Just recently, I went on a road trip vacation to Ilocos. Me and three other friends drove all the way from Manila to Vigan, Laoag, Pagudpud and back in a span of four days.
Our mission was to see the famous places in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte while experiencing the joy of travelling on the road.
Our vacation rules were simple – see as much tourist destinations as we can, eat only in local restaurants and of course, enjoy our time together.
Armed only with internet research, hotel brochures and some street smarts, we set out to see Vigan, Laoag and Pagudpud. Our initial budget was set at P10,000 per person which was inclusive of everything from gasoline, food, accommodation and others.
Personally, I thought this was too expensive but was advised that this was a just conservative estimate. At the end of the trip, I would find out that this was indeed a very conservative budget.
Budget Travel Tip: Plan your trip. Be conservative with your budget and make sure you can cover it. Don’t ruin your vacation by running out of money.
We left Manila very early morning on Thursday. We drove a Toyota Revo AUV on a full tank which was just enough to bring us to Vigan. If you’re planning to do the same, make sure you gas up in Manila because the price of gasoline is more expensive as you drive further up north. We had a few stops along the way, not just to rest and eat but also to buy some snacks for the road.
Budget Travel Tip: Prepare snacks at home or buy them at the grocery where it’s cheaper. Bring a cooler to keep your drinks cold. Snacks are expensive in gas stations and bus stop overs.
We arrived in Vigan early evening. We didn’t have any hotel reservations so we went around to scout for the best deal available. We decided to stay in Villa Angela based upon the recommendation from a friend. It’s not the cheapest place to stay in Vigan but it’s also not the most expensive. Our main reason for choosing the place was actually the ambiance and the great customer service of the staff.
The next day, we had our tour of Vigan, courtesy of one of the Villa Angela staff, Kuya Tony. He offered to take us around while giving us bits of trivia about Vigan. We went to the Baluarte Open Zoo, Hidden Garden, Padre Burgos Museum, Bantay Church and many others. We also saw Vigan’s handloom weaving and pottery making industries.
We were lucky to have a “free” tour guide. But in any case, there’s a Tourism office in Vigan where you can get free brochures of the places you can see and visit around town. The people of Vigan are also friendly and will give you proper directions when asked. Everybody seems to know how to speak Tagalog and English so there’s no language barrier.
Budget Travel Tip: Shop around for the best prices for souvenirs but more often than not, the best place to buy them is in the local public market – so buy your pasalubongs at the palengke. And of course, don’t forget to haggle.
In the afternoon, we went on our way to our next destination, which was Laoag. This was an hour and a half drive from Vigan. Our internet research showed us that Balay Da Blas is the best place to stay in Laoag but it was already fully booked. However, owner Mr. Sammy Blas was kind enough to reserve for us a room at Isabel Suites. To show our gratitude, we had dinner at his restaurant, Saramsam Cafe.
That night, we inquired on the available Laoag tour packages of the hotel. We really had no intention of availing them, our purpose was just to see the itinerary and come up with our own tour of Laoag. The hotel had free WiFi (actually, most hotels and establishments in Ilocos do). So we did internet research for directions going to Museo Ilocos Norte, Sinking Bell Tower, St. Williams Church, the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum, the La Paz Sand Dunes, Paoay Church and Paoay Lake to the Malacanang of the North.
Budget Travel Tip: Don’t spend on expensive guidebooks, maps and tour guide packages. The internet is full of free information about popular tourist destinations. Blogs are specially very helpful in giving you directions and reviews of places you should visit.
By the end of the day, we were beginning to get tired of all the walking and the sight seeing and looked forward to a relaxing day in Pagudpud. We were more than half-way through our road trip vacation but have only spent less than half of our budget.
Maybe that’s why we decided to spend a little more in Pagudpud and booked a room in Apo Idon Beach Hotel. It’s a bit expensive but it’s very relaxing and beautiful there. If you’re on a tight budget, less expensive accomodations are available in the area. Just ask the locals and they’ll point you to them.
We checked out after lunch and got ready to go back to Manila. But not after we visit four more destinations, which was the Patapat Viaduct, Bangui Windmills, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and the Baroque Church of Sta. Maria.
Among these, I enjoyed my time most at the Bangui Windmills. It’s really an awesome sight. If you’re going there, be sure to visit the Kangkang Windmill Cafe. I know the name of the place sounds funny but the place is very cozy.
We left Manila Thursday morning and was back by Monday morning. That was four days and four nights of great sight seeing in Ilocos. Our trip cost each of us around P5,700.
I believe this is a modest expense for the whole trip given that we stayed in medium price ranged hotels and mostly ate in restaurants. Our total gasoline expense was P5,000. If you don’t have a car, hiring a van for an Ilocos tour can be an option or just take public transportation all the way just like what this guy and his friends did.
Anyway, here’s a short video of the trip that I managed to put together in case you want to see more of the places we saw in Ilocos. Special thanks to Don, Rina and Mike for the great company. Can’t wait for our next road trip vacation.
Lastly, I believe that this trip wouldn’t have been possible if not for the time freedom in my life.
Having a business that can run on its own and earning passive income allows me to do things that I love and spend more time with both family and friends.
I guess that’s why I want to be financially free, so I can have the luxury to experience more in life.
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