Baguio City has been called a lot of things, the City of Pines, the Summer Capital of the Philippines, but what it is, really, is my favorite city in the Philippines.
It is arguably the hub of tourism in Luzon, especially during the month-long festivities of the Panagbenga Festival. It has the best thrift shopping places with its ukay-ukay stores. A food trip paradise with its numerous restaurants. And a weekend-getaway haven, with its numerous tourist spots and general accessibility from Metro Manila. Its year-round cool and temperate weather only adds to its charm as a tourist destination.
I know I’m not alone in nominating Baguio City as their favorite city, but if you’re still unconvinced, here’s a travel guide to convert you to become a certified Baguio Junkie.
HOW TO GET TO BAGUIO CITY
Baguio City is located some 250 kilometers from Metro Manila and is elevated 1,450 meters above sea level. Buses are the usual transportation of choice when going to the city and travel time usually clocks in at six hours (from Manila). There used to be flights in and out of the city in years past, but is has been discontinued indefinitely. The city can also be accessed through the Ilocos Region and other parts of Luzon through various provincial bus lines and vans.
Jeepneys and taxis are the main modes of transportation in Baguio. Although it can be said that taxi cabs are more prevalent in the city than jeeps. This is probably due to the fact that taking a taxi in Baguio City is very cheap since most don’t need to use their air-conditioning, saving a lot on gas. Cab drivers are also very honest, giving back your change up to the last centavo. Flag down rate is Php35.00.
It’s still, however, cheaper to ride jeeps whether you’re going back to your hotel or some tourist spot in the city. Most tourist destinations in Baguio is, more often than not, accessible via jeepneys. Don’t be shy to ask locals where the terminals are for any given destination.
Baguio City tour packages are a dime a dozen. The probability of finding one in your own city is quite high, these are mostly inclusive of lodgings, transfers, entrance fees, guides and transportation. Rates range from about a thousand pesos per person per night; but that totally depends on how big your group would be. But if, however, you find yourself already in Baguio City, you can still check out numerous organized tours online or simply flag a taxi and negotiate with the driver for a tour of Baguio—remember to haggle, hard.
Note that I haven’t really tried using a tour package to see Baguio since the city is very to explore on your own. And I still recommend that you simply do a DIY tour of Baguio rather than avail of a package tour.
Filipino and English are widely spoken in Baguio City but their main language is, surprisingly, Ilocano. I was under the impression that Ibaloi, which is closely related to Pangasinense (another popular language in the city), or Kankana-ey, which is prevalent in the northern parts of Benguet Province would be more dominant. Here are a few phrases in Ilocano then to help endear yourselves to the locals (especially when haggling at ukay-ukay, lol).
Thank you – Agyamanak
Good morning – Naimbag a bigat
Good afternoon – Naimbag a malem
Good evening – Naimbag a sardam
How much is… – Sagmamano ti…
Where is… – Ayanna ti…
There are uncountable number of lodgings and accommodations in Baguio City. They range from cheap backpacker types to really posh hotels. It would take a dedicated website to list each and every inns, hostels, motels, dorms, homestays and hotels in Baguio City, so I’ll simply list down those where I’ve stayed in. Although it’s usually very easy to get a lodging as you arrive in Baguio City, I advise that you book ahead, especially during the busy Panagbenga and Christmas seasons.
Baguio City is a food-lovers paradise. The city has every cuisine you can think of in every style of restaurants possible. You can dine cheaply on Chinese dishes on one day and splurge on the same dish on a different restaurant the next day. But since you’re in Baguio, might as well chow down on greens more; fresh veggies are quite abundant in the area, making them really affordable. Most restaurants crowd around the Session Road area, but be adventurous and try some out of the way places too. Also, check out curious art cafés that makes dining almost secondary.
Shopping for pasalubong and keepsakes is part and parcel of visiting Baguio City. One simply cannot go back home without bringing jars of strawberry jams, choco flakes, kinky barrel-man carvings, tacky shirts, keychains and ref magnets with you. Add the fresh veggies and strawberries that can be bought very cheaply almost everywhere and you’ve got more than you can probably lift back home. You’d definitely run out of space for those walis tambo and giant kutsara at tinidor carvings very quickly if you don’t watch it.
Traveling to Baguio City is not expensive. There are wide range of lodgings to choose which can suit everyone’s budget. Food is also no problem since restaurants and eateries abound. Getting around is cheap, you can either ride a jeepney or take a cab, which is also surprisingly affordable, or better yet, walk. The city is both good for both budget backpackers and luxury travelers, but as always, this budget guide is intended for the absolute minimum one can spend for a three-day Baguio trip based on the itinerary I listed below (not including the restaurants).
TRANSPORTAION: PHP283.50 Solo | PHP427.00 Couple (PHP213.50 each)
ACCOMMODATION: PHP800.00 Solo | PHP1,600.00 Couple (PHP800.00 each)
PHP400.00 – Cheapest accommodation in Baguio (per person)
x 2 nights
FOOD: PHP540.00 Solo | PHP1,080.00 Couple (PHP540.00 each)
PHP60.00 – Average cost of a meal per person on a carinderia.
x 9 (3 breakfast, 3 lunch, 3 dinner)
3 days 2 nights budget total for a solo traveler: PHP2,193.50
3 days 2 nights budget total for two persons traveling together: PHP4,247.00 (PHP2,123.50 each)
Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!