A Beginner’s Guide to Baguio

Complete Guide to Baguio for Beginners - Mea in Bacolod

Baguio, also known as the “City of Pines,” is in the Philippines’ mountains. Famous for its cool weather, the city offers a refreshing break from our usual tropical climate. We decided to travel to Baguio this year, and I’m sharing everything I experienced in this first-timer-friendly guide to Baguio.

If you haven’t been yet and are planning to, use this guide to plan your trip! Hopefully, it will answer most of your questions. I’m including my initial impressions, some prices, and practical tips from our road trip. I’ll also be talking about the weather, shopping for souvenirs, tourist spots, cultural attractions, and, of course, food recommendations (but just a few because we went while there was a gastroenteritis outbreak so we mostly cooked).

Traveling from Bacolod to Baguio

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Traveling to Baguio via Cebu Pacific

It takes about 4-6 hours to travel from Pasay to the city, so if you’re from Bacolod, you have to leave early. We left extra early at 3:30AM with a 6:40AM flight to Manila. Our private van picked us up at Naia Terminal 3 at around 9:00AM. Granted that we made a few stops (restroom breaks, stretching, lunch), we arrived at Baguio at 3:30 in the afternoon.

How was the road trip?

The first 2-4 hours were okay because you’ll be traveling on level roads. But once you start going up the mountains, it’s going to be rough (at least for me) especially if you’re sitting at the back of the van. To make the long story short, the second part of the road trip wasn’t enjoyable – lots of “Are we there yet?” moments.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Bonamine! Take one tablet an hour before your travel. Googling Bonamine, I learned that one tablet grants you 24 hours of protection. If you want to sleep through the chicken intestine-like road going up to Baguio, take Bonamin an hour before you go on the road.

Other Ways to Get to Baguio

From Pasay, you can go to the Victory Liner Terminal to catch a bus to the City of Pines. You can pre-book tickets on Victory Liner’s website, though I have yet to try it personally.

First Impressions of the City of Pines

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Burnham Park and our Airbnb at Justice Village

When we arrived, there were a few things that I instantly noticed. First is the weather which was chilly but not too cold. It’s like having the A/C on low. Second, all of the taxis have their windows down, and the house we rented did not have A/C (no need for it). 

Third, drivers in Baguio have heightened spatial awareness. Most of the time, it’s going to feel like they’re cutting it too close when joining a lane but they know exactly what they’re doing. By instinct, they have already estimated the correct distance from other cars to avoid crashing (in Hiligaynon, mag intra sang lane ang mga salakyan tam-an ka lapit kung ikaw ga tulok pero na tanchar na na). Fourth, most people walk. Most people (probably all) can handle walking uphill. 

Fifth, we visited while there was a gastroenteritis outbreak (I’m sure there won’t be by the time you read this so don’t worry but it’s best to check the news), so we opted to cook instead of eat out. We bought veggies, fruits, meat, and rice in their public market. Surprisingly, the prices of most of the commodities we bought were higher than the prices of goods in Bacolod.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Explore on your day 1! I’m not sure what your itinerary will be but I recommend becoming familiar with your surroundings. Walk around the area of the place you rented so you know where to eat, where to buy necessities, and where to hail a cab.

Baguio Tourist Spots to Visit

Now we go to places you can visit while you’re in Baguio. Our itinerary was designed by our pilot/tour guide. He recommended a few spots but we ultimately wanted for the itinerary to be senior-friendly. Here are the Baguio tourist spots we visited: 

1. Lion's Head

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The Lion’s Head is a well-known landmark featuring a giant sculpture of a lion’s head, welcoming visitors to Baguio with its iconic presence. Great for photos! But, it’ll be crowded so don’t expect a photo with just you or your group in it. There will be photo bombers.

2. Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden hosts a variety of plants, though not many are native. We would have liked to learn about plants that were endemic to the region. Still, there are a lot of beautiful plants to see so this is your spot if you’re a “plantita” or “plantito”. 

Also, be cautious of persistent elderly women outside waiting at the sign who might want to take photos with you. They’re going to insist on being in the photo so they can charge you.

Is there a place to eat and drink inside the Botanical Garden?

