I shared my financial woes with a close friend, hoping to find encouragement that my trip to Europe would still happen. Instead, he mirrored the doubts in my head, “I guess your Europe trip is not gonna happen anymore,” he said. Logic dictated it would be unwise to pursue but my heart couldn’t take a no. So against all odds, I made it happen. Last year, on Christmas Day, I took that 16-hour flight to Paris, France.
So you might be curious, how did I make it happen? Well, it was tedious.
Prepare for a trip to France
I don’t have to tell you (but I’m telling anyway) that having money is necessary. No, you don’t have to be rich, but you must save. When you submit your Schengen visa application, you should be able to prove that you have the capacity to spend at least 120 euros (around 6,000 pesos) per day.
This is where I faced the biggest challenge, not because I didn’t have savings but it coincided with my expenses when I moved into my condo. It has put a dent into my budget that for weeks, I had contemplated whether I should continue the trip or cancel it.
What ultimately saved me is my 13th-month bonus and the credit card approval from BPI. When I requested for a 3-month statement from my bank, I had over 150,000 pesos in my savings account.
So unless money is no issue, first: save, second: get a credit card. European countries generally favor plastics over cash that’s why it’s better to have a CC. Also, it will serve as your safety net in case you run out of money, a possibility because Europe is bloody expensive. As a spendthrift, I know the evils of owning one, therefore, proceed with caution. Make sure that you have the means to pay it back so you don’t go neck-deep in debt.
Do not forget to inform your bank of your trip abroad to ensure that your credit card will work. Include your full name, credit card number, travel dates and the country(ies) you are visiting. For BPI credit card holders like me, you may email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fly to Paris, France
I used Momondo, a travel fare aggregator to check for cheap flights to Paris. Just to be safe, it’s best to just use it as a reference for airfares then go to the airline’s website and book your flight there. By the way, do not book your flight without a Schengen visa.
The cheapest flight I found was through Thai Airways. I got a one-way ticket to Paris for only $362.99 (₱18,557.86). Note, however, that I went there in winter, an off-season, thus the cheap rate. The peak season in Paris is from mid-June to August. For the sake of this post, I just checked Thai Airways flight to Paris this time of the year and it’s over $1,305 (₱66,718.13); see how big the price jump is?
I didn’t get a round-trip ticket because I flew back home from Vienna, Austria.
Thai Airways flight to Charles de Gaulle is from NAIA terminal 1. Travel time takes 16 hours including a 1-hour layover to Bangkok, Thailand. I was fairly satisfied with this airline; we flew on time, the food is okay, and the journey was generally smooth.
I heard that the aisle seats are better for long-haul flights so that’s what I picked. I shared the 4-seat row with a nice French woman. We each had two seats to sleep on making the trip somewhat comfortable. I don’t usually sleep when I fly due to my flying anxiety but surprisingly, I slept through the better part of the journey.
Charles de Gaulle Airport
It’s the farthest I’d been away from home and the most ambitious out of all the journeys I’d taken. This is Europe, that part of the world many Filipinos could only dream of, and this is France, the country that was once my unreachable star.
I followed the path to the exit and stopped by a kiosk that sells the Orange sim card; I purchased one for €40.00 (₱2,345.75). The man manning the store stared at me and said that I looked familiar. I offered that probably, I looked just like the other Asian tourists.
“But it’s like I saw you somewhere,” he persisted.
“Pas possible,” (not possible) I told him, “This is my first time in France.“
He replied, “I think I saw you in Asian movie.”
I tried my best not to cringe.
Immediately, I changed my sim card to Orange and as soon as it did, a message from the driver that I hired came in, “Hallo, your driver for tomorrow morning Serge.”
I muttered my thanks to the Orange guy and hurriedly made my way to the arrival area. There, I saw a tall burly man holding a paper with my name on it. He took my luggage without a word, I followed him to the exit.
Nothing could have ever prepared me for the extreme cold. What was an island girl like me doing in a 1°C Paris? The moment I stepped out of the airport, my face was hit by the cold blast of wind, so freezing it felt like my skin had been pulled taut. My hands stiffened from the icy temperature. “So this is how winter feels like, painful,” I thought to myself.
I arrived at around 7:00 in the morning, and it was still dark. Taking the metro is cheaper and faster, but from the train station, I must walk for 5 minutes or so to the hotel. I know that it is not that far, but there is no way I’d pull my huge luggage out in the cold so very early in the morning. Thus, I booked a Private Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Transfers for Paris.
