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Metro Cebu is in Cebu Province in the Philippines. It is the country's second largest urban area, after Metro Manila, and the main urban center both of the province and of the larger Visayas region which forms the central third of the country. Metro Cebu has more than 60% of the total population of the province. Latest population figures are about 2.8 million (census, 1 August 2015) .
Three main cities make up the core of Metro Cebu; each has its own goverment and its own Wikvoyage article:
- 1 Cebu City — the main city, on Cebu Island; has the port, provincial government, hotels, extensive shopping, lively nightlife, and much else. (population in 2015 census 923,000)
- 2 Mandaue — a residential and industrial town located on Cebu Island between Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu. (363,000)
- 3 Lapu-Lapu — on Mactan Island east of Cebu City; has the airport, some nice beaches and dive sites, and many high-end resorts. (408,000)
For practical purposes, the three are in effect a single city; taxis, jeepneys and buses are available so travel between them is easy. There are two large bridges between Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, and many roads between Manadue and Cebu city. A third bridge, running direct from Cebu City to Córdova (the southern part of Mactan), is under construction, planned to be in service by 2021. Unlike the two existing bridges the new one will be several km long and will have a toll.
Cebu City has most of the region's historical sights and a range of facilities for travellers: accommodation, food and entertainment. It is therefore the main tourist destination in the region. However many travellers will also visit other areas: Lapu-Lapu for the airport, and anywhere except Cebu City for beach resorts.
The administrative region of Metro Cebu is shown in red on the map below, with the rest of Cebu Province in white. The region extends well beyond the three core cities and includes various suburbs or towns for which Wikivoyage has separate articles. In each list below, the towns are ordered from Cebu City outwards:
South of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- 4 Talisay — a residential and trading center directly bordering Cebu City on the south. Talisay has the fourth largest population of any municipality in the region, after the cities listed above. Arguably it (or a Talisay/Minglanilla combination) should be considered a fourth core city.
- 5 Minglanilla — largely a bedroom suburb just south of Talisay, known for its Sugat festival
- 6 Naga — has the largest factory in the country, making cement, and also a number of seaside resorts
- 7 San Fernando — more of a country area than a city region, though there is a town; has resorts both in a mountain area and along the coast
- 8 Carcar — Old colonial town on the coast with a few interesting historic buildings.
North of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- Mandaue, directly bordering Cebu City and with bridges to Lapu-Lapu
- 9 Consolacion — mainly residential suburb north of Mandaue
- 10 Lilo-an — coastal suburb, home of the Rosquillos, a type of cookie.
- 11 Compostela — municipality with a few coastal resorts and attractions inland in the hills
- 12 Danao City — 40 km from the city. Has ferries to the Camotes Islands
East of Cebu City, on other islands:
- Lapu-Lapu, connected to Mandaue by bridges
- 13 Córdova — on Mactan Island, south of Lapu-Lapu
- 14 Olango Island — Easternmost part of the metro area, a short ferry ride from Lapu-Lapu, but fairly rural. Has mangrove swamps, a wildlife sanctuary popular with bird watchers, a large reef area with good diving, and some mid-range resorts.
All municipalities have some sea coast and all except Cebu City itself have some beach resorts. Many of the townships also extend up into the island's somewhat mountainous interior, but most of the population is along the coast.
The region has many resident foreigners, both employed and retired. Under Philippine law foreigners cannot own land but they can buy condominiums, and there are condo developments in many parts of the country catering to that market and to well-off Filipinos. In this area most foreigners are in Cebu City, in Lapu-Lapu which has many high-end condos near beaches, or in the bedroom suburbs Mandaue and Talisay.
The region has a tropical monsoon climate with a long wet season and a short dry season, only the months of March and April. Average temperatures show little variance during the year; average daily highs range from 30 °C (86 °F) to 33 °C (91 °F) in various months and lows from 22.6 °C (72.7 °F) to 24.5 °C (76.1 °F). Cebu City averages roughly 1,700 millimetres (67 in) of precipitation annually.
As anywhere in the country, there is some risk of typhoons. Cebu is south of the most dangerous areas but does get hit by some storms. Nearby areas with somewhat less rain and lower typhoon risk are Bohol or Dumaguete further south.
It is possible to arrive at the airport, go directly to one of Lapu-Lapu's resorts, not visit Cebu City (or only go there on a guided tour), and be almost entirely insulated from the Philippines; some package holidays (mainly for Japanese and Koreans) do exactly this.
For air travel, Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB IATA) is in Lapu-Lapu; it has many international flights plus domestic flights to and from most major cities in the southern Philippines, direct flights to some cities in the north and connections via Manila to most of the others. Many travellers land at the airport then take the My Bus or a taxi into Cebu City.
