One of the major road trips we’ve been meaning to go on for a while now is to Ilocos. Major road trip because the drive takes about 12 hours or so, depending on the traffic, and weather conditions, and the season (summer would obviously mean more cars driving up to the north).
Last April, we decided to finally check Ilocos off of our bucketlist and went on a 4-day trip to Vigan, Laoag, and Pagudpud.
Here are the 5 things we wish we knew before we went to Ilocos:
1. Gas prices in the province = crazy expensive
As with any road trip, everyone’s advice would be to ensure that you have a full tank of gas before hitting the road. We were diligent enough to do that.
While in Vigan though, en route to Laoag, we realized that the gas stations were getting fewer and further between and we were left with about a half-tank of gas. A sort-of panic started creeping in, as we didn’t want to end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. The practicality of checking and canvassing each gas station’s price went
out the window, and we just gassed up at the nearest station. Obviously the further out you drive, prices tend to be higher as well but its either that or you risk running out of gas in an unfamiliar place.
Lesson learned: When on a roadtrip, don’t be complacent. Ensure that you have a full tank of gas before you head out.
2. Driving at night with no streetlights is nerve-wracking.
Ilocos is pretty well-developed, but one thing that is still noticeably lacking (as with most places/provinces other than Manila) would be the presence of street lights. This proved to be a challenge as we didn’t expect to be out for the entire day, and then have to drive back from Laoag to Vigan practically IN THE DARK. The 2-hour drive took longer
than expected, as we carefully navigated (thank you, Waze) the dark roads with tricycles, and bikes, and pedestrians popping out from side streets.
Lesson learned: If you aren’t familiar with the place, try to drive
back before it gets dark – for your own safety.
3. Vigan parking, or the lack thereof.
The roads in Vigan are pretty narrow, most of them being just one- to two-lanes wide. As such, parking is a bit of a hassle as you either have to park over on another street (provided your hotel has another allocated parking area), or the hotel staff parks your car for you and then just transfers it as needed.
Lesson learned: Check with your hotel regarding parking availability,
prior to your trip.
4. The early bird gets the best photos 😉
Calle Crisologo is what Vigan is most known for – cobblestone streets lined with beautiful ancestral houses, little sidewalk stores, and restaurants, and calesas being the only vehicles allowed on this particular stretch. It’s also jam-packed with tourists.Trying to take a photo along this street means a photo with about a dozen photobombers in it.
Close to the end of our trip, we came up with the brilliant idea of heading out at about 7 in the morning (before the rest of the world was up) to see if we could take a few photos.
The streets were practically empty, and we were 2 very happy, uninterrupted photographers.
Lesson learned: Early mornings and late at night are the best times to head over to Calle Crisologo to take photos to your heart’s content.
5. An extra / buffer day is always good.
What we failed to take into account prior to our trip was that the 12-hour drive would be tiring. Which meant that day 1 consisted of the long drive up to the north, exploring Vigan for a bit, and then much-needed rest. Leaving only 2 days to really go around and visit all the sights we had listed down.Day 4 was a repeat of day 1, this time heading back to Manila.
We would’ve liked to enjoy just 1 extra day of doing nothing but walking around aimlessly, or hanging out at the town square. And of course, to have appreciated our beautiful hotel more.
Lesson learned: 4 days is not enough to fully appreciate Ilocos. A 5- or 6-day trip would have been better.
About Tums and Cholo
Pocholo Miguel Jacobe and Marie Celine Isabelle Abello, otherwise known as Cholo and Tums, have been best friends, travel buddies, adventure partners, a food and road trip tag team, and a couple since 2004.
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