Cebu City Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Cebu City, located in the central Philippines, is known as the “Queen City of the South,” and has something for every tourist.
Why go to Cebu City
From beautiful beaches to a bustling downtown to a number of fascinating historical sites, even the most discerning tourist will be able to find something to keep them entertained. Spanish-style churches and forts in the city illustrate the influence the Spanish have had on the Philippines, but there are also newer museums that exhibit the vibrant Filipino culture you will find visiting Cebu today.
If historical monuments aren’t your cup of tea, natural sites near the city. Biking is popular - and a ride to the top of Mt. Busay makes for incredible panoramic views of the city below. Mactan is a great place to lounge on the beach, catch some rays, and take a dip when it gets too hot. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins!
Cebu also provides a good jumping off point for Bohol where you can see the elusive tarsier, and Oslob, where you can see whale sharks if you’re lucky.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the nature Cebu has to offer or of the history it provides, you’ll be able to enjoy Cebu’s party scene once the sun has gone down. Bars, pubs and clubs have sprung up in recent years and comedy clubs are a common fixture now.
When to go to Cebu City
Like everywhere else in Southeast Asia, Cebu has to deal with the monsoon season. While in other countries the rainy season is tolerable, the Philippines also suffers from hurricanes, so it’s better to avoid the rainy season completely. The best time of the year to visit Cebu City is during the dry season during December to May.
Where to stay in Cebu City
Cebu provides a wide range of longing options from beach-side huts to high-end resorts and everything in between. Hostels have also become popular in recent years and are a good option for budget backpackers. There are also plenty of mid-range hotels with mostly local brands as international chains don’t seem to have penetrated the market yet.
Where to eat in Cebu City
If you like street food then Cebu is paradise, because it seems like stalls hawking local delicacies are everywhere.
Lechon is one of Cebu’s most famous dishes, and although vegetarians should stay away, meat lovers will definitely enjoy this dish, a roast whole suckling pig.
And while Filipino cuisine is obviously most prevalent, you’ll also be able to find international cuisine including Chinese, Korean, Japanese and American food, which has been a recent development as tourism has increased in the area.
Cebu is also known for its baked goods and bakeries with local delicacies are not difficult to find. Generally, food is pretty cheap here and it shouldn’t be difficult to find some delicious meals even if you’re on a shoestring budget.
How to get around Cebu City
In Cebu, if you want to get around like a tourist, then taxis are readily available and are cheap by world standards. Most cab rides around the city centre shouldn’t cost more than PHP100 if you’re going somewhere in the city centre, which is also easy to navigate by foot.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous and want to travel like the locals, try taking a jeepney. They’re the most popular way to get around in the Philippines and you’ll probably be the only tourist in the back of these colourfully painted and modified trucks which can generally fit up to 12. The schedule of the jeepney is something of a mystery but sometimes it’s just a matter of hopping in and hoping for the best.
Buses are also available but the vast majority of them go north-south and it’s difficult to find one if you’re wanting to go east-west or west-east in the city. Renting a motorbike is also a good option, they’re cheap, fun and you don’t have to worry about memorizing schedules - you can travel around the city on your own time. Just be careful of hectic traffic.
How to get to and from Cebu
Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the main airport serving Cebu and there are multiple daily flights to and from the airport from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Qatar, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.
If you’re coming from the United States or Europe, you will have to connect in one of these destinations – Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong are the closest options.
Most flights within the Philippines take less than two hours and many are under an hour.
Cebu Pacific Airlines, a low-cost carrier has a hub here, and their flights are often very cheap, as little as under a hundred dollars one way. From the airport, you can take the myBus, which is a new service that costs PHP25 from the airport to the city centre. You can also take a jeepney into the city, though it might be difficult with luggage.
If you’re really looking for an adventure or perhaps are afraid of flying, there are massive ferries that can fit from 2,000 to 4,000 passengers leaving for and arriving from cities like Manila, Davao, Butuan City, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro. The boat option is also significantly cheaper than airplanes, but of course, takes much longer. Given that Cebu is on an island, your only two options to get in are via plane or boat.
Is Cebu City safe?
Cebu is a relatively safe city, compared to other Southeast Asian destinations and is even safe by western standards. Violent crime doesn’t happen very often and it’s even more uncommon for the target to be a tourist. The biggest safety concern is pickpocketing, so keep your wallet in your front pocket and don’t flash any obvious signs of wealth. As with most cities, don’t walk alone at night. And before you leave check with your physician about whether you should consider getting any vaccines before you travel.