How to Deal with ATMs Not Working in El Nido?

Opinions expressed by Palawan Alternative contributors are their own.

ATMs not working in El Nido? Not again! With more and more tourists coming to this side of the world, getting cash or local currency can be a bit problematic.

And so, this is what I got right after coming from a long queue of tourists at the RCBC ATMS in town. Disappointing I know. At one point in my El Nido life, none of the ATMS was working.

ATMs Not Working in El Nido?

The Bigger Picture

Are we really going forward or backward? I should have seen this coming. WE should have seen this coming. As I see it, El Nido cannot seem to sustain the adverse effects of mass tourism. Massive developments taking place ready to reap large profits in the future, or not. Who knows? But at what cost? Prices of rent and goods continue to go up. Large patches are hoarded by the few. I wonder where do the birds go? The locals don’t seem prepared for this inevitable change. A legion of construction workers caught my eye as I endured the oppressive heat along the way.

I had been pondering about this thought looking for an alternative. As I work on the alternative…

Different realities, different perspectives

There are 7 ATMs in El Nido. 2 BPI ATMs at Lio beach (1 close to La Salangane Restaurant on the beach and 1 at Kalye Artisano), 2 RCBC ATMs close to the basketball court in town, 2 BPI ATMs on Real Street, and 1 BPI ATM in Corong Corong.

Me being close to Lio beach, I just gave up coming here to withdraw some cash. Most of the time, those ATMs are not even working. How inconvenient!

So I came down to town yesterday to check out the other ATMs but failed. I was already running out of gas. Someone suggested going to Palawan Pawnshop. And there I was, finally able to get some cash, for a fee of course. $1 for $100 isn’t that bad. Please take note that they only accept local bank ATMs (Bancnet and Megalink) for encashment.

Here are some of the local expert tips for the non-locals who want to find ways not to go hungry in El Nido.

Plan ahead because it could be worse

El Nido is full of surprises so this is when planning pays off. You are not traveling to a developed country and things could be worse. Spontaneity can sometimes be both annoying for yourself and the people around you. You cannot always expect a last-minute reservation to give you a high-quality tour experience. Or last-minute decisions to give you a good El Nido experience. Can you imagine stressing the locals just because you cannot withdraw cash? Or you cannot pay for their goods and services because you don’t have money? It is mentally-taxing for them to think about other people’s problem. Forward-thinking travelers do prepare for the worst. They learn to accept the realities and adapt. So why not, have some proper travel planning because this is not only about you.

Change your currencies at Palawan Pawnshop or SM Puerto Princesa

While still in Puerto Princesa, you may change your currencies at SM Mall. The exchange rates can be better than the money changers in the city. Otherwise, you may wait to get to El Nido and change your currencies (USD, Euros, Japanese Yen, etc.) to Philippine Pesos at Palawan Pawnshop in town.

Withdraw as much cash as you need while in Puerto Princesa or other cities

Now that you’ve learned that it can be hard to get cash in El Nido, then try to get as much cash as you need while in Puerto Princesa or other cities. I know carrying a lot of cash is not advisable especially when most people think you have a lot of money. But what else can you do? Most establishments in El Nido are still not accepting credit cards. Most local travel agencies are not ready to move forward to online booking. Just try to get enough money to be able to survive the really hard life of traveling.

Credit Card via PayPal to Philippine Pesos

Worst case scenario, there seems to be no other way to get some cash. One way is to get a trusted local friend or business who has PayPal and local bank account. Did you know that it is now easier and faster to transfer PayPal money to a local bank account these days and your local friend can encash the money through Palawan Pawnshop? However, I don’t really advise this way for a large amount of withdrawal as PayPal charges a hefty 5% fee. The PayPal transfer to a local bank account does not have a charge though (for certain banks and financial institutions in the Philippines).

Book Your El Nido Tours Online

Cannot withdraw cash? Yet another reason to book your El Nido tours online! Spare us all the hassle and mental energy, let us prepare for your once-in-a-lifetime holiday with ease and confidence. Imagine not having to risk getting ripped off or carrying your hard-earned cash, because lo and behold, you can now book your tours, ferry, van transfer, and the whole Palawan experience online. But there’s more out of it, you’ll have unmatched professional client support, value-added services, and local expert advice. Finally, there’s a sustainable Palawan tour operator that proves technology and authentic human connection can coexist.

Karen is the local expert and itinerary specialist of Palawan AlterNATIVE. When she’s not traveling, she likes to immerse herself in a good book or blog about her life. Parts geek, parts scuba diver. Her other obsessions include things-to-do lists, cycling, solitude, and cryptocurrency. She currently lives with her cat in El Nido.

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