Boracay in the New Normal: Travel Prep

Quick disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging anyone to go out right now. Whatever you do, whether it is to stay home or go out, safety should always be the number one priority. When I told someone of my plans, his first reaction was WTF, but also told me that I’m an adult and I know what’s good for me. So I’m just going to say the same thing to anyone who’s reading this.

The last time I was in Boracay was Feb 2020. Back then, COVID-19 was already a thing and even though we weren’t required to wear face masks and face shield back then, they were already pretty stringent when it comes to accepting tourists into the island. They already had health declaration forms back then and even if you have checked in online, they still required everyone to go through the check-in counter for a temperature check. I can just imagine how more stringent they are now that we’ve been on this for a whole year.

Celine, Irick, and I were supposed to go to Japan at the end of January for Irick’s birthday. However, our flight was canceled back in late November. We have since rebooked this flight for Apr (since you can only rebook to a flight within the next 90 days), dunno if that’s happening, but if it doesn’t, we will have to totally cancel that because I don’t want to go to Japan during summer. Boracay was reopened for domestic tourists starting Oct 1st so we looked into possibly coming here instead. So we booked our flights to Caticlan and hoped for the best. Another friend, Gelai, also decided to come with us to Boracay. In early January, when I finally came around to researching more about the new guidelines for Boracay and watching some vlogs, I came across this girl who has been staying in Boracay for two months (watch her video here!). That gave me an idea to just stay in Boracay for a while. Luckily, two friends (Gelai and Irick) were on board with the idea. Unfortunately, Celine can only stay for a few days with us because she goes to the office to work, while the three of us work from home and it’s more feasible for us to work elsewhere.

So yeah, as I post this, we have been in Boracay for 26 days. But before that, I want to talk about the preparations we did and pretty much anything that you need to know before getting into Boracay.

FLIGHT

Okay, this was a rollercoaster ride HAHAHA. Lots of rebooking, cancellation, crediting, and travel fund moments. This is the timeline.

Nov 22, 2020 – Booked our MNL – MPH flights
Dec 29, 2020 – MNL – MPH flight was rescheduled so I moved my flight a day earlier to Jan 28th – the same day as Gelai’s
Jan 6, 2021 – Booked new MPH – MNL flights via CebuPac for Mar 1 using travel fund
Jan 16, 2021 – Requested for credit on my MNL-ILO flight that was supposed to be scheduled for Mar 6 so I can use that credit to pay for my checked baggage
Jan 19, 2021 – Added checked baggage to my MNL-MPH flight
Jan 26, 2021 – AirAsia MPH-MNL flights were rescheduled so we moved our MPH-MNL flight to Mar 1 and cancelled the CebuPac flights
Feb 20, 2021 – Rebooked our return flight from Mar 1 to Mar 15

Whew! So crazy that in the end, we were able to use the same AirAsia flight because of the rescheduling. I think it’s their way of providing an unlimited rebooking option for everyone who booked. CebuPac is just more upfront about it but it’s basically the same shit.

Glad I didn’t have to spend extra for this because I had travel fund from Cebu Pacific from my GenSan/Cotabato flight that was canceled back in Sept. And then, I reached out to AirAsia to convert my flight to Iloilo in March to a credit account so I can use it to pay for baggage for my Manila to Caticlan flight. Back story on this: I booked a flight to Iloilo in March 2020 (pre-lockdown) but currently, Iloilo is still not open for tourists. If the flight has been canceled or rescheduled, then you can convert it to credit online by chatting with AVA. However, mine has not been canceled or rescheduled yet so my only option so far via AVA is to change the flight dates. I reached to AirAsia via Twitter DMs and they were very helpful in doing this for me. I think airlines have been really flexible so far. I also reached out to CebuPacific for help with our Japan flights back in November and they were able to help me via Twitter DMs as well. So if there’s something you can’t do online, the key is to just reach out via Twitter DMs.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Ok, so we have three different accommodations and that is also because of the many changes in our flight schedule.

