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As with many other destinations in The Philippines, the cost of pre-booking nice accommodation online was too high for a GRANDPAcking Budget.
PHP2400 / day is my total GRANDPAcking Daily Budget! As a rule, I try and keep accommodation costs to no more than 50% of my Budget; this is what a GRANDPAcking couple can afford (and still have enough money left to exist on). 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.
If you couple one of these discounts with the information that I provide in this post … you should end up with a very good accommodation solution.
Please Note: 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%). In The Philippines, this can happen on BOOKING.COM too but, generally, with BOOKING.COM what you see is what you get.
KOTA BEACH RESORT:
I planned to stay on Bantayan for 8 nights.
I booked 1 night in a Fan Room at the Kota Beach Resort for PHP855 per night.
I wasn’t expecting much (not at this price) but I was still a bit disappointed with the room … it was very basic.
You don’t get much for your money: a double bed, a single bed, a floor standing fan, a wardrobe, a desk, a small ensuite, cold water shower, and a small outside seating area.
No TV, no in-room-wifi …
The room was in fairly good condition but needed some maintenance work: the roller blinds were falling away from the rail.
My room was set back 30m from the beach.
The Kota had a beachfront restaurant and bar (with pool table).
WHERE TO STAY ON BANTAYAN ISLAND:
The Kota Beach Resort was, now, my ‘benchmark’.
The next day, I toured the whole island on my scooter. The whole trip took 7 hours.
My tour started in the Kota Beach Resort. From there, I headed north and up the east coast.
There are plenty of resorts around the island. I will provide typical examples of what you will find.
This is what I found …
NORDIC INN / TRISTAN RESORT AREA:
These are 2 of the cheapest places to stay, so I started here. Both target backpackers, and the beach is average.
EAST COAST RESORTS:
This is, primarily, a budget resort area.
The beach is reasonable and one of the better beaches on the island.
You are resort-bound here with few restaurants and bars to choose from outside of the resorts, themselves. The downside of this is that your food bill comes at resort prices.
The BEACH PLACID RESORT has OK Double Fan Rooms for PHP1500 but all of these were fully booked. An Aircon Double was PHP2500 – over-priced (in my opinion).The Tickety Boo was very basic and unappealing.
The best option here was the ST BERNARD RESORT where you can get a (very) small Fan Cottage with double bed, balcony and cold water shower for PHP850.
EAST COAST BEACHES:
NORTH COAST BEACHES:
In the far north you pass through Koda Town – one of the biggest settlements on the island.
WEST COAST BEACHES:
In Patao I stopped and talked to some fishermen fixing their nets.
Around the back there was a party going on with a group of ladies singing karaoke. It was Netty’s birthday.
I stopped for a while and joined them. They offered me a glass of beer. I sang a love song for the birthday girl (Your Song by Elton John).
I had lunch at Bantayan Town Public Market and continued south.
SOUTH COAST BEACHES & RESORTS:
Continuing down Obo-Ob road you hit the Mangroves Swamps.
This is one of the most picturesque areas.
There is a restaurant where you can dine amongst the Mangroves. I made a note to myself to return at a later date to try it.
THE BEST BEACH:
The best beach area on the island starts at Mayet’s Beach Resort and continues east to the KOTA BEACH RESORT. Mayet’s offered me an Aircon Double room with cold water shower for PHP1800.
If you want to stay on the beachfront, you have very few options and you will need to negotiate hard for an affordable price. As I say in other postings, it is best to turn up with folding cash, make them an offer, and pay up-front – this will get you the best price.
The only resort that I found on the beachfront worth a mention is the Queen Elizabeth. They had Aircon Doubles with cold water shower for PH1500; you should be able to negotiate this down into GRANDPAcker range.
The beaches on Bantayan Island are mostly average (at best) and so is the swimming. In most cases, the beaches are stony and there are stones underfoot as you wade out in the water for a swim. But, you do get some good snorkeling.
The budget resort area just north of the Ferry Terminal on the east coast might be worth a look but you are a bit isolated. The ‘pick of the bunch’ is the ST BERNARD RESORT.
However, if you want to be within walking distance of a good selection of restaurants and bars, you need to target the green box area. From here you have easy access to the best beach and plenty of entertainment in the evenings ranging from live music to sports bars to karaoke.
If you are happy to rent a scooter (or use Trikes to get around), expand your search area to the orange box.
It is worth renting a scooter and spending a few hours searching to find a good place at a good price: THEY ARE THERE AND YOU CAN FIND THEM. Once again, renting a scooter pays for itself in the savings that you will make on your accommodation; accommodation which is, usually, better and cheaper than you would otherwise find online.
If you like to be on a nice beach, to swim every day and to sit on / near the beach with a beer at night … for that ‘privilege’, you will need to compromise on your GRANDPAcking accommodation standards. You have very few choices.
The KOTA BEACH RESORT is one of the only resorts offering this at a GRANDPAcker price.
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 resort prices down from their published rate. Some more than others. As a rule, if you are staying 1-2 weeks, offer cash up-front 30% below the asking price (accept 20-25%). If you are staying 3 weeks or more, offer 50% below the asking price (accept 30-40%). But, in the end, accept whatever discount is fair for the quality of room being offered.
As I say in my Cebu to Bantayan Island post, I felt forced to make a fast decision when I first arrived at the Kota Beach Resort. On my first night, I extended my stay at the Kota for my remaining 7 nights – BEFORE taking my scooter trip around the island.
This time, my gamble paid off. After viewing the rest of the island, I concluded that I was in the best place at the best price.
The cheaper resorts available (like the Nordic, Tristan’s, Casa Isabel, Randy’s, Ritzy’s, and the ‘unlisted’ hotels in the back streets) are just as basic as the Kota – but in worse loca