Habal – Habal Warning to Cebu ‘Tops’ Tourist Spot

This is one blog post that I am not proud to write about but  I must. I feel it is my responsibility to also divulge the tourist traps that may await visitors coming here in Cebu.

I’m happy when there are readers who check back on Penfires to let me know how their trip or vacation went or how they enjoyed what Cebu City offers to tourists. (I really like hearing about your experiences, so thanks to those who do email me back or leave a comment on the post after the trip.).  All of these feedbacks have been ‘thank you’s’ and glowing positive feedback about a visitor’s Cebu experience until I opened an email from a reader last weekend.

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Two months after coming here in Cebu, one of Penfires readers (let’s call him Juan) took the time out to write me a feedback about a not-so-great experience while doing a do it yourself Cebu City Tour. I have asked his permission to share his story in this Cebu Travel Blog so that it may serve as a warning to those who are coming here esp backpackers and budget travelers who want to visit the Tops.


To Juan – thanks for sharing your story..

If you are considering taking a habal – habal motorycle ride to Cebu Tops, please read this post first. These motorcycles can be found on JY Square Mall in Lahug. Tops is part of Busay, a mountainous area in Cebu.

By browsing through the several posts on cheap CEBU CITY TOUR you would know that I do not recommend habal – habal in going to Tops although it’s cheaper than taking a taxi – my main reason is safety. But after hearing what Juan has to say about their experienced, I realized there are other reasons why you should think twice about getting on a habal-habal ride going to Cebu’s  Top.

This is what Juan has to say, shown below is a snapshot of the actual email exchange with him:


A Tourist Bad Experience in  going to Cebu Tops

Transcript of the email

The email reads (some sentences translated to English for easy reading of all) –

Hi.. long story… and it happened last Feb 2012, but I still remembers it hehe

This is how it went… first.. we rented one habal – habal.. we were just 2. And we negotiated 200 pesos per person fee to tops. Just when we hop on the motorcycle, there was another habal – habal driver who came and negotiated with us. (I just remembered the face). he said that we should take one motorcycle each because its dangerous if we are two on one motorcycle, it is the same price anyhow, P200 per person. so we took the offer and it was one person on each habal-habal. After touring Tops, they also recommended another tourist spot that offers a zip line activity for an additional of P50 per person. After having fun and all that, we started computing our transpo expenses. They said there is a waiting fee which was not mentioned during the negotiation. I even clarified that it is only P200 pesos flat per person to which they confirmed and agreed to.  What’s more aggravating is that, these drivers said that the capacity per motorcycle is really  2 passengers each, so according to them we have to pay for 2 person per motorcycle – that’s P500 per motorcycle if you compute. 1 thousand for us two! P400 pesos is the original price and then it becomes P1,000.00! –  WHICH IS SOBRANG NAKAKAASAR.  ESPECIALLY that we are budget traveler. We trimmed it down to P800 petot (which is still large amount). + free ride to Taoist Temple.  mga gagong un. we chose not to argue as we might be harmed, right? Sobrang inis na inis ako kasi ginanun kami sa lugar. It’s not often you visit cebu, and then this will happen. pangit lang. hopefully their government will fix this. un lang. thanks.

*Sorry if translation is not exact.

I’m sharing this not to discourage you to forgo habal-habal completely. But I do caution you to be very clear during your negotiation with the driver if you chooses to go to the Top in Busay area via these motorcycles for hire. NOT ALL habal-habal drivers are out to scam tourists but yes, there are some who prey upon unsuspecting visitors – both locals and foreigners. This incident is not unique to Cebu, this or similar to this case also happens in other popular tourist destinations in the country and all over the world.

And also, so sorry I really have no idea of what is the proper or correct rate for these habal – habal ride to Tops from JY. I hope there will be regulations put in place not only by the provincial government of Cebu but also by other stakeholders especially the tourism department.

 Cebu Popular Tourist Spot – The Top

What do Penfires recommend in going to Tops?