Paris has 20 districts or what they call as “arrondissement,” each one has its own mayor and officials. Deciding which arrondissement to stay at would depend on the places that you want to see. If you want more detailed information on the districts of Paris, you may check this guide. As with me, my foremost concern was the rate, thus I had a hard time booking a place to stay. In Paris, expect to spend at least 3,000 to 7,000 pesos per night, that’s how expensive the hotels are.
After much dilly-dallying, I picked Best Western Paris Italie located at 205 Avenue de Choisy, 13th arrondissement. It is close to Place D’Italie, a public place. I stayed there for two nights in a standard single room for €126 ( ₱7,251).
I came in around 8:00 in the morning, check-in time is at 12:00 p.m. The man at the front desk said that they don’t have available rooms yet. I said that it’s okay and that I would just wait in the lobby.
“Vous-parlez français?” (you speak French?) he asked.
“Oui un peu. J’étudie le français a l’école aux Philippines,” (A little, yes. I study French at a school in the Philippines) I replied.
We spent the next 3 minutes or so conversing in his language, me struggling, he visibly amused. My one year of studying French has been put to the test. I was transliterating (thinking words in English then translating them in French), not the best way to speak another language but I’m at the mercy of my limited vocabulary. I was conscious of my missed prepositions, incorrect tenses, and wrong conjugations, but the receptionist didn’t seem to mind if any, he looked appreciative of my effort.
Switching to English, the receptionist told me that normally, he doesn’t like it when guests come in before check-in time.
“But I like you, you are nice,” he said with a smile
The room is small but has everything that I needed. There’s a comfortable double bed, a shower with heater, clean towels, and toiletries, a small fridge, coffee facility, and television that showed nothing but French movies and TV shows.
Right outside my window is a view of the street.
The hotel is only a few minute’s walk to the Place d’Italie station of the Metro (the transit system of Paris).
Other hotel options
You may check out other hotel options in other districts. To help you decide which place to stay, I included here the points of interests of each arrondissement; just click the links below:
1st Arrondissement – The Louvre Museum, Royal Palace, Tuileries Gardens, La Cité Palace.
2nd Arrondissement – Place des Victoires, Tour Jean-Sans-Peur, Reaumur Street, Rue Montergueil.
3rd Arrondissement – The Marais District, Picasso Museum, Musée des Archives Nationales, Anne Frank Garden, Square Georges Caïn.
4th Arrondissement – Maison de Victor Hugo, Place des Vosges, Notre Dame, Centre Georges Pompidou
5th Arrondissement – Latin Quarter, Panthéon, Musée du Moyen Age, Arènes de Lutèce, Grande Mosquée de Paris, Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, Jardin des Plantes.
6th Arrondissement – Eugène Delacroix Museum, Jardin du Luxembourg, Saint-Germain-des-Près Church, Saint Sulpice Church, Médicis Fountain, Zadkine Museum.
7th Arrondissement – Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum, Musée de l’Armée, Rodin Museum, Quai Branly Museum, Paris Sewer Museum, Les Invalides.
8th Arrondissement – Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées, Madeleine Church, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Parc Monceau, Jacquemart-André Museum.
9th Arrondissement – Fragonard Perfume Museum, Opéra Garnier, Galeries Lafayette, Georges-Eugene Haussman’s Architecture.
10th Arrondissement – Canal Saint-Martin, Gare du Nord, and Gare de l’Est
11th Arrondissement – Atelier des Lumières
12th Arrondissement – Parc Floral, Promenade Plantée, Le Marché d’Aligre, Cinema Museum at Cinémathèque Française, Musée des Arts Forains.
13th Arrondissement – The Mural Program, Place D’Italie, La Butte-aux-Cailles, Manufacture des Gobelins.
14th Arrondissement – Catacombs of Paris, Carrières des Capucins, Cimitière du Montparnasse, Parc Montsouris, Cité Universitaire.
15th Arrondissement – Square Georges Brassens, Parc André Citroën, Ile aux Cygnes.
16th Arrondissement – Art Nouveau Architecture, Bois de Boulogne, Park Jardin de Ranelagh, Musée Guimet, Palais de Tokyo, Musée de l’Homme, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Musée Marmottan-Monet.
17th Arrondissement – Parc de Monceau, Luthier shops.
18th Arrondissement – Moulin Rouge, Montmartre, Sacré Coeur, Saint Jean-de-Montmartre Church, Dali Museum.
19th Arrondissement – Canal de la Villette, Cité de la Science et l’Industrie, Cité de la Musique, Canal de l’Ourcq, Parc Buttes-Chaumont, Parc de la Villette, Parc de la Butte du Chapeau-Rouge.
