayan right before Holy Week begins in April)
Please be advised that these busses tend to fill up quickly during Peak Season & Weekends, and once seats run out they'll sell the isles as standing room so it's going to be cramped - I suggest arriving early to get a seat by the exit doors, so you can be first on/first off - and you may also want to consider buying the empty seat or seats next to you if you'd like a bit more room for you & your bags (be advised, bus seats are small)
Security Note: If you’re traveling alone with luggage that’s been loaded into the bays under the bus, you’ll need to stay with that luggage and not leave it unattended while the bay is open, instead of sitting onboard waiting to leave. And yes - that means physically standing outside by the bay doors until the driver closes & locks that bay.
Remember, you’re still in Cebu City - things happen, so don’t let them happen to you.
Same goes for luggage stored inside the bus in the overhead bins - if you’d like to step off the bus (to go to the CR/comfort room/restroom or to get a soda or newspaper in the Terminal a few feet away) after you’ve chosen your seat, take your gear with you.
However with 2 or more people traveling together, securing your gear & luggage is easier as one person can stay with the luggage while the other steps away to get snacks or use the CR (if you dare) that’s all the way at the rear of the Terminal.
Keep in mind, the last Ferry Boat from Hagnaya to Santa Fe leaves at 5:30pm, so don't take a North Terminal bus later then 2pm, or you might be stuck in Hagnaya for the night. * If you get stuck in Hagnaya, there's a small Pension House there by the Pier with very small, plain rooms for aprox. P300 a night, but don't expect any amenities at that price; it's better to stay in Bogo - a few minutes ride from Hagnaya.
Taxis from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port:
Hire a Taxi to drive you all the way in comfort to Hagnaya for aprox. P2,000.
There's MORE Taxi Information & Tips in the VISUAL FAQ here, and I suggest choosing the car carefully & make sure it looks brand new (some taxis are quite beat up with bald tires & poor aircon; you obviously don't want those) and even better are the new late model KIA & TOYOTA SUV's (bigger then a sedan taxi but smaller then a full size van) with more room for passengers & luggage, and you can simply stand outside your hotel and have your pick of any of these taxis that drive by & honk at you for a fare - it's a buyers market here, as they chase YOU (I'd offer them P1,800/P2,000 plus lunch in Carmen Cebu at the bus stop, and P2.5k for the KIA SUV's - that formula seems to work for most people I know)
Tell them the deal is 1/2 payment at the start of the trip and the balance when they drop you in Hagnaya (this protects you during the trip if your driver 'goes bad' and starts asking for more money to continue the ride (don't ever let a driver tell you to also pay additional for his fuel - he knows fuel is his responsibility & is part of your negotiated fare) and although I've never had a driver 'go bad' from Cebu City to Hagnaya, I have had this happen elsewhere in Cebu)
V-Hire Vans: I personally don't use the V-Hire 12 passenger Vans anymore from Cebu City to Hagnaya, as they will wait for the van to fill up before deciding to leave, and they also over-sell the capacity for a very cramped ride priced at about twice the non-aircon buss fare...on the other hand, you can hire the entire van "special trip" for yourself & companions at aprox. P2,000, and about P3k if that van is obviously brand new in show room condition.
An entire V-Hire Van ('special trip'/just you & your group) can be had for about P2,000 at the Port in Hagnaya Cebu, for your trip back to Cebu City when it's time to leave Bantayan Island (be sure to negotiate the price with the driver only & not with the Porters) and if you're really lucky you might be able to get a taxi in Hagnaya (if you spot one who's just dropped off passengers) for about P800/P900 or so, back to Cebu City.
* If you're curious as to what the actual taxi meter will read from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port, it's normally between P850 & P950, depending on traffic.
* Annoying Porters & Negotiating Taxis & V-Hires at Hagnaya Port: Avoiding the Stress
Make sure you always talk directly to the vehicle DRIVER ONLY, as a select group of Baggage Porters may barge in and loudly attempt to negotiate/renegotiate the vehicle & price with you, so don't let them waste your trip time.
Unless you want your price negotiations interrupted by a dozen Porters (who all want a piece of the action because they all think you're a BANK), ID the actual driver and walk him away from the Porters to negotiate your price - you need to verbally take control of the situation & conversation by speaking only to the driver & by firmly telling any Porter who interrupts you to stop - look them in the eye, tell them to go away (you may have to repeat yourself more than once) and they'll leave you alone.
We understand that the Porters are just trying to earn their money, and there's nothing wrong with that at all, especially when there are Porters you can choose who greet you with a smile, treat you like Family and are truly helpfull.
But specifically concerning those Porters who are overly aggressive and intrusive, always remember you CAN be civil yet FIRM with them at the same time; and believe me this always works when you need to save your time & your money and you don't want headaches from people who you are not specifically doing business with.
