Boat tours are Port Barton’s attraction. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding related to the prices and it happens that a tour instead of joy brings frustration. It is so because the tours’ fees are regulated by the municipality and there is a minimum price.
When you travel in South-East Asia you are exposed to free market mechanisms such as price negotiation and free competition between service providers. In Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and even Vietnam you are offered a high price and you are expected to negotiate. It’s not the case in Port Barton (and El Nido) when it comes to some boat tours.
The tours whose prices are set are:
- regular tour A,B,C and D (700 PHP per person),
- private tour (3500 PHP per boat with max 4 passangers),
- private half-a-day tour (1500 PHP per boat with 1 or 2 passengers).
Here is a bit of advice that will help you make most of your boating trips. It comes with a lot of explanation so you can understand what you should or should not do and why we give this advice.
Do’s and Don’ts
1. Do not negotiate the price of set price trips*.
The tourism bureau in San Vicente has defined four different boat tours (A, B, C and D) in order to ensure that each tour is comparable (two snorkeling sites and two islands). They have also set a minimum price for all these tours at 700PHP. They have also set a minimum price for a day private trip at 2500 PHP and a half-day private trip at 1500 PHP.
Lowering the price of these tours is against the regulations! When you bargain you put boatman at risk of losing his license and even the boat, thus losing his main source of income. Of course, some boatmen will agree to go down with the price because they would rather make less than make nothing. There are, however, Coast Guard patrols that stop the boats and question tourists about the price. Sometimes they might do it because they were tipped off that the boatman agreed to lower prices. Please be a responsible tourist and think about it before you try to save 2 euros.
*If a price is not set by the municipality we will indicate it in the price description of the tours.
2. Be aware of additional costs.
- If you do not have one yet, you will need to get an ecological tourist card for 50 PHP. A card from El Nido is valid in Port Parton and the other way round, too.
- Snorkeling gear can be rented for 100 PHP. The snorkeling gear is not included in the price because most boatmen must first rent it themselves and then rent it to you.
- If you decide to go to Inaladilan (former German) island you will have to pay an additional 50PHP to the security guard there. All of the islands that you visit are private property. How much you are charged is up to the owner. Whereas, owners of all the other islands ask for 50 PHP per boat, the owner of Inaladilan island asks for 50PHP per person. If the boatmen were to cover that extra cost from their pocket their earnings would decrease greatly.
3. Do not try to arrange a tour on a private boat.
Tourists are only allowed to go on tourist boats. Such a boat is much bigger and safer than private boat, has been registered as a tourist boat, and is operated by a boatman with a license. Firstly, fulfilling all these requirements requires a considerable investment. If you go on a tour in a private boat you contribute to conflict between local people. It is unfair to the ones that have made the investment and follow the rules. Secondly, it is illegal, and if you are stopped by a Coast Guard patrol they will confiscate the boat.
4. Keep a positive attitude.
Portbartonians enjoy spending time with tourists. They are genuinely interested in your lives, families and travel adventures. A boat trip is the best opportunity to meet and mingle with locals. If you interact with the boat crew and you show them your positive attitude you have a big chance that they will spend the rest of the day with you. They will most likely take you to the best places to drink and party, tell you about life in Port Barton, and supply you with tons of hilarious Pilipino humor.
Local people are sensitive to rudeness and lack of respect. Remember you are visiting a country where respect and honor mean a lot. If you are rude, demanding or bad-tempered with your boatman your trip will not be fun and you will miss out on a lot that Port Barton has to offer.
Additional explanation about the way boats are operated
Let’s see who earns money on the boats. There are three roles that can be played by separate people or all by one.
A fixer is the person that spends all day looking for tourist. Sometimes he or she will also be your boatman or boatman’s helper but not always.
Finding tourists is not an easy job. Not because there is no tourists but because it is an intimidating and often even degrading job. A fixer must overcome shines and approach a stranger knowing that most likely the tourist will get annoyed. Tourists happen to ignore, behave arrogant and be rude. It’s easy to understand tourists that are being asked if they want to buy something a zillionth time and all they want is to relax in the beach.
TIP: Whenever you are stopped by a local spend a few seconds to listen to what he or she has to say and if you are not interested politely decline.
Boatmen and helpers
Workers that go with you on the trip.
- Boat owners
Do not assume you could negotiate the price if the boatman is also an owner or a fixer for the following reasons (besides it being illegal!):
- Buying a boat is a big expense. The construction of an average size tourist boat costs around 200 000 PHP and on top of that another 50 000 PHP must be paid for the boat license.
- If the boatman is a fixer it does not mean he makes an extra buck on top. If he had the time to look for tourists that means he did not go on a tour that day and earned no money.
- People here might make good money during season but remember that is only 5 months a year! When there are no tourists the possibilities to earn money are limited.
- The fact that The Philippines is a developing country should not imply that westerners can come and exploit it. Wouldn’t you rather be the reason for its economy to grow? It is you who can make a difference simply by enjoying you holiday without trying to save every penny at the expense of other people.