Yes. Inside you’ll find Cafe de Fleur Botanical Garden. My husband ordered black coffee, and it was ok. A little on the fruity side, it wasn’t as robust in bitterness but still smooth.

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Us outside the Botanical Garden.

3. Pilak Silver Crafts and Gift Shop

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Pilak Silver Crafts and Gift Shop is home to handcrafted Baguio silver jewelry and accessories, and a UNESCO-designated creative craft. I bought a pair of beautiful silver earrings below P800. The shopkeeper said that it was about 90% silver.

4. Mansion House

The official residence of the President of the Philippines when in Baguio, showcasing grand architecture and historical significance. While the interiors are generally off-limits due to its official use, you can still admire the beauty of the lawn and house from the outside the gate.

5. Mines View Park

Mines View is famous for taking pictures of beautiful landscapes and scenes. The park has a deck with a wide view of Itogon, the Amburayan Valley, and the Cordillera mountains. Other than the scenery, this spot offers a chance to see and take photos with local Igorot people in traditional clothes. There are also many shops selling local crafts, woven items, and traditional Igorot clothing, making it a good place to buy gifts.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Sis-in-law bought me and my Mother-in-law super cute slippers for only P150 (from P180). Haggle if you can but don’t haggle the price down too much.

6. Philippine Military Academy (PMA)

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Reading about the different army vehicles and their part in Philippine history.

Did you know that the Philippine Military Academy is in Baguio? It’s open for visitors. You can explore the campus, learn about the academy’s role, and appreciate the displays. The academy also features memorials and exhibits that highlight the country’s military history.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Wear shoes. You cannot enter the PMA when you’re wearing slippers.

7. Session Road

Session Road is a prominent commercial street. It serves as a major hub for shops, restaurants, and various businesses. It’s considered a landmark, often associated with the city’s vibrant urban scene. Depending on the time of day, Session Road can get crowded.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: You’re going to have a hard time getting a taxi in specific areas in Session Road. Every time we went, there were always a LOT of people crossing and walking. You have to find a good spot that’s not too crowded to get a taxi. We tried getting one near La Brea Restaurant on Session Road. It did not go very well.

8. Ili-likha Artist Village

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This has to be one of my most favorite places. You can definitely explore this place the whole day.

My favorite spot on our trip! It’s a maze-like village that celebrates local artistry, housing various artists and their creations. If you have an “adventurer’s heart” (adventurer as in adventurers in anime where you go on quests), this is your spot to explore. Enjoy good food and coffee, and explore unique souvenirs created by local artists. Frank (my husband) bought me upcycled earrings for P200.

We also ate at Leandro’s Bistro upon the recommendation of the keeper of the shop where I bought my earrings. The coffees were 8/10 but still missing that bitterness I was looking for. The food was 9/10 with the sandwich being the highlight.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Take your time exploring the village. You’ll be surprised by the spot you discover with each turn.

9. Burnham Park

Serving as the city’s central park, it offers a green oasis for recreation and relaxation. The park includes a lake with rowboats, gardens, and various recreational facilities like rent-a-bike stalls.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: If you’re going here at night, please use your phone’s flashlight. The pathways aren’t well-lit; there are elevated steps that you may trip over. We also rented bikes for P180 for the single chopper bike then I think P230 for the bike with a passenger seat (30 mins of riding). Take turns, you cannot finish the entire 30mins on your own if you’re my age (mid-30s) and above. This means that you can rent one bike and share it within your group so you don’t have to pay for several bikes.

10. Baguio Night Market

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Left Photo: Night Market Ukay-Ukay | Right Photo: Biking at Burnham Park which is next to the Night Market.

The Baguio Night Market is an expansive market that comes to life in the evening. Expansive is an understatement! It offers a wide array of affordable goods and local products. You can visit stalls selling clothes, accessories, local crafts, and street food. Due to its popularity, the market can get crowded especially in the area where they sell “ukay-ukay” so keep this in mind if you’re planning to thrift shop.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: You can forget about having a relaxing experience perusing through the ukay-ukay stalls. It’s going to be elbow to elbow. AND, most important, before you decide to start checking the ukay-ukay section, there’s only one way to flow through. So there are two lines filled with stalls, once you enter the first line of stalls, you can’t cross over to the second line. You have to reach the end of the first line before you can access the second line. If you don’t like walking, you should definitely keep this in mind.

