Wanna go for a swim with the biggest fish in the world?  Even if you are not a diver, that is possible if you go to Legazpi, the “City of Fun and Adventure” (that is the city tagline) or Donsol (depending on where the whale sharks are). The impressive and very (attr)active Mayon Volcano and its perfect cone will look over your shoulder during your entire stay and represents quite an nice (but dangerous!) playground too.

How accessible is it from Singapore?

If you plan to only go Butanding (whale shark) watching, 3 days would be enough (although the ratio time there/time in the plane is not great). However, you might regret not staying longer when you see the Mayon!

The place to go for shark watching is Donsol, which is another hour drive from Legazpi. But recently whale sharks seem to stay in Legazpi and not Donsol (who knows what gets into a whale shark mind…).

There is no direct flight from Singapore to Legazpi. The total door to door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel will take you about 10  hours and 15 minutes (because of the bad connection time in Manila) and will cost you about SGD 915 return for 2 person. This cost estimate includes flights, and taxis (but excludes accommodation).

singapore to Legazpi journey details

What about the kids?

Well, the activities (snorkeling or diving with sharks, volcano climbing, riding ATVs) are not exactly kid or baby friendly. However, you can always bring them but you will not be able to do some activities. Bring a baby carrier.

How much is this going to cost us?

If you find decent flights, this trip should not cost you millions. The cost of living for tourists in the Philippines is low. Activities are reasonably affordable (in comparison with the same activities in other countries) and you can find cheap (or more expensive accommodation options).

How remote and risky is it?

There is limited to no reliable medical infrastructure in Legazpi and Donsol. However, you are not going to the jungle. Both cities are decent from a food and hygiene perspective.

When should we go?

The best period to visit Legazpi – Donsol and avoid the rain season are the months of February, March, April and May. Refer to the chart in the sidebar for details about the monthly average rain volumes and rainy days.. Whale sharks are usually around from November to June. February and May are the peak season months. A lot of the resorts are closed in Donsol from July to October.

Connections from Legazpi

While you’re there, you could also arrange a trip to Ticao Island from Donsol.

Getting from Singapore to Legazpi

Fly from Singapore Changi Airport to Legazpi (LGP). There are no direct flights from Singapore. You will need to make a transfer in Manila –Ninoy Aquino (MNL)

Getting there: Cebu Pacific – SIN to MNL: 00:40 AM – 04:05 AM (3h30 flight) then MNL to LGP 07:40  AM– 08:40 AM (1h flight)
Coming back: Cebu Pacific – LGP to MNL 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM then MNL to SIN – 20:30 PM – 23:55 PM.
Return tickets from SGD 425

Get your tickets NOW to enjoy the best fares.

Getting from Legazpi airport to the city center

It’s a short (15min max) ride from the airport to the city center (less than 5 km). You can arrange a van with your hotel or take a tricycle at the airport (PHP 50 per tricycle (up to 5 people). You can also negotiate cheaper rates outside of the airport.

Where to stay in Legazpi?

If you want to go for some Mayon related adventures then stay in Legazpi.

If you are here for the whale sharks, check with the local agencies before your arrival and confirm where the sharks are. They could be in Legazpi or Donsol. If they are in Donsol, You can stay one night in Donsol and go for a swim with the “Butanding” for half a day. . Donsol is also a good option if you are looking for beach time.

As always, we recommend you book early to enjoy the best rates

or, if you prefer, with

To see & to do in Legazpi

Trekking to Mayon volcano

The Mayon is Legazpi main attraction, you can arrange treks that range from half a day to 2D1N package (which is the minimum to get to the crater). The Mayon is a “perfect cone” volcano; the trek to the crater is therefore a difficult one. There are many agencies that can help you arrange a trek. You can contact Donsolecotour

By the way, the Mayon is definitely not a sleeping beauty, in May 2013, 5 climbers lost their lives. You will see smoke coming out of it throughout your stay in Legazpi. You’ve been warned. Check the status before you go.

