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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Boracay Hurray! : Getting There

We've been wanting to go to Boracay for years but we never got even to planning stage for reasons like conflict of schedules, we had a baby, we couldn't get cheap flights, we need to wait 'til Enoe is big enough to travel, etcetera etcetera.

But at the start of this year, I made a 'To Do List for 2011' (instead of a new year's resolution) and among the many things I want to accomplish was that long awaited, much dreamed about trip to Boracay. I wanted it for my birthday and by God's grace we finally saw one of our dream destinations.

Boracay has been consistently ranked and voted as one of the best beaches in the world by many travel magazines and sites. And I can speak with all honesty that it is really the best with super fine white sand (it almost felt like walking on pulvoron as I fondly put it) and crystal clear blue green water.

Booking and paying for flights was quite easy now especially with the emergence of budget airlines that offer promos every so often on domestic flights. I chanced upon an airfare sale from Cebu Pacific sometime in May and took that as a cue that we really MUST go to Boracay this year.

We arrived in Kalibo International Airport past lunchtime. The airport was small with the arrival area only the size probably of Manny Pacquiao's living room in Forbes Park. Not even five minutes after deplaning, our bags started coming out of the conveyor.

It's an hour and a half (more or less) from Kalibo Airport going to Caticlan Jetty Port where we took a motorized boat to Boracay Island. There are several bus operators outside the airport that offer transfers to Caticlan. The cost per person is Php380 inclusive of all the fees and banca ride at the jetty port. I've read in various blogs that taking a van would be quicker so that was what I scouted.

There are plenty of vans and coasters servicing the Kalibo-Caticlan route, and are accredited by local tourism office (look for the huge sticker on the windshield and the driver's ID). Cost per head is Php200 inclusive of the Ph25 banca fare.

But instead of taking a van with other passengers, we opted to rent for a private one as it is the first time for my toddler to take public transport and he is very frisky. We're  a group of 4 adults (we're with my mom and a nanny) and 2 kids anyway so it's pretty much just adding a few hundred pesos. (We also contracted the van owner/driver to pick us up on our way back to Kalibo).

We arrived at Caticlan Jetty Port after a little over an hour. Caticlan is a barangay in the town of Malay, Aklan province and it's one hell of a lucky barangay to be the hop off point to the most popular beach in the country. But before we can hop to any banca, we had to pay for several fees which to me seem ridiculously high. 

The boat ride was said to take 15 minutes but boy, it was quicker than that (or maybe I was just too excited?). Before could even settle in our seats, we're already getting off the boat and onto the beautiful island of Boracay.

Here are some tips when planning a family trip to Boracay:

1. Take the Kalibo flight instead of Caticlan as flights there are often diverted to Kalibo anyway due to the very short runway. If it drizzles and the runway gets slippery, you'll get diverted. I would say Kalibo is the fair way to go although you'd have to travel 1 hour by land to Caticlan, it is better than getting stressed finding out you paid for a more expensive fare and get diverted to Kalibo on short notice.

2. If traveling with small children, check-in all luggage that you wont be needing on the plane (if taking Cebu Pacific, buy at least 15kg luggage allowance in advance as it cheaper than getting charged up front upon check in). On most flights passengers board the plane a few meters from the gate (no connecting tube) and more often than not, you'd have to walk to the plane and take the stairs so it is wise to unburden. I bet you'd rather carry your child than a bag, right?

3. If you're a group of more than 5 take a van instead. Talk to the driver and negotiate if you can rent the whole van for your group. Example, our one way trip with the van exclusive to us for Php1200 and we're 4 adults and 2 kids. Regular van fare is Php200 per head. Do the math.

Travel expenses and fees (exclusive of meals and incidentals):

Airfare - from Php2500 - Php3000 per head on promo fare (incl taxes, fuel surcharge, etc)
Airport Fee - Php200 each
Transfer from Kalibo to Caticlan - Php1200 van rental exclusive to us. Otherwise, pay Php200 per head and van is shared with other passengers
Environmental Fee - Php75 per head (paid at the jetty port)
Jetty Terminal Fee - Php50 per head (for passing by the jetty terminal, going through an x-ray machine for luggage (yeah, yeah, i know it's funny and ridiculous) and walking about 10 meters going to the banca.)
Boat Fare - Php25 per head


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