At a glance:
- Budget: see the best the islands have to offer for little as $225—grand trip total
- Transportation guide: breezy, budget-friendly bus and ferry options
- Highlights: swim with sardines, turtles, and whale sharks, as well as in an underground river and a bunch of beautiful waterfalls
In the next couple of posts, I will be documenting an amazing island trip anyone can make. For reference, my family and I (two adults, one kid) did the trip in a leisurely 17 days—over Christmas break.
With everyone in holiday mode and Philippine weather at its best, this is peak season for tourism; still, we made the whole trip for a grand total of $1000 (US).
That being said, you can hit all the highlights of Moalboal, Oslob, and Siquijor in only 6 days and, as a solo backpacker, spend as little as $225 on everything—flights, accommodations, food, and activities.
Cebu & Siquijor: 6d5n Itinerary
Let’s start with a breakdown of our itinerary.
- Fly from Manila to Cebu City
- Take a bus to Moalboal; spend 1-2 nights: see turtles and swim in the sardine run
- Take a bus to Oslob, spend 1-2 nights: swim with whale sharks
- Take a bus to Liloan and ferry to Siquijor, spend 3-7 nights (You’ll love it!)
- Take the ferry and bus back to Cebu
If you’re pressed for time or just like to keep moving, spend one night each in Moalboal and Oslob, and either two or three nights in Siquijor and one or none in Cebu City depending on your flight plan.
To extend the trip, I might recommend a few nights in Cebu (see the sights, renew your visa, maybe even do some volunteering). I wouldn’t spend more than two nights each in Moalboal and Oslob—plenty of time to see the highlights in these otherwise very touristy towns. And Siquijor, well, you could just live there.
When booking your flights
If you want to pass right through Cebu City without spending a night, book an early flight in and a late flight out. That way, you can head from the airport straight to South Bus Terminal and catch your first ride to the beachside.
When returning from Siquijor, you can get a ferry from Siquijor Port to Dumaguete in the morning, head from Dumaguete to Liloan, ride a bus back to the city, and make it to the airport for a late evening or night flight.
More questions? Not to fret. I’ll be detailing each leg of the trip in a series of upcoming posts—complete with recommendations on where to stay, how long things will take, and how much you can fit in a day. Feel free to drop me a line for special requests.
An Alternative: Fly to Dumaguete
Before jumping into our master budget, I want to mention that there is an alternative way to reach our destinations.
Instead of Cebu City, you can fly to Dumaguete, on Negros Island.
From the Sibulan Port just north of Dumaguete, you can take a 30-minute ferry to Liloan in Santander and ride busses to Moalboal and Oslob, respectively. The trips—especially to Oslob—will be a lot shorter than coming from Cebu City. Less traffic, too.
As we’ll soon discover, the ferry from Dumaguete to Siquijor Port is a convenient way to reach Siquijor Island.
Plus, I hear Negros itself is full of hidden gems. Maybe we’ll explore that more in the future.
For this trip, anyway, my party and I flew through Cebu—partly to spent time visiting friends and squeeze in a visa renewal. More on that in a future post.
And in case you’re wondering why I’ve skipped Bohol and Panglao: Having been there a few times before, I was more keen on covering new territory. However, if you want to add it to your itinerary (say, to see the Chocolate Hills and tarsiers), just replace the last leg of your trip with a ferry from Siquijor to Tagbilaran, then Tagbilaran to Cebu City to catch your flight out.
That said, if we’re talking budget, these ferry rides will cost you a fair bit more than the transportation options below—something to the tune of 800 pesos per person per trip.
The Master Budget
Without further ado: our budget breakdown, with all prices in Philippine pesos. For easy reference, 50 pesos is roughly equivalent to 1 US dollar. Bear in mind that these are averages.
Budgeting for Travel & Accommodations
Flights: A round trip from Manila to Cebu tends to cost between P2700 – P4000 per person. I usually book directly via Cebu Pacific for the best prices.
Minimum spend: P2700 (unless you get lucky with a seal sale promo)
Accommodations. All of our Agoda bookings (double room with child) averaged P560 per night; solo travelers can book for as low as P250 per night.
