Now is the best time to do some local tourism and explore the Philippines

Unless you've been living under a rock, leisure travel abroad isn't possible right now because, well, the global pandemic. Most countries are not allowing tourists to enter yet.

But ask yourself this – do you want to get on a plane with strangers and risk getting the coronavirus? Remember, the pandemic is still on-going. And yes, it has been more than a year since the outbreak started. There’s even a new, more infectious strain now.

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So going abroad during the holidays is out of the question. But let's go local for a moment. It has been months since the country was placed under community quarantine. Some of you reading this are probably experiencing a bit of cabin fever.

Well, lockdown rules are a little more lenient now. The Department of Tourism is even promoting travel these days. Local Government Units (LGU) are also accepting visitors, that's if you're willing to subject yourself to tests. With that in mind, maybe it's time to drive out of town to soak in new sights and sounds. Not only is it good for your mental health, but you can also help out communities and businesses that have been affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

So, where to go? We’ve listed down a few places to visit together with the requirements from LGUs. As much as we would like to explore more places, we will keep this list within Luzon. We also won’t be including Tagaytay in this list because everyone is going there already. Instead, we’ll list a few places that you might not have visited post-ECQ.

1. Baguio City

Are you missing the cold weather, Camp John Hay, and the smell of fresh air in Baguio? The City of Pines has eased restrictions and opened its doors to tourists from Luzon and Metro Manila once again. Unlike before, you can’t just pack your bags and spontaneously drive up for a quick getaway whenever you feel like it. If you plan to visit Baguio City, you will need to follow Baguio LGU’s strict requirements and guidelines.

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For requirements, Baguio LGU will require visitors and tourists to create a VISITA account - which includes uploading a valid ID and filling up accommodations details. Visitors will also be required to fill up a health declaration form and upload a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result. Afterward, you will be emailed a QR-coded Tourist Pass which you will present before being allowed entry into the city.

You can learn more about going to the City of Pines by reading our EIC’s recent trip here. Thankfully, there are a lot of establishments open, including the night market and Burnham Park. You can also replenish on ube jam and alfajor from Good Shepherd.

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2. Subic and Zambales

You can also hit up Subic and the Zambales for a quick day trip out of town. The place has great food, good beaches, and bay-side establishments that are open, perfect for those who want to take a break from the urban jungle that is Metro Manila. If you feel like it, you can also hit up the outlet stores and do some duty-free shopping. And yes, Ocean Adventure and Zoobic Safari are both open once again.

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Those who want to go on a sight-seeing trip will surely enjoy the sights of Subic, especially at sunset and at night. Car enthusiasts can also make a quick visit and pay tribute to the old Subic International Raceway.

Expect to encounter few checkpoints along the expressways and before entering Subic and the Zambales area. From our recent experience in going to Subic, there aren’t usually any. That allows you to go on your merry way without any problems.

However, if you do have a plan on staying over for a night or two, it’s best to bring a travel pass as well as a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result with you. Also, bring a copy of your confirmed booking reservation on where you plan to stay.

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3. Batangas

Let's head south this time to the province of Batangas. Lemery and Nasugbu are just some places in Batangas you can visit for a quick beach trip out of town. Some might even say that the beaches and resorts here are better than those in Subic. But, we’ll leave that to your judgment. There are also numerous villas you can rent for yourself and your family. Just remember not to exceed the number of people allowed.

Similar to its neighbor Tagaytay, the region isn’t as strict with local tourists visiting anymore. Just like going to Subic, there aren’t as many checkpoints either. For your convenience and peace of mind, bring a negative test result and a travel pass in case you do pass through checkpoints.

Do remember, the people in Batangas make their livelihood from tourism, and they were badly affected by the lockdowns, not to mention the Taal volcano eruption earlier last year. By visiting and buying products in the region, you’ll be able to help the region recover.

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4. Bataan

From the historic buildings of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar to the cross on Mount Samat and other World War II sites, Bataan sure has a lot to offer. The region also has numerous beaches and resorts to offer. You can try and take photos of the cross and the beautiful Bataan beaches during sunset if you’re up for it; perfect for Instagram then.

That said, impromptu day trips are out of the question since the province is quite strict when it comes to tourists. Like Baguio City, the Bataan local government requires visitors to have a QR Code via the Get Pass application. Visitors will have to fill this up (available on mobile and through their website) before heading out. Similarly, visitors will also be required to bring a negative RT-PCR test result. You will also need to show a copy of your confirmed booking reservations. Walk-in day trips are not allowed. They’re strict with health protocols, too, meaning face masks, face shields, and social distancing at all times.

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5. Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur

Those that want a long road trip may go to the Ilocos region. Both Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur have recently opened their borders to tourists from Luzon and Metro Manila. There are loads you can do in either Ilocos, from sightseeing to enjoying local cuisine.

Vigan longanisa, anyone? There's also the iconic Calle Crisologo and a famous chicken restaurant in the area integrated into an old building. Same food as its other branches, but the ambiance will surely be different. There are also various beaches and dunes to visit in Paoay and nearby areas. Don’t forget the Bangui windmills too.

Cabin fever? Here’s where you can go (that isn’t Tagaytay) image

Aside from the beautiful sights, why not visit Baluarte Zoo? There, you can see lions, tigers, monkeys, camels, deer, and even ostriches. Budding historians can enjoy the museums in the regions, immersing you in heritage and history.

While most would usually fly to Ilocos, that isn’t the safest mode of traveling at the moment. The drive might be long, but it will be worth it. At the same time, you’ll be able to drive to the beautiful Patapat Viaduct. The sights alone will surely be worth it.

Like Bataan and Baguio, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are strict when it comes to tourist enforcement. Those visiting Ilocos Norte must pre-register via the Stay IN app. All visitors must also bring a negative RT-PCR or RTD test result. You also need to have a copy of your accommodation receipt as day tours, and trips are not allowed.

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Which of these places do you plan on hitting up first? Wherever you do end up going, remember that to keep safe and be smart at all times. Avoid crowds if possible, and choose your destination wisely.

Oh, and keep those masks on and hands clean. The last thing you’d want to happen is to go on a short vacation trip and lose your sense of taste.