Boracay on a budget
Anyone who’s looking to explore south-east Asia would do well to add the Philippines to his list. The country offers a ton of stunning attractions and is currently the go-to destination for backpackers. Now is the best time to go there, before prices soar as they did in Thailand as mainstream tourists flock in. The best place to go to is Palawan. Not only it has been named the best island in the tour for 3 years in a row, it’s also a perfect destination for budget travelers. El Nido is already the 2nd most popular tourist spot in the country so it’s getting expensive, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy everything it has an offer and keep to a reasonable budget. So, no matter what you do, make sure Palawan is included in your plans. That said, most people also like to visit Boracay – which is by far the most popular island and will likely remind you of the famous islands in Thailand. Boracay’s increasing popularity and well-developed tourism industry makes it hard to keep a tight budget and also puts at the risk of falling to one of the countless tourist traps. Don’t worry, this guide will show you the best ways to save money while staying in Boracay.
Boracay overview and general facts
Boracay is a tiny island in the province of Aklan, which is located in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The island was first “discovered” by American soldiers in the 70s and has since become one of the most popular and well-known tourist spots in the country. The main reason Boracay became so popular is its stunning beach, known simply as White Beach. While other beaches on the island are quite beautiful as well, this 2.4km stretch of sand has gained recognition as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. As with most spectacular places, what started as a well-kept secret quickly became widespread knowledge and the island developed into a tourist magnet. Over the past couple of years things got so out of hand that recently the government had to completely block all visitors from entering the island for 6 months, while it underwent a massive rehabilitation project. Fortunately, this is due to end in October 2018 and rumors say the process was successful and Boracay is back to its old, stunning self.
Getting there cheaply – best flights to catch
If you don’t like flying, or are keen on saving every dollar possible, there is a ferry going from either Manila or Cebu. You’ll have to stop at Iloilo which is a major port city and take a bus to Caticlan from there. Once you reach Caticlan, it’s only a 15-20 minutes boat ride to Boracay. Alternatively, most locations offer direct flights to Caticlan itself. These include flights even from some other Asian countries such as Korea and Singapore. Assuming you’ll come from Manila or Cebu though, there are almost a dozen flights going there each day. Try and catch an early morning flight to save the most and also have a whole extra day to enjoy Boracay. What many people don’t know, however, is that Boracay actually has another airport near it. This one is located in the town of Kalibo – only an hour and a half drive from Caticlan. Consider flying there instead and then taking the bus, since it can cost nearly half of what a direct flight would. The bus leaves from the airport once it gets full which normally happens right after a flight lands, and the drive is actually very pleasant.
Where to stay in Boracay island on a budget
There are more than 400 different hotels in Boracay, which can easily be overwhelming. Worse yet, many of these are tourist traps and you run the risk of ending up with a room that looks pretty much like a prison cell. Standards in the Philippines vary a lot, so if you don’t do your research well you could find yourself with a room that has no A/C or hot water for example. First thing to realize is that Boracay is inevitably more expensive than other islands. If you find an unbelievable deal, be wary and look carefully at guest reviews. One thing to especially take note of is whether the place has foreign or local guests. Filipinos are very price sensitive and their standards are significantly lower than those of westerners – so even if a hostel has ratings on booking sites, it might still not be the right choice for you. With that in mind, there are some safe options you should always consider first. Mad monkey is a hostel chain all throughout Asia, and they have a branch at Boracay as well. This is always a safe bet, and a great choice for young people who want to mingle and have fun. Couples who want a bit higher standard and more privacy can check out Club Ten Beach resort instead. This is a family-owned boutique resort and even though its just a walking distance from White Beach, its rates are very fair.
Best attractions and activities
Sadly, Boracay doesn’t really stand out in this department. The island resembles Thailand – the tours here are all very streamlined and designed to milk the most money out of tourists. The activities are all quite underwhelming compared to other locations, and since the island is very small many of these can easily be done yourself. That way you won’t have to pay for a guide, do things in your own pace and probably have much more fun anyway. If your main goal in visiting the Philippines is to be able to see and do as much as possible, then honestly maybe Boracay isn’t the best choice for you. This place is more about relaxing at the beautiful beach, and going out to party at night. Still, there are a couple of decent options for ways to spend the day while there, without spending too much money. The first and easiest option is just rent a bicycle and tour the island yourself. Most resorts provide these to guests, and you can also rent them on the main road for only a couple of dollars per day. The island is small so you’ll have enough time to see everything within a single day – there are a few more secluded beaches, as well as some mountain tops you can bike to and get a wonderful panoramic view of the whole area. Another cool option is to go kitesurfing at Bulabog beach. The beach is only 20 minutes’ drive away from White beach, and is renowned as one of the best kitesurfing spots in Asia. This is because winds there are strong all year round. You can book a visit there as part of an organized tour, but that’s probably just a waste of money. Just go there yourself, and you’ll have no problem renting the kite while you are at the beach.