I love the Philippines, it’s a beautiful country, but honestly it sucks for digital nomads.
You should definitely visit the Philippines, but if you want to be a digital nomad in the Philippines you need to be well prepared. Before going I had read that the internet wasn’t very good, and that pushed a lot of people away from staying there.
In my excitement to go visit the stunning islands I thought that was just people who were trying to live stream or do other bandwidth-heavy work. I just needed to send a few emails and update some blog posts – it should work fine for me. I don’t need particularly fast internet.
Well, I should have paid more attention to what I read. I’m gonna tell you about the country and the options for digital nomads – I’m not saying don’t go, I would encourage anybody to check it out, you just need to be better prepared than I was.
With the right preparation, you could have a great time in the Philippines. Without the right preparation, you’re going to be frustrated.
Why you should go to The Philippines as a digital nomad
The Philippines is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. Flat out it is stunning. The nature, beaches, mountain, volcanoes; it has everything. It is more than worth going, just for that.
The people are friendly and accommodating, it’s very easy to get along in the Philippines. People in the street smile at you (especially when you get out of the tourist areas) and make you feel welcome. They speak better English than anywhere else in Asia, and culturally they’re heavily influenced by America. That has it’s good and bad points, but you will probably have more in common with the average Filipino than you have with people from elsewhere in Asia.
The cost of living is not as cheap as other places like Thailand or Vietnam, but it is still very cheap. Not only is it very cheap, but you get so much for your money. It costs less to live in a literal paradise right on the beach front than it costs to live in a third tier, grey, industrial town in your home country where everybody looks depressed.
There’s so much to do in the Philippines, whether you want the big city life in Manila, picturesque beach living, or to go live away from civilisation and not see another Western face for a month, you can do it all in The Philippines.
Visa requirements are easier than elsewhere in SE Asia. I have’t personally done it, but read you can stay in the country and extend a tourist visa repeatedly without having to leave. Much easier than somewhere like Thailand where you’re constantly in and out, getting new visa’s and hoping they let you back. Do your research if you plan to stay for a while, but it looks promising on that front.
Why The Philippines sucks for digital nomads
Alright so it’s a beautiful country you should visit, but if you’re intending to work while you’re there, you need to get some ducks in a row first.
The internet is bad. Like really bad.
I had to send 1 email on my birthday, and that was the only work commitment I had that day. I’d just arrived on Boracay, and wanted to get it out of the way so I could enjoy my day and go do fun stuff. It took me – no joke – 4 hours to find a wifi connection strong enough to let me send 1 email.
On. My. Birthday.
Even in Manila it is pretty bad in most places. They have wifi, it just doesn’t work. It’s too slow to do even basic online activities like email, and will be completely useless for calls, video, etc.
There’s 2 main phone service providers in The Philippines – SMART and GLOBE. I used GLOBE and that also completely sucked. I had coverage about 20% of the time, so I couldn’t even work from my phone, or use it as a hotspot.
I believe SMART is better (research in advance, don’t just grab whatever is first at the airport), but still not great; based on various accounts.
Connectivity is a real issue – it’s understandable when you look at the layout of the country, and the difficulty of building infrastructure across so many little islands. Indeed, it’s probably half the reason it is still so beautiful, but if you want to work, it’s a pain in the ass.
The final problem I found was a complete lack of coffee shops. They do not have a coffee culture like Thailand, Vietnam, etc. In Manila it was mostly Starbucks and Coffee Bean – always reliable chains that have decent set up for working, but who wants to spend every day in an American corporation? Even these spots didn’t have good internet usually.
Once you’re outside Manila, it’s very hard to find any coffee shop at all. If you like to work from coffee shops, as I do, you will be disappointed.
How to make The Philippines work if you’re a digital nomad
I do still recommend visiting the Philippines, and I will go back one day. Just be prepared for the landscape and have things in place so it doesn’t cause endless frustration like it did for me.
If you go to a major city and get a proper apartment you will be all good. You can get your own wifi set up and it will work fine. That just means you have to stay put in one place, and cannot explore the islands. Still a good place to live, and good quality of life, so not the end of the world.
The other option is to plan to be offline for a while. It would be a great place to travel through while writing a book or doing something that doesn’t require you being online all the time.
The final option is just to plan a break from your business and enjoy the islands as a holiday. An incredibly beautiful place that is a must-see in my opinion.
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