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What I wish I Knew Before I went to Ilocos, Philippines

What I wish I Knew Before I went to Ilocos, Philippines 5

What we wish we knew before we went to Ilocos

by : Tums Abello of Because Life is One Big Adventure

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.  

Road To Ilocos
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.
Calle Crisologo
Calle Crisologo
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.

30 thoughts on “What I wish I Knew Before I went to Ilocos, Philippines

  1. Oh yeah number 2! I also never understand people flying to destinations where they arrive in the darkness. Picking up a car and driving to your accommodation at night. What to think about non lit steep mountain roads? Scary as hell. I learned my lesson!

  2. Cool post. The ‘early bird gets the best photos’ one is definitely true. We try get up early everywhere we go at least once to get those kind of shots and to see the locals going about their morning routines.
    Haven’t visited the Philippines yet but can’t wait till I do.

  3. Calle Crisologo looks so pretty. Yes, you did the right thing waking up early to enjoy it without anybody around. Being the only visitor in a place and having no photobombers is priceless!

  4. Ilocos is one of the places I would love to visit, first because of the food and second because of the lovely sights! Thank you for the heads up! It’s such a nice place to be in.

  5. looks like a really nice place worth visiting! i laughed when i read about taking photos with a dozen photobombers. that’s how it is when you visit really popular tourist spots yeah? I even had experience of trying to take photos but the other tourists weren’t even considerate enough to not walk in between you and the camera.

  6. Thanks for the tips and tricks. Well, an extra time or buffer day is always good when we travel so that we are not so stress to complete all the list of places that we wanted to visit and food to try.

  7. The early bird definitely gets the best photos. We arrived at Vigan at 5am and by the time the sun was up, we had the street to ourselves. We dressed up in Maria Clara’s (aka curtains and corsets lol) for the pictures. It was nice not to have people staring at our weirdness.

  8. VEry true for all these statements especially Vigan is really such quaint and beautiful city. There is so much to do in Ilocos. It can only fight back when she is with the army. – Fred

  9. These are helpful things you’ve listed. I have yet to visit Vigan. And yes, will sure keep these in mind. So my nocturnal style won’t work for a great photo? bwahaha 😀 Had to wake up early too!

  10. I always try to give myself an extra buffer day. You never know if you fall in love with a place, or need a rest day or for us bloggers…a work day even. Sometimes things just take a little longer than expected as well. its a great piece of advice

  11. Oh my, these are really useful tips that only people who have went through the hard way can tell us! You are saving us a lot of trouble and a lot of money by sharing this!

  12. When my friends and I went to Ilocos, we opted to fly there because the long drive is really exhausting. We also took a tour package complete with a a van for convenience since the spots we wanted to go to were far from each other. It was a 4day trip spanning Vigan La Union and Pagudpod, so I really suggest flying to save more time.

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