Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines

This is my Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines information.   There are also a few updates below for retirement costs for multiple ex-pats in Dumaguete.

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This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube Channel for Vagabond Buddha. We are presently touring the Philippines investigating the best place to retire cheaply in paradise. Dumaguete is definitely one of the best places in the world to retire cheaply. Let me explain how I know this.

Pumpkin Joes Monthly Expenses

In the above video, Pumpkin Joe explains how he paid about $40,000 cash for his residence near Dumaguete in the Philippines.  He then spent more money fixing it up and now lives on about $650 per month including all expenses.  He also recommends that you have adequate savings in case you have some surprise hospital visits.  Here are his two Youtube channels.  One is a virtual racing channel and the other is about his experience living in the Philippines

Dan and Qiang’s Expenses 

Update August 2, 2020:  Below is the expenses for the month ending July 31, 2020, for Qiang and I. 

July 2020 2 people
Basics Pesos Dollars
Rent 19000 380.00
Electric 2397 47.94
Groceries 31244 624.88
Restaurants 3198 63.96
Local Trans. 442 8.84
Smartphone 449 8.98
PhilHealth 2833 56.67
Visa 2363 47.26
Total Basic $1,238.53
Optional Pesos Dollars
Sccoter & Gas 4740 94.80
Alcohol 4956 99.12
Personal Items 4553 91.06
VB Tshirts 1000 20.00
Smartphone 14950 299.00
Ocean 24 240 4.80
Tips 697 13.94
Total Optional $622.72
July 2020 Basic+Optional $1,861.24


Update July 2, 2020:  Below is the expenses for the 30 days ending June 30, 2020, for Qiang and I. 

Living Expenses 2 people $ USD
Rent includes wifi and water 407
Electricity with AC 48
Groceries 400
Local transportation (tricycle taxi) 35
Mobile data top-up (smartphone) 9
Personal items 13
Snacks 4
                                                Total $916
Optional Items we purchased 
Alcohol 97
                                                Total so far $1013
Optional Tours
Water Fall Tour (2 people) 20
Koo Koo’s Nest Resort (2 people)
Room (2 nights)    66
Food and tips 63
Alcohol 32
                                                Total so far  $1194
Optional Scooter Rental 90
Total All Costs (June 2020)       $1284

Update: Today, June 12, 2020, we are updating this data with the data from another American ex-pat we met in Dumaguete.  These are the budget numbers the American Expat Robbie reports.   Here is the data Robbie reports with respect to his cost of living.

$600 Month Robbie from USA (single musician, retired) 

Studio Rent (includes kitchen, wifi, secure property)
20 Electricity
5 Water
80 Scooter
10 Gasoline
150 Food
Telephone using only Wifi, Viber, Whatsapp, etc.
0 Alcohol
$415 Total

Robbie spends another $200 or so on travel and miscellaneous expenses averaging around $600 per month. 

Previous Update:  May 28th, 2020, we are updating the estimated living costs in Dumaguete for one person at $800 per month, to reflect our actual living costs for two people as follows:

So things are not that much more expensive for two people.  Here is the video with those updates with actual expenses.  It cost Qiang and I about $1054 per month to live in Dumaguete.

I have been traveling the world since 2007, 65 countries so far. I return to the USA for a week or two every year, but the rest of the time I slow travel the world, make videos, and write reports. Visit this link to see more than 50 retire cheap reports Worldwide.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make living internationally is to buy food from home in the ex-pat grocery stores. What costs you one dollar at home could easily cost you three dollars here. Remember, it is fancy foreign food once it is shipped internationally. That is a mistake you could easily make here in Dumaguete.

The local food is so meat-centric, that you will be continually tempted to buy snacks and treats from home in the grocery stores like Robinsons and Hypermart. This could easily double your food budget if you are not careful. Watch our Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make (link provided) to learn the other 9 big mistakes you could make as an international retiree.

Instead, go on daily adventures the first few months to identify what the locals eat. By doing that, you will quickly identify a variety of foods that locals eat, that you also enjoy. This will easily stay within your food budget. Watch our Cost of Food and Life in Dumaguete Philippines video (link provided) to see what I mean.

As you will watch us eat in our food and life video, a nice dish in a local restaurant in Dumaguete is as little as $2 USD per person. In fact, Qiang Hui’s favorite local restaurant is only $1 USD per meal. That same dish in a tourist restaurant could easily cost four to six times as much.

Locals can easily find a one-bedroom apartment for less than $250 USD per month plus utilities of around $50 USD per month. Yet, if you want a 3 bedroom house in a nice area you could easily spend $500 USD depending on square footage and amenities. See Numbeo for Dumaguete. We stayed in a beautiful 2 bedroom cottage for 380 USD per month plus utilities. We take you on a video tour of that apartment in our Social Distancing in the Philippines video (link provided).

