If you’re asking the question is Boracay safe, then you must have your eye on traveling to one of the most famous islands in the Philippines. A land of gleaming white sands that look like chalk dust and perfect azure waters that are impossible to resist, it’s hardly a surprise this remains one of the country’s greatest draws!
Recently, the Philippine government closed the whole island to visitors to rejig its image a little. Complaints of big parties and bad pollution had tarnished the paradise reputation. There was talk of poor water quality. The beach towns were a mass of unregistered dive schools and hotel resorts with bad infrastructure. A change was needed.
The big reopening came in 2018. It saw an all-new Boracay enter the scene. An estimated 400 hotels and hostels had disappeared from the powdery shoreline, opening up more coastal vistas and reducing the impact on the environment. A daily limit of 19,000 visitors helped to keep things way more chilled than before. New restrictions even chased the touts and massage hawkers from popular White Beach. It’s an all-new place and just asking to be explored…
So, is Boracay safe? This guide runs through the ins and outs of all that. It will try to offer the most up-to-date advice on the isle and give some safety tips that all travellers heading to this jewel in the Sulu Sea should consider.
Is Boracay safe right now?
Boracay has changed a lot in recent years.
There was a time when it was hailed as the party mecca of the Visayas chain. That brought plenty of hedonism and good-time vibes. However, it also meant the island had a grittier side. Scams were common in taxis and at bars. Pickpocketing and thefts occurred more frequently here than in other Philippine destinations. Oh, and inebriated travellers were often known to start altercations after too much booze.
These days, it’s a different story. Loads of the bars along once-throbbing White Beach have gone. The ones that do survive are more relaxed, cocktails-with-the-sunset sort of establishments. There are also strict new rules on what businesses can operate on the beachfronts, and others banning drinking in public.
That’s all helped Boracay turn a proverbial corner. It’s now a lot more chilled than before, not to mention safer. Of course, it’s still important to be vigilant, just as you would whenever and wherever you travel. It’s just that there are generally less things to be worried about than prior to the 2018 relaunch of the island.
Is Boracay safe for solo female travellers?
Boracay is widely considered to be one of the safer parts of the Philippines for solo female travellers. Because there’s such an international vibe here, the locals are used to seeing all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. What’s more, crime rates on the island have plunged since the 2018 reopening.
We’d still say always be wary. Don’t walk alone late at night. Tell people where you’re headed whenever you go out. Look after valuables when in public places. Oh, and try to stay in control of your alcohol intake. Basically, follow the same sort of common-sense precautions you would when traveling anywhere in the world.
Is Boracay safe to live?
So, you’re thinking of retiring to Boracay? Lucky you.
Shimmering sands, turquoise seas, coral reefs and cocktail bars – these are the joys of life you can look forward to in this corner of the Philippines. Thankfully, safety shouldn’t be too much of a worry, especially not since 2018, when Boracay underwent a huge makeover.
That seems to have brought crime rates right down. These days, an average of between 5-10 incidents occur on the island month to month. Many of those are down to drunk travellers, too, so expect a small spike during the high season (between December and March).
We would recommend you take extra care with day-to-day activities. Driving has the same pitfalls it has anywhere else in Asia – get ready to dodge speedy rickshaws and deal with poor roads. You’ll need to consider the safety of the water you have at home (more on that later). And you have the extra worry of venomous tropical snakes, which do exist on Boracay.
Is Boracay safe at night?
There was a time when going on a night out in Boracay was a pretty crazy affair. Raucous pub crawls (one’s still going, mind you) and ramshackle bars that pulsed with music were packed together in the streets west of the main highway. The result was a wild and sleepless place that offered dancing well past sunup.
But, like Vang Vieng and Koh Phangan before it, Boracay’s vibe has changed. These days, both White Beach and the surfer’s fav of Bulabog Beach are much more relaxed prospects. Sunset cocktails on reclining sunbeds give way to evenings of good international cuisine (one of the best selections in the country, in fact).
Of course, hazards are always heightened after dark and when alcohol is in the mix. Later on, be wary in the resort around White Beach and the central highway especially. Thefts and altercations there aren’t too uncommon among the party crowd, but on the whole it’s all pretty chilled. We’d also say it’s a good idea not to walk alone at night, and be extra careful of speeding traffic if you’re staying near the main road.
Is the tap water in Boracay safe to drink?
There’s a widespread claim that the tap water on Boracay is safe to drink. We’ve no way to verify that or not, and always air on the safe side when it comes to imbibing H2O. Bottled water is not only very cheap here, but also available all over the island from small shops and hotel bars alike.
When it comes to ice, it’s always okay to ask if your rocks are made from purified water. It’s common for that to be the case on Boracay, as few hotels or restaurants will rarely make their own, preferring to source the frozen stuff from local ice factories.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
Are taxis in Boracay safe?
The same rule applies to Boracay taxis as to taxis anywhere else in Southeast Asia. One: Always agree a price before you get into the vehicle. Two: Insist that the meter is running if there is one (that means you don’t have to do the first step!). Three: Be ready to ditch the ride and get another if your driver tries to upsell you a “trip to his mate’s shop”.
