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How to Explore Bohol on a Budget

by Pia Mercado

Is it possible to spend a long weekend in Bohol with a budget of ₱5,000 per person for pocket money? Absolutely.

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In fact, ₱5,000 or an estimated amount of ₱1,600+ a day will go a long way for a 3-day adventure in Bohol when planned properly.

There are various ways to get to Bohol. Tagbilaran City is right where the fast crafts such as Ocean Jet or Supercat dock when coming from Cebu and other neighboring islands. If coming from Manila, the airport is also located in Tagbilaran. However, there’s news that the country's first ever eco-airport is set to open in Panglao this month—definitely something to look forward to!

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For your accommodations, it's actually not a bad idea to book in one of the city hotels in Tagbilaran with price points that are half of what beachfront resorts would charge. If most of your day is spent outside the hotel, you can book a room at Kew Hotel for less than ₱3,000 per night at twin sharing. All bookings come with free pickup from the port or the airport, as well as dropoffs.

However, if getting away from the city is a big factor, splurge a little and stay at Astoria Bohol in the coastal town of Baclayon. It offers first-rate amenities and facilities, and is not far from several attractions in Bohol. One point of interest would be the La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, commonly known as the Baclayon Church. This is a 16th century Catholic church with a museum that is only a 4-minute drive (or a 20-minute walk) from Astoria Bohol. En route, look out for several ancestral houses from the Spanish regime.

For more luxurious getaway options, check out the sprawling 16-hectare Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa, the elegant and picturesque Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort, and the stunning and secluded The Peacock Garden, which is also located in Baclayon.

(Note: This is to assume you'll pay for your accommodations prior to your trip, along with your airfare, so it shouldn't be included in your ₱5,000 budget.)

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Once your accommodations have been settled, you can book a van to take you around Bohol for 5 - 6 hours every day. The going rate is from ₱3,000 - ₱3,500 for the whole van, which comes out to around ₱500 per person for a group of 6. There are also package tours you can avail of for about ₱2,000 per person, though if you enjoy planning, it's always smarter to curate your own tour.

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For Day One of your trip, you can ask the van to take you to the municipality of Loboc for the famous Loboc River Cruise. Prepare to spend ₱550 per person for a one-hour cruise with a Filipino buffet lunch. Your payment already covers insurance and other tourism fees. Reservations are encouraged, but if you go as early as 11 AM, you should be fine. After your cruise, you have the rest of the afternoon to explore other interesting areas in Bohol such as Bohol Bee Farm or the Bilar Man-Made Forest. You'll only pay entrance fees for certain points of interests and for your meals or souvenirs.

To recap your expenses for day one, you’ll shell out about ₱500 for the van, ₱550 for the Loboc Cruise, and it’s up to you to spend the remaining amount on entrance fees (usually ₱50 maximum), snacks, and dinner. There are a lot of places in Bohol where you can get a delicious, hearty meal for about ₱300 or less per person.

That being said, you can check out Socorro’s Gourmet Carinderia, also known as Socorro’s Gourmanderia in Tagbilaran, which is famous for their crispy pata and other Filipino favorites.

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Pack your bathing suits and other beach items for Day Two. Your van should take you to the Panglao port, where you register to go to Isola di Francesco. Make sure to have a hearty breakfast before leaving your hotel, since you won't be allowed to bring food and drinks to this islet. Don’t worry, you can get snacks and water there—take note that they're not for sale but donation-based. Actually, everything will be donation-based starting from the 10-minute banca ride you will take from the port to this private paradise. Come prepared with loose change.

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Once you get there, you will learn that this islet is a spiritual sanctuary devoted to St. Padre Pio. It has a sandbar, a big statue of St. Padre Pio with a prayer guide, statues of other saints by the trees, and a beautiful small chapel with fine sand as its flooring. This is a perfect place to contemplate, and yes, swimming is allowed as long as you don’t disturb the people who are meditating and reflecting. You can stay at the islet for as long as you want and for as long as they have bancas shuttling people to and from the Panglao port. Therefore, be mindful of the time and make sure to ask your boatman for the schedule of the last trip back. Pigeon-feeding is also a fun activity you can do here.

When you and your companions start to get hungry, pack up your things and board the banca back. From the Panglao port, ask your driver to take you to a restaurant for a late lunch or an early dinner—they usually know the best spots!

To recap your second day, you’re once again spending for the van that’s roughly ₱500 (you may have bargained for a discount since it's a 3-day rental), your restaurant bill that costs around ₱600 for the two meals, and the rest spent on your donation at Isola di Francesco. There might even be enough left over for a nice nightcap!

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For Day Three, your last day in Bohol, it's safe to set aside a budget of ₱300 per person for Bohol delicacies to bring home with you such as peanut kisses, kalamay, lady fingers, polvoron, and more. Take note that supermarkets sell all of these at lower prices than tourist centers. If time permits, spend an hour for pasalubong shopping so you can scour the shelves for the best bargains.

For the rest of the day, you can hit Alona Beach to lounge and swim (free of charge!), dine at those seaside restaurants serving fresh seafood and grilled items (probably ₱400 per meal), drink fresh fruit shakes (about ₱150), have some beer (around ₱350 per bucket), or even get a massage by the beach (usually at ₱350 per hour). Don't forget to give your van driver a generous tip when he drops you off at the airport for your flight home!

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Find Bohol travel inspiration when you chek out our Travel Guide.

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About Pia
Pia Mercado is a Marketing & Communications professional with over eight years of experience in the Philippines and abroad. After successfully and passionately running an art organization in Cebu for several years, her wandering feet and cultural curiosity brought her to the melting pot that is New York City. Three years later, she’s back in her hometown, the Queen City of the South, taking along her wisdom and experience from the United Nations as well as another non-profit art organization working with artists and real estate developers. Aside from being passionate about art, the business side of art and its various disciplines, Pia loves to write about her adventures as a foodie and as a traveller. She is currently doing freelance work and studying another language in preparation for another escapade.

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