There are two things that almost deterred me from traveling to Boracay. The first was Super Typhoon Haiyan and the second was the cost. After getting downright spoiled backpacking through budget-friendly Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, I was a little nervous that a visit to the world-class beaches of Boracay was going to be way out of my price range.
Boracay was the first stop on my two-month sojourn in the Philippines. And I came in expecting to break the bank. But the Philippines is a country that’s full of surprises. I was downright shocked that after spending 10 blissful days in paradise, I managed to not only travel to Boracay cheaply, but I even stuck to my $40-a-day budget.
It really is possible to travel to Boracay on a budget!
As someone who was able to conquer Boracay on a backpacker’s budget, I wanted to share 10 tried-and-true tips on how you too can travel to Boracay on a budget:
A Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Backpacker’s Budget…
1) Discounted airfare
For a lot of backpackers, the Philippines is not a common stop on the banana pancake trail for a reason: it’s expensive to fly to. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, one of the main reasons I traveled to the Philippines was because I managed to snag a few discounted tickets from AirAsia and AirAsia Zest. I flew from Manila to Kalibo (Boracay’s airport) for $20. And at the end of my trip I flew from Cebu City to Kuala Lumpur for only $15 (my biggest budget-travel achievement thus far!).
Here’s a tip:
It really pays to follow budget airlines like AirAsia on twitter (@airasia). I know it seems weird, but they offer discounted tickets all the time; the only catch is that they sell out quickly so you have to be ready to pounce on them!
2) High season doesn’t mean high prices
I traveled to Boracay in mid-November 2013, the very beginning of the high season. I came in thinking I would have to pay through the nose for a mediocre room. I booked one night at the Villa Criselda Resort for $40. I wasn’t all that jazzed on it, so the next day I walked around to see if I could find a better deal. I stumbled upon Alice in Wonderland Resort for $23 a night (half the price!).
I’m sure I could have found something for less. But it was a cute little bungalow, complete with a porch and hammock. It was clean, had AC, a pool and was a two-minute walk to White Beach! It was a great value. And I honestly can’t even imagine how cheap accommodation would be during the off season!
3) Don’t book ahead
I almost hesitate to say this because I would feel awful if someone were left without a room based on my advice. (If it’s a holiday, then you should book ahead!) But from my experience the tiny island of Boracay is bursting with cheap places to stay. Just take a look on Agoda and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Budget hotels are clustered around piers 2 and 3. I walked around for 15 minutes and came across a handful of budget-friendly places for around $25 for a double room (and I didn’t even look that hard!). The reason I recommend not booking ahead is because a lot of these budget hotels don’t have websites so it isn’t possible to reserve them online.
I recommend booking one night ahead of time and then hunting for a better place the following morning. That’s what I did and it really paid off.
4) Refill water bottles at a water refill station
Bottled water can be expensive in the Philippines, especially in Boracay. It’s hot there and depending on how much you drink, water alone can eat up a chunk of your daily budget. That’s why I was so excited to see that Boracay has quite a few water refill stations sprinkled around town. (Note that a lot of them double as laundry facilities.)
You can either put down a refundable deposit on 2.5 gallon container for roughly 200 pesos. Or you can bring in your own water bottles. The bigger the bottle you fill the better the value. It basically cost 50 pesos to refill a 2.5 gallon container.
I always travel with a reusable water bottle (Nalgene is my go-to), which I can just refill and carry with me whenever I go out. Not only does this cut costs, but Boracay suffers from a huge trash problem so it’s always nice to reduce your waste.
There is a water refill station up the beach from Pier 2. Just turn when you see the Alice’s Beach Resort and walk up a couple of blocks. The laundry/water facility is on your right. There’s also a water refill machine near D’Mall next to the BPI (7 pesos per liter).
5) Rent an apartment
It sounds indulgent, but renting an apartment can actually be a very affordable option in a place like Boracay. I actually found a beautiful apartment with a full kitchen on Airbnb for $15. The only drawback was that it was located on Bulabog Beach, which is a 15 minute walk from White Beach. However, if I were to go back to Boracay I would seriously consider this option. Not only does it save on accommodation, but it’s possible to cook all of your own meals at home, cutting down on food costs. This could be a huge money saver, especially if you’re traveling in a group.
Even if you don’t have a kitchen, it is possible to self-cater. When it came to food, being a vegetarian in Boracay was a killer. Luckily my hotel room had a refrigerator. I went to Craft’s supermarket in D’Mall to buy bread, cheese and yogurt and the nearby outdoor produce market had lots of cheap fruits and veggies. I was able to make sandwiches and salads for lunch each day. And for breakfast I typically had cereal or oatmeal with fresh fruit. I also purchased a jar of Nescafe and made coffee at my hotel instead of buying it out. This really helped to cut down my food costs. Plus, I was able to splurge on dinner each night without breaking budget!
7) Cheap street food
Eating is probably the most pricey activity on the island. And since I’m a vegetarian it was tough for me to find cheap, veg-friendly options. One thing that I love about the Philippines is the street food. Between piers 1 and 2 there are little stalls set up during the afternoon selling candied plantains and potatoes and other fried treats for 15 pesos. Admittedly, they weren’t the healthiest options but they were delicious, filling and cheap! Fresh fruit shakes were available everywhere for about 60-90 pesos and were refreshing and so good.
8) Stay longer
I ended up staying in Boracay for 10 nights. However, given my inability to plan ahead I didn’t bargain a discounted rate. In hindsight I should have paid (in cash) for all 10 nights up front. I would have been able to get a much better deal.
If you can’t get a discounted rate, you’ll likely be able to get a free breakfast each morning if you’re staying longer. Monthly rates for rooms are widely offered at a 30-50% discount. It really pays to stay longer. Even if you’re only staying for three days paying up front can probably reward you with a slight discount on your nightly rate.
9) Take advantage of the cheap booze
Let’s face it, Boracay is a party town and chances are you’re going to do a fair amount of drinking there. Aside from the rest of Southeast Asia, the Philippines is a place where rum is cheaper than water. Drinking in the Philippines is a pretty affordable activity. And, in Boracay, there’s the added benefit of some great happy hour deals.
But if you’re looking to save a buck or two, it’s just as easy to chill out on the beach with your own beer instead of buying it from an overpriced restaurant or bar. If you are going to purchase your own beverages, don’t buy them from the supermarkets or mini-marts. Hit up the local family-run stores to get the best deal. A bottle of San Miguel should cost no more than 30-35 pesos and a liter of Tanduay Rum runs about 90 to 110 pesos.
10) Go to the beach
I know, I know. This is a given. But I had to include it. A lot of people knock Boracay because they say it’s too overdeveloped, extremely touristy and crazily overpriced. I was so convinced of this that I almost skipped it altogether. While there is some truth to all of these things, Boracay is honestly one of my top 5 favorite beaches in Southeast Asia. And it comes at a pretty reasonable price.
I was able to enjoy this beach on $40 a day and I’m sure if I would have tried harder I could have done it for much less, like this blogger and this blogger did. With a little bit of creativity Boracay can be enjoyed on any budget and it is so worth it!
Have you been to Boracay? What are some tips you have on how to travel to a pricey destination on a budget?