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Boracay is a scammer’s paradise. The beach is so darn beautiful that most people would still pay even if they are institutionally scammed (ehem, environmental fees, really? 100 Pesos per tricycle, really? And the list goes on…) or otherwise. Airlines are in on the joke, too, folks. And they’re laughing at you. Yes, you, who in your desperation to experience one of the world’s best beaches that beat Ibiza and Miami’s South Beach to a pulp, had hastily booked a flight as soon as you’ve plotted your work-leaves for the summer holidays. You come back to Manila a few days-week(s) after and realize you’ve spent waaaay more than what you imagined you’d spend for such a holiday.

Fortunately, there are ways around this. Possibly the deadliest trap to avoid is the flight-trap, and here are a few tips that I hope will help send you on your way to Boracay without having to sell your belongings.

Tip # 5: Travel in a group

A good rule of thumb for anything in the world is: everything is cheaper by the dozen. Did you know that most airlines have special provisions (and quotations) for booking for groups of 10 or more? It’s often in the fine print in the airline’s website. Call them up, if you are part of such a group. It’s rare to travel in such a big group, you say? I say nay. Anyone from friends, family, coworkers, friends-of-friends, or anyone who wants to travel on the same dates as you can easily be amassed to form that powerful group of ten. Unless you’re a soul-searching foreigner, it’s rare for a Filipino to go to Boracay alone. Do away with the excuses and take the initiative of coordinating with people who are smart about their money like you are. You can and will find 10 people, especially for Peak and Super-Peak seasons. If you end up with your entire barkada, even better. Imagine converting an entire Airbus into a Magic Schoolbus ready to whisk you away from the humdrum of daily life? Plus, lodging gets cheaper, too, the more you are in a room.

Boracay is fun with friends. Unless your sole purpose is to hook up with other vacationers or to soul-search (though why in a party beach, I don't know), then going to Boracay in a group is loads more practical and fun.

Boracay is fun with friends. Unless your sole purpose is to hook up with other vacationers or to soul-search (though why in a party beach, I don’t know), then going to Boracay in a group is loads more practical and fun.

Tip # 4: Travel Off-Season, If Possible

Unless you go to Boracay very specifically for the sun, travelling during off-season is not as bad as first glance makes you think it is. First of all, EVERYTHING, bar none, is cheaper. Hotels can sound dirt-cheap compared to their super-peak season prices. Secondly, that famous, cringe-worth, algae-border of White Beach is often not there during most of Habagat season (very roughly, from June-December). The basic rule of algal growth dictates that for algae spores to proliferate, it needs lots and lots of nutrients and sunlight. Habagat winds dilute those nutrients and provide less sun than in the summer. And let’s face it, folks (especially those that have forayed into the aquarium hobby like me) — this influx of nutrients comes from mismanaged waste material. I am not in the position to talk about the waste situation of the overpopulated Boracay, but I can hazard an educated guess. And it’s probably a contributing factor as to why that stretch of filth is so very visible during summer.

boracay beach

Darker but cleaner and more peaceful Boracay (Photo credit: Dave Borghuis)

Actually, almost all air carriers go on sale for off-season, not just to Boracay. But maybe you could trade your resources for a peak-season in, say, Bohol, or Coron, and visit Boracay when it’s not at that point in the year when you’d probably regret going there (feeling scammed by all the post cards and Google Images pictures you’ve seen of “paradise”)?

Tip # 3: Never book Caticlan flights.

Caticlan is scamming paradise for airlines. In case you didn’t know, there are no airports in Boracay Island. Caticlan is only the nearest one to it, and you’d still have to take a boat and pay all the environmental fees and other incidental transportation costs after stepping out of the plane. Caticlan airport is also very very small, so the planes that service it are not your typical Airbuses. They’re the smaller side-propeller type. I’m not sure what they’re officially called. But they’re small, with less passengers, and this leads to more expensive fares. Also, Caticlan airport during peak season is notorious for delayed and even cancelled flights (that unprofessional, stoic air carriers often do nothing about to compensate despite rioting passengers. Heh. The perfect blood-boiling scam stress situation for any vacationer. [In some cases, though, some lucky fellas have been offered free transport via Kalibo and a free domestic roundtrip flight ticket]). So save yourself a few thousand Pesos and the risk and never book Caticlan flights, especially not the Caticlan-to-Manila trip home. The prices are ridiculous for that kind of risk of destroying your beach getaway.

Location of Boracay above Panay Island.

