I want to leave Banaue (anytime after say noon) and get to Vigan as quickly as possible without spending more than say 800 php. A few locals I've consulted say the best way is to go back south to Baguio then go north again to Vigan. This seems to me an unfortunately and unnecessarily long detour. Is there any faster way of getting to Vigan?
Yes. The goal is to keep heading west towards the PINK circle (map below), which is a town called Bitalag (north of a larger town called Tagudin).
At Bitalag, you'll be on the national highway (the north-south road along the cost), so now just now just head north to Vigan.
Once you're at Bitalag and on the national highway, it's easy to flag down frequent, passing buses on their way to Vigan (and beyond). The slightly tricky part is getting to Bitalag.
Here is what I did on Dec 20, 2015, Sunday before Xmas. So my guess is that it shouldn't be hard any other time of the year either.
- Take a van to Bontoc (P150).
- Van to Bauko (P70)
- Van to Cervantes (P70).
- Van to Bitalag (P150). Bitalag is along the coast, so now you can just head northwards. (This journey goes through Bessang Pass National Park which is very scenic so that's a bonus. Plus the road seems newly paved.)
- And now finally, at Bitalag, just stand by the National Highway (which is really just a road with one narrow lane each way) and flag down any bus that says Vigan (or even Laoag) - these come frequently. But keep your eyes out on them as they zoom by quick (indeed I missed one because I wasn't paying attention). Fare to Vigan = P149.
Total cost P589. YMMV for steps #1-#4, depending on whatever vans there happen to be as you get to each town. Just remember the goal is to keep heading west. Look at Google maps: after Bontoc, the towns are Bauko, then Tadian, Cervantes, Suyo, then Bitalag.
Duration? Optimistically: Perhaps 7 hours or less, IF you're very lucky and the vans always move the instant you get on board.
Realistically: 10 hours or so, as you'll probably spend a lot of time waiting for the vans to fill. You can bargain with the van driver to get going earlier for a fee, as two of us foreigners did for the Cervantes-Bitalag route - we paid an extra P250 each to induce the driver to get going (instead of waiting for the van to fill). I reckon that saved us perhaps an hour or two of further waiting.
But even at 10 hours, this will save you a lot of time, as compared to the usual recommendation that you go back to Baguio (usually an overnight bus) then go up again to Vigan (hence reaching only the following afternoon).