Thankfully, scams are pretty infrequent on Boracay because the island is relatively small and it’s easy to see if you’re headed in the wrong direction. What’s more, the motorized tricycles (a sort of Boracay tuk-tuk) have to display their rates prominently on the front windshield by law, so you can get a good ballpark figure on fares before you even start haggling.
Top 9 Boracay Safety Tips
Pre-book your hotel
One of the regulations that the government forced on Boracay after the soft reopening back in 2018 was that all travelers to the island would have to prove they have a hotel booking. You’ll be required to show that before even being allowed to board a boat to get there!
Thankfully, this has helped filter out the really bad accommodations – and there were a lot of those. Yes, it’s cranked up prices. And, yes, you can still end up in pretty shoddy digs. However, most of the places to stay on Boracay are now checked for quality and have proper infrastructure.
Always check FCO advice before you travel
Is Boracay safe right now? One sure way to check is using the FCO website. It lists up-to-date travel warnings and concerns for regions all around the globe. You’ll be able to see if there’s anything to be worried about on the paradise isle of the Visayas.
We’d say the Foreign Office advice is actually the most important thing to check before you travel to Boracay. That’s not only because it deals with everything, from natural disasters to terrorist threats. It’s also because having an active FCO warning against travel can actually invalidate your insurance. That’s not good!
Get good travel insurance
This tip goes for all travels, everywhere. Insurance should be a baseline and booked long before you pack your bags. Make sure you read the small print, too. Not all providers are made equal. A decent level of health coverage is a good idea when heading to the Philippines, thanks to heightened risk of tropical diseases. You might also want to check what activities are included in your policy – remember that Boracay is a haven for scuba diving and watersports!
Be liberal with sun cream
Let’s get one thing straight – Boracay is hot! During the dry season months (November to May), the sun can be super strong. It rises early and drops around 6pm, hitting a zenith around the middle of the afternoon. This close to the Equator, UV rays can be extra powerful.
So, wear sun cream even you can’t feel the rays or there’s cloud coverage. Trust us – you’re catching a tan. Notice that the locals will often retreat indoors or to the shade of a nearby palm tree for the middle of the day to escape the worst of the heat.
Check the lifeguard stations
White Beach is the main lazing and lounging and swimming quarter of Boracay. It’s also the place you’ll want to be to enjoy your R&R. These days, it’s divided up into five sections, each with its own dedicated lifeguard station. That’s good news for anyone worried about safety in the water, which can actually be an issue here.
Have a check to see that the guards are on duty whenever you head down for a swim. Also, it’s worth knowing that the head lifeguard station is at Boat Station Two in Area 4 of White Beach. Oh, and never swim while drinking alcohol!
Be vigilant on White Beach promenade
Boracay’s 2018 makeover outlawed hawkers and sellers on the sands. That’s great news, because it means you’re now free to laze and lounge without being bothered by massage therapists and coconut sellers.
However, a lot of the touts seem to have simply moved to the promenade behind the bay. Expect to be approached pretty much every 10 metres or so there. Don’t worry – a firm no and a shake of the head is usually enough to be on your way.
Beach beds and umbrellas aren’t allowed on the sand
One of the main changes that was implemented during the 2018 shutdown of Boracay was a measure to clear the beaches of sunbeds and parasols. The sheer amount of them along the front at White Beach was getting rather ridiculous, and there was hardly a spot left to lay down a towel. The ban means that you’re not even allowed to bring your own for a day on the sand. Doing so might get you in trouble with the local beach wardens.
Be water safe
It’s no secret that Boracay has had something of a sewerage problem in recent years. In fact, the six-month closure of the island back in 2018 had a lot to do with improving water treatment and plumbing. The general feeling is that the quality of the seas has improved considerably since then.
However, there are still some reports of waste being dumped directly in the ocean, and plenty of tourists complain about getting sick after swimming. Most of the issues seem to be centred on Bulabog Beach, where the boats for watersports congregate.
Check your dive school
Thousands of people flock to Boracay each year to dive underwater and see the amazing reefs and rainbow fish that abound in this part of the Sulu Sea. It’s certainly an experience not to be missed, which makes it all the more important you head out with a proper, certified dive school.
The best way to do due diligence on diving outfitters is to run a Google search and check out their reviews. Red lights that they aren’t quite as professional as they say they are include poor ratings, a willingness to allow drinking on their tours, and uber-low prices.
Boracay has changed considerably since it was the party-loving haven of the Philippines. An improved infrastructure seems to have alleviated much of the environmental concerns. There are limitations on visitor numbers. Even that wild nightlife scene has been reigned in.
You’re likely to find a welcoming, tourist-friendly isle with sugar-sand coastlines, resplendent coral reefs, and downright beautiful seas. Just be sure you follow the new list of rules and keep your common sense about you, especially after sunset! See you on the beach!
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