(Click on gallery above to view pictures.)
AKA How we toured (almost) half of Luzon for only around P3,500 per person
Last March, I took a week off from work (on second thought, I did not really work during February and March) and went to far places. Nope, we did not go outside the country, but we did have a grand time touring a far island: Luzon. Well, half of it. Almost.
In a week, we were able to go to Baguio, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, and Cavite (Kawit and Tagaytay) — and little bits of Manila in between. Guess how much we spent for the trip? Roughly just about P3,500 per head. Add airfare and some pocket money, and the trip still won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
If you’re planning to embark on a similar trip, read on!
But first, here’s a couple of disclaimers.
First, there were 15 of us (16 if you include the driver). If you travel as a group, the expenses (i.e. accommodations and transportation) are reduced because you get to divide the costs. Also, it’s a lot more fun. In our case, we travelled with my paternal aunt and cousins and some colleagues. If your group is smaller, I’m afraid you would have to fork over a bigger budget.
Second, the cost I mentioned above does not include airfare yet. If you’re not choosy, I suggest you avail of airline promos and piso fares.
1. If possible, do not schedule your trip on peak season.
Because Vigan and Baguio are among the country’s top summer destinations, we decided to take the trip just before the summer vacation officially begins (a.k.a April). So we scheduled the trip on the last week of March, when school is already out for the graders but most are not yet flocking to the airports. It was also perfect because Yuri’s birthday coincided with the trip. It became 3rd birthday’s celebration.
2. Book early.
We didn’t really plan on going to those places, but I chanced upon a Cebu Pacific seat fare promo so I grabbed the opportunity. This was months before March, so we had plenty of time to plan and prepare. This way, we were able to research about the places and look for the most ideal options for accommodations and transport. Also, we were able to compare and consult our group regarding our suggestions.
Also, if you plan to save as much money as you could, booking hotels and transport vans just days before your trip won’t do you any good. Hotel rates are known to fluctuate according to the volume of tourists, and you may end up paying a rate higher than usual. Also, worst case scenario especially in Vigan, you’ll have nowhere to go because all hotels are already fully booked.
In our case, everyone in our group agreed that we’d rather stay in cheap accommodations (as long as they’re new and clean!) than scrimp on actual touring and pocket money. And we wanted to have generous budget for food, too. Haha! Because travel, shopping, and food were our priority, we decided to look for the most cost-effective accommodations. Later, I’ll give you the specific hotels we stayed in and the rates we paid.
4. But do not scrimp on one important thing: transportation.
We spent around 50% of the trip on the road, and many of us were not familiar with the places we were visiting. In fact, among us, not one has been to the province of Ilocos yet. My point is that it is very important to seek only well-reviewed and trustworthy transportation services.
Not only will you spend 99% of your vacation time with your designated driver, your lives are also literally at his mercy.
My Recommended Transportation Service
If there’s anything I would change in our trip, it certainly is not be the transportation service we were blessed to avail. We contacted Sher Van For Rent and our designated driver was Mang Leo. Our service was a brand new Toyota Hi-Ace, so most of the road trips were smooth-sailing. Even though my sister gets carsick and I developed food poisoning during the trip, Mang Leo’s driving did not add to our burdens.
Mang Leo is highly, highly recommended. He’s a lolo-type but a really good and careful driver – thanks to his 30 years of experience of driving a bus. He’s also very pleasant and well-mannered. There were a couple of times when Yuri and I had to stay inside the vehicle because of rains, and Mang Leo was friendly to Yuri.
If you will go on a road trip in Luzon and decide to take my advice and use Sher Van For Rent’s services, please request for Mang Leo. Tell him his group from Davao City highly recommends him!
(There is no flat rate – it really depends on the kind of trip you will take and how small or big your group is – but I think we paid P28,000 for 4 days inclusive of driver’s fee and gasoline. That’s less than P2,000 for head.)
5. Look for budget-friendly but clean hotels.
Like what I have mentioned above, we decided to book budget-friendly hotels to maximise our spending money for what we think are the more important things. Here’s a list of the places we stayed in, their rates, and my reviews.