Location of Boracay above Panay Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead, book for Kalibo. It’s two-ish hours by land from Caticlan port where Kalibo shuttle vans will drop you (for a Php250/person fare). It’s anyone’s best choice, better than Caticlan by a few thousand Pesos in the price department. It’s hassle-free too, as people in Kalibo are very used to tourists coming to their airport to go to Boracay. You can find the shuttle vans just outside the airport, and if you’re traveling in a big group, perhaps you can even book your own van for a better deal than the standard Php250/head including boat fare.

If that’s still expensive, book Clark-Kalibo flights via TigerAirways. They’re the cheapest regular-fare offers that I know of. If traveling solo or if there’s no one to drive you to Clark Airport, there are buses in Megmall and Pasay that take you directly to the airport for Php350, one way. Add that in your computation of whether taking a Manila-Kalibo flight would be less economical than taking the Clark route.

Alternatively, and for those who want to do a side-trip, take the Iloilo route. Iloilo-Manila flights can be pretty cheap all year round, but especially when booked early. In case you didn’t know, Boracay Island is just off the Panay mainland (which consists of Iloilo, Roxas, Kalibo, etc.) Boracay is about 4 hours away by van (around Php325 fare) and about 6 hours by Ceres Bus line (that takes a longer path, around Capiz. But same fare, or negligible difference. I just prefer the bus ride because I love road trips and I much prefer the feel of a bus ride over a stifling van ride).

Tip # 1: The early bird always gets the worm!

What I like to do is to daydream about the places I want to go to within the year, who I want to travel with to those destinations, and when. As soon as a seat sale hits (which happen pretty often throughout the year), I book right away and plan/research later. Keep in mind, though, to not be fooled by extremely attractive “Piso fare” or “288-Peso fares”, because (ehemCebuPacific) likes to put in not-so-visible charges the farther you click into a booking. It’s their way of making you feel like that travel’s already within your reach (come on, who can resist “Piso” fares?), and as you type away your details, credit card numbers, call up and rally friends to book with you, they slowly but surely add a few pesos here and there until poof! Your Piso becomes a thousand! Airphil and Zestair are better in this regard. Their sites display the fares that they mean til the very end. Little fluctuations may apply, but not as wild as Cebupac claims their fares to be at first. Philippine Airlines is out of the question for fare sales. Their fare sales amount to regular fares of other carriers, although of course, their service is a bit better. Out of them all, Airphil is my favorite for the complimentary 15kg check-in baggage + 7kg hand carry, because being a contact-lens wearer, I need to travel with my solution and other such liquids, which aren’t allowed in hand-carry. Otherwise, I often skip the prepaid baggage option because unless I plan to stay in some local destination for a year, I simply don’t need that much stuff. Plus, it saves me 300+ Pesos at the very least.

Again, beware and be smart about purported seat sales. A scam by a good name can be a scam nonetheless. A good price for a budget roundtrip legit seat sale is anywhere from Php 1000-2000 to most local destinations from Manila. For Boracay routes, up that margin to 2500 and I’d still call that a very cheap air fare. Be vigilant, be realistic. If the final amount feels too pricey, don’t book it. You might regret traveling altogether if you do, and maybe it’s better not to travel at all than to travel with high expectations bound for disillusionment. A very expensive trip can easily take away the magic in discovering an otherwise great destination, if you worked hard for your money and know its value. Remember that good budget flights should be around 25% of all that you are willing to spend for in a trip, if you truly want to be a budget traveler. If you can envision spending 75% more of that amount during the days that you’ll spend at your destination (which, if Boracay, try to make it more than 3 days. Anything less is bound to be more of a waste than a good vacation.)

~

There you have it, folks. Those are my five budget-hacks for beginning budget travelers. Don’t be a slave to false advertising. Above airfare sale scams, I hate nothing more but tour packages that make it sound like they’re insanely cheap. But if one took the care to open their eyes, Google a little, and be less afraid of the unknown, DIY is still and will always be the cheapest way to go.

In terms of flying to the Philippines’ best-loved party beach, there are things you can do to enjoy it without offering yourself to the scam-gods. Best of luck! Tell me your Boracay budget experiences in the comments below!

See you in Boracay in May,

Shaira

17 thoughts on “Boracay: 5 Tight Budget Flight Tips

  1. Pingback: Boracay Lodging: Tan’s Guesthouse | Far Gazer, Life Chaser

  2. hello po! ask ko lang if by this month, possible pa kayang makakuha ng seat promos? either sa cebu pac, zestair or airphil tapos ang travel period is mga April 29 onwards? haaay… naghihintay kasi ako ng mas cheaper eh, like kahit man lang 200 or 300/pax one way. hehe!

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    • Hi, Ash!