There is also a port in Talisay, a ₱285 taxi ride from Cebu City; My Bus routes 2 and 4 will also take you to Talisay.
There are two major bus terminals, the north terminal in Mandaue and south terminal in Cebu City. Ceres Liner buses have routes from most cities on Cebu Island. There are also buses from major cities not on Cebu Island, including Quezon City in Metro Manila, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Malapascua and Bacolod; they ride ferries for parts of their routes.
Anywhere in Metro Cebu, except Olango Island, is easily reached by road from anywhere on Cebu Island via the highway that runs north-south following the coast. The Natalio Bacalso Avenue (N8 - South National Highway) runs from Santander (ferry connection from Dumaguete, Negros Oriental) in the south to Carcar then continues as the Cebu South Road to Cebu city. The Central National Highway from San Remigio and Hagnaya port in the north run through Danao City and on to Cebu city. Although called a highway it is not a divided fast road and goes through the centre of most towns in the region. From the west there is a road from Toledo (Cebu) with ferry connection from San Carlos (Negros Occidental).
There is a coastal highway that runs north-south through all parts of Metro Cebu that are on Cebu Island; roads branch off it to Lapu-Lapu and Córdova. Very little of this road is divided highway or limited access, and parts of it form the main streets of several towns; traffic is often slow and driving difficult.
Traffic is sometimes awful, especially in Mandaue since it is between two larger cities (Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu), there are only a few ways through and there is sometimes construction work on those. Traffic in Cebu City can also be unpleasantly heavy at times. Throughout the area travel during rush hours should be avoided if possible.
The Metro Cebu Expressway — 75 km of modern divided highway from Naga to Danao — is expected to be completed by 2022. As of early-2019 not much of it is in service yet, only a section from near SM Seaside mall in Cebu City into Talisay.
There are taxi, jeepney and bus services anywhere in the region.
Taxis can be expensive since the urban area is quite spread out; for example a taxi from the airport in Lapu-Lapu to downtown Cebu City costs from ₱250-400. However, while that is expensive by local standards — in a country where many jobs pay about that much a day — it is still a bargain by international standards.
For trips to the more distant suburbs taxis are somewhat expensive even by international standards; most locals and many visitors use buses or jeepneys instead.
Small buses — vans that seat about a dozen passengers — run between stations next to major malls in the various cities; these are often the best way of getting between those towns, more comfortable than jeepneys and cheaper than taxis. A van ride from Ayala Mall in Cebu City to Gaisano Mall in Lapu-Lapu is ₱35.
A company called My Bus has four routes around the region with full-size air con buses, fares from ₱25:
- Route 1 SM Seaside, Cebu Port, SM City, North bus terminal, Park mall.
- Route 2 SM Seaside, Talisay.
- Route 3 SM City, Park mall, Mactan Airport.
- Route 4 Park mall, North bus terminal, SM City, Talisay.
Jeepneys are a cheap and convenient, though often not very comfortable, way to get around within each city. Look for signs painted on the side saying where they go, or ask a local where to find the one you need, then wave your arm to flag one down. For intercity travel, the buses are much more comfortable but jeepneys may be cheaper.
However, if you do travel on a jeepney, beware of pickpockets, especially when the jeepneys are crowded.
There are also motorcycle-plus-sidecar tricycles for hire in some areas. In the cities, they are cheaper than taxis but much less comfortable. They are less crowded than the jeepneys, therefore better if you have luggage, and there is less risk of pickpockets. On Olango Island, the tricycles are the only available option.
There are also ferries within the region. One runs from the port in Cebu City to a pier in downtown Lapu-Lapu for ₱16.
See the articles for individual cities for descriptions of most of the area's attractions. Here we mention only a few of the most important, and even for those the details are in the city articles.
Magellan's expedition in the 1520s was the first to circumnavigate the Earth, but Magellan himself did not make it all the way; he was killed in a battle on Mactan Island with the forces of a local chief named Lapu-Lapu. Today the island's main city is called Lapu-Lapu; it has a statue commemorating the warrior, with a monument to Magellan nearby.
Magellan was fighting Lapu-Lapu at the request of Rajah Humabon of Cebu, who was friendly with the Spaniards and had been baptised a Christian. Two of Magellan's gifts to the Rajah are now among Cebu City's most important tourist sites. One is Magellan's Cross, the other a statue of Santo Niño (the Holy Child). Cebu's greatest church is the Basilica of Santo Niño; the statue is inside and the cross is in a small chapel nearby. These draw Catholic pilgrims from all over the Philippines, and some from further away.