If you have no access to private transport during your Cebu holiday, taxis are my recommendations in going to Tops. I will update this post with the latest taxi service rate to Top. The last time someone went to this popular Cebu tourist spot early last year – they paid P700 round trip  from Marriot Hotel with one hour waiting at the Top.

Also please remember that there is a P100 entrance fee per person at this tourist destination.

Cebu’s The Top continues to attract local and foreign tourist because of the view and scenery when you get there. It’s cold up in the mountains and the amazing view of Cebu City laying at your feet is something worth seeing during your vacation. I hope you can visit this place sans the bad experience.

Cebu Top Night Scene

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About Cille Anne

This blog is maintained, written and edited by she - who likes to travel a lot, more like wishes to travel a lot, doesn't want to miss a photo-op, loves the rain, certified chocoholic, coffee keeps her sane - it runs through her veins, she doesn't know how to swim, but wants to dive in Tubbataha all the same haha

~Come share with me, my travels, my stories, my life.

My name is Cille. AND THIS IS PENFIRES. :)


  1. as always, cille, you give great up to date advice in traveling within the philippines. my experience with local tricycle/tricycod/habal-habal is that as a “big” american, i am expected to pay more than a filipino, not necessarily because i am a foreigner, but because i take up the space/weight of two filipinos…lol! i have no problem with this as long as i do get the two spaces i pay for (almost always no problems, especially on a bus). you also might extend this warning to tagalog speakers who will come to cebu as that is a dead giveaway that you are not local and you may as well have a sign on your forehead saying “tourist”. i have seen first hand the “dislike” between tagalog and bisay and visa versa. most of our tagalog guests at our resort are relieved that our staff are mostly native tagalog speakers since they do not understand/speak bisaya. your warnings are certainly in order for your blog and your advice is certainly spot on. keep up the good work!

  2. it’s really important to lay down the exact amount you should pay them back and forth. when we hired a habal2x in going to the doce pares zipline thingy just across the road on the entrance to tops, we were also told we need to pay for the waiting fee when we paid off the driver but we refused to since it wasn’t the amount we agreed on paying before starting the trip. sometimes, you just have to be stubborn and let these drivers know who’s the boss. if they won’t agree, then you can either threaten them to go to the local barangay outpost or police station 😆 if this happens when you are still on the area, then tell them you’ll just walk your way back to town or wait for a passenger vehicle to bring you back to the city. most likely, these drivers will give in to your rate because it would be costly for them to get back as it would consume gas too. hehehe

    • penfires says:

      thanks for that insight ron! yah it’s especially more challenging for non-bisaya speakers as there is a language barrier. On that ‘issue’ you mentioned about Tagalog and Bisaya, I’ll tackle that one of these days heheheh that would be an interesting read hehhe 🙂

      @doy – thanks for that additional info. I haven’t tried the habal-habal to tops though so I rely on feedback like that of Juan and yours. thanks for sharing ddd =) hmmm… might be more difficult to assert yourself if you can’t speak Cebuano and unfamiliar with the place.

      the sad thing about this is that this is a mark against Cebu Tourism goals and efforts. More importantly this can also happen to locals, yep Cebuanos too especially if not given proper attention by government authorities.

  3. Totoo ito Ate Cille. Kasi nung nasa JY na kami may nagoffer sa amin. Pero ang punta lang talaga namin is yung Taoist Temple. Sabi 20each yung fare. So kinagat namin. Kaso sabi niya sarado daw (which i don’t believe). supposedly dapat uuwi na kami pabalik ng JY pero nag-offer siya ng Tops. Kako ayoko pumunta sa Tops. Tapos sabi nya sa Cebu Zoo. E may bata akong kasama e gusto talaga pumunta sa Zoo. So pumunta kami. No offense ha pero I really did not like the zoo kasi hindi siya maintained ang konti ng hayop at *makalat*.

