Ilocos Hideaway

Your little piece of paradise

Stacks Image 238

A Cebu Pacific Airbus unloads at Laoag airport (above and below). Turnarounds are fast and efficient.

Happy Landings in Laoag

Stacks Image 244
Getting to Ilocos has become a lot easier in recent years as more and more flights have been added linking Laoag with Manila. Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies to Laoag twice daily and Cebu Pacific (CEB) once daily. Tickets on the PAL flights can be booked through its budget offshoot Air Phil Express as well as the PAL Web site. PAL operates Airbus A320s on the route with a flight time from Manila to Laoag of just 65 minutes.
CEB operates both Airbus and ATR prop planes (which are a bit slower at 1 hour 20 minutes). If you are coming to Ilocos from an Asian regional destination such as Hong Kong or Singapore it may be worth booking all the way through with either PAL or CEB rather than flying into Manila aboard carriers such as Cathay or Singapore Airlines. The reason for this is that it obviates the need for taxi transit between terminals at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. Cathay and Singapore Airlines operate out of Terminal 1, which is the oldest and most crowded of terminals. PAL has the newer Terminal 2 all to itself while CEB operates out of the more spacious Terminal 3 which has the best variety of food and shopping outlets to keep travellers sustained and entertained while waiting for connecting flights. In addition, PAL and CEB can issue connecting boarding passes at the airport of origin and check bags through, saving a lot of hassle at Manila airport. If you use Cebu Pacific, upon your arrival at Terminal 3 from an international flight, you will emerge on the ground floor of the building having passed through immigration and customs. Remain inside the building and turn left. You will pass by a couple of shops and notably a cafe called Le Bistro. Keep going and you will find an escalator up to departures upstairs. There will be a check point to enter the check-in area - simply show your ticket and passport and you will be allowed in. If you have done a Web check in and you have no check-in baggage you can skip the check-in desks totally and show your boarding pass to be allowed in air-side for domestic flights. On the return flight to Manila from Laoag, the procedure at Terminal 3 is the same - turn left after arrival on the ground floor and proceed up the same escalator and this time enter the check-in area and head to the international check-in desks. Again, if you have done a web check-in and only have carry-on baggage you can skip check-in and proceed to the check point for boarding passes and thereby onwards to immigration and baggage check.
Travellers carrying passports from most countries will be issued with a free visa of at least two weeks, though airport taxes are imposed. The country is just switching to a system where airport taxes are collected when the tickets are sold, removing a layer of officialdom at the airport. For now this only applies to domestic flights from Manila. The airport tax to pay departing from Laoag is 40 pesos per person. The departure tax from Manila on international flights is 550 pesos per person.
If possible use the airlines web check-in service and print out your boarding passes before arriving at the airport as this may save time and give you access to a short queue for the online check-in desk.
Laoag airport is a friendly and small facility with passengers boarding and alighting aircraft via steps and walking across the tarmac to the terminal building which features traditional Ilocano brickwork. On departure vehicles can be driven right up to the entrance of the building to make life easy for travellers. There is a small snacks and drinks stall in the departure area and you can also try a relaxing massage from a blind practitioner as you wait for boarding.
For the hardy and adventurous who want to take in more of the colourful Filipino life from ground level there are plenty of coaches plying the Laoag to Manila route with bus companies such as Maria De Leon, Partas and Farinas among them. The trip takes about 10 hours with fares ranging from 500 to 1,000 pesos one way.
Stacks Image 250

Laoag's terminal is small and friendly. Try a massage from a blind practitioner when you depart.

Stacks Image 252

Cebu Pacific's domestic check-in desks upstairs at the modern Terminal 3 in Manila.