Biri Island Travel Tips

This photo shows the basic seaside geography of the Northeast coast of Biri: (1) the island itself; (2) the mangroves; and (3) and the rock formations at the outermost.

GETTING THERE:

If you’re from Metro Manila, the simplest way to get to Biri Island involves the following 4 steps:

  1. An airplane ride from Manila to Catarman (Northern Samar).  As of now, Cebu Pacific, ZestAir and Airphil Express fly the Manila-Catarman route.  Expect one-way costs to be in the P1,800 – P2,000 range, but this drastically lessens when there’s a seat sale.  For example I got my Manila-Catarman ticket for just around P500 in a Zestair sale.  Flight duration is a little over an hour.  TIP: If you want to get to Biri as early as possible, then take either the Cebu Pacific or Airphil Express flights.  They leave before 6am.  Zestair flights leave at just past 10am.
  2. A tricycle ride from the Catarman Airport to the Catarman jeepney terminal.  This ride takes around 5-10 minutes.  TIP: As I mentioned in a previous entry, you’d need to actually walk outside of the airport to get to the line of tricycles that can bring you to the jeepney terminal.  If you do this, the fee is just around P10.  On the other hand, there are a lot of tricycle drivers milling around the very entrance door of the airport offering their services.  Once you let one of them carry your bags and bring you to their tricycle, this counts as “special” and you’d be legally charged P100 for it (as I found out for myself).  This was something that was not clarified by the Tourism Officer at the airport whom I asked, so I’m letting you know.
  3. A jeepney ride from Catarman to the coastal town of Lavezares.  It’s easy to look for jeepneys going to Lavezares once you’re in the terminal as there are barkers everywhere and you can simply ask them which jeepney you need to take.  Waiting time varies depending on whether the jeepney is already full.  The ride is 45-50 minutes long and runs westward until it reaches Northern Samar’s westernmost town (Allen.)  The fare is P50-P60 each.  TIP: You pay the fare only upon getting off, so make sure that you inform the “conductor” that you intend to get off at Lavezares.
  4. A boat ride from the Lavezares port to Biri Island.  Once getting off at Lavezares, make your way towards the market by the seaside. which is around 30 steps away.  That’s where the boats going to Biri would be waiting for passengers.  The pricing varies depending on the number of people that actually show up who intend to go to Biri.  Basically, a large pumpboat that can seat 14 people typically charges P700 for the trip.  So it could go as high as P50 each for 14 people, or the entire P700 if just one passenger shows up.  In my case, there were only 5 of us who showed up at noontime, and since I really wanted to get to Biri at the soonest possible time, I agreed to pay for 10 seats (P500).  TIP 1: Since the area between the market and the boats is shallow water, you’d need the services of men who will actually carry you on their shoulders so that your feet won’t get wet.  The standard fee is just P5 (or as they say, pang-sigarilyo).  TIP 2: Waterproof your gadgets upon boarding the boat.  The seas can suddenly get rough soon after.  And when I say rough, I mean 10-foot high waves on a sunny day.

Once you arrive at the island, you can either hail any (yes, any) passing motorcycle to take you to your lodging house (P5-P10) or make prior arrangements with your guide to pick you up.  Take note that while the main landing port is in Baranggay Poblacion (near the town center), your boat might dock in Baranggay Sto. Niño (like mine did) nearly a kilometer south in the same coastal stretch.  There might even be other places to dock in between so make sure you are in constant communication with your guide if you made arrangements to be picked up.

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GETTING AROUND:

Once in Biri, getting around consists of simply going to and from the rock formations.  My guide was Orlando Bulosan (0920-5246773).  For a small fee of P300 per person per day, he will transport you via habal-habal from your lodging house up to the shore, then guide you on foot through the mangroves until you reach the rock formations, and back.  This fee is exclusive of the meals.  It’s a good idea to have Orlando share in your meals as he is a funny guy with an irreverent sense of humor.  He can certainly liven up any meal time with his stories about the island or the past tourists that he has guided.

