In the Philippines, one of the recommended places where backpackers can go to is the Boracay Island. However, an Indie traveler with the name Marek said that the place is the most heavily advertised destination and therefore having much higher prices among travel spots. If you are a backpacker with strict budget or planning to be one, here are some guides for you to survive when traveling the paradise island.
Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr, Creative Commons
1. Set A Budget
To start off with your Boracay getaway, set a feasible budget for your noteworthy, honest-to-goodness vacation. This should cover your transportation, accommodation, food, recreational activities and miscellaneous. Take note that most of your budget will go to accommodation. It is important that you choose one where you feel comfortable without spending too much.
2. Look Out For Boracay Backpacking Promos
Knowing the best time to book your travel will come handy for you when negotiating for hotel promos or discounts. Plus, other travel booking hacks could help on how backpackers get the best deals in Boracay. Room rates vary if it is on-peak (November to May) and during off-peak season (June to October). You may also check the benefits of availing early-bird reservation promos that offer additional discounts when you book your room online.
You may also try to haggle for additional promo perks like expanding your complimentary set meals to buffet serving with bottomless drinks package when hotels are customer-strapped especially during lean months. Consider also traveling with a group to lower your accommodation expense by splitting the bill among yourselves.
3. Get Smarty
The best things in life are free which Boracay also offers. Some of the best cost-free activities that you can do are savoring the sunset view, bumming around the beach or crafting your own beautiful white sandcastles. You could do this by visiting the unspoiled Puka Shell Beach near Alta Vista de Boracay.
4. Unravel Travel Options
Getting to Boracay involves more than one stopping point. To reach the place, you could take any of the available island-connecting trips. Taking an alternate route to Boracay is already an exciting adventure. As you hop from one to the next, you'll find different island sights and cultures.
First option could be the Manila air-Caticlan route, then a ferry ride to Boracay, which commands the most airfare but takes up the least travel time. The second is favored more by budget travelers: Manila air – Kalibo, Kalibo bus – Caticlan, then boat to Boracay.
If you go this way, you’ll pay for lower airfare running at around Php 1300 to 2500, compared to the Manila-Caticlan route with plane tickets ranging from Php 7000 to 10,000. If air travel still exceeds your budget, you could opt to travel by sea or RORO which has the longest 13-16 hours to Boracay, but is rendered most affordable at about less than Php1000.
You might think it will be a long ride going to your dream destination. Rest assured that staying by sea overnight is worthwhile. It is equipped with everything you need including comfortable beds. It also has shops, restaurants and a bistro where passengers can have fun and relax over the night.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Spending
Raising questions before or at hotel check-in could also help you cut additional expenses or exorbitant charging from dubious traders. Your hotel’s official shuttle or transfer service could take you from Boracay port directly to their location and may even provide free rides for touring the island. Save up also with free meals like complimentary breakfast or extra special reception snacks.
6. Pack Light
Photo by Nestor Lacle on Flickr, Creative Commons
You’re off to a multi-island adventure so pack light. Aside from swimwear, take only low-key pieces like shorts, light dresses and t-shirts. This also eliminates paying additional weigh-in charges for check-in baggage at the airport. If possible, bring only your travel essentials. Leave behind toiletries since these are usually provided free at the hotel. If it can’t be avoided, you may go with sachet purchases for small or one-time usage only.
7. Scout for Budget-friendly Food
At Boracay, you’re also thrown into a plethora of various tasty food concoctions. Among others, meal varieties range from Filipino, Korean, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Greek, Indian, Moroccan, Western to combination Euro-Asian cuisines. Whatever your spending spree may be, you’re sure to find one dining spot that matches your consumption preference.
Budget-friendly choices also abound. From Eats Now or Never, you could have a mouthful of Filipino dishes at Smoke Resto, famous for its Best Bulalo Award from Unilever’s website. So Pinoy and D’ Talipapa are also cheaper seafood alternatives to beachfront restaurants.
Photo by Sam Villaroman on Flickr, Creative Commons
Meanwhile, PhilippineBeaches.org suggests Plato D Boracay, which likewise serves local, home-cooked meals at low price running at less than Php100 coupled with free drinks. If you desire to cook, Talipapa Bukid at Station 3 has the cheapest produce and Boracay Mini Mart has the cheapest grocery finds. Of course, you have the familiar chicken restaurants like Bacolod Chicken, Chicken Inasal and Andok’s for affordable chicken meals at Php100-300.
There are even quick bite favorite selling at around Php50 and below. Some of these are Chori Burger and Pinoy street food such as hotdogs, barbecue, balut or cooked duck egg, corn-on-the-cob, isaw (intestines) and adidas (chicken feet). These are usually being sold during late afternoons at beachfront sidewalks.
Must-try Boracay food spots also prompt you to check out Real Coffee and Tea Café for their famous Lemon cupcakes priced at around PHP 40 only. Don’t also fail to drop by for short nibbles and refreshments at the highly frequented Jonah’s Fruit Shake and Snack Bar for the best milkshake in Boracay.
8. Get To Know The Locals
Filipinos are generally known to be warm and friendly. What could be the easier way to get among them than by speaking the native tongue. Its faster to connect with them when you say “Ate” or “Kuya” - Pinoy terms of endearment equivalent to sister or brother. Why don't you also try your haggling luck to cash in for discounts by uttering “tawad”. Of course, don’t forget the universal magic word “please” by mentioning “pwede ba” or “paki.”
9. Relax and Chill Out
Other than loads of water fun and exciting nightlife, strive for an authentic Boracay experience by keeping open to what’s in and cool at Boracay. Get the locals for a traditional Pinoy “Hilot” massage at only Php300-350 instead of the more expensive spa service.
Instead of riding the tricycle at Php. 80-150 per ride, opt to rent a bike at Php. 100 per hour for an unlimited sighting around Boracay while flexing your muscles. You could also forget about those hair styling products temporarily and have your hair fully braided at Php. 200 - 300 to get that ultimate tropical look. You could also turn into your artistic inkling by getting a henna tattoo at only Php. 100-200.
10. Take Home Souvenirs
Photo by Tony Cheng on Flickr, Creative Commons
You wouldn’t end your memorable time at Boracay simply with just an adieu. Definitely, you would desire to have tokens of your Boracay vacation shown off to your friends and family back home. So go on, head your way down to D’Mall, flea market or beachfront sidewalks where you could hunt and bargain for the best deals on low-priced, varied and unique souvenir selections.
You can save more if you buy souvenirs which are sold in bulk. You are confident that you bought quality in quantity and cost less when you buy in retail. Make sure as well that your smartphone or video camera don’t tire out fast from capturing your much-loved selfies or group pics worthy for instant posting at Facebook.
Don’t wait long before you could spend your ultimate getaway in Boracay. You don’t need to be an opulent celebrity or tycoon to get there. Neither you need to be a sexy bombshell nor a foreign-looking tourist to wade Boracay’s stretchy beach waters. With prudent planning and bare fancy for an authentic island experience, you could unveil the best Boracay experience ever while remaining as excited as any budget backpacker could be.