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Bantayan Island is located in the Visayan Sea, Philippines. It is situated to the west of the northern end of Cebu Island and across the Tañon Strait.
It is not (yet) over-run by Western tourists – who are still out-numbered my Filipino tourists.
For GRANDPAckers, Bantayan is expensive (yet still affordable). Read on …
I made my own way from Cebu City to Bantayan Island by Ceres Aircon bus and a RORO Slow Ferry.
The Ceres bus had comfortable seating and played English movies; the bus journey took 3:15 hours.
From here, you catch a ferry to Bantayan Island; the ferry journey takes 1:15 hours.
There are, usually, ferries to and from Bantayan and Hagnaya hourly during the day.
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 top this up with PHP1,000 each month and select the SUPERSURF999 data plan.
GRANDPAckers will need their own Mobile Data Plan on Bantayan. Many of the cheaper hotels only have a ‘wifi zone’ in the common area. The free wifi provided at your cheap hotel can be very ‘variable’; but, internet is ‘variable’ throughout The Philippines.
You can easily walk around the main White Beach tourist resort area.
If you get a hotel in the ‘green box’ (see, ‘Where To Stay’, below), you can easily walk to this area.
Around the island, many of the resorts are isolated; if you at one of these you will be taking Trikes or renting a Scooter.
The normal ‘rule of thumb‘ for a Trike in The Philippines is PHP10 per km PLUS PHP10 for each large suitcase / backpack.
In Bantayan, the Trike drivers are more reasonable than other places (such as El Nido and Boracay) but you should still take control of the price: tell them … don’t let them tell you. Between the Ferry Terminal and the Main Tourist Area pay PHP40 for 2 people with 2 suitcases.
The ‘standard’ rental is PHP350 for 24 hours – which is reasonable for a Philippines island.
Petrol is PHP40-42 / litre at a Petrol Station and PHP50 from a road-side store.
On a good scooter, PHP100 should be enough for you to tour the whole island.
The main roads around the island are in good condition but many of the coast roads are dirt tracks. The coast roads offer the best scenery. Inland is flat farmland with the odd Limestone Quarry.
WHERE TO STAY:
GRANDPACKers will most likely end up in Poblacion, White Beach.
If you read my post on Where To Stay, you will see that I went to quite a few hotels / pensions around the island and had a good look at pricing, beaches, and options.
In the end, I chose the KOTA BEACH RESORT because this is the area for restaurants and bars.
KOTA BEACH RESORT:
The Kota Double Fan room is below GRANDPAcker Standard but I was willing to drop my standards to be on the Beachfront.
Read my post on Where To Stay for all of the analysis and details.
Read my post on Cebu City to Bantayan Island to find out how I got a better price using AsiaTravel.com. I booked online … you can get much better rates turning up at a resort and offering ‘cash up-front’.
The Kota offers nicer Aircon rooms but they are above GRANDPAcker price range. The resort, itself, is nice and in a good location.
In the beachfront resorts, you will struggle to find Breakfast for less than PHP180 (including coffee), Lunch for less than PHP200 (including fruit drink), and Dinner for less than PHP250 (including fruit juice).
There are the normal ‘Tinpots’ scattered around the island and you will find several in the back streets around the central White Beach Restobar area. There are, also, several along the coast road heading west towards the Oglong Cave Resort.
As a rule of thumb, the ‘Tinpots’ charge PHP20 for a small serving of a vegetable dish, PHP40 for anything with meat, and PHP30-35 for a small fried fish. Budget PHP50 for a simple meal. A fruit juice is, usually, best bought elsewhere; budget another PHP40 for that.
A typical breakfast of 2 fried eggs with rice should cost PHP30. Bring your own sachets of coffee – they usually provide hot water for free. Cold drinking water is also, usually, free.
KOTA BEACH RESORT:
This menu should be typical of what you will find in the resorts around the island (other than in the ‘up-market’ resorts, of course).
I tended to only eat their Filipino Breakfast (PHP185) because it was convenient for me to have breakfast at the Kota whilst I worked in the mornings.
MID RANGE RESTAURANTS:
You will find several mid-range restaurants in the Restobar area. Typical mains are priced from PHP200-PHP350.
The SarapOi is run by JingJing. She lost her beachside resort in a Typhoon and opened up the SarapOi last October. I ate there with Larry – a Filipino Gentleman that I met at Kev’s Cave playong pool. Lovely people.
You will, also, find a decent Mexican in the Foodcourt: I had Tsatziki with Pita Bread (PHP130) and a Vegetarian Giro with Feta Cheese (PHP160).
Expect to pay PHP50 for a San Miguel Pilsen.
