So you have a backpackers budget, but still want to visit the Yasawa islands. It's going to take a bit of careful planning, and you will have to resist taking the easy way out and doing what most people do (buying a Bula Pass), but it is possible to visit the Yasawas without draining your cash reserves too much. While it is never going to be cheap, we can at least look at the various ways that you can save some money.
Let's suppose you have 4-5 days set aside to visit the Yasawas. You might already have a good idea of which island/s you want to visit, or perhaps you have decided to just go where the fates leads you. Either way, you have a budget of (say) fj$1000 that has to last for that segment of your journey, and must include all expenses. Can it be done?
Let's check out the Bula Combo Pass first. That is a ticket that permits you to travel on the Yasawa Flyer between the islands, and stay at any of the "one coconut" properties. A great way to give you some flexibility... except the price is going to eat up almost all of your budget.
A 5 day/4 night Bula Combo Pass in a one coconut dorm costs fj$893... so you only have around fj$107 left to spend on drinks, activities etc. For our price comparison example, we have selected one of the "one coconut" properties, Wayalailai Ecohaven Lodge. This backpacker lodge is on a beautiful island in the Yasawas that offers basic accommodation, fantastic beaches, snorkelling, and a few exciting activities such as swimming with sharks.
We have already decided that getting the Bula Combo Pass is going to exceed our budget, so how about if we just stay put on the one island and forfeit the option to hop on/off the Flyer at any destination. Surely that will be cheaper?
Well, yes it is, but only slightly.
A 5 day/4 night package with AwesomeFiji (they run the Yasawa Flyer) which gives you transport to and from Wayalailai plus 4 nights in a dorm costs approximately fj$798. So again, the majority of our budget is used up before we even set foot on the island.
Okay, so we have decided that we really don't want to pay that sort of money... but what other choice is there, if we want to get out to the Yasawas? Easy, book things yourself, and save a bunch of money.
Booking direct with Wayalailai. If you visit the Wayalailai website, you will see their dorm rates are fj$120 a night, which includes meals. Maybe it's not so expensive as you thought?
So 4 nights will be fj$480. Pretty reasonable, considering you don't have to buy meals (but you will have to buy your own drinks of course).
Now all you have to do, is work out the cheapest way to get there. Basically, anything under fj$530 return works out to be cheaper than getting the 5 day/4 night package with AwesomeFiji.
The Yasawa Flyer transfer only price to Wayalailai is fj$147pp each way, fj$294 return. So the math is pretty simple...
$480 accommodation +$ 294 transfers = $774 when you book yourself, versus $798 (lowest price) when you book the same thing as a package.
Continuing with our Wayalailai example (although most of the other islands offer similar prices), extra nights in the dorm are fj$70. Purchase extra nights as part of the AwesomeFiji package, and they will cost you fj$120.
So it comes down to what's most important to you... a significant money saving by booking yourself, or taking the easier, but more expensive option and getting a complete package. If you are backpacking, we would imagine the thought of saving a few hundred dollars will be appealing ;-)
So shop around, do your math, and you can definitely save money on your Yasawa Islands backpacking vacation. Have fun!