Cebu City to Oslob: A Backpacker’s Aficionado

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The airport reeks of leaking gasoline, I notice as I take a breath of non-airplane air. I was warned about the various olfactory stimulants in this town on Cebu Island, but I wasn’t expecting them immediately after disembarking from the plane. I shake off the thought and mentally prepare for my journey from Cebu City to Oslob.

The morning has been eventful, to say the least. My patience has been tested here in the Philippines as plans change in a split second. Surprisingly, it’s not annoying me but entertaining me instead.

My flight was changed twice, then delayed once, and now I’ve finally touched down in Cebu City, the biggest city on the island of the same name. I was bound originally for Dumaguete, a small airport located on an adjacent island to the south. Oslob, being my final destination, is located a short one-hour from the airport. 

An adventure that would include a bus and a barge has been enhanced to accommodate the aviation changes and will instead come jam-packed with a city bus ride, jeepney, and a three-hour long-distance bus. 

The excitement on my face can’t be contained as adventure truly excites my spirit. My heart sings because I’m back in the swing of backpacking after two months of sitting still in Hua Hin (Thailand), and it feels liberating.

The journey from Cebu City to Oslob (map)
Looks close, but it isn’t (4 hours, max)

Cebu City to Oslob From Mactan-Cebu International Airport

Making my way out of the airport, I follow the instructions I’ve gathered from the owner of my accommodation and new friends who have made the same journey day(s) ahead of me. Heading toward the city bus pick-up, I quickly re-verified my route from Cebu City to Oslob with the security guard directing car traffic. 

I locate my bus, pay the fare, board the bus, grab a seat, and sit down. The woman I sit next to is covering her mouth and nose with a cloth. Another pinches her nostrils shut. I chuckle because I get it. It stinks in this city. It’s not long before the dilapidated bus reaches its final destination, and I prepare for the next leg of my journey.

I’m feeling like a tourist as I stand looking around for a Jeepney, the cheapest method of transport to the local bus terminal. I’m to board an air-conditioned, long-distance bus to take me the rest of the way out of Cebu City to Oslob. 

Navigating Cebu City Solo

Taxi drivers do what they do best and crowd me. All shouting and vying for my attention. One friendly face stands out, so I address him alone, asking where the waiting area for a Jeepney ride is. 

He hesitates a moment before asking me about my final destination. I oblige him but immediately regret it as he starts to tell me why I should take his taxi instead. He’ll give me “the good price.” I volley by asking why the price isn’t set to begin with, pointing out he is taking advantage of tourists with this racket—a serious pet peeve.

He straightens his posture and pleads with me, explaining that he’s telling the truth and that there aren’t any jeepneys here. I explained that four people from the airport had instructed me of the opposite and soured my face at his dishonesty. I wave them all off and start walking towards the mall, trusting my instincts that someone there will help me. 

The Filipino people are kind and hospitable, but poverty and a lack of tourism force many to panhandle or hustle tourists to make a living. I notice a man wearing a polo shirt with the logo of the city bus company and flag him down.

On my way from Cebu City to Oslob- P.I. views
An example of the Jeepney used for short-distance travel in the Philippines

Here’s to Knowing the Language

Excuse me Kuya, but can you please help me? Kuya means older brother in Tagalog. A language I learned for two years during High School. I’m nowhere near conversational in the language, but I find using these simple nuances helpful to break barriers. 

I need a Jeepney, I explain in accented English, to the south bus terminal to catch a bus from Cebu City to Oslob. The taxi men behind me say there are no jeepneys here, but I don’t believe them.

He shakes his head disappointedly while turning his back to the group of taximen now pretending not to know me. The nice man not only explained to me exactly where to go—a five-minute walk— but also what number of Jeepneys to wave down and how much it should cost me. 

I extend my hand for a shake in gratitude and exclaim, “Maraming Salamat, po!” Thank you! We part ways, and I can’t help but be grateful for those two years of Tagalog in high school and the many nights spent in the households of my childhood friends, most of whom are first-generation Filipino-Americans.

Standing on the corner opposite the Jeepney stop, I wipe the sweat from my forehead. The men selling chicharrones (fried pork skin) stare at my bare legs and dark skin and blow kisses at me. I ignore them and wait for the red light to flip to green, queuing me to cross. I’m searching for the numbers the kind man instructed me to look out for and notice several jeepneys with the number lined cleanly in a row on the other side of the street. I crack a smile; step two, done.

The Jeepney to the Long-Distance Bus From Cebu City to Oslob

Standing at the back of the bulky vehicle, I eyeball a space near the back and push my way on to take a seat. Three older women watch me with smiles plastered on their faces. They shuffle down, making more space for me to maneuver my pack in between my legs. Their eyes naturally follow the movement and notice the flags on my pack. 

I watch the questions written in their eyes grow and swell, and then they spill over into actual words. They grill me about who I am, where I’m from, what I’m doing in the Philippines, and where I’ve visited thus far in their country. I entertain the questions with a kind smile and, in turn, ask them a question. How long until I reach the bus terminal, and what to expect along the way?

