How to get to Boracay from Iloilo City

Everything I read on the internet or was told by locals on how to get to Borcay from Iloilo City was wrong.

Ceres Bus:

First thing to note is that the Ceres bus no longer stops at Tagbak terminal (Oct 2016).  I repeat, if you want to take this bus, DO NOT GO TO TAGBAK TERMINAL.  You need to go to the New Ceres Terminal which is about 1km down the road.  If you want to sit around waiting for a van to fill up, you can go to the little shop across the street from Tagbak.  I took the bus.  It took over 7 hours which is much longer than I head read.  Had I known there was even a chance it would take that long, you’d never have gotten me on that bus.  The roads were under construction and there was a number of times where only one lane was open on the road and we’d have to wait 15-20 minutes for the lane to clear so we could proceed.

When you get to the New Ceres Bus Terminal, everything is pretty straightforward which is very different than the total chaos (and no signs) at Tagbak Terminal.  All the buses are in one row and each lane has a sign saying where it’s going.  You just get on the bus and someone will come to collect the far partway through the journey.  You’ll want to take the bus to Caticlan which is where the jetty port to Boracay is.  The bus drops you right at the jetty so there’s nothing to worry about there.

When you get off of the bus, it’s worth looking around for a minute as there are a number of ferry companies.  You’ll pay a base ticket fare of up to 100 pesos for the aircon boat and 25-30 for the open air (Oct 2016).  After that, you’ll need to pay a terminal fee of 100 php and an environmental fee of 75.  It’s worth noting that you’ll probably be able to get on a boat immediately, but it won’t leave until it’s got a few passengers on it already.  I messed up and took the air con ferry and they rushed me to the boat and then I sat there in the freezing cold for 25 minutes until it actually left.  Take the open air boat.  They are smaller, cheaper and fill up faster.  And if it sinks, you won’t be trapped down below….

Wifi on the bus never worked for me.  The aircon worked and it wasn’t too cold.  As far as buses go, it was fine.  The TV programs were actually pretty good.

When you get off the jetty, there is a line of trikes.  There is a sign with set prices, but I think it’s bullshit.  I paid 120 php to get to Station 2 which is about halfway up the island.  The traffic and roads are terrible so it took probably 25-30 minutes to get up there.  I tried to haggle the price down briefly, but it didn’t work.  I think locals pay 20 php each to take those rides on Boracay so we’re definitely getting ripped off, but after the 7+ hour bus ride I didn’t have any energy to fight it.  Getting to Borcay from Iloilo City was such a long miserable journey.

Where to stay in Boracay?

I stayed in a private room at the Jeepney Hostel and Kite Resort while my friends booked out a 4-bed dorm room at the Mad Monkey Hostel just down the street.  It was ok, but I don’t think I’d stay there again.

The hostel is located on the East side of the middle island in Station 2.  It’s about a 10 minute walk from the center of the beach party zone which is on the West side of the island.

It’s a hostel so I wasn’t expecting anything fancy, but I was a little bummed to find my room was practically inside the upstairs bar.  It didn’t end up being an issue while I was staying there, but I could see it being a problem in some situations.

I did a load a laundry through them and it cost 45 pesos for 1 kg (Oct 2016).

Here’s what the room looked like after some vegan slept in it:

Private room Jeepney Hostel Boracay
Private room at Jeepney Hostel in Boracay

Not much to report on the bathroom.  The water pressure was decent and there was hot water.

jeepney hostel bathroom boracay
The bathroom was fine

Is Bacolod a good spot for a digital nomad?

Short answer: You could probably survive there for a bit.  It’s not a vegan friendly place.

Pros:

  • It’s cheap.
    • Movie 170-180 pesos
    • San Miguel Beer 33-39 peso (7-11)
  • Everybody can speak English.
  • It’s easy to get around.
  • The people are nice.

Cons:

  • The internet is hit or miss.
  • Pollution
  • It’s very difficult to eat vegetarian or vegan here.

As a nomad, the biggest problem here is the internet.  It’s really slow and there’s a lot of times when it just doesn’t work. .  It’s also more expensive than everywhere else in SE Asia.  Could you hack it for a while?  It really depends on your level of patience.  I lasted about a week, but not being able to find food made it pretty miserable.

I went back and forth between working at Dojo 8, a coworking space as well as the Starbucks. Both on Lacson street.

 

Where to stay in Iloilo City?

I stayed at the Go Hotels Iloilo which is attached to a Robinson’s mall and has a Starbucks right next door.

I actually chose this place because it was close to the mall and according to Google, there was a vegetarian food stall in the food court.  I couldn’t find it so dinner ended up being beer and nuts.  Tough times.

As for the hotel, it was clean and comfortable enough.  Nothing fancy, but the location is great so I’d stay here again.  I paid $28 in Oct, 2016.

Since it’s connected to the mall, there is a supermarket within a 2 minute walk as well as a food court, various shops.  There is also a convenience store about 50 metres from the hotel entrance.

 

 

How to get from Bacolod to Iloilo City

Figuring out how to get from Bacolod to Iloilo City was pretty easy.  I took the ferry over today.  I used GrabTaxi to go from 6th Street in Bacolod to the ferry terminal.

The taxi cost 68 pesos.  I imagine there is a way to do it via jeepney for much less.  Depending on where you are staying in the city, it may also be walkable.

I planned to take the 15:45 ferry to Iloilo City and I used Ocean Jet because their schedule and pricing was all online.  I arrived at about 15:20, bought a air-con/tourist class ticket for 200 pesos.  The ride took about an hour.  The aircon room below was really cold so as long as it’s not the middle of the day in the summer, I’d just sit up in the open-air area next time.

You can check the Bacolod-Iloilo City schedule here.

