El Nido offers an amazing set of unique landscapes and picturesque views. You'll find secret beaches, refreshing waterfalls, lush jungles, and an abundant wildlife, over and under the sea. We went to El Nido after Christmas 2017 until New Year's Eve. This was my second visit to El Nido and I must say, I liked it even better than the first time. El Nido never fails to surprise me every time.
I noticed that some parts of El Nido, especially in the town proper, can be very crowded and forgetting things during your trip can be such a hassle. So before we go on to the things that we have done, here are some reminders that I'm already telling you just so you won't make the same mistakes that I did.
I remember thinking before heading to El Nido that it'll be easy to withdraw money because it's a very tourist-y place. I was wrong. It's such a a hassle when I realised that I didn't have enough cash when we were heading to Nacpan where they only accept cash. I had to maximise my 200 pesos for a whole day stay in Nacpan. Not a good way to start but the view and experience compensated for it.
Anyway, there is only 1 ATM that has been made available in El Nido town — the Bank of the Philippine Islands or BPI. The maximum amount that you can withdraw is 20,000 pesos (200 USD) with a 200 pesos (4 USD) fee for every withdrawal. This is the only ATM in town and often runs out of cash during peak season. The best option is to withdraw as much cash as you can while in Manila or Puerto Princesa airport before going to El Nido.
Shops like the El Nido Art Cafe offer currency exchange. There are also several pawn shops around the town to change your dollars to Philippine pesos. Be sure to understand the exchange rate to avoid being taken advantage of.
Credit Cards and Cash
While I was eating in a restaurant that's a bit pricier than your usual, I thought that this place accepts credit cards. Lo and behold, they don't. Good thing we have some spare cash to pay. Very few establishments in El Nido have credit card readers so ask the establishment first before ordering anything. But my suggestion is to just pay in cash as much as possible since this is the safest as well.
As a thrill-seeker, my first instinct is to jump off cliffs whenever an opportunity arises. But, not on this trip as the mountains are filled with pointy limestones that can easily hurt. A good pair of aqua socks may do the trick. But as much as possible, try to be safe and avoid doing things that might bring you to a hospital because well, there is no hospital in El Nido. They only have a small medical facility which only provides minor surgeries and diagnoses and treatment of common diseases. Cases of life-threatening illness require a ride back Puerto Princesa City which is 5 to 6 hours or a helicopter ride (if available).
WiFi and Mobile Internet Data
Between the two popular networks in the Philippines, Globe and Smart work well in El Nido. You can also get free travel SIM cards in the airport. Just ask the salesperson on how to install and register for mobile data. Just not that these SIM cards only work for unlocked phones. If you have that, register for mobile internet data, tether it to your laptop, and surf away!
Before, electricity in El Nido town is only available 16 hours a day — from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. However, some hotels and other facilities had 24-hour backup electricity through their own generators. In early 2015, El Nido modernized to an extent, and it is now 24/7. However, frequent blackouts may be experienced which can last for up to 6 hours to several days. A tip here is to stay at a hotel with backup generators if you cannot go offline, especially for those digital nomads out there who relies a lot on their laptops. Make sure to charge all devices when you have the chance.
Oh and by the way, I stayed in Spin Designer Hostel which I have booked months before heading to El Nido. When it comes to El Nido hostels, Spin comes right on top of the list. The place is unique and artsy where fellow travellers and backpackers feel at home. It has beautiful and homey interiors, a common area with lots of things to do - play boardgames. You can also chill in their quirky sofas, watch TV, or drink (yup, they had a night when they sell margaritas for P90). There will never be a dull moment during your stay here. My favorite part here is their all-you-can-eat breakfast where they serve omelette, pancakes, fruits and traditional Filipino bread called pandesal, matched with a great selection of juices and coffee. Perfect and just enough meal before heading out to your adventures.
So now that you know the basic things to know for this trip, are you ready for the ultimate island escape? Enjoy this tropical paradise and make sure to visit a few of the following places... Next in my blog are some of the fun and adventurous things we did in El Nido.