When I crawl out from the back of the vehicle, the driver barely gives me enough time to get my pack on before he begins to pull away. One of the ladies who had held my hat and bag of snacks leaned far out of the car to toss them both to me as the Jeepney sputters away and out of sight. 

This abrupt-to-me but natural-to-them end to our exchange makes me laugh. I’m sure to onlookers the scene was as hilarious as it felt. Crossing the street now into the terminal, people queue for the toilet. I eyeball it and decide against it, but purchase some ice-cold calamansi (Philippine lime) juice and flavored fries. 

I asked another security guard where I could find the bus leaving Cebu City to Oslob. The security guard smiles and points to a bus just out of sight.

Cebu City to Oslbo bus ride
All aboard!

The word Air Con is plastered on the windshield, and a small sign in the lower left corner says Oslob. The kind driver takes my pack, and places it under the bus, then ushers me inside. I place my things in one of two seats against the window but, I don’t sit down. I’m too amped and relishing the excitement of the adventure thus far. I pace the empty walkway a few times instead. When it’s time to be on our way, I sit.

The seafoam green curtains are all drawn shut to keep out the sun and, by default, the heat. The bus ride is bumpy, and the driver makes frequent quick stops, letting people off and on. The bulky vehicle narrowly misses motorbikes and other vehicles in front of him. I exhale and take out my phone to entertain myself with a movie for the journey. 

It’s not long before I am shaken awake by the ticket taker alerting me that we have arrived at my stop. I smile at him and thank him, not realizing I had fallen asleep. I often do this in moving vehicles. I gather my things and step off of the bus directly across the street from my accommodation.

Islet View Pension House, Oslob, Philippines

Solo Travelers Guide From Cebu City to Oslob

Here’s the part of the story where I break down this journey for my fellow solo traveling females. I take zero offense if you’ve skipped forward to this part of the blog, though I hope you enjoyed the story regardless. 

These are the details to travel solo from Cebu City to Oslob as of 2018. From Mactan International Airport baggage claim, exit the building and go to your right. Straight ahead is the bus stop. Purchase a ticket for 40 PHP ($.75) and ride the bus to its final stop, SM Mall.

Disembark the bus (don’t forget anything) and exit the terminal the same way the bus entered —the mall will be slightly behind you and on your left. Turn left at the exit and walk parallel to the mall along the main street.

There are taxis all around that will offer you a “good price” of 3k-5k php (USD 57-94) from Cebu City to Oslob, and if it’s in your budget, then go for it. But you’ll kick yourself for it later when you realize the savings of traveling like a local could’ve been applied to your accommodations or the adventure tour you came to this island to enjoy

Keep walking until the next corner, which should also be the end of the mall. From that corner, straight ahead you will see the Jeepney trucks picking up passengers. Stay the course and cross the street. 

Keeping in that same direction —parallel to what was the mall and is now a busy street full of side vendors— look for and wait to locate the Jeepney with the number 01K. This Jeepney will take you to the South Bus Terminal for only 8 php ($.15). It’s about a fifteen-minute ride to the terminal if you want to time it out.

Once there, cross the street into the terminal. It’s quite small, and not overtly obvious, but plenty of locals speak English, as do the Police (Polis/MP) standing around the area if you need help.

Once inside the terminal, stay straight towards the buses. A few people by now would’ve asked you where you’re going in an attempt to get you on their bus. Say Oslob and that you want the air-conditioned bus. They will oblige and guide you to the correct bus, which has a sign in the front window with the destination, or tell you a door (platform) number.

Put your luggage under the bus and grab a seat. The bus isn’t fancy, but it is not disgusting. The best part is it will cost you 150 php ($2.83) for the entire three hours plus journey.

For the journey from Cebu City to Oslob, I paid the equivalent of USD 3.45 in the local currency, the Filipino Peso (PHP). Who doesn’t love the sound of that?

Follow Meredith San Diego on YouTube for more long videos of her solo traveling adventures in the Philippines.

Want More Solo Travel Guides Like This One?

This was my first attempt at creating my version of a solo traveling guide during my early days of both traveling and travel blogging. I’ve got a second piece about solo traveling from Puerto Princessa to El Nido, too. I would love your feedback in the comments. Let me know if you would like to see more solo travel guides like Cebu City to Oslob in the future. Thanks for reading.

In the meantime, if you’d like more adventure with Meredith San Diego, follow her travel content on social networks Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

For more insight on solo traveling as a female, register your email to receive two travel freebies: the Wayfarer’s Checklist, 100+ travel apps for solo travelers, and the Global Emergency List of emergency phone lines around the globe—organized by continent. 

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Welcome to Bag Lady Meredith San Diego!

As a global citizen with more than 57 passport stamps, my adventure mandatory, serial-expat existence offers intuitive insight into globetrotting as a solo Black, female.

Whether it’s by plane, boat, moped, bus, or train, I LIVE for traveling.

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Bag Lady Meredith San Diego is always on the move! Completing her 57th country in 2022, where can you spot Meredith San Diego adventuring in 2023? Stay tuned to find out just where in the world is Meredith San Diego!