Getting to Puerto Galera from Manila

I received a message on Twitter asking how long it takes to get to the ferry terminal from the airport in Manila…. the short answer is around 3 hours, give or take, depending on traffic.  Of course there is a little more too getting to Puerto Galera than that!  I promised to write more about this process on my blog, so here we are!

There are a few different ways to get to Puerto Galera. The easiest and fastest is to let your dive operation organize transport for you.  They can have a private van meet you at the airport and take you direct to Batangas Pier. This can be around 3500-4000 pesos and can take 6-10 people depending on how much baggage you have. This is cost effective if you are traveling with a group. They can also have a private boat bring you across which will probably run another 4000 pesos. Looking at around $170 dollars at current exchange rate of approximately 47 pesos to the dollar. For someone who is already spending a couple of thousand dollars to come from half-way around the world and doesn’t want to hassle with moving their bags around, then this is definitely an option.  If you have money to burn, you can even hire a seaplane… I’m going to assume most of you reading are not millionaires though!

A lot depends on what time of day you fly in.  The last ferry to Puerto Galera leaves around 5 PM. There are 4 different destinations for the bangka ferries, Sabang Pier, Muelle Pier, Balatero Pier, and White Beach. Times will vary for the last ferry based on destination so make sure to check with your operator. They are your best source for the most current information on schedules. If you fly into Manila in the afternoon you will end up having to spend the night somewhere if you don’t get a private boat and depending on conditions a boat may not be allowed to cross at night.

Assuming you get there early enough, then my suggestion is go to the departures area and get a metered cab.  Make sure you ask before you get in because they won’t all use the meter.  Have them take you to Buendia or Cubao if you want to take a bus. Time to the terminal will be dependent on traffic. It can take an hour or more depending on time of day.

I went to Cubao and use ALPS to get to Batangas Ferry Terminal on my last trip.  I wasn’t coming from the airport, but from Pampanga where I was staying.  Other than a 4 week trip home, I was in the Philippines from the middle of October last year until the end of September. I just returned to the US the end of September.

This trip I rode a bus from Pampanga to Cubao.  After getting out, I waved down an ALPS bus going to Batangas Pier so I actually saved a few minutes walk to the ALPS terminal.  I caught the bus at around 8 AM and was at the ferry terminal by 11:30 AM.  That was during morning rush hour.  The cost was a 175 pesos. After multiple trips between Cubao an Batangas Pier, the average time seemed to be between 2 hours 30 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes. Add around 45 minutes during rush hour.

I know some people advise against putting your bags underneath on the bus, but I normally do this and have never had a problem. You can keep your bags with you, but you can be asked to purchase a seat for the bag. This approaches certainty if the bus is full. Having said that, there is always some risk. This is true pretty much everywhere though.

Whichever bus you take, make sure it says Batangas Pier and it’s the express bus. Look also for “Calabarzon” which stands for Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.  Buses run throughout the day, but if you don’t make it to the ferry terminal in time for the last ferry to Puerto Galera, you will end up spending the night somewhere. The last direct ferry to Sabang should be around 3 PM. Something to consider when you are planning your flight.  Leave plenty of time to get to the bus terminal and then for the ride to Batangas.  Manila has a well-earned reputation for horrendous traffic! There are later ferries, but if staying in Sabang you will have to get a trike or jeepney to take you the rest of the way.

If you arrive no later than mid-day,  you can hire a taxi to take you to Batangas Pier for 2500-3000 pesos.  Remember everything is negotiable!   This will almost certainly end up being cheaper than a hotel room for the night so it’s something to consider if you are pressed for time.

When you arrive at Batangas Pier if you are obviously a foreigner or you’re loaded down with dive gear, you will be swarmed by porters. If you come by bus you’ll leave the area where buses unload and load and walk straight ahead towards the water. After crossing the road turn left on the sidewalk. You’ll cross over another vehicular entrance to the pier area. Just keep going until you have to turn right. I doubt the distance is more than 70-80 yards.

You’ll walk down the sidewalk until you have to turn left again. You’ll come to another fence where you will make a jog to the right then left into a courtyard. Across the courtyard you will see two buildings with a walkway in between. This will bring you to another small courtyard. The building on the right is the terminal building. The one one on the left has ferry line ticket windows. Pass between the two buildings and you will see a small courtyard to the left. If you look straight across the courtyard there is another building with ticket windows for multiple ferry lines. The majority of the dive operations are in Sabang. Pick your destination based on where your dive operator/hotel is. Your choices are Sabang Pier, Muelle Pier, Balatero Pier, and White Beach. Your operator will advise you. Once you purchase your ticket turn around a 180 degrees and walk back across the courtyard and in the right hand corner is where you will pay your terminal fee of 30 pesos. In September I paid 230 pesos to Sabang on FSL (Father and Son Lines). When you arrive in Puerto Galera you will pay a 50 peso environmental fee so make sure you have small change.

After that you can enter the terminal building which will be just up the steps into the building along the water. If a porter has been helping you with your bags, be advised that they cannot enter the building. They will ask for a 100 pesos… at least. 50 pesos is plenty. Locals pay even less.

