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Boracay Island is only 10 km² and is located 300 km south of Manila and just north of Panay Island, Visayas.
For GRANDPAckers, Boracay is expensive but (unlike El Nido, Palawan) Boracay DOES live up to its ‘hype’; this really is paradise on earth. At a price.
Boracay has almost perfect coconut-tree-lined, white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters. Boracay is one of the top beach destinations in the world. But… read on.
I made my own way from Carabao To Boracay by pump boat.
The pump boat leaves from Lanas Beach, Carabao at 6:00am and takes only 30 minutes to get to Station 1, Boracay.
The cost to go the ‘in-the-know‘ route from Lanas Beach, Carabao to Station 1, Boracay is PHP55 per person.
I landed in front of Starbucks Cafe; it cost me another PHP60 for a Tribike to drive me about 1km to my Station 3 hotel. Welcome to Boracay!
I still had my Globe SIM card that I purchased at Manila Airport for PHP1,000 when I flew in from Hanoi to Puerto Princesa. For this, you get a 1 month ‘unlimited’ Data Plan.
I topped this up in Coron. Globe coverage is good on Boracay Island.
GRANDPAckers will need their own Mobile Data Plan on Boracay. Many of the cheaper hotels do not have wifi and those that do may only have a ‘wifi zone’ in one of the common areas. The free wifi provided at your cheap hotel can be very ‘variable’. If you use the internet a lot (like myself) you are best to have a mobile plan of your own to fall back on.
You can walk to most places. I went Around The Island By Foot; I did it over 3 days and covered 25-30 kilometres.
I don’t suggest this for everyone but, if you just want to go to a specific place, a leisurely walk is a good option… it is usually not that far and it keeps you fit! 🙂
The normal ‘rule of thumb‘ for a Tribike in The Philippines is that the cost should be PHP10 per km PLUS PHP10 for each large suitcase / backpack. In Boracay, if you aren’t careful, they will DOUBLE OR TRIPLE IT.
They often overcharge people. Here are the correct rates:
- Between Station 1 & 2: PHP10 (shared Tribike)
- Between Station 2 & 3: PHP10 (shared Tribike)
- Puka Shell Beach: PHP25 per person (shared Tribike)
- From the Jetty to Station 1, 2 or 3 it is PHP20 (shared Tribike)
The Tribike driver will try and charge foreigners for the whole Tribike as if he were a taxi. The Whole Tribike Rate is usually 6x the Shared Rate. Don’t pay too much. Take the price that the Tribike asks for, divide by 6, offer him that price, and tell him that you want to ‘share’.
The ‘standard’ rental is PHP2000 for an 8 hour day. That is out of GRANDPAcker range. It is cheaper to catch Tribikes.
You can Visa Extensions whilst in Boracay.
The process can be done in 1 day if it is your first Visa Extension, but allow 1 week if it is your 2nd (you will need to wait for an I-Card to come from Manila).
WHERE TO STAY:
GRANDPACKers will mostly likely end up in Station 3 – the cheapest part of White Beach.
If you read my post on Where To Stay, you will see that I went to quite a few hotels / homestays in the area south west of the Trafalgar (east on the, above, map).
I focused on this area of Station 3 because this is also the cheapest area for restaurants and bars.
BLUE PIRATES BUDGET RESORT (aka the ‘KB’):
After looking around this area for 6 hours, I decided upon the Blue Pirates Budget Resort (read my post on Where To Stay for all of the analysis and details).
The Blue Pirates is tucked around the back of the Blue Dawn Hotel and is about a 50 metre walk to Station 3, White Beach.
Go there directly. Do NOT use a ‘local helper’. Henry, the owner, has to pay the ‘helper’ PHP3,000 commission for a 1 month stay.
If you go to the Blue Pirates DIRECT and talk to Henry, the monthly room rates drop from PHP25,000 / PHP22,000 / PHP18,000 to PHP22,000 / PHP19,000 / PHP15,000 respectively.
I stayed in my own Duplex with outside Kitchenette for on PHP500 / night (US$11.25).
