Retire Early on $888 USD per Month in Dumaguete in the Philippines

Retire Early on $888 USD per Month in Dumaguete in the Philippines

My name is Dan and I left the United States in 2007 and I have lived in or visited 67 countries so far.

We were in Dumaguete in the Philippines in 2020 during the worldwide lockdown. We stayed in a beautiful little cottage here for over 6 months. Our cottage was large, cozy, and private. So we decided to return this year to see if we still like it as much.

I do an annual ranking of the Top 15 places to retire early cheap in the entire World and Dumaguete has been in the top 5 worldwide for 4 years in a row now. So, we decided to return this year and report what has changed since we left.

On this tour of the Philippines, we visited Siargo, Cebu City, Moalboal, Siquijor, Dumaguete, Iloilo City, and Boracay. Once these 7 new reports are posted, we will have 21 reports on the best places to retire in the Philippines. We will also have 130 YouTube videos with our feet on the ground showing you each of the above locations in the Philippines.

Traveling to Dumaguete from Moalboal

We traveled to Dumaguete from Moalboal. In Moalboal, the bus going south drives by about every 30 minutes. It will pick you up in front of this Jollibee Restaurant. Get off the bus at the Beto Terminal (120 pesos). Then jump on a tricycle taxi and go to the Bato Port (20 Pesos/Person, or 150 Pesos for private). Jump on the ferry over to Sibulan (120 pesos). Once in Sibulan, take a Grab Tricycle to your accommodations in Dumaguete (180 pesos).

In this report, I share our favorite markets, restaurants, and things to do in and around Dumaguete. Then I will give you a line item estimate of the basic costs of living here on a tight budget. Okay, here we go.

Our Favorite Markets and Restaurants

Dumaguete Markets

Dumaguete Public Market: This is where we buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and rice. They also have meat and fish. The prices are lower, the selection is greater, and the food is fresher here than in the Western-style grocery stores. Some expats are willing to give up better pricing, quality, freshness, and selection in order to shop at one of the Western-style supermarkets listed below. But we prefer Public Markets and only go to the Western-style markets for things we need that are not in the public market.

Hypermart: This is a Western-style supermarket with vinyl floors, air conditioning, and shopping carts. It has groceries, appliances, kitchen utensils, stationery supplies, alcohol, a few small restaurants, and a pharmacy. If you are missing foods from home, this is where you might be able to find them. Since much of the food is imported here, you can expect to pay top dollar. I do not recommend getting fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, fish, and meats here. We go to the public market for those items for better prices and selection.

Lee Super Plaza: This is sort of like the Hypermart in the previous paragraph but with more local foods and prices and a larger selection. Fewer imported foods than Hypermart.

Belcris: Hard to get high-end imported foods and alcohol.

Robinsons Dumaguete: This large enclosed airconditioned mall has 30 or so retail stores plus restaurants, a drug store, theaters, and a supermarket.

Valencia Sunday Morning Market: Every Sunday morning, people come to the middle of this park to sell fruits and vegetables. There are also food carts selling both local and foreign foods from around the world. It is a fun way to spend your Sunday morning just enjoying the food and people-watching.

Valencia Public Market: This is a smaller version of the Dumaguete Public Market Above.

Dumaguete Restaurants

When we are in Duma, we eat lots of fresh foods and we cook at home quite a bit. We also visit restaurants (2-3 times a week) so we can write about them in this report.

Local-ish Restaurants

Sibaan Sa Valencia (evening food market): On one side of the central park on Valencia you will see these local food booths. Qiang loved a couple of the pork and chicken dishes here. They didn’t have anything for vegetarians. Best BBQ stall No#1- Chicken intenses 8, rice 12, butt 10, pork tocino 8, chorizo 20. Notice the price differences when compared to the foreign-ish restaurants below.

Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck‎ Restobar: This is mainly a local bar where you will hear local bands and eat and drink more local dishes. We went here on weekends to check out the local scene. Beer 75, whiskey 130

Chop’d Lechon: Lechon roasted pork, one of the most famous dishes in the Philippines. 1/4 lechon 170

Northpoint Dumaguete: This is a larger food court with around 30 restaurants and bars with both local and foreign foods. This is a see-and-be-seen place in the evenings with live music and both locals and foreigners hang out here.

BTJ’s Food House: Qiang’s favorite local food place for meals starting around $2 USD.

