Enjoying Your Vacation On A Shoestring Budget In Boracay
31.10.2015 - 02.11.2015
Last minute packing for a 3-day vacation in Boracay, had me both excited and anxious. Excited because after all these years where almost everyone I know old enough to travel, had at one point been to that island paradise in the province of Aklan at the Western Visayas region. Everyone but me. Anxious since although I had this trip planned weeks ahead but the near realization of that idea still remains to be seen. But one thing is sure and I'm dead set to achieve it - enjoy the experience without breaking the bank.
First: book a cheap flight. You can only do so by booking weeks ahead of your intended date or better yet check for travel promos, you can find a lot of them in the net. From Manila, there are two airports to choose from, Kalibo or Caticlan. We chose the latter. Although, via Caticlan is more expensive by Php 500 per way, it cuts travel time by 30 mins. to an hour. Cheapest among the plane fares we checked was Cebu Pacific and they usually are. We were just so lucky to avail of a round trip promo fare worth Php 5,000. 2-way fare ranges from Php 4,000 to Php 12,000 depending on the season and proximity to the departure date. A credit card is a must when doing online transactions .
Next: Book an accommodation. We checked agoda.com, which offered the best deals in the net so far that time when i checked for the cheapest. We were able to book a room in a posh yet inexpensive La Carmela de Boracay, a 3 star beachfront hotel at Station 2 for Php1,700 (US$37) a day. By the way, there are 3 major stations that basically cover the long white sand beach front in Boracay, with Station 1 being the closest to most of the upscale hotels, bars and water sports booking stations, Station 2 comprises of bars, hotels, tourist centers and Station 3 a fusion of resto bars and hotels and at the far end of it are some local villagers inhabiting the island. La Carmela was the cheapest that week, nearing All Souls' Day. If you have extra budget for this adventure, you would be very comfortable billeted at one of those cozy rooms at Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa , a 5 star hotel at Station 2, which at Php 6,300/day (US$ 134). You will surely enjoy your stay with the luxurious, contemporary Asian designed rooms. But again hotel rates are not stable, the earlier you book the best rate you'll get and depending on the season they could go very low on off peak season which is June 1 to November 30 and peak season being December 1 to May 31. Tonglen Beach Resort for instance offer Php1,200 standard aircon room on off peak season but it will go as high as Php 2,700 on peak season. Usually, some travel agencies incorporate flight fare with the hotel accommodations.
Getting around. From Caticlan airport, there are tricycles which will get you to Caticlan Port in about 5 minutes for Php 10 per person. From the port, you need to buy the terminal fee amounting to Php100 and environmental fee for Php 75. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes, bringing you to the white beach port. Another tricycle ride will bring you to the beach Stations nearest your accommodation for only Php 10. Now, hold your breath and take a stroll along the world renowned pristine powdery white sands of Boracay.
Where to eat. Finding a cheap restaurant will not be difficult. At the back of the resort hotel and resto bars that line along the 4 kilometer stretch of long white sand beach, aside from the colourful local markets that sells handcrafted souvenirs are restaurants and carenderia that serves paluto, local term for cooking services of your own choice dish after buying those seafood or chicken meat or pork from the wet market a few steps away from the carenderia. Our hotel accommodation served us free breakfast so we only have to take care of the lunch and dinner. Mainly lunch because at night time I would prefer to take light meal like a bowl of bachoy, a local specialty which is a concoction of noodles, pork liver, boiled egg and chicharon, which costs Php35 only, and you can conveniently buy that at a local talipapa at the back of Station 2.
What to do. Beach experience is never complete without the water sports activities. All you have to do is choose your adventure, book your activity at their booking stations where mostly you can find them at Station 1 near D'mall, upon completion of booking details escorts will accompany you to your pick up and later at the drop off area or if orientation is required such as for island hopping or scuba diving, you will be guided accordingly by their staffs. Rates for some activities like island hopping is Php 2,200 per person but if you'll be in a group, of course rates will be lower for only Php1,300/person. You can look forward to a boat trip that will take you to some exciting Boracay getaways where you can go snorkeling and swimming all day with snorkeling gears provided for free. Underwater marine thrill which you can get with scuba diving will cost you Php 3,000 per person and that will include 3 to 4 hour of lectures in scuba diving, well yeah you come all the way to Boracay to be lectured for hours and then the 1 hour actual dive. Jet ski ride is at Php2,500 per 30minute unit rental. A unit can accommodate up to 2 person, just make sure that the other person knows how to drive if you yourself do not have the skill. You can check My Boracay Guide for other the water sports activities, you can spend with your budget. But just remember your mantra - travel for less. Otherwise, you might end up swimming back to Manila as you run out of budget.
Nightlife in Boracay. Of course, one can never feel the excitement of being in Boracay if you do not experience getting wasted in the bars or in the beach and if you're lucky enough, hook up a one night revelry with someone of different race. Whatever your preference, drink and drink and drink to your heart's desire or as your bladder can hold. Local beer prices as of this writing costs Php65 to 75 per bottle depending on the bar, the fancier the bar looks, the costlier the beer will be. To enjoy the experience to the max, we drank a couple of beer from each bar from Station 1 to Station 3 (imagine the 4km bar hopping and the liters of beer inside my beer bladder, good thing we started early) and even managed to jam with an acoustic player at the Tree House Bar which you can find at the far end of Station 3, where my beer loaded version of Matchbox's Unwell even received a polite and understanding applause from some consenting and tolerating patrons of the bar. Well, partly maybe because we also tolerated their murderous version of some popular songs.
To each his own, like the party goers of different nationalities mostly in their 20's and early 30's, who have no qualms dancing in the bars and in the streets as it was closing midnight. Fire dancers strutting their stuffs in front of awed foreigners but most of those frequent customers were just trying to pass the time as the show had been repeated a hundred times or so. Beside a bar, my eyes admired those sexy European girls swinging to their hearts' content but I knocked myself out of it sensing momentary lapses in my decision (sic) for I was myself walking beside one of the sexiest girls in Boracay at that time. Yeah just my luck. Wish i had done this in my younger years. Well as they put it, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and so it is in Boracay.
Traveling need not be expensive. A lot of barriers are stopping us from doing that lifelong dream- to travel, to see different places and experience even for a few days getting away from our exhausting daily routine in life. Those constraints may be time, family, but most especially money. So to solve the latter, one needs to acquire the skill and learn the tricks to be able to travel at the lowest cost possible. Time and family will always fit in your itinerary if you have the means to execute your plan.