DECEMBER 2022- JANUARY 2023
In my previous post (Boracay Island – Philippines – Getting There) I talked about how to get to Boracay Island and how to find long-term accommodation.
Check out 12Go to have a look at ‘getting there’ options:
It is assumed that you plan to be here for 2 months … arriving with a standard 30 day Visa On Arrival (VOA), then extending your VOA by another 29 days. This gives you up to 59 days for your Boracay Island ‘experience’.
… now let’s talk about what it is like to ‘live’ here …
The currency in The Philippines is the Peso (or the ‘PHP’). I will refer to them as PHPs. At the time of writing, the exchange rates for the major currencies were:
|Published Wholesale Rate||57.01||58.61||68.34|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Wise Debit Card)||56.64||58.23||67.90|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Typical Credit Card)||55.30||56.85||66.29|
|Actual Exchange Rate (ATM)||54.44||55.97||65.26|
You will NOT get this Wholesale Rate … you will get the Actual Exchange Rate:
- Expect to lose about 0.65% if you use a Wise Debit Card.
- Expect to lose about 3.00% if you use a typical Credit Card.
- Expect to lose about 4.50% if you take cash out of an ATM.
For simplicity, think of a PHP1,000 note as being US$20.
PLEASE NOTE: Over time, these exchange rates will change. It is also late 2022 … so inflation will need to be taken into account. Please check the current rates.
Boracay is a ‘resort island’ in the Western Visayas region of The Philippines, located 0.8 kilometers (0.50 miles) off the northwest coast of Panay.
Boracay has a total land area of 10.32 square kilometers (3.98 sq miles). The island is ‘dog-bone’ shaped, is approximately seven kilometers long, and is less than 1 kilometer wide at its narrowest point.
Cagban Beach (at the southern end of the island) is Boracay’s main entry and exit point servicing ferries across the short distance to Caticlan. When wind and sea conditions dictate, east-facing Tambisaan Beach serves as an alternative entry and exit point.
Before the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century, Boracay had a population of only one hundred people … now, Boracay has a population of about 40,000. This number is bolstered by many 1,000s of tourists all year round.
WHEN TO GO
The weather in Boracay is divided into two seasons known locally as the Amihan and Habagat. As a rule of thumb, Boracay will be in Amihan from mid October to mid June and in Habagat otherwise.
The main indicator of the transition between the Amihan and Habagat is the switch in wind direction. In most years this transition is abrupt and occurs overnight.
The temperature hovers from 25 to 32 degrees Celsius. The cool temperature is helped by the constant wind blowing from the sea.
The climate is dry. On certain occasions, there will be some light rains. The temperature goes down to 22 degrees Celsius during the night.
THE SUMMER MONTHS
Boracay is at its hottest from mid March up to June. During this period, the temperature does not go any lower than 28 degrees Celsius. It can reach as high as 38 degrees. The temperature does not go down much at night. Thunderstorms may occur, albeit rarely.
Many tourists prefer to go to Boracay during the Amihan season. The eastern beaches (e.g. Bulabog) are ideal places for surfing and other water sports. The western beaches (e.g. White Beach) are sheltered from the wind and the water is often glassy-smooth.
Habagat is dominated by the southwest monsoon. Its main characteristics are humidity and heat. Heavy showers can take place in the afternoon or evening.
Typhoons (hurricanes) usually occur in the Habagat season. When there is a typhoon or tropical storm, the temperature can drop to 20 degrees Celsius.
Boracay’s two primary tourism beaches (White Beach and Bulabog Beach) are located on opposite sides of the island’s narrowest point. White Beach faces westward and Bulabog Beach faces eastward. The island also has several other beaches.
White Beach is the main tourism beach. It is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long and it is split into 3 ‘stations’. Station 2 is the busiest and most touristic area. Station 3 is quieter and cheaper. Most ‘budget’ travelers end up in Station 3. Many lanes and paths connect White Beach to Boracay’s Main Road. At the extreme northern end of White Beach, a footpath runs around the headland connecting White Beach with Diniwid Beach.
Bulabog Beach is the second most popular tourism beach. This is the ‘windy’ side of the island. Bulabog is popular for windsurfing and kiteboarding.
