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The Sabang to Port Barton trip was particularly onerous.
The trip is scheduled for 3.5 hours but the door-to-door time depends on how long you have to wait transferring from the first bus (Sabang to the North Road transfer point) to the second bus (North Road to Port Barton), and how many people ‘drop off detours’ they make on the way. My trip took 4.5 hours.
The 2nd bus was full and they had to make a space for me. I couldn’t fit my legs in the space in front of my seat nor my size 11 feet in the space on the floor. I had to travel the 2.5 hour section to Port Barton sitting cramped up facing sideways of facing backwards negotiating my feet through and over cargo.
BOOKING THE BUS / MINIVAN:
After my last 2 minivan experiences, I was determined to get a decent minivan with a decent seat. The drive from Port Barton to El Nido is the longest of the three (4+ hours) and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable for that long.
I asked the lady at my JBR Tourist Inn reception which minivan was the best. She said ‘Nature Island’. The price for other buses is normally PHP650 but Nature Island charge PHP700 (because they have a bigger and better van). For PHP50 extra, I wasn’t going to quibble – as long as I got a comfortable seat.
I asked if I could book a specific seat. She said ‘yes’ and said that she would call them and book for me. She did so and booked me the front window seat next to the driver.
The minivan leaves at 8:00am and picks you up from your hotel
I was ready and waiting for the bus at 7:40am. The bus arrived at 7:50am.
JBR were right. The bus had 1 less row of seats in it than other buses do which gave everyone a lot more leg room.
Sure enough, my front seat had been reserved and I jumped in.
We, then, proceeded to go around a few hotels picking up the rest of the passengers.
Bye bye went my leg room. We sat rubbing shoulders and legs for the next 4 hours – but, it was acceptable and still reasonably comfortable.
Lessons learnt: The best seats to get are usually seats ‘3 or 4’. These are the seats immediately BEHIND the driver. As the driver seat is usually set a bit forward, this leaves lots of leg room behind the driver for seats 3 (window) and 4 to take advantage of.
GETTING TO EL NIDO:
We finally left Port Barton at 8:20am.
The road from Port Barton back to the main North Road is still partly under construction so the road is a mix of concrete sections and dirt sections. It had rained the day before, so the dirt sections were slippery and we took parts of it like a Rally Driver.
This allowed those who missed breakfast to have some food and others to finish their ablutions.
We stopped for just 15 minutes and hit the road again.
The main North Road is now fully paved all the way to El Nido.
The Bus Terminal, as is usually the case in these countries, is near Carong Carong Beach and quite far from the centre of town.
There are Tribikes waiting to connect you from the Bus Terminal to your El Nido Town hotel.
The prices (as with the rest of El Nido) are not very negotiable… my Tribike ride was a set PHP50.
I was at my hotel near the El Nido Ferry Terminal by 12:00 noon.
Paying a bit more for a better bus is definitely the way to go.
The door-to-door trip only took 3.5 hours and the ride was the most comfortable that I have had in Palawan yet.
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