Are the Philippines good for solo digital nomads?

#1

Hi there,

I’ve been wanting to visit the Philippines for a while. I need a stable connection to make skype calls and get my work done. I have some questions:

  • If I’d spend a total of 2/ 3 months there, and would stay minimum 3 weeks and max 1.5 months in one place, which would you advise me to visit?
  • Any coworking spaces in those places? How is the Wifi availability in cafe’s/ restaurants?
  • Places to absolutely avoid?
  • Is it safe for a woman alone?
  • Is it easy to meet other nomads there?
  • Is it easy to mingle with locals?
  • What was your average spending per month?
  • Best time to visit?
  • Any major events that I should experience?
  • How’s the food?
  • Any other Philippines tips?

I know some of these questions are relative, but please give me your own honest opinion and advice.

Thanks!
Rosanna

#2

Philippines’ internet makes any work impossible, unless you don’t need internet.

Great weather, people and relatively safe outside Manila, but the internet is so slow and unstable that makes it useless if you’d like to get any work done:

You have to imagine speeds of 1mbps or lower that kee cutting out all dagy every day.

Unfortunately, corruption within the government and lots of bureaucracy means it’s not getting better soon.

#3

Hi Rosanna,

I’m a local who lived south of Manila, somewhere in Calabarzon, but I’m here in the US now. If you prefer living on the countryside, I highly recommend you staying at my hometown, Los Banos, Laguna, because the reception is good.

Hot springs and pools are very much common plus you can go to its nearest university, UPLB. I tried staying at one of the resorts for several nights there (Monte Vista) only with my Smart BRO pocket wifi and I was able to take VOIP/Skype calls. There’s an onsen and a Korean resort along the highway you can also try.

The reception in Calamba before you reach Los Banos is also nice but I think it’s better to have both Globe and Smart pocket wifis in most areas because there are times that Smart towers are very far from another. If you have an unlocked pocket wifi, prepaid sims are a must. There’s no difference with the speed whether you’re on postpaid or not. The prepaid sims there are mad cheap! So yeah, don’t rely too much on free Wifis here because this is not like other countries where you can even stream videos or music.

Places to avoid are obviously the shady areas. Do not be tempted to go to places near Bagong Kalsada, Timugan, Bambang, even UPLB during at night. Better stick to places along the national highway. Do not rely too much on Google Maps. Most stores there close before 8pm so it’s really dark. You cannot go around beyond 9pm alone unlike Manila.

I don’t think a lot of nomads go there because Philippines has the slowest internet by far lol or maybe people just can’t stand the slowness where I’m very much happy having 3-5mbps. It’s very easy to mingle with locals they would be very much happy to guide you and give you directions.

An overnight stay at Monte Vista costs around $32-34 dollars and you can eat good food for less than a dollar per meal. You get to ride the jeepneys for less than a quarter dollar but the travel from Calamba to Los Banos costs ~P20 or ~$0.50. Buses from Manila to Los Banos costs more than $2 and that’s 2-3 hours including traffic. That’s the standard price even in Manila. You mustn’t go lower than that. I also don’t think a lot of people stay more than one night especially during summer but they can be fully booked since a lot of people from Manila and other places go to Los Banos.

Best time to visit? Well, if you are not used to the 86 degrees heat then you should go there from October to January. That’s the rainy season and it could be really chilly in December. Summer starts from March to May sometimes it extends till June but that’s pretty rare. In Los Banos, we have Banamos Festival where you get to watch the streetdancing and then there’s the UP Feb Fair held every second or third week of February where local bands play and people from different places stay till past 1am. I must also highlight the most famous buko pie (made from coconut) sold along the national highway. Look for “The Original Buko Pie” and you’ll see the lines are long outside most of the day. Calamba, Laguna has a museum and you can get to visit Jose Rizal’s house. I can say the food is nice but if you want to experience real good food then you must go to the Elbi Square along the Lopez Ave.

I can’t think of any other tips but if you want to live there like a local then you shouldn’t look like a tourist. You know, plain clothes, no sarongs. You can go outside with a shirt, shorts and slippers lol no big deal. It’s ok to speak in English even if you’re just asking for directions. Most locals there know how :smiley: You have to learn to say “Bayad po” to pay for your jeepney or bus fare or “Para” to ask the driver to stop. There are no taxi cabs in Los Banos or any provinces outside Manila. Davao and Cebu have those if you will be going there. We have pedicabs (bicycle+cab), tricycles among the jeepneys so you can explore those places at the inner part of the town. I don’t think that’s necessary unless you know someone there.

Feel free to ask me on Slack if you still have any questions.

#4

Oh man, that’s what I’ve heard but is it really like there EVERYWHERE? The Philippines seems to be a place where more and more freelancers offer their services online (VA’s etc). You’d assume they have/ need good internet for that?

