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How to save money on a breathtaking trip to Taal Volcano

My knees are practically touching my chin, my hip bone wedged into the side of metal bars and my spine jarring with every movement. No this isn’t some bizarre torture, I’m voluntarily ensconced in a tricycle on the way to Taal Volcano. If you are now thinking three wheelers with pink handle bars and glittery decorations, think again. In the Philippines, a tricycle is a motorbike and sidecar.

Taking a tricycle to Taal Volcano
Taking a tricycle to Taal Volcano

Bearing in mind the average height of a Filipino, my husband and I are both uncomfortably stuffed into the tiny seat part praying the journey to the crater will soon be over, part wanting it never to end so stunning are the views we glimpse through the dense jungle foliage lining the crater sides.

The Taal Volcano

Eventually, we chug into a small town lining the lakefront and negotiate a fare for the boat crossing to the crater within the crater. This volcano not only has the smallest crater in the world but is also unique for its small island in the middle which houses a tiny caldera of emerald tinged water emitting sulphurous fumes.

Catching a boat to the crater at Taal Volcano
Catching a boat to the crater at Taal Volcano

Note: we paid 2,000 for this fare but the starting price was 3,500 and frankly I think you would get a better deal if you asked the tricycle driver to deposit you on the quayside. There you will find tonnes of boats to choose from and you can play the competition off against one another.

Hiking to the crater

The crossing takes around ten minutes and upon arrival you pay a small entrance fee of 50 pesos. Should you wish to avoid the hike, you can pay an additional 500 for a horse ride to the top. We opted to hike so we could take our time and estimated it was a few kilometres. Suggestions that this is an arduous 4.5km trek are designed to encourage you onto horseback . It took us around 40 minutes and I am far from my fittest so there is no way this was anything like that distance.

It’s a beautiful hike with views of verdant palm forests plunging down towards the lake. Glistening deep blue waters shimmer in the sunlight and wisps of smoke hover above the hillside, a constant reminder that you are in fact on a live volcano. I half expect to emerge to a blood red cauldron of a bubbling caldera rather than the emerald green mini lake which greets us.

Beautiful views on the trek to Taal Volcano
Beautiful views on the trek to Taal Volcano

Undoubtedly it is spectacular with serene waters lapping the banks giving little hint of the fury lying below. A tiny rocky outcrop sits proudly in the middle like a sentinel guarding its treasure. We stand in silence admiring the view until we realise it’s time to descend before dusk arrives.

The Taal Volcano crater
The Taal Volcano crater

Taal Lake from Manila

A trip to Taal Lake is a must for anyone heading to Manila but be warned, it needs deep pockets or a bucketload of patience. Neither of these comments apply to me! My site isn’t called Travel The Globe 4 less for nothing and if I can find a way to experience something by taking a DIY approach I will. I pride myself on finding a bargain, negotiating hard and spending as little as possible to build my memory bank of travel treasures.

Public transport distaste

If I’d believed our hotel concierge I would now be $496 lighter. He was not at all keen that we take public transport, attempting to deter us with stories of multiple changes. My eyes lit up at the thought of a fun challenge (remember my trip to Matka Canyon) and the chance to experience every conceivable transport option in the Philippines.

Not to be deterred I asked the concierge at our next destination. He handed me a scrap of paper with a long list of instructions which had me wondering if I was a glutton for punishment liable to get lost in the jungle. I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of heading out on a mini adventure however and soon pushed such thoughts to the back of my mind.

Taal Volcano gazing
Taal Volcano gazing

How to DIY a trip to Taal

If you too want to save money and head to Taal independently, rise early, pack your patience and make sure you have this post saved to your (link to Saul app – look at examples).

Step one – take a van to Das Marinas

Pick up a van from South Station in Alabang or the nearest station to your digs. You may have to ask around to find the right van but everyone is helpful enough.My written piece of paper came in handy when it came to this first part of the journey.

Jump onboard and expect to wait. The van will only leave when it is full and I mean FULL. There will be at least three more people than there are seats and you may feel rather like a sardine once they finally decide to take your money and hit the road.

