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I knew that Boracay was popular, and one of the most expensive places in The Philippines, so I did not want to take a chance…
This time, I definitely needed to book something online in advance.
PHP2400 / day is my total GRANDPAcking Daily Budget! As a rule, I try and keep accommodation costs to no more than 50% of my Daily Budget; in The Philippines, my target price is, therefore, BELOW PHP1200 / night.
WHAT’S ON THE INTERNET / HOTEL SEARCH ENGINES:
Have a look for yourself. You will find that most of the cheap options are Dorms and / or in Backpacker Hostels:
Now and again, you will be able to get 50-70% discounts on (what look like) GRANDPAcking Standard rooms… but, make sure that you research the hotel and read the reviews.
Also note that, on AGODA.COM you usually have to pay a 12% Hotel Tax and 10% Service Charge IN ADDITION TO their published rate (i.e. an additional 22%).
I am sure that it won’t take you long to realise that you have to pay PHP1300+ to get anywhere near GRANDPAcking Standard. If you want the extras (like Cable TV and in-room Wifi), start looking at PHP1500+.
THE TRAFALGAR COTTAGES:
I pre-booked the best value for money place that I could find: the Trafalgar Cottages Hostel. Accommodation in Boracay is so expensive that I didn’t do my ‘normal’ thing (of booking just 1 night so that I could look around and find somewhere else for my remaining nights). I booked all 6 nights at the Trafalgar in advance.
I had used my normal search engines: AGODA.COM and BOOKING.COM but struggled to find what I was looking for. I also used ASIATRAVEL.COM – which has become one of my favourites in The Philippines; and, struggled again.
In the end, I went to HOSTELZ.COM.
HOSTELZ searched all of the Hostel sites.
It was HOSTELZ.COM that found the Trafalgar listed on HOSTELWORLD. It was not listed in the other hotel search engines.
Once found, the grounds are pleasant and quiet.
I got a BELOW GRANDPAcking Standard Fan Double with Shared Cold Water Bathroom (no breakfast) at PHP700 / night.
The Trafalgar was listed as the No1 Hostel in The Philippines by HOSTELWORLD in 2013.
The room is exactly what I expected: simple.
The room is small but has a wardrobe to hang your clothes.
Some ‘budget’ rooms in other ‘cheap’ places (for less than PHP1000 / night) don’t even have that… you have to hang your clothes on the curtain rail!
There is mosquito mesh on the windows which allows you to leave your shutters open to let in the sea breeze.
There is a second, separate toilet.
These facilities are shared by just 4 double rooms.
WHERE TO STAY ON BORACAY:
I went Around The Island By Foot for 3 days.
I chose to stay in Station 3, White Beach, so my detailed analysis focuses there.
Short-term stayers should look at Ligutan Beach and Bulabog Beach.
- Apartments in the centre of the island; you can get ‘western quality’ apartments for as little as PHP20,000 / month
- The south east coast in and around the Monaco Suites de Boracay
- Mount Luho Road just north of Bulabog Beach
WHERE TO STAY ON WHITE BEACH:
GRANDPAckers (unless they are exceptionally lucky) will not be able to afford to stay on the White Beach waterfront in High Season. You can dream about it if you like – but, it is not going to happen. Sorry.
The GRANDPAcking places are, most likely, not on the Internet. The cheapest places are often run by local families who don’t have a website; so you have to find them.
AVOID PEAK TIMES (IF POSSIBLE):
Avoid Christmas, New Year and the Holy Week (Easter). Prices can be nearly DOUBLE and the beach becomes very crowded.
If possible, avoid the high season. High season is from November to June.
GO IN ‘SHOULDER’ SEASON (IF POSSIBLE):
Low season starts in early June and ends October 31. In low season, obviously, there are less people. You’ll have the beach to yourself, and rooms are a lot cheaper (sometimes HALF PRICE).
Shoulder Season is, also, when many hotels offer a ‘monthly rate’; in High Season, they only offer a ‘nightly rate’. At half price or a discounted monthly rate, GRANDPAckers may be able to get somewhere on the beachfront.
Don’t fear the weather just because it’s the rainy / monsoon season. The weather is unpredictable anyway.
For the best mix of prices and weather, target ‘shoulder season’: June / July or September / October.
STAY LONGER & HAGGLE:
As a ‘rule of thumb‘, you should be able to stay for 1 month for the same price as 2 weeks at the published nightly rate: i.e. half price. But you need to ‘haggle’. Haggling is always best done with a smile on your face.
A good strategy is to have the cash with you. Offer to pay in advance and, then, put the cash on the table in front of them. If they ask for PHP35,000 offer them PHP25,000 in cash. Confronted with PHP25000 up-front in cash (PHP833 / night for a month’s rental) the owner is very tempted to say ‘yes’. BUT, before you do this, thoroughly check out the room and agree everything that is included.