Don't ever let a Baggage Porter or group of Porters interrupt your personal business and negotiate anything for you except carrying your bags - further more, unless you're traveling with a half dozen pieces of luggage, just carry your own bags - if they were to drop a bag of yours & break something of value inside, you'd end up giving yourself a huge headache trying to get the matter resolved, so it's always better to avoid the stress & confrontation in the first place, so that your trip will go smoother and your time & money won't be wasted.
* Inside Tip: If you miss the last Ferry of the day you are NOT STUCK in Hagnaya:
Most people aren’t aware that there are Palm boats from Hagnaya Cebu to Santa Fe after the last Ferry leaves at 5:30pm - just ask around at the Pier, and fares can range from about P250 (typical fare for locals) to P500/P850+ depending on how many people show up, or if you hire the boat to transport you or your party only: 'special trip'
If You're Stuck at Hagnaya Port due to Bad Weather: if you find yourself stuck in Hagnaya because there are no boats operating to Santa Fe DUE TO BAD WEATHER: Get a 5 minute tricycle ride or a quick Bus ride to BOGO - there are hotels in Bogo with aircon rooms starting at P500.
DO NOT seek a room in the Ursal Building which is right in the middle of Hagnaya Port, unless you're willing to pay 5 times the standard price in Bad Weather (ie. P1,500 for their regular P300 small & wonky rooms)
Porters/Baggage handlers are available to carry your luggage on/off the bus - currently it's appropriate to give them P20 per mid sized bag (that's what locals are charged but expect them to ask for more, but I've already shown above why you should wrangle your own bags) and there are also plenty of vendors at the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City, where you can get coffee, soft drinks, snacks, phone loads, DVD/CD's etc., even Dunkin Donuts is there.
Hagnaya Port Area Ground Conditions: just be advised when you step off the bus here that the ground is dirt and sand, with uneven concrete surfaces in places - so your feet might get a bit dusty (not really a big deal) and if it's rained recently the ground will be muddy, so be prepared for muddy feet & luggage.
Driving your Car or Truck to Bantayan Island onboard the Island Shipping RORO Ferry:
You can for example, drive your Car or other vehicle from Cebu City or points elsewhere and get it onboard the Ferry in Hagnaya Cebu for P880 and a Pajero SUV onto the RORO Ferry (Roll On, Roll Off) for less than P1,500 and the complete price list for major vehicles is below:
In Hagnaya Cebu:
In Hagnaya, Ferry Boats run all day to Santa Fe on Bantayan Island starting at 5:30am, and please remember the last Ferry of the day leaves Hagnaya at 5:30pm.
Travel time for Island Shipping & Super Shuttle Ferries is aprox. 1hr. 15min.
Current Fares are P140 - P150 for a regular fare on the Island Shipping Ferries, and P150 to P170 for an aircon cabin (get a regular fare & enjoy the breeze)
*FastCraft: has not run since 2008 (excepting on Holy Easter Weekends)
* the terminal fee for leaving Hagnaya Port is now P10 in 2009.
* Movies are shown on most Ferries except the FastCraft, and drinks/snacks are available, as well as cold San Miguel beer.
Porters/Baggage handlers are available to carry your luggage on/off the boats here as well.
They can be very aggressive when coming aboard (sort of looks like a SWAT Raid by guys wearing green-blue 'Porter' t-shirts), so just smile & shake your head 'no thanks' if you're not going to be using them - if they become annoying or persistant, tell them 'NO' very firmly.
Also, don't be near the front of the line waiting to get off a fully loaded boat when it docks - the SWAT baggage handlers storm the plank and are climbing/tripping over people & baggage at this point, turning it into quite the little chaotic scene, so just stay clear.
There are also plenty of vendor stalls at Hagnaya Pier, where you can get BBQ, coffee, soft drinks, snacks, phone loads, before you board the boat.
At Santa Fe Pier, Bantayan Island:
* INSIDE TIP: Debus from the Ferry and if you have called ahead to your hotel (or arranged a vehicle pick-up) you're all set.
They can pick you up in a vehicle right at the boat, as long as you’ve told them specifically “do not wait for me in the car park - please drive your vehicle past the Security Guard’s Gate and fetch me along side the Ferry” - otherwise it’s a much longer walk to beyond the Terminal as pictured, to the very crowded car park where all vehicles will normally park to wait for you. (this is exactly what I do, and 99 percent of all other travelers are not even aware of en-bussing/de-bussing this way)
This will save you a HUGE amount of time and get you to your hotel quicker.
Otherwise walk towards the Terminal, to the left under the canopy up to the area where tricycle drivers will be waiting to take you to your hotel, or wherever you want to go.
Tricycle/trisikad Fares (motorcycle w/small side car & bicycle w/side car)
Officially, local tricycle/trisikad fares for running around within Santa Fe to most hotels/restaurants around town begin at P5 per person, and increase in P5 increments depending on distance.
