We will write a blog post all the things to know before visiting Balabac. We would have loved to know all those things before our trip so we could plan better.
Balabac is located in South Palawan. Balabac popular because its pristine waters, sand bars and beautiful islands. If you are going to Balabac you will require planning everything in advance.
Prices aren’t cheap in Balabac. The island hopping is great but no luxury you will find in Balabac. Prices are per person depending what you negotiate with your tour operator or boatman. Once you are in Balabac island hopping and spending the day in the islands you will forget about everything.
If you don’t have so much time for your trip to Balabac you have to organize properly. You can read here full information how to get to Balabac. There is a possibility of getting to Rio Tuba early morning or Bulilayon port that will allow you to save time.
It means you will enjoy your first island hopping the first day in the afternoon. Let’s say your flight gets to Puerto Princesa at midnight or until 4 am you will have time to reach if you organize properly. Otherwise you will have to stay overnight in Rio Tuba as it happened to us on the way back from Balabac.
Read here things to do in Puerto Princesa!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING BALABAC
1. HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD I SPEND IN BALABAC?
Minimum 3 days of island hopping in Balabac. Maybe as our case you will start your first island hopping after lunch the first day. And you will have one hour by boat to your first destination. So it will not be 3 complete days since the first day you will not do many stops maybe 2 or 3 if you go in a hurry.
I would recommend from 3-5 days in Balabac depending the time that you have for spending there. Remember when planning your trip to Balabac that coming and going back to Puerto Princesa will take you one extra day at least in total.
2. THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY IN BALABAC
You will have no electricity in Balabac in a regular basics. You will find electricity to charge your devices just a few hours from the generator of your accommodation. In our case until 10 pm you were able to charge your batteries and devices which was enough time to do it.
Since they provide adapters to connect USB and plugs enough for all the people staying in the accommodation. Apart from this there is almost no electricity just with their own generators in the islands.
3. THERE IS NO INTERNET AND PHONE SIGNAL
You will not find internet connection in Balabac. Well at one point you can find an intermittent signal if you look for it waking around the island, we didn’t find it. Also similar with phone companies like Smart and Globe we couldn’t find phone signal in Balabac.
In Buliluyan port Smart was getting signal for messages and calls but not for internet connection. In Rio Tuba you can get wifi, phone signal with Smart and Globe. Also you can get data connection with no problem in the town of Rio Tuba.
Once you are in the islands around Balabac just enjoy and forget about phone signal and internet connection.
4. THERE IS NO ATM IN BALABAC
There is no ATM in Balabac! We recommend you to bring cash and withdraw in Puerto Princesa. On the way to Rio Tuba there are places where you can withdraw money. You can ask the van driver to stop in Nara and Brooke’s point. You will find ATM also in Rio Tuba.
Our advice it’s don’t trust so much this option. In our case we couldn’t withdraw in Nara and Brooke’s point since the ATM wasn’t working when we pass by with the van. It’s much better that you withdraw enough money in Puerto Princesa for your trip in Balabac. So you don’t have to be worried about cash. You just have to enjoy the island life in Balabac. Make sure that you bring extra cash for your trip.
5. THERE IS NO EXCHANGE OFFICE FOR FOREIGN CURRENCY
Bring Filipino pesos PHP. We didn’t see exchange office for foreign currency. They expect that they payment is in Filipino pesos. Make sure you are bringing enough cash for your trip in Balabac. As we mentioned before no ATM but also not foreign exchange currency.
6. IS IT SAFE TRAVELING TO BALABAC?
I read before the trip that Balabac wasn’t totally safe traveling to Balabac for foreigners. As a foreigner I felt myself very safe in Balabac. I met foreigners that they visited Balabac and all of them they felt very safe too.
Most of the foreigner countries recommend not to travel to South Palawan because is too risky due to terrorist attack or pirates. Based on my experience if you organize your trip with a tour operator they will guide you around and you will have no problems.
There are many rumors that pirate terrorists are kidnapping tourists in the Balabac Islands. We never felt unsafe and we never felt that it was a problem. Even tour guides assured us that never had any concerns about this.
7. GET TO BALABAC VIA PUERTO PRINCESA
If you are going to Rio Tuba from Puerto Princesa by van will take 4-5 hours depending on the traffic. Prices are around 450-500 PHP depending on the driver. The schedule of the vans from Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba is around 5 am to 6 pm. It’s not fixed schedule!
Once in Rio Tuba you have to get the passenger boat going to Balabac. It will take around 4 hours to get to Balabac. It costs 350-400 PHP. The boat leaves around 11 am. But you will have to book secure your seat early morning to make sure you have space on it. You have to buy your tickets from boat crew in Marabahay Pier.
8. STAYING IN RIO TUBA
Remember the boat leaves around 11 am from Rio Tuba to Balabac. And you have to register a couple of hours before to secure your seat. If you stay overnight in Rio Tuba there are lodges starting from 300 PHP with fun until 1000 PHP with air conditioning and breakfast included.
9. STAYING AT MARABON TOWN
We were walking around the town and you can find most of the shops sells Malaysian products. Most of the people are mixed Filipino and Malaysian since it’s close to Malaysian Borneo.
10. NO LUXURY HOTELS IN BALABAC
Don’t expect any luxury in Balabac. You will be sleeping either in a small room with a mosquito net and no fun and air conditioning or in a tent . Life is simple in Balabac, food and your accommodation will be simple too. But the island hopping will be amazing.
