Bonsai Boracay – Boracay Travel Guide

Let’s put the clichéd “dazzling, white beaches with crystal clear water, stepping into a postcard” description to one side for a second and let me give you an honest and clear review of my week in beautiful Boracay.

Here’s my quick and clear Boracay Travel Guide….

Getting there

Getting to Boracay is a MISSION. I am a seasoned traveller so I always say “getting there is half the fun”, and this is at least half-true when it comes to The Philippines. It took me a 20 minute walk in -20’c, 3 taxis, 2 flights, 2 subways, 2 mini buses, 1 train, 1 boat and 1 tuk tuk ride to get to the island. That was 36 hours of travelling including one night in what may have been the dirtiest, dingiest, worst kept hostel in the world in a city (Manila) not exactly known for its cleanliness or charm.

Hidden charge in the Philippines 

Despite the long hours, we met lots of cool people along the way and got to see a bit of the countryside. The worst thing, in my opinion, about The Philippines is all their hidden charges. The first taxi we hopped into settled a price then demanded we tip him  higher at the end of the journey.

We felt we got nailed with all the “terminal fees”; 200 pesos to leave Manila, 40 to leave Kalibo airport, 50 for usage of the ferry terminal and a WHOPPING 750 pesos (17 dollars!!) to leave the country. Next we had to fork out for an “environmental fee” each time we took the ferry.

I would not have minded paying the charges if they were simply all lumped into the price of the ticket or even into one ticket, which we thought we had done. We bought and “all-in” bus and boat pass for 200 pesos to get us from the airport across to the island. However the ticket did not include terminal fee and environmental fee which have to be paid at separate booths.

Boracay by day

Welcome to Paradise!

To add insult to injury, trying to actually pay all these fees is mind-blowingly difficult. Why? Because no one, and I mean no one, seems to have any sort of change. Try paying for a 50 cent ticket with a 10 dollar note and they will pierce you with their eyes shocked at your foolishness, sometimes even getting quite angry!

Okay back to business though. Apart from the above “what grinds my gears” side points about a trip to beautiful Boracay, let’s talk about why Boracay is a picture perfect, laid back paradise within the Pacific, true heaven on earth. And it’s not ALL about the beach!

Where to stay in Boracay

From the moment we checked into our hostel, “Bonzai resort” all our worries simply drifted away. Strolling down the main walkway by the beach, looking out over the ever-changing colors in the sky as the sun began to set was nothing short of magical. Sitting in a chilled out beach bar, sipping sweet cocktails (2 for the price of 1) at a fifth if the usual price while listening to Bob Marley look-a-likes strum along on their guitars and we realized the journey was totally worth it!

Live music @ MINT Bar, Boracay

Beach Bum Bar, Boracay- Cocktail Time!

Our “hostel” (which was more like a set of bamboo cabins set back from the beach) was an absolute bargain at only 9 dollars a night. Granted we only had cold water and the toilet seat was missing, the service and the hammocks awaiting us on our balcony each evening made up for any short comings.

The choice of food on Boracay is endless. The long stretch of White beach all the way from station one to station 3 is jam-packed with bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.

Our favorite  drinking hot spots were Deja Vu bar (owned by a fellow couch surfer) MINT, (with its amazing mojitos and cool Kiwi owner) Epic (gourmet food by day, happening dance club at night), JUICE (where, despite the name, you are more likely to have tequila shots) and Summer Place (the strips only night club).

Sunset on Boracay

Boracay Sunset, Picture perfect

Our group of 5 (Samy, Lee, Elaine, Ali and I) grew each day as we made new friends from newly weds Holly and Tom to Kim, a 21 year old well traveller german, and Vivian another german couchsurfing with Kim while on holidays from her internship in textile design in Shanghai. We also became very friendly with various bar owners! (Nothing new there!!)

With only 5 full days on the island, our time in Boracay was way too short. The weather, sadly, was not the best either with 2-3 days which were very over cast. Despite this though, a tropical paradise where a bottle of rum is cheaper than a bottle of water, will always keep a place in my heart (or liver!) so if you have some vacation days left don’t think twice and get on the next flight/train/boat or even better escape the dirty recession, get yourself a loan and invest in a little slice of paradise!

Further reading: Enchanting Paradise in The Philippines

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17 Comments

  1. February 7, 2011 / 7:45 pm

    So… I think I’m too jealous right now to comment anything proper. That Beach Bum Bar looks like exactly where I want to escape to right now….

    • intrepidtraveller
      February 8, 2011 / 9:58 am

      Yeah it was pretty sweet alrigh..wish they had places like that here in Korea…I can dream on..

  2. February 8, 2011 / 2:09 am

    Ahhh I forgot to mention that to you. ESPECIALLY in Manila and the big cities, taxi drivers feel obliged to receive a tip for being ‘honest’ and good. Kinda like children really but in the end they don’t make a lot.
    However, despite it not being legal for them to ASK for it, they never follow that law.