The shower isn’t the best: the water pressure comes and goes which triggers the heater on and off between boiling hot and cold. But who cares. With only 6 chalets it has its own community which is very pleasant.
You will struggle to find Breakfast on the beachfront for less than PHP100 (excluding coffee), Lunch for less than PHP150, and Dinner for less than PHP200.
You will find the normal ‘tin-pot buffets’ scattered around the island. Fewer in Station 1 but more as you head for Station 3. Get away from the beachfront and you will find them everywhere.
You will find one on the Station 3 beachfront about 100m south of the Bei Kurt & Magz Bar. They are over-priced with a grilled fish and small rice for PHP75.
Near where I was staying (the KB) you can get a Fried Fish and Rice with a free small bottle of water for PHP35.
If you head 30 metres east on Angol Road from the Central Highway you will find a small market. There are a couple of good Tin-Pots there. You can also stock up on local fruits & vegetables at the market stalls (which are cheaper than the ones near the beach). Here you can, also, get a Fried Fish with Rice for PHP35; sometimes, they have fresh mango juice for PHP10 / glass.
I could carry on and give you lots more examples, but I won’t. As a ‘rule of thumb‘ the good Tin-Pots charge PHP30-40 for a small serving. Sometimes you get your first scoop of rice included in the price but, more usually, you pay PHP10 for a scoop of rice. Budget PHP40-50 for a simple Lunch.
SHANTAL’s RESTO & BAR:
IMHO, this is the best value place to eat on the Station 3 beachfront. Hands down.
The portions are large and full of ‘goodies’.
It isn’t a proper restaurant. There is a kiosk on the path where you order your food.
A simple breakfast of pancakes will cost PHP100. Pay PHP140 for something nicer.
A vegetarian Lunch / Dinner (like a vegetable curry) will cost PHP150.
A simple Lunch / Dinner (like a Spaghetti Carbonara or a Chicken Alobo / Curry / Soup) will cost PHP180. Chicken dishes are cheaper than other meat dishes.
There are plenty of other places to choose from at higher prices. Near the Sand Bar, you will find an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Filipino Buffet Dinner for only PHP295.
Next to the Swiss Inn is the Sulu Plaza Thai Restaurant; something like a Tom Kha Gai costs PHP260; not great value but when you need Thai… you need Thai!
I tried their ‘speciality’ one night: Pork Spare Ribs with Fries PHP290 (but there was a ‘hidden’ service charge of 10% which brought it up to PHP319). The meat literally fell off the bone. Yummy.
Simply put… it will cost you PHP300 to ‘treat yourself’ to a nice Dinner. Try the ‘Sizzling Spicy Bipos’ speciality dish at the Rose Pike for PHP300. Get there before 8pm and you can wash it down with 2-for-1 cocktails at PHP120.
Expect to pay PHP50-PHP60 for a San Miguel Pilsner.
For better prices, target the Happy Hours where you can get a San Miguel for as low as PHP35 or a ‘Buy 1 Take 1’. Cocktails (like a Tequila Sunrise) can be had for as little as PHP60 in Happy Hour. Most Happy Hours end at 8:00pm.
Be careful with the Happy Hours though. Some places still charge as much as PHP60 for a San Miguel – even though it is their ‘Happy Hour’. Always ask first.
Bars and their prices come and go year by year so, below, is only an indication of what you should be able to find…
Bei Kurt & Magz: Is found in Station 3. They have an Happy Hour between 2:00pm and 8:00pm. A San Miguel is PHP35. It is one of the best priced Happy Hours in Station 3 (if not White Beach). The food is too expensive for GRANDPAckers.
Shantal’s: Is next door to Bei Kurt & Margz. They also have an Happy Hour until 8:00pm. A San Miguel is PHP35. It is PHP50 after 8:00pm. Coupled with their excellent priced food, this is a definite target place for GRANDPAckers to have their evening meal.
Swiss Inn: Have a Happy Hour until 7:00pm. A San Miguel is PHP40. But it is COLD. It is worth paying that little bit more for.
Rose Pike: Is one of my favourites for sunset.
