If you are thinking about coming to the Philippines and go island hopping, you’re bound to be traveling by ferry in the Philippines. In this article, I will talk about some travel tips and things you need to know about your transportation options in the Philippines and the 7 steps to obliterate seasickness.
The Philippines is composed of over 7,000 islands, you can imagine that land transportation will only get you so far. Traveling by air is an option when you’re going to popular destinations, but often to arrive at your final destination you’ll be traveling by ferry in the Philippines.
Traveling by Ferry in the Philippines
Particularly as a foreigner, there are a few things you should always expect so you’re not caught off guard or your travel plans ruined due to lack of preparation.
The first thing to realize is that you can travel just about anywhere in the Philippines by ferry. It’s typically cheaper than any flight or travel deals you’ll find though it may take DAYS longer. An example is Cebu from Manila. A One hour flight OR a 24-hour ferry.
Now that we’ve established the why of ferry travel in the Philippines, let’s get into the details!
Tip 1 – RoRo vs Banca Ferry
A roll-on roll-off (or RoRo) ferry is a larger, more commercial liner built to transport vehicles, semis, and large numbers of people.
You’ll find these are the norm for any trips longer than an hour or so. For these, you typically have an option between getting an economy ticket where there are bunks in a large open bay, VIP which has Air Conditioning or, for longer trips, reserving a room.
Fast Craft Travel
These are basically a speed boat style on a larger scale. The kind of boats you see in Western Countries for Island hopping. Quick, Enclosed, Air Conditioned they are designed for comfortable passenger travel.
These are becoming more common in the Philippines.
Banca Ferry Travel
Banca’s are the local boats built for short-distance travel and come in many sizes. With a Banca, it can easily be delayed during less than ideal weather, and you might get wet if there are any significant waves. Most have plastic covering the windows which will help keep you dry, but depending on their setup and where you’re sitting you still have the possibility of getting a little wet.
NOTE- Bancas started being phased in Aug 2019 for most tourist destinations. I am actually a little sad to see them go as they were a wonderful reminder of Island life.
Tip 2 – Do Your Research
Before heading anywhere new, it’s always a good idea to do a little research about the trip you’ll be taking and get some information about any travel deals that may be available at the time. You’ll want to do some research asking locals the best company or ferry booking agencies offering travel deals from where you are to where you need to go.
The biggest way people get scammed is not understanding how the system works so get yourself up to speed before showing up.
If anyone offers you a ‘private trip’ or a ‘shortcut’, don’t trust them. In some places, these hustlers might try to catch you before you go to the terminal and tell you the ferries aren’t operating today or they’re done for the day so you might higher them at 4x – 10x times the price of a normal trip. These are going to be really small boats, if it’s choppy seas you’re absolutely going to get wet. There are risks in doing this like capsizing or not being dropped off where you need to be.
My recommendation is to just get a hotel if you missed your ferry and get up bright and early the next day and catch the first one out.
Tip 3 – Ferry tickets & Fees
When taking any type of transportation, you’ll be expected to pay for a few different ferry tickets and fees. Every passenger will be expected to pay the fare for their ferry ticket, and unless it’s a high-demand trip, you won’t have to reserve anything beforehand. Simply show up before your trip (2-3 hours before for longer journeys) and find the proper booking desk.
You’ll first pay your ferry tickets, then before you’re ushered through security, you’ll have to pay a terminal fee. This is usually around 50 pesos. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll also be expected to pay an environmental fee, usually 50-150 pesos.
Tip 4 – Schedules
Almost all ferries have a schedule of some sort. Either they go every hour, once a day, or a few times a day. Be sure to figure out the schedule of your ferry, then make sure to arrive early. The ferries won’t follow the schedule they post and will regularly change the schedule to fit their situation so be prepared to be disappointed.
The ferry may leave earlier than scheduled or later than scheduled. Often the travel time varies with sea conditions and the mood of the driver. Bottom line, expect to be flexible with your travel times and don’t schedule tight transfers.
Tip 5 – Travel Tips for Packing Light
If you’re taking a RoRo, you’ll want to pack relatively light since even if you do get a cabin bunk. There are others in your room and it’s preferable to keep track of your things. When possible, try to pack your stuff into a backpack and one separate bag.
When using the Banca for transport, you’ll want to pack even lighter and typically in something waterproof. This isn’t always an issue, but when it is, you’ll be thankful that all your electronics still work.
These are some of the things that you need to know and understand before traveling to the Philippines in general, it doesn’t just apply to the ferries.
Now, let’s go to the next thing you’ll experience upon traveling by ferry in the Philippines, and some of the newbies experience this, the seasickness.
7 Steps to Obliterate Seasickness
Sea-sickness is a type of motion sickness that begins from rocking back and forth on a ferry. This is one of the things that holds most vacationers from any type of boat or water travel.
Here are 7 steps to obliterate seasickness and thoroughly enjoy your seaside vacation! Let’s jump into the first one.
1. Avoid Drugs, Alcohol & Caffeine
We’ll start with preventative measures as this is the first thing you’ll want to do. Drugs or alcohol, especially the night before having a tendency to give people a queasy feeling in their stomach and their head.
This can transition quickly into seasickness when you’re on a boat that’s rocking back and forth.
2. Consult a Doctor
If you’ve been susceptible to seasickness in the past, consult a doctor before your trip.
They may be able to more accurately diagnose the source of your seasickness and prescribe you proper medication or tailored techniques for keeping a level head on the ocean.
3. Eat Healthy Foods
This may not be obvious, but the overall health of your body and nutrition when engaging in new activities can highly affect your awareness.
Try to avoid foods that are overly greasy or spicy foods that you generally don’t digest well as these are typical culprits.
4. Snag Some Ginger
If you’re looking for a natural remedy to rely on, ginger has proven to work wonders against seasickness. You can choose to munch on raw ginger or consume it in pill or pickled form.
You can also bake up some ginger cookies and that will work (as well as taste delicious!).
5. Bancas – Sit in the front of the Boat
Sitting in front of the boat will help you to avoid the cramped, claustrophobic feeling you often get when in the cabin or back of a boat.
It will also keep you away from the engine exhaust which can negatively affect your seasickness.
6. Keep Your Eyes Up
Whatever you do, don’t focus your vision down or on something close to you. This is the quickest way to feel seasick. Instead, keep your head up and look out over the water at the Horizon. This will give your mind some stability.
If you start feeling symptoms of seasickness, take a few breaths and relax. Be sure to breathe slowly and deliberately while keeping your vision focused out ahead on something in the distance.
If you combine these tactics, you’ll have a seasick-free adventure that will create more fun lasting memories instead of those of being sick on your journey.
Hopefully, these travel tips will help you know what to expect when you’re experiencing the beautiful Philippine scenery. If you need more tips read about traveling in the Philippines here or read my book about traveling in the Philippines.
There are a few other things to consider about traveling by ferry in the Philippines, but these reminders will get you started in the right direction. Happy travels and we would love to see you in Puerto Galera if you come this way!