The Sinulog festival, dedicated to Santo Niño, is on the third Sunday in January; it attracts large numbers of both tourists and pilgrims. It is centered on the Basilica in Cebu City but is celebrated throughout Metro Cebu, in the rest of the province, and to some extent even in nearby provinces. If you visit around that time, be prepared for sold-out hotels, large crowds and severe traffic problems.
There are many religious sites to visit, notable churches being the Archdiocesan Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minglanilla and Sto Tomas de Villanueva in Danao City, as well as many shrines and crosses such as at Q Park in the hills of Compostela.
All the hotels and resorts have restaurants, all the major malls in Cebu City have at least a dozen each, and malls in the other towns have some. In addition to those, the areas around Mango Avenue and the IT Park (both in Cebu City) also have many restaurants. All those areas include places with international menus.
For restaurant listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
- SuTuKil - An acronym for sugba (grilled), tula (soup-based/with broth), and kilaw (raw, soaked/pickled in vinegar). This is a popular term for ordering a selection of fresh seafood and meat from the market and cooked any way you like it in an eatery.
- Lechon - Roasted suckling pig. The whole province of Cebu is known for its lechon which some consider the best in the Philippines. Chain restaurants to try include CnT Lechon and Zubuchon.
The region's largest entertainment area is along Mango Avenue in Cebu City.
For other bar and night club listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
All the suburbs along the coast have some dive sites and beach resorts, and Lapu-Lapu has many, mostly upmarket. Cebu City itself has none. There are also many other possibilities in other parts of Cebu Province.
The high-class hotels are mainly in Cebu City or near the airport in Lapu-Lapu. Backpacker places are mostly in Cebu City, especially the older Colon district down by the port. High-end beach resorts are mostly in Lapu-Lapu or Cordova. Mid-range hotels can be found in all the larger towns, mid-range resorts on Olango or in the coastal towns north and south of Cebu City.
For hotel listings, see the city and town articles listed at cities above.
The main language of the province and of several nearby regions is Cebuano, also known as Bisaya to its speakers and Visayan in English. However many locals speak one or more other languages as well.
As anywhere in the country, English is widely spoken and the level varies from awful to excellent. This is a highly developed urban area with many tourists, so good English is more common here than in many other regions.
Tagalog is also commonly spoken since the central government promotes it as a national language and it is used in schools, but it is not indigenous to this region. Several of the country's many minority languages — including Waray, Illongo and Hokkien Chinese — are also spoken in the area, but most speakers of those will also speak at least one of Cebuano, Tagalog or English.
The area is poor; there are beggars and it is wise to take precautions against pickpockets and common scams. In general the region is reasonably safe and violent crime is rare, but parts of Cebu City are considered risky at night.
In general, this can be solved by taking as little money and valuable items around with you as possible; if possible, avoid taking any money, because what may seem to you like not very much money would seem to a poor, hungry person like quite a lot. For example, if you took twenty dollars (American money) with you, you wouldn't think it was much, but someone who desperately needed a meal would.
All the major cities have "social hygiene clinics" which offer free testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases:
- Cebu City Social Hygiene Clinic, Room 103, City health office. General Maxilom Aveune., ☎ .
- Mandaue Social Hygiene Clinic, Mandaue City Health office S B Cabahug Street centro, ☎ .
- Lapu-Lapu Social Hygiene Clinic, Lapu-lapu city health office. Lapu-lapu City Hall Road, ☎ .
- Talisay City Social Hygiene Clinic, Talisay City Rural Health Unit 1, Multi-purpose Bldg., Poblacion, ☎ .
For other health services see the Cebu City article.
If you need to renew your visa, the immigration department has two offices in Metro Cebu:
- Bureau of Immigration Cebu office, J Centre Bldg. A S Fortung street, Mandaue city. M-F 08:00-17:00.
- Bureau of Immigration Mactan office, Galsano Mactan Island Mall. M L Quezon National Hightway Lapu-lapu. M-F 08:00-17:00.
There is no office in Cebu City. The Mactan office generally has faster service than the Mandaue one.
Most consulates are in Cebu City, but there are also several in Mandaue.
Anywhere on Cebu Island is readily accessible by road. There are also some bus-and-ferry combination journeys to nearby islands, in particular to San Carlos (Negros Occidental) and on to Bacolod. There are two main bus stations, the North station in Mandaue and South station in Cebu City; to discover which one has buses for where you want to go, see the article on your destination.
Boracay is one the country's most popular tourist destinations, but it has been shut down for much of 2018 to clean up pollution problems. It is somewhat further away and is most easily reached by plane to Kalibo, then ferry. It is also possible to get there using buses and ferries via Bacolod and Iloilo.