20th Arrondissement – Père Lachaise Cemetery
Get around Paris
The main mode of transportation in Paris is the subway or the Metro. This subway is old, the stations and the trains though still operational looked like they’ve seen better days. There are over 300 stations around the city and it is fairly easy to use. Note that the subway doors don’t open and close automatically as the trains in the Philippines, there are buttons that you have to press to open the doors.
You could easily buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines, the minimum fare is 1.90 euros. The first time I went to the metro, I didn’t know how to use the machine so I approached the ticket window.
“Bonjour. Un billet pour L’Opera s’il vous plait” (one ticket to the Opera) I told the woman.
I thought I’d have to repeat myself because I don’t have a French accent you know, but surprisingly, the woman understood me and sold me the ticket.
Not to be mistaken as the Metro, Paris commuters also use the train (formerly called RER). This is faster than the subway and built deeper underground. If you want to take the train, look for Lines A, B, or C.
Tip: Download the app, Visit Paris by Metro to help you navigate the city and both the Metro and RER.
In those times I was too lazy to take the Metro, I booked an Uber. Oh, how I missed this ride-sharing app! I was extremely disappointed that they stopped operating the Philippines that I got a little too excited when I saw that the app is functioning in Paris. An Uber ride would cost you from 6 to 15 euros.
You can also take the bus, however, this is one option I was not able to try. You can use the Metro and RER tickets to take the bus, how efficient right?!
Because why not? If you are a tourist, there are lots of sites to see and sometimes, the best to check them out is on foot. I did a little bit of walking myself, especially when I went bar hopping (more on that later). The only thing that ruined this experience is the cold, it was really difficult to be outside when every inch of me was freezing. I imagine however that this activity would be a lot easier in other seasons.
Things to do in Paris
My first day in Paris and I was jet-lagged, but I had to adjust my sleeping pattern to Europe time. So I went out to begin exploring Paris alone. I already mentioned the points of interest in Paris in each district, unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit all of them. The following shows those that I was able to see.
Paris Opera (Académie National de Musique)
On my way to the Paris Story to claim my museum ticket, I passed by the Paris Opera. I didn’t even know what it was until I googled it. It is the primary opera and ballet company of France that dated back to 1669. King Louis XIV founded and named it as the Académie d’Opéra. I was only able to see it from the outside, but I would love to go back and see one of its stage performances.
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and a central landmark in Paris. It is located at the 1st Arrondissement. Formerly a royal residence that dates back to 1200s, it was turned into a museum in 1793. It has over 380,000 art and historical collections displayed on three different wings, Richelieu, Sully, and Denon. The museum is so huge it is impossible to see all of its exhibitions in a day.
There are numerous museums in Paris and if you want to see more than one, it’s best to get a museum pass. I purchased mine from Klook for €47.19 (₱2,722.94). With this pass, you can access more than 50 museums (Musée d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame, the Pompidou Center, Sainte-Chapelle, etc.) and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region.
If I could sum up my Louvre museum in two words it would be, beautiful and overwhelming. I love art and to see some of the best artworks in history that once upon a time, I only read in books was an experience like no other. Despite feeling like I was swimming in a dream due to jet lag, I managed to walk for several hours inside the museum. I didn’t have the energy to process everything but I took as many photos as I could. I was particularly fascinated by the artwork on the ceiling, the details are insane!
The largest painting that I’ve seen in my life is Juan Luna’s Spolarium. But at Louvre, there are hundreds of life-size paintings to feast your eyes on. Out of all the paintings that I’d seen, my most favorite is the one by French artist, Paul Delaroche titled, La Jeune Martyre (the young martyr).
A Louvre experience is never complete without a rendezvous with arguably its most famous inhabitant, the Mona Lisa. Obviously, other museum-goers agree. I spotted her many fans before I even saw the painting itself.
Louvre museum information
It is open daily, except Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays, it also opens at night at 9:45 p.m. On the first Saturday of each month, you can access the museum for free.
You can rent a Louvre audio guide for 5 euro at the museum’s ticket area.
There are three restaurants and cafes inside the Louvre; Paul (patisserie) Angelina (tearoom), and the Bistrot Benoit. There’s a gift shop at the Allee du Grand Louvre where you can buy souvenirs.
The Louvre Pyramid is a popular spot in itself. It’s a glass and metal pyramid architecture designed by a Chinese-American architect named, I. M. Pei. I went out in the cold and tried to get a nice selfie with it as a background, unfortunately, I didn’t look good in any of the photos.
