Going ashore in Davao, Philippines

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Davao is the capital of Mindanao Island – situated in the South of Philippines – and it is the second largest city in the country, after Manila, with a population close to 2 million inhabitants. It is one of the largest and busiest ports in the area and, even though its dimensions are small comparing with other Asian ports (from China or Malaysia), it is considered to be one of the ports with the greatest development in the world (during the last years).

If your vessel is taking you to Davao you have to know that walking is permitted inside the port and it will take you ~ 10 minute to get to the Immigration Office – where your papers will be checked. Walking inside the terminal must be done with extreme caution because there are no walking roads or pathways and you will have to pay attention to the heavy traffic coming from different direction. Do not hesitate to accept any ride that can be offered to you by one of the cars passing by. Most of the people driving inside the terminal are very generous and helpful, so do not refuse their offer to take you to the gate – even if they are going in different direction. A security car, a minivan or bus transporting workers or just a private car passing by can take you to the gate in only few minutes and all you’ll have to do is say ‘thank you’ (or ‘salamat’).

Once you arrive outside the gate, you’ll have to walk for a few minutes and arrive on a crowded and important road, crossed by trucks, private cars, motorcycles and the traditional colorful minivans that can take an indefinite number of passengers. There are also white cabs and you can wait and wave for them from the side of the road.

Most of the seamen arriving in the port of Davao choose to go to the Mall (The big Mall of Davao), but, depending on schedule and available free time, you can try also a little sightseeing. You can go to the beach and experience the warm waters of the South China Sea or you can pay a visit to the local market, where you can wander around busy vendors and admire their wonderful display of fruits, vegetables and fresh fish.

If you choose to travel by taxi, you’ll only have to pay few dollars (equivalent in pesos) for the 20 minute ride to the Mall and back to the port, but travelling in one of the local mini buses can prove a lot more interesting and even cheaper  (~ 10 pesos/ person – 25 cents).

Davao Phillippines local bus

If you want to go to the beach the best solution is Paradise Resort situated on the Samal Island – a small island only 2 km away, across the port. In this case, tell the taxi driver that you want to go to Paradise Resort and he will take you to the boat in only few minutes. The crossing with the boat will last 7-8 minutes and you’ll have to pay only ~ 15 pesos (1$ for 3 people). The boat doesn’t have a fix schedule and it will not leave the dock unless at least 8 people are on board. If you are in a hurry and do not want to wait ~ 20 minutes for the boat to get full (maximum capacity is 20 people), all you have to do is pay a full fare of 120 pesos (~ 3$) and have the boat only for yourself.

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Another fare of ~ 150 pesos is required at the entrance of the resort (50 of which will get back to you as a voucher to be used inside). You can enjoy a few hours on a very clean and animated beach, swim in the warm waters, surrounded by beautiful and colorful fish and corals like in a large size aquarium or you can have a very tasty and cheap meal, in the middle of a happy and noisy gang of tourists, most of them being locals. In this resort, you can relax and feel like a real tourist, although it is only for a few hours.

Samal Island Davao Phillippines Paradise Resort Beach

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If you want to get a glimpse of the real Filipino life, the best place to start your visit is Agdao Market, the big open market of the city. Here you can admire and even buy fruits you have never seen in your entire life, experience smells you’ve never sensed before, but also you have the opportunity to buy the cheapest fresh products in the world –shrimps for only 5$/kilo, different types of fish for only 2-3 $/kilo,  tasty bananas for less than 25 cents/kilo.

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Do not forget to smile to the people around you, admire and take photos as much as you like, but always say ‘thank you’ and behave. The locals do not see too many white people in their market and they may stare at you a little too much, but they will never try to offend you or take advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner. They will invite you to try different products, to take photos of their stock or even of themselves and they will always be happy and anxious to speak with you. So, you’d better not behave like a white rich tourist – always complaining and criticizing, but try to be friendly, smile a lot and show respect. You’ll get them back ten times more and you’ll leave the market with the feeling that you already made new friends who will be more than happy to see you again next time.

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A few more tips about visiting Davao:

  • Davao is not a touristic city, so do not expect to find a tourist information office anywhere in town, nor many tourist attractions;
  • The streets can be dangerous during night time, especially those near the port – even though you will see many security cars (with armed men) crossing the streets at different hours of the day;
  • Taxis are very safe and very cheap;
  • Before entering the Mall you’ll have to pass a check point (almost the same as in airports);
  • You can change money inside the Mall and there are only few Money Change offices around the city;
  • You can try the local food and the fresh juices which are always good and cheap everywhere in town, but a little more expensive inside the Mall.

Recommendations:

Tuna Grill Restaurant – on the main road between the port and the center

Paradise Resort Restaurant – Samal Island

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