11. NO NIGHTLIFE IN BALABAC
The life starts early morning in Balabac. You can always grab some drinks in Buliluyan port to stay up at night in your accommodation. But the day starts at the sunrise with the breakfast and island hopping after this!
12. TOUR OPERATOR ITINERARY
When you schedule your trip to Balabac make sure you clear with your tour operator where you will be your itinerary. If food is included and taxes visiting the islands. Where you will be sleeping and how many days you will be enjoying island hopping.
13. BRING YOUR OWN SNORKELING MASK
Make sure you are bringing snorkeling mask in our case the tour operator wasn’t bringing snorkeling masks. So if you aren’t bringing you will not have the possibilities of renting. How is this possible in a destination like Balabac? Obviously we are always bringing our snorkeling gear.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING BALABAC
14. ENTRANCE FEES IN BALABAC
Entrance fees to the islands are between 50-150 PHP most of them. Except Onuk Island which goes from 1500 PHP spending the day to 2500 PHP if you stay overnight. Prices will be cheaper if you are traveling in a group or if you can join 3-4 people you will get better deals that if you do alone. At the time that we visited Balabac Onuk Island was closed for a few months for cleaning and maintenance.
15. BALABAC IS VERY CLOSE TO MALAYSIAN BORNEO
If you look up the map Balabac is close to Malaysian Borneo. There is no transportation avalaible between these countries despite its close.
16. ONLY 40 000 PEOPLE IS THEIR POPULATION
The total of the population living in Balabac are less than 40 000 people. You can expect quiet places and not crowded which is great for visiting around.
17. MUSLIM RELIGION
Most of the people are muslim in Balabac totally different to rest of the country. At the time we were there was Ramadan and around Buliluyan port we could see activity. How people was dressed and it’s so different than other parts in the Philippines talking about religion.
18. MALAYSIAN PRODUCTS
In the town of Balabac you will find stores selling mostly Malaysian products like coffee, tea, and Malaysian clothes. Since it’s so close to Malaysian Borneo cargo ships stops there bringing all these goods.
19. MINERAL WATER
The mineral water in Balabac is coming from Malaysia. Most of the time we were drinking same brand coming from Malaysian Borneo.
20. PRICES OF THE TOUR
Prices of the tours in Balabac will be different if you join a tour that if you do a private tour. If you join a tour expect to pay around 6000-8000 PHP per adult person for 3 days and 2 nights all included. Per kids 2000-4000 PHP for the same days.
It means you can do island hopping in Balabac for 2000-3000 PHP per day. Entrance fees, food and accommodation. It will not be included snacks and drinks.
If you decide to do a private tour expect to pay around 4000 PHP per day if there are 4 of you for the tour. Depending how many islands you are visiting. If you visit Onuk island is more expensive so you need extra budget for this joining a tour or private.
21. BRING SUNBLOCK, MOSQUITO REPELLENT
Don’t forget your sunblock and mosquito repellent. During the day is too hot and when stopping in sand bars will be really hard for your skin if you don’t protect. At night make sure that you use mosquito repellent. The accommodation will be providing a msoquito net.
22. BRING YOUR OWN TOILETTRIES
Bring your toilettries everything that you need since there are almost no places to shop around Balabac when you are doing island hopping or sleeping in local islands. You will find places to buy in Malaban town.
23. DON’T EXPECT HOT WATER FOR SHOWER
We already mentioned above about no luxury in Balabac. So for shower don’t expect running and hot water. Anyway the camps are very clean and well organized for this.
24. PRICES ARE EXPENSIVE
Prices for food and island hopping are more expensive than other areas in the Philippines. But comparing with prices in Coron and El Nido touristic areas in Palawan Balabac was more affordable since everything is included.
25. WEATHER IN BALABAC
Most of the people are visiting during the dry season from November to April. The best time to visit Balabac is from April to May. We visited on June and the weather was windy and it rained one day out of three that we spent in Balabac. The best thing of going on June that we were alone visiting the islands and sandbanks. We saw maximum two boats in the same island at this time.
26. FOOD IS SIMPLE
If you are planning a food trip in Balabac don’t expect so much! Food is basic mostly rice with fish, and not so much variety. You will find vegetables, eggs and meat. If you want to have snacks, drinks or sodas better if you bring your own from Rio Tuba.
27. A LOT OF TRASH
For me the most negative part of the trip to Balabac was about the trash. Every place that we visited was almost empty but still we could see so much trash everywhere. Better not even mentioning Marabon town where the amount of trash in the water is too much.
We have to take care of the places and if it’s possible keep clean for other people can enjoy the paradise. We tried to collect trash on the places that we stayed around but we didn’t also have bags to collect properly everything. Our little one Han was collecting trash on his own with only 6 years old. He liked before swimming to find everything clean.
28. WOULD YOU VISIT AGAIN BALABAC?
For sure! We want to go back to Balabac before is becoming more touristic. We would love to visit in April or May to make sure that we enjoy the best weather in Balabac. We will plan better and we are planning to enjoy 4-5 days island hopping in Balabac which will be great disconnect to conect with the real world.
Hope that we replied all your questions in our things to know before visiting Balabac and we didn’t forget anything. Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share this post with your family and friends going to Balabac.
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