Taking A Korea Break – To The Philippines

Tl;dr – walk, metro, airport express (non-express), traditional Korean airport, completely uncomplicated nterterminal train, flight, quick transfer at Manila, Manila airport is freaking crazy, terminal transfer but no bus for 40 minutes, scam taxi through gridlock, thought we were too late but successful check-in, 2 hour flight delay, flight, transfer stickers, bus, boat, minibus, guided walk

So it was time to say goodbye to Korea and say hello to the Philippines. We got up early, grabbed a quick brekkie and headed to the metro. We tried to buy our tickets but the machine said we couldn’t change trains where we needed to. We asked a member of staff who found an English speaking staff member and said we were heading to Incheon Airport. The first guy came back and told the second guy to tell us to get the bus. He then went away, came back 30 seconds later and told the second guy to tell us to get the metro. So we did. We were assured we could transfer despite the machine telling us otherwise.

We got to Seoul station and thankfully transferred no problem. I knew the next departure was a direct express train to Incheon and we got on the first train to arrive at the station, which said it was the airport express. Another train came and went and when we left we stopped everywhere en route. Turns out the line is the Airport Express and there’s an Airport Express Express.

Despite this we made it to Incheon with plenty of time and checked in. We were flying from Seoul to Manila and Manila to Kalibo so thought we would be able to check in for both but were informed we couldn’t. We had a 1 hour 40 minute turn around in Manila and we were starting to worry we had not left enough time.

We sat down in an area of the airport that looked very out of place in a busy international airport.

It felt quite nice and would have helped us relax about our impending short flight transfer had we not started reading about our first airport destination. “It is a nightmare” read one. “Try and leave at least 3-4 hours” read another. Oh.

We got through security and had to board a shuttle train to get to the area of Incheon airport where we would find our gate. As if that wasn’t enough our gate was once more at the very far end of the terminal. It meant we got to watch the planes go by though.

Once on our flight we had a chance to sit back and relax for a few hours. We had a plan for the other end and we were determined to give this transfer our best shot. We were out of our seats as fast as we could to get off the plane and to security at the front of the queue. We breezed through quarantine, breezed through customs and were ready at either end of the carousel to get Bertha as soon as she popped out of the hatch. It wasn’t long before Kate and Big B were reunited and we were ready to go check-in to our next flight.

We landed into terminal 3 and needed to hop across to terminal 4. Unlike our five minute shuttle train in Seoul we knew this was going to be difficult. All of Manila’s four terminals are completely separate and connected by busy public roads that are prone to epic traffic jams. We asked a lady at the bag collection how best to get to terminal 4 and she informed us we could get the free shuttle bus. Brilliant, we thought. We walked around the building to a bus transfer waiting area. We had to go through a security screening and sat down in a holding area where was no information at all, anywhere. I asked a guy when the next bus was and he informed me one had just left and the next one would be showing up in 45 minutes. We couldn’t believe it. We had 40 minutes to check-in closing and just couldn’t wait that long. We were told plan b was to head back out to the front of the terminal and get a taxi.

We went back out of the bus holding area, walked back round the front and outside the terminal. We were immediately accosted by a man asking if we needed a taxi. He then asked our flight time and, after I divulged this information assuming he was an airport employee, he began to run away from the taxi stand to the public pick-up/drop-off bit beckoning us to follow saying we had no time. I knew at that point this was not going to be a regulation taxi, nor was it cheap. But with neither the time nor know-how to negotiate we figured it best to just do whatever to catch our connecting flight. He told us it was 1500 pesos and at that point we should have just left and found a proper taxi. But this was a high pressure terminal change and we weren’t thinking straight. I therefore went back into the terminal building (through my second security checkpoint) to get cash out leaving Kate behind to reserve our taxi.

After my card was spat out by 2 machines I headed for the only other one I could see, with a queue of five or six people. The guy at the front seemed to be watching a short film on the screen and after a minute or so of him not moving I left the queue and went and found another machine. This one was happy with my foreign card because it could charge me an extra 200 pesos. But time was more important than money so I accepted the charge, grabbed my cash and found Mr Scam Taxi Man who was holding Kate hostage.