    SO there it goes, nagoffer ulit ng TOps. Kako ayoko. Kaya dumiretso kami ng JY. Biruin mo 300 ang singil nya eh ala ngang 1 oras yun. I said 150 lang, kaya 150 binayaran ko. Pakatapos nun nag taxi kami to Taoist Temple, ang lapit lang pala from JY. 50+ lang ata binayaran namin.

    • penfires says:

      Yah the Cebu Zoo is not that good anymore after Father Tropa (it’s caretaker) passed away. si Father Tropa = Cebu Zoo yun dati.

      Good that you insists na P150 lang, sobra naman kasi yung ibang drivers tataga-in ka pag alam na dayo and turista.

      Yung taoist temple, it’s really close to JY, that’s why I usually advises to commute to JY and pick a taxi from there if nagtitipid. In general, Cebu is small and even if you take taxi di gaano expensive unlike Manila na napaka-laki ng area at magasto if panay taxi ka from one tourist spot to the next.

  4. Ang mahal pala pumunta sa Tops! Super gusto ko pa naman ma-experience yon, lalo na sa gabi. It looks so great! 🙂 Hmm. Taxi it is, then.

  5. sindakan ra man na hehehe… pero maka pamalikas lagi ka’g ahat anang mag take advantage uy.

  6. I-link ko lang ito sa post ko Cille. Recent post ko Cebu Taoist Temple eh. Para ma-remind din future travelers…

    • Cille Anne says:

      hi joven, yah, that’s a good idea para informed din readers mo on your new post, para iwas bad experience pag dating dito.

  7. Hi want to share one of tourist trap that we encountered, and its related to the island hopping experience. It’s on their normal itinerary to drop tourist by the floating restaurant for day lunch and we just went along. True enough upon reaching there, the seafoods are fresh and all but we were skeptical after choosing some of the food we wish to have it cooked. We asked twice on the sales lady how is the pricing (per kilo or what) and the lady just kept on repeating that choose first and pricing is “packaged”, we just picked with reservation since we won’t know how much we’ll be paying.
    After choosing a lapulapu, 7 clam shells, 4 abalone, 6 spider shells and a rice; we were surprisingly charge 3k+ amount in a written reciept (no breakdown of how it sums up). I say this is tourist trap, we are certainly pinoy kasi tinagalog namin un mga tindera and its even ok if they charge overprice but atleast have decency to state them before when we’re asking for the price. The name of the floating restaurant by the way is arnold and candie. Mahirap pag hindi informed.

    • Cille Anne says:

      Hi Martin, that’s the first time I’ve heard of this. Thanks for sharing this. Grabe naman, diners should be told how much the prices are before ordering and not evade questions! I’ll be forwarding this info to the tourism consultant of Lapu-Lapu City. This kind of practice will mar tourism on Mactan. Certainly not good. TSK.

      As a side note: I really suggest for those going for island hopping to bring own food and water. For sutukil fare, you can have a feast at cheaper price in restaurants like AA BBQs, STK Ta Bai etc.

      UPDATE: I have posted your feedback on the LLC page and the FB page manager have replied back. I really hope something will be done so future tourists coming here in Mactan will not be disappointed. This is their reply: http://screencast.com/t/EMD3ZKrk0

  8. Hi thanks, really appreciate you’re contribution toward tourist supporting efforts. By the way, I still have their reciept, though I don’t have much use posting it anyway, its just a generic receipt (no store name). As a trivia, I was surprised the receipt was printed from Manila. Anyway, we enjoyed our overall trip to Cebu. Just also like to do my share of keeping it that way.

    • Cille Anne says:

      Hi Mart, can I request a scan copy or picture of that receipt? Might be useful if I forward that too to LLC. Please email it to me at penfires(@)gmail.com. Thanks!

      p.s. it’s wonderful to know that beside this not-so-good-phase of your vacation, you still had a good time in Cebu. Thanks for sharing!

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