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Coron Town is on Busuanga Island in the Calamianes group of islands north of mainland Palawan.
You don’t have to be in Coron Town for long to realise that the greed that now exists in El Nido hasn’t made it this far – yet. Let’s hope that it never does.
Coron Town is a 12-hour ‘ferry’ from Manila and a 6-8 hour ‘ferry’ from El Nido.
I made my own way from El Nido to Coron on a Bunso ‘ferry’.
The ‘ferry’ lands at the main Ferry Terminal about 5km out of Coron Town centre. There are Tribikes waiting to take you to your Coron Town hotel. The cost should be PHP10 per person and another PHP10 for each Suitcase / Backpack.
I still had my Globe SIM card that I purchased at Manila Airport when I flew in from Hanoi to Puerto Princesa.
For PHP1000, I got a SIM card with a 1 month ‘unlimited’ data package; no texts, no calls, no credits. The 1 month expired whist I was in Coron.
I walked down the main street and found a shop that did a Globe SIMcard ‘load’. They use the term ‘load’ here in the Philippines (not ‘top up’ like we do in New Zealand).
I needed to load another PHP1000 so that I could buy another month of ‘unlimited’ data. The shop could only load a maximum of PHP150 at a time; the girl that worked there was kind enough to look after me. She did 6xPHP150 ‘loads’ and 1xPHP100 ‘load’. She, then, helped me send the ‘code’ to Globe that activated the 1 month data plan.
The activation failed because I did not have the ‘minimum PHP5 credit’ in my account. She ‘loaded’ another PHP20 and we tried again. Success. I was now geared up with ‘unlimited’ mobile communications for another month.
I have been happy with Globe so far.
By Foot / Bicycle / Tribike:
You can walk everywhere in Coron Town; there is no need for transport.
You can catch a Tribike anywhere around town for PHP10 each if you want to.
You can rent a scooter for PHP500 / day if you want to go off on a day trip.
There aren’t many ‘main roads’ on the island: one that loops the island back to Coron Town and a couple of others that take you to the coast.
However, there are many dirt tracks to explore that will take you to some wonderful places through wonderful scenery.
WHERE TO STAY:
The easiest place to base yourself is in Coron Town on Busuanga Island. However there isn’t much to the town: no beach, limited restaurants, and maybe a bar or two for tourists.
Coron Town is, basically, just a place to have dinner and a drink at night – the rest of your time should be spend exploring Busuanga Island itself and the beautiful surrounding islands.
From the Busuanga Island airport, it is a 40 minute car ride to Coron Town.
Backpacker style rooms with shared bathrooms cost around PHP450-500 per night. Small hotels with an ensuite charge around PHP1000-1200 / night. The more popular resort hotels cost upwards of PHP1500 / night. If you are travelling solo, ask for a single occupancy room rate, most of the time, the hotel can slash a few hundred pesos from the published rate.
The main street is busy with constant traffic. Accommodation on this road will be noisy. There are quieter accommodation options to the east and west of town centre merely a 500m walk or short tricycle ride away.
It may be worth considering some of the more rustic options that you find down alleyways on the waterfront. They are basic but atmospheric. And, they are away from the street noise.
One such place is the Krystal Lodge. I spent an evening there with the guys on my Apo Reef SCUBA Liveaboard.
There were other rooms for rent at the Lodge as well as a public bar, restaurant and seating area.
It was only PHP1600 / night. If you can find people to share it with, it would be excellent value for money and something ‘different’. But it did suffer from a few mosquitos at dusk and dawn.
JIM’S CASTLE INN:
It proved a bit inconvenient being so far away as there wasn’t much around it.
You had to walk quite a way to find somewhere to eat. The only close place was the Grill Station (that was mid-range).
They do breakfast but you need to order it the day before. Their breakfast menu is very reasonable with most options (like 2 fried eggs, bacon, and toast) for PHP70.
The owners are very friendly and they will give you a hot kettle of water if you ask them. Buy some teabags / coffee sachets at a store and you will be set up in the morning and able to relax on your deck.
What happened instead, was that I booked a SCUBA Liveaboard to Apo Reef which left the next morning.
I was quickly back to Jims. I decided that I wanted 4 more nights in Coron on my return (which spanned the weekend and had me leaving Coron Town for San Jose, Mindoro Island on the Monday). I asked Jims for their best price: it was PHP1200 / night (PHP200 more than I paid online using AGODA). I offered them PHP1000, told them to think about it for 1 hour, and went to dinner at the Grill Station.
I took it.
I took it because I had run out of time. If I had more time I would, probably, have tried to get something closer to the centre of town.
Staying at Jims meant a lot of walking backwards and forwards every day.
The Fan Room was below GRANDPAcking Standard.
The room, itself, was clean and tidy.
The cold water shower had very little water pressure – you had to ‘run around underneath the shower rose to get wet’.
It was comfortable enough for my purposes. And, I doubt that I would have been able to get something as nice for that price closer to town.
It had a nice balcony with a pleasant view.
