Budget guide: 5 days in Batanes
With flight access and increasing daily flights from PAL, Skyjet, Sky Pasada, promo fares and seat sales popping up almost monthly from airlines, agents, and expos, Batanes doesn’t have to remain a dream. It is a travel destination that's now more within reach. (READ: Beautiful Batanes: 10 things to do)
In 1995, my grandmother went to Batanes for the first time with her golf buddies. My mom told me that at that time, Batanes was a very expensive destination.
Due to its location, limited flights, weather and sea conditions, one-way fares would cost at least P4,000, accommodations and tour guides were few, and food was harder to replenish so food was relatively more expensive.
Today, with the increasing demand for travel, there are more flights going to Batanes, more choices of accommodation and restaurants, and a growing number of tour operators. I wouldn’t say that the airfares have changed as much. Flights are still very expensive but now, there is always a window of opportunity for that cheap flight, especially during a seat sale. (READ: Through the eyes of a first-timer: Batanes, the evergreen)
Here is a breakdown of how I spent P8,300 All-in for my 5 days travel to Batanes:
Flight to Batanes: P565
My flight to Batanes was P564.80 to be exact. This amount already includes the NAIA 4 Terminal Fee of P200 and 10kg worth of check in baggage. The flight was one of the best flights I’ve had too. There was more than enough leg room, snacks, accommodating flight attendants, and a lot of space.
So how did I get that price? Last August 2015, Sky Jet had a seat sale to Batanes for P988+. That is what the promotional poster on Facebook said so I tried my luck. For around 10 minutes, I couldn’t find any 988+ seat sales, all amounts were P3,000+. After a few minutes, 88+ amounts were popping up.
I kept on refreshing and kept saying to myself "I’m very grateful that I will get that cheap flight." I eventually found ones that matched my preferred dates. I got to book flights for Aug 31 2015 to September 4 2015.
During seat sales, book for one person only. If you have company, ask them to book on their own devices. Keep refreshing, just be patient and hope that those cheap amounts will pop up. If you get to book a one way cheap flight and can’t find a cheap flight going back, wait for the next seat sale. With increasing travel trends, there will always be a seat sale.
For more information on Sky Jet Airlines, visit flyskyjetair.com
Accommodation at Marfel’s Lodge: P1,600
After reading a lot of blogs and reviews, I decided to stay at Marfel’s Lodge, owned by the popular Ate Fe. I was charged P400/night for a fan room at Marfel’s Lodge Extension which is a two-minute walk from Basco airport. Facilities were very clean. Bathroom is shared. You can use kitchenware and utensils and there is free water to refill your bottles.
There is also a small honesty store in the kitchen that has drinks and snacks. You just write the item you want in a notebook, drop the payment in a container, and get your item. This is influenced by the popular Honesty Store, one of the tourist sites in Batan Island.
Ate Fe and the staff of Marfel’s Lodge are very accommodating. They always answered my queries and they have a lot of interesting stories to tell. On my last night, I stayed for a while at Marfel’s Lodge Annex (10-15 minutes walk from Basco airport) for a night of amazing stargazing with some people I met during my tours.
This lodge has a wide lawn where we freely spread out a woven mat provided by the staff and just watched the amazing sky above us. This was unplanned, free, and a beautiful experience that Marfel’s Lodge offered me.
For more information on Marfel’s Lodge, visit their Facebook account (Marfel’s Lodge Batanes) or Facebook page (Marfel’s Lodge) or contact them at 0908-893-1475
BISUMI Travel Package (North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang Island): P5,000
This is the most expensive item on my budget breakdown but it was really worth it. More than worth it. I checked out popular Filipino travel bloggers and they all referred this tour operator. BISUMI is owned by Ryan Cardona, one of the most popular tour guides whom you’ll find in any Batanes travel Internet search.
Since I was a solo traveler, I wanted to join a tour group where I can meet a lot of people. I also wanted to learn a lot about the history and culture of the tour sites from a guide. Having done enough research, this was the cheapest package I could find.
I know a DIY trip would be cheaper but I was a solo traveler. I didn’t know anyone at that point. The package was very convenient and an affordable deal for me. It also met my expectations of being introduced to new people and having a guide. (READ: ATV adventures: A new way to see Batanes)
The package includes air conditioned van, jeep, and boat transfers, all necessary permits and fees, lunch, tour guide, pick up and drop off at accommodation, and P100 worth of items at BISUMI Pasalubong Center.
Duration of the tour was 3 days consisted of a North Batan Island Tour (12nn until sunset), a South Batan Island Tour (9am until 4pm), and Sabtang Island Tour (6:30am until 2pm). The time varies depending on the tour guide’s and guests’ preferences.
The tour was really amazing. Our guides were very accommodating. They provided a lot of information that helped us learn a lot about Batanes and its culture.
The lunch provided in each tour was very delicious. We were able to taste popular delicacies from Vunong Dinette, a canteen in Sabtang, and Paulvana’s canteen.
Aside from meeting amazing new people, one of the best parts of the BISUMI tour was our guide – KUYA ART. He is one of the best tour guides ever. He is a tour guide/historian/comedian/photographer/ice-breaker.
He had a lot of energy and spirit during our tours, and was so passionate about his job – which will make your Batanes tour really worth it. He has a lot of ideas for your photos and he doesn’t run out of stories and information to tell. If you’ll avail of BISUMI tours, request for KUYA ART. You won’t regret it.
Contact Ryan Cardona (0919-279-5968; 0915-803-3582; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Art Castillejos (0998-468-8609)
To save on costs on food, I already brought bread, bottles of water, and biscuits from Manila to serve as my snacks and breakfast. One of the solo travel benefits of going on the BISUMI tour was meeting new people.
Meeting new people means company. And when you have new company, you eat together. I was able to eat at popular restaurants in Basco like Octagon, Jino’s Pizza, and Casa Napoli without spending too much because I was with people I met during the tours. We all invited each other out to eat, ordered popular dishes, and chipped in for the bill. Each meal would only cost me around P200 to P350.
Miscellaneous Expenses: P235
The P235 was paid for miscellaneous fees like Basco terminal fee (P100), tricycle rides around Basco during my free day (P100), and other food/gift items (P35).
I really got to save a lot because of the people I met during the tours. Aside from splitting the bills at restaurants and tricycle rides, they also treated me once for lunch. The company was really one of the highlights of my trip.
TOTAL EXPENSES: P8,300
I posted a comprehensive write up about my Batanes experience on my blog (Inspiring Grateful Travels) and it was republished months later in an online travel magazine. Since then, I have received a lot of praise, questions, and a little bashing. My write up comprises experiences, lessons, tips, and amazing photos that can inspire you to start planning YOUR own amazing Batanes trip.
Traveling to Batanes was both a “living in the dream” moment and a learning experience. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities that came before, during, and after that trip.
Do you have your own budget travel tips for a Batanes vacation? Share them with us in the comments below. – Rappler.com
Irene Maligat is a grateful traveler. One of her main goals in life is to inspire and empower a lot of people to travel gratefully. Her passions are sports, reading, motivational writing, travelling, and events planning & management. Visit her website at Inspiring Grateful Travels