11. Bell Church Baguio

The Bell Church is a cultural attraction that offers insight into the Chinese heritage present in Baguio. The beautiful temple reflects Chinese architectural influences, known for its intricate design and serene surroundings. While primarily a place of worship, it’s open to visitors interested in exploring the architecture and cultural elements.

12. Valley of Colors

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The photo was taken from the platform right in front of the houses.

A popular spot for photography enthusiasts, the Valley of Colors is a vibrant community known for its colorful houses. It’s located in La Trinidad, Benguet, near Baguio City. Painting the houses and providing a deck where visitors can take photos, I think, is a clever way to make a mundane spot something to admire.

13. La Trinidad Strawberry Farm

Known for its thriving strawberry fields, the farm offers visitors a hands-on agricultural experience where guests can pick their own strawberries. We did not go picking because it was too sunny so we opted to check the various strawberry-based delicacies and treats in the stalls next to the fields.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: Bring a hat or umbrella if you really want to go strawberry picking. If not, you can go through the stalls for more pasalubong. The strawberries are cheaper here so I would recommend holding off on buying strawberries in Baguio City. Go for the big ones (P260 per pack) because those, in my experience, are the sweetest. Oh, don’t forget to try the strawberry ice cream.

14. Tam-awan Village

The Tam-awan Village is an indigenous village designed to showcase and preserve the culture and traditions of the Igorot people. Visitors can explore traditional Igorot houses (we even saw a fertility hut and a spirit house), view art exhibits, and experience cultural rituals. I highly recommend visiting this place to gain insights into Igorot culture through artistic creations and ritual displays.

15. Bencab Museum

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A must-visit! The BenCab is a museum dedicated to contemporary and indigenous Philippine art, showcasing the works of national artist Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab) and others. It’s an ideal place for those who wish to savor and appreciate various forms of art, reflecting both tradition and modernity.

There were a couple of Charlie Co paintings in the gallery which made my husband and I feel proud.

Within the museum premises is Café Sabel. The cafe provides a cozy spot to enjoy refreshments.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: I cannot stress this enough: please maintain a SILENT and RESPECTFUL demeanor as you move around the museum. The ticket is P200 each so make the most out of it by absorbing and experiencing the art. And, in case you’re wondering, you cannot access Café Sabel if you don’t go through the museum.

16. Lourdes Grotto

The Lourdes Grotto is a significant Catholic pilgrimage site featuring a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France. It’s the main attraction dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There is a stairway with numerous steps leading to the grotto, providing a symbolic journey for those who ascend but you can always drive up if you don’t want to climb the stairs.

17. Luisa's Cafe

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Luisa's mami. I recommend the siopao with egg. You won't regret getting it.

Ige Ramos brought us here! Luisa’s is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. It’s renowned for its delicious mami featuring freshly made noodles and aromatic brewed coffee. Nestled on Session Road, Luisa’s Cafe holds a historic presence as a longstanding restaurant in Baguio with roots dating back to the early 60s. Particularly renowned for its legendary handmade noodles, prepared fresh daily.

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: We ate what Erwan Heussaff ate 😆 We told our server this and she brought us mami and siopao. Both were sooo good! You’d have to add pepper and other condiments to the mami to suit your taste.

18. Hotline - a Hidden Bar/ Night Club

This one’s interesting because you would have to enter through a London-style phone booth to get in. We tried but we had two minors with us. They were very strict about letting minors in (we had our teen cousin and our son) so we opted to just have drinks at a nearby bar, Primo’s Point, which had pretty good amaretto sours. 

Mea in Bacolod’s Tip: If everyone in your group is over 18, I would recommend spending some time here.

And that’s my list of places to visit in Baguio! Keep in mind that we specifically requested an easy itinerary from our tour guide. You can always search/request for more places to visit since we skipped a lot of the usual tourist spots.

