Solo travel is not for everyone, but I know a few who wants to try it once in their lifetime. I first traveled alone more than ten years ago in Puerto Galera in Mindoro, Philippines. I have always wanted to visit the place since I was in college but I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. When I was already working, I decided to go alone the day after my 25th birthday. I had a great time during that trip and nothing bad happened to me.
What I love about traveling alone is that you get to do what you want at your own pace. You don’t have to wait up for anybody. You can socialize with people if you are in the mood or you can avoid them completely if you want to be alone. These days, I prefer and feel more comfortable traveling alone.
For those who want to try going solo but don’t know where to go, El Nido in Palawan, Philippines is a good place to ease you into traveling solo. It is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Philippines and is known for it’s white sand beaches, beautiful lagoons, coral reefs and limestone cliffs.
Why El Nido, Philippines?
The very first thing to consider when you are choosing a destination especially when traveling alone is safety. El Nido in the Philippines has a low crime rate. Based on my experience, it is safe to walk alone during daylight and night time.
Next is communication with the locals. Like most Filipinos, locals in El Nido can converse very well in English and Filipino so there is no problem asking them for directions and recommendations. Also, Palaweños are used to interacting with tourists because El Nido is a major tourist destination in the country.
As for the accommodation, El Nido has a range of options that are perfect for solo travelers. If you want to meet new people, it is best to stay in a hostel where you’ll be sharing dorm room with like-minded travelers. Chances are people staying there are solo travelers too. During my trip to El Nido, I stayed at Spin Designer Hostel. It is not a party hostel. I love that the rooms are very big for four people and they have free breakfast. Breakfast time is usually the time you get to meet with other travelers. They also organize different activities every night like movie screening and barbecue night to keep the guests from being bored. You can check out Agoda or Booking.com for other accommodations in El Nido.
For the activities, El Nido has a lot to offer. From island hopping, ziplining, kayaking and paddle boarding, diving, hiking, waterfalls tour and even partying on a boat or just chilling by the beach, the town has you covered. You will never get bored in El Nido. And don’t worry about not being able to go island hopping because you are alone. There are a lot of travel agencies in El Nido offering group tours. Tours are usually priced between Php 1000 (~ USD 20) to Php 1500 (~ USD 30) per person. Read: El Nido Tour A: Lagoons and Beaches
Some Recommended Things To Do in El Nido
Island Hopping: Island hopping is one of the most popular activity in El Nido. There are four island hopping tours- Tour A is lagoons and beaches tour, Tour B is caves and coves tour, Tour C is hidden beaches and shrines tour and Tour D is island beaches tour. Among the four, El Nido Tour A and C are the most popular.
Visit Nacpan Beach: Nacpan Beach is a 4-kilometer stretch of golden sand and strong waves. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from El Nido town proper and but it’s totally worth it.
Chill at Las Cabañas Beach and wait for the sunset: white sand, clear water, palm trees and beautiful sunset- everything you could want in a beach is here.
Do the El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata Canopy Walk: this is an alternative if you want to experience Taraw Cliff in a safer way. Here you’ll catch a bird’s eye view of the town and the bay.
Try mediterranean food at Happiness Beach Bar: they have hummus plates, pita falafels, salad options and some more yummy selections for you to chose from.
How to go to El Nido
Option 1: Book a direct flight from Manila to El Nido. Air Swift has direct flights to El Nido.
Option 2: Book a direct flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. From the airport, there are vans that offer direct service going to El Nido. Travel time is about 5-6 hours. You can also ride a tricycle going to bus station and ride a bus but the travel time is longer. The van is faster but it is not too comfortable especially if you get the seat at the back.
Option 3: If coming from Coron, Palawan, you can take a ferry to El Nido. The trip takes around 8 hours.
Booking a direct flight from Manila to El Nido is the fastest and most comfortable option but it is the most expensive.
Some tips when visiting El Nido
- Although there is a bank in El Nido, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), it is highly recommended to withdraw enough cash in Manila or Puerto Princesa before going to El Nido to save you time and troubles in case the ATM runs out of money.
- There is no hospital in El Nido so stay safe as possible. The nearest hospital is located in Taytay which is 1 hour away from El Nido.
- Book your accommodation in advance to avoid the hassle of looking for a place to stay especially during peak season.
- Not obligated, but it is highly recommended to choose accommodation that is located in the town proper. You have the best access to town comfort if you stay in the town proper area, and is closest to bars and restaurants.
- Ask fellow travelers or hostel staff for their recommendations of places to eat. I personally recommend Happiness Beach Bar. Sit in one of the swings by the bar and socialize with other people.
- Join group tours to save on cash and meet new friends. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of travel agencies in El Nido that offer this tour option to individuals. You can also book your tour in your hostel.
- Have a dry bag when exploring the islands to keep your gadgets dry.
- Bring sunblock to protect you from the harmful rays of the sun.
Safety tips to remember when traveling solo
Even though the crime rate in El Nido is low, it is still important to take note of these tips:
- Don’t leave your things unattended in public. Always keep an eye on your belongings.
- Trust your instinct. If something feels wrong, maybe it is wrong. If you’re in doubt, always trust your instincts.
- Don’t take the risk of doing something if you know that it is dangerous just for the sake of having something awesome to post in social media. Accidents happen so it is better to be safe than sorry.
- If you’re going to drink, don’t get completely drunk. Drunk people are easy targets for criminals.
- Use your common sense. Don’t pull huge amounts of money in public and don’t show your valuables around.
- Get a protection for yourself. Getting a travel insurance is highly recommended especially when you travel abroad for a long time. There are some things that are beyond our control and emergency situation happens. Having a travel insurance can ensure that you’ll get medical and evacuation assistance when you need it the most.
- Don’t share everything on social media. Oversharing could give a potential stalker the necessary information they need to track you.
- If staying in a hostel/dorm, keep your valuables close to your body when sleeping or hide it in the locker. You can’t be too trusting. Things get stolen in hostels.
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