A Cheapskate’s Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget

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!

A Cheapskate's Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget - Travel Lush

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!

A Cheapskate's Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget - Travel Lush
I was able to walk to this beach in minutes and paid under $25!

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.

A Cheapskate's Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget - Travel Lush
Windswept Bulabog beach is popular with kiteboarders.

6) Self-cater

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.

A Cheapskate's Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget - Travel Lush
A sweet pastry filled with purple rice? Sounds good to me!

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.

Backpacking Boracay on a budget - The Travel Lush
Beachfront beers!

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!

Backpacking Boracay on a budget - The Travel Lush

Have you been to Boracay?  What are some tips you have on how to travel to a pricey destination on a budget?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

26 thoughts on “A Cheapskate’s Guide to Backpacking Boracay on a Budget

  1. White Beach is soooo beautiful! You’re right, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Unfortunately we traveled there during Lunar New Year (which I would def not recommend), and it was overrun with tourists and much more expensive then usual. Fortunately, we weren’t on a budget (since it was just a week break for us from work), so it wasn’t a huge issue.

    Great tips though! I did not know about those water filling stations! Your post makes me want to go back and visit again… and I LOVE Air Asia. We once did 7 flights through Malaysia and Borneo for $150 total by watching for sales and booking at the right time. 😀
    Shelley recently posted…Travel Memory: Breakfast Culture at The Library

    1. Filipinos definitely love their holidays. When I was there in November there were already Christmas decorations everywhere which was so funny. I can’t imagine what it would have been like during the Lunar New Year. As you can see from my pictures it wasn’t all that crowded. Although maybe that had a lot to do with Typhoon Haiyan?

      I’ve heard water is pretty expensive in the Philippines so I was really excited about the water refill stations. I think a lot of tourists don’t know about them because a lot of them are laundry stores or they don’t look like a place you’d walk into. But they have them in every town and it’s such an easy and cheap way to get water.

      7 tickets for $150? That’s awesome! Air Asia is totally key. You can find some ridiculous deals – like Manila to Boracay for 1 peso – but you just have to check their site/social media often and book them immediately! I want to go back too 😉

    1. Yay Silvia! You should totally do it 🙂 i have to say that I really loved Malaysia too. But there’s something about the Philippines that stole my heart. I’ll be writing some more posts about my time there soon. Ah, but one place I really do want to visit in Malaysia is the Perhentian Islands. I didn’t make it to them when I was in Malaysia and I hear that they are paradise!!

  2. Ahhh I really want to go there! The beach looks so lovely! I think it’s about 8 hours to fly from Beijing so hopefully I can get some cheap flights sometime. As a fellow veggie I can totally sympathise on finding the veg stuff- somehow we always find something though, right? Great idea to self cater as much as possible and renting an apartment would make that so easy too.
    Joella J in Beijing recently posted…Sky High in Shanghai

    1. It’s such a great beach. I really hope you make it there someday soon! Yeah, the vegetarian thing was really tough in the Philippines. Plus, since most of the cheap local food was meat oriented, the only veg options were from western restaurants which are really overpriced on Boracay. So for me, self-catering was key. If I went back I would totally rent an apartment. You get such a good value and some of the are super nice compared to paying the same rate for a mediocre hotel room!

    1. Oh, right. I always forget China is really weird when it comes to social media. You can also just try and remember to check the website frequently. I do that all the time too! I totally recommend Boracay. I really loved it there and I seriously think it gets I really bad rap when it comes to being too touristy and built up.

    1. I love it too! Yes, Cebu Pacific is a great tip. I booked a really cheap flight through them too. Yeah, it’s kind of insane how cheaply you can can travel to and around the Philippines.

  3. During our trip to the Philippines, we skipped Boracay as we also worried that it would be way too expensive and overly touristy. It’s good to see that it is possible to visit it without breaking the bank—I know we’ll be back to the Philippines again some day, so maybe we’ll muster up the courage to check out the so-called best beach in the world!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…We Drove a Tuk-Tuk Across Sri Lanka & You Can Too!

    1. I was totally going to skip it too. And if it weren’t for making the snap decision to buy that discounted ticket from Manila to Kalibo, I likely would not have gone there. To me it sounded way too pricey and way too touristy. I’m so glad I went because I really did love it. (But, let’s face it, I pretty much loved every place I went to in the Philippines!!) I was so worried about the cost too. And while I did max out my $40-a-day budget every day I was there, I also realized that it’s possible to travel to Boracay no matter what your budget is. I could have done it for less or I could have easily broken the bank. Next time you go back I think you should give it a try! I’d actually be really interested to see what it’s like during the off season. I hear it really empties out and I think hotels would be dirt cheap!

    1. Yeah, the purple rice was a trip! It gets it’s color from ube, which is a purple yam that’s found all over the Philippines. It looks weird but it’s delicious 🙂

      1. But there is actually a purple rice in the Philippines which is locally known as “balatinao” in the north. There is also red rice

  4. hey guys…nice to get all the best positive comments about Boracay.. I’ll be there in december 2015 and it will be a solo backpack travel for me….btw, anyone interest to be companion feel free to inform me…

    Thanks and have fun =)

    1. Hey Jacqueline! thanks for the write up! i honestly do wanna do some “getaway time” soon.. I am thinking of heading to boracay in Dec.. gonna do a bit of planning.

      1. hey Jude, nice to hear from you~I’ll be there from 9th December til 14th December…yup..shud be a super peak season but hope I able to hv fun over!

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