#5

Msscorpio, thanks so much for your detailed advice! Loved reading about your point of view. The place really does look amazing. So far I haven’t needed a Globe/ pocket wifi anywhere, but in every country I do have a sim with Data. I’m a freelancer, so I need to provide a high and consistent service level as that’s what allows me to keep going. I’m hoping there is a hub or place where startups/ freelancers and other remote workers have spent some time and can say with certainty the internet is not a problem for them. If I go, I’ll definitely pay a visit to your home town msscorpio!

#6

No problem! :slight_smile: Most people I’ve seen here in the forums and on Slack is that they prefer staying in Davao, Cebu or Palawan but everything’s real pricey there to be honest. You can meet some freelancers there for sure. These places are where tourists usually go so you have to expect that they can be 2-3x the actual price.

There are lots of places in the Philippines you can get nice views like in Puerto Galera or Bohol. Indeed there are lots of freelancers here but most of them are living in Manila and the Calabarzon area. I’ve met someone in Davao but really, these people are paying monthly that may cost ~$100/month. If most of your work can be done by browsing and doesn’t take a lot of Skype calls then you can survive with only mobile internet. If you have good reception, Smart’s LTE can give you more than 10mbps. It has a cap of 800mb but I confirmed you can get by with a VPN. I’ve tried it before and it worked.

#7

I don’t know where you stayed but everytime I go to a place I look around and find for a decent hotspot then stay there for a couple of months. Like what I’ve said, this is not like other countries where Wifi and mobile internet has vast coverage everywhere you go. The LTE coverage is something mobile providers are still working on so it could suck in remote locations especially the rural areas.

#8

The problem is monopoly, the internet backbone relies solely on one company, PLDT. It’s been an issue discussed several times in congress, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if any improvement will come soon. The BPO industry here have their own private lines, and they pay a premium for these business lines. Go for a visit maybe for 2 weeks and see for yourself and decide from there.

#9

We stayed in Manila for a little over 3 weeks last year and it was amazing! We rented a nice apartment via Airbnb right in Makati close to Greenbelt mall. There is a really cool co-working hub called A-Space Manila. I can highly recommend it. Oh and when it comes to the Internet, not sure when the others here went, but we had solid 100mb down at the office and usually 10mb or more via the mobile LTE hotspot we used as a back up just in case. So I don’t think we had any issues at all when it comes to speed while we were in Makati. For the weekends we did trips out to Busuanga Bay in Coron and to a few other cool islands, dive spots and hikes. It was a amazing time. Can’t wait to go back to the Philippines, maybe this time Cebu or some other place. Hope this helps. Yes you should go! :wink:

#10

I really liked Dumaguete & consider it safe:
https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Dumaguete

I’m not a single female so wouldn’t really know about any problems they might have. My guess would be that some foreign women might be rather frustrated because so many of the foreign men pair off with local women, generally younger and better-looking than the lasses we would attract at home.

I found Internet there (in hotel or coffee shops) quite adequate for keeping up with email, Facebook, etc. keeping my software (Ubuntu, Firefox, etc,) up-to-date, or uploading things to e,g. Github. Not always good for video streaming, but sometimes OK.

I paid 10,000 pesos a month plus about 1200 for electricity (well under $300 US total) for quite a large hotel room with a very central location, fridge but no cooking facilities, a/c, TV, free Internet, shower but no bathtub or hot water.

About 45 pesos to the dollar. Some meals under 50, most expensive I ate (steak with soup as a starter) about 350, most 150-200 + beverage. Beer in bars 40-60, 20-pack of Marlborough 55=80. All-you-can eat buffets 200-350.

#11

Places to avoid? I’d be very cautious about Mindanao, the southernmost region of the country.
https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Mindanao

The area has a history of piracy, a large Muslim population and some recent incidents of kidnapping and gun battles between government troops & Muslim militias. I’ve been to a couple of its larger cities – Davao and Cagayan de Oro – where I had no problems and felt reasonably safe. On the other hand, last I looked (at least a year) several Western governments had travel advisories telling their citizens to stay away.

#12

Any woman who is or might become pregnant should consider the risk of Zika virus infection since that can severely damage a baby in the womb.
https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Zika_virus

There is some risk of this in the Philippines. I do not think it is particularly high, but I do not actually know.

#13

Thank you guys! A lot of nice suggestions. I can’t afford to “check it out and see” as my clients will most definitely fire me if I suddenly can’t deliver my service properly. Scary news about the Philippines yesterday but perhaps there are crazy people everywhere. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/phillippine-troops-hunt-hostage-takers-1.3553049). I’ll do some more research about the places you suggested.

#14

Any updated information on this topic? @lopesrosanna , did you end up visiting Philippines?

I will go there next week, is it possible to get decent internet via local SIM cards?

#15

I arrived last week and picked up a SMART sim card for 995 pesos for 30 days, which gives me around 800MB per day.

#16

Does anybody know anything about the Dojo8, or Bacolod in general? I read some excellent reviews on www.coworker.com, but I’m also taking the advice here seriously.

#17

Some info is here:
https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Bacolod

I spend a lot of time on the other side of the island in Dumaguete, which is a 6-hour bus ride away. Consider it as a fallback if Bacolod does not work for you.
https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Dumaguete