Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Solo Backpacking in Dumaguete - A Travel Guide

I mostly learned about Dumaguete through literature - Bobby Villalis' Elegies from Another Book and Ian Casocot's The Hero of the Snore Tango, both are works of fiction that feature the quaint town of Dumaguete as the setting. The boulevard, the university, the old mansions and houses. They're all described as quaint and sleepy and dramatic. And I have a penchant for anything dramatic. So I scheduled my visit on a dramatic time of the year - my birthday.
Celebrating my birthday in a city where I don't know a single soul was a fun and liberating experience, to say the least. The places I saw, the people I met, the food I ate-  all make up for a memorable entry on my travel journal. 
Dumaguete is not only a quaint town, it's also charming and bustling. 
Most of the interesting sights can be found at the neighboring towns, which are a short ride from the city so getting around is perfectly doable. The locals are very friendly so you don't have to worry about getting lost.
What you need is an affordable room with clean bed in a safe guest house because there's so much to do in and outside the city during the day. 

Here's my 4-day Dumaguete DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Itinerary

From the airport, take a few steps to the highway where easy rides (multicabs) ply by. There were tricycles inside the airport but they charged tourist rates (Php100.00-Php200.00) so unless you're willing to pay that much for a short ride downtown, best to take a much cheaper option. Easy ride fee is only Php8.00. 
Tell the driver to drop you off at Real Street where you can take a tricycle (Php8.00) to Harold's Mansion, a 4-storey guest house that has dorm-type accommodations at Hibbard Avenue. Settle in, freshen up and head out to Hayahay along Rizal Boulevard for dinner. It's about a few blocks from the hotel. Best to take a trike.
At Hayahay, you can enjoy good food (mostly seafood), listen to good music and feel the refreshing sea breeze. Take a trike back to the guest house and have a good night sleep.
Total Amount Spent for Day 1: Php489.00

Visit a few sights outside Dumaguete such as the Twin Lakes in Sibulan, Forest Camp and Casaroro Falls in Valencia. I originally wanted to go to Sibulan first but the jeepney driver in the terminal dissuaded me from going (because it's quite far and I'd end up spending a lot of money for habal-habal since I was alone). 
Get up early and have a free bread toast and coffee in the cafeteria. Take a trike and tell the driver to take you to the terminal where there are jeepneys bound for Valencia.
Valencia is a small and sleepy town that's a short 10-minute drive from Dumaguete City. Jeepneys continuously ply the Dumaguete-Valencia route all day (fare is Php12.00). At Valencia, you can either rent a habal-habal to get to Forest Camp or Casaroro Falls. Alternatively, you can hire a tricycle for a minimal fee of Php80.00 round-trip. If you intend to do a side trip to Casaroro Falls, you will pay an additional Php220.00. The driver can wait up for you while you enjoy swimming in Forest Camp then he'll take you to Casaroro Falls.
Take a refreshing dip in the man-made pools with cool natural water in Forest Camp and order grilled seafood or native chicken tinola (generous serving!) for lunch.
Rest for a little while and head over to Casaroro Falls, which is a few kilometers from Forest Camp. If you're taking a trike, prepare yourself for a 10-15 minute walk up the dirt road because tricycles can only go as far as the cemented road. Make sure to bring bottled water as the hike alone to the entry point is dehydrating.
Head back to the town plaza and take a jeepney bound for Dumaguete. Take a rest at the guest house. 
Take an afternoon stroll along Hibbard Avenue where Silliman University is located. It's a popular landmark among photography buffs and tourists. You can get a visitor's pass from the guard at the entrance. You'll probably get hungry after a stroll and a photo-shoot. Take a few steps to Rizal Boulevard and try their street food. You can spend the rest of the afternoon lazying around.
For dinner, you can go to Jo's Chicken Inato or Blue Monkey Grill where they serve cheap beer (Php25.00). You can socialize at the guest house's cafeteria or the rooftop with foreign travelers. 

Total Amount Spent for Day 2: Php1104.00

Get up early and catch the sunrise at the Rizal Boulevard. Take your free breakfast at the cafeteria. If you're not a bread person, you can order heavy meals such as tapsilog and bangsilog (Php110.00). 
Set aside the third day for the exciting day dive/snorkel trip in Apo Island. Harold's Mansion organizes a daily trip to the island - 1,000.00 for snorkeling and 3,800 for diving. Be sure to make an advance reservation as it's usually fully booked. 
Enjoy the rich marine life in Apo sanctuary, where you can see various sea animals - turtles, grouper, barracuda, nemo-like fishes, soft and hard corals and many more. Make sure to bring your underwater camera so you can share the amazing experience to your friends.