Zeus Transient House, Baguio
- Near Burnham Park and market, Session Road, Puregold, and grotto
- 4 units with 3 bedrooms each
- Amenities: fully-equipped kitchen, bedrooms with beds, living room with cable TV, hot and cold shower, LPG, terrace, car park, and CCTV camera
- One unit can accommodate 10-15 people
- P4,500 per night per unit
- 09062277151 / 09983940147
- I’m not sure, but they may also have units for smaller groups.
It’s clean and the unit we had was really new – since all the units are the same, I think all of them must be similar in appearance and cleanliness. The amenities were really complete and you can’t hear the noise of your neighbours. Also, the kitchen is spacious enough to prepare meals in. I would gladly stay here again if I were to return to Baguio City.
The owner of the transient house is quite friendly and approachable, but the appointed caretaker is nowhere to be seen. We texted the caretaker because the hot shower in the first floor is not working, but we never received action. Thus, we resorted to manually heating water for bathing. If you ever find yourself staying in this transient house, I recommend you test the hot shower immediately while the owner is still around.
I also have another complaint about this place. I accidentally left Yuri’s Attipas shoes, so we texted the owner who then informed his caretaker. We never received any response about it!
In other words, I recommend this place because it’s clean, new, and complete, but while the owner is okay, I hope he hires another caretaker!
Green R Hotel, Vigan
- Alcantara Street Extension, Vigan City
- Very near Puregold and market
- Amenities: air-conditioned rooms, wi-fi, and gym
- Rates range from P750 to P1,350
Green R Hotel is one of the newer hotels in Vigan City as most hotels are renovated old houses. While I really wanted to stay in a heritage house, I was thankful I conceded and went with my group’s wish to stay in a “newer” hotel because I was left behind. If you read my posts in my old blog, you’d know I didn’t go with them to Ilocos Norte because of food poisoning. I can’t imagine being left behind in a super old house!
Air-conditioning is nice, and you can use the gym if you’re keen on burning calories. Location is pretty good, too. And the ladies at the front desk are friendly enough.
Rooms do not have wi-fi; you can only avail of the wi-fi when you stay in the lobby. However, we preferred to stay inside our room because the lobby smells of cigarette smoke. As most of us are from Davao, we are not used to smelling cigarette smoke in public at all!
Another con is that the building does not have an elevator. All the rooms are situated in the third and fourth floors of the building, and we had to climb up flights of stairs. And we all stayed in family rooms, which were on the 4th floor. Goodness gracious!
Also, honestly, if I were to return to Vigan, I may look for another place to stay in because the bathrooms are not that okay. They’re not really dirty, but the water is kinda off, making the bathrooms smell a bit.
Go Hotel, Ortigas
- Robinsons Cyberscape Alpha, Garnet Rd, Pasig
- Amenities: air-conditioned rooms, high-quality beds. hot and cold rain and handheld shower, cable TV, room phones, safe, and CCTV cameras
- Only 2 people per room
- Rates differ according to season and according to when you booked your rooms – we booked early and the rate we were able to avail of was just around P1,200 per room
- 5313585 | 5313587 | 5313591
I know many of you may already be familiar with Go Hotel, but I’ll still tell you about it. It’s one of the most cost-effective hotels ever. If you book early (walk-ins have higher rates), you may end up with a room that is dirt-cheap but complete in amenities. We had to book 2 rooms for our family alone, but the total cost is still inexpensive.
I also love the beds of Go Hotel, like I can curl up in a soft cocoon the whole day. Wi-fi connection is pretty fast, and it helps that there is a Mini-Stop at the ground floor, just by the parking lot. You have licence to be hungry at 2 am.
This is a hard one. Okay, for starters, the rooms are tiny. I think the bed may have occupied about 60% of the space. However, this was fine with us because we only spent hours in the rooms and we spent most of our time in the hotel sleeping or watching TV or catching up on Facebook. The works. If you’re meticulous about space, though, Go Hotel may not be the right budget hotel for you.
But if it’s not an issue, I highly recommend it!
6. Have fun.
Lots of it.
If you want to read about the specific places we have visited during our summer trip, click on this link to see my posts from my old blog!