Like most remote islands in the Philippines, it is hard to fly to Batanes on a budget. The Sweetheart paid
$450 $425 for each of us on three-day, two night package tour arranged by a travel agency. Of course you know what happened after that – our three days became nine days which posed a challenge to our budget, considering that no credit cards were accepted and there were only government ATMs on the island.
I figure that what makes travelling to Batanes expensive is the airfare, which stands at something like $250 to $300 for a return trip. The route is not competitive at all (meaning no other airlines fly here) and I don’t know about Asian Spirit’s role in dictating the prices. Maybe it is not lucrative for them at all. It would have been cheaper if you can SAIL to Batanes, even if takes forever. There is a ship departing the island, but it only goes as far as Currimao, Ilocos Norte. We heard merchant vessels are going to ply the northernmost route from Manila soon. Don’t know how reliable this will be, given the island’s weather temperament. Let’s just wait and see.
My opinion is that Batanes shouldn’t be ‘unreachable’ at all to the ordinary traveler, especially Filipinos who dream of going there at least once in their lifetime. Paying $300 for airfare to see a beautiful, albeit, isolated part of the Philippines is an anachronism in this age of budget air travel when flying to Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan, Bangkok and Vietnam can cost you a little less than $200, taxes included. Surely, there is a way to travel by cheap to Batanes? Here are my notes and recommendations:
1. Ask a Batanes resident. if you can find one. They can tell you about the in’s and out’s of travelling to their remote island. In my case, I talked to a lady at the domestic airport who told me that she paid for her plane ticket at 50% less the published rates. Asian Spirit has a VIP pass which gives you a discount for an XX number of trips. Maybe you can apply this to your group trips? Consider going about this Filipinos-style (read: make diskarte).
2. Travelling in groups always come out cheaper (see above).
3. Lodging/accommodation in Batanes can cost as little as P100 per day for a homestay, P350 for a room in an inn to as much as P2,000 for the suites with hot water. We did not stay in a “suite” at Batanes Seaside, but we managed to have hot water by borrowing their water heater 😛
Batanes has no full-fledged hotels but here’s a handy list of places you can stay:
Batanes Seaside Lodge & Restaurant – where we stayed! P1,000/night for a twin bed room, P2,000 for the suites. This is more like a family home with a warm family ambiance. The manager, Lydia Roberto, is jovial as well as reliable and surely knows her way around her island. Ask about her Batan & Sabtang island tours complete with tour guide, picnic by the beach and transportation.
National Road, Kaycharianan, Basco, Batanes
0921 229 0120, 0915 940 4823
Shenedel’s Inn – almost adjacent to Batanes Seaside. Another family-style inn divided into 16 rooms or so. Rooms as low as P350. Their coffee shop has a nice ocean view.
Batanes Resort – a government-run place with single-detached accommodations designed like stone houses. The ocean view is spectacular and the resort can also be reserved for special functions like parties and seminars. The fan rooms can go as low as P250/person for triple occupancy.
Call 0927 5839078 for inquiries.
Pension Ivatan – an 11-room lodge located in a sprawling complex that’s near the Basco Airport. Rates start at P1,000. We must say the best thing about this place is their bakery and their food – it was the best in Basco! More on that later.
Visit the Pension Ivatan website
4. Food in Batanes can be P50/meal per person at a roadside carinderia, P100 for a combo meal in Batanes Seaside which has yummy fried chicken. An excellently-prepared meal with three dishes or so at Pension Ivatan can cost P250 per person.
5. Bring cash, and extra cash. You’ve been warned already: no credit cards are accepted in Batanes! There’s a Western Union outlet though 😛
6. Be able to forecast unforeseen circumstances, such as repeated flight cancellations!!! Bring extra cash again for emergencies and/or undesired extended stays.
7. Formal group tour or DIY tour? Official tour rates complete with tour guide can cost as much as P2,500. An option can be to explore Batanes on your own by walking on foot or renting a bike and pedalling through the great countryside. To go to scenic Sabtang, you have to ride a boat.
8. Load up your videocam and digicam. You’d be so captivated with the enchanting scenery everywhere you turn, you’ll run out of batteries. It happened to me! bring extra all the time.
9. Look for independent laundry shops in Basco, not in the lodges where it’s usually more expensive.
10. Travel to Batanes when it’s the best time to visit, namely the summer months of March and April. The downside: it might be crowded. The upside: you’ll avoid flight cancellations because of uh, bad weather, and spending for your unnecessary vacation ‘extension’ in the process.