Broke in Puerto Galera: It isn't called the poor man's Boracay for nothing!

When it comes to beach getaways, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro may just be one of the most budget-friendly destinations there is. There's a reason why some people have dubbed it the poor man's Boracay—while its white sand and blue shores bear a striking resemblance to the famous island, almost everything in Puerto Galera is decidedly less expensive, from the accommodations, to the food, and even the cost of getting there.

It is entirely possible to survive on the island with only P1,000 split between five people who have a day and a half more to go (unless of course, you are there for the yearly Malasimbo Festival, with its ridiculously expensive drinks—a small bottle of water costs P100—and a similarly overpriced entrance fee). On the island, cheap rooms abound, along with cheap food, and a stretch of white sand and bright blue waters that don’t ask for anything in return. Frolic on the beach. Mark Adrian Getting there

One factor that makes Puerto Galera so budget-friendly is the inexpensive transportation getting there.

From Manila, it takes a two-hour bus ride to Batangas Pier, and then about an hour's boat ride to Puerto Galera itself.

Depending on the bus lines, the bus fare can cost anywhere from P130 to P200, while the boat ride costs P250 one way, and P450 for a two-way trip with an open-ended return date so there is room for spontaneity. Even with the mandatory environmental fee of P50 and terminal fee of P30, getting to the island and back still comes cheaper than P1,000.

Where to stay

Accommodations on White Beach are relatively cheap.

Rooms can go for as low as P1,200 for four people, which is a good enough deal. Remember, the cheaper rooms are never fancy (and may even be a little on the dirty side), but if you're going to be spending a lot of time on the beach, then they will do.

Try Myra and Medeleine’s, White Beach Resort, VM Beach Resort, or White Beach Lodge and Restaurant. Other places such as Apartelle de Francesca or Sea Jewel Beach Resort come at a slightly higher cost, though they come with amenities like free wi-fi, free breakfast, and access to a water refill station.

Where to eat

Along White Beach, there are many places that serve the usual island inihaw for less than a hundred bucks per meal. For instance, there is Food Trip, a 24/7 eatery that serves unlimited garlic rice so you can really make the most of your money.

Some restaurants that serve cheap but filling eats can also be found farther from the beach. There is Piatto di Pasta, which serves a variety of pastas and pizzas in sharing portions for P145—and the food tastes really good too.

What to do

Of course, Puerto Galera is also known for its prime dive spots, so the money you save by getting cheap rooms and cheap food could be spent on exploring the underwater wonders of the island.

More than that, Puerto Galera is the place to do all the beach activities that are more expensive on other islands.

Massages go for P200 an hour for a full-body treatment. Banana boats go for P100 to P250 per person. Kayaking is more expensive at around P300 to P500 per person.

Visitors get a free tan at the Sand Bar beach. Jay Morales Failing that, there is of course, the best and most budget-friendly option of taking a swim and getting a free tan on the shore.

At night, fire dancers take to the beach strip, providing free entertainment, though if you want the best seats, it would mean having to stay and order at a restaurant. While you're at it, try the island's signature Mindoro Sling—a cocktail of various kinds of alcohol.

Some tips

Water is relatively pricey on the island, so bring a big bottle that will last you the entire trip—or else select a hotel that has a water station where you can refill.

ATMs are also rare on the island, so unless you want to take a pricey trike trip inland, make sure to bring a lot of cash on hand.

Come in a big group. Puerto Galera is the kind of island that is best shared, especially because activities and food comes cheaper by the dozen. To go island-hopping, for instance, you need to rent a boat for around P2,000, an amount that will come out cheaper when you fill the boat to its maximum capacity, which is normally 6 people.

Lastly, haggle! Do not be afraid to strike a bargain if there are things you are willing to compromise. If you don’t mind taking a room on a higher floor or can forego airconditioning, ask the hotel owners for a lower price, and they will probably give it.

The souvenirs on the island are also very "tawad-able," so always try your luck and surprise yourself wih the bargain you’ll end up having! —KG, GMA News

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