We paid Mr STM who asked for even more money again. I politely declined his request and thankfully that was fine. He shut the door and our driver set off. We travelled about 20m and got stuck in an epic gridlock. We had 20 minutes till check-in closed and this was not what we needed. 20 minutes later we had barely moved. At this point I just wanted to not have to pay anymore and get to our terminal to rearrange our flight.

When we eventually turned up at terminal 4 we escaped the taxi without paying any hidden fees and walked into the terminal (through my third security checkpoint) assuming the worst. We found the check-in desk with a bloke that said nothinh to is. We asked if it was closed and he just asked for our passports. It appeared as if he was checking us in, and shortly afterwards he presented us with 2 boarding passes. We couldn’t believe it! The flight was due to leave in 20 minutes though so we grabbed our bags and rushed through my fourth and final security screening in Manila. We found an information board to look for our gate and discovered our flight was delayed by an hour. Oh.

Terminal 4 feels more like a bus station than an airport, with rows and rows of chairs and TVs playing local channels. It caters only for domestic flights so is the smallest of the four terminals (???). Seeing as we had some time until our flight we checked out our dining options. There were two doughnut shops, Papa Johns (with no veggie option) and a canteen style counter selling food and beer. I went for food and beer, Kate made do with plain rice and a cinnamon roll.

Our new flight time came and went but we boarded the plane shortly afterwards. We were sat on the plane for about 40 minutes before we moved anywhere though. Eventually we did take off and,.bar a rather steep descent and landing, the flight itself was relatively pleasant.

On the ground in Kalibo we picked up Bertha from the solo baggage carousel and headed outside. We had pre-arranged a private transfer through our hostel so we headed towards the company’s counter where a man was delighted to show us a board with “Lane Kate” on.

The reason we had organised a private transfer was due to the logistics of the transport. Boracay is a small island 70km from Kalibo airport which means you need a bus, a boat and a bus or tricycle taxi at the other end, something we would have struggled with had our flight been on time, let alone landing so late in the evening.

To identify us we were given stickers with our hostel name which delighted us because we were staying at Frendz resort and this made us look super cool.

And unlike our introduction to the Philippines’ transport network, this transfer ran like clockwork. After a relatively smooth bus journey (bar a couple of hairy overtaking manoeuvres) we arrived at Caticlan ferry port. At the port we had to pay a couple of taxes and then an army of orange t-shirted men and women escorted onto our 20 seater boat for the short crossing to Boracay. At the Boracay side we were met by a second army of orange t-shirted men to usher us onto our correct minibus. Within minutes we were off.

As we approached our resort we were escorted off the bus by our own personal orange t-shirted guide who walked us the 3 minutes down a lane, into the resort and straight to reception! We had beaten the odds and we had actually made it!

The stats

08:55 (GMT +9) walk from B&J Guesthouse to Hansung University Metro Station: 8 minutes

09:13 metro to Incheon International Airport: ₩8,700 (£6.31), 1 hour 25 minutes

12:55 flight to Ninoy Aquino (Manila): £192.16, 4 hours 20 minutes

16:40 (GMT +8) taxi from terminal 3 to terminal 4: 1500 PHP (£25.47), 35 minutes

19:23 (2 hours 3 minutes delay) flight to Kalibo: 3164.80 (£53.75), 1 hour 22 minutes (2 hours 20 minutes delay)

21:00 bus to Caticlan: 1100 PHP (as part of complete transfer deal) (£18.67), 1 hour 17 minutes

22:35 boat to Boracay: Included with above but extra 350 PHP (200 PHP terminal tax, 150 PHP environment tax) (£5.95), 7 minutes

22:45 minibus to Frendz Resort (almost): Included with above, 13 minutes

22:58 walk to Frendz Resort: 3 minutes

Arrived 23:01 (GMT +8)

Total time in transit: 9 hours 30 minutes

Total travel time: 16 hours 6 minutes

Total cost: £302.31 (£151.16 each)

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