CAFES & RESTAURANTS:
Prices in Coron are more reasonable than in El Nido.
The ‘cheapest’ simple breakfast in a cafe (a tomato omelette with 2 slices of white bread toast) starts at PHP85. An ‘instant’ black coffee in a cafe will cost you PHP25. A nicer coffee will cost PHP70-90! That is at least PHP110-175 each for breakfast.
For Lunch and Dinner, there are many places where you can get a reasonable meal for PHP100-150 in a local cafe.
But, many of the meals in the Tourist Restaurants are in the PHP250-350 range.
I ate there on my first night. The prices were pretty good for a Tourist Restaurant (but watch out for the ‘hidden’ 10% ‘service charge’). I had a Dried Seafood Platter for PHP260 and a San Miguel for PHP65. The platter was very tasty but best shared between 2 as, on your own, it can be a bit too ‘salty’ as you reach the end. They had several other tasty looking dishes in this price range – many of them seafood. On another night, I had a BBQ Chicken with Rice for PHP165 (which wasn’t as good value for money).
You find the usual ‘tin-pot buffets’ on the streets. These are usually the cheapest places to eat. It is usually PHP60 for a sample dish and PHP10-15 for Rice.
WHERE THE LOCALS EAT:
These are the best and cheapest ones in town – this is where the locals eat.
For Breakfast I had 2 Fried Eggs with Rice for PHP40. They bring you free cold water.
For Lunch I had a Grilled Fish with Rice. It comes with a free Soup. The total bill was PHP45.
A San Miguel will cost you PHP40 to PHP65 depending on where you go. You have to find an Happy Hour to get one at PHP45.
The Luis Bay Retrobar is one of the exceptions to this – their San Miguel is PHP40 all day. You will find one or two other places selling San Miguel at PHP40 in the side streets east of the Public Market.
The No Name Bar on the main road has a Happy Hour between 6:00pm and 8:00pm where you can get a San Miguel for PHP50.
This is the first place that I have found in the Philippines that charges Tourists the correct price for bottled beer over the counter. You can buy a cold 1L Red Horse for PHP80. Elsewhere in Palawan shops still try and charge you up to PHP110 even though the bottle top has the price of PHP70 printed on it – and you pay a standard PHP10 for the bottle deposit.
Why not try a local rum (Tanduay): a 750ml Tanduay Dark (80 proof) costs PHP85 and a 1.75L bottle of coke PHP60.
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Coron (IMHO).
But, as with all poor places, be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth or leave things unattended.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
You do not come to Coron Town to stay a while. It really isn’t that nice a place.
You use Coron Town as a base for the various activities available in the area: SCUBA Diving Trips, Kayaking Trips, Island hopping Trips, Trekking, etc.
As with other places in Palawan, there is a menu of standard trips to choose from. Each with their own ‘flavour’.
A 1 day SCUBA Dive trip with 2 dives costs about PHP2700; 3 dives PHP3500 (but you can get these for as little as PHP2900).
The 4 Night / 3 Day Apo Reef Liveaboard costs PHP28500 for 9 SCUBA dives and PHP15000 for snorkelling.
Discounts are usually available if you ask for them.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
They are all located east of town centre: 1 (BPI Bank) on the main road and 2 (PNB Bank and Metrobank) a couple of streets nearer the waterfront (walk down to the Public Market and turn left to follow the road parallel to the waterfront).
I tried to take PHP40000 out of the BPI, it failed. So did PHP30000. I believe that their transaction limit is PHP15000.
However, I took PHP40000 out of the PNB ATM on my first attempt. So, I know that you can get at least PHP40000 at the PNB.
The Metrobank ATM is next door to the PNB; having already withdrawn PHP40000 from the PNB (which I expected to fail – so, it took me by surprise), I did not attempt to find out what the Metrobank ATM limit was (just in case I ended up with another PHP40000!).
There are many shops around town selling the usual mix of Tourist oriented goods.
If you get into the market streets east of the Coron Town Harbour, you will find a small Supermarket if you need to stock up on a few things at the best prices. This is, probably, the cheapest place in town. There are also many other shops selling all sorts of things from tools to cellphones. You will also find the best stores to buys things like shoes / jandles if you need them. I bought a pair of Nike (‘knock off’) Jandles for PHP150. You could buy lightweight Nike Running Shoes for PHP600.
Laundry: PHP40 / Kg at Jims Castle Inn.
My next stop is San Jose, Mindoro Island.
There are several ferries that do this route; the price is PHP1000 one way.
Ferries leave on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. They normally leave from the main harbour (5kms out from town centre) at 8:00am – so you have to be there before 7:30am for embarkation.
Coron Town is not a GRANDPAcking Retirement Location. There is nothing ‘endearing’ about Coron Town, itself.
Coron Town is where you base yourself for all of the trips and tours available.
By the time that you add in the cost of those trips and tours, you will be over-GRANDPAcking-budget.
This is a GRANDPAcker ‘holiday’ destination.
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