Several years ago it was still possible to travel directly from Manila to Davao by air, land, and sea. In recent years though, there are only two modes of transportation available. The quickest and the most convenient option is to go by air. A cheaper option is to travel overland by bus and RORO ferries.
Flying from Manila to Davao usually takes only about 2 hours covering approximately 980 km. The journey by bus in the meantime could take up to 40 hours depending on where you are starting from in Manila. It is a long, 1,500 km journey and more than the half of the time you will spend on ferries. The overland and sea route follows PAN-Philippine Highway.
If you decide to fly, expect tickets to cost about PHP3,500 on average. Bus tickets meanwhile are more budget-friendly and cost between PHP2,300 and PHP2,700 depending on the type of the bus.
Flights from Manila to Davao
Flying nowadays does not cost as much as decades ago. Air tickets between Manila and Davao, for example, usually range between PHP2,200 and PHP6,000. You have an option to "fly only" without adds-on like meals and free luggage allowance. Booking your travel several months in advance also guarantees the lowest possible airfare.
There are currently 3 airlines with daily flights between Manila and Davao. Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are low-cost airlines that are well known for offering special travel deals. They are your best bet if you are flying light with carry-on luggage only and do not fancy meals on board.
Flying with the country's national flag carrier is an all-inclusive experience. Flight tickets with Philippine Airlines already include a light meal plus 10-25 kg of checked luggage, as well as more spacious seats.
Flying time on Manila-Davao route ranges within one and a half hour and two hours limits.
Buses from Manila to Davao
The bus fare from Manila to Davao which is normally indicated online lies within PHP1,900 -PHP2,400 range but note that this does not include ferry fares. All inn, expect to spend around PHP2,300 for ordinary buses and PHP2,700 for air-conditioned Philtranco buses.
The total travel time is a combination of the bus ride and the time spent onboard ferries, what brings the trip duration from Manila to Davao up to 40 hours. There is no need to change buses but it is important that you take note of your bus number so you do not board the wrong one after getting off the ferry. Road conditions have improved significantly in recent years but the sea can be quite rough in case the weather conditions are not ideal. Pack layers and motion sickness medicines if you are prone to it.
Philtranco buses bound for Davao depart from Manila daily. There are 5 air-conditioned buses that leave from the Pasay terminal at 11am from Monday to Sunday. They bring passengers to different parts of Davao including Bunawan, Tibungco, Sasa, Lasang, and Davao City. Similarly, 5 ordinary buses depart at 8pm.
If you are near Cubao, 5 buses depart at 9am while ordinary buses leave in the afternoon at 5pm.
Some air-conditioned buses are equipped with onboard toilets and WiFi. The majority of vehicles, though, especially the ordinary buses, no dot have neither former nor latter. Meals are never served on board, either. No worries though, you can pack your own lunch box or stock up on munchies during brief restroom stops. You can also buy snacks and use the toilet onboard the ferry.