Solmart Cafe: Right across from Central Park in Valencia. Local feeling and prices, but also some foreign foods. Veggie sushi 120, beer 50.

Foreign-ish Bars and Restaurants

Latina: This restaurant has Spanish, Italian, and Thai dishes. Make sure to try the Sangria also. Delicious place but hard to find, so let Google Maps direct you here.

Mexicana: Vege Buritto 160. Taco 65, Beer 60

Honeycomb Tourist Inn: This restaurant faces the waterfront park in central Dumaguete. They have live music starting around 7 or 8 p.m. JB Whiskey 120, San Miguel Light 75, RedHorse 75, Stir Vege 240, butter chicken 280, fries 110, pork chop 200.

Sideways Sports Bar: Do you remember the TV show Cheers? Add a bunch of foreigners, trivia night, and sports running nightly on 8 TVs and that is what this is. Beer 75, JB Whisky 75, vege curry 280, bacribs 420. The food is good.

Spicy Food House: Beer 70, Whiskey 150, greek salad 280, Potato Wedges 90.

Big Billy’s Beach Bar: This bar is right on the water about 5 KM south of central Dumaguete. San Miguel Light Beer 75, JB Whisky 90

Noelle’s Brunch Bar: High-end cocktails happy hour. Cocktail 200, buy 1 free 1

Casablanca Restaurant Dumaguete: On the expensive side but the food was very nice and the ambiance was also. San Miguel Light draughts 95, Spinach Cheese Riovali 345, Cheese burger 345, Bolognese spaghetti 375. Great place for date night.

Esturya sa KRI Restaurant: Our favorite pizza in Duma. Great place for date night. JB Whisky 80, San Miguel Light 110, Margherita pizza 450, Pepperoni 510, chic pesto pasta 350, Vege roll 290.

Why Not?: Margarita pizza 290, veggie pizza 330, Arugula salad 225, greek salad 285

Anahaw Restaurant & Yoga Studio: Western-style vegan restaurant and prices. So delicious though, so we went back. Full Veggie Breakie 365, Pancakes 195, Pulled vegan pork Quesadilla 345, Nachos 395.

Random Other Markets and Services

Buddies Fitness Gym: Basic gym with mostly free weights. 650 Pesos per month

WISECHOICE SUPPLEMENTS: Supplements and protein powder.

Hey Dudz Scooter Rentals: This guy is great. When we arrive in town he just drops off a bike with a few helmets or you can pick them up.

Dumaguete Nightlife

Everyone has a different idea of what a fun nightlife is for them. So I will give a few ideas of things to do in the evening and after dark. These all feel safe to us, just use normal common sense.

Sideways Sports Bar: Remember the TV show from the 80s–Cheers? Plus the food and booze are reasonable and good. All ages even kids (with their parents). Locals and foreigners.

Waterfront Stroll: For a nice walk in the evening once it cools down. Great people watching, all ages, mostly locals but some ex-pats also. Just smile at locals and you’ll make new friends. Bring your guitar or harmonica and people will sing along.

Honeycomb: Live outdoor music (popular cover band) in the evenings under a tent with food and booze available. Foreigners and locals.

Hayahay Treehouse Bar: Live music of varied genres, food, and booze. Around 80% local, 20% expats, but varies by night.

Why Not (Disco): This disco is a pickup joint for amateurs and professionals. But it is also a fun place to go dance if you enjoy the DJ choices. Mostly western Top 40 for music from the ’70s-90s until about 10 PM, then seems to slowly switch to more modern electronic music and K-pop as the crowd gets younger after 10 PM.

Brew Garden – Craft beer brewed by a Belgian foreigner. About 80-90% are foreigners.

Fibber Magees – Every town needs an Irish pub, right? This is the most western-style bar in Duma. Beautifully decorated has a live band or DJ in the evenings and is sometimes the late-night best place to be.

Hayahay Treehouse Bar: This is mainly a local bar where you will hear local bands and eat and drink more local dishes. We went here on weekends to check out the local music scene but it sometimes attracts many expats also.

Dumaguete’s Beaches (Nearby)

When you think of the Philippines you probably think of miles of deserted white sand beaches shaded by endless palm trees and gentle waves of pristine light blue water. We’ll you will quickly learn that those beaches are not where people live.

