(Traveling in the Philippines without flying)
Happy new year to all! This blog post is about the budgeted journey I took from Bacolod City, Negros Island Region to the Philippine capital of Manila with a side trip to Boracay. This is to give you an idea on how to travel the Philippines without flying so you can also customize your own Philippine travel itinerary if you are on a budget. Read on…
I had plan to come to Manila on January 9 from Bacolod City after the new year. I did not book a ticket ahead assuming that airplane ticket prices would be low. But when I checked airline websites, ticket prices were way beyond my budget (and way beyond a hundred US dollars too).
It is a fact that booking a plane ticket a week before departure would usually cost an arm and a leg, but this slipped my mind to be honest (blame all the holiday food). So I had to find a way to come back to Manila by not spending more than a hundred US dollars (or 5000 Pesos).
This is what I did:
1. Bacolod to Iloilo by Boat
Bacolod City is part of the province of Negros Occidental, which is located in the Western Visayas region. Nearby islands include Cebu, Siquijor, and Panay where the province of Iloilo is. The first thing I did was take a boat to Iloilo from Bacolod.
From the Breadco Port in Bacolod, I took the SuperCat boat, which offers daily trips to Iloilo with four schedules: 6am, 9am, 1220 pm, and 330 pm. The trip takes an hour and the cheapest ticket is at 210 Pesos (economy class).
Though I did buy a ticket a day before my scheduled trip, a storm halted my journey. I was
supposed to leave on the 9th, but the coast guard cancelled trips for the day so I ended up leaving on the 10th. Since the plan included a side trip to Boracay, I took the first trip – 6am – in order to arrive at the Caticlan Jetty Port (the gateway to Boracay) before 3pm.
FRIENDLY TIP: Though most locals choose to buy boat tickets on the day of departure itself, I still recommend travelers to buy ahead of time. Take note that if the coast guard decides to cancel a trip due to a storm or other unexpected events, you might end up queuing for hours because of the number of stranded passengers. Since I already bought a ticket in advance, I only had to line up for a few minutes because they have a special line for such ticket holders.
210 Pesos (original price for an economy seat) + 85 (upgrade to tourist class option because
they ran out of economy seats due to the abrupt cancellation) = 295 Pesos
2. Iloilo to Caticlan by Bus
When I arrived at the port of Iloilo, I headed outside the gate to take a taxi to the Ceres Liner Terminal where buses to the Caticlan Jetty Port are found. Though there were taxis lining up inside the port, the line was too long. I also heard that the taxis found inside the port charge more than expected. Since I went outside the port’s gate and hailed a cab from there, I just had to pay the exact price as shown on the taxi meter.
I initially thought that the only way to reach the jetty is via Tagbak Bus Terminal, but you don’t have to go to Tagbak anymore unless you want to take a private van. Ceres has its own terminal in Iloilo (around 15 minutes from the Iloilo port) with buses leaving every hour for the Caticlan Jetty Port. Trip to the jetty takes 6 hours.
150 Pesos (taxi ride to the terminal) + 350 Pesos (this includes 3 stops plus a 15-minute stop for lunch) = 500 Pesos
3. The Boracay Side Trip (Caticlan Jetty Port to the island of Boracay)
As a tourist, I had to pay 200 Pesos to get to Boracay (this includes the small boat fee to the
island, terminal fee, and the environmental fee) from the Caticlan Jetty Port. While in Boracay, I stayed at MNL Beach Hostel and paid a thousand pesos for a 2-night stay (includes breakfast). The hostel is located along Road 1-A, which is walking distance to the white beach (5-8 minutes) and Bulabog beach (200 meters). There are also plenty of good restaurants and watering holes around the hostel.
For Boracay first-timers on a budget, you don’t have to stay at Station 1, the known area at the white beach where most accommodations are made for luxury travelers. In fact, you can easily walk from one place to another. And if you’re a PWD (person with disability) tourist and need to take transportation, you can always ride a “tricycle”, which, if hailed from the road, only costs 10 Pesos per ride.
4. Going Back to Caticlan Jetty Port from Boracay / Boat from Caticlan to Batangas
Again, as a tourist, I had to pay 125 Pesos for my exit fee, which covers the boat and terminal fees, back to Caticlan Jetty Port. When I arrived at the jetty, I just had to line up at the 2GO booth – 2GO is a transportation company that offers ship trips in the Philippines. The only thing I had to pay afterwards was the terminal fee of 50 Pesos, which is charged prior to entering the waiting area (yes, you have to pay the terminal fee once again).
I booked ahead for my ticket to Batangas from Caticlan, and booking ahead, especially during peak seasons, is highly recommended for such mode of transportation.
The trip, which leaves at 8am daily from Caticlan Jetty Porty and includes a stop in the island of Romblon except on Wednesdays and Saturdays, took 10 hours. To stay on budget, I suggest that you bring packed food if you don’t want to buy from the ship’s canteen, which can be costly (set food costs more than 200 Pesos).
Was the trip comfortable? Definitely, even if I took the cheapest option – economy. If you don’t want to pay for the more expensive air-conditioned tourist cabin, you can still access the air-conditioned lounge where you can watch TV and charge your mobile.
125 Pesos (exit fee) + 1064 Pesos (economy class -ship) + 50 Pesos (terminal fee) = 1239 Pesos
5. Batangas to Manila by Bus (non-stop)
For this mode of transportation, I didn’t book ahead because I was told that there are plenty of transportation options waiting for passengers at the Batangas port. When I got there, I saw a number of vans and buses headed to different parts of Manila. Since I had to get off at the nearest MRT station (Magallanes), I only had to pay 167 Pesos. But, more or less, trips to Manila should not exceed 300 Pesos. The comfortable, air-conditioned ride took 3 hours.
OVERALL TRANSPORTATION COST from Bacolod to Manila without flying: 2401 Pesos
Airline ticket prices from Bacolod to Manila: 7500 Pesos and up
Total Savings: 5099 Pesos
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