Another museum worth checking out is Musée d’Orsay, which I visited on my second day in the city using the same museum pass. For some reason, my pass, which should have allowed me to skip the line didn’t work. Thus, I waited for 2 hours out in the frickin’ cold. I don’t even know how was I able to survive that; the resilience of a girl from a third world country maybe?
There were no other Filipinos on the queue, at least not within earshot. There were the Koreans with their trendy and colorful outfits, the loud Spanish-speaking group (not sure from which country) behind me, the more reserved French people, and me wondering if the museum is worth the hypothermia. Because I had no company I didn’t dare leave the line. I did consider booking it back to the hotel after one hour of waiting but curiosity got the better of me. Hold it together, I told myself, it’s not like you could visit Paris anytime you like so you gotta get inside.
I’m glad I didn’t go home because the museum is indeed worth it. It is smaller than the Louvre but not behind when it comes to its vast collection of artworks from 1848 to 1914.
There are individuals rooms that are dedicated to each world-renowned artists such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso. The Picasso section had the longest queue during my visit, but by the time I got there, the museum was nearing its closing time so I didn’t check it out anymore. Fortunately, I had the time to visit one of my personal favorites, Vincent Van Gogh. I didn’t even know until this visit that he had several self-portraits of himself. Out of all his paintings on display, I was particularly taken by the Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône (Starry Night over the Rhône).
More than paintings, I am into sculptures, in fact, my favorite Filipino artist is a sculptor, Ferdinand Cacnio. I was in awe looking at the huge and intricate three-dimensional forms that were exhibited. My favorites are the two pictured below made by Ernest Barrias and Denys Puech.
Orsay museum information
It is open daily from 9:20 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. except for Mondays. On Thursdays, they close at 9:45 p.m.
They have a bookshop and museum store and in-house cafés and restaurants.
Being an artist has been my life’s frustration. I cannot draw and so it’s one path that I wanted but was not able to pursue. Just because I cannot paint or sculpt, doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate art. Thus, it has been such a joy for me to be able to visit Paris and see these artworks in person. Whether you are an art aficionado or not, I highly recommend including these museums in your itinerary.
The Eiffel Tower
You know it’s true; when we think of Paris, the first image that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower. I made a pilgrimage of going there because to me it seals the deal, that indeed, I had been to Paris.
This wrought-iron lattice tower was designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel (thus the name). Construction began in 1887 and back then, it was mocked by some artists due to its design. I guess the joke is on them because today, the Eiffel is a cultural icon of France and is well-known globally.
It stands at about 324 meters making it the tallest structure in Paris. It has three levels that tourists can climb. I saw a long queue of people waiting to get in at the base of the tower. I was contented just looking at it from the outside taking as many photos as I could; a no easy feat considering the freezing weather.
Where to eat in Paris
One thing that I regret not doing is checking out the restaurants or the bakeries and cafes in Paris. But I did try some of the foods that they like to eat like my favorite, crepe (galette)…
And their weird version of a taco. I mean when we say taco, we picture these…
But the French had a different idea. It is unlike anything that I have ever seen in my life. It has ground meat, cheese, corn, and drum roll…. french fries! I can’t find a free photo and I wasn’t able to take a picture of it so here’s a link, go see it for yourself. Yet despite being weirded out I actually liked it. It was tasty and filling that it took me two days to finish it.
Night Scene in Paris
My friends practically begged me to go and meet people so I obliged and booked an Airbnb experience. It’s called, Party like Parisians for which I paid ₱3,030.90 to join 9 other people, who were, by the way, mostly couples, to check out the edgy bars of Paris.
The event was hosted by an American named, Valkyrie who has been living in Paris for years. I was a bit late for the assembly so I met them at the first bar, Le Gourbi Palace. I tried my best to let out my extrovert side and talked with other guests.
If I remember it right we visited a total of 4 bars. I made sure that I wouldn’t go home wasted as I had to wake up early for my trip to Bordeaux the next day. All in all, I loved the experience and was glad that I showed up. I almost bailed on this because I was worried about my next day trip, good thing I changed my mind. It is better to be with a local if you want to see the best bars and restos in the city. If you don’t know anyone in Paris (and you’re not particularly friendly like me) then this Airbnb experience is for you.
By the way, if you are joining this then wear comfortable shoes. We walked for at least 15 minutes to get to each bar. Bring cash because the minimum credit card usage is high; drinks cost between 5 to 15 euros.
Other helpful information
Wow, this article is long huh?! I just thought that it took me a while to write this trip so why not make it as detailed as possible. We are getting closer to the end don’t worry, just a couple of things that I want to share.
