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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Broke in Boracay: Enjoying the island when you're low on dough

Home to a stretch of high-end resorts and award-winning hotels, Boracay Island is not exactly known for being a budget-friendly destination—after all, who bothers about money when you’re in hedonistic heaven?
Water sports and island-hopping during the day, beachfront massages at sunset, cocktails at night all the way until sunrise—this is the ideal Bora program. Of course, it doesn’t come without a hefty price tag.
But a small budget doesn’t have to come in the way of enjoying the vacation hotspot, especially during the off-peak season (June to early October) when the prices of everything from airfare to accommodations are lower.

Getting there
Promo fares are aplenty when it’s off-peak, so a couple of months before your trip, keep an eye out for seat sales from budget airlines like Cebu Pacific, SEAir, Zest Air or Airphil Express, which offer two Boracay-bound flights: to Kalibo, roughly two hours and 15 minutes away from the island itself by shuttle and banca; or Caticlan, which is only one banca ride away from Boracay’s white shores. Through the seat sales, you can even score a roundtrip ticket to Caticlan for less than P1,000 if you are so fortunate.
For those who have the luxury of time (14 to 16 hours to be exact), you could also opt to travel to the island by sea through the 2Go Travel Ferries, which sail from Batangas to the Caticlan Jetty Port and back for a little over P900.
Where to stay 
Whether you’re staying on White Beach, the island’s main tourist strip, or Bulabog beach on the other side, which is popular among kite surfers and wakeboarders, there are many cheap accommodations, if you know where to look.
The northern-most area of White Beach is Station 1, which has the widest shore, the finest sand and more expensive rooms, though relatively cheap beachfront accommodations are still available here.

Around Station 2 there is the Boracay Garden Resort, which offers special promo packages for the lean season, which includes accommodations for two nights, a daily buffet breakfast (where you can eat back your money's worth) and set dinner, and land and sea transfers via Caticlan, for P1,628 per person.
The cheaper accommodations are to be found at Station 3, the less commercial area of White Beach, with rooms going for as low as P1,000 a night or even cheaper for those who are willing to forego the comforts of air-conditioning. At Station 3, for instance, fan rooms at Orchids Resort can go for as low as P500 a night.
Meanwhile, along Bulabog beach, also a popular windsurfing destination, fan rooms good for two can go as low as P660, like at the Isla Kitesurfing Guesthouse, located right on the beach.
Book a room in advance and feel free to work your tawad charms on the hotel managers/owners, who are likely willing to give you the best price if they’ve got room to spare. If you’re traveling in a big group, all the better—everything, especially room and board, is cheaper when shared.
Where to eat
No one will judge you if you make baon some canned goods and cup noodles from home, or else stock up on them at the nearest grocery store. Food can be expensive on the White Beach strip, though there are a few exceptions.
Smoke, at D’Mall for instance, offers filling meals like inihaw na pusit with rice for only P100. Big Mama’s at Station 1 also offers meals like inihaw na liempo with rice for P95, and house specialties like pork adobo with rice for P80.
Of course, there’s always Andok’s, which serves their famous Porkcharap and Dokito Frito for less than P60, and the eternal Choriburger, which you can get at the sidewalk grill stands for around P40, sold alongside the less-famous-but-certainly-just-as-yummy-especially-if-you’re-Boracay-drunk grilled hotdogs (also P40) and barbecued isaw (P10 per stick).
What to do
The best thing about Boracay is, no budget hardly means no fun. Sure, you may have to do without island-hopping, cliff-diving, paraw sailing, or kiteboarding which all cost a pretty penny. But on this bustling island, there’s plenty else to do even for those who don’t have plenty of money. 
For P299 (off-season), you can enjoy a beachfront massage. For P50, you can climb D’Wall at D’Mall. For P35, you can shoot as many baskets as you can at the Boracay Showdown. But please, for your own sake, no matter how cheap it is, do not let them cornrow your hair. 
For absolutely nothing at all, walk the length of White Beach and people watch, lay out your sarong and fall asleep under the sun or finally finish that novel. Jump into the water and swim to famed Willy’s Rock, let your body ride the waves, share secrets with your “bestest” friends as you float in the water. Take cheesy jumping shots, get sand in your hair, join a Frisbee game and make new friends while you’re at it. 
Watch the sky turn pink and people fade into silhouettes as the sun sets, be reminded that life is good, and realize that when people say that the best things in life are free, this is exactly what they mean. –KG/HS, GMA News
Disclosure: The author's trip was sponsored by Boracay Garden Resort.

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