Boracay, effectively, made it by default.
Bantayan is the first place that I think is ‘worth a look’.
Bantayan is growing in populatity as a Tourist destination. But, because it is still growing, and not yet ‘swamped’ … it retains a lot of its character and its soul. Bantayan still feels very ‘rural’.
Bantayan is large enough to offer the required facilities (for example, it has an hospital) but it is small enough to offer a community ‘feel’. There is already a small community of expats living on Bantayan … some ‘ready-made’ friends.
And, yes, this is still The Philippines – so it is not the ‘cleanest” nor ‘tidiest’ place in the world.
YOUR TOURIST VISA:
Most ‘westerners’ should get a free 30 day Tourist Visa on entry into The Philippines. But, always check first.
- Your first extension will be for 30 days; this will cost PHP3,120 each (plus a few more PHP for photocopying)
- Your next extension is for 60 days and requires you to also get an I-Card; this will cost you PHP7,760 each (plus a few more PHP for photocopying and photos)
- Your next extension is for 60 days; this will cost you PHP2,940 each
- These extensions give you a total of 6 months and cost you nearly PHP14,000 each
Therefore, you are best to first land in Manila. At the BOI in Manila, you can get a 6 month Long Stay Visitor Visa Expension (LSVVE) for PHP13,900 each. Manila is (currently) the only place where you can get an LSVVE.
Pre-book a cheap Manila hotel near the airport for your arrival. The BOI is near the airport. You should be able to sort out your LSVVE within a couple of days. It is best to allow 1or 2 more for safety.
With your LSVVE in hand, you can then head for Bantayan. The best way is to fly from Manila to Cebu City using someone like Cebu Pacific Airlines. If you are organised, you can get this flight at a very good price (less than US$50 each).
WHEN TO GO:
A total of 6-7 months in Bantayan should be enough – unless you particularly like being there in Rainy Season.
Rainy Season typically starts late June and ends late October.
The best time to be on Bantayan is November through May (a span of 7 months).
If you arrive late October / early November, you should get the ‘pick’ of the rental properties. It is also the best time to negotiate a monthly hotel rate. Many hotels only offer ‘daily’ rates in the heart of Peak Season.
GETTING THERE FROM CEBU CITY:
You can read my post about getting from Cebu to Bantayan Island for more detail.
Catch a Ceres bus from the Cebu City Northern Bus Terminal
- Buses leave for Bantayan every hour during the day; Not all of them are aircon though – so check which ones are aircon and target one of those
- If you leave early to avoid traffic, the trip takes under 3.5 hours and costs PHP160 each (if you leave late, expect 4.5 hours)
The bus drops you off at the Hagnaya Ferry Terminal carpark; from here, you can walk directly onto the ferry to Bantayan
- The ferry leaves every 1-2 hours, takes 1.5 hours, and costs PHP180 each (including the PHP10 Terminal Fee)
- Walk out of the Bantayan Ferry Terminal to catch a cheaper Trike to your hotel; a Trike to your hotel should cost no more than PHP50
WHERE TO LIVE:
You can read my post about Where to Stay on Bantayan Island for more detail.
In summary … accommodation in The Philippines is, generally, a problem for GRANDPAckers … the accommodation is poor value for money. Everywhere. Anything less than PHP900 per night is likely to be backpacker rather than GRANDPAcker Standard.
YOUR FIRST WEEK:
- Look for offers and discounts in advance and target to pay no more than PHP1,200 / night
- Don’t be too worried about exactly where you stay – you are only there so that you can organise a long term rental; you don’t need to be on the beachfront to do this
- A Fan Double at, say, the KOTA BEACH RESORT is basic but should be OK for your purposes (and, you should be able to get one for under PHP900 / night)
- You will need to rent a scooter so that you can get around and look at rental options; For a 1 week scooter rental, target no ore than PHP250 / day – at this price, you are probably renting on the street (not from your hotel)
You are unlikely to find long term rental properties online; you will have to get around and ask around.
Put the word out to some locals and let them do some of the leg work for you.
You are most likely looking for somewhere in or close to Poblacion, Santa Fe. This keeps you near to the restaurants, bars, and social life.
You will not get a ‘Western Quality’ 2 bedroom house in Bantayan. You have 2 choices:
- A decent Philippines Quality 2 bedroom furnished house; or
- A long term hotel room
This house will most likely be away from the ‘Orange Zone’. So, to make this work, you will most likely also rent a long term scooter. You should be able to negotiate one for PHP150 / day. Petrol will be additional.
Your alternative is a long-term hotel room. It will be hard to find one for the equivalent PHP650-700 / day … BUT, they can be found … especially if you arrive early in the season and you are prepared to be a few 100ms away from the beach. You will be looking to be within walking distance of White Beach and the main Restobar Area … as close as you can get to the ‘Green Zone’.
TAKE YOUR TIME:
I strongly suggest that you Take Your Time. Once you are in Bantayan, you can find the best deals. Extend you short-term hotel room if you need to.
Read my post on Bantayan – GRANDPAcking Costs for more detail about the cost of a short-term stay … this is what you can expect your cost to be until you find your long-term solution.
I would go around and find the nicest hotel room that I could find being quoted at PHP1,500-1,800 / night. Once found, I would get out PHP8,000 in cash (about US$180), put it in front of the owner and say ‘PHP8,000 for one week’ (PHP1,140 / day).
Confronted with this option, many owners would take it … especially in November.
Then, you can stay there until you find the right longer-term solution that you are looking for.
Sometimes you need to couple where you want to stay with a Transport option in order to make it work…
If you manage to get GRANDPAcking accommodation in or around the ‘Green Zone’, then you will be able to get by on foot and by renting (or buying) a couple of bicycles.
IS BANTAYAN A GRANDPACKING RETIREMENT LOCATION? NO.
Is Bantayan somewhere to stay for several months as your alternate between a ‘set’ of Retirement Locations? YES.
Read my other post about Bantayan for more general information.
WHAT WOULD YOUR RETIREMENT BUDGET BE?
THE GRANDPAcking ACID TEST: Can a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? YES.
If you were to retire part time (6 to 7 months each year) on Bantayan, a realistic budget would be:
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