Getting to the Philippines’ most popular island paradise of Boracay is a popular and well-documented trip, but there are definitely some information gaps on what to expect and how to prepare for your voyage, if you have never done it before.
The purpose of this Unofficial Guide is to allow readers to know exactly what to expect when vacationing in Boracay.
Fly, Fly, Fly!
There are not just one, but two international airports within a 2 hour van trip to Boracay, and the availability of flights is quite abundant. Several domestic carriers have multiple, daily trips to Caticlan International and Kalibo International airports, from Manila and Cebu.
Unfortunately, those people traveling from other domestic airports in the Philippines have far more limited schedules, but one-stop flights are available from EVERY Philippine airport via a stop thru Manila or Cebu.
Boracay is just off the coast of Panay, and the two airport options that we are talking about are on this large multi-province island. The first one, and further away of the two, is in the nearby town of Kalibo.
Flying into Kalibo
Kalibo International Airport will offer slightly cheaper flights on average because of the extra travel distance. Expect a crowded journey of 1-2 hours in a passenger van to get to the Boracay jetty port in Caticlan from this location. When looking into this option for your trip, consider that the savings of flying into Kalibo International should be at least making up for the 2 hour van ride and approximately 200 PHP (Philippine Peso) fare.
Tour companies are excellent at identifying money making opportunities, and travelers to Kalibo can be confident that there will be a manned tourist desk and a handful of van options waiting at the airport terminal for EVERY flight that lands, despite the carrier, or how late it arrives. The enterprising locals would never let tourists sit without a ride.
An important inclusion to look out for is the required boat transfer. Save yourself the trouble and make sure that the van ride that you are paying for ALSO includes the ferry ticket to Boracay island. A travelers should be able to get a ticket for 250 pesos (5 USD) per person which included the trip in an air-conditioned van, AND a ride to Boracay once we arrived in Caticlan.
Remember it is perfectly OK to ask to see the van before you agree to pay. Is it already full and just waiting on you and your group to leave, or will you have to wait for 10 more people to get on before starting the trip? Does the van have individual seats vs bench seats, individual air conditioning? Is there enough space to safely pack your bags without needing to tie them to the roof? These are all legitimate considerations to look out for.
Getting to Boracay from Caticlan
If you are flying direct to Caticlan airport, you will be landing at a new (2017), more modern, international terminal. Visitors are greeted by a line for tricycles once you exit the terminal building. This 50 peso ride (1 USD) is definitely worth skipping if you only have a carry on with you. The walk from the terminal to the jetty port is less than a half of a kilometer, but the line and drivers would have you believe it is much further away! Just follow the direction that the tricycles are headed and you will arrive at the jetty port in a matter of minutes, even on foot!
Arriving in Caticlan will save you lots of time, and that is what is important to consider when buying your flights.
Navigating the Jetty Port
Because Boracay is the Philippines’ number one international tourist destination, this is a very busy jetty port, and it can be quite confusing!
Security here at the Caticlan jetty port is tight, with the Coast Guard and National Police both having a presence to protect the tourism cash cow. Also, you can expect to run your bags through an x-ray machine and walk through metal detectors once entering the jetty port terminal, but first, you must fill out the appropriate paperwork and pay the terminal fees. All this stuff is easy and repetitive to any traveler in the Philippines, but it is important to consider the time it takes.
There are three windows at left to the entrance to the terminal. Its best to fall in line and just keep moving with the crowd as soon as possible. It moves quickly, but the lines can get very long if several flights are landing at that hour. Don’t worry, it moves fast.
Window one is to purchase a ferry ticket, so you can just skip this window if your van ride from Kalibo included one. It is important to note that there is only one line for all three windows and it is similar to a buffet serving line: everyone moves through together, making stops at each window.
Window two and three is the payment and terminal fee windows and these cannot be skipped or you will not be allowed to enter the ferry terminal. The total should be less than 250 pesos (5 USD) and you will be handed the appropriate tickets.
These tickets that you just received will be torn and handed off to the folks letting you into the terminal.
After getting through security, you go through the terminal, separated by Nationals and Foreigners, and have an opportunity to make a bathroom stop before proceeding to the boats.
It is at this point that you can fill out the required forms to hand to the boat operators. This data is gathered for tourism purposes and to create the boats’ passenger manifests.
There are one or two more quick checkpoints before you walk down the pier and board the 40 person ferry. Porters will take your bags and load them onto the vessel. You need to find a seat and put on the life vest to comply with coast guard regulations.
This quick, 15 minute trip is a short trip across the channel to the Boracay Jetty port, so sit back and enjoy the ride. There is not much to see, but you may be lucky to catch a few airplanes taking off and landing from Caticlan’s runway, which butts up to the sea.
Arriving on Boracay island is exciting and electric; it is comparable to a US domestic flight into Las Vegas, everyone on the flight, including the cabin crew seem to be in a great mood! The process is reversed as you disembark the ferry; your bags are offloaded by the porters, and you head down the pier to the island.
At this point, first timers will definitely notice the crystal clear waters, even at the jetty port. The few glimpses of palm trees and white sand beaches here are just a small sample of what the island has to offer.
The end of the pier is essentially a tricycle stand. Visitors can hire private or take a group (hop-on, hop-off) trip, which is far cheaper. Expect to pay 100-150 Pesos for just about any time you get into a trike on Boracay.
That’s it! You will be on White beach in no time. Enjoy Boracay!
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