The van whizzes down the highway on a quest to relive fast and furious. Swerving erratically around offending vehicles, it eventually slows into a parking lot by the Das Marinas shopping centre, a rather less grand affair than the Greenbelt  where the occupants disgorge in haste to stretch their cramped legs.

Cost: 100 peso for two

Step two – take the bus to Tagaytay

Head up to the main road and turn right. You should see a bridge crossing and the buses pull in underneath. Destinations are clearly signposted and once onboard take a seat and a conductor will come and take your money.

Cost: 64 peso for two.

Step three – tricycle from Tagaytay

As you jump off the bus at the Rotonda in Tagaytay (just below the big roundabout) you will be on the receiving end of a barrage of jostling locals wanting to take you to the lake. The only way to get there currently is by tricycle as jeepneys have been prevented from descending due to falling rocks. Reassuring I know to think that the tin can of a tricycle might be your only defence against an onslaught of tumbling rocks.

Cost: 100 pesos

Taal boat docks
Taal boat docks

Note: on the return journey they may try to charge you considerably more but simply be firm. We were told three hundred initially but paid two to compensate the driver for the strenuous drive up the mountain!

Total costs

Van 100
Bus 64
Descent by tricycle 100
Boat 2,000
Entrance fee 1,00
Ascent by tricycle 2,00
Return bus 64
Return van 1,00
Total 2,728

This converts into less than fifty pounds based on conversion rates of around 56 peso to the GBP, saving hundreds of pounds. Admittedly it takes more effort but surely that is part of the fun?

What do you think?

Would you prefer to pay for an organised tour and avoid the hassle or save money and take the adventurous route? I would love to know your thoughts.

Taal volcano collage
Taal volcano collage

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

74 comments

  1. Your info was great, although I took a different route there for the first step as I was in Makati and walked up Buendea Ave to the service road and caught a bus there. After standing there watching tons of buses go by that didn’t seem to have any relevance to the destination, I Just jumped on a bus that had Baclaran and ESDN and away I went. Told the conductor I was going to Tagatay and where to get off.. Which he did and arrived at an underpass somewhere – asked a security guy how to catch the next bus and through showing him the map and lots of gesturing he flagged down the right bus for me (didn’t have very good England but was very helpful lol). The reverse trip was pretty much as you explained for the first step but getting the correct bus and correct information was quite a challenge. Got within 3km of the hotel on the map and just jumped off and walked the rest. A long 12hr day haha. Cost was $100p more than you paid but hey what’s $2 in the scheme of it all. As you said, be polite and ignore all the hawkers and hassles – definitely don’t take the horse (shocking conditions) it’s a 30-40min walk at an easy pace.
    Was it worth it?… Hmm the experience yes but tbh it’s an average site but recommended those people who like a challenge and experience when travelling (I class myself as a traveller not a tourist 🙃) . Thanks again for the information 👍🏻

    • Sounds like you had an adventure! I think sometimes it is good to get out of our comfort zone and do it the old fashioned way (I.e wing it the way I did in the 90s pre Google and internet and mobile phones).

      I wouldn’t say it is average though! 😢 I believe it’s the only place in the word where you can see a volcanic crater within a bigger volcanic crater. That feels pretty special to me 🤣🤣

      • Haha yes the old days of maps were definitely more interesting but hey even at 60yrs I still embrace technology… Always been a nerd lol. Yeah I guess the Volcano is one of a kind (fair comment) and maybe after travelling 1/2 the world and age is making me a bit cynical. I put travelling in Mongolia through the Altia mountains still high on my list of challenging/interesting/culturally demanding trips so far. It’s great fun just seeing different countries and cultures and sharing experiences (didn’t mean to hijack your thread) and again thanks for the informative article – it was your article that made me decide to invest a day of travel to something different. 👍🏻 Cheers

        • Hey don’t worry about hijacking the thread. If I didn’t want to encourage debate and sharing I wouldn’t have the comment facility on here. Ah I’m so pleased that you decided to go as a result of reading this.

          Not been to Mongolia yet but it’s on the list. That said my list is only getting longer which I can’t quite understand as I’m ticking off plenty of places!! Yep back in the 90s I used to turn up at the station with money (no cards) and hop on a train to a different country, find somewhere to stay and never worry about getting lost, running out of money, calling home or even letting anyone know where I was. I’m heading to Nepal in a few weeks to trek to EBC and am already worrying about how I will cope without access to technology and social media 🤣🤣 How things have changed!

