Because the Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, one of the most convenient and cheapest ways to get around the country is by boat, particularly via the commercial ferry services offered. Traveling by Manila ferry is a cheap way to travel from one island to another (fares from Php1,000), enabling you to discover the hidden charms of the unspoiled beaches and forests of the country.
There are major ferryboat companies equipped with large ships capable of transporting over 1,000 passengers at a time. While onboard, you will find convenient facilities and comfortable accommodation ranging from private cabins to shared rooms with bunk beds. The ferryboats of major companies are also well maintained.
There are several advantages to riding a ferry (compared to flying in a plane). For starters, ferries offer a very eco-friendly way to travel if you want to lessen your carbon footprint. Ferries also offer significantly cheaper fares compared to airlines because they are rarely affected by the high costs of fuel. You also get to enjoy views of the sea, and there is hardly ever a limit on the amount of luggage you can bring – fantastic if packing light is not an option.
Journeys by Manila ferries may take quite a long time but they do generally leave on time and are most likely to arrive on schedule as long as the weather permits. During high season – Holy Week, Christmas, New Year, and All Saints’ Day – you can expect the Manila ferries to be crowded with too many passengers who are visiting their hometowns. If you are traveling anytime during these seasons, it is advisable to book tickets early or avoid the ferries altogether as unsafe overcrowding may occur, especially in smaller vessels. This is rarely the case for bigger ferry companies, though, as they exercise better control and security.
Most ferries departing from Manila leave at the Pier (Manila Bay), which is divided into the South Harbour (Muelle de San Francisco Street) and North Harbour (Bonifacio Drive in Tondo’s Marcos Street). Among the port facilities are a seating area and a plethora of cheap food and beverage stalls. You need to make sure that you never leave your luggage and personal belongings unattended to avoid theft.
Manila ferry companies
WG&A is the Philippines biggest shipping company, and it runs the popular SuperFerry. It is among the major ferry companies in the country, serving destinations like Tagbilaran, Ozamis, and Coron.
Pier 4 is the departure area for Super Ferry passengers, which is in Manila’s North Harbour. If you are riding the ordinary ferry, you can go to the South Harbour’s Pier 15. SuperCat also operates from WG&A, and it offers as much as 50 ferry trips to Tagbilaran, Batangas, Cebu, Larena, Calipan, and Dapitan. SuperCat occupies 10 ports.
If you are travelling to Cebu by ferry, Cebu Ferries is an exclusive service; its ships run to and from Cebu only. You can also opt to ride Negros Navigation, which offers trips to Cebu as well as to other places like Panay, Zamboanga, Negros, Ozamiz, Dumaguit, Puerto Princesa, and Roxas. You can also rely on MBRS Lines if you want to travel from Manila to Panay or Romblon. Its fleet of vessels consists of 17 ferries to destinations such as Maripipi, Kawayan, Cebu, Davao, Estancia, Baybay, Butuan, Maasin, Naval, and Cotabato.
El Greco also goes to Bataan’s economic zone from Manila via Kristen, its fastest vessel. Sulpicio Lines now goes to destinations like Davao, Dipolog, Cotabato, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Ormoc, and Zamboanga among others. If you are riding its ferries, you should be dropped off at the North Harbor’s Pier 12.
All the major ferry companies have ticketing offices in town and at the pier itself, so you won’t have to find their main headquarters just to buy or reserve your ticket. They also have websites where you can purchase your tickets in advance.