In a nutshell
Known as the ‘City of Smiles’ and famous for the delightfully, extravagant Masskara Festival, Bacolod is a charming setting for the traveller seeking peaceful locals, prevailing tradition and culinary treats.
Why go to Bacolod
Once the centre of a thriving sugar industry, Bacolod is gaining rightful recognition as something more than just a bustling city. Bacolod is not only one of the most progressive and friendly cities in the whole of the Philippines, but it boasts a rich history for visitors to sightsee, scrumptious cuisine to delight in and both natural and manmade wonders to discover and explore.
The Masskara Festival is almost a month long celebration which begins in the third week of October and should not be missed. Day and night, the streets are packed with flamboyant, dancing locals adorned in vibrant, multi-coloured, smiling masks. The masked crowds dance and frolic in spirited, twirling throngs down the streets. The mass of elaborate colours and costumes make a dazzling sight against the stark contrast of the concrete city. In recent years the festival has extend its attractions from solely street dancing, to a varied range of lively festivities. From all-night street parties and beauty pageants, to mask-making competitions, sports events, discos and coconut-milk drinking contests; this festival seems to have it all.
However, even with all of the everyday treasures on offer as well as the Masskara Festival, it appears that there is a unanimous agreement that the primary reason to visit Bacolod would be the people of Bacolod itself. Dubbed, “The City of Smiles”, Bacolod’s locals are warm, hospitable and earnestly friendly; and reason enough to travel to this superb city.
When to go to Bacolod
The optimal time to pay Bacolod a visit is during the Masskara Festival which falls on the third week in October. However, if you are simply wanting to submerge yourself in the magic of Bacolod without attending the renowned festival, the best time to go would be during the dry season that occurs from December to May.
Where to stay in Bacolod
Fortunately for the traveller on a budget, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options around Bacolod City. These range from cheap rooms, homestays, inns and pension houses. If you opt for a fan room over a room with air-con, you can save further. Another tried and tested money saver is opting for a shared bathroom rather a private one.
If you are a traveller looking for accommodation that offers more than just good value for money, there are high-end hotels, resorts and boutique hotels to spend your downtime relaxing at. Pools are also mostly only offered in more pricy accommodation options but luckily, decent wifi seems to be the order of the day in almost all lodging preferences.
Where to eat in Bacolod
Calling all Foodies! Food is a massive attraction when visiting Bacolod. Restaurants catering to a variety of wallets, delicious smelling cafes and a diversity of perfected dishes at its disposal, there seems to be no shortage of dining alternatives in Bacolod City. Chicken Inasal (barbequed and marinated chicken) is the city’s signature dish and almost as famous as the sugar plantations that beautify the province. This meal can be found in upmarket restaurants, commonplace cafes as well as sizzling on street corners as a cheap and convenient take-away option.
From the famous barbequed chicken, an array of seafood and a sensational selection of desserts, there is a wondrous plethora of restaurants in Bacolod that will cater to and enchant all palates. Not only will the food enthral one’s senses but the charm and genuine warmth of the people serving and cooking the food, will create a truly memorable experience.
How to get around Bacolod
Getting around in Bacolod, as with the majority of the cities in the Philippines is mostly done by getting a ride on one of the ever present jeepneys. Taxis, rickshaws, rental cars and buses are also available for commuting.
The city’s efficient road layout has eased the flow of traffic, however traffic jams are not uncommon during the 5pm – 6pm rush hour. Luckily for tourists, jeepneys are not only abundant and frequent, but they are especially affordable. Another travelling alternative is a rickshaws or tricycle. These are commonplace and inexpensive in Bacolod. Travelling the city by private car or taxi is also a quick and affordable possibility for travellers.
How to get to and from Bacolod
Getting to and from Bacolod is reasonably cheap and stress-free.
From Manila to Bacolod
You can hop on a flight straight from Manila (Ninoy Aquino) to Bacolod-Silay International Airport. This will take just over an hour however, from there you’ve got an 18km taxi ride into the heart of the city itself.
Should you have the time and the patience and are wanting to save a fair bit of cash, you could also take a bus from Manila to Bacolod. The trip is 16 – 18 hours and should cost between PHP620 and PHP1000. If you’re up for it, you need to grab a bus that leaves from Pasay, Metro Manila at 7am. Keep in mind that this bus station is 30 minutes outside of the city center and it only leaves once daily. This is an early start, folks, be sure to set the alarm.
For peace of mind you can pre-book bus tickets online with Philtranco or Amihan.
From Cebu to Bacolod
It should hopefully only be a four-hour travel journey in total from Cebu City to Bacolod. Head to the Cebu South bus terminal and catch a bus to Toledo. From there, you need to catch a ferry to San Carlos City. The ferry leaves three times in the morning and twice in the afternoon. It’ll set you back between PHP145 and PHP165, depending on your air-con desires. You’ll be in San Carlos in two hours. If you’re willing to pay an extra PHP40, you can get over there in half the time via FastCat. From there, it’s really easy to catch a bus to Bacolod. The whole journey shouldn’t see you parting ways with anything in excess of PHP600.
If you’re starting your journey from Cebu from a point further south on the island, maybe Oslob or Moalboal, I’d suggest you grab a bus to Toledo, grab the ferry to San Carlos and the bus from there to Bacolod.
From Bohol to Bacolod
Getting in from Bohol is only a few hours longer than the journey from Cebu. Head to the port at Tagbilaran City. From here you can take a (plus-minus) two hour ferry to Cebu City. They leave three times in the morning (7:05am; 9:20am and 11:40am) and four times in the afternoon (2pm; 4.20pm; 5.30pm and 6.30pm). Once you arrive in Cebu City, proceed as mentioned above.
Is Bacolod safe?
Bacolod is said to be one of the cleanest, safest and most efficient cities within the Philippines but as with all traveling endeavours, common sense and caution are highly recommended. Something else to take note of is that Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations are needed for all travellers visiting the Philippines.