          If you haven’t already been to Chernobyl I’d recommend that trip too for something a bit unusual.

          https://traveltheglobe4less.boardingarea.com/visit-chernobyl-exclusion-zone/

          • Awesome – enjoy Nepal! Interesting you mention Chernobyl, this is planned for next year haha… As well as Moldova . Enjoy the travels great to chat

          • I’m currently prioritising Belarus above Moldova but both on the list. It is Chisinau that is the capital of Moldova and holds the record of being one of the ugliest (If not the ugliest) city in the world. I found Kiev surprisingly pretty and great fun!

          • Haha that’s what’s got me interested in Maldova – there seems to be some weird sh*t there.. Looking forward to it. Damn now you mentioned Belarus…. Hmmm mm so much to see sigh

          • Ha ha I hear you. I find it so hard sometime to decide where to go as there are so many fascinating places. I also get buyers remorse more as I book somewhere and then see something else that I think might be better. At least when I retire/semi-retire I might be able to spend more time travelling to some of these destinations. Another cool place if you have yet to go is Macedonia and Albania (I have some content on the blog). A very interesting part of the world which has seen some action in recent times

      • Sorry, had to butt in but looks like you haven’t heard of Reunion, France. The volcano is still active and can be hiked.

  2. Hi, great write up thanks and thanks for all the information 🙂 . I have been looking at tours and they indeed seem expensive and some very dodgy.
    :
    Does the boat wait for you at the other side to return from the island, and do you pay full in advance?
    (In other words how trustworthy are teh operators)
    I am traveling alone

    Thanks in advance
    Ken

    • Mm good question. Honestly I can’t remember but if I’d had to pay two separate fares I would have pointed that out. I think our boat guy just waited for us. There is so much competition that they need to look after people. We definitely didn’t have any issues with anyone trying to scam us so I think if you negotiate upfront and are clear on that you will be fine. I guess you could always say you will pay half on the way out and the other half on the way back and see if they agree. Even with the bicycle trips out of the crater, we found that negotiation was necessary but they didn’t start with silly prices.

  3. Hi,

    First of all, thank you for your precious information. However, I am wondering about the capacity of the boat. How many people at most it can accommodate? and also what time did your arrived back in Manila? Thanks

    • Hi there, it’s almost three years now since our trip so I’m answering as accurately as I can recall. The boats are similar to the long tails in Thailand so you hire your own rather than turning up at a dock and getting on a boat with lots of other passengers. I’d say you might fit 6-8 comfortably but there’s tons of boats so if you have a bigger group you would simply hire more. You will need to get your negotiating head on to get the best deal.

      Arrival back to Manila – I can’t recall but I’m guessing it must have been between 9-10. We went into Tagaytay after our trip and hung out on the deck of a lovey bar overlooking the crater so didn’t leave immediately

  4. Important information for folk, thanks for sharing.

  5. OMG. I’m a Filipino now living in New York. Congratulations on figuring out the transport system in the Philippines. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do what you did. lol.

  6. I will always be amazed how tourists love our country and people. I visited Taal Volcano for the first time and it was really a mind-blowing trek experience.

    • Do you remember how long the journey via van and the bus was? Basically what time is best to begin this journey? ☺️

      • Definitely as early as you can. Because of the chopping and changing I think it took about two hours. That of course was part of the fun but the earlier you go the more time you have to enjoy both the volcano and time in the local village afterwards.

  7. Sebastian Jost

    Great writing! Also, do you happen to know if its possible to take my dog there?

  8. Dear Anne,
    Thank you so much for a very useful DIY trip to Taal. I am just wondering when was your trip? And has anyone been there recently in 2018? Is everything still the same? Please kindly update for any changes.
    Cheers!

  9. Hello Anne! Were you guys required to be with a tourguide? If so, how much did you have to pay for the guide? Thank you!