Orlando Bulosan, Tourist Guide

Since tourism is largely undeveloped in Biri, there are no set standards, so tourist guides are quite flexible when conducting tours.  As such, there are no strict guidelines on the subject of compensation for additional services rendered.  In this respect, use your good judgment in determining how much extra you need to pay (e.g., when you ask your guide to cook for you, or to accompany you overnight on one of the formations, etc.)  You could try asking your guide, but most likely, they would answer, “Kayo na po ang bahala.”

Example of using good judgment: Typically, there are two tourists for every one guide so a guide can expect P600 for a day’s effort.  However, on my first day, I was Orlando’s only client and so I thought it proper to pay him P600, instead of just P300.

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WHERE TO STAY:

Probably the most affordable lodging house for tourists in Biri.

VIlla Amor is a lodging house that has both fan and air conditioned rooms.  A fan room costs P500 per night and is already good for 2 people, with an additional P150 per night if a third person is squeezed in.  This room already has its own bathroom and they provide towels.  There’s an adequate supply of running water (never went off during my stay) but the island’s electricity only runs from around midday to midnight.  The bed is comfortable enough and although no longer new, the rooms were simple and neat enough for me.

I initially tried to contact Villa Amor through a number that a lot of bloggers gave.  However, I never got a reply when I texted my inquiries.  It was Orlando who actually made arrangements on my behalf with them.  After I returned to Manila, I got in touch with Peter Montgomery (owner of Villa Amor but based in Australia) through Facebook and he gave 0905-6804699 as a contact number.  Look for Elina.

Just across the street from Villa Amor is the obviously more upscale Biri Resort.  If you have extra cash to spend you can check out their room rates here.

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WHAT TO WEAR:

The mangrove catwalk.

When in Biri, expect that you’ll either get wet or get a lot of sun, while walking on just about anything.  That should dictate your fashion.

Aqua shoes or flip-flops with good traction – First line of defense against slipping.  You’ll be walking on all kinds of terrain, varying in roughness and wetness.

Board shorts – Unlike regular shorts made of cotton, board shorts drain water quickly and would thus be light.  Instant swimwear too when you come across saltwater pools.

Dri-fit upper garment or rash guard/hiking shirt - Same principle as board shorts. Additionally, the latter provides the arms good protection from the sun.

Hat and shades – Additional sun protection

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DON’T FORGET TO BRING THESE:

Camera (!) and battery charger - It’s almost pointless to go to Biri Island if you don’t bring a camera.

Dry Sack/Dry Bag – The best way to waterproof your gadgets and cash.  Available in sports stores.

Dive Mask/goggles/snorkel – For swimming in the saltwater pools.

Flashlight – There’s no electricity from 12 midnight to 12 noon.

Cash – There’s no ATM machine in Biri Island.

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FOOD:

This is the most difficult subject to discuss here simply because it’s hard to make a breakdown of the costs involved.  There are no restaurants or canteens in Biri Island so the system was one of “paluto“, wherein we’ll buy what we plan to eat from the market and have the food cooked by the people of Villa Amor.  They’d then charge a nominal fee for cooking as well as for all the other materials (cooking oil, LPG, onions, etc.) used to cooked the food.  Off the top of my head, I estimate that we spent at least P150 per person during lunch and dinner.  (We also had to buy food for Orlando.)  Breakfast mostly just consisted of bread and coffee so it’s around P35 per person (again including Orlando.)

If you really want to drastically cut down on costs, you’ll never go wrong with canned goods.

