Banaue is a small picturesque town located in Ifugao province in the Philippines. It is mainly known for its stunning Ifugao Rice Terraces – one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Both, the Batad and Bangaan Rice Terraces attract an enormous amount of travellers every month, but surprisingly the place seems so peaceful and quiet.
One of the biggest advantages of visiting Banaue is experiencing the rural side of the Philippines. It is not another posh or busy city with Western food or fancy shops. Just the opposite, Banaue gives you a brief overview of simplicity and poverty of a typical Filipino town or village.
People here are humble and honest. You are surrounded by wooden shops and local markets. Farmers are working in the field, kids are running around, birds are flying, cows are walking across the street and you can smell peanut butter and fresh bread made in local bakeries.
Grabbing my camera and strolling down the streets of Banaue was one of the most memorable moments during my trip across the Philippines. I spoke to some locals, visited fruit and veggie markets, bought a wooden necklace and treated myself with local delicacies – apple and raisin buns, one of the yummiest I have ever eaten!
When it comes to spendings, Banaue can be both – expensive and inexpensive. It is one of the most touristic places in the country so the prices are a bit higher than in other small Filipino towns, but the good news is you can still do it on a budget of $25 or less a day! How is how we did it…
#1 Sleep Well
Banaue is small so there are not many accommodation options to choose from. You can either book your room in advance (via Hostelworld) or just look around once you arrive (as we did). It took us over 1 hour to find a decent place to stay for a few nights and we would like to highly recommend it to everyone who is coming to Banaue.
Hostel: Wonder Lodge
Price: PHP400 / $9
- The rooms were nice and clean, there was a hot water in the room and WI-FI at the reception.
- It was the cheapest hostel we could find around.
- We were not charged extra for using sockets and charging our phones (in other places foreigners were charged PHP 50/ $1 per one piece of electronics to charge).
- The atmosphere was amazing.
- The lady who owns the hostel did some washing for us and always had a chat with everyone around.
- The staff were friendly and amazingly hospitable.
- You could order both Filipino and Western food to eat in or take away.
- The kitchen was always open so everyone could cook their own food any time during the day.
The food prepared in hostel was both – cheap and delicious. There was a menu with breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the reception. We ordered some rice with boiled egg, Greek salad and fish soup followed by chicken curry. Both meals costed us PHP180/$4 and we had them for lunch and dinner as the portions were massive.
- The Internet connection was weak (as in all town) and Wi-Fi was not available in the rooms so we had to work in the main hall.
- Bathroom looked a little bit gross.
#2 Eat and Drink Big
Apart from having your meals at hostel, you can visit local bakeries to try some of local pastries, cakes, cookies and bread sticks. These are extremely cheap. One piece of cake costs PHP2 – 10/$0.04 – 0.22, a loaf of bread costs PHP30/$0.67 and a glass of hot milk/coffee/tea was less than $10/$0.22. If you really want to make everything cheap, you can buy your own tea/coffee and get a mug of hot water for free in any restaurant/shop/bakery.
Banaue is also famous for its organic products. When you visit local store, you can purchase a jar of homemade peanut butter (PHP45/$1), any kind of organic rice (PHP25 per kg/ $0.56), homemade chocolate (PPH25/$0.56) and a bottle of whiskey (PHP150/$3.40) or wine (PHP85/$1.90).
Banaue is a great place for snacks. You will quickly realize that you don’t need to eat a whole meal. Having local delicacies on the go will be enough for you. You can start your day with a big breakfast of bread and peanut butter, egg and a bowl of fruits (PHP80/$0.80) and then prepare around $3-$5 for snacks which you can have on the go!
For those who watch out their weight, I would recommend to visit a local fruit and veggie market in Banaue. It is located just in the heart of the town, at the tricycle station. I did my shopping for two days for only PHP140/$3.13 and that included 3 bananas, 2 apples, 1 orange, 3 nectarines, a bunch of chopped carrots with a bowl of various raw veggies. You might be disappointed with the quality of food (not fresh and sour fruits), but it’s still more healthy than cakes and pastries.
#3 Go Explore
Obviously, the Rice Terraces are number 1 thing to explore when in Banaue. The good news is you can do it for free. How? Walk your ass off! You don’t need a tricycle to take you from one spot to another (that costs PHP200/$4.50) as you can easily pack some food and go hiking. It takes about 2-3 hours and believe me – the fresh air and beautiful landscape is totally worth the sweat!
Warning! If you want to take a picture of locals sitting there, you need to pay them the quoted amount of money. Usually they say “It is up to you” or “Anything is ok”, but giving them less than PHP45/$1 might be received as a rude gesture (that’s what we were told).
One of top attractions in Banaue are traditional dance performances in the evenings for all tourists and travelers. We gathered all together on the top floor of one building in the downtown where we were introduced to Ifugao dance and witnessed a live performance of locals wearing traditional uniforms. We were told a story of how the Ifugao tribe was established. It was a free of charge attraction during which we had a tone of fun and met some foreigners so make sure you add it to your list!
#4 Buy a souvenir
Leaving Banaue without buying at least one piece of any kind of carved woods cannot happen. Local handcrafts are cheap, small and portable. Their prices vary from PHP20/$0.45 to PHP100/$2.30 and it’s a nice gesture to support local industry.
#5 Getting Around
Banaue is ridiculously small, so taking a tricycle (unless you’re trying to get to the Rice Terraces) is just pointless. You can easily walk everywhere and it takes less than 1 hour to fully explore the downtown. Please bear in mind that all shops get closed at around 9 pm so if you hope to stay late in a bar, you might be kicked out.
We were coming to Banaue from Banguin (KWS bus). It took us 8h and we paid PHP415/$9.30 each. From Banaue to Manila it takes 9 hours (the bus leaves at 7pm and arrives in Manila at 4am) and it costs PHP450/$10 a person.
Accommodation – $15
Food – around $7
Attractions – $0
Transport – $0 ($4.50 if you want to take a tricycle to see the Rice Terraces)
Souvenir – $2
Total: $24 or $28.5 with the tricycle
As you can see, you can fully enjoy your stay in Banaue on the cheap.
Agness and Cez are a pair of travellers, who defy social norms, face many challenges, but live life to the fullest and wouldn’t change it for the World. They are two modern day nomads who do not need to define the line between work and passion. On their blog, called eTramping, they share budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out their latest e-book Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats where they describe their two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored!