There are two ways to travel from Davao to Manila. If the time is of major importance, then flying would be your best option as it is the fastest and the most convenient way. If you are not in a hurry, you can take the more scenic route and hop on a bus. Do not expect it to be significantly cheaper though.
Flying from Davao to Manila takes just under 2 hours. Meanwhile, going by bus can be a challenge especially if you are not used to long road trips. You will be on the road for around 40+ hours covering in total 1500 km with the major part of the route following the PAN-Philippine Highway.
You can fly from Davao to Manila for as low as PHP2,500. Even with add-ons like extra luggage allowances and snacks, a flight ticket will rarely cost beyond PHP6,000 one way. On the other hand, bus tickets costs from PHP2,300 to PHP2700 for an ordinary and air-conditioned bus, respectively.
Flights from Davao to Manila
Flying from Davao to Manila can be quite budget-friendly as the route is served by two low-cost airlines. On the lower end of the spectrum, you can grab tickets for as low as PHP2,500 while the higher end covered by the national flag carrier will make you spend around PHP6,000.
Totally there are three airlines that have several daily flights between Davao and Manila: Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and Philippine Airlines. If you want to score the lowest possible airfare, look out for special promotions that both Cebu Pacific and Air Asia announce several times a year. Philippine Airlines is not a bad choice, either, as they offer reasonably priced tickets that already include checked luggage and light meals.
Buses from Davao to Manila
If you decide to hop on a bus to get from Davao to Manila, you can expect to shell out around PHP2,700 for an air-conditioned bus or PHP2,300 for an ordinary/deluxe bus. This service is provided by Philtranco which is one of the largest bus companies in the country with a good track record for both service and safety.
The entire journey can last up to 40 hours with a considerable time spent on board ferries. During your journey your bus will roll on and off ferries a couple of times but you will not have to change buses. When arriving at the ferry terminal, you will need to get of the bus before it rolls onto the ferry and board the ferry yourself. After the ferry docks at the destination, you have to disembark and wait for your bus to roll off the ferry, too. After that you can board your bus again. Just make sure to remember the bus number as it can get very confusing when you have to board again after getting off the ferry.
Road conditions along the way are pretty good but sleeping may be troublesome. The temperature inside the bus can be surprisingly freezing so better pack a blanket or a sweater.
Philtranco buses bound for Manila depart Davao on a daily basis. There is one air-conditioned bus at 11.30pm plus one more non-AC bus departing a few hours earlier at 9pm. Trips are almost never cancelled but it is a common practice to sell ‘no-show’ tickets to chance passengers. So make sure you arrive half-an-hour before your scheduled departure. Seats sell out quickly during holiday periods, so advanced booking is essential.
Buses in the Philippines are rarely equipped with onboard toilets and there are no sleeping buses. Expect soft reclining seats and some kind of entertainment program on TV. Snacks will not be provided so bring your own. Otherwise, you can buy some munchies when the bus stops for a toilet or meal break and there is also a snack kiosk onboard the ferry.