HOW TO GET TO PALAU
Being remote with a small population (under 25,000) and tourist arrivals averaging between 140,000 to 160,000, Palau does not have daily flight service from one major airport. That said, with 5 Gateways to Palau, there are enough options to consider depending on where you travel from.
The 5 (major) gateways are Manila, Taipei, Narita, Guam and Seoul and their schedules (gateway to Palau sector) as of October 2016 are:-
Manila United Airlines – Every Tuesdays and Fridays
Taipei China Airlines – Every Wednesday and Saturdays
Narita Delta Airlines - No-Stops Every Tuesdays and Saturdays and United Airlines – One-Stop (Guam). Refer to Guam.
Guam United Airlines – Every day EXCEPT Saturday. USA Visa is required even on transit.
Seoul Asiana and Korean Air – Thursdays and Sundays
Please refer to the airlines or your travel agent for exact flight’s schedule and availability.
SPECIAL MENTION: Manila
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the most challenging airport to transit. Unlike most international airports, ease of moving between terminals is non-existent in Manila. The flight to Palau from Manila with United Airlines leaves from Terminal 1. You are encouraged to choose an airline that arrives into Manila at Terminal 1 if Manila is your choice to transit to get to Palau.
If you find yourself arriving in terminal 2 or 3, assuming there are no delays in your arrival, you MUST leave yourself at least 3 hours (4 if possible) of transit time (the traffic in Manila is really special). Also, you will have NO alternative but to collect your luggage and go through immigration/customs. There are two ways to get to Terminal 1.
1. RECOMMENDED:There is a NEW service call the Terminal Transfer Service (Bus). Please ask for directions if you do not see the sign to where you should go to take that transfer bus which is free of charge. This bus though not a short frequent service (30mins interval) is your best way to get to your terminal. Do queue because the bus is limited space missing one will mean a 30 minutes wait. Make sure you ask the warden or bus driver to.
2. Taxi. Look for the yellow taxi (metered & airport accredited) counter and inform the counter staff that you are going to Terminal 1. Terminal 3 is the furthest from Terminal 1 and, depending on traffic, it can take you between 60mins to 90mins (for what should be a 30minute drive). Terminal 2 is the closest but can also take 30mins to 60mins due to traffic. Depending on traffic and which terminal you are travelling from, your taxi fares can vary (yellow taxi meters are a little more expensive than the regular white taxis) but generally it should not be more than 250PHP - make sure they have their meter ON! If you are travelling in groups, be prepared to only fit 2 of you in one taxi with your luggage.
If you are arriving into Terminal 1,
1. Do give yourself at least 2 hours of transit time.
2. Do go to the transfer desk on your arrival and inform them that you are transiting.
Once you do that, there is a chance you do not need to go through immigration and customs in Manila, they will assist you to collect your bags at the arrival baggage carousel and check you in for your flight to Palau at the transfer desk.
If you don’t find yourself in this fortunate situation, you will then need to proceed to clear immigration (write “transit” on your immigration form), collect your baggage, go through customs, head to the departure hall on the top floor and go through the usual check-in process.
CUSTOMS - TRANSITING
If the customs authority for any reason want to tax you for bringing any item that you are going to Palau with, do insist to them that you are only transiting, you will need to show them your outbound ticket. If they somehow make it difficult for you, just inform the customs that you can leave it with them in their office and collect it back when you come back into the departure concourse.
Checking In (Manila Airport)
Do not be shy to stand in the queue even before the counters are opened for check-in. Queues will start to form as early as 45mins before the counters are scheduled to open (Same as the other airlines in Terminal 1). You’d be better off waiting in the departure concourse with a drink then standing in a very long line waiting to check in.
United Airlines check-in is very strict with a weight limit of 50lbs/23kg per bag, so pack your bags right the first time! The hand luggage policy is a little more generous with the weight. Do make sure you get the most current information prior to your departure with the airline.
Airline/airport security in Manila can sometimes make things difficult when it comes to check-in/ hand luggage items. Ensure that you review United Airlines’ policies and in fact, have a printed copy to show proof that you have checked and your items are not restricted. From hearing our guests’ experiences, common items that may bring about a debate are batteries for recreational drones and scrubbers for rebreathers. Remember, the liquids, aerosols, etc restrictions are in force. If you have bought duty free liquids, you must remember to check it in with your luggage as you will not be allowed to bring it across the security check when entering the departure concourse. We recommend any liquid purchases be made in Manila’s duty free shops while waiting for your flight to Palau
To avoid paying the Manila International Airport Terminal Fee (550PHP per person), you should highlight to the check-in counter staff that you are transiting (less than 24 hours) in Manila to get on your flight to Palau and show them your boarding pass from your previous flight into Manila. They will either put a stamp on your new boarding pass or indicate somehow that you do not need to pay the fee. It is (or should be) a standard procedure, but be prepared to “lose out” in this endeavour as there have been times when the staff have no idea. Do insist if you have the time to spare.
Do go to the boarding gate slightly ahead of the boarding time printed on your boarding pass. There is an additional security check done before you enter the boarding gate’s waiting room. This check is all by hand. You may find yourself standing in the queue for 15 to 20mins if you go during the time where most people would go to the boarding gate. By going slightly ahead of the stipulated time, you may find yourself not having to wait in a queue uncomfortably - many regular passengers flying United Airlines from Manila know this tip too!
The security check is extensive and by hand. They will go through all compartments and pockets in your bag, so pack wisely in the way that it can easily be repacked again. After the bag search, a full body search and finally a shoe inspection – all by hand. Yes, only in Manila and not just because it is the airline’s specific requirement to have the check by hand.