After our recent trip to Batanes, it was clear that this elusive town is in the majority’s travel bucket list basing on the momentary fame our photos enjoyed and the number of inquiries that followed.
Batanes is the northernmost and the smallest province in the Philippines. To be here is to be at the edge of the country, just some sails away from Taiwan.
For everyone dreaming about this little quaint town at the tip of our beautiful Philippines where people are genuinely kind, the whole community knows each other, the entire province picturesque and scenic, here’s a quick travel guide we made to make your dream a little more vivid.
Planning a Trip to Batanes
A dream, a bucket list, and a random conversation jumpstarted our trip.
Then a promo fare.
This is crucial. A friend with a knack for discovering online seat sale is a must! The thrill of a cheap/discounted flight will surely push the troop to finally commit. We just had to decide on a common date covered in the promo fare way ahead so everyone can file a leave of absence from work.
Once we had those flight dates booked and penned in our calendars, we researched for tour agents, asked for tips from friends who have been, and read articles unraveling the paradise’s majesty days before departure. We’re crammers like that.
Come our departure date, we marched to NAIA terminal 3 to catch the plane to our dream– the smallest plane I’ve boarded in my life.
How to Get There
Currently, there are two active airlines catering to Batanes, a meager improvement to once a monopoly of flights reason for the intimidating sky-high airfare; a single flight per day for both.
NAIA Terminal 3
NAIA Terminal 4
Flight Number Origin Destination Departure Arrival Frequency
5M 816 MANILA BASCO 0530H 0640H M/W/F
5M 815 BASCO MANILA 0710H 0830H M/W/F
- We’ve been told to pack 1 set of clothing in our carry-on because of the high probability that the check-in luggage will get off-loaded, and so we did. And yes, they did. We had to claim our off-loaded luggage (in our return trip) the next day in Manila.
Our group of 5 shelled out about P20,000 per head all-in! We joined with another pair of travelers so that decreased our tour fee shares.
Here’s the breakdown of how our Batanes travel fund was spent for 6 days and 5 nights for a group of 5, P20,000 ALL-IN (per person):
|AMOUNT (in PhP)||PARTICULARS|
|9,000||PAL Express all-in promo fare availed August 2013 for Jan 2014 flight|
|5,000||Tour Fees including North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang Island for group of 7. Additional P3,000 for Itbayat Island tour|
|2,000||5 nights for 5 pax room at Time Travel Lodge (P2k/night for 5 pax)|
• P20- bike rental per hour (P40/hour mountain bike)
• P50 - ref magnet souvenir
• P500 - pasalubong and other trinkets
• P300 - (Mt. Iraya) mountain hiking guide fee (P1,500 group fee)
• P100 - gratuities for our hike guide (P500 group fee)
• P70 - 1-way tricycle fare from foot of Mt. Iraya
• P100 - gratuities for our homestay caretaker (P500 group fee)
• P300× - food expense per meal (x meals; varies to your taste; we cooked most of breakfast and dinner so that helped augment food expense)
• P40 - one way tricycle fare to Octagon Restaurant
• P500 - chips, soda, beer, bread, tissue paper, and other grocery items
• P400 - two-way tricycle fare to Diura Fishing Village
• P200 - Municipal Registration Fee (P1,000 group fee)
• P50 - Basco Airport Fee
Expenses go up or down depending on your promo airfare, the number of travelers, duration of stay, rate of your chosen accommodation, and the number of tours you’ll splurge in. There is a Living Social deal worth P3,000 for 3D/2N tour all-in! If you’re lucky to get P5,000-P7,000 promo airfare like some of the travelers we met, then you can do with 8,000- 10,000 in 2 nights!
Here’s a matrix of tours collated from the web that helped us decide which services to book. It may give a rough estimate of the *basic* expenses that may be incurred during the trip.
*basic expenses include accommodation, tour fees, and meals. Airfare and personal expenses (pasalubong/souvenirs, extra drinks, snacks, bike rentals, etc. not included)
There are 4 tours available in Batanes:
- North Batan Tour covers one of the famous Batanes lighthouses, Fundacion Pacita, and the rolling hills, among others.
- South Batan Tour is a whole day tour to Batanes’ most talked about spots like the Honesty Store, two other lighthouses, and the Racuh a Payaman, among others.