Tourism came to the island in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the island became popular as a budget destination for backpackers. By the 1990s, Boracay’s beaches were being acclaimed as some of the best in the world.
In April 2018, Boracay was closed to tourism whilst major renovation works were undertaken. A ‘cleaned up’ Boracay re-opened to tourism in October 2018 only to be closed again in early 2020 due to COVID-19.
Between 2018 and 2022 many businesses went bust. Boracay re-opened to foreign tourism early 2022. The Philippines relaxed it’s COVID-19 restrictions in late 2022. Tourists are starting to return to the island … but the numbers are nowhere near pre-2018 levels. Now may be the best time to visit Boracay.
Leisure activities include horseback riding, scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kiteboarding, cliff diving, and parasailing. Boracay has an 18-hole par 72 golf course.
Bulabog Beach hosts the week-long International Funboard Cup (windsurfing) competition every January. Dragon boat races are held annually in April or May. The Boracay Open Asian Beach Ultimate (frisbee) Tournament is held annually each March or April.
Here is a selection of what is available.
One of the nicest things about White Beach is that there are no sand fleas (sandflies).
So, let’s have a look at White Beach … what can you expect?
STATION 2 AND NORTH
We go north along the beachfront path:
And return along the beach:
STATION 2 AND SOUTH
We go south along the beachfront path:
And return along the beach:
This is a beautiful, white-sand beach lined with Palm Trees … with excellent wading and swimming.
The Philippines is 220-240V / 60Hz. Power plugs are 2-pin accepting either flat or circular 2-pin plugs.
Power on Boracay is reliable but you can get a power cut in bad weather. Power cuts usually last a couple of minutes to 1 hour.
MONEY / ATMs
ATM Fees at Manila International airport are expensive. I was charged 6% when I withdrew PHP10,000. Avoid using them if you can. Having said that, withdrawing cash from an ATM is expensive compared to other countries.
There are many banks and ATMs around Boracay. Go to a bank ATM to withdraw money at the best rate. ATMs found in ‘convenient locations’ tend to charge higher fees. Banks charge PHP250 per transaction for Foreigners to use the ATM. In addition, you will usually be charged Conversion Fees. On a maximum single ATM withdrawal of PHP10,000 expect to be charged 4.50%.
PLEASE NOTE: Different banks charge different fees. For example, Metrobank charged 4.95%. I found that the Philippines National Bank and BPI offered the best ATM rates.
Many places accept payment by Credit or Debit Card.
In general, you should not have a problem changing a PHP1,000 note.
WISE DEBIT CARD
I keep my costs down by using a Wise Debit Card.
RECOMMENDATION: I highly recommend the Wise Debit Card to all travelers.
I used Wise to pay the Nirvana Beach Resort PHP70,000 for my 2 months rent. The transaction cost me US$8.14 / 0.64%.
WHERE TO STAY
Target the ‘green shaded‘ area. If you don’t mind being a bit more ‘remote’ consider the ‘orange shaded‘ area. Go further afield if you are happy to use e-Trikes to get around. Obviously, if you want to ‘hide away’, you can go anywhere else.
The main road and back streets are where you find the cheaper accommodation. Station 3 is cheaper than Station 2.
PLEASE NOTE: I advise you to book into something reasonable for 2-3 nights in advance. Then, once here, walk around and negotiate direct monthly deals with the place(s) that you like. This can save you as much as 50% on the published rate. Most sites display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES.
Please read the ‘Accommodation Options’ section in my previous post:
- For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, I suggest that you start with BOOKING.COM;
- For ‘Long Term’ accommodation, I suggest that you start on Facebook and join one of the Boracay ‘long term rental’ Groups.
For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK
Boracay offers a wide range of restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs. Prices vary widely depending on where you are.
You can find your normal set of Fast Food restaurants like McDonalds and Jollibee. These places compete on price with a typical restaurant … on average I paid PHP300-PHP400 for a meal.
I did not eat in the (more expensive) beachfront restaurants. I also found the D-Mall over-priced. These are tourist restaurants.