Is Paris safe?
My friends warned me so much about the pickpockets and other crimes in Paris that I almost checked if I had accidentally booked Iraq. I am not saying that their advice is without basis; crimes on vandalism and theft are high in Paris. Maybe I was just lucky that nothing untoward happened to me. I think it also helped that I heard so much about pickpockets, I was extra vigilant the entire time. In fact, when I used my camera and tripod when I visited the Eiffel tower, I was always looking at my surroundings. I also didn’t go that far from the camera.
Just keep your wits about you. Don’t let your valuables out of your sight. It also helps to wear a jacket with an inside pocket and put your money and cellphone there.
Are Parisians rude?
I am not disregarding the experiences of other people, but at least in my case, I didn’t meet a rude French person. I find them to be polite, they always greet with “Bonjour”. Based on my research, French people don’t appreciate tourists who assume that they could just speak to them in English. Hence, when I was there, I relied on Google Maps and the Internet for direction and when I had to talk with locals, I speak to them in French. Even with my unpolished French, they didn’t mock me. I think French people would appreciate your effort if you at least tried to engage them in their language.
What basic French phrases to use to communicate with the locals?
As I mentioned above, French would appreciate it if you converse with them in their language. You don’t have to be fluent, just do the basics. When they see you struggling, they would speak in English. The key here is this, “try.” You are a visitor, you should learn to adjust. So here are some of the French phrases that you can use:
Bonjour – Good day.
Bonsoir – Good evening
Merci – Thank you
D’accord – (dah-corh) Okay or I agree
Oui – Yes
Non – No
Monsieur/Madam – Sir/Ma’am
Je voudrais un – (joo-vu-dreh a) I would like a…
Vous avez un – (vu-sa-veh a) Do you have a…
L’addition s’il vous plait – The check please (use when you are getting the bill)
Les toilettes, s’il vous plait ? – (leh twa-let sil-voo-pleh) The restroom, please
Ou est la gare ? – (ooh-weh-la-gar) Where is the train station?
When you enter a business establishment greet them with “Bonjour.” Always say s’il vous plait when asking for something and never forget to say “merci.”
Is it true that Paris is unclean?
Yes, it is. There are dogs excrements everywhere, some garbage littered the streets, and walls and buildings with graffiti. However, it is still not as dirty as some parts of Metro Manila.
I was more bothered by the number of cigarette people smoke every day. And in Paris, everywhere is a smoking area, they even do it while walking. At one point my throat started itching and I had a hard time breathing with all the cigarette smokes that I inhaled.
Is Paris worth visiting?
A resounding yes. There are many things left to explore and I definitely want to go back, hopefully in a warmer season.
When is the best time to go?
Anytime but winter, but then again, winter is an off-season, meaning, things including flights would be cheaper. Be warned that it could get really cold that it’s painful. If you’re going in winter, dress appropriately; layers of winter friendly clothing. Do not forget to bring gloves, this is so important! My hands, even with gloves were perpetually cold and I tell ya, it was so damn hard.
Breakdown of expenses
To give you an idea of how much you could be spending on a Paris trip here’s the actual list of my expenses. You may also download the file below.
All dreams are impossible until you do something about it. I am not gonna lie, if like me you are not particularly well-off, going to Europe is not going to be easy, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible. I repeat, “difficult doesn’t mean impossible.” When you want to do something, do everything in your power to make it happen. Save up for it, do your research, then just do it.
This Europe trip series is just getting started. Next time, I will share with you a guide on traveling Bordeaux.
Before we do this, let’s get the description out there…
A hostel means simply a shared accommodation. Instead of staying in a private room with a private bathroom, you stay in a dorm room sharing the room with other people.hostelgeeks.com
The keyword here is shared. A hostel usually has rooms with bunk beds that guests could share.
Then why the hell did they call Sand 1 Hostel a hostel when they don’t have shared rooms?
It took me days to book a place to stay in Siquijor because most options are bloody expensive. There are also considerations on the location, it has to be in San Juan as recommended by a friend. I searched through Booking.com and Agoda until I found Sand 1 Hostel. I saw photos of it and thought that their rooms look good. The reviews are generally positive and it is not as expensive as the other resorts, I could get a room of my own for less than 5,000 for four nights.
Tap, I booked my stay.
The location is one of is strong suits, not beachfront but it’s on the side of the road, quite easy to find. The caveat is that you could hear the noise of passing vehicles inside the room.
