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.
Three main cities make up the core of Metro Cebu:
- 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)
- 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)
- Mandaue — a residential and industrial town located on Cebu island between Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu. (363,000)
There are two large bridges between Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, and many roads between Manadue and Cebu. Taxis, jeepneys and buses are available. For practical purposes, the three are in effect a single city.
The administrative region of Metro Cebu (2.8 million) is shown in red on the map, 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 we have separate articles. All of these have some sea coast and some beach resorts.
North of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- Consolacion — north of Mandaue (131,500)
- Lilo-an — a seaside town and suburb north of Consolacion (119,000)
- Danao City — another seaside town, further north, 40 km from the city. (136,500)
South of Cebu City, on Cebu Island:
- Talisay — a seaside town south of the city (228,000)
- Minglanilla — another, just south of Talisay (132,000)
- Naga (115,750)
- San Fernando — another, also to the south (66,000)
- Carcar — another, further south (119,700)
East of Cebu City, on other islands:
- Lapu-Lapu — on Mactan Island, connected to Mandaue by bridges
- Córdova — also on Mactan, south of Lapu-Lapu (60,000)
- Olango Island (30,000) — ferry from Lapu-Lapu
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.
- 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 the suburbs along the coast, including Mandaue, have some dive sites and beach resorts, and Lapu-Lapu has many, mostly upmarket. Cebu City itself has none.
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. Beach resorts are mostly in Lapu-Lapu or Cordova, though outlying areas have some too.
All three of the core cities have many resident foreigners, both employed and retired. Philippine law lets foreigners buy condominiums, though they cannot buy land, and there are condo developments in all three cities catering to that market and to well-off Filipinos. Each city has a different attraction; Cebu is the center, Lapu-Lapu has many high-end condos near beaches, and Mandaue has lower housing costs for either purchase or rental. There are also some foreigners in other parts of the region; the less central areas are generally cheaper than any of the three main cities.
For most travellers Cebu City is the main destination.
- Arriving by sea puts you in the city; it has the country's busiest port.
- Air travellers land at Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu, then most take the My Bus or a taxi into Cebu City.
Anywhere in Metro Cebu, except Olango Island, is easily reached by road from anywhere on Cebu Island. There are two major bus terminals, the north terminal in Mandaue and south terminal in Cebu City. There are also buses from major cities not on Cebu Island, including Quezon City in Metro Manila, Dumaguete, Iloilo and Bacolod; they ride ferries for parts of their routes.
It is also 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.
Talisay City Port in Talisay is a ₱285 taxi ride from Cebu City. My Bus routes 2 and 4 will also take you to 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 a waitress or laborer might make ₱300 a day — it is still a bargain by international standards.
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 air con buses, fares from ₱25:
- Route 1. SM Seaside, 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.
Traffic is sometimes awful, especially in Mandaue since it is between the two larger cities, there are only a few ways through and (as of March 2016) there is construction work on one of the main ones. Travel during rush hours should be avoided if possible.
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 vans are much more comfortable but jeepneys may be cheaper.
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 and it has a statue commemorating the warrior.
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 and in much of the rest of the province. If you visit around that time, be prepared for sold-out hotels, large crowds and severe traffic problems.
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. Much of the province is highly developed urban areas, and some of the rest gets a lot of 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.
All three of the major cities have "social hygiene clinics" which offer free testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases:
- Cebu City Social Hygiene Clinic. Room 103. City health office. General Maxilom Aveune. +63 32 2605517.
- Mandaue Social Hygiene Clinic. Mandaue City Health office S B Cabahug Street centro. +63 32 3460110 or 09425721018.
- Lapu-Lapu social Hygiene Clinic. Lapu-lapu city health office. Lapu-lapu City Hall Road. +63 32 3402584.
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.
Most consulates are in Cebu City, but there are also several in Mandaue.
Anywhere on Cebu Island is readily accessible by road. 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.
For air travel, Mactan-Cebu International Airport is in Lapu-Lapu; it has flights to most major cities in the southern Philippines, direct flights to some in the north and connections via Manila to others, and many international flights. For travel by sea, the port in Cebu City is the busiest in the country; it is the main hub for the Visayas region and has connections to many cities outside that region.
Popular tourist destinations reachable with a short ferry ride are Bohol and Dumaguete. Boracay 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.