Minimum spend: P2000 (estimating P400 per night for 5 nights)
Land & Sea Transportation:
- Grab taxi to NAIA airport in Manila: P300-600 (depending on rush hour)
- Grab taxi in Cebu (to and from the airport and bus terminal) P100-300 per ride
- Bus from Cebu City (South Bus Terminal) to Moalboal: P120-150 per person
- Bus from Moalboal to Oslob: P100 person
- Bus or trike from Oslob to Liloan Port: P50 per person or P400 per trike
- Ferry from Liloan Port to Larena: P200 per person (only at 10 AM; alternatives below)
- Scooter rental in Siquijor: P300-350 per day
- Ferry from Larena to Liloan Port: P200 per person (only at 6 PM)
- Bus from Liloan Port to South Bus Terminal in Cebu City: P235 per adult
Minimum spend: P2400
That puts us at a subtotal of P7100, or about $140 dollars (for one person).
Traveling with kids
For buses, kids ride free if they can sit in your lap or pay 80% of the adult fare with a “student discount”. For ferries, the rate for children is usually half the full fare.
A note on scooter rentals
Certainly in Siquijor it’s absolutely worth it—the island is just the right size and a thrill to explore on your own. Because we ended up keeping our scooter for a week, we got our rental fee down to P285 per day. And we would have spent as much on one or two trike rides.
Whereas, in places like Moalboal and Oslob, we didn’t find it as necessary and did a lot of walking instead.
FAQ: Is there a direct ferry from Liloan to Siquijor?
To Siquijor Island, yes—once a day. To Siquijor Port, no.
Maayo Shipping runs a ferry from Liloan in Santander to Larena Port in Siquijor, departing at 10 AM (in fair weather) with boarding starting at 9 AM. The return trip, from Larena to Liloan, departs at 6 PM. It will cost about P200 per person.
What if I miss the ferry to Larena?
If you miss the 10 AM ferry to Larena Port, don’t fret. There is an alternative route. It will cost a bit more than the direct trip in time and money but it’s not a bad option and will surely get you there.
Cebu to Siquijor via Dumaguete:
- Ferry between Liloan and Sibulan Port: P85 per adult (incl. terminal fee) P35 for kids
- Trike from Sibulan to Dumaguete Pier and vice versa: P150-200
- Ferry between Dumaguete and Siquijor: P250 per adult, P125 for kids
This is the route we ended up taking, having lounged obliviously in Oslob until the late morning. On the plus side, arriving at Siquijor Port instead of Larena did put us closer to our accommodations.
Another advantage: these ferries go at regular intervals all throughout the day. Here are the schedules for 2020: Liloan to Dumaguete; Dumaguete to Siquijor.
Budgeting For Food, Drink, & Activities
Now it’s time for the good stuff—and we still have $85 to spend!
- Swimming/snorkeling in at Panagsama beach in Moalboal: free
- Snorkel rental: P300 per person
- Panagsama guided tour: P500 per person (incl. gear, excl. P100 locker rental; more on this to come)
- Swimming with whale sharks in Oslob: P1,000 per person (excl. hotel fee; more on this to come!
- Siquijor underground river entrance fee, per person: P250 per adult, P125 for kids (excl. tip for the guides)
- Siquijor enchanted river and waterfall entrance fees, per person: P10-50
- Tarzan swings (at Cambugahay and Lagaan falls): P50 per person
- Snorkel rental in Siquijor: 150 per person per day
- Snorkeling at Tubod Marine Sanctuary: P100 for snorkeling gear, P50 entrance fee (for the sanctuary)
- Cinema (Cebu City only): P270 per person (just because)
Minimum spend: P2000 (that’s yes to all the best)
Food & Drink:
- Per person per meal at local eateries: P50-100
- Per person per meal at a restaurant: P150-300
- Local beer at local establishments, per bottle: P50-70 (P150 at the airport)
- (Subtotal: as low as P4000)
Minimum spend: P2400 (a very doable budget of P400 per day for 6 days)
A note on tourist vs. local prices
You’ll find everything in towns like Oslob and Moalboal to be more expensive, from bananas at a roadside fruit stall to simple eatery meals (compared to, say, Manila prices). However, in Siquijor, we found prices to be less “touristy” and more local.
For a 6d5n solo trip, you can very realistically budget a grand total of P11,500—just a touch over $225. And, as we’ve seen, that covers pretty much everything.
So you’ve got your first steps toward planning some breathtaking island adventures. Go ahead, grab your calculator and see if you can’t make it work.
On my end, I can’t wait to tell you all about the amazing places you’ll see and breathtaking stuff you’ll be able to do.
For now, follow Trips with Flo on Facebook to catch upcoming posts on:
- How to make the most of Moalboal
- Everything you need to know about swimming with whale sharks
- The best waterfalls to see along the way
- Siquijor’s newly discovered underground river
- An enchanted waterway no one knows about (shhh!)
If you have any burning questions or suggestions on what to cover, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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