You pay a premium to eat on the beachfront. You will be hard-pushed to find a meal for under PHP300 … and, at that price, you are getting a ‘local’ meal (something like an Adobe Chicken). Here are some example menus:
Expect to pay about PHP500 for a burger, PHP500-PHP800 for a pizza, and PHP1,765 for a rib-eye steak. GRANDPAckers should expect to pay PHP500-PHP600 for an ‘average’ meal.
For ‘cheap eats’ you need to get away from the beachfront.
This is very typical of what you get in a ‘local’ Filipino Restaurant: Find them on Facebook.
There are 2 Kolai Mangyan restaurants in Station 2. You can get a simple ‘local’ meal for PHP100 and under. The meals are small.
BABE’S FOOD HOUSE
Babe’s is a bit hard to find … the easiest way to find it is to (1) go to the Kolai Mangyan Restaurant (2) cross the road walking towards White Beach (3) walk down the small lane next to Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital. You can find them on Facebook.
Babe’s is one of the best ‘cheap eats’ in Station 2. They have a selection of Filipino meals for PHP75-PHP100. You can also get sandwiches for under PHP100. Something like a Tapsilog costs PHP90 and a Lomi Soup PHP65.
MY LOCAL CAFE
Again, servings are small.
Some try to ‘fool’ you with Happy Hours that aren’t so ‘happy’ … They offer ‘2-for-1″ but start with double the price found elsewhere … e.g. PHP200 for a small beer, but 2-for-1 during Happy Hour 🙂 … some will also add tax.
EXIT BAR (STATION 2)
Link: Exit Bar – Facebook. This was my favourite bar on White Beach, Station 2. A lot of expats come here.
LEVANTIN (BULABOG BEACH)
Link: Levantin Bar – Facebook. This was my favourite bar on Bulabog Beach. In fact, it was my favourite bar overall (my ‘local’).
The Levantin is another bar that charges a decent price as standard … again, they don’t have a Happy Hour because they also don’t need one. The Levantin is located on the east side of the island on Bulabog Beach.
The Levantin is also a ‘no frills’ bar … this is more of a bar where you meet and talk with people with low music in the background.
I found this bar to be the easiest place to meet people and make friends. They were my type of people. Many of them were regulars and expats.
Even though I lived near White Beach and the Levantin is on Bulabog Beach, this did not prove to be a problem. It was less than a 10 minute walk from my hotel.
You can get a local ‘cheap eat’ for PHP100 / US$2.
You can get a decent meal in a decent atmosphere for PHP250 / US$4.75.
Pay PHP550 / US$10 if you want to spoil yourself with a special atmosphere, special location, and / or eat in a (cheap) beachfront restobar.
The three main modes of transport are via motor-tricycles and electric-tricycles (e-Trikes) along the main road, or by walking along the beaches. Pedicabs, known as sikads, are also available along the Beachfront Path.
Other means of transportation include mountain bikes, quadbikes and motorbikes, all of which can be rented. Motorcycle operators are being encouraged to transition to e-trikes.
The Government have ‘cracked down’ on motobike ownership in Boracay … so much so, that people now prefer to rent.
Expats can rent a good 125cc motobike for PHP10,000 / US$180 to PHP12,000 / US$220 per month. You may be able to halve this if you make contacts and stay here a while.
BORACAY – CATICLAN
Transportation across the strait is provided by boats operating from the Caticlan jetty port. Cagban Port serves as the primary sea transportation hub for passengers going into Boracay but the island lacks any formal seaport for cargo transport and waste disposal. Goods are delivered into Boracay through an informal port near the Cagban Port.
Boracay is served by two airports in Aklan: the Kalibo International Airport and Godofredo P. Ramos Domestic Airport (commonly referred to as the Caticlan airport).
INTERNET / WIFI
The Boracay ‘locals’ advised me to buy Globe.
As from December 27, 2022 all new Philippines SIM Cards will need to be ‘registered’ before they can be activated. All existing subscribers must register by April 26, 2023. If you want a new SIM Card remember to take your Passport.
For PHP150, I purchased a new 5G SIM Card with a 7-day GO+99 Plan that offered unlimited texts and upto 16GB of data: 8GB of All-Access data (access to any internet site) plus 8GB of Go-Share data (for access to social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp). The assistant in the store helped me make the purchase and set it up for me.