Legit Check: Vanlakwatsero Tours Review

The agency or tour organizer we booked our van through is Vanlakwatsero. I found them on Facebook. I’m usually pretty wary about tour companies I find online but this agency was featured in GMA.

We had a fantastic experience with Vanlakwatsero Tours, and we’re happy to acknowledge the exceptional service provided by our driver and guide, Mark Anthony Sebastian. As both our van driver/pilot and tour guide, Kuya Mark demonstrated professionalism, friendliness, and a mindful commitment to our safety during the entire tour.

Kuya Mark’s driving was not only safe but also considerate. We really appreciated his flexibility and respectfulness, ensuring everyone in our group could enjoy the trip comfortably.

As for the agency, our interactions with Vanlakwatsero Tours were equally pleasant and seamless. The process of booking our tour through Facebook was smooth, and the agency promptly responded to our inquiries. I’m giving them extra points for responsiveness! We had to make a downpayment of P12,000 for 12pax. They charged us P2900 per head for the entire trip (van transport for 4 days and tour). Never once did I feel uneasy after making the down payment because they were always responsive.

The P2900 per head is honestly not bad at all. We had the freedom to use the van during our no-tour-days (to go to the market to buy our needs or to drop the seniors at SM). I would also like to note that the price per head included transport from NAIA to Baguio and back.

More Practical Tips for Baguio from Mea in Bacolod

Complete Guide to Baguio for Beginners - Mea in Bacolod
Our son admiring the sea of clouds from the balcony at the Bencab Museum.

1. Pack for the Weather

The afternoons are cool but it’s dusk and dawn you have to prep for. If I were to use an A/C as an analogy, it’s like the A/C is low in the afternoon, medium in the morning, and then bordering into chest-type freezer territory during dusk and dawn. Pack accordingly – bring socks, one light jacket/cardigan for the afternoon, and then a thicker one that’s comfortable enough to sleep in.

2. Pack for Walking and Inclines

The topography of Baguio is characterized by its hilly landscape. Although you don’t necessarily have to bring shoes for hikes (the ones with the spikes), you do have to bring shoes that can keep you warm, have the right amount of traction for inclines, and are comfortable enough for long walks.

3. Bring Cash

Just from our experience, not a lot of local establishments accept credit cards or even Gcash. I could be wrong but bring/withdraw cash to be sure.

4. Grab Taxi Limit

When we went to Luisa’s and Hotline (attempted to), we took a taxi through the Grab app since the adults used the van to go to SM. Please remember that there is a strict 4-person limit for Grab taxis. At that time, there were 5 of us in a group. We explained that we were tourists and that it was difficult for us to get a regular taxi outside the Grab app so the driver simply asked us to pay extra (P40) for the extra person. Ideally, you would have to book 2 Grab taxis if there are 5 or more people in your group.

5. Experienced Driver

If you’re bringing your own car to Baguio, you would have to be extra careful. Just from my perspective (I also drive), it’s difficult to drive in Baguio if you don’t understand the local driving nuances. There are also numerous roundabouts (rotondas) around the city so you simply can’t go a specific way without using one. Although the traffic is not too bad, I would recommend just taking a taxi instead of bringing your car.

6. Restrooms with Pay

Most of the public restrooms and the restrooms in tourist spots are clean, and that’s because you have to pay a small fee to use them. The fees range from P7 to P8. You’d have to pay extra for the tissue sometimes but it’s worth it if the toilets do not smell.

7. Squat Toilet

Yep! You read that right, SQUAT TOILET. There will be some tourist and public squat toilets. If you’re not comfortable squatting or if your knees can’t handle it, there should be a regular toilet.

Wrapping Up My Guide to Baguio

I hope that you will find this guide helpful! If there are any questions you have about traveling to Baguio from Bacolod, please don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m not an expert but I’ll answer it the best way I can.

Also, if you enjoyed this guide, I would appreciate it if you could show some love by following me on my social media profiles:

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About the author /

Mea Pabiona is a Bacolod blogger who works as a fulltime online freelancer, specializing in SEO, content writing, and social media marketing. She's a beauty and skincare enthusiast, a dog-lover, a foodie, and a mother of one.

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