* from Santa Fe Pier to your hotel in town, some travelers give up to P20 or P50 per person with luggage; a bit more if you have bigger luggage - If you're not sure what to pay from where you are to where you're going, just ask inside a bakeshop or sari-sari store at Santa Fe Pier what the proper cost should be, before getting into a tricycle.
Along that walkway, you'll also be bombarded by "canvassers" holding photos of local hotels, with their rates, all trying to get you to choose a particular hotel - they get a small commission for that, but if you're not interested just smile & no thanks; walk past them - put your cell phone to your ear & pretend you’re taking a call, or else they might shadow you for the rest of the walk, trying to sell you.
The closest Hotels to the Pier are Santa Fe Beach Club (right outside to the right) & HoyoHoy Resort (further up the road on the left) but the tricycle drivers will happily take you anywhere you’d like to go.
Don’t get into the conversation with your tricycle driver about renting motorcycles at this point, wait until you get to your hotel and ask where to rent motors for P300/P350 per day - you’ll be offered motors at P500 outside some hotels, but the real-world price is still P300/P350 - see the section on motorcycles below (hourly rentals are available at a couple of places for P50 to P70 per hour if this is what you require)
Ferry Boat Schedules: (times & fares always subject to change, and they do - so plan accordingly)
Hagnaya to Santa Fe:
Super Shuttle Ferry:
7am, 10:30am, 2:15pm *75 min. travel time.
Island Shipping Corp. (Island Express V, Island RORO I & RORO II)
630am, 9:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm & 5:30pm *all 75 minutes travel time, aprox.
* The Big Ship RORO II is "roll on, roll off" with a large access ramp that accomodates people, cars, motorcycles, trucks, etc.
Santa Fe to Hagnaya:
Fast Craft: P150 (out of service)
10:15am, 1:30pm, 4:30pm - 35-40 min. aprox. travel time.
Island Shipping Corp
(Island Express V, Island RORO I, Island RORO II)
5:00am, 7:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 3:00pm *all 75 minutes travel time, aprox.
Super Shuttle Ferry: - 75 min. travel time - at 8:30am, 12:30pm, 4pm
* Please Note:
The Ferry Boat times & fare prices are subject to change without notice, and they do.
Once in a while a boat is cancelled, taken out of service, or leaves 30 minutes earlier/later etc. sometimes frustrating locals & tourists, so it’s best to check ahead before departing Hagnaya, and vice/versa.
Hagnaya ticket booth: 032-435-2078
Santa Fe ticket booth: 032-438-0080
Cebu City Office: 032-422-6330 & 6331
Also, during Typhoons or windy weather causing high-seas - all boats to & from the Island are cancelled by the Coast Guard, and there’s nothing that can be done about that.
…boats resume once the storm passes and the seas calm down; that’s a part of “Island Life” so we just learn to deal with it.
Ferry Boats to Bantayan Town Pier from Negros:
Ferry’s come & go to Bantayan from Cadiz & Sagay in northern Negros several times during the week - usually every other day for about P200 - departures on pump boats (3.5hrs./rougher ride) & big Ferries (4hrs/very smooth ride) from Negros are at 10am in Cadiz/Sagay, and those boats also depart Bantayan Town Pier at 10am bound for Negros.
* I personally recommend traveling via the larger/heavier Ferry, as opposed to the smaller pump boats - even at 50ft/60ft. long, these pump boats are in open water (deep water) - and are more suseptable to waves & high seas, and on occasion can be a very rough (read dangerous) ride.
Stay Safe: Always use common sence & pay attention to 'pre incident indicators': if any ship or boat does not appear to you as sea worthy, or if it looks obviously over crowded, or if high seas give you pause for thought, then don't get on (take another boat on another day or travel by other means)
Schedules & departure days sometimes do change, so you’ll need to check the day before, or just arrive early by 8:30am. and wing it. (in Bantayan Town, just ride up to the Pier and confirm when the boats are leaving/arriving)
* Ferry boats to Negros do not leave from Santa Fe Pier; they leave only from Bantayan Town Pier.
Typhoon/Inclement Weather Security Note: While on the Island during an approaching storm, you’ll need to stock up on drinking water, pre-paid phone loads, candles, dry goods, keep your cell phone fully charged, fuel up your motorbike and always have a top brand reliable flashlight/torch with you, and I’m not talking about a Mini MagLite (too dim & unreliable for serious Tropical use) with lo-power 1.5 volt Alkaline batteries (they self-discharge & can’t maintain their voltage and light output well enough to be considered totally reliable for emergency use here in the Tropics)
I personally use & recommend the best quality SureFire brand hi-power incandescent & LED (long run time) flashlights that are weather-sealed for harsh environments with 3 volt Lithium CR123 batteries that have a 10 year shelf life, and you can read about this essential travel tool below, made popular by Elite Military Units, Executive Protection, Law Enforcement.