Living as a digital nomad in the Philippines is a great choice for anyone wishing to meet friendly locals, live cheaply, discover some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and have less hassle with visa runs.
I’ve lived as a digital nomad in Asia for quite a while now and the Philippines is my favourite destination so far.
Before the Philippines, I lived as a digital nomad in Thailand for 8 months on and off and while I like Thailand, I feel they don’t welcome long stayers so much anymore now their tourist industry is booming.
The Thailand visa process was time-consuming and frustrating. The visa controllers were unfriendly and unwelcoming.
Having to cross a border every two months to come back in on a new Thai visa felt exhausting and sometimes stressful.
I’d been looking for an Asian destination where I could still live cheaply, the locals would be friendly and welcoming and where the visa process would be easier.
I wanted to be able to stay longer in a country without having to traipse over borders every few months.
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I’d been thinking about visiting the Philippines for a while, but was initially hesitant because I’d read about the bad WIFI connections in some areas. As a nomad in the Philippines, I need reliable WIFI so I can work.
I decided I needed to try it out for myself and I became a digital nomad in the Philippines December 2019.
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned along the way, the benefits of being a digital nomad in the Philippines and tips on travelling as a nomad in the Philippines.
I want to turn doubters’ minds around and show you that being a digital nomad in the Philippines is actually a great move!
Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad in the Philippines
By guest writer Katie S.,
Before I travelled to the Philippines, I had read some bad press about living here as a digital nomad. What I’ve realised now is that many of the articles I read, were probably outdated.
Even when you check on Nomad List, which is a crowd-sourced resource scoring cities around the world on how agreeable they are for living as a digital nomad, they score many cities in the Philippine slow for internet.
While I’ve not been everywhere in the Philippines yet, I can say that the score for Palawan internet being low, is wrong – but obviously, that does depend on where you go.
Pros of Living in the Philippines as a Digital Nomad
After living in Palawan for 6 months myself and talking to other expats, here are the pros I’ve found of living as a digital nomad in the Philippines.
- Filipino locals are genuinely friendly and welcoming to everyone. People actually smile at you because they are happy, not just to get you to buy something from them
- There is no language barrier in the Philippines as English is one of their official languages. The Philippines teaches Filipino and English in schools so even in less touristy areas, you’ll find locals with a decent level of English
- Philippines beaches have been voted some of the best in the world and I can vouch for that!
- Accommodation is cheap and you can find good standards. If you get an apartment it’s even cheaper but you can also haggle a good price at a guesthouse. AirBnB is widely used in the Philippines
- It’s super cheap to eat out if you go local
- The internet speed is good in the main towns, cities and islands. Where I am in Palawan, there are power cuts but they don’t happen that frequently and they have generators. I am able to stream movies, watch videos on YouTube, download files and work every day on my computer with little hassle
- It has beautiful weather
- Plenty of cafes + co-working spaces in major cities to work from if you need to
- Air conditioning comes with most rooms. It doesn’t incur any extra hefty fees like in some SE Asian destinations
- The beaches are not overdeveloped and are super clean. Las Cabanas, Lio and Nacpan Beach here in Palawan had some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen!
Cons of Living in the Philippines as a Digital Nomad
Just like anywhere you live in the world, there are some downsides. I can only talk from my experience but there are not many cons for me as a Philippines digital nomad.
- Filipino food is very ‘’meat’’ and ‘’sugar’’ centric. If you’re trying to lose weight and live healthy, it is hard in the Philippines. In the smaller towns, you may find it hard to get vegetarian or vegan food. Living in El Nido, it’s normally a bustling tourist town so there is a great variation of restaurants here, including vegetarian and this is why I stayed here
- Occasionally there are power cuts that last all day. But, they have generators and I’ve found if the internet stops at my guesthouse, I can still get internet in a café to continue working
- Things like Tampax, are REALLY expensive here. Like silly expensive. In El Nido you can only buy them singularly and each one was around $1!!