With this 7-day GO+99 plan, it costs PHP99 / US$2 to top up with another 16GB. Another option is to upgrade to the 10-day PHP129 GO-Extra Plan to get 8GB of All-Access data plus unlimited texts plus unlimited calls to all networks.
RECOMMENDATION: Download the Globe Mobile App before you buy your SIM Card. After getting your new SIM and your new mobile number, register in the App whilst still in the Globe Store.
PLEASE NOTE: The Globe App only allows top-ups using Filipino payment apps and methods. You cannot top-up using your foreign Credit / Debit Card nor something like Paypal. Foreigners can ‘top-up’ in a minimart or at the Globe Store in Station 2.
I got a good signal all over Boracay. Most of the time it was 4G. In bad weather, you may lose or get a slow signal for an hour or two.
EXTENDING YOUR VISA
It is possible to extend your VOA on Boracay.
BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION – BORACAY FIELD OFFICE
The office is found in Station 3:
Landline Number: (036) 288 5267. Email: email@example.com.
You cannot just walk in off the street. You will need an appointment. They will only accept appointments within 7 days of the expiry of your current visa. To make an appointment, go to the following website: https://bit.ly/BIOnlineAppointment.
Attire: You will need to wear long trousers (or skirt) and a shirt with sleeves. If you don’t, you will not be allowed into the Immigration Office. You must wear a mask.
The form is easy to fill in and, if you meet the appointment booking criteria, you will receive a confirmation email.
When you arrive for your appointment (unlike several years ago) you will find it very organised. You sign in on arrival and you are given a form to fill in. You are also given a pre-printed form containing the information that you provided online.
With your completed forms, you wait in line to go to the processing kiosk. You are processed, you pay PHP3,030 (each), and you are out of there in about 30 minutes.
Please Note: For your first 29 day extension, you DO NOT NEED additional photos. Your passport is not stamped … you are given a paper ‘receipt’ which you will need to keep safe until you leave The Philippines.
HEALTH & SAFETY
As part of the Boracay tidy-up, new Beach Regulations have been introduced:
If the police catch you breaking these rules, you will be fined PHP2,500 / US$45.
There are good medical facilities on Boracay including a Hospital.
One of the nicest things about Boracay, is that there are no sand fleas!
If you shop in a Minimart you will pay a 25% premium for the convenience (the Budget Mart in Station 2 is a good example).
I found the Pricelite Outlet Store on Boracay Highway Central. Here you can buy named brands at a 70% discount (on Philippines prices … which are already less than ‘western’ prices). For example, I bought 3 Under Armour sports tops for PHP150 / US$2.75 each.
I signed up on Lazada Philippines to replenished some of my aging and broken equipment … you get much better prices than you do on, say, Amazon.
PLEASE NOTE: If you do decide to buy on Lazada, I advise you to avoid all products sourced direct from China … 50% of the items that I bought were fakes and needed to be returned (under the Lazada ‘guarantee’, this is free of charge … but, it is still a hassle).
- 450g Robinsons Brand processed cheese = PHP126;
- 130g pot Noodles = PHP28;
- 500g Loaf of Wholewheat Sliced Bread = PHP93;
- 1Kg Chicken & Cheese Sausages = PHP180;
- 100g Robinsons Brand Granule Coffee = PHP82;
- Pack of 20 Cigarettes = PHP150;
- 12 Medium Eggs = PHP99.
LEAVING BORACAY ISLAND
From Station 2 it should cost PHP200 to catch a private e-Trike to the ferry port (just flag one down on the street). You will be at the port in 10-15 minutes.
At the ferry port you first pay your Terminal Fee: this is PHP150 each or PHP120 if you are over 60. With your receipt in hand, you then purchase you ferry ticket: this is PHP100 or PHP40 if you are over 60. The ferries leave very regularly. I boarded mine immediately. You on mainland Panay in about 15 minutes.
From this ferry port, it should cost PHP100 to catch a private Tuk Tuk to Caticlan Airport. You are there in about 5 minutes.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
In summary, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL):
- COE: Is the basic costs of just being there;
- COL: Is the additional costs that make being there fun.
