A big part of your travels troughs the Philippines are probably island and beach hopping tours as there are more than 7000 islands and the best and most beautiful places are on these small islands only reachable by boat. The question you are facing is: Private boat or with an organized tour?
Both options have positive as also negative sides, and it often depends on the islands which option is better. Although taking a private tour is not that expensive as you might think, it will always be more expensive than being in a group. The only time a private boat will cost you as much as a tour is when you fill up the boat with friends to its maximal capacity (Mostly 6 to 15 people). In most cases a private boat with driver and often also a guide will cost you around 1500 pesos (On Siagaro) to 2700 pesos (in Coron), but no food and no entrance fees are included. Like this, the private tour in Coron costs me in total more than double I would have spent on an organized tour.
The most significant plus point for a private tour is flexibility. You are entirely free, and you can decide the locations as well as the time you spend on the Islands or places you visit. With an organized tour, you have a fixed window, and after that, the boat leaves again, you have no choice of going earlier or later. On the other Hand, the tour operators have experience with the places and know what periods are reasonable for each location.
The best thing about the private boat in Coron was that we skipped the masses of tourists. We went to the beach before everyone else, and we were the only ones on the beach. And around lunch time we went to the lake, exactly the time everyone was on the beach for lunch. We skipped the millions of Chinese tourists by reversing the order of the tour. We told our boat captain which places we want to see, and he managed to escape the busy times which was lovely.
Meeting cool people on your tour
My favorite part of an organized tour is to meet other Backpackers and find new friends and have a fantastic day or days with them. To ensure that you don’t end up with a bunch of seniors or Chinese tourists who don’t even speak English, I recommend always to book your tours in Backpacker Hostels. These tours consist mostly of 95% backpackers, and you’ll find new friends. On my visit to El Nido I had a bunch of people from the UK, and I ended up traveling with them for a few days. I also love it to meet new people, and it’s much more fun to be in a relaxed group then only two people in my opinion.
I can conclude that both, an organized tour or a private tour, have it’s positive and negative sides. I prefer the organized tours as I love to meet new people and for a backpacker, on a budget, the money aspect plays a significant role. If you are a bigger group (more then four people), a private tour might be the better option, but for fewer people, the organized tour is often more fun and cheaper. The only book in Hostels to get the backpackers on your boat and the day is set to be amazing.
- Total countries I visited until now: 35
- Planes: 14
- Busses: 43
- Trains: 18
- Boats: 23
- Km driving: 7000
- Km running: 2170