The next instalment in the Expat Interview Series! I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place. If you’re interested in taking part, or want to see a certain place featured let me know!
My next interviewee is Paul, who has been living in the beautiful island paradise of Boracay in the Philippines. Since my brother lives there, I was interested to speak to another expat for their perspective on moving to the Philippines.
Paul has a lot of insight into Boracay for both expats and travellers alike. Check it out below and more on his blog!
Who are you?
My name is Paul Fournier. I’m from the Netherlands and have been living as an expat in Boracay Island, Philippines since 2011.
In 2013 I started a website about the island, named BoracayCompass… With BoracayCompass I have found a new passion, which is writing in-depth travel guides about an island that I love. Seeing comments from people that have read my guides shows me that I’m doing something of value, which motivates me to keep on going and expanding
What made you decide to move to Boracay Island, Philippines?
I initially travelled to Boracay Island for a 6-month windsurfing vacation. After 6 months passed, I was looking forward to returning to my home country, but after returning, I immediately missed my life and the people in Boracay.
One month later, I was back in Boracay, and this time it wasn’t just a vacation. I set up my workspace there, so I could stay for the long haul.
Tell me about the cost of living – what’s the price of a beer and food?
The cost of living is very reasonable – even by Philippine standards.
Some people think Boracay is expensive, but that is mostly just a myth spread around on the internet by people who have never been there. They seem to be making assumptions based on popular belief.
To illustrate my point with an example: finding affordable prices in Manila and Cebu proved a lot harder for me as a foreigner. And even Bulalacao, a remote town in the Philippine province Mindoro was more expensive then Boracay. So in the end I feel that Boracay is actually one of the cheaper places in the Philippines, at least for a foreigner like me.
Of course, there are some exceptions, like housing, for example. I pay $296 monthly for a studio apartment with a kitchen in the centre of Boracay. Elsewhere in the Philippines, you can find housing for less…
But then of course, you won’t have these 9 beautiful beaches at your doorstep. So when you take the quality of life into account, that rent is still a very good value for money…
Food is one of the things that is cheaper in Boracay than in other places that I’ve been to in the Philippines. There’s also a lot of choice!
There are many, many restaurants all around the island. And they don’t just serve Filipino food; there’s a lot of international cuisines as well… As an expat I mostly stick to the cheaper eateries though, since I’m living on a budget. Budget restaurant meals average out to about $3 per meal.
I do eat out daily, often several times. That’s one of the things I love doing on the island. Other than that, the cheapest beachfront-bar beer starts at $0.84, and that is A-grade beer (San Miguel – a quality Philippine beer brand). The average beachfront-bar beer (when you take all bars into account) is about $1.30.
Massages are cheap as well, at about $4 for a good massage (if you know where to go). Along the White Beach, they are more expensive but still cheap at around $7.
How do you make a living?
I make a living online with lead generation in the US market. There’s not really much to tell about that except that it’s fine with the immigration authorities.
Do you need a visa to live in Boracay?
Recently the visa rules have been changed, and now you can keep extending your tourist visa for up to 36 months! (it used to be 14 months, after which you had to do a visa run). So that’s definitely something that I appreciate.
You do have to pay around $50 every two months to extend your visa (the amount differs month by month somehow). I never looked into getting a resident visa, but I know there are other possibilities like that as well. (MM Note: Always check the visa rules for your own country, sometimes they differ a lot!)
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
During the high/dry and sunny season (Nov – May), there are people from all over the world. That’s another one of the things that I love about living here. You can meet people from many different cultures and walks of life.
During low/rainy season (June – October) there are mostly only Asian cultures around. They are less party prone and social, so the nightlife and social scene is a lot quieter.
Filipinos themselves are very social, and friendly, and have a great sense of humour. They speak good English as well, so there is little culture gap. This is another great thing about living in the Philippines: you can make friends with anyone, locals and travellers alike.
What’s the best thing about living in Boracay?
The best thing is the friendly local people, which I feel contribute most to the island’s laid-back and light-hearted vibe.
Of course, the island wouldn’t be the same without its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, food options, diving and kite sports etc. There are so many things that contribute to the island’s attractiveness; it’s hard to pin just one thing as being the best…
So to give people a good overview of the different things that contribute to Boracay’s attractiveness, I’ve written a post about why it is a great place to visit.
What’s the hardest thing about living in Boracay?
The medical care on the island is horrible. For skilled and experienced doctors, you need to take a one-hour flight to Manila ($60) or Take a 2-hour bus ride inland to Kalibo ($5). For minor or common ailments, the local clinics in Boracay can be fine though, just know that their knowledge is very limited.
If we had just one day on the island, what should we not miss?
If you had just one day, I’d say have breakfast at Nagisa (a great looking and tasty Japanese beachfront restaurant). Then do some beach bumming in the south part of Station 3 during the remainder of the morning (the most relaxing and peaceful part of White Beach).
Then have lunch in Viveri’s cafe, close to the main road in Station 3 (my favourite budget restaurant). Then take a tricycle to Spider House at Diniwid Beach. This a great place to relax, swim and have a few drinks. T
hen once the afternoon approaches, head over to Puka Beach to experience a great sunset. Eat, nap, and head over to Exit Bar around 9-10 PM. Party, sleep 🙂
That’s what I’d recommend if you had just one day, but if you have more time, then this guide by Aileen has some excellent suggestions on fun things to do.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in Boracay Island, what would it be?
Make a plan to get good medical care in case you need it. That means getting off the island and flying to Manila in most cases. You have to factor that into your budget.
Also, to find a good and affordable apartment: walk around and ask. Most of the affordable apartments can be found in the Balabag area, which is the area in the centre of Boracay, east of the main road.
You can follow Paul and his writings about Boracay Island on Facebook, and of course, on BoracayCompass. Paul recently also started JourneyCompass, which is an international travel destination guide website that’s built upon the successful concept of BoracayCompass. If you have any questions, you can contact Paul here or post below!!