There are no real banking facilities in el nido and definitely no ATM, so best thing is to bring all the peso you will need. Judith at the Arts cafe will let you draw money off a credit card if you have to, but its expensive and best avoided. Judith will also let you run a tab for food and trips which you can pay off at the end of your trip with a creit card for no extra fee
Some considerations, not really risks, that you must know before coming to El Nido would be that:
- electricity is available only from 1 pm to 1 am and most accommodations do not have generators. So, if you expect to still be out past 1 am, have a flashlight ready so you can find your way back to your cottage.
- few establishments (e.g. the Seair agent and a couple of restos) have credit card facilities so bring sufficient cash. There are also no banks or ATMs.
- the risk of getting malaria has thankfully become extremely small in El Nido in recent years. But if this is still a concern, then do take the proper meds before coming. Nothing wrong with being on the safe side. Bring your regular meds and standard first aid provisions, too.
- water from the tap is not potable, but bottled water is aplenty in town.
- crime is not really a concern in El Nido, though lately there have been a few reports of thefts in the poblacion, mostly of cellular phones. So, to again be on the safe side, try not to leave anything valuable in your room and lock your door when you leave.
El Nido is not a paradise of coral gardens. Most corals (about 80-90%) has been destroyed by reckless fishing practices (cyanide, dynamite and drag nets). The remaining 10-20% is being destroyed by insensible tourism.
When you take a boat tour, they mostly take you to a place where there are still some corals left. Then they throw anchor right on the coral (in a depth though, where you cannot see it while snorkeling) breaking some. Then they use "tikin" to park, which is a bamboo stick used to push the boat, and kill more. Then the boat people (we took 3 different companies) usually just step on the corals and kill more.
Then they take you to a secret lagoon and guide you on a path on the shallow waters where there is hardly any way to reach the beach without breaking many corals. On the way out they help you break more.
Furthermore, nobody ever tells anyone that corals are very fragile. Not on the beach, not in tour companies, not even in tourist information. So many tourists who come here bring back some of the remaining corals and starfishes as gifts. Nobody tells them not to.
Corals grow very slowly, about 1 cm in 3 to 10 years depending on the type of coral. They are alive on the surface, so even touching them can kill life around that part. I have sadly seen tour guides guiding people to stand on flat topped corals where the sea is deep. All these corals are already dead on the top and look like pieces of rock. When corals die, the sea life also dies. You can see it for yourself just by comparing a bombed coral field and a relatively alive one. My assumption is that each tour boat destroys about 1/3 the size of the boat in corals. With a rough calculation this would mean in another 10 years they won't be doing much business.
When I tried to tell this to them they looked at me with eyes saying "you westerners, you come here and preach. We are making money here." Because they really seem to be ignorant of the fact that they are destroying their own source of income.
When you are there, please tell the boat crews as well as the people you take the tour with, before you land anywhere, that corals are very fragile and they grow very slowly. Please raise awareness that just floating rather than touching or stepping is the only sustainable way for the corals. If we care to find corals and fish some time later.
I guess the only problem we had with El Nido is the jelly fish issue. I guess it was probably jellyfish season because we see them almost everywhere. Different colors and different sizes! Brown ones, clear ones etc. But it was the really small see-through ones that were the real killer. We encountered these while we were snorkeling in one of the areas during our Tour B. It was really painful. Good thing we had vinegar on the boat and this took away most of the sting. The Godiva anti-jellyfish sunblock also helps.
Remember to always have vinegar on hand :)
The beach facing the town of El Nido is lovely aside from being accessible from most of the affordable cottages along it.
It invites foreigners to wade on it. In one occassion I saw a bunch of bikini cladded girls having fun by splashing sea waters among each but household discharge go direct to this lovely beach
Apparently el Nido does not get the worst of the typhoon season, but when we were there one passed quite close by, left us rained in for two days and caused devastation on the beach. The winds were strong enough to make us worry about our hut!
As usual in the tropics, watch out for jellyfish like this bad boy and don’t forget urchin spines are incredibly painful. Trigger fish can bite and fire fish burn. In general, don’t touch anything in the water!
This activity is very dangerous. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. If you must do this, and you are physically fit, make sure that you go with a guide. And, if you got the same pictures like these, you probably got injured or dead by now.
Guides usually charge P400-500 for cliff climbing. They're everywhere. Just ask around. I befriended a not-so-busy boat operator and he agreed to take me climbing for a couple of San Miguels and Pork Sinigang with rice.
Firstly, I thought there would be hiking trails leading to the top. I was wrong! We had to actually climb the limestone cliff which you would have to grab/hang on to sharp and jagged edges of rocks without any ropes or safety equipments. I was only wearing a t shirt, shorts, and chinelas.
To make my story short, I got lacerations on the palm of my hands, my chinelas were shredded, my El Nido t shirt was ripped (I had to buy a new one --- P180), and my shorts was ripped right in the crotch area too.
It took us about a couple of hours to go up the top and back to the bottom. This was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life.
I just couldn't believe this. Each time I walked across the town beach I collected pieces of glass; not the pieces that are softened on the edges by the waves but sharp pieces which were possibly newly broken. I must have done it 10 times, each time collecting around 20-30 pieces and there seemed to be no decrease in the number of pieces of glass you can cut your foot with.
El Nido beach is a relatively clean beach and is regularly cleaned of rubbish. It seemed to me that the rubbish cleaning people tend to ignore the glass either because there is too much on the beach or because being transparent it is harder to spot than the plastic bags. Glass may be biodegradable but it certainly poses a threat on people walking and playing on the beach. So next time you are there, please, you also pick some and show and tell the people that this is dangerous.
The water situation is not so good now in El Nido as the water that is supplied to most of the town is extremely salty, and if frozen to make ice it becomes a little spongy. Never drink the water from the faucet, always purchase bottled water.
The road to El Nido seemed to be in very good condition during the first 3 ½ hours of the trip. But a few kilometers after Roxas City, we started to pass through a combination of smooth and rough roads. The highway was under contruction during our visit. At some point during the trip, the van we were riding got stuck in the mud .