Travel Tips for Baguio: Maximize that Strawberries and Chill
Whether you’re trying to escape the blistering heat of summer in the tropics of the Philippines, or if you’re looking to make the most of the dropping temperatures during the coldest season of the year, backpacking in Baguio has always been a favorite getaway escapade for both local and foreign travelers alike.
Until the most recent trip my family and I’d just gone on, I’d say the last time I had been able to visit Baguio was way back when I was only a wee child. I think I was maybe around six to eight years old at the time? It seems so long ago considering how old I feel now, which is likely why I remember very little from that year. But hey! I can tell you this: the place has only gotten so much more beautiful since I last remember it. And I can bet you that you’re going to fall in love with the entire city just as I did when you get there.
So if you’re planning on taking a road trip all the way out to the cool beauty of Baguio, I’ve got a couple of travel tips for you! Let’s start with,
How do you get there?
If you’re coming from Metro Manila, I’d say the best way to get to Baguio (which is about 4-6 hours from the metro) is by bus. A prime choice for most, including my family, is to book a ride with Victory Liner from Cubao, Quezon City to Baguio City. Fortunately, possible to book online (and you can find their website here), but I believe there were also passengers that bought their tickets right at the terminal. I’d recommend this so you can save yourself the hassle of falling in line, but in any case, I’ve left the address and phone numbers you can call if you’d like to inquire below:
- Victory Liner
- Address: 683 EDSA, Cubao, Quezon City
- Phone Numbers: (02) 727-4688, (02) 410-8986, (02) 727-4534, 0998-591-5054
A map to the Victory Liner Terminal in Cubao
There are rides that depart as early as 2:00 AM, and then there are schedules that go as late as 11:30 PM. It will cost you around ₱445.00 (Regular Aircon) or ₱750.00 (First Class) depending on which type of bus you prefer. And honestly speaking? We were pretty cool with the regular type.
All in all, it’s easy to book, the rates are fair, the ride is clean, cool and comfortable, and there’s a TV and WiFi on board so if you’re not the type to sleep on a road trip (which I most certainly am), there’s definitely a lot to keep you occupied on the long way there.
I mean, unless you prefer driving for 4-6 hours straight yourself — and that can be fun, in its own right! With the right people. But then I’d advise that you save your energy for when you get there because you’re not going to want to miss a thing.
So, what does happen when you get there?
I’ll be honest and let you know that one of the first few things that got my attention were several “mangtataho” (“taho” peddlers) selling a kind of taho that’s particularly special to Baguio: strawberry “taho.” If you’re not familiar with it, “taho” is a Philippine snack food made of silky soft tofu, “arnibal” (basically a sugary sweetening syrup) and “sago” (which you might know as tapioca pearls). What makes it so special in Baguio, you might ask? Well, aside from the aforementioned (and already delicious) ingredients — strawberry “taho” has the whole strawberries in them.
Simple but delightful, don’t you think?
Don’t leave without any strawberries.
You know that Baguio, with its distinctively cool climate, is famous for its strawberries, right? Before I forget, sure you bring home fresh strawberries and lots of strawberry jam and other strawberry goodies before you head home — but I’ll tell you more about how and where to get those later.
Now, back to the strawberry “taho:” I’d been looking forward to experiencing the treat for myself for ages and couldn’t wait to try it for myself! This was a mistake on my part for jumping on the first manong we could find, right outside the terminal. I mean, don’t get me wrong! It was really good already! But as you might expect, some “taho” peddlers might not have the same resources as others — and unfortunately, the ones we had, though delectable, didn’t have any whole strawberries in them. I know, I checked! So look real close before you buy from one of these guys, cause some few (I’m looking at you, manong in the picture) may cut you short just because they think you’re a tourist who wouldn’t know any better and just give you something with jam, or worse, just strawberry syrup! But you deserve better than just syrup.
So my advice? Don’t settle for strawberry “taho” unless it has whole strawberries in them!
Some “mangtatahos” do sell the ones worth buying, and it doesn’t hurt to ask about it first before you make the order (because these snacks are a lot more costly than the regular “taho” that you can get almost anywhere in Metro Manila). As of this writing, I confess that I am suddenly craving “taho.”
Fun Fact: in our home village, the mangtataho comes around every morning at around 10 AM to sell “taho” and “kutsinta” (another Filipino snack that’s basically an orange-colored glutinous rice cake, and also one of my personal favorite for merienda). If you ever decide to live in the Philippines for good, you’ll see what I mean.
Moving on, when you’re done with the taho and just about ready to move forward from taking in the sweet and constant chill in Baguio, how do you get from point A to point B when you arrived by bus? In other words,
What’s the best way to get around Baguio?
Right outside the bus terminal, you’ll notice that there are already plenty of cabs eager to assist a happy tourist to your new temporary residence. And if you’re like me, you’ll also be pleased to know that a lot of these cabs are actually GrabTaxi that you can book on your smartphone for added security and convenience! This is what my family and I did. As soon as you know where to go, you’ll see the estimated fare in the app so you’ll have a fair idea of how much it will take to get there.
Now before I talk about where you’d want to stay while you’re in Baguio, allow me to discuss another transportation option for you to consider for actually getting around the city: arkila. Literally, the word translates to rent in Filipino, and my suggestion is for you to rent a local ride while you’re there. If you’re alone, renting a local tricycle should be fine. If you’re with a group, you can rent a whole jeepney instead. Either way, it won’t be as expensive (or exhausting) as hailing a cab every single time you need to get somewhere.
Plus! You’ll get a chance to make friends with a local driver and really get to see the city through eyes of a local. In our case, we even got to meet his wife and kid! And they were a delight in more ways than one. Friendly, accommodating, and with lots of stories about their hometown that they’ll be happy to tell you all about as well.
And that’s about it for the basics!
So far you’ve got down how to get to Baguio, what snacks to look out for as soon as you arrive, and a couple of options on how to get around the city while you’re touring that won’t hurt the budget!
As a bonus, here are a few more things to remember before and after you travel out:
- Tag your things. Before getting on board, you’ll be loading your bags in a compartment under the bus, so make sure your stuff is tagged properly and make sure you check that you’ve got everything when you unload.
- Layer up! Even if you’re just getting into the bus to Baguio, dress for the winter and cozy yourself up with warmth. The bus is going to be cold, and when you arrive, it’s gonna be even colder in Baguio. Flaunt that winter fashion! And don’t forget to pack enough thermal wear too.
- Get comfy. Don’t be afraid to make yourself comfortable on the road trip there: bring a nice pillow and a fleece blanket to get real cozy in your seat on the bus. It makes the ride a great deal homier than you’d expect.
- Let’s get digital! Whether you’re an iPhone Photographer like me or you’re into Pro DSLR Photography, make sure you’ve got enough memory, batteries, and the instruments to charge with because there are plenty of sights to see in Baguio and I wouldn’t wanna miss a photo opportunity if I were you.
And that’s all I can think of for now! Next time, I’ll talk about a cool place to stay, and even cooler places to visit. There’s a lot more in store, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, merry meet and happy travels!