Consider whether or not you could Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines. Here is a table that you can use that starts with the big three–rent, food, and local transportation.

Estimated Cost of Living Table (Dumaguete)






2 Bedroom Cottage










Hostel/per day (No Hostels)





High-End Restaurant





Neighborhood Restaurant





Food Cart





Subway (Jeepney)(Tricycle)





Bus (Jeepney)





Grab/Uber (None)(Jeepney)






Per Month





Per Day




Here is a free report explaining, “How The Cost of Living Table Works

The above table of the estimated cost of living is for one month, for one person, as a temporary visitor. It only includes rent, 2 meals per day, and local transportation. For a full understanding of what it would cost you to live here, visit Numbeo for Dumaguete and add anything you spend money on at home not in the table above.

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 lifestyle and the time since this post.

Here are the livability factors I would use to determine whether or not I could Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines.

Dumaguete Livability Factors

Before you decide whether or not you should Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines, you should consider more than just the cost of living. Next, we rate the liveability factors as high, medium, or low.

Walkability: High. Dumaguete 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.

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).

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 other parts of SE Asia. In that case, buy your produce, rice, and grains at the public market (link provided) 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 a 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 great. 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 love it so much we decided to stay here instead of fly home during the coronavirus.

Expats: High. The Philippines, in general, are 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. This is a place many people come to and never leave … reminds me of “Hotel California” by the Eagles. 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 third only to those two according to what a few Expats told me. There is even a medical school at the largest university here.

Exploratory Visa: High. For your exploratory visit to the Philippines, Americans (and Malaysians) can obtain a 30-day free visa stamp upon arrival at the international airport (in Davao). We were able to get a 29-day extension for a total of 59 days in less than an hour in Davao last week. Here is the immigration office in Dumaguete. It cost us $60 USD to extend 29 days Davao. We needed only your passport and the money there. There is no longer a picture required for the extension application which you can complete in 5 minutes at the office. I am told, you can get additional extensions of up to 6 months with some proof of solvency. As stated in my “Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make,” I recommend you spend several months here (at least 3 to 6 months), before considering obtaining a retirement visa.

Retirement Visas: High. There is a Visa program for people 35 to 49 years of age if you are healthy, active, and able to deposit $20,000 in an approved Filipino retirement account. This Visa allows you to live in but not invest in the Philippines and you can pay extra for dependents. You just need the money, a medical clearance, and a police clearance. The most popular visa allows investment in the Philippines and requires a larger deposit. For those 35 to 49 years, with a $50,000 deposit, or those over 50 years with $10,000 deposit, either, that can also show $800 monthly income for individuals or $1,000 for couples, you will have the right to invest in the Philippines. Or, if you are over 50 years, you can avoid proving income with a $50,000 deposit. Income requirement can be shown with the Social Security Administration stating your benefit amount.

Real Estate: High. Rents are cheap. This is not professional advice. But I would not buy real estate in the Philippines. If someone recommends that you buy in the Philippines, they probably have a conflict of interest with you. Just lease month to month. The rents are cheap and you can just hand the keys back to the landlord when you leave.

Banking: Medium. This is not professional advice. Leave your money in your home country bank and take money out as needed at ATMs. When you are in a foreign country, it is much easier to get into a mess than to get out of one.

Pollution: High. Dumaguete is on the ocean so the air seemed fairly good. So I was not surprised to learn it was good on the day I checked. But it is often listed as moderate. Maybe it is all the Jeepneys that seem to be spewing smoke out the back. Like most of SE Asia, it is not unusual to see single-use bags as you move about the city. But it is not as bad as other places in SE Asia or larger cities in the Philippines.

Dumaguete Overall Desirability Score: High. We love this place. It is our favorite so far in the Philippines. Camiguin Island is a close second to Dumaguete. So, I would say yes to the question … is it possible to Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines.

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Dumaguete Facts and History 🙂

Here are some interesting Dumaguete facts and history.

Dumaguete is the largest city and capital of the Negros Oriental province of the Philippines. It is located on the coast in the southeast corner of the island province. There were about 131,000 people living here during the last census of 2015.

The character and everyday life of Dumaguete is influenced by the university atmosphere created by the four universities and many colleges here. The most famous University, Silliman University, was founded in 1901 making it the first American University built in Asia. 45,000 of the 131,000 people living here are students.

Because of all the graduating students around Dumaguete, it has been a reliable hub for business process outsourcing (BPO) all over the world. It is one of the BPO centers offering both local employees and visiting customers one of the nicest working environments because the city is smaller and more