ORANGE COLUMNS / LEFT HAND SIDE
The left of the spreadsheet (orange columns) shows the costs for a GRANDPAcking Couple living to GRANDPAcking Standard using a Standard (Home) Bank Credit / Debit Card (at 3% Fees) to pay for large purchases (e.g. accommodation) and withdrawing cash from ATMs (at 4.50% Fees) for all other “EXISTENCE’ expenses. On average, you can expect to lose about 3.50% in fees.
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE)
You are unlikely to find GRANDPAcking Standard long-term accommodation at a GRANDPAcking price by searching online. You will, most probably, have to be here to find it. Therefore:
- Short Term: 3 nights at PHP1,500 per night (excluding breakfast) for when you first arrive in Boracay. Booked in advance and paid by Credit Card.
- Long Term: You will have to pay for 2 months but you will only actually be here for 56 nights. PHP40,000 per month paid by Credit Card.
- Electric / Gas / Wifi: Long Term rental rates in Boracay are typically quoted exclusive of utilities (e.g. electric and water). Sometimes WiFi is excluded too. With ‘sensible’ use of aircon, GRANDPAckers should be able to keep these costs down to PHP4,000 per month.
- Housekeeping / Laundry: In Long Term accommodation this is usually your responsibility. These costs exclude your personal laundry (which are LIVING costs). Expect your accommodation to charge you PHP600 per week for housekeeping.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
You are eating all of your meals in cheap ‘local’ restaurants. In these places you will be paying with cash drawn from ATMs:
- Breakfast: Expect to pay an average of PHP125 each.
- Lunch: Expect to pay an average of PHP150 each.
- Dinner: Expect to pay an average of PHP300 each.
- Drinking Water: Will be purchased in 5 Gallon ‘blue’ bottles.
- Total: Your daily costs total about PHP1,175 per day.
COMMUNICATIONS / VISA / INSURANCE
- SIM Card / Mobile Data: PHP150 for a new SIM Card with a 1 week plan followed by another PHP650 to purchase additional 10-day GOextra90 8GB plans.
- Visa Extension: 2x PHP3,030 to extend your Tourist Visas at the Bureau of Immigration by an additional 29 days.
- Travel Insurance: A typical Backpacker Level Travel Insurance policy has been apportioned (calculated as 59 days of your annual rate).
- Port Of Entry to / from Hotel: An e-Trike at PHP50 each way for 2 people.
Your COE is about PHP3,127 per day. This is 89% of your daily budget. You have very little left to LIVE on (PHP492 / US$7 per day).
A GRANDPAcking Couple can ‘EXIST’ on Boracay but they cannot afford to ‘LIVE’ on Boracay to GRANDPAcking Standard.
RIGHT HAND SIDE / PURPLE COLUMNS
The right of the spreadsheet (blue columns) shows how a GRANDPAcking Couple can afford to ‘LIVE’ on Boracay by making some compromises:
- Using a proper Traveler Credit / Debit Card (the Wise Debit Card is used in this example).
- Buying groceries at Robinsons Supermarket and eating at home.
- Doing your own housekeeping and laundry (8kg at a laundromat costs PHP300).
- Using your Traveler Credit / Debit Card to pay for all EXISTENCE expenses wherever possible (losing only 0.67% in Card & ATM fees).
Your COE is about PHP2,524 per day. This is 70% of your daily budget.
You have about PHP1,095 / US$19 per day to LIVE on … now, you can have more fun.
I just ‘chilled’ on the beach and walked the beach at sunset every day. I am a traveler. I was not interested in participating in expensive ‘Tourist’ Attractions.
To keep your accommodation costs down avoid Christmas, New Year, and Easter.
Boracay is expensive for GRANDPAckers. The main problem is going to be your accommodation costs … which are likely to exceed 50% of your daily budget. Typically, GRANDPAckers need to keep accommodation costs closer to 33%.
To keep costs down you will need to find accommodation with a kitchen / kitchenette and cook most of your meals at home. You will also need to get ‘Wise‘ about how you spend your money.
Many GRANDPAckers will enjoy Boracay.
I managed to meet many expats who live on Boracay. Happiness is more about people than places. I met many of ‘my type of people’ on Boracay.
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? MAYBE. Would you want to? YES.