- Sabtang Tour is a 30-minute Faluwa boat ride going to a small island of genuine Ivatan community paraded by traditional Ivatan houses.
- Itbayat Tour is a 3- hour boat ride or 10-minute airplane ride (P1,800, one-way) to the most isolated island in Batanes with only about 3000 people of the Ivatans. The weather didn’t permit us to enjoy the pricey, nerve-wracking privilege to be among the lucky few who get to experience the seclusion of Itbayat Island.
For the details of what to see, here are sample itineraries for your reference:
Where to Stay
If you have a surplus of travel funds, Fundacion Pacita is the dream place to stay. It is the home to the Abad family, the world renowned artist and the current cabinet secretary. Room rate ranges from P4,000 – 11,000 with the promise of your money’s worth.
If you’re a travel go-getter and you believe the best time to travel is always now sans the hefty travel fund, there is an array of homestay that will fit your pocket. Room rate averages between P300 per person to P600 per night.
They say, if you come during the peak season and all accommodations are booked, the locals welcome you into their home. Now that’s as real as a homestay can get! Immediate immersion! Every visitor Batanes gets is a family. No one gets left behind. They even open hospital dorms if all else fails!
Where We Stayed
Our three-door lodge could just be the best homestay we can have, value for money-wise. Time Travel Lodge was just an alternative to the fully booked Marfel’s, their mother lodge, but it was homey, fully functional home in its simplicity.
We basked in our own garden with colored benches during our spare quiet afternoons, reading or contemplating. The furnished kitchen helped save meal expenses and the al fresco dining area in our own little kubo was witness to our daily summary/analysis/reflections while devouring our home-cooked meals.
It was 5-minute walk away from the airport, amidst the idyllic neighborhood, fronting a sari-sari store that satisfied our childish cravings and emergency hunger pangs. We walked/biked to just about everywhere in Basco town. It was beyond comfortable for it’s rate. And we didn’t have to worry about being left behind by our flight back home!
Time Travel Lodge: +63907.433.5610 (Linda)
Marfel’s Lodge: 639088931475 (Fe)
Best Time to Go to Batanes
Peak Season is March to June, October to February, but our tour guide, Ryan Cardona, said it is best to come between June to September where there are less tourists and you have the island to yourself. I agree!
How Long to Stay
This can easily be dictated by your budget and your leave allowance. If none of these are factors, spend a minimum of 4 days, ideally a full week, to just let all the simplicity soak in. I’d stay two weeks here in a heartbeat if you ask me; even stretch it to a month! There’s nothing else much to do after a week or two (in a tourist’s perspective), but that’s the point!
What to Wear
- Comfortable footwear
- *climate-ready clothes
*raincoat and windbreakers regardless of the month since weather is as moody as a girl can be!
*Cool months (December to January)
- wear winter outfit (beanies, longsleeves, jacket, long pants, scarf)
You will be touring endless rolling hills, the scenic spots, and these are most of the time at the top of the world so it gets really windy and cold!
What to Bring
- CAMERA! Make it the best you got!
- Extra camera batteries
- Memory cards
- Vitamin C
- Muscle pain reliever
- Light rain coat/windbreaker
- Chips/biscuits/candy/chocolate bars to munch while on the road
- Beer and chips at the lighthouse or rolling hills
Food to Try
- Vunes- a dish made of dried gabi
- Uvud balls – banana-based meat-ball-like food
- Flying fish- one of the most abundant kind of fish in the island
- Coconut Crab
- Bucayo- coconut-based sweets
- Glorified Gabi
Other Things to Do
Beer and chips and chat while watching the sunset
Jump, scream, and let go!
Hike Mount Iraya!
Drink and talk with the locals
Like most of the Philippines, the people truly make Batanes soooo endearing, coupled with sceneries as genuinely raw as the people that tend to it. You get a feel of a true countryside escape where people you cross paths with greet you with a smile and everyone just cares for everybody. You ask where to get a tricycle, that person gives you the number of the driver who picks you up in no time.
We had the most pleasant of times with our tour guide, so we can only recommend him to future Batanes adventuristas. Feel free to contact Ryan and he’ll take care of the rest of your stay, day in, day out.
Please share this to everyone you know who has been dreaming about going to Batanes. Let us support our Ivatan brothers and their heritage by promoting Batanes ecotourism!