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LEAVING BIRI:

Returning to the mainland involves chartering a boat ride going back to the port of Lavezares.  The ever-reliable Orlando can arrange this with his boatmen buddies.  In our case, Aisa and I paid around P250 to P300 each (I really can’t remember anymore).  Once in landing in Lavezares, we basically retraced our steps and rode a jeepney going back to Catarman.  The fare was P50 each.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that we stayed in a lodging house beside the Church in the evening of our return to Catarman.  The name of the lodging house is the Diocesan Catholic Center (or DCC).  Based on its name, one can surmise that it’s run by the Roman Catholic Diocese.  It’s a dorm-type lodging house where men and women are segregated, and rooms are named after Saints.  Lodging fee per night is only P150 to P175.  It’s certainly cheap and one should set proper expectations when staying here, because this is definitely no 5-star hotel.

One interesting thing about DCC was that they give free food to mentally ill people (sinto-sinto) who show up at the front desk asking for it.  When were there, we saw one such crazy person seated at the waiting area.  His patience was rewarded by a plastic bag of newly cooked food.  According to the staff, they were waiting for one more and showed me a plateful of a very sumptuous-looking meal reserved for that lucky crazy guy.

From that point onwards, you can either fly back to Manila in the morning, or go south and look for more places to explore in Samar and Leyte.  It’s really up to you.

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So there, I hope this travel guide would be helpful.  Since it’s already filled to the brim with details, I’ll just do a sample itinerary in a separate post (click here).

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This entry is part of the Biri Island series dated April 8-10, 2011:

1. Biri Island, Day 1
2. Biri Island, Day 2
3. Biri Island, Day 3
4. Biri Island Travel Tips
5. Biri Island Sample Itinerary

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20 thoughts on “Biri Island Travel Tips

  1. Thanks for this very helpful and informative travel tips to Biri! We’ll be there in a couple of weeks. Can’t wait to see the awesome rock formations! :)

  2. Hey Chito. I just got back from Biri. Thanks for the info here. It’s been extremely helpful. Tour guide Orlando can still remember you. Photos of Biri are on my FB. I’m planning to go back 3rd week of March this year, after my Batanes trip. Regards, Rico (Urbano)

    • I’m very glad to be of help Rico! Haha, Orlando ought to remember me because I’ve referred LOTs of clients to him already (including Cedric, I think). ;D Wow, BIri, Batanes and then Biri again. I wish I had both the time and the money do jetset like that. :D

      I plan to go back to Biri again, but I’ll probably do so next year. I want to prioritize my plans to visit Burma.

  3. ^ Hi Rodger, I’m actually having some difficulty looking for affordable fares. I plan sana to go around late August through early September. I’ll let you know if it will indeed materialize. I’m always interested in dividing costs.

  4. have you been to other places in visayas? aside from bohol, cebu palawan and boracay. do you have other itineraries rather than biri island? thanks

    • Hi Louise, thanks for visiting. I’m not that widely travelled in the Visayas and so I have not made a lot of itineraries in the Visayas. Sorry about that. I recently went to Gigantes Islands in Iloilo and I do intend to make an itinerary for that, but due to my backlog, that one’s still at least a month away. :S (This is why I’ll never make money out of blogging, hehe)

  5. hi.. nice photos you have there.. im planning to go to northern samar for 3 days.. would it be possible to visit the island of biri for just 1 day? i plan to visit other places in samar like capul island and catbalogan.. i hope you have time to answer my question. thank you.

    • Hi Marian, sorry for the late reply. I just arrived from Taiwan. To answer your question, yes, it is possible to visit and tour Biri Island in just 1 day, but this might involve more funds since you would need to leave the mainland as early as possible – and there might not be a lot of people who would be going with you. Good luck on your trip!

  6. hi, we are planning to go to biri 2 weeks from now.. since, open sea na dun and as what you have mentioned waves get 10 feet high.. may life vest ba ang mga pssengers sa boat.. (curious lang ako kasi di ako marunong lumangoy.. kakatakot naman!)

    • Hi there. When I visited back in 2011, there were NO life vests in boats going to and from Biri island.

      Yes, it’s a considerable risk. I do hope things have improved now and the local government has required boats to have them.

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