They have a good selection of Cocktails to choose from at 2-for-1: PHP120 for the two. That is only US$1 per Cocktail! A great place to sit and watch the sunset. I liked their Coconut Killer… it was a real killer!
Some nights, between 6pm and 8pm, they have live music. Cheap Cocktails, Beachfront, Live Music, Sunset… what more could anyone want before going out for Dinner!
White Beach is riddled with bars playing live music; some also have fire dancers.
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Boracay (IMHO).
But there is, obviously, some theft going on. You can tell… rooms have bars on their windows and some have in-room safes. There are notices on walls telling you that ‘management accepts no responsibility’… some hotels and apartments have security guards…
Be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth nor leave things unattended.
Boracay gets power outages. Not every day but now and again. When I was there, we had one for 20 hours. Bring a torch.
White Beach is the longest beach on the island and is located on the west coast. The beach is 5-6kms long and stretches from Station 1 down to Station 3.
What most internet sites fail to tell you is that the water is full of green algae. This may be ‘seasonal’.
The swimming improves but it is, still, not that good.
The waters are the deepest here and, therefore, the best for swimming.
However, the swimming is still only ‘average’ at best.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
I am in Boracay for 5 weeks. I will tell you more in future posts.
Meanwhile, here are some quick suggestions…
If you are like me, you will like walking the beach at sunset. I usually don my swimming shorts, plug by earbuds in, and walk to the end of the beach and back (listening to my favourite music whilst watching the sun go down).
It is a great way to get some exercise and a tan.
From Station 3 to the end of the beach at Station 1 (and back) is about 6kms and takes just over 1 hour.
If you time it right, you can get back just as the sun sits above the horizon. Settle in for a couple of Happy Hour beers or cocktails as you watch the sun disappear and watch the stars come out. Then, home for an SSSS (Shit, Shower, Shave, and Shampoo) before heading out for Dinner.
OTHER / SHOPPING:
If you shop in Boracay, you will be paying a premium.
All prices are inflated by 150-200%. That’s everything from fruit to shampoo to cigarettes to clothes.
Don’t shop here unless you need to.
GO FOR A WALK:
Why not go Around The Island By Foot, the island is small enough if you are a keen walker… and, it makes a change from doing nothing on a beach.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
- Station 1: There are Metrobank ATMs at Budget Mart. Walk 50 metres up the main road heading north, and you will find a BPI ATM
- Station 2: Is where you will find the most ATMs – they are all on the main road around PriceLite. You will find PNB, BDO, AUB, and Metrobank ATMs all within 20 metres of each other
- Station 3: There are Metrobank ATMs at Budget Mart. You will also find a PNB ATM on the beach
- The Metrobank ATMs at the Budget Marts are very popular and often run out of money
- They all have a PHP10,000 Transaction Limit which, IMHO, is crazy for somewhere like Boracay
- They all charge a PHP200 fee for use of ‘foreign’ ATM cards (which is in addition to any fee charged by your home bank)
Laundry: The normal rate on the street is PHP45 / Kg. Hotels charge more.
Local Shops / Street Stalls: 1Kg Mangoes PHP100. 1Kg over-ripe Mangoes PHP70. 1Kg Bananas PHP60. 1Kg Honeydew Melon PHP60. Get away from White Beach and fruit & vegetable prices drop by 30%. Sweet Bread Rolls PHP5.
Supermarkets: 6.6L Water PHP90. 500ml Shower Gel PHP200-250. 500ml mouthwash PHP250-300.
Other: 2 Gallon container of water PHP70.
I will be going from Boracay To Roxas City. Roxas is the ‘seafood capital’ of the Western Visayas. I’ll do a bit of ‘city life’ for a few days and try some of their seafood.
I had no intention of staying in Boracay; I only came to renew my Visa.
Fate determined otherwise. I stayed on Boracay Island for a total of 5 weeks.
If you like the ‘Beach Life’ and a relaxing holiday with a ‘set routine’, you will love Boracay.
But, to keep your costs under control, read my post on How To LIVE In Boracay on a GRANDPAcking Budget first.
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