After your bags go through x-ray and you’ve passed through the metal detector, turn to the right and enter the waiting area. In the front right corner is the entrance to the pier. Along the left side will be desks with representatives of some of the hotels and dive operators. Along the back will be vendors to purchase food and in the back corner will be restrooms (CR or Comfort Room in the Philippines). When your ferry is called you will show your ticket and be directed to your ferry.

My last trip to Puerto Galera I carried 4 bags. A small Pelican case with my cameras, lenses, dive computers, and electronic accessories. A larger bag with my Ikelite housing, ports, and strobes. And then the really heavy bag which is all my dive gear, spare parts, tools, clothes, etc.. I also normally have a smaller carry bag for my laptop, journal for keeping notes, power bank for my phone, etc.. Things I might need on the bus. My Akona bag that I carry my Ikelite accessories in can be rigged with backpack straps. I carry this one on my back while pulling the Pelican case and my dive gear bag. My carry-on I sling in front of me. I can manage this for short distances, but I did allow someone to help me put the large bag on the boat. The gangway is a bit narrow and I have no wish to fall in the water! From the bus to the terminal I can handle this by myself. Again, they will ask for a 100 pesos from the bus to the terminal. That is way to high! If you want help, 50 pesos should be plenty. 50 pesos to get the bag on the ferry should be fine also. Again, this is more than what locals will pay.

On the other end after you reach Puerto Galera, there will be numerous porters who will want to carry your bag from the boat to wherever you are staying. You can tip according to distance. When I came in August I tipped a 100 pesos (a little over $2 dollars) because it was a pretty good distance from the pier to the dive shop and my bag was heavy. Some people might think I tipped to much, some to little. I think it was a happy medium. A normal bag I think 50 pesos should be good, again depending on how far they carry it and how heavy.

Back in the USA

I had an unexpected family issue come up and flew back to the US last week. My brother flew with me and we’re home in Texas now. Nothing life-threatening, just something that required our attention. Like brothers in other families I suspect, we get along pretty well except for the occasional times we want to kill each other 🙂 Most of the time though he’s one of my favorite people to hang out with 😉

This trip instead of renting a car like I did the last time I came home in May I opted to take my Harley Davidson out of storage and ride it instead. Probably should have done that last time :)) It’s been in storage for over a year. It ended up needing a new battery. The battery on a V-Rod is a pain to replace as we had to remove the air-breather to get to it, but my brother and I got it done. Then I had to purchase insurance, get it inspected, and re-register the bike. In all I probably spent about $220 bucks, but still a lot cheaper than renting a car for a month or longer!

Standing next to my 2004 Harley Davidson V-Rod last Friday the day after getting home to Texas.  Good to be on the road again!
Standing next to my 2004 Harley Davidson V-Rod last Friday the day after getting home to Texas. Good to be on the road again!

I expect to be here about 4-6 weeks all together. During my last week in Puerto Galera my Hollis DG-03 Dive Computer malfunctioned. It didn’t want to surface from a dive! I understand not wanting to come up, but unlike my dive computer I don’t have a choice when the air in my tank runs low :)) The computer was locking up at 3 feet. I managed to get it to clear a few times, but it kept doing it again so I broke down and borrowed a dive computer from Rick.

I contacted the folks at Hollis this week and explained the problem and it’s been sent back to the factory for service. Since it’s less than two years old it will be covered under warranty so my only expense was postage to the factory. Surprisingly, they expect only a 10 day turnaround so I’m quite happy about that!

My Dive Rite RG-3500 regulators happened to be due for service also. With over a 100 dives in the Philippines in the last year, it seemed like a good time to get that taken care of as well. I’ve owned these regulators since 2009 and although they’ve been discontinued, they continue to give me good service! My setup consists of a RG3500 1st Stage and two RG-3500 2nd Stages. I use miflex hoses, with my primary on a 5 foot hose and my secondary on a short hose I wear on a necklace. I’ll be dropping them off at Sea Sports Scuba in Cypress, Texas which is about a half hour from where I’m staying with family while I’m in Texas. They estimated about a 2 week turnaround. Parts have to be ordered.

I dive an Oxycheq Mach V Extreme Wing on a Dive Rite SS back plate. This is basically a wreck diving setup. I’m Wreck and Cavern certified and was thinking at the time I bought the gear that I might get into Tech Diving. I’ve since chosen not too as I don’t think it’s something I would do often enough to justify the expense. Who knows though, I still might do it at some point. In the meantime, it’s still a good setup for the limited penetrations I do and I like the streamlined feel of it 🙂

The bladder developed a leak which I noticed in Puerto Galera. The wing is over 7 years old with 100’s of dives on it. I initially thought about replacing the bladder as the best option, but instead I’m going to try patching it with AquaSeal. The bladder isn’t ripped or torn (difficult to do with the Extreme Wing because of the Armored Extreme Explorer Fabric used for the outer shell) It’s very tough and was a big reason why I chose the this particular wing. It’s just a pinhole leak so it should be fine I think with AquaSeal.

No reason not to take care of some diving related stuff while I’m here 🙂 I’m hoping to be out of here and on my way back to the Philippines by the 1st week of November. I’ll keep you all posted!