All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Ride

Yes, we know, it’s wrong, but, hey, it’s more fun in the Philippines and it’s a popular activity. You can arrange a variety of ATV rides. From 45 minutes at the base of the volcano (PHP 600) to half or full day to a higher point (PHP 4000).

Whale Shark watching

Legazpi Bay is where you would see the whale sharks (if they are around).
You can arrange a tour to watch them and snorkel with them. It seems that there are more chances if you go in the morning. Prices vary greatly. You can arrange a trip at PHP 3500 for a group of 6. If you prefer, you can also arrange diving trips with the local agencies.

During the high season, the sea can be quite busy with tourist boats so don’t be surprised if you see many boats rushing to one location to see the whale sharks. Of course, there is no guarantee you will actually even see one shark. But hey, if you are looking for certitude, go visit an aquarium.

Visit Legazpi city

Warning: there is not much to see over there. There is an “embarcadero” which is the major local development, it is a bit lively at night but don’t expect too much of it! You could also visit the Japanese tunnel, an L-shaped tunnel used as an arsenal by the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. Good option  if you want some shade…

Donsol

There is even less to do in Donsol (and no ATM so make sure you are fully loaded before you get there). Butanding watching, beach time, or going further to Ticoa island would be the main activities from there.

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi is available in most of the hotels or guesthouses.

What to pack for Legazpi – Donsol

Your main bag

That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which  you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
  • Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.

Your small bag

That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.

  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag  in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
  • Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Camera and its protection.

Beach pack

Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)

  • Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
  • Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
  • Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
  • Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.

Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!

Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!

Philippines

Philippines

  • Language: Tagalog, English
  • Time zone:   GMT + 8 across the country, no time difference with  Singapore
  • Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)
  • Phone: + 63
  • Electricity: 220V 60 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

To enter the Philippines, a passport valid for a minimum of six months is required.

  • Exemption: If you are Australian, British, Canadian, European or a USA citizen you will not need a visa if you are planning to stay less than 21 days.
  • Visa on arrival: If you intend to stay longer than 21 days or if you are not a citizen from above you may be able to get a Visa on arrival.

Departure tax: You need to pay the airport tax in Pesos. For national flights it varies from 20 PHP to 200 PHP / pax. Children under two years and passengers in transit remaining in the airport are exempt – so keep your 1 airplane ticket if you are in transfer via Manila. For international flights from Manila it  is 550 PHP / pax

National Public Holidays in the Philippines

2015

Day Date Holiday Comments
Thursday January 01 New Years Day Regular holiday
Friday January 02 New Year Holiday Additional special (non-working) day
Thursday January 15 Public Holiday Manila only. Public Sector holiday for Papal Visit.
Friday January 16 Public Holiday Manila only. Public Sector holiday for Papal Visit.
Monday January 19 Public Holiday Manila only. Public Sector holiday for Papal Visit.
Thursday February 19 Chinese New Year Special (non-working) day
Wednesday February 25 EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary A special holiday for all schools
Thursday April 02 Maundy Thursday Regular holiday
Friday April 03 Good Friday Regular holiday
Saturday April 04 Black Saturday Special Non-working day
Thursday April 09 The Day of Valor Marks the the fall of Bataan in World War II.
Friday May 01 Labor Day Regular holiday
Friday June 12 Independence Day Celebrates the Philippine Declaration of Independence
Friday August 21 Ninoy Aquino Day Special Non-working day.
Monday August 31 National Heroes Day Regular holiday. Last Monday of August
Sunday November 01 All Saints Day Special Non-working day
Monday November 30 Bonifacio Day Commemorates the birth of Andrés Bonifacio on 30 Nov 1863
Thursday December 24 Christmas Eve Special Non-working day
Friday December 25 Christmas Day Regular holiday
Wednesday December 30 Rizal Day Commemorates the execution of José Rizal
Thursday December 31 New Years Eve Special Non-working day

* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another. When a Public Holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday. Check on this website