The ambiance is nice and since it’s fairly new, everything is still in good condition. The place is small; if I’m not mistaken it only has 5 or 6 rooms. Let me reiterate these are private rooms, it’s a not-hostel hostel.
I stayed in a double-bed room with its own shower and toilet. The bed is firm and comfortable, but the blanket is a thin sheet that was a little too rough on the skin. But I liked my room, it’s clean and in good condition.
In the morning there’s free coffee for the guests. The reception area is manned by these two lads who also do other tasks in the hostel like housekeeping. I spotted one of them doing the laundry with his hands one morning, the laundry in question? Bedsheets and blankets! I didn’t know how to react to that, I mean, poor guy.
For the most part, I liked Sand 1, but something major ruined the stay for me. The power outage. It always happened several times every night, some as long as 5 hours. To me, it was a nightmare. I’d always wake up in the middle of the night and could never get back to sleep.
Unfortunately, Sand 1 doesn’t have a generator. I seriously think it’s something they should invest in considering the fact that brownouts in Siquijor are frequent.
After 3 nights of brownouts, I couldn’t take it anymore. The next day I had an early checkout and traveled back to Dumaguete.
I may receive grief over this but Siquijor failed to enchant me the way it did most tourists. It is beautiful, I’m not going to contest, just that for some reason it didn’t excite me the way it did other places like Siargao or Palawan. I had originally set to stay there for 5 days but I was so bored, I cut it short and moved to Dumaguete on the fourth day. This is not to say I had zero fun, hence this solo travel guide to Siquijor.
Siquijor is in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines with 6 municipalities: Enrique Villanueva, Larena, Lazi, Maria, San Juan, and Siquijor. It used to be part of Negros Oriental but became independent in 1971. The locals are called, Siquijodnon and they speak Cebuano and English. They can speak Tagalog but will not use it unless they know you cannot converse in their dialect.
The province is regarded by many as mystical, said to be home to witches (mangkukulam), shamans (mambabarang), and healers (albularyo). It’s this reputation that has many Filipinos circumspect if not terrified to visit the island despite its growing popularity. In fact, the top question people asked me when they heard of this trip is, Aren’t you scared of the witches?
To answer that, nope, I wasn’t scared. If they exist, I haven’t made an acquaintance.
How to get to Siquijor
Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights from Manila to Dumaguete, which is the easiest point of entry to Siquijor. The province doesn’t have its own airport, thus you have to take a ferry from Dumaguete, Cebu, or Bohol.
From the airport there are tricycles and habal-habal (single motorbike) to get to the port; travel time is about 17 minutes. Expect that you will be charged differently if you are a tourist, as in my case, I paid ₱150.
I booked my Dumaguete-Siquijor ferry ride with Oceanjet via Bookaway for $10.8. You might wonder if this is better than buying a ticket in the port, well, it depends. If you are visiting during the peak season, March to May then it’s best to prebook your tickets online. In the off-season, you can easily buy a ticket to the port, but do check the timetable for ferries. Oceanjet’s earliest schedule from Dumaguete is 7:20 a.m. while the latest trip is 5:00 p.m. Regular fare is only ₱250 and travel time takes about an hour.
There’s a port in Siquijor (I mean the municipality) and another one in Larena. Make sure you will be taken in a port closest to your chosen accommodation. For example, if you are staying in San Juan then you must go to Siquijor terminal.
From Siquijor port, hire a tricycle to take you to your hotel or resort. You may check the tariff rates below.
Where to stay in Siquijor
Many tourists stay in San Juan and with good reason. It’s a good jump-off point to do a city tour and this is where the most happenings take place with its string of resorts, bars, and restos.
Siquijor is not big on hostels unlike other tourist destinations in the Philippines, but guesthouses and resorts come aplenty. I got a room at Sand 1 Hostel. It doesn’t offer shared accommodation so I’m not even sure why it calls itself a hostel. Read my review of it in the link below.
What places to see in Siquijor
You don’t have to prebook a tour, you could just talk to any of the locals, specifically the tricycle drivers. Most of them are offering tours. I am personally recommending Roel, here is his contact number, +63 926 407 2172. He promised to take me to 5 destinations for only ₱1,000. However, I begged off Salagdoong beach because I was already too tired from the Cambugahay falls.
Century-old Balete tree
We started off with a visit to a 400-hundred-year-old Balete tree in Lazi. There is an entrance fee of ₱10. The tree is massive, standing between 8 to 20 meters though not as big as the Millennium tree in Aurora. Right at the foot of it is a spring that flows through a man-made pond.