    • Hi Paolo, no need to be with a tour guide. Obviously you have to pay to get across the lake but the path to the inner crater is clearly marked. You can take a donkey but I wouldn’t. They looked seriously overworked and it’s a nice hike. Hope you make it there. It’s beautiful

  10. I’ll be attending a workshop in Tagaytay City on the fourth week of January, 2018 and am planning to go there a day before to have a DIY trip to Taal Volcano. Thank you very much for the travel tips as it could really help me achieve my plan.

  11. after the hike do we need to pay another 2,000 PHP the boat to drive us back to tricycke back to tagaytay?

    • at the same time, we’re going with 50 pax of us, we did rent a bus, the question is, can the bus drive us to TALISAY Village without tricycle? then back to Tagaytay again?

      • Having not done this, I wouldn’t know. I think a large bus that fits all 50 passengers would struggle with the winding road down to the crater. However you could look at hiring a few jeep nets I suspect and asking them to take you to the crater. This would be preferable to trying to find tricycles to take all 50 of you and you should be able to negotiate a better deal. Good luck. That sounds like a fun journey and it is beautiful

    • Hi Adam, I’m pretty sure the boat price was for the return journey and your boat simply waits for you. As for the tricycle they will wait if you ask them but we just flagged one and yes you need to pay that again (unless you negotiate a return fare at the outset which is feasible)

      • Sounds great, but there’s a few changes. We’re going to the island with total of 50 pax, we actually plan to rent a bus , but somehing cames up to my mind, did the bus able to drive us to Talisay where we can hire for the boat service? So we can skip the tricycle part.

        • I think you would struggle with a bus. Are you taking a conference or work group? You might be best getting in touch with a local agent and asking them to do something as with 50 people it would be pretty stressful trying to organise this on the day if you didn’t have everything pre-booked. It should not be missed though. Hope it goes well

          • You guessed right, we’re going with a workgroup trying to manage the schedule our own. We did contacted the local bus service provider seems like the response is kinda slow. Still waiting for the reply, then I’ll keep you update:)

          • I’m not surprised. I found it almost impossible to find travel information beforehand. I presume you have already arranged hotels so I would maybe contact the hotel and ask them what they can organise. All the hotels organise tours but usually they want a ridiculous sum because they have to do individual tours for everyone. Given you are such a large group though, your cost per head should be considerably less. I think this would make life easier for you. Having been on conferences with large groups, I could imagine it would be a logistical nightmare trying to herd 50 people around as well as trying it organise boats. You could maybe try a few different concierge too as I am sure they would clamour for that business, even if you are not staying at their hotel.

            Where are you staying and how long are you there for? Enjoy!

          • Your idea is atleast a glimmer of hope. I’ll look forward your suggestion as organizing a trip for a work group kinda stressed me out. Trying to figure it out what could’ve goes wrong, and get ready to avoid mistake that can be avoid.

          • OMG I can totally sympathise. I am organising a black tie ball which I thought would be fun, but actually it is super stressful.

  12. You’re so wonderful Anne! Thank you for sharing your experience. Wow! I will definitely be visiting Taal Volcano next week. A lot of people assume that it’s an expensive trip because of how much they charge when you do the tour. Salamat! (thank you)

  13. I will surely take the adventurous route as you did. The memories you build while exploring the stuff yourself are the best ones. 4.5 km sounds ok but was it too steep. I would love to explore taal volcano once around.The views are really amazing.

  14. Megan Jerrard

    I missed the Taal Volcano trip on my trip to Mainla last year and would love to get back – interesting to hear that the hike isn’t that bad – must be a marketing ploy to get you to pay for the horseback haha! So thankyou for that inside tip! I would definitely take the adventurous route – I’m up for a challenge and navigating the public transport system in a new country is always rewarding when you save so much – appreciate the tips!

  15. Quite apart from the money saved, what’s the point of taking a tour and missing out on all that local colour and a memorable experience? Although my tricycle driver might encourage me to take the tour – I wonder how heavy you have to be for the tricycle to grind to a halt??!! Although you’re inside the crater, the Taal volcano looks VERY peaceful – but when I’ve visited long-extinct volcanoes downunder, I’ve still been aware that they COULD explode!! But that’d just add to the thrill of travel, right?!

