Cebu is one of the central travel destinations in the Philippines, the biggest hub for inbound and outbound flights other than Manila. In fact, Cebu is the gateway to the Visayan island grouping, which includes easy access to Palawan, Dumaguete, Bohol, Sijiour, Bantayan, Malapascua, and, of course, Boracay.
The Mactan Airport in the Phillipines
So if you’re traveling around the Philippines, at some point, you’ll find yourself in our out of Cebu – and that’s where Mactan Airport comes in,
First off, there is a ton of confusion because people say that Cebu is so great, but there’s a big difference between Cebu ISLAND with Moalboal beach, Kawasan waterfalls, Oslob for whale shark swimming, etc., and Cebu CITY, which is good for traffic, pollution, and dirt.
Additionally, flying into Cebu doesn’t mean you’ll be in the city proper because the airport actually sits on adjoining Mactan Island. That’s good if you want to spend big money on a luxury hotel there, but for the rest of us mere mortals, that means getting a taxi from the airport to our hotel, which is usually in a circumference of downtown or the Ayala Mall area way inland. The tax can take up to an hour or even an hour and a half believe it or not, just because of traffic congestion.
When you get out of the airport, you’ll take a right and walk a tiny bit to the taxi stand. You’ll see a line for yellow taxis that’s really long, and then a line for white taxis that has almost no one. Take the short line – it’s not too good to be true. The only difference is the starting standard fare, which might mean the difference between a $4 and a $5 taxi ride to your hotel! (BTW I may have gotten the white and yellow switches so just look for the short line.)
And for the super intrepid traveler that wants to get to or from the airport quickly and doesn’t have much luggage, just jump on a habal habal – the motorcycle taxi. Even in traffic you’ll whip in, around, and through other cars and trucks, and arrive there sweaty, dirty, relieved, and much earlier.
I find that the security is a little lax at Mactan and they seem more interested in cramming a café, food kiosk, or pasalubong (souvenir) shop in every free space.
Make sure you arrive early if you’re flying internationally, but you still don’t need three hours. For domestic flights, arriving 1 to 1 ½ hours ahead of time is OK, especially if you’re flying Cebu Pacific because they’re late to take off about 80% of the time. It also doesn’t take you long to get through security, and they do actually have a good number of check-in counters.
They might try to whack you with additional luggage fees so make sure you’re under weight, and the Cebu Pacific office is in the arrival area if you need anything.
Once inside the waiting area, don’t rush to your gate – you can hear announcements from the general sitting area and the aircon is a little better, their free wi-fi is sometimes usable, they have televisions and plug-in stations, and a few more coffee shops and eateries. I suggest going local and trying the famous Zubuchon lechon (roasted pig usually) station along with a beer while you wait!
Enjoy Cebu but even better, enjoy getting the heck out of Cebu City with the help of Mactan airport!