Philippines / Luzon / NCR
Easy Right? Probably not... unless you have done it before or are fluent in Tagalog.
Even then, you will pay more and your journey will take longer if you do not know what you are getting into. After making the journey myself, alone, as a Fil-Am with limited Tagalog, I chose to write this much needed, detailed guide to help you get there and back!
Getting to the Terminal in Pasay, Manila
This is where it all begins. There are several P2P (point to point) bus lines that go directly from Manila to Batangas, but the one that I took in particular takes you the EXTRA step, directly to Batangas Pier!
I used JAM liner (jam.com.ph) because they have clean/ comfortable busses, and they make the trip several times a day to Batangas pier from Pasay/ Manila. The JAM Terminus is on the (crazy busy) corner of Taft Ave and Buendia Ave in Pasay. To add to the confusion, Buendia Ave is also known and labeled 'Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave' as well, so do not let this throw you off. Luckily, Buendia Terminus is where many Bus lines terminate and most taxi drivers are very familiar with that area so, getting here should NOT be an issue via cab, aside from some typical Manila traffic.
Navigating Buendia Terminal
The terminal, or terminus as they are officially called, is actually a bunch of bus depots in the same general vicinity; each operated by a different company. My experience with JAM was simple.
Note that there is no ticket window or sales office inside the terminal because you pay the conductor on the bus. The fee as of November 2016 was 167 Pesos. Make sure to have small bills or you will have to wait for everyone else on the bus to pay until you get your change.
The buses are typically lined up in the back with the final destination easily labeled on the front window. Because Batangas is the most frequented trip, the next departing bus is sometimes parked right in front. It will be clearly labeled.
Before you jump on the bus, note that the terminal is a great place to take a bathroom break before the 2-3 hour ride (there is no restroom on the bus), and perhaps browse some of the shops along the block to pick up some snacks or drinks for your journey. Many vendors often board the waiting busses to offers some snacks, but you never know what is going to be available, so if you want something specific, get it before you board.
The Bus Ride
Its quite comfortable, but if you are tall by Filipino standards (I'm 5'10, so that is a yes for me) leg room is kind of lacking. There is aircon (air conditioning ports above your head like a plane) and usually a movie playing. Both added to comfort and the passage of time.
Getting out of Manila is madness even during mid day, but again, a few vendors will likely board and have some snacks to offer. It helps pass the time Once on the freeway, you really get moving! The scenery is nice once you get past Alabang, with palms lining the highway and decent views of Taal lake to the West. It is not uncommon for people to ask the driver to "parre" at random places along the route. He obliges to stop and let them off.
The bus will also likely make a few intermediate stops either for gas or to pick up additional passengers at other stops, but no matter how tempting: DO NOT GET OFF, even to make a quick restroom break. They will not wait for you and you will be stuck waiting to flag down the next bus.
A few hours later (2-3 depending on traffic) you will pull into a huge terminal in Batangas City. THIS IS NOT YOUR STOP! It will be very tempting to get off here because it is labeled Batangas Bus Terminal and there are restrooms and food vendors everywhere. Again: DO NOT GET OFF HERE, not even for a snack or quick bathroom break because they WILL leave you!
The bus' final destination, Batangas Pier, is just a few kilometers away from this quick pit stop. Even before you get off the bus, there will be a line of locals waiting for you; some are selling food, but most are out to make a quick buck by helping you with your bags or putting you on a trike to get to the pier. Unless you are completely exhausted, just IGNORE them because the pier and passenger terminal is just a 5 minute walk away. It is the largest building in the area and clearly labeled with signs. Terminal 3, the passenger terminal is where you want to go.
Once inside the terminal, you will have your option of destinations and company to take you there. Do some research ahead of time to find out which one drops you off closest to where you are staying. My hotel was in the quieter and more secluded Sabang Beach, so I actually ignored the Puerto Galera options. This is not as popular of a destination, but it was exactly what I was looking for. Please read up and decide on which company to use before getting there or you will be in for a world of confusion with the sales sharks trying to pull you into their line. "The boat is about to leave" is a common line you will hear. Don't rush a descision because they WILL wait for you since there are limited amount of daily trips and they want to fill the boats before leaving, trust me on that one.
This is another great opportunity to take a bathroom break and pick up some snacks for the one hour boat ride. There are bathrooms on most of the boats and they are also glad to sell you bottled water, if you get thirsty along the way.
Through the Terminal on onto the Boat
The final step is to pay the 40 peso "terminal fee" once you purchase your ferry ticket. The window is clearly labeled in a corner along with the other boat operators. If you forget, the people at security wont even let you through until you purchase it. They are glad to point you in the proper direction if you cant find it.
So, with ferry ticket and terminal fee ticket in hand, you walk through the security checkpoint which is simply an x-ray machine similar, if not identical to those used in the domestic airports.
My ticket had no gate information, but the desk at the entrance to the waiting area is glad to point you in the right direction. Here, you will wait, airport style, for them to tell you when to board.
The Boat Ride
Its an hour to an hour and a half depending on the type of boat and your final destination. Once you leave Batangas and get past the big ships there is a petrol refinery and a huge lighthouse on the port side, followed by views of Green Island. Nothing too terribly exciting, most people took the opportunity to nap.
Be prepared to pay a 50 Peso per person "environmental fee" once you dock. Its legit. I happened to be at the pier at the same time as the Mayor, and they didn't seem to think twice about corralling tourists to collect the fee.
Thats it! This should be all you need to get to Puerto Galera, White Beach and/or Sabang Beach!
Getting back to manila, I promise you, it a bit more complicated. Check out my post with those directions here.