  16. Great advice, not sure if we would do the DIY route or the organised tour. We are not into hassle but on the other hand, appreciate value for money and don’t like being ripped off.
    Must admit, it’s a beautiful view when you get there.

  17. Definitely the adventurous route for me! Taal lake and volcano certainly look worth the effort. I like the detailed description to get there if you decide not to take an organised tour.

  18. Great narration! Haven’t even heard of this place and it looks so gorgeous with its scenic views! 🙂 that ride really did not look quite comfortable ::D hehe thank you for the tips!
    The picture with the flower overlooking the mountain Is so amazing!

  19. I’ve been to Tagaytay where site seeing in Taal Volcano is very popular. I haven’t been in the crater of Taal Volcano. It’s awesome to see how it looks like. I feel like I need to go there asap 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

  20. Such an awesome post! Unbelievable how much you safed by not choosing the easy way 😀 I’d LOVE to ride in this tricycle even if it doesn’t look really comfy. The vulcano Looks so beautiful <3

  21. I love trekking volcanoes. Did two of them in Indonesia recently Mt Agung and Mt Batur. Is this one very high.

  22. It doesn’t really seem comfortable but riding on a tricicle must be definitely a bizarre experience! Is negotiating the only way to find a good price, even if the tricicle leaves you on the quayside? Me and hubby sometimes feel a bit uneasy with that!

    • I often find if you make to walk away, then the price suddenly lowers but even if they weren’t willing to reduce their price, the tricycles are plentiful and so someone else likely will.

  23. I’ve always wanted to hike to a crater! This looks epic… what an adventure. Thanks for the money saving tips! Always appreciated 🙂

  24. Saving money is what I’m allll about, so definitely appreciate this post! What a beautiful place in the world to hike. Those views are absolutely stunning, I can’t even imagine how you felt in person! Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  25. Megan Jerrard

    Nice work on proving the hotel receptionist wrong :D! I’m all for taking the adventurous route, and this gives you more of an insight and opportunity to immerse yourself in local life since it’s how they get around. I was in Manila recently and disappointed that I didn’t make it to Taal Volcano. Though just means I’ll have to make another trip! Good to know that you really don’t need to pay for a horse ride!

  26. I agree! It is part of the fun. It also gives you the chance to see more of the countryside and local life. Way more interesting IMO. The views look fantastic, although I’m not sure I could make this trek. Last time I visited Volcano in the Caribbean, I nearly threw up and passed out from the sulfur. It looks pretty enough to make the attempt, though, for sure! Just need to bring a bag full of mints and hard candy!

  27. what a beautiful hike. Glad you are honest about how easy/hard it was to get there. I have been elsewhere and they often over exaggerate how difficult a hike is in order to push the tuk tuk or horse or other means when hiking is relatively easy and actually provides more of beautiful way to explore.
    Not going to lie. I was kind of expecting a bit more volcano than lake too but still beautiful nonetheless

  28. This place is breathtaking and I had no idea it existed. I would love to visit and all your tips will come useful. I think I will opt for a hike too, 40 minutes aren’t bad and you can take photos along the way.

  29. Such an unusual volcano especially with the island in the middle and the green colours – I’ve visited volcanos in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and am soon to hike Mt Vesuvius, so I am a little obsessed with them! I love how you’ve laid out the cost options – really helpful in planning a trip.

  30. Great suggestions and a gorgeous itinerary. So funny to see tricycles for rent, in the US that has a much different meaning. 😉 Definitely learning from the locals is the best way to go.

    • I’m showing my ignorance now. What does tricycles mean in the US?

      • been there 2013 we paid for the boat i think 2,000 then the horse 1k each in the long run on our way back to tagaytay we realize they just overprice it and the tricylce.
        it means the cab or bigbike 🙂

  31. Great writing – your words really made us feel like we were experiencing the volcano right alongside you 🙂 Sounds like an amazing experience – thanks for sharing your tips about making it more affordable.

    • Thanks for the kind words. It really was a fabulous place, other than my husband losing his phone and having us driving up and down the crater bowl trying to find it! Joys of travel

  32. I always prefer to take the ‘locals’ way to get to somewhere rather than the paid trip! There are some great tips here, especially getting the route written down for you. Nice hacks 🙂

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