HENANN PALM BEACH RESORT

Gelai booked this because she booked her inbound flight for Jan 28. My flight was supposed to be on Jan 29, the same as Celine and Irick but in late Dec, AirAsia changed the flight time, so I had the ability to make changes to it without any cost. We only stayed here for one night, because Irick and Celine joined us starting Jan 28.

We were upgraded to a Premier Room on the second floor. We pretty much spent most of our time at the Sky Pool.

A little bath tub moment
This is at the pool near the rooms. May pa-branding! HAHA!

Their restaurant (Palm Tree) offers a dinner set for 290/pax and it’s super sulit! You get soup, main course, and 2 desserts. If you would like to have drinks, then you just need to buy that separately. We went here twice because we brought Irick and Celine here as well on their second night in Boracay. I will share more photos when I review the restaurants we tried in Boracay.

CAMPION’S PLACE

Irick booked this before the 1-month stay plan. Peep her amazing review here. We stayed here for 3 nights (Jan 28 to Feb 1) for the 4 of us. Ok, this is the best most affordable accommodation ever! I think their selling point is that they make you feel like you are part of their family. We felt well taken care of. Even from the moment we arrived, they already captured my heart with the welcome drink. I ended up ordering that one more time during our stay because it was just so good! We also got happy hour vouchers and we used that on our first night. We didn’t even plan getting hammered but we did that night. LOL! We didn’t even have to go out of our accommodation, happy hour in Campion’s place is freaking happy! LOL! It is not beachfront accommodation, it is located inside a compound in a residential area. However, it is still really close to the beach in Station 1.

We’ve decided to extend our stay for 2 weeks and we booked here for that extension. I will most likely write a separate blog about that – if it’s a good place for workcation or not. Stay tuned. LOL!

CHILLAX FLASHPACKERS BORACAY

When we rebooked our flight to Mar 1, of course, we needed to find a place to stay in for a month. Our main priority is that it should be DOT-accredited (since this is a requirement) and has a stable internet connection (since we will all be working). Our first instinct was to find a normal apartment for the 3 of us and I was actually able to find one. It’s 20k/ month, in a good location (this is in Station 2), they have a partner resort that is DOT-accredited, 3 people are allowed. The only problem is that the WiFi signal is not stable and she encouraged us to use mobile data. I’m afraid that won’t work for us so we had to let this one go. This is the apartment listing in case anyone’s interested.

The second option was Shore Time Dormitel. I stayed here in Feb 2020 so I thought of checking out if they have a monthly rate offer. True enough, they are offering PHP3500 as a monthly rate per person. This is really cheap. The location is far from the beach, but they do have shuttles so it’s not that big of a deal. However, when I was there, I didn’t really have a good experience with the WiFi signal nor the data signal. I always need to go outside if I want to message someone. I also don’t remember a common area where it would be suitable for me to work. So despite the really cheap monthly rate, it’s just not the right fit.

The last option was Chillax Flashpackers, another place I stayed in last Feb 2020. I just randomly checked their Facebook page and saw this post. It is pretty much the same as that place in La Union, which was offering a one-month stay during the start of ECQ. I sent a message to the owner and explained our setup and asked for a rate he’d offer us. It is pricier than renting an apartment definitely, but it ticks all the boxes. And at least, we’d have help from staff in case we need anything, instead of dealing with everything by ourselves. I will write a separate blog post about this as well. I think it would be unfair to write about our month-long stay here. It deserves an entirely separate post.

BORACAY LGU REQUIREMENTS

Ok, it is definitely easier than I thought. Just go to the Aklan Govt website, everything is in there. Since you obviously already have your accommodations (make sure they are DOT-accredited, there is a list on that same website) and flights booked, all you need to do really a few days before your flight is to fill out the health declaration form and get an RT-PCR test 72 hours prior to travel.