- Occasionally there will be queues for cash machines and some break down frequently
Digital Nomad Philippines Things You Need to Know
Here I’m going to share my best advice for digital nomads in the Philippines or for those thinking about coming here.
This is an up to date guide for 2020 and will give you everything you need to know including; the best nomad Philippines destinations, onward flight tips and hacks, how to extend your digital nomad Philippines visa and how to get cheap Philippines accommodation.
Top 5 Places to Live as A Nomad in the Philippines
The Philippines is huge with over 7,000 islands. It would be hard give an opinion on every place. But, I’m going to base my list on personal experience and reviews I’ve read from other digital nomads in the Philippines.
Many of the nomad Philippines lists I’ve found, ignore small towns as great nomad destinations!? I disagree with this and think smaller towns and beach destinations in the Philippines have a lot to offer nomads.
1. El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is a great town to park yourself in as a nomad in the Philippines. It has great internet connectivity and speed everywhere I’ve stayed and has a wealth of coffee shops you can work in also.
It has a great range of restaurants and is vegetarian/vegan friendly. You can find affordable accommodation if you look back from the beach.
A really safe and friendly town with a decent amount of amenities. Las Cabanas beach and Lio beach are only a 15-minute tricycle ride away offering clear water and long stretches of NOT overdeveloped beaches. Nacpan beach is around 40 minutes away and one of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen.
The only hardship is having to take a 6-hour bus ride back to Puerto Princesa when you want to renew your visa. There are no immigration services for foreigners up in the North of Palawan.
A great option for digital nomads wanting to be near a larger expat and nomad Philippines community. Situated in the centre of the country, it’s a great spot to put down your laptop and visit neighbouring islands.
It is quite a busy, hectic city with awful amounts of traffic. If you plan to set up here, make sure you’re in an area you can walk to all the amenities you need.
I’ve heard good and bad things about the WIFI connections and speed here, but it has many coffee shops which are nomad friendly. Coffee Bean and Seattle’s Best Coffee are all over the city and the internet is usually pretty good at these.
Cebu does seem to be a draw for the sexpat community so not recommended if that bothers you. You will find some co-working spaces here: A Space Cebu, The Hive and ASpace are a few you can get work done and meet other Philippines digital nomads.
An island to the East of the Philippines, Siargao is known for its surfer, laid back lifestyle. If you like to mix your digital nomad keyboard tapping with catching a few waves, this is the place for you.
Stay in the General Luna area to get access to good internet connections and speed. Up North I heard that there is little or sometimes even no signal.
There are no co-working spaces in Siargao as of writing this, but apparently, there is one being talked about.
There are multiple cafes available to work in that have great WIFI. Also, most accommodation in General Luna will have good internet also but always do some research.
Good places to work and meet other nomads are; Bravo, Harana Surf, Coco Surf and Kook Café
Coron has some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the Philippines. It was next on my list of places to go before the Coronavirus spoiled everyone’s fun!
It offers nomads affordable local accommodation, the majority of which has great WIFI. There are also a good range of cafes in Coron town like; Coffee Kong, Tea and Shake and La Morena Café to get work done if you need.
Beautiful beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and a relaxed pace of life make Coron a great choice for digital nomads.
The only annoyance would be renewing visas as you’d have to travel back to the main immigration bureau in Puerto Princesa.
If you love more of a city vibe and have a slightly bigger budget, Makati in Manila is an ideal spot. It is super digital nomad friendly and has a host of co-working spaces, cafes and high speed internet everywhere.
It is a safe city, has great nightlife and access to many restaurants and it’s easy to renew your visa without having to make an epic trip.
All accommodations in Makati will have decent WIFI and some good cafes to work in are; Refinery, Dean & DelLuca, Single Origin and UCC Mentore.
Philippines Onward Flight Tips and Hacks
The Philippines like many other SE Asian countries will need you to have proof of an onward flight ticket when you enter the country. Many countries say you need this but don’t enforce it.