In general, you live in a town, small or large, and you ride your scooter 30 to 60 minutes, or a ferry for 30 to 60 minutes to get to these kinds of beaches. That is also the case in Dumaguete. There are no Instagram beaches near Dumaguete.

The best beaches near Dumaguete are a 1-hour ferry ride to Siquijor Island. More on that in a second.

Dauin Beach: But first, I will discuss the Dauin Beach and Marine Sanctuary. This is one of the most beautiful marine sanctuaries in the Philippines for both fish and coral reefs. Plus, it is only 30 minutes south of Dumaguete and it starts just 10 meters off the beach so you don’t need to book a tour. But the sand is light brown, not white.

If you have your own mask and snorkel, it is completely free. Don’t touch or step on the coral. If you go for a weekend stay at AivyMaes Divers Resort Dauin ($20 USD per night on the beach) make sure to try the delicious food at Anahaw Restaurant & Yoga Studio (discussed above in restaurants).

Kookoo’s Nest: This also does not have a white sand beach, but it is our favorite long weekend spot near Dumaguete. It is a private beach and the food and sunsets are amazing. It is run by a lovely British couple. The rooms are around $30-$50 per night but it is a real treat and break whenever you need it. We spent my 60th and 63rd birthdays here. It is about 30 minutes south of Dumaguete on our scooter.

Siquijor Island: While in Dumaguete, for a real white sand beach experience, jump on the ferry over to the Island of Siquijor. For everything about Siquijor including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, best beaches, and things you can’t miss, check out my full report on Siquijor.

Fun Day Trips from Dumaguete

The following day trips are available while living in Dumaguete. Just watch the videos at the top of this report and then jump on your scooter and go visit whichever of these places looks fun to you.  

Apo Island Map: Take your scooter to this wharf and jump on a boat over to Apo. Wait for some other tourists to show up and ask them to join you to get a lower cost per person for the boat ride over.

Casaroro Falls: After you hike to the falls, stop for some craft beer at Apolong Brewing Company. They have food and brew.

Redrock Hotsprings.

Cost of Living in Dumaguete in the Philippines

Here is our estimated cost of living converted into US dollars if the two of us moved to Dumaguete on a tight budget. But we are all different, so you will have to put your feet on the ground in Dumaguete to determine your cost of living based on how you would live, shop, eat, and entertain yourself.

Rents: You will see furnished apartments on Airbnb starting from about $475 to $700 USD per month including utilities and wifi for properties offering the monthly rates.

The accommodation in the above photo is in the Valencia area of Dumaguete which is at a higher elevation so it is cooler.

But if you move to this area, you should be able to beat that price with a long-term lease since the landlord would have no vacancy. I estimate around $300 to $400 per month for a more local-style apartment but you would have to pay your own utilities.

In fact, we video-interviewed an American named Joe who rented his apartment unfurnished for about $140 USD per month plus utilities. For full details of Joe’s cost of living watch this YouTube video: Living Cheap in Dumaguete 2023.

So, for this estimate, I will use $300 for cheap in Dumaguete for rent for a long-term rental which does not include utilities but does include a furnished 1 bedroom apartment rather than just a studio. Make sure to read how I find perfect apartments around the world.

Utilities: Based upon our recent stay, would need to run our air conditioner to sleep for most of the year. Our electricity will run about $60 USD per month and gas and water would be another $20 per month so about $80 USD per month for our estimated utilities.

Groceries: Based on our time here and the money we spent on groceries, we estimate about $250 USD per month on groceries for the two of us. We would shop mostly in the public market where the vegetables, fruits, rice, and meats are cheaper.

Restaurants: If we went out to eat twice per week, once for date night and once for lunch somewhere, plus some street food, we would spend around $35 per week or $140 per month in restaurants for the two of us. We would eat in mom-and-pop-style restaurants when possible but also in the expensive tourist restaurants once a week or so.

Cell Phone Data: The cost to recharge our prepaid service is about $10 per month. My Android phone will act as a hotspot so we can both be on the internet at the same time when we are out of the house together.

Laundry: We paid about $2 per week for drop off and pick up wash, dry, and fold laundry, so $8 per month for laundry.

Water: R/O water in twenty-liter bottle jugs delivered would be about 50 pesos per month per jug or about $20 USD per month.

Internet: Our Internet would be about 50 per month.

