Laoag Philippines – The Ultimate Travel Guide
In a nutshell
An economic hub and the gateway to tourist destinations in the region, Laoag City is also culturally rich, adventure-laden, and a good place to start your gastronomic sortie.
Why go to Laoag
Laoag City has the only commercial airport in the region so it's a good base when you want to explore the rest of the Ilocos Region.
More than just being a geographical connection though, Laoag is quite known for its historical and cultural sites as well its own unique dose of adventure.
To start with, thrill seekers will surely jump at a chance of riding a 4X4 across the sandy terrain of La Paz Sand Dunes. Not only do you get to have a devilish ride across it but you can also try unique activities such as sand surfing and sand boarding. You can also visit some of the most interesting church architecture in the country as exemplified by the Santa Monica Parish Church and St. William's Cathedral. Although it is not known for its vibrant nightlife, the city is a beautiful revelation at night when the age-old structures are set aglow.
When to go to Laoag
The driest months are between December to April so anytime during this period is a good time to visit. Meanwhile, the province gets the most amount of rain from May to October especially during the month of August so stay away if you hate spending your vacation cooped up indoors.
Where to Stay in Laoag
Laoag is a city bustling with trade and commerce and not surprisingly it has seen a steady rise in tourist oriented venues including hotels and guesthouses. There is a decent range of accommodations in every price points, some within the downtown area and others away from the main thoroughfare. Most of these are concentrated within Laoag City and the Municipality of San Nicolas.
One thing we've noted is that the WiFi connection is slow wherever you go. Most hotels have access only in the lobby and reception area but are almost non-existent in rooms so if this is a huge recommendation, better check recent reviews.
As for the price, you can find double occupancy rooms for as low as PHP800 on average. There are also rooms that can accommodate bigger groups and further brings down the rate to approximately PHP500 per person.
Where to eat in Laoag
Almost all of the restaurants in Laoag serve excellent Ilocano dishes, some more popular than others. The top two recommended restaurants here are Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant and La Preciosa.
Street food vendors are scattered around the town plaza, public schools, bus terminals, and local market.
When you're in this part of the country, there are dishes that you cannot get anywhere else so make sure to try them before leaving. Bagnet tops the list, it is made up of pork belly that's boiled and then deep fried to achieve that extra crispy skin. This is followed by pinakbet which is a delicious and healthy concoction of vegetables, pork, and shrimp paste. Empanada (bread stuffed with grated papaya, eggs, and more) is everywhere and so is longganisa (Ilocos sausage). Other must-try delicacies are poqui-poqui (roasted eggplant dish), bibingka (rice cake), miki (noodle dish), dinardaraan (pork blood stew), and dinakdakan (grilled parts of a pig's head).
How to get around Laoag
The most common modes of transportation in and around Laoag are tricycles, jeepneys, and buses.
Short distance rides via tricycle usually cost about PHP11 with incremental increases of about PHP2 for every succeeding kilometre.
There are no taxis but if you are arriving at the international airport, there is a free shuttle that can bring you right at the doorstep of your hotel. You only need to register upon arrival to take advantage of this service.
Most of the attractions within the city such as the St. William’s Cathedral, Sinking Bell Tower, Tobacco Monopoly Monument, and Museo Ilocos Norte are within walking distance of each other. If you need to visit attractions in Paoay or Batac, you can hire a tricycle for approximately PHP250 round trip.
How to get to and from Laoag
Laoag International Airport receives flights coming from China and Korea. The country's flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, have daily flights from Incheon International Airport to Laoag with a layover in Manila. Tickets cost approximately PHP8500 to PHP16000. Flight time from Korea is around 4 hours. It is also possible to fly from Busan with fares ranging between PHP9000 to PHP11000.
PAL also flies from Guangzhou, China several times a week with the same layover. Fare costs around PHP9000 to PHP19000 one way with a travel time of about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
From Manila, it is another hour to Laoag by air. If you're flying from Manila though, PAL has daily flights for PHP5000 to PHP8000 one-way.
You can also travel to Laoag from Manila by bus although it might be arduous if you're not used to long-distance road trips. Depending on the traffic condition, travel time can be somewhere between 8 hours to 10 hours.
There are several bus liners that ply the Manila - Laoag route. It is highly recommended that you book your tickets a few days in advance to secure and choose your desired seats.
Partas Bus has terminals in Cubao and Pasay while Farinas Transit can be found in Sampaloc. Florida Bus also has sleeper buses and their terminals are located in Cubao and Sampaloc. Depending on you whether you opt to book a first class or deluxe ticket, bus fare from Manila to Laoag usually costs about PHP800 to PHP1000 one way.
IS Laoag a safe place to visit?
The people of Laoag are generally warm and welcoming which may have earned the city the moniker "Sunshine City". It is safe for tourists and backpackers. Laoag has the same laidback vibe prevalent in many Philippine towns.
Most residents can understand and speak English so no need to worry about language barrier.
As a local, we haven't heard any news of untoward incidents in this city but of course, exercise caution and don't go looking for trouble.