    I hope you were atleast able to get them to use the Meter a bit. Also, when you are at the airport they will charge you SO much..sometimes $10-15+ to leave FROM the airport. You should go to the 2nd floor Departures and find a taxi there so you don’t get rocked with a huge airport exit fee.
    And then you need to walk a bit away from the airport or bus terminal to escape their extra fees.

    They make diddly squat there in the Philippines and the Environmental fee is actually a good thing as long as it keeps the places you and everybody else loves clean and with aquatic life.

    Anywho…your trip looks amazing. I haven’t been to Boracay myself but would like to go. I definately don’t miss those taxi drivers though!

    • intrepidtraveller
      February 8, 2011 / 9:59 am

      Ah yeah it was just a few littl ethings that annoyed me, I realise that the money was well spent because it is such a poor country it just got me that i seemed to be putting my hand in my pocket every minute of the day, it was the hassle of it more than anything else!!

      • February 11, 2011 / 9:00 am

        It’s a bit calmer in other parts of the Philippines. Boracay just happens to be one of the top tourist destinations where all the people with money go to spend it and they have learned this and want their share ;) haha

        The funny thing is, even if you were poor they would never believe you because you are white AND you were able to fly in an airplane which many of them would never be able to afford.

        But yeah, I was super annoyed in Manila at times with all of the hawkers and people trying to get me to give me their money.

      • intrepidtraveller
        February 11, 2011 / 9:55 am

        Yeah Manila was the worst.Anywhere we walked we had people following us asking for money. I mean they seemed happy enough, just bored really so when they saw white people they seeme to jump on them! lol

    • December 25, 2011 / 1:43 pm

      Be careful with Mint Bar. They overcharge severely. As in $295 USD/12,000 + pesos for one crab and one lobster for two people on Christmas. Thieves.

      • intrepidtraveller
        December 25, 2011 / 11:59 pm

        Thanks for the heads up and I’m sorry to hear you got ripped off…that sounds OUTRAGEOUS! We were treated very well when we were there I must say- very reasonably priced cocktails but we never ate.

  3. February 9, 2011 / 1:29 am

    I love that paradise can be so accessible to us here ^^

    • intrepidtraveller
      February 9, 2011 / 2:19 am

      Haha accessible yes, difficult to get to though..as it should be!!!

  4. February 11, 2011 / 10:26 am

    That second picture you took: is that HDR? The color’s fantastic!

    • intrepidtraveller
      February 11, 2011 / 10:08 pm

      Half the pics are from my friend Ali, who I was on vacation with…she got a present of a pretty awesome canon camera and was putting it to good use! :) (Google picassa for editing also helps!!!)

  5. Moment Matters
    March 2, 2012 / 3:12 am

    Will be coming here this weekend!! Hope I will have that kind of adventure =)

    • intrepidtraveller
      March 3, 2012 / 1:23 am

      I’m seriously jealous, you will LOVE it! :)

  6. January 21, 2016 / 10:56 pm

    I agree with you on the ridiculous hidden charges.

  7. leslie
    February 24, 2016 / 10:15 am

    The comments about the trike drivers made me want to understand the truth about what we should consider as a fair trike fare in a foreign country. With this in mind, I spent some time finding out what the real story was with trike drivers in the Philippines… You will find the truth very interesting!

    My first port of call was to check out the circumstances of the average trike driver. Most of them live in housing/shelter constructed out of Bamboo, sometimes without running water. If they are lucky they might live in a dwelling constructed of bricks or concrete. When I say concrete dwelling, this would be of a far different standard than we would be used to; and would often be basic. In some parts of the Philippines the drivers are paid only PHP 6 per journey. That’s equivalent to about USD 0.1 per journey. In most places there is competition between trike drivers so they might only get 20 journeys per day. So that equates to maybe P120 or USD 2 per day; maybe PHP 200 on a good day; in other words most days they would probably earn less that USD 5.

    They have to provide food and clothing for their families. Should there be a technical issue with the vehicle, they need to pay for maintenance or repairs. If one of their family members needs medical attention, then unless they have another source of income, they would be lucky to afford even the most basic medical care. For more serious ailments they would have zero chance of affording medical care. So they really are poor.

    We are lucky enough to be paid a fair wage, have affordable healthcare (or in some cases free healthcare), good education and access to nutritious food. We would not bat an eyelid at tipping a waiter in a restaurant in our own country USD 5.

    A short journey in our own country would easily cost USD 5, or more, for a journey of equivalent length.

    If paying a little extra than the locals for a trike journey means that this guy is going to get the chance to feed, educate or pay for medical care of a sick relative. Then this is OK by me. I consider it a fair-trade trike fare; in other words a fare based on our ability to pay. You will also feel wonderful knowing that you have done your bit to help a family have a better standard of living.

    Try it, give them a day’s wage P120 or 200 (USD 1 or 2) for each journey. It’s still far cheaper than an equivalent journey in our own country and makes a huge difference to the recipient and his family. A little from us makes a big difference to someone in need.

    Have a wonderful holiday!