      For the summer months, as far as I know Manila-Kalibo/Caticlan rarely/almost never ever goes on the 200-300-Peso range sale. You can try booking Iloilo instead and taking a bus to Boracay from there for Php350. Usually Iloilo flights are cheaper than Roxas, another closer alternate route to Boracay. Keep in mind that April 29 onward is Labor Day weekend, so it will be best to book now.

      I booked my tickets a couple of weeks ago, Tiger Airways Clark to Kalibo, for Php2100 roundtrip. I think it’s still a good deal for that holiday super peak weekend!

      Good luck!

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  3. hi! pwede mag ask! :) how much po yung boat ride from caticlan to boracay? and hanggang what time lang kasi gabi na ako dadating ng mga around 7 or 8pm :)

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    • When do you need an exact answer? I don’t have the updated rates but I will be in Boracay from May 1-6, so after that I can let you know the current prices.

      But from what I remember last year, it was at around Php50 for the fastcraft (that you don’t really need because Boracay is near) and about Php30 for the normal outrigger boat. You also pay something like Php50-70 for a really silly environmental fee, and about Php30 for the jetty terminal fee.

      About night trips, I’m not sure if the prices will stay the same. Don’t be surprised if they go up a bit for “special trips” or if you have to wait for other passengers. I’m also not sure about the last boat trip, sorry. I will try to find out.

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  4. hope to here back from you :) i’m traveling alone kasi and i have no idea what to do coz its my first time to go there. i would also want to ask if php 5,000 will be enough na for 3 nights?

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    • Excluding transportation and lodging? I think, yes. It depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to be living there. If you’re only there to lounge, swim, drink a few beers, eat, then that should be enough provided you stay away from the beach buffets (which, to me, are super rip-offs) and higher-end restaurants. If you can survive on Andoks in D’Mall for 3 nights, you will save a lot. My friends tell me there’s also a new McDonalds, but Boracay-priced. A chicken fillet meal costs 65 where it would normally be 50.

      If you want to enjoy activities like island-hopping, it’s best if you can make friends/arrangements with a group that has space in their boat, maybe you can join them and pay for individual cost so you can save.

      Tricycle rides are also hefty. From Boracay port, a tricycle will charge you Php100 to wherever you go, and the same going from your hotel to the port on the way home. From any point within the island to another point is around Php50. So if you can skip the trike rides and walk, you can save, too.

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  5. thank you so much for the tip :) i’m also going on the 3rd of may to 6th :) its a big help for me travelling alone, thanks again.

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  6. Hi there! I have a ticket to boracay from clark –kalibo-clark (july 14 return july 15) via tiger airways. Pls. share your experience flying tiger air from clark…

    Thanks

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    • Hi Eman!

      The plane I rode was ugly — it looked really worn to be still in use. But I did get there safely, so I suppose it’s alright. There is a shuttle from Trinoma to Clark Airport for Php 250 at 8AM and then again at 2. There are ones leaving hourly from Megamall, but are at Php 450 I think. From Clark to Manila, though, the buses offer a fixed rate of Php 450 no matter where you get off. I would suggest to carpool if there is someone to bring you. :)

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  7. Wow!! I really like the way you write. I can feel the connection and the hatred of scamming travel agencies. I’ll be going to bora for 4 days and 3 nights. The total cost per head for my airfare and hotel is actually lower than those ones from travel agencies that offer 3 days and 2 nights. Hahahaha!

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    • Always nice to hear from someone who appreciates the DIY methods! Hahaha. Yes, no matter what you do it will always be cheaper than agency-prices. I just wish, in this day and age of widespread and accessible information, that people take a little time to be smarter about travel. And for me that means not having to offer an arm and a leg just to unwind and discover the many offerings of the Philippines—any Filipino’s birthright! :p Haha. It really saddens me when people egg on a culture of elite-only-travel. It should be for everyone! :) Enjoy Boracay! And your name reminds me how much I want to go back to Cebu again. Thanks for stopping by to comment. :)

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        • To be honest, it’s been a long time! April 2010. I went to Bantayan Island for about 3 days and stayed for a total of 2 in Cebu proper. My host was gracious enough to tour me around the city. And I was also lucky to be have been able to explore Bantayan Holy Week culture beyond the beach, in the town itself. :) I have the opportunity to go back every summer but due to limited resources and time, I have chosen other destinations for Holy Week. But I will come back!

          And actually I think most Philippine travel blogs focus on the DIY budget travel sphere. I’m even a bit discouraged by the sheer number and success of other blogs, and can’t seem to find what I could do differently enough to be an effective blogger. One day, I might! Haha your blog is splendid, by the way. :)

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