Lying in the heart of the Philippine archipelago, the tropical island of Cebu is, aside from its own charms as a tropical island paradise, the country’s most convenient transport hub. The Queen of Southern Philippines, as it is affectionately known, is the ideal starting point for some detailed island hopping and is home to over 80 per cent of all the Philippines’ inter island shipping services.
You can pretty much get to anywhere in the archipelago, however obscure the destination, from Cebu and ferry travel in the Philippines is pretty unforgettable. There are super fast speedboats that zip between nearby outlying islands, overcrowded roll-on-roll-off vessels and huge passenger ferries accommodating up to 4,000 people.
Cebu City port is the busiest in the country and home to dozens of shipping lines plying routes such as Bohol, Mindanao, Leyte and Negros. Sulpicio Lines (website: www.w3fire.com) has regular speedy services throughout the Central Visayas.
Cebu is also a major air transport hub too and with numerous international direct flights into Mactan Airport, it saves the often unbearable hassle of transit through Manila. Carriers such as PAL and low budget Cebu Pacific offer cheap deals from major Asian cities such as Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai and Bangkok. Virtually every domestic destination is served including grassy airstrips on any number of tiny islands dotted throughout the archipelago.
Getting into town from the airport is a breeze. For the 10kms journey to Cebu City taxis are the best option and cost around PHP200 for the 20 minute journey. Many travellers have experienced overcharging and rip offs so be very clear about the exact fare beforehand.
Taxis companies are generally professionally run and efficient here, although in Cebu City and elsewhere on the island, be prepared for travel in tatty, poorly maintained vehicles. A good safe bet is Catz Taxi.
Many larger hotels will organise transport or you can easily hire a car. Driving in Cebu is not for the faint hearted; driving standards are very erratic and things like traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are seemingly only there for ornamental purposes.
Getting around Cebu on public transport is often a chaotic and noisy experience but all the more bearable by famous jeepney. These artfully decorated jeep cum minivans are quintessentially Filipino and a great way to soak up local life while getting from A to B.
Expect little in the way of legroom or personal space as passengers are crammed in like sardines on busy routes complete with all manner of produce and perhaps the odd live chicken. They can be hailed from the roadside anywhere and are generally restricted to main urban routes. A short ride in town will likely set you back Php10.
Where jeepneys don’t go you will find motorised ‘tricycles’ which are essentially motorbikes with a sidecar. Often the only means of getting around in more rural areas of the island, they act as feeder routes for urban jeepney services covering less travelled costal routes and back roads. It is a good option for exploring a few lesser known beauty spots around the island but don’t expect much comfort.
Scheduled bus services radiate out from Cebu City’s two main bus terminals to spots all over the island and are as good a way as any to spend a day sightseeing. Fares are under Php200 to virtually anywhere; however, some routes are known for frequent delays or cancellations.
Getting around on foot is pleasant enough in quiet beach resorts but a foolhardy choice in built up urban areas. The car is king and most motorists won’t give pedestrians a second glance, even at traffic lights and crossings! Travellers on foot in practice have no right of way and at red lights and pedestrian crossings don’t be surprised to see motorists speeding through as if they were not there.