Most Happy Hours end at 5:00pm.
Bars and their prices come and go year by year so, below, is only an indication of what you should be able to find…
Kev’s Cave: A sports bar with a pool table and San Miguels for PHP40 outside of Happy Hour. Popular with the expats.
Mango Bar: A small and cosy bar popular with the expats. San Miguels PHP50.
Bavarian Beer Garden: Have a live band at least once a week. San Miguels PHP50.
Blue Ice Bar: Have a live band at least once a week. San Miguels PHP50.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Bantayan (IMHO).
But, be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth nor leave things unattended.
Bantayan gets power outages. Not every day but now and again. Bring a torch.
Read my posting on Where To Stay to get more detail about the beaches around the island.
Many of the beaches are stony and there are stones and rocks underfoot when you enter the water.
Many of the beaches are not well kept by the locals and are ‘untidy’ with debris and seaweed at the waterline.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
VISIT THE MANGROVES:
The entry fee is PHP50.
You can walk on wooden bridge pathways through the Mangroves.
And stop for lunch in the restaurant.
But, it is a pleasant and different atmosphere.
You will, most probably, be on the south coast – so you won’t get the best of the sunset.
But you will still get some beautiful colours if there are clouds on the horizon.
TOUR THE ISLAND ON A SCOOTER:
West past the Ogtong Cave Resort you will find a rocky coastline.
There are places here where you can dive from the rocks and some small, secret, sandy bays. Take a picnic.
You will find some good snorkeling around the island.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are no ATMs in Santa Fe. If you need to get to an ATM, you will need to go to Bantayan Town (central square).
I did not use the ATM myself, but I suspect that it will suffer from the normal PHP10,000 maximum transaction limit and that Foreign ATM Cardholders will be charged the usual PHP200 ‘Foreign Card’ fee.
You will, also, find lots of small ‘convenience stores’ around if you want to buy snacks, soft drinks, etc.
- 10L bottle of water PHP100
- 750ml bottle of Tanduay Dark Rum (80 proof) PHP100
- 1.5L bottle of Coke (PHP60)
- Water from a PHP1 coin refill ‘slot’ machine PHP4 / litre
- 1Kg of ‘stubby’ bananas at Bantayan Town Market PHP30
- Petrol / Gasoline PHP40-42 in a petrol station and PHP50 out of a bottle on the roadside.
My next destination is Malapascua Island.
This means a a ferry from Bantayan back to Cebu Island, a bus across the north of Cebu, and another boat out to Malapascua.
I will provide the details in a later post.
Bantayan Island was a pleasant surprise; I recommend that you give it a visit. It is NOT a GRANDPAcker Retirement Location. It is a GRANDPAcker Holiday Destination.
The ‘place to be’ is the White Beach area (see Where To Stay).
The prices are still within GRANDPAcker range.
Don’t get me wrong … this is a fairly quiet island … it does not compete with Port Barton, El Nido, Coron, Boracay nor Panglao. That is what is nice about it … It retains its ‘character’ and much of its ‘soul’ whilst still offering a reasonable beach-oriented lifestyle.
SHORT TERM STAYS (less than 1 month):
You will need to find an hotel and negotiate a long-term rate. You have 3 basic choices:
- Find a place in the back streets of the White Beach area (about 100m from the beach) – this should provide the best quality accommodation; or
- Find somewhere more remote around the island and expect to rent a Scooter (at PHP200-250 / day); or
- Compromise quality and get a below GRANDPAcking Standard Fan Room on the beachfront
Personally, I would go for option 3.
LONG TERM STAYS (1-3 months):
If you are staying for more than 1 month, you have 2 basic options:
- Negotiate a nice aircon chalet on the beachfront for under PHP1200 / night – but negotiate hard with ‘cash up front’; or
- Ask around some of the locals and rent a cottage / house
Personally, I would go for option 2. You will have to find an hotel to start with (while you look around) but there are cottages / houses available for rent on a monthly basis. PHP10,000 will get you a comfortable 2 bedroom home with aircon. You will have to pay electric on top and (perhaps) other utility bills. A total of PHP15,000 (PHP500 / day) should cover all costs. At that price, you can also rent a scooter (at PHP150 – 200 / day) and have total freedom of movement.
WHEN TO GO:
The ‘rainy season’ starts in June and lasts through to September / October.
This is when the Jellyfish and Flies / Mosquitos arrive on the south coast – and ruin your swimming.
If you plan to stay a few months, I would arrive in October / November just before the ‘high season’ starts. This is when you should be able to negotiate the best long-term hotel rental prices and find vacant cottages / house for rent.
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