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I was, primarily, in Boracay to extend my Tourist Visa.
You can only get the 6 month LSVVE (Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension) in Manila. I was only in transit in Manila – so I could not get one.
So, I extended my free Visa in Puerto Princesa. For this first extension, I was only allowed to extend for 29 days. The cost was PHP3130.
The Bureau Of Immigration (BOI) in Boracay is in Station 3; not where Google Maps shows it to be in Station 1.
You go to Budget Mart 2 in Station 3.
The BOI is on the opposite side of the road from Budget Mart 2 down a side alley.
In Carabao, I had already checked my Visa extension requirements.
I got 2 photocopies of my Passport Photo page and 2 photocopies of my Entry Visa and First Visa Extension page. They ask for 1 copy of each – but I got 2 just in case. The cost was PHP5 per page.
I already had passport sized photos that I brought with me – which I thought would be good enough. They were in Puerto Princesa.
I looked at the application form online and made notes of the other things that I needed – including the address and phone number of where I was staying in Boracay (the Trafalgar Cottages Hostel).
After being misled by Google Maps and walking to Station 1 and back, I arrived at the BOI at 10:00am.
Arriving early means that you avoid the queues. I suggest that you arrive early… they aren’t the fastest people in the world.
Anyway, I was still one of the first there. I started at the first counter I was given a number and told to wait.
When they called my number I showed them what I had.
My passport-sized photo wasn’t the right size (it needed to be 2″ x 2″). They need the 2×2 for the I-Card.
I was sent upstairs to have the right one made. I only needed 1 photo but they gave me 8 by default and charged me PHP70. At least, now, I have 7 spares for when I need them in the future.
No doubt, their photocopying charges are expensive too.
THE APPLICATION FORM:
Anyway, it was all done in 20-30 minutes and I was back downstairs to fill in the application form. I went to the desk and I was asked to wait until they called my number.
They called my number and I was given the form and a pen. There is a seating area where you can fill in the form.
For the 2nd Visa Extension, you need to apply for a compulsory I-Card (an Identification CARD).
The I-Card application form is the same form as the one that you use for your Visa Extension (it is a dual purpose form).
I waited for them to call out my number…
Once the application form was completed and checked, I handed it over with my passport, photocopies, and photo.
I was directed to the cashier.
I paid my PHP4,900 for the 58 day extension (which included a PHP1,500 ‘fast lane’ fee) and PHP2,860 for my I-Card.
This is a total of PHP7,760 for 58 days: PHP134 (US$3) per day!
Ouch! This is nearly 6% of my daily GRANDPAcking Budget!
It was now that they told me that the I-Card had to come from Manila and that it takes 2 weeks to arrive!
If I had to wait 2 weeks for my I-Card, why did they charge me a PHP1,500 ‘fast lane’ fee?
I told them that I wasn’t in Boracay for 2 weeks and that I was scheduled to leave the following Wednesday – 5 days from now.
The Cashier said that she would call Manila and ask them to send it faster (if they could). I was asked to return at 4-5pm to collect my passport with its new Visa Stamp.
I returned to collect my passport the next morning (Friday).
I went to the collections counter. I was given my passport with my new Visa. I asked about my I-Card and told them about my conversation with the Cashier. She knew nothing.
She said that my friends could forward it to me. I said that I was travelling alone and had no friends in Boracay. She asked if I planned to return to Boracay in the future. I said ‘no’.
So, I said ‘does this mean that I am now stranded in Boracay for 2 weeks waiting for my I-Card?’. I wasn’t angry – it is what it is – I said it with a smile. The lady just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders.
She said that I only needed the I-Card if I wanted to, say, open a bank account in The Philippines – or do something else ‘official’.
I said that I was in The Philippines until August and that I would need to extend my Visa again… ‘would I have a problem without my I-Card’, I asked? She said ‘no’, and showed me the Visa Stamp in my passport that had the fact that I had paid for an I-Card printed on it… ‘when you extend your visa next time, they will know that you have paid for an I-Card’, she said. ‘You don’t have to wait for it if you don’t want to’. ‘When it arrives we will call you on your mobile phone number’. I know a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ when I hear one.
WAITING FOR THE I-CARD:
I felt trouble ahead without the I-Card. I felt it in my bones.
Apparently, by law, you are meant to carry your I-Card on you at all times. If the police stop you and you don’t have it, it can prove ‘inconvenient’… no matter what the reason.
I decided to stay in Boracay and wait for my I-Card.
The problem was that this extra week took me to the 23rd of March 2016: the start of ‘Holy Week’. Holy Week is a very busy time in The Philippines; many Filipinos take a holiday and hotels can get very full.
This was not the best time to be stranded in Boracay… I had a ‘dilemma’:
- Stay 1 week more in Boracay and hit the road in Panay Island in Holy Week? or
- Stay longer in Boracay and leave after the Holy Week was over?
If I was going to stay for another 2 weeks anyway, why not ‘go the whole hog’ and stay 1 more month?
At least, then, I could really find out whether or not Boracay can be a GRANDPAcker Destination…
I didn’t bother going back the following Tuesday (the day that I would have needed my I-Card). I went back the following Thursday.
My I-Card was there. I don’t know how long it had been there but it was there within 1 week. I didn’t need to stay in Boracay at all.
You can easily walk to the BOI from Stations 2 and 3.
You can from Station 1 and Bulabog Beach too, if you like walking.
The normal ‘rule of thumb‘ for a Tribike in Boracay 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.
Don’t pay too much, tell the driver that you want to ‘share’ the Tribike if he asks for the whole Tricycle rate. You should be able to get to the BOI from anywhere on the island for no more than PHP25.
If you are in Boracay and extending your Visa for the first time, the process can be done the same day.
If you are extending it for the 2nd time you need an I-Card; allow 1 week for your I-Card to arrive from Manila.
If you plan to be in The Philippines for more than 4 months and you arrive in Manila, you are best to go to the BOI Main Office in Manila and get an LSVVE.