Along the beach there are plenty of ‘helpful’ guides who are happy to help you find a place that suits your budget. They won’t charge you anything – they get a commission from the hotel. Just tell them your budget and they will run for you. However, I found that all that they did was take you to places that you could find yourself… and, then, hang around putting a bit of ‘pressure’ on hoping that you will take a room so that they get their commission.
If you have good information (like I have, hopefully, provided in this post) and you are confident about your negotiating skills then, I suggest that you, find a place yourself.
Anyway, I doubted that my ‘rule of thumb‘ was going to work for me over ‘Holy Week’! I was in for a challenge…
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF SECTION 3:
I began my search in the Trafalgar, itself. They have rooms with private bathrooms – I thought that they may do a 1 month deal… Alas, they were fully booked. But, the manageress was very helpful and did some phoning around. She took we to a couple of adjacent resorts but they were also full.
She, then, took me to an ‘no name’ place on the main road. They showed me a Double Aircon room with hot water shower, cable TV and wardrobe; it also had a separate kitchen area with a fridge and sink. The room was ‘average’, the road was noisy and the grounds were ‘unkempt’. They wanted PHP25,000 / month. This was NOT what I was looking for. It did not meet GRANDPAcking Standard. I politely took their mobile number and headed towards the beach.
The area that I was interested in was south of the Trafalgar. This area has some nice cheap restaurants and bars. This was the area where I was hoping to be able to LIVE on a GRANDPAcking Budget. I only went to places that looked affordable…
LA ISLA BONITA RESORT: Had good access to the beach and rooms with aircon, cable TV, hot water shower, wardrobe, and balcony. The room was ‘acceptable’ but they did not do a monthly rate. The price was PHP1500 / night increasing to PHP2650 / night in Holy Week. This was out of my price range.
MORENO’S COTTAGES: I continued south and went down the first alleyway that I could find. I found a small ‘cluster’ of guesthouses there. Moremo’s showed me an ‘average’ cottage with aircon, cable TV, hot water shower and small kitchen. They wanted PHP35,000 / month (PHP1167 / night).
ESCUREL INN: They had an ‘average’ room at PHP1500 / night. No monthly rate.
Salido’s Place: Had a room with aircon, hot water shower, cable TV, wardrobe, balcony, and kitchenette. It was nice but the monthly rate was PHP55,000 (PHP1833 / night).
Casa Camilla: They advertise monthly rentals on a board on the beach. They had an ‘acceptable’ room only 20m from the beach with aircon, cable TV, hot water shower, fan, outdoor ‘meshed’ seating area, and kitchenette (with kettle, microwave, toaster, etc). They wanted PHP25,000 / month with electric costs additional (PHP2000-3000 / month depending on aircon usage). PHP900 / night total. The room was to be redecorated before I moved in – which made it very attractive (and, probably, my 2nd choice overall).
Treehouse: Had a below GRANDPAcking Standard duplex room with shared hot water bathroom (shared with 1 other room), fan, and no cable TV. The walls between duplex rooms were poor (one had a gap between the wall and the ceiling – which offered no privacy). The price was PHP1300 / night. No monthly rate.
Da Mario: Had an ‘average’ room with fan, hot water shower, cable TV, and balcony for PHP39,000 / month (PHP1300 / night).
Sundown: Had 3 room options. The cheapest was PHP1300 / night which was small and ‘very basic’ with a fan. For aircon, cable TV, hot water shower, and a balcony the rate was PHP2200 / night. There were no monthly rates.
De Locke’s: They are in the back streets and had an ‘acceptable’ aircon room with hot water shower, cable TV, and wardrobe. The rate was PHP1500 / night discounted to PHP36,000 / month (PHP1200 / night). It was in an ‘unkempt’ area but was, probably, my 3rd choice.
No Name: Next to De Locke’s was a ‘no name’ place that had a ‘below average’ small room with fan, hot water shower, cable TV and kitchenette. They wanted PHP15000 / month (PHP500 / night).
I headed away from the beach up Angol Road.
No Name: A lady at the Treehouse had a room at her own house that she could offer me for PHP16000 / month (PHP533 / night). The room was ‘average’ with a ceiling fan, cable TV, in-room wifi, hot water shower and a ‘basic’ outdoor kitchenette. However, the grounds were ‘unkempt’ and it was next to noisy roosters and a noisy playground.
LM Residence: Had a Triplex. The room was small and ‘average’ with twin beds, aircon, cable TV, hot water shower, and balcony. The price was PHP30,000 / month (PHP1000 / night).
Casa Marquez: Had a big ‘acceptable’ room with aircon, cable TV, wardrobe, hot water shower, fridge, and seating area. It was PHP1500 / night discounted to PHP35,000 / month (PHP1167 / night).
