Van Ride From Hell: Getting to El Nido
Last night I finally moved on. It was my first real travel day and it sucked. I woke up at 6:15 am, left the hostel at 9 am, took a 2 hour van ride in a poorly air conditioned vehicle with 13 other passengers, waited in shit show of an airport (see picture below), took a 1 hour flight, had a 4 hour layover and delay, took a 2 hour flight, waited around for friends for over an hour and then took a 5 hour van ride turned 8 hour van ride from hell. To say e least it was a long day.
I’ll start from the beginning with the van ride. When you arrive at Puerto Princesa airport, you still have to take some form of transportation between 5 and 7 hours to get to El Nido. You’re bombarded with drivers trying to get you to ride with them and the tiny airport provides no help with figuring out getting there. I met a few guys on my flight who offered for me to head there with them, but I had a few friends who were arriving an hour later so I decided to wait around.
The vans will only take you if you’ve got at least 7 people, so the guys were originally waiting around for my friends to arrive, but once they got their minimum of 7, they took off. Once my friends arrived, the can company inside the airport was no longer operating (around 9pm), s so we were forced with the decision to either take a private van (aka a local with a van) or the overnight bus. Since we didn’t want to wait until 10pm, when the last bus departed from the center of the city, we decided to just go with the guy. He told us he had other passengers waiting and that he would drop us off with the other passengers who were waiting at a restaurant so we could grab food. It all sounded kind of sketchy but we decided to go with it considering our options.
About an hour later, the man returned with three other passengers and we were on our way. He made multiple stops throughout the course of the trip; bathroom breaks, snack breaks, a break to pick up his friend, and it seemed like a million other things. Then, the breaks started getting more frequent as it got earlier into the morning (around 2am). We kept checking out the window to see what was going on, and we could see the driver doing jumping jacks and pouring water over his head. This is when we started to become concerned. We could tell the driver as tired so we started to keep an eye on him. At several points it looked from behind as if he was falling asleep so one of the other passengers screamed his name and he jolted awake. By that point, we were all on the edge of our seats trying to make sure that he didn’t fall asleep behind the wheel.
After this went on for about half an hour, we finally asked him if he was tired. He admitted that he was and immediately pulled onto the side of the road and said he needed a 30 minute nap. We were all anxious to get to El Nido, but the main priority was getting to El Nido alive. After he napped, we set off again to complete the last 2 hours of the drive. At this point we were about 6 hours in to the 6 hour drive, anxious, afraid and miserable. After 8 hours we finally made it to El Nido. There were several points when we really thought we were going to drive off the road, making the long drive on mostly unpaved roads even more unbearable. If you’re looking for a ride to El Nido, double check that the driver you choose is able to make the long journey. I’m dreading making the trip back as I’m in for another overnight trip, but this time I’m opting for the bus and hoping for a better trip.