While it’s easy, it is very anxiety-inducing! I was definitely the most worried about the RT-PCR test. I am not even worried about the flight cancellation anymore because I know I can rebook that or cancel and I won’t lose any money. Although I have only been staying at home, my brother goes to work everyday and would come home every few days and my mother also goes out everyday to buy food to cook, so even if I don’t go out, someone else can still bring the virus in. I did quarantine for exactly 14 days before my swab test on Jan 25th.

We did the swab test through Health Metrics. They are in the list of accredited clinics and they are actually a partner of Cebu Pacific. They have different rates depending on how quickly you want to get the results done. We decided to go with the 24-hour package, which is PHP3,500. Their quickest one is 6 hours, which is around PHP5,000 I think. I’m sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the rates. Actually, we could have gone with 48 hours, which is priced at PHP2,500 but I would rather have peace of mind and get the results as quickly as I can. LOL. I know that there are other ways to get a cheaper swab test – there are a lot of places offering cheaper tests, but I didn’t really want to go somewhere where I will need to queue for a long time or wait to be scheduled. My anxiety wouldn’t be able to take it!

Ok, so we scheduled our swab test at 1:00pm because my flight was at 12:45pm. I literally followed the 72 hours before the flight time thing. (But the Aklan gov website just said 72 hours before travel date – I didn’t want to get decline due to some technicality!) We went home directly and I didn’t go out at all before my flight on the 28th. We got our result at 2:00 pm the next day and then emailed Boracay Tourism for the QR code. We got our QR code the next morning. This QR code is very important because you will need to get this scanned at NAIA upon departure, at the Catican Airport upon arrival, at the Caticlan Jetty Port, and pretty much at every establishment (hotels and restaurants) you will enter.

AIRPORT TRANSFER

Our host at Chillax suggested booking an airport transfer. I think it was required at some point but when we got there, there are already tricycles waiting outside the airport terminal (just like pre-pandemic). We watched a vlog before saying that the tricycles weren’t there. I guess they were allowed to take passengers recently. Anyway, I computed how much it will be if I do it DIY versus buying the airport transfer on Klook and there’s just a 50 pesos difference anyway so I just decided to book it. It’s more convenient that way since I have luggage. I don’t mind DIY-ing if I only have a backpack.

It was priced at PHP385 on Klook when I booked, but its regular price when you book on Southwest’s website is PHP700, so this is a really good deal. It is, of course, much more convenient because you don’t need to stop at every place to pay for the fees because it is already included in the package. It’s very smooth because you’ll just be ushered to where you need to go at the port without having to worry about your luggage. Also, from Cagban Port to Henann, there were only three of us inside the shuttle, we weren’t mixed with guests from other hotels.

FLYING IN THE NEW NORMAL

People are encouraged to go to the airport 3 hours before the flight since there are more things that need to be checked now. However, I think there’s no need to. Since there are less people travelling and there is really not a lot of people at the airport. It took me only a few minutes at the check-in counter because there was no queue. You also don’t need to print anything, screenshots of the documents on your phone is fine. I think the major difference is that of course, you need to have your face mask and face shield on the entire time. I left home at around 9:00am and arrived at Henann Palm at around 3:00pm. Which means I had those one for about 6 hours. My ears were painful by the end of it all. Also, you need to download the Traze app and register for an account. I did that way before we left, but if you didn’t you need to do it before you enter the check in area because there’s someone at the entrance who will check. You will need to scan the QR code at the check-in counter.

Arriving at Caticlan Airport was the one that was so different from how it was before. Before, you will just exit the airport and you will need to fill out all the forms and pay all the fees at the port. But this time, upon entering the airport, there is like an “immigration” counter where you will present your health declaration QR code, ID, flight booking, and the piece of paper they gave you with your temperature. This will take some time since everyone will need to go through it and there is a queue, of course. After that, you will just need to collect your luggage (if any) and then exit the airport or look for your airport transfer. At the Caticlan Jetty Port, you will need to present your health declaration QR code and ID again.

I will do a series of Boracay posts because there’s just too many things that I can’t fit in one blog. Stay tuned!

Talk to me~