Transportation: When we are in town for a month or two we just rent a scooter for about $114 per month. But if we signed a 12-month lease, we would buy a used scooter and a couple of helmets for about $1000 USD. We estimate around $30 per month on transportation for fuel and a few tricycle taxi rides per month to get groceries home. That doesn’t include unpredictable repairs.

Alcohol (Optional): San Miguel Pilsen regular beers are about 55 PHP or $1.00 USD each in stores. But you will see San Miguel Pilsen beers in restaurants for about 60 to 70 PHP each. We would drink mainly at home so we estimate about $100 per month in alcohol for the two of us.

Entertainment (Optional): We would budget about $120 per month for entertainment for the two of us.

Retire Early $888 USD Per Month Dumaguete Philippines

Below are the estimated expenses for Qiang and me if we settle here long-term on a cheap budget. The ‘Others’ column is estimated expenses for the more typical expats that we meet.

Dumaguete ($ USD)















Cell Data






R/O Water









Recurring Total






Alcohol (Optional)



Optional Total






Entertainment (Optional)



Optional Total



The above “Ours” column is our estimated cost of living if the two of us moved to Dumaguete in the Philippines on a tight budget. The “Others” column is just more typical numbers other expats say what they are spending when we ask. To fully understand what it would cost you to live here, you must do an exploratory visit and put your feet on the ground. What anyone else pays doesn’t matter.

To get a better understanding of what you should add to our estimated cost of living watch this video: 9 Reasons You Can’t Retire on $1000 Month Overseas.

You should also add anything to the above table that you spend money on in your home country. Presumably, you find those things necessary in life. To do that, visit the Numbeo Dumaguete webpage and add anything not mentioned in the table. You should also add health insurance if you would be unable to self-insure.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle and the time since this post.

More typical ex-pat living costs in the Philippines range from about $1400 to $2400 per month. But people spending that much also have higher incomes or pensions. They often report spending more on entertainment, eating out, and alcohol. Many also have more expensive cars, houses, or apartments.

But many of you will likely be unable to retire on so little here. I give example reasons why in this report.

You will never know your cost of living here until you do an exploratory visit with your feet on the ground. This next report explains how to avoid coming home early with your tail between your legs.

Also, if you are going to try to retire cheap offshore, make sure to read my report, the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explains why you should have emergency funds available for unexpectedly large expenses.

Dumaguete YouTube Interviews

Paul of Old Dog New Tricks Youtube Channel (Interview 1): Old Dog’s secret to success in the Philippines.

Paul of Old Dog New Tricks Youtube Channel (Interview 2): 5 Biggest Reasons Retirees Go Broke Living Overseas

Joe of Tennessee (Living Cheap in Dumaguete 2023): Discusses his cost of living in Dumaguete. His rent is very low.

Robert Mead (Is his life better outside the USA?): Robert’s third interview with us. He creates an amazing life with the power of imagination. One of his videos has over 500k views.

Qiang and I share our one-month costs of living in Dumaguete in the late summer of 2o23.  

Where We Stayed

As mentioned above, we stayed in Dumaguete last time for around 6 months during the pandemic. We loved the place we lived so much that we booked it again. We paid $380 per month plus utilities since we were not signing a long-term lease. We just stayed for a few months. This was only $20 USD more than the last time we stayed here so inflation didn’t seem as bad as some people claim online.

Here is where we stayed: Camalan Cottages.

But if you decide to live or retire in the Philippines for a year or more, you will be attempting to live within the budget we are estimating in this report. you are going to have to put your feet on the ground and look for more local less expensive long-term accommodations. Here is our process for finding places as we slowly travel: How to find great apartments around the world.

Dumaguete Livability Factors and Retirement Desirability Score

Here are the factors I think about when I consider a place for early retirement potential. After I discuss each factor, I will assign an overall retirement desirability score to Dumaguete. I am writing the following based on my personal experience here.

Walkability: High. Dumaguete Central is highly walkable. If you lived in the central area of Dumaguete you could walk everywhere. Another nearby great area that is walkable is called Valencia. It is about 10 minutes drive west of Dumaguete. If you lived in Valencia, you could walk everywhere. But most expats are spread out all over the Dumaguete area. In that case, you may want to rent or buy a scooter or car.

