Land Travel in Mindanao: 6 Essential Rules to Live By

Mindanao is the third major region in The Philippines, the “Minda” part of the traditional Filipina name, “LuzViMinda”. The island is located in the southern part of the country and has been in the news limelight for  recent terror attacks and series of kidnapping incidents. 

Behind these grim news, lies a plethora of beautiful landscape unparalleled and pure. Mountain ranges carpeted with lush vegetation, rugged shorelines framed with powdery white sand beaches, secretive raging waterfalls, colorful grand mosques and as if it’s not enough, top it with colorful traditions and incredible fusion of flavors. No wonder, Mindanao is a better option if you want to truly embrace much of The Philippines. 

To get to know its personality, Mindanao is best covered from the tip of Tawi Tawi to Surigao City on the east side and from Dapitan City in the north to Davao del Sur in the south via land travel. To cover much of incredible Mindanao, here are some travel tips when taking land transfers between its many idyllic towns. 

Do your research

Do your research well. Research well on land transfers, travel times, routes, change in transfer vehicle and how much. As most bus terminals in Mindanao have their last trip at 4PM, take note also of which towns that you might need to stay for the night and check if you can get an advance booking on pension inns and homestays. 

Check out my sample Google map I created before embarking on a road trip in the SocCSargen area of Mindanao. It is helpful that you plan out your route so minor details like how much and where to stay for the night is taken care of.

Plan accordingly

Most van trips have their last trip leave the terminal at 4PM. This is for everyone’s safety and to make sure everyone gets home by the evening. Plan your itinerary well to include this last trip information. You might need to stop for a night in a small town. In situations like this, it is good that you have this covered.

Take note that there are rarely overnight buses in Mindanao. But it is good to know that most busses’ first trip leave the terminal as early as 4AM. So with this in mind, plan your route accordingly.  

mindanao land travel

Read: Recommended Affordable Places to Stay in General Santos City

Bring pesos

Bring cash everywhere. Make sure to always keep small bills handy so that you don’t always have to rummage thru your belongings to pay for your ticket fare and for when decide to buy snacks and some small souvenirs. 

Banks, ATMS and money changers are difficult to find especially when you need to stop for the night at a small town before heading out to you main destination. For cases like this that emergency cash stashed at the bottom of your backpack is handy. Most establishments, canteens, coffee shops and souvenir shop houses take cash. 

Be vigilant 

Be vigilant of your surroundings. Watch your stuff and never leave them unattended. The Mindanaoans are generally honest people but there is always this bad elements that roam around. 

Pack light

When backpacking around Mindanao, the size of the vehicle you are travelling in is proportional to how near you are to your destination. Remember this rule. Most of the time you will be transferring from a bus to compact vans to jeepneys to tricycles and finally to a motorcycle (locally called habal-habal).

Pack light and as much as possible into a single backpack so you can move easily and squeeze into cramped seats and tricycles, like in the photo below, without much fuss. 

mindanao land travel


Don’t forget to hydrate yourself during the long rides and in between stops. Its a tropical country but the humidity factor will leave you high and dry. The heat can be really unforgiving between the summer months of March thru May and may extend to June.

In some areas there are pitstops that the driver takes. Take advantage of these pitstops to buy water and snacks and take a bathroom break. 

mindanao land travel


Mindanao is really worth that long hot ride. The scenic rides and the local interaction will serve as an exciting teaser for what awaits you at your final destination. Though you have to be vigilant of your surroundings and keep yourself safe at all times, never forget to sit back, put on your earphones and enjoy the ride. 

The journey, not the destination matters. - T.S. Elliot Click To Tweet

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Kavey at Kavey Eats - 7 months ago Reply

Great to read your practical advice on planning one’s visit to Mindanao, especially the safety tips and understanding the typical timetables so you don’t get caught out.

Megan Jerrard - 7 months ago Reply

Great tips, I would love to visit Mindanao 🙂 I think the tip to stay vigilant is especially important everywhere. As you said, people in general are kind, but there are always a small percentage who will take advantage of you, and I think the “never leave your bag unattended” is something people often forget and take for granted, even though it’s simple and you would think common sense. I find we all need a little reminding. So thanks for the great tips!

Jenn and Ed Coleman - 7 months ago Reply

Fantastic article. These are great ideas to stay safe. If you loose vigilance it could be a real issue. It’s so true about carrying cash in certain places. The same towns without ATM’s often work exclusively on a cash basis.

Barb - 7 months ago Reply

These are some great tips for every traveler. Mindanao sounds like a great city to visit. I love the Philippines and I try to visit it as often as I can. I will make sure to visit this city on my next trip.

Gokul Raj - 7 months ago Reply

Great tips. They can be used for any road trip. I am pretty sure you had a great time on this one.

Mel and Marcus - 7 months ago Reply

Some great tips, many of these will apply to a lot of countries when travelling and are basic common sense. Although we do know how we can sometimes lose this when we are travelling.

Sandy N Vyjay - 7 months ago Reply

Philippines is so lovely and it has these hidden gems which never seem to run out of stock, Mindanao seems to be one more of these gems. It is a pity the beauty of the land is marred by untoward incidents. Yes it is always prudent to take all possible precautions.

Indrani - 7 months ago Reply

Very practical helpful tips. It is always that small percentage who ruin a holiday. One has to be ever alert.

Samantha Sparrow - 7 months ago Reply

I’ve never visited this area of the world, but these are such solid travel tips both for here and for the rest of the world. I am also so bad at bringing cold hard cash and have been caught out a few times so that tip will really stay with me.

DIY : Your Lake Sebu, South Cotabato Itinerary - Just Travelling Solo - 7 months ago Reply

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