How To Travel To A Philippine Paradise On A Budget: Coron, Palawan
Although I lived abroad and traveled around the Philippines throughout my time in the country, many of you don't know that I had little to no money and my savings quickly diminished. So apart from the beautiful sceneries and coconut drinks, you can help yourself imagine the type of travelling I was doing. BUDGET. I certainly never try to down myself for something little I had, instead stay strategic and positive in all aspects! So if you think you can’t reach any aspiring destinations without a 5K in your bank account - definitely in Southeast Asia, think again. Here is how I managed to stay afloat traveling to one of the country’s favourite paradise and picturesque beaches for 5 days; Coron Palawan.
After a trip I made to El Nido last year, I didn’t hesitate to jump back in Palawan to explore so much more of it this year. We had friends flying in and decided to explore together. Coron seemed the perfect place to visit with our limited budget and time. From Manila, we took the 2Go Ferry to Coron port that took nearly 13 hours overnight which is the cheapest and less hassle way to reach the island. You get a simple evening meal with all ticket type and a bed with a pillow and blanket. We experienced both Tourist and Economy tickets. The difference between the two are, the Tourist ticket, you have a bed inside with the AC and the beds are in bunkbeds with a little more privacy. The Economy ticket gets you a metal railed bunkbeds either outside with no AC or around open areas near the exits of the ferry. The ferry offers many things, sit in restaurant, salon, gift shops and entertainment. We spent some days on the island in Coron town and did the activities of island hopping with a tour group of the “Ultimate Tour” included with delicious fresh local food! We also did some more island hopping the following day with a private boat to see another island to stay in for the entire afternoon until sundown excluding meals. Luckily, there’s a food market at the port so we got ourselves some last minute lunch. This was a great option for us. And with enough research on the islands and which ones are popular and worth staying longer in, it’s definitely best to rent a private boat with your group; either prepare your own food or negotiate with your tour guide with a meal for your party. That way, you have more flexibility visiting the islands.
During our stay on the island, we decided to rent motor bikes to go on the other side of the island to a local beach called Marcilla Beach. That idea was very last minute but we were determined to take on a trip we knew would probably go sideways for us. We spent almost 2 hours through dusty and unpaved roads through towns and cashew nut farms and nearly got lost on our way. On the way back, we tried to get ahead before sun down but still managed to drive through narrow dusty roads in the dark and fortunately found gas for the bike, afraid we were going to run out. Quite a thrilling experience to bike through the island after dark but I would definitely not recommend it as it could be very tiring.
In comparison to El Nido, Coron town is definitely much more developed with a lot more bars and restaurants to go around and see along with other main island sight seeing like Mount Tapyas and local hot springs, plus more. Mount Tapyas was near the town proper so we asked around for directions and reached it by foot. The views were definitely breathtaking - literally, after walking up hundreds of those stairs. We intended to arrive at dusk so we would watch the sunset from the top and it turns out, everyone did the same! The Coron sunset from Mt. Tapyas was definitely a popular one. Do make sure to bring water on your way up to stay hydrated and buy some ice-candies from the local kids walking up and down the mountain.
After speaking with some locals about the island, with a lot more tourists coming through, we found out it was just in the recent years that the town has developed like it has with more construction being built with hotels and resorts. And rumour has it that they might open a Jollibee chain on the island. For a big chain like that coming in, it’ll remind you of how Boracay started. With Coron offering more accessibility to tourists with wifi, if not all — most of it’s local businesses and restaurants/bars with live bands have to hang out in.
For accommodation, many resorts are situated on the island and inns for affordable prices as well as hostels for real budget travellers. You may not find them in hostel platform sites so arriving and checking them out on your own will get you best deals because a lot of their rooms are reserved for walk-in travellers. They do let you check out the rooms first before you decide to check-in with them. We stayed at Jim’s Castle Inn for one night that had 1 bunkbed and 1 double bed that sleeps for 4. For the remainder of our trip, we stayed at the Guapos Guesthouse tucked behind the Bob Marley Hostel. It was such a great find because it was very private with spacious outdoor common ground with swings and the rooms were very clean.
Food options can be a hit or miss as a vegetarian traveller in the Philippines. In Coron, you can find a few veggie meal options. We did find one vegan spot in the town proper (surprised us!) and a few rooftop restaurants to take in the views. I don't eat a number of very heavy meals a day so budgeting my food was easy. I was having bbq and mango shakes (the best i’ve had!)most nights for something light. Local mango shakes from the vendors out near the port were a favourite of ours for Php30! Surely, we were going back every night. The town however, closes early at 9pm for all the restaurants so don’t expect a party nightlife; Coron is definitely your typical local Filipino town equipped with siestas and early nights in. Streets and vendors are empty during siesta then everyone comes out once the sun is low enough.
A quick run down on the budget in Coron for 5 days for more or less than $200!
2Go Ferry - Php 1,200-1,500/pax (One way) You can certainly find cheaper rates when you book weeks ahead of time for your trip. But since we did things on a whim, we paid at the port.
Tricycle to Town Proper/from - Php 50/pax (We only used the tricycle arriving and leaving. Everything in town is walkable)
Accommodation - Php 2,400/night 4pax (Jim’s Castle Inn) Php 500-550/night for 2 (Hostels)
Food - Php 160-200/day (I budgeted myself this with my own personal diet. No breakfast, full lunch meal, light dinner vice versa)
Motor Bikes - Php 450 seats 2 (half day for us)
Island Hopping Tour Group - Php 1,800/pax (includes food)
Private Boat - Php 1,500 negotiated for one island (half day excluding food) + Php300 Environment Fee
We spent days living the slow laid back island life, heaps of sunshine and beach fun! We couldn't have changed it any other way. Here’s a glimpse of how we spent our time in Coron.
See you again, Palawan!