Go to the boulevard for dinner.

Total Amount Spent for Day 3: Php1,536.00

If your flight back to Manila is scheduled in the afternoon, you can spend the first half of the day exploring the city. Go to the plaza after having breakfast at the guest house and check out the oldest stone church in Negros and the ancient belfry nearby.
Buy pasalubong at the few local shops along Hibbard Avenue. Try the famous silvanas at Sans Rival. Their pastries and cakes are ideal pasalubong for your friends. 
Pack up, make sure you don't forget anything and check out. To get to the airport, you can take a trike to the jeepney terminal and ride a jeepney bound for Sibulan (Php12.00). Ask the driver to drop you off at the airport. Alternatively, you can hire a trike directly to the airport (Php80.00).

Total Amount Spent for Day 4: Php633.00

Special thanks to Jhyng for letting me borrow her DSLR and to Karen for booking me the round-trip flight. You guys rock! 


Batang Lakwatsero said...

congrats to your solo travel.. soul searching sa birthday :) magkabirthday ata tayo. haha.. belated happy birthday. I might visit Dumaguete too for the Rizal Stamp.

Ryan / Mach said...

Thanks, Batang Lakwatsero! Haha, baka nga. Yeah, do visit Dumaguete, very nice places and a lot of sights to go to. ;p

ybiang said...

Very informative. Thanks for this. I read a negative review about Harold's Mansion somewhere, but I guess it won't hurt to stay for a night and interact with the owner and staff as well as see the place myself. So does this mean na okay lang kahit dalawa lang kayo sa dormitory in case walang ibang guests? I guess it's also cheaper na sumali don sa Apo Island tour nila instead of a DIY lalo na kung solo backpacker ka.


Ryan Mach I Pinoy Wandering Boy said...

I read that negative review as well but I take everything with a grain of salt so I still booked at Harold's Mansion despite the unflattering post about the hotel, the service and the staff. I had a very nice experience there.

Yep, ok lang kahit 2 lang kayo sa dormitory, that's a better set-up anyway. I agree with the Apo Island tour. Kung mag-isa ka lang, sumabay ka na lang sa grupo.

Chyng said...

this is my next travel destination for a solo travel! cool! =)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...

Solo traveling is indeed liberating! I actually miss it :( Anyhoo, your 4-day IT is packed! I regret not being able to visit the other sites in Negros when we did backpacking there. But then again, I was about 2 months pregnant that time, so couldn't really push myself.

Ryan Mach I Pinoy Wandering Boy said...


You'll love it there, for sure. Lots of things to do. ;p

Ryan Mach I Pinoy Wandering Boy said...

Pinay Travel Junkie:

Touche - re: backpacking.

I wasn't able to maximize my time in Negros as well. I would love to see the sand bar in Manjuyod and the Twin Lakes. Siquijor sounds lovely too.

Pinoy Adventurista said...

belated happy birthday! i totally agree! the people from Dumaguete are the nicest i've met so far... i also enjoyed casaroro falls, but it's really exhausting... oh... i missed apo island... that's one thing that will make me come back.. soon! cheers on your solo travel! ang galing! ^_^

Ryan Mach I Pinoy Wandering Boy said...

Thanks, Pinoy Adventurista!

Yep, sobrang nakakapagod ang Casaroro Falls. Halos di na ko makaakyat pabalik. Hehe

You should / You must go to Apo Island. ;p

Gabz said...

Very helpful! I'm bound for Dumaguete in 2 weeks. I will try staying at Harold's too.

Jek said...

hello sir, sir for confirmation lang. P80 lng po yung trike ride round trip from Valencia to Forest Camp? Will be heading to DGT this Oct.


Ryan Mach said...

Hello Jek,

Yep, more or less. Still depends on your haggling skills too. :-)

Enjoy your Dumaguete trip!

Anonymous said...

i suggest for a backpacker like you is a budget hotel. There is a branch in dumaguete... http://gohotels.ph/dumaguete ... its really thumbs up for adventurous like you... i suggest ths also wth others. Check the site and your will surely undrstand what i mean. hehe :)

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cams said...

How far is Apo Island from Dumaguete?

Mach | pinoywanderingboy.com said...

From Dumaguete, you need to go to Dauin (I think) where there are boats plying to Apo Island. Approximately 2 hours, more or less.