Destination Batanes (2016)

Batanes is out there on its own. The northernmost and the smallest province of the Philippines, Batanes is a dream destination for a lot of Filipinos.

North is the Bashi Channel that separates it from Taiwan, south is Balintang Channel that separates it from Babuyan Islands. It is pressed by strong currents coming from the Pacific Ocean from the east and the China Sea from the west.

Map

Credit: maphill

This province lies within the typhoon path in the Northern part of the country.It has 10 islands namely Mavudis, Ditarem, Siayan, Vuhos, Adekey, Misanga, and the only three inhabitable islands, Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. Batanes has a population of 16, 604 as of 2010.

How to get there?

Batanes can be reached via air travel from either Manila or Tuguegarao. There are three airlines that offer trips from Manila – Philippine Airlines, Skyjet Airlines, and, only recently, AirSwift from Wakay Air. Flights to Batanes can be very expensive. It’s the kind you will not want to cancel because of unapproved leaves. This is why you need to plan ahead. (See more tips here.)

Regular round trip fare can cost Php18k+ for PAL and Php16k+ for Skyjet. PAL takes 1 hour and 40 mins while Skyjet takes about 1 hour and 15 mins. If you are lucky, you can get promo fares that could go as low as Php2k round trip.

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Photo: Sugar Canto

But if you have preferred dates (like us) for this travel and would like to stick to those you would have to take whatever is available for those dates. Cross your fingers that the rates are not too high. You may also want to consider the season. A rainy season may lessen your chances of traveling to Sabtang or Itbayat as it requires sea travel and the coast guards are very strict about the safety of trips. Tours may also be difficult. Although Batanes is beautiful whatever the weather is, photo capture may be a little  challenging. But then again, it’s just a matter of perspective, right?

Some travel agencies offer low fares but they usually go with packages, which may limit your freedom to do things your way. Looking for cheap flights take patience, strategy, and flexibility. The last one especially needed if you are traveling as a group. So, just like anything else, it depends on what you are willing to give and take.

COST PER PAX: Php 2k – Php18k

Where to stay?

With tourism being one of Batanes’ growing sources of income, I’d say that there are a lot of accommodation options for travelers. We closed ours at least more than a month ahead. We were set to arrive during the summer season so I expected that there will be an influx of tourists so it’s good to book early. My initial plan was to stay at different places – get different perspectives. In the end, after reviewing our itinerary, I decided that it is best to stay in one place. Packing every two days may eat time.

When you search the net for hotels in Batanes, you will find a lot. There’s the famous Marfel’s Lodge, the pricey yet truly beautiful Fundacion Pacita, the seaside view of Batanes Seaside, and the government-owned Batanes Resort. All are good choices and your decision will depend on what you are willing to give and take. After research and budget consideration, we made a decision to stay at Timetravel Lodge.

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Most hotels in Basco can also hook you up to another contact in Sabtang and Itbayat. Homestay in Sabtang are usually Php150/night.

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COST PER PAX: Php 2,800 (7 nights 8 days) or Php350-Php400 per night

Where to go & what to do?

Let me share with you our itinerary and expenses. I am still working on separate posts for each tour to show beautiful photos to tease you more and give you more details & tips. In a nutshell, this is how the whole trip looked. This is based on a 5-pax tour.

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**Days 7 & 8 below. Stay tuned for future posts of each tour.**

I was told by one of the tour guides that the local government will soon start requiring all tours to be guided to ensure safety. This will also mean more jobs. You actually become an employer for a short period of time. Although I am a big fan of DIY trips, I like working with tour guides. Sometimes when we have done a lot of research about the place we want to go, we tend to know more than what the guides know. And that’s fine! I guarantee you, there is still something else you get from it. It’s an interaction. Ask them about their work, families, and more. You’ll be surprised with what you’ll get. Just like Kuya Robert, our tour guide in Sabtang, he once took a change in Manila and worked for a hotel. He came back to Batanes because he thought that the more money that he gets cannot compensate the stress. His words were, “Hindi makabayad eh!” Am not sure if I was really able to translate that in English appropriately. It meant so much more to me.

On transportation, please note too that you may rent tricycles for these tours but they only allow two persons per ride for safety purposes. There are a lot of uphill trips. The only reason we got ourselves a van is because it will actually save us.

What & where to eat?

Meals in Batanes can be expensive for understandable reasons. On another post, I mentioned that while we can save money by cooking our own food when traveling, I suggest that we still try local restaurants for an authentic experience.

Working on a separate post for all our gastronomical adventures in Batanes. Stay tuned. For now, here’s how our expenses looked like:

budget3

Expect that the food in Sabtang is more expensive than in Batan.

Other General Tips:

  1. It is advisable to start with an easy trip especially if you are coming from a work week. This is why we started with North Batan tour. We placed the heavier ones on Day 2 and mid-week. The end is free time. You can also use this time to go back to your favorite places.
  2. Consider bringing cash versus cards. There are only two banks there – PNB & Landbank in Batan. ATMs may not work sometimes. No banks in Sabtang & Itbayat.
  3. Paying for your jeepney fare is not the same way as it’s done in Manila. Locals get off the jeepney and walk to the driver’s side to personally close the deal. If you have a tour guide, am sure he/she can take care of it for you, too. But if you wish to experience, go ahead!
  4. We found strong wifi connection from Ivatan Pension House Restaurant & Hiro’s Cafe.
  5. Ivatans are very warm people. Expect to get greetings and smiles from people you meet.
  6. Batanes follows waste segregation system strictly. Please contribute.
  7. Bring a bottle of water you can refill.
  8. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  9. Smart SIM seems to work strongest. Two of us bought Smart SIMS prior to the trip. Phone signal can be a challenge in Sabtang & Itbayat. In Sabtang, we saw street posts where locals hang their phones to get signal. They leave them and come back to check messages.
  10. Empty your memory cards if you want to bring home photos. But never miss the moment.
  11. Have fun.

Will have more tips added to the posts about each tour.

Batanes is indeed breathtaking. She can make you feel so small and yet so privileged. I find myself uttering the same words one sight after another. I find myself with no words in some. You stare at her and allow yourself to be blown away. She stares back and you feel so tiny. She’s the kind you want to keep just to yourself but know that she’s too precious not to be shared. You probably already heard people saying Batanes being on their bucket list. Well, she deserves to be there.

Please don’t let her stay as a dream or on a list. Make her happen.

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