The Philippines DOES enforce it and there is no way around it. No onward flight ticket = no entry to the Philippines.
This can be a frustration, as when you are traveling as a digital nomad, sometimes you don’t know how long you’ll stay somewhere right?
I’m like this and don’t like to commit to a flight out of somewhere, as I may want to stay longer if I love it.
So how do you get around this when traveling to the Philippines?
Here are some ways to show proof of onward travel from the Philippines, without actually buying a round-trip ticket.
- Rent a ticket confirmation. Don’t worry, this is actually legal as a company like One Way Fly will book you a REAL ticket in your name and then cancel it later. This gives you a genuine confirmation to show the ticket desk and when they check on their computer, you will be booked onto the said flight. I used this service on entry to the Philippines and I can say it works!
- Purchase a refundable ticket. Some airlines will book you a refundable ticket, but do check the fine print as some may charge cancellation fees or refund you in vouchers.
How to Extend Your Digital Nomad Philippines Visa
The majority of nationalities can enter the Philippines and stay 30-days visa free. If you wish to stay as a nomad in the Philippines past this point you will have to visit immigration.
Your first visa extension can only be 29 days. The second extension you can extend for two months and you will automatically get an ACR-I card added. ACR-I means Alien Certificate of Registration Identity and is like an ID card.
It will hold all your information like visa renewals and date of your entry in its embedded microchip. When you have this, it allows you to open a local bank account. It takes time for immigration to make this and you will have to pick it up either after a month or when you return to renew your visa again.
After your two-month extension period has finished, this is when it starts to get easier as a nomad. You can then choose to extend for six months at a time if you wish.
Fees for Philippines visa extensions are around 5,000-7,000 pesos ($90-150), depending on how long you extend for.
Be aware you will have to pay extra for the ‘’express fee’’ if you want to collect your visa the same day and extra for the ACR card. This adds about another 1,000 pesos onto the cost.
How to Get Cheap Philippines Accommodation
Accommodation can be cheap in the Philippines but of course it depends where you go and how good your haggling/searching skills are.
Boracay is an extremely popular island and is full of high end resorts. Even when I Google searched cheap accommodation Boracay, the hostels and guesthouses were expensive here.
When I got to El Nido I paid quite a lot initially as it was Christmas time and booked out. After that I searched around town and found a good range of cheap rooms, hostels and guesthouses.
My guesthouse where I stay now, has an amazing balcony and large patio with views over the sea and is two minutes from the beach.
It was more expensive when I initially moved here, but after getting to know the lovely owner I haggled a better price with them. They were happy to accept after the learned I would stay longer term.
Book for a few days on Agoda, Booking.com or AirBnB and if you like the property, talk to the owner about a monthly rate.
This is my advice to get cheap accommodation anywhere in the Philippines.
They will normally be willing to accept if you offer to pay them monthly and they know they’ll get a good amount of money from you.
Nomad Living Philippines – Is It Right for You?
Living as a digital nomad in the Philippines has been a great experience for me. I’ve found the people friendly and welcoming, living costs affordable, the WIFI to be stable and of course the beautiful beaches, weather and scenery are the icing on the cake.
People living the nomad life in the Philippines is starting to increase with many co-working spaces popping up in the busier cities.
The Philippines has had a bad rap previously as a nomad destination due to it having slow and sometimes non-existent internet in some areas. This has definitely improved, I can vouch for that. But, be aware some of the smaller islands may still have slower connections.
My advice for new Philippines nomads is to start in one of the cities where you are likely to meet more digital nomads.
If you just want to focus on your work, while enjoying the beautiful beaches and scenery, heading to some of the stunning Philippines islands like Palawan, Coron, Siargao and many more will be an awesome experience.
Have you experienced living as a digital nomad in the Philippines? Do you think it’s a top destination or have a different opinion?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And share this guide with others if you know someone thinking of travelling to the Philippines.