The pond is filled with tilapia and little fishes that like to nibble off dead skin. When I dipped my feet into the pond the fish came running toward me for some “snack”. It felt weird, ticklish, and at times painful especially when they bit on the skin on top of the foot. Hence I kept my feet hovering and submerged just the soles.
Obviously banking on Siquijor’s tales of witches, somebody created a tourist attraction; a photo op in which you would appear as if you are riding and flying a broom. Before this trip, I saw some of these photos and I was like, there was no way in hell I’d ever do that. But when Roel took me to Hapitanan, I found myself lining up to wait for my turn.
So what happens is, you climb up on a wooden stage, take that broomstick between your legs, then a guy who is manning the area would take your photo from below. It’s just like your normal jump shot only you have a broomstick. When I saw the photos, I couldn’t help but be amused. I mean, look at it, it does appear like I am flying.
Out of all the places I visited in Siquijor, Cambugahay, the three-tier waterfalls would be the most memorable. I’d seen many waterfalls in the Philippines yet never one with blue waters. Cambughay is on a different level, the water is clear and inviting.
Part of the attraction is jumping into the waterfalls. For only ₱20, you can jump as many times as you like.
You bet your A I was scared, but I wanted to do something adventurous. I’m not a strong swimmer so I rented a life vest for ₱100.
There I stood on the edge of the platform with a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. I was afraid but I knew in my heart that there was no turning back. A man asked me to bend my knees a little and to let go once I hear his signal. I took a deep breath and held on to the rubber-covered handle that was fastened to the rope.
The man whispered to my ear, “Two, one, bend…”
Before I could think, I was already off the ledge. There I was dangling on top of the water.
I released my grasp from the handle and in split seconds, I was already into the water. It’s not something that you could process as it happens, it is that fast. Before you knew it, it’s over.
Knowing I had just conquered fear, I couldn’t help but be proud of myself. It helped that my guide cheered me on.
After that jump, I followed the guide to the second tier of the falls where there are small caves behind the cascading water. There, he told me some things about himself. His name is Ricky Sacapano, a former Olympic athlete now working as a guide and an emergency responder in Siquijor. I didn’t get his number, but you could ask for him in the registration area if you want to get his services.
Just before I left the place, I went up again to do a second jump.
The last stop of the day was Paliton, which according to the locals is the most beautiful beach in Siquijor. The sun was high, it was time to get me some tan. I spotted a group of foreigners swimming on the blue waters. On the other side of the beach, there were some people taking photos on the bent coconut tree.
I lay out my shawl on the sand and sunbathed for 30 minutes or so. There I rested to the sound of the waves and the people’s chatters. I overheard the foreigners, they were speaking in French. One of them, a woman was busy getting her own bronze. She was so white I wonder how long would it take for her to get a tan.
When at last it was time for me to leave, I looked at my skin and was satisfied that I had grown at least a shade darker. Then I saw the sunbathing French girl, still as pale as the first moment I saw her.
Other sites to see in Siquijor
Now for the places, you could do as a side-trip, here’s a list.
If spelunking is your trip, you could check out Cantabon Cave. It was not part of my itinerary and as you can see in the photo below my outfit wasn’t cave-ready.
Mt. Bandilaan is a natural park and is the highest point in Siquijor. It was empty and quiet when I went there. My guide told me that the best time to visit is during the holy week. It is when the healers and witches go there to do some rituals meant to enhance their powers. Personally, I’d recommend you skip this area unless you are going during the festivities.
We stopped on the side of the road so I could appreciate this view. Fulgen said that this is called Cabilao, one of the spots that he liked showing to his guests. I must say it does look beautiful.
San Isidro Labrador Parish Church and Convent
Restoration of the church is currently ongoing, hence I was not able to enter. It is more popularly known as Lazi Church. Just across the street is the oldest convent in the Philippines where you can find a museum.
Capilay Spring Park
If you want to beat the heat the local way, take a dip at their public swimming pool, Capilay Spring Park. I happened to pass by it one afternoon as I was searching for a place to eat. It is located along Circumferential road.
Visiting a healer in Siquijor
Siquijor’s tourism does not only rely upon their beautiful sceneries but also on its claim to mysticism. Healers are said to accept visitors searching for alternative remedies or guidance from the divine. You will find them in the mountains of San Antonio and most of them offer their services in exchange for a donation. Visiting these people is not necessarily reserved to the believers of the supernatural and the occult. In fact, many tourists, including myself, met them for the experience.
