Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Directions for Driving from Manila to Baguio City

Baguio City, Philippines is a well loved vacation destination for Filipinos and foreigners alike, with numerous touristy places to visit and a weather that's perfect for those who seek to get away from the heat and humidity of the city.

Here are directions for how to get to Baguio City from Manila...

Baguio via NLEX-SCTEx

 1. Take EDSA and go NORTHBOUND. You will pass by SM North EDSA on your right (now one of the biggest malls in the world!) and just go straight until you see the entrance to NLEX (National Luzon Expressway) on your right...

2. Follow the highway and Enter the toll gate for NLEX and drive with the wind in your hair (if you feel like it) and pass by one the gas stations there to freshen up, buy some water or some snacks or other things you may have forgotten to bring along.

3. After leaving the gas station, just keep on driving until you see the Dau Interchange - then follow the signs that point you to enter SCTEx (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway). You will have to pass by 2 tollgates, one to exit NLEX and another to enter SCTEX. Remember that you are going to Baguio via Tarlac - so look out for the Tarlac sign. :D

4. Once you enter, drive all the way to the end of SCTEx (this should take about an hour or so) and after paying the tollgate at the end, exit and turn LEFT. I SAID, "TURN LEFT". DO NOT TURN right (and for that matter, DO NOT FOLLOW any directions that say "alternate route to Baguio" - I find the alternate routes go through smaller roads and signs sometimes are incomplete so there is a greater chance of getting lost!)

5. You will then enter Tarlac City - there will be a few turns - just keep an eye out for signs pointing to BAGUIO and take those. I did not specify turns here as they may change, so just follow signs. You will also come to a fork with "To Manila" on your left and "To Baguio" on your right. Just make the right choice. :)

Going to Baguio? Go straight through Tarlac.

6. Once you reach the highway again, just Keep going STRAIGHT. DO NOT MAKE ANY TURNS. For this long stretch, you might NOT see any signs that say "To Baguio". Do not fret, you are going the right way. :D Just keep going straight - straight - straight. In Tarlac City, the streets will be a bit busy, just keep going straight and don't make any turns. Stay on the National Highway (MacArthur Highway).

7. After Tarlac City, you will pass by several more towns in the Tarlac province: Gerona, Paniqui, Moncada, San Manuel. Look out for road signs or the names of the stores around to determine where are you already. :) Again, you may not see any "To Baguio" signs here.

8. Still going straight, you will enter Pangasinan and pass by the towns of Villasis, Urdaneta, Binalonan, Pozorrubio and Sison. This will take at least 2 hours to go through.

Baguio via La Union

9. Now into La Union, you will know this when you pass by the Welcome to La Union arch. After you enter La Union, keep an eye out for a SHELL gas station on your RIGHT where you can stop by again for restroom breaks and whatnot.

The La Union Arch
Before you leave this SHELL Station, make sure to also check the board for road conditions if they are open for vehicles or not.

Remember that Kennon Road is especially dangerous during rainy seasons because of a history of landslides. From here, I would suggest you already decide if you will take Kennon Road or Marcos Highway/Palispis Road.

10. From Shell, go straight until you see a fork (that's actually a roundabout) with a sign to the RIGHT going to Kennon Road. There is no sign, but LEFT will be to the entrance for Ben Palispis Highway (formerly Marcos Highway). Both roads will meet at the entrance to Baguio City.

Kennon Road or Marcos Highway?

Kennon Road has steeper climbs and narrower roads, but is shorter than Palispis. If you think your car can go uphill and make a full turn at the same time, then go for Kennon.

But if the weather is not so good, take Palispis. :D Remember that if there's a bit of rain coming in, the fog will also come down and reduce visibility.

11. (On our way up, we took Kennon, by accident, not by choice, because as I said in #10, there's no sign!) Kennon Road has the Lion Head where you can stop by for a few snapshots. Marcos Highway has the huge Hollywood style Jollibee sign.

As a benchmark, it took us about 5 hours to go from Shell NLEX to Baguio City. This should be shorter for you since I was driving quite cautiously at the time!

Some more tips on driving IN Baguio

Driving around in Baguio proved to be quite a hassle, the roads were a bit narrow, there were so many (SO MANY) cars and very few (VERY FEW) parking areas. You may want to consider getting the taxis instead and just leave your car at the hotel/house. The taxis are cheap anyway.

"One way" roads also make drivers' lives difficult - especially for tourists like me who have no sense of direction (lol), so make sure you know where you want to go before going out. Of course, it's always easier to bring along a friend local to Baguio - or make friends there!

ENJOY the ride!