I decided to get back into the backstreets nearer the beach.
Orchid: Showed me an ‘acceptable’ cottage with balcony and hammock but, then, re-did his sums and changed his mind. He spent a lot of time on his calculator! In the end, they had an ‘average’ 1st floor fan room with hot water shower. No cable TV. They wanted PHP30,000 / month (PHP1000 / night).
Mylene’s Inn: I couldn’t see inside the room because it was occupied. They wanted PHP25,000 / month (PHP833 / night).
Paper House: Had a small but new and nice room with cable TV, hot water shower, kettle, fridge, and in-door seating area. I would have to stay 1 week in a ‘Family Room’ and then move to a ‘Double Room’. The price was PHP37,000 / month (PHP1233 / night). The place was attractive but the food on the menu was expensive… a GRANDPAcker would not be able to eat there.
KB Beach Resort (aka the Blue Pirates Budget Resort): At the Greenyard Inn (that I couldn’t afford at PHP3300 / night) the lady behind the counter told me that she had other rooms nearby that were within my price range. She walked me there. It was around the back of the Blue Dawn Resort about 50m from the beach. The room was new and just being completed… the paint was still drying. The room was smallish but had cable TV, wifi, hot water ensuite, wardrobe, and an outside balcony with an equipped kitchenette and fridge. They wanted PHP18,000 / month (PHP600 / night).
There is no doubt in my mind that, if I had turned up with ‘folding cash in hand’ and put it on the table, I could have discounted all of these places down further. Some more than others.
The Blue Pirates beat the others ‘hands down’ for ‘value for money’. I took it immediately. I made no attempt to negotiate a better price… I truly believed that they had already offered me their best and fairest price.
BLUE PIRATES BUDGET RESORT:
They have 3 Duplexes all rented by the month. 4 of the 6 rooms were already rented to long-term stayers.
The Duplexes range in price from PHP18,000 / month to PHP22,000 / month to PHP25,000 / month.
Please Note: I found out from the owner, Henry, a few days later that the prices are actually PHP15,000, PHP19,000 and PHP22,000. The girl who took me there got PHP3,000 commission. You should go direct to a resort without any ‘help’ if you want to get the best price.
There was very little between them. I chose a front unit.
The PHP7,000 saved would go a long way to helping me LIVE on Boracay Island.
There was an outdoor table and chairs and a fridge.
The fridge was a good size and had a freezer compartment at the top.
The outdoor area was ideal for me in the mornings; I could boil up a kettle for coffees and buy eggs and bread each morning for my poached eggs on toast.
It came with a desk that sat the cable TV, a chair, a large wardrobe (big enough to store everything for 2 people), an aircon unit and a double bed.
Linen and towels are included. The room is serviced once a week with a room-clean and fresh linen.
The Blue Pirates also provides free wifi. But, it is variable (as many budget resorts are) – so, get your own Mobile Data Plan.
On my first night, the shower didn’t work – there was no water pressure and it dribbled water. I had a cold wash that night out of a bucket.
I met Henry later and he looked at it for me. He is a nice, friendly guy. He couldn’t fix it that night but, after having a few Brandy’s with him that evening (and me giving him a lot of ‘playful ribbing’) he looked at it again the next morning. He switched the resort’s water from tank to mains and all was OK.
I should be quite comfortable here over the next month – as long as everything works…
I will let you know how I get on in a later post!
It was obvious that the locals think that foreigners will pay PHP1500 / night for a room; regardless of quality. They know what other people are charging and see PHP1500 / night as the cheapest rate that you are likely to find… so, that’s what they ask for.
It is worth spending a few hours searching to find a good place at a good price: THEY ARE THERE AND YOU CAN FIND THEM.
If you don’t mind being further away (1-2kms) from the beach, you can rent ‘western quality’ accommodation (like a Studio or 1-Bedroom Apartment) for PHP20,000-25,000 / month (PHP667-833 / night). I was shown photos of a few of the places and you can find them on the internet. From such places, it will cost you PHP40 each way in a shared Tribike to / from the beach. If you are not beach-bums (and going to the beach daily), this could be a very viable option.
However, I like to be near a beach. I like to swim every day. I like to walk the beach at sunset. I like to sit on the beach and have a beer at night. For that ‘privilege’, I was prepared to compromise on my accommodation (whilst keeping it to a minimum GRANDPAcking Standard). I found what I was looking for at just PHP600 / night.
For that price, I am LIVING in a ‘world-top-ten’ beach location.
My daily GRANDPAcking Budget is PHP2400 / day. This leaves me PHP1800 / day to LIVE on. I am going to have plenty of money to have some fun on Boracay Island over the next month… watch out for my future Boracay postings!