I went to San Antonio the next day. An old man has come to pick me up from the hostel in a single motorbike. He said that he was sent by Roel as the latter had something to do that day. He is Polgen, he said; I thought, what a weird name. How do you spell it? I asked, to which he answered, F U L G E N.
I realized he doesn’t have a weird name, it’s short for Fulgencio.
We drove for over 30 minutes to San Antonio. Who you will meet depends upon who the driver knew personally, not so from a healer’s popularity or reputation.
Fulgen took me to a modest house on the side of the road. There reside Annie and Ando, a couple who are both folk healers. I only met Annie, a dark-skinned woman in a long white dress, probably in her late 40s. She had me sit on a chair to do a ritual. One of her children came out with a pan that emitted smoke, not sure if they were from coal or barks of wood. They put it under my seat and they covered me with a blanket.
Annie then started massaging my back and my chest with oil while murmuring some unintelligible prayers. This ritual is supposed to cleanse my energy. The whole thing only lasted for about 10 minutes.
Curious, I asked Annie about their herbs and amulets, which she claimed to help people find luck in money and love. To use a love potion or what we call in Tagalog as gayuma, one must already have a prospect in mind.
The potion is a bottle with herbs that you fill up with your favorite perfume. You then wear the perfume every time you meet the object of your desire. You also need to dab a little bit of the potion on a photo of the person. Just hearing about it made me a little bit uncomfortable. I mean, isn’t that a violation of another person’s free will?
These potions and amulets don’t come cheap I tell ya. The smallest bottle is worth ₱500, the biggest would set you back at ₱2,000. The cheapest amulet you can buy from her is worth ₱1,000 and it doesn’t even look fancy.
Now here’s the funny part. Annie does palm reading for free so after our little “smoking ritual”, I asked her to do my psychic reading.
I held out my hand and she started asking me some stuff to confirm what she could read on the lines of my palms.
“You are a spender,” Well yes I am.
“Somebody in your family was sick,” Well yes and she’s already dead.
“Your life is rifed with sufferings,” Well yes, when I was younger.
Then I started asking questions.
Am I ever going to abroad to work? “You will have a difficult time.”
So that’s a no? “You will have a hard time but whatever you want to do will happen, you are quite capable to achieve your goals.”
Am I ever gonna get married? “Yes, but there’s a woman who will desire your partner.”
Hmm… I wondered what to do with that info. I mean if you have someone, isn’t it normal that other people could want him to?
I’m not sure if I want to have kids, but will I have them? “Yes, nine children.”
Wait, what?! Nine children! I don’t even want kids and you’re telling me I’ll have 9?! And even if I want to, don’t you think I’m too old to be having that many children?
She looked at me and asked, “How old are you?”
She seemed surprised, “You look like you’re in your 20s.”
Umm thanks but nope, in fact, I’ll be 37 soon.
“I meant, if you started having kids early you will have nine.”
With that, all I could do was stare at her. I was thinking, wow, her reading is adjustable.
How to Get Around Siquijor
The main mode of transport in Siquijor is a single motorbike. You could rent one for a day, rates are between 250 t0 350 pesos. Finding a place to rent is easy, there are numerous ads and signs on the road. But the simplest way to do get a bike is to talk to the staff of your guesthouse or resort.
Where to Eat in Siquijor
Most of the time, I dined at the beachfront restaurant called Aloha just across the street of my hostel. There’s nothing to rave about the food but I loved the view of the beach.
Business establishments here are mostly on a cash basis. I only found two that accept credit cards, the Coco Grove resort in-house restaurant and Baha Bar. The mango shake of Baha Bar is amazing, you should try it. The coconut chicken of Coco Grove was also delicious.
I didn’t experience the nightlife in Siquijor but I heard that Monkey Business is a good place to go. Fyi, they don’t accept card. I went there for lunch and I did like their take on spicy chicken. Couldn’t say the same about the iced coffee, I think they put a dash of liquor in it; too bitter for my taste.
Tips and final thoughts
First, bring cash, lots of it. I only found ATM in Siquijor and it wasn’t even working and as I mentioned earlier, most establishments only take cash. I find the province to be very expensive, in fact, a bag of chips that normally costs around 20 pesos in Manila is worth 30 pesos in Siquijor.
The power outage is frequent especially during the night, it’s best to book a stay in a place with a generator.
Many people only do a day trip to Siquijor, now I know why. Beyond the sightseeing, there’s not a lot to do on the island. If you are a restless person like me, I would advise you against staying for a long time. One night is enough.
Would I recommend going to a healer? Sure. Whether you believe this kind of stuff or not, it still makes for a unique experience.
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