The poor man’s guide to having fun on beautiful Boracay Island

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It may be one of the most famous white-sand resorts in the world, but Boracay Island is not beyond the pockets of budget travellers.

Getting to Boracay is easy; the main airport to the island is served by many airlines (the airport is not on the island itself). With a bit of searching you can often find promo fares and those who plan in advance get the best deals; flying to Boracay during off season is a bargain in itself.

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We’ve all heard the stories about Boracay and the upscale resorts and fine dining, superb nights out and luxury. You can get that information off of just about any website, but I’m here to show you the other side of the island.

Boracay Island

In 2013 Boracay was named the second-best beach in the world by Leisure & Travel Magazine, bringing with it a barrage of tourists and more people to fit in the already filled to capacity region. Again, keep this in mind on holidays and other prime-time vacations times around the globe, this can easily affect the cost of your budget trip to one of the great beaches in the Philippines.

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With these factors alone it’s no wonder half the world believes that Boracay Island is an expensive place for a break. Like most places I’ve travelled in this country, a good place to stay on the cheap and some good food at non-inflated prices is just the start to putting your budget vacation in the right direction.

Don’t get lured into that swanky little restaurant with the hot girls waiting on the tables to bring in the optimists – take a reality pill and remember, she just saw 8,000 of your kind this week, your odds are better at the poker table my friend.

Numerous rooms, small hostels and quaint hotels can be found in the alleyways and corners of Boracay Island. It’s rare to get a real deal on the beach but let me tell you, it is possible. Tree House Resort and Bar is one place you can enjoy the beach front accommodations on the cheap. This place is just a stone’s throw from White Beach Diver’s. A basic room at Tree House is 500 pesos, but if you want to stay in the tree-house rooms the price is still only 800 peso for two.

Some of the best deals in Boracay Island are not found on websites, the internet or for that fact any form of publication or advertisements. Like many great places that I have personally travelled throughout the Philippines, some of the best deals out there are family owned, run on word of mouth and repeat business.

Boracay is no different than the rest of the Philippines, going to this hot-spot without a reservation is not a problem if you stay away from peak seasons and holidays. Peak season in this region is from November to June and of course the already noted major holiday Holy Week, Christmas, New Years and more. During these noted peaks season times, accommodations throughout the island can easily double, if not triple.

White Beach is divided by Stations, with Station 1 being the ‘hot spot’. Some of the best deals will be down by Station 3 and the beach is less crowded and far less crazy people running around, day or night. If Station 1 and 2 are more your style you can still stay in Boracay Island on a budget in these zones.

The main road that leads into White Beach is only a five to 10 minute walk. Head out to the roadway and check the prices, you’ll easily see that many are nowhere near as expensive as the ones sitting by the sand. I always make it a point to stay as cheaply as possible – because Boracay is an island that never really sleeps. Those who love the late-night entertainment, midnight swims or just the peace and comfort of the outdoors will spend little time in their rooms.

White Beach Divers has many options including dorm beds as low as 200 pesos and various rooms which range up to 800. The higher priced rooms come with TV and the entire complex has good Wifi.

The Orchids is another place in Station 3 that has decent rooms, is well cared for and is only 600 pesos in a room with a fan.

Sundown Resort and Cena’s Guesthouse are two lower budget options in Station 3 area. Both range in price from 500 to 600 pesos with fan only. Cena’s is a bit far from any hotspot so if tranquility is your must then choose Cena’s. From Cena’s to get to Station 1 or 2 you only need to take a tricycle ride for 15 to 20 pesos.

Other various places to stay include the “Banana Saging Guesthouse” which offers rooms at just 500 peso and is in a nice region of Bulabog Beach.

Another one Bambooz House is in Station 1 – not beachfront but offers very nice rooms at off-season times for 600 pesos.

Last but not least give Boracay Actopia Resort at Cagban Jetty Port a try. This resort offers rooms which are good for four people for only 700 pesos.

All prices that are noted are per night. If you plan on staying longer than a week then a little haggling is in order. If you plan on staying a month in low season then be sure to bargain your way around 40% less in price for the entire stay.

Trust me, someone staying a month is a great prospect for a little hotel that serves food, drinks and more as the potential of you buying past your room fee is high, they know this, and you need to know too that this is a great bargaining tool to constitute a lower price for a month long stay [even a week long].

Food is another big expense. Again this will take you a little time to get used to but keep in mind, cheap eating means more fun and maybe one more beer on that night out.

There are numerous places that serve very nice food throughout Boracay Island. From Filipino food to foreign favorites, this place is packed full of good food at the right price. Smoke Resto is a place everyone should visit when in Boracay. Items from 80 pesos Pancit to Chili Chicken for 120 peso will give you a good fill and will surely bring you back for more.

Shenna’s Beachfront Resort and Restaurant is a must for food. Pancakes, omelets and crepes are outstanding and all under 100 pesos. Several cocktails are available for those out for the night which cost 60 pesos each and the local beers here are very competitive in prices. Shenna’s is a great hang out to sip on a drink and watch the sun go down.

When it comes to food there are numerous others. Testing those for taste and portions is not easy, but the two mentioned above are good examples. For those looking for a snack, the usual Laylam Shawarma with rice for 65 pesos is an all-time favorite. Master Siomai four pieces for 40 peso and Julie’s Bakeshop where an endless selection of baked goods from five to 50 pesos can be had. Most of these places are open 24 hours and have outlets throughout Boracay Island and at D-Mall. Hanging out at Julie’s is another spot to have a coffee, eat a little pastry and watch the day go by.

Cheap drinks can be had in many places on Boracay Island but my personal favorite is Exit Bar and Shenna’s. Both have a relaxed atmosphere and attract expats and other like minded people who are there just to enjoy themselves.

Many clubs throughout Boracay have Happy Hour specials to get the night going, so if that is your idea of starting off the night then by all means head out and get started early. If drinking a few on the backstreets is more your style find a store with a few chairs and a couple of litro drinks and hang out until the wee hours of the morning, they’ll love your company for sure.

The infamous “Pub Crawl” is another option. Though this can cost a bit of money it covers several aspects of having a great time on this superb island. First you get a great t-shirt, second you meet many foreigners and locals, third you get a good tour, some free drinks tossed in, some outstanding beach-games where prizes are handed out for the best groups and above all, your photo ops are posted on the website and Facebook pages of the Boracay Island Pub Crawl.

A good time on Boracay Island can be had for $150 to $200 for a week. Stay smart and don’t fall for the tours or the hype (don’t fall for the ‘free dinner’ deals either, remember, nothing in life is free).

If you really want someone to do you a favour, ask a local where to stay for cheap money. They will not ask you for money as many of the resorts will tip them for bringing you to them. If you are familiar with this practice then by all means use it, but if you are not – you might want to run your own gauntlet and make sure you are headed in the right direction.

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