Internet: High. The first place we stayed in Dumaguete had an awful Internet connection. Luckily there was a coworking space 2 doors down that had lightning-fast Internet (30 MBPS up and download speeds). The second place we stayed had an amazing Internet connection(20 MBPS up and download speeds). So when you are deciding where to live, make sure to test the internet at this website.

Food: Medium. The food prices will seem too high when you first get here when you hang out in the touristy areas in central Dumaguete. But once you explore where the locals eat in the downtown areas you should be able to keep your restaurant budget more easily. However, the Filipino diet is a little too meat-centric for my taste as a vegetarian so I found myself cooking at home more here than in other parts of SE Asia. In that case, buy your produce, rice, and grains at the public market to save money. Stay away from the supermarkets unless you can’t find something in the public market.

Weather: High. In terms of weather, Dumaguete has a wet and dry season. June through November is wet, December through May is dry. The wettest months receive around 125 mm (5 inches) of rain. The hottest months are April and May, with daily highs averaging 88 to 89 F (31 to 32C), respectively. The coolest months are January and February, with daily highs of 84 F (29 C).

Things to Do: High. Dumaguete has a small-town feel to it. The people are friendly and live a relaxed easy-going life here. I ran into a group of retired Americans at the McDonald’s fast-food across the street from the park, and they said Dumaguete is not as good as it once was. They said it is getting too crowded and too much traffic compared to 5 years ago. I asked them if they had been to other towns in the Philippines and one jokingly said, “All of them.” I asked what town they would retire in today if they moved to the Philippines today. All 6 agreed that they would retire in Dumaguete if they moved to the Philippines today. It was still their favorite place. None of them wanted to move back to America. It is cheap to live here. The health care is decent compared to other towns of this size in the Philippines. There are several universities in the area so the town is alive and dynamic. There are several beautiful islands just a ferry ride away for weekend trips. There are mountains to climb and waterfalls to play in. There is scuba, fishing, snorkeling, turtle watching, whale shark watching, and beautiful locals. We loved it so much that we decided to stay here instead of flying home during the coronavirus. When we returned in 2023, we enjoyed this place just as much. In fact, there are more restaurants, more shopping places, and things to do socially than when we were here 3 years ago. The only thing that seemed worse was the traffic. So don’t drive anywhere during rush hour.

Expats: High. The Philippines, in general, is great for English speakers. The locals all speak English. A few have accents that will be hard to understand when you first arrive, but before long, you’ll understand what they are saying. All the signs are even in English. But many of the Expats you see walking around will be hanging out with other ex-pats. Most of the Expats I met were men 65 to 80 years old with girlfriends 15 to 30 years younger than them. Many have started second and third families. If you have specific questions about Dumaguete, join one of the Facebook Expat web pages and start asking questions: One, Two, Three, Four.

Medical: High. Cebu and Manila are considered medical tourism destinations. Dumaguete is not as good as those two according to what a few Expats told me. There is even a medical school at the largest university here.

Real Estate: I never recommend buying real estate until you have lived somewhere for at least 2 to 3 years. I have a report explaining Why Retired Expats Should not Buy Real Estate Overseas for the first 2 to 3 years of living somewhere new overseas. Make sure to read that before deciding to buy real estate overseas. In the Philippines, you can’t own land directly in your name. Some foreigners get a long-term lease on land before they build, others take title in a corporate name, and others get married and put the property in their Filipino wife or husband’s name. But do hire a local lawyer if you decide to invest in real estate. Do not use a lawyer referred to you by someone with a conflict of interest with you, such as a new local spouse, a real estate broker, or your spouse’s family.

Visa: High. For your exploratory visit to the Philippines, citizens of many countries can obtain a 30-day free visa stamp upon arrival at the international airports. Plus, you can extend your tourist visa for a total of 36 months in the Philippines without bothering with a retirement visa. The monthly visa extensions cost about $30 USD per month. After the 36 months, you just leave the Philippines and go to another country and then fly back to start the whole 36-month process over again. For this reason, almost nobody I have met in the Philippines bothers to get a retirement visa.

Dumaguete Overall Desirability Score: High. If you are a mid-sized-city person who likes being near nature and beaches, then Siquijor Island is probably right for you. If you like larger cities with more going on, then you might get bored living here.

Thanks for reviewing my report, Retire Early on $888 USD per Month in Dumaguete in the Philippines.

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This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the YouTube channel for Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?