When you get off the ferry, you’ll see a million taxi dudes.  I don’t know if they are all terrible or not, but I just walked past them and out the gate.  If you are going to the Iloilo City proper, you could probably walk, but the pollution and traffic aren’t very fun.  I took a trike for 50 pesos to the Robinson’s which also houses the hotel I stayed at.

I stayed at the Go Hotels Iloilo which is attached to a Robinson’s mall and has a Starbucks right next door.  I chose it for the location.  It was comfortable enough.  It’s a non-smoking hotel, but my room had a faint smokey smell to it.

 

 

Vegan Food in Bacolod: A Vegetable Wasteland

Finding vegan food in Bacolod (or anywhere in the Philippines) is tough.  No really, it’s a nightmare.  Happy Cow says there are 3 places in Bacolod.  I’ve been to 2 so far and they leave a lot to be desired.  Like taste and vegetables.

The supermarket had entire aisles devoted to different types of treats: Wafers, puffs, chocolate drinks, etc.  It was horrible.

Chocolate drink aisle at supermarket in Bacolod.
An aisle for chocolate drinks, an aisle for puffs. Where are the vegetables?

Veggie Bites 

  • Location: Bacolod, Philippines (3rd floor food court at Robinson’s Mall)
  • Date: Sunday, Oct 23rd, 2016

Round 1:

  • Food: Budget Meal (2 scoops of goop!)
  • Cost: 75 Pesos
  • Dish Rating: 4/10

The first time I went there, it was pretty quiet and there were only 3 options to choose from.  I had the “budget meal” which comes with 2 items with rice.  None of them looked terribly appetizing.  The price was 85 pesos for everything below including the drink.  I’m not entirely sure what it was.  They called it juice.  It was a little sweet, but pretty drinkable.  I couldn’t identify it.  Somewhere between iced tea and juice, maybe.  Here’s what we’re dealing with:

Vegan meal at Veggie Bites, a vegan restaurant in Bacolod, Philippines.
The “budget meal” at Veggie Bites in Bacolod.

As far as ingredients, it was mostly fake meat.  I think the white one on top right was textured protein while the bottom one looked like tofu, but tasted more like a mushroom-based fake meats in a sweet and sour sauce.  There were a few bits of vegetables, but that’s it.  It was cold, so-so as far as flavour goes, but I devoured it quickly as it was the first vegan safe thing I found.  

Round 2:

I ended up back at Veggie Bites again the next day in the hopes that there would be more choices on a weekday.  Yesterday was a Sunday and I wondered if maybe that’s why there were only 3 choices.  Today was slightly better.  The staff again steered me towards the budget meal.  I’m not sure if the wall menu is a total lie, but I don’t think they will cook you anything fresh.  There were 5 different types of goop today and some spring rolls.

The budget meal was 85 + 16 for the 2 spring rolls.  

  • Food: Budget Meal + 2 Spring rolls
  • Total Cost: 101
  • Dish Rating: 4/10
Vegan meal at Veggie Bites, a vegan restaurant in Bacolod, Philippines.
The 2nd round of a “budget meal” at Veggie Bites with spring rolls in Bacolod.

The spring rolls were cold, but tasted fine.  I’m not entirely sure what was in them as I ate them in like 3 seconds, but I think there may have been some bits of potato.  They did warm up the plate a bit this time.  

I ended up with the same sweet and sour goop as yesterday as well as a green curry.  They called it curry, but I think peanut sauce would be more accurate.  The fake meat in that dish was definitely textured protein.  There were some long beans in it, but still light on the veggies.  It was edible, and it went down easy.  You gotta take what you can get when travelling in the islands of meatopia.  

Round 3: I’m back again!

  • Food: Budget Meal + 2 Spring rolls
  • Total Cost: 101
  • Dish Rating: 7.5/10

I finally scored this time.  There was like 10 options including some massive eggplant-y things that were cut to look like fish.

Vegan food in Bacolod.
I finally hit the veggie jackpot and will survive another day.

This was by far the best meal I’ve had in Bacolod.  The top left item was tofu with mouse-ear mushrooms in a very mild red sauce.  It was kinda like sweet and sour, but much milder flavour than the other times I had a similar sauce.  The middle one was mainly beansprouts and it was super good.  The tofu-y looking stuff on the right was tiny tofu cubes mixed in with some other type of veggie protein.  All 3 were really good.

Here’s the cost break-down:

 

Receipt for vegan mean at Veggie Bites, Bacolod.
No budget meal here folks.

Veggielicious

  • Location: Bacolod, Philippines (888 Chinatown Square mall)
  • Date: Tuesday, Oct 25th, 2016
  • Food: Budget Meal (2 items + rice)
  • Cost: 75 Pesos
  • Dish Rating: 5/10

This one was a bit tricky to find.  The 888 mall is split so that it lays on 2 sides of a street.  The stall is on the east side which is the older building.  If you go up to the 2nd floor and head straight back and to the the right, you’ll find it.  This place is actually vegetarian so if something might normally have dairy or egg in it, it’s best to ask to be sure.

They also had a “budget meal” which was 75 pesos for 2 items with rice.  One of the items was pretty goopy and had some bitter gourd in it along with some textured protein.  The other was a very Chinese-y stir-fry made up of almost entirely vegetables!  It had Chinese celery, a tiny bit of bean sprouts and a lone piece of tofu seemed to have slipped in there as well.

Meal at vegetarian food stall - Veggielicious in Bacolod, Philippines.
A budget meal with some extras at Veggielicious.

The rice looks weird because it was red rice and pretty dried out.  It tasted fine though.  The Chinese celery based dish was pretty good, the goopy bitter gourd stuff was less so. The roll thing was really more of a tiny wrap.  It wasn’t fried and it was full of vegetables.  The only downside was that it was super sweet which I’m not a fan of.