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I had been lucky in Sabang to just arrive and find somewhere walking in off of the street in a resort that was not online.
I wasn’t so lucky on my first night in Port Barton, but got there in the end on my second day – again, walking in off of the street into a resort that was not online.
I knew that El Nido was more popular, so did not want to take a chance again.
I needed to book something online in advance (at least for my first 1 or 2 nights).
I started my search a couple of days before my arrival… BIG MISTAKE!
My search on BOOKING.COM returned only 2 results for my dates: the cheapest was PHP3600 / night.
My search on AGODA.COM returned more properties but only one of those properties was less than PHP2400 / night.
Please note: I find AGODA.COM to be better than than BOOKING.COM in the Philippines. I have found the reverse in the rest of South East Asia.
PHP2400 / day is my total GRANDPAcking Budget! As a rule, I try and keep accommodation costs to no more than 50% of my daily budget; in the Philippines, my target price is, therefore, BELOW PHP1200 / night.
In the end, I booked the only available room left within my price range: A ‘Budget Fan Room’ for PHP800 / night for 2 nights. I used AGODA.COM to book the room. How bad could it be?
At least I was now in El Nido with an opportunity to look around for another hotel. If I couldn’t find one within my price range, the 2 nights had me checking out on Saturday – the day that the ferry leaves from El Nido to Coron…
THE EL TARAW INN:
The hotel that I booked was the EL TARAW INN.
The El Taraw has just 2 rooms above its booking office.
My room was the worst value for money that I have had in 15 months of travelling in South East Asia. El Taraw is listed as being 1.5 Star. That’s a joke. It doesn’t deserve 1 star.
The room, itself was about 7-9 sqms and came with a double bed. That was it… no other furniture. You had about 1 metre of space around the bed to walk around in.
The bathroom had no sink.
There were 2 nails in the far corner to hang your towel on.
The ceiling was so low that I had to duck so that I didn’t burn my head on the light bulb whilst I had a shower.
It was on a noisy street that led to the Ferry Terminal.
You had the noise of scooters until 2am and they started again at 6am.
There was, also, a disco bar around the corner that played until 4am.
Needless to say, I got no sleep.
WHERE TO STAY:
That afternoon I started scouring the streets; it doesn’t take long… there aren’t that many… I did the same for the whole of the next morning.
RED SHADED AREA:
West of the Ferry Terminal is ‘grubby’. There are a couple of Pensions set back against the mountains but GRANDPAckers won’t want to stay in any of them.
ORANGE SHADED AREA:
As you move east through the back streets things get a little bit better but these streets are noisy with constant traffic. The streets are not the prettiest. There are a couple of nice options in amongst the bad accommodation. If you book into one of these, get as high as possible to avoid the street noise.
In this area, there are couple of quieter side streets. But you still get poor quality Pensions with a very basic Fan Double (about 9-12 sqm) for PHP1000 / night – add PHP200-PHP250 / night if you want the aircon switched on. These are just basic ‘boxes’ without much (if any) furniture and a basic (usually cold water shower) ensuite.
They are all below GRANDPAcking Standard.
PURPLE SHADED AREA:
In the north east you will find several more upmarket resorts. Some are nice. Others are very basic. The beach is not very good in this area – the swimming is not very good either. But, it is an easy walk down to the main ‘green area’ beach.
In this area they are, mostly, aircon rooms – getting a cheaper fan room is not an option. The cheapest ones still want PHP2500 / night for a below GRANDPAcking Standard Double (about 12 sqm) with ensuite. The nicer ones want PHP3500-6000.
GREEN SHADED AREA:
This is the prime ‘beach front’ area and the beachfront is being developed with up-market accommodation. It won’t be long before the beachfront is all up-market.
This is the only area with a decent beach and decent swimming.
Amongst this accommodation you will still find the odd budget option.
The cheapest that I could find was the El Nido Corner at the eastern end of the ‘beach’. They wanted PHP600 / night for a 9sqm box with a double bed and shared bathroom. The only thing that made this better than the El Taraw was the fact that it was on the beach.
The ONLY beach front option that I could find in our price range that had an available room was the Tandikan Beach Cottages.
They showed me a below GRANDPAcking Standard Fan Double with ensuite for PHP1300 / night. There was noisy building going on next door so, I guess, they were dropping their rates to get customers in.
I asked if they could discount the room if I booked 7 nights. They offered me a different room (slightly smaller at about 12 sqm) with cold water ensuite for PHP1000 / night including breakfast.
But, this was my first afternoon in El Nido and I couldn’t see the room until the next day… After the other places I’d seen that day, I wanted to see the room before I booked it.
I returned at 11am the next day to look at the room. I took it there and then for 8 nights (scrapping the 2nd night that I had already booked and paid for at the El Taraw).
I was out of the El Taraw and back at the Tandikan with my luggage by noon.
TANDIKAN BEACH COTTAGES:
The Tandikan is below GRANDPAcking Standard.
There was a small deck area at the front where you could sit with a sea view; I ate my breakfasts there.
I was happy (and always am happy) with a fan.
My room was an end room (furthest from the beach front) in a terrace of 6 rooms.
The room had a double bed and a table; no other furniture.
To hang out and air my clothes, I rigged up my washing line across one of the windows. If you don’t air your clothes over here, they can go mouldy very quickly sitting in your suitcase.
February is not in Peak Season. Peak Season is supposed to be March & April.
Accommodation may be easier to find in ‘Shoulder Season’ but, if you want to be in El Nido between Christmas and May, PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE.
In February 2016, at least 80% of the accommodation in El Nido was already fully booked. Most of the accommodation in El Nido (even the shabby ones) are online.
Do not expect to turn up in El Nido to find accommodation walking in off of the street. What you will find, if anything, is some very poor quality / poor value accommodation.
If you come to El Nido to spend a week or two, why would you want to stay in sub-standard accommodation on a noisy street? Surely, you would want to be somewhere on the beachfront?
To get a good price on the beachfront, start looking online weeks in advance. Check every day. Wait for the ‘50% off’ deals in the ‘green’ and / or ‘purple’ area. They are rare, but they will come.
As an example, this is what was available on BOOKING.COM searching 2 weeks ahead of time:
Doing the same on AGODA.COM results in many more cheap options but they are all in the ‘red’ and ‘orange’ zone and well below GRANDPAcking Standard.
GRANDPAckers will not be able to live to GRANDPAcking Standard in El Nido.
You can either ‘blow your budget’ or ‘rough it’ a bit. If you don’t want to do either… don’t come in Peak Season. But, if you are not coming at a good time of year, why are you coming at all?
Shortly I will post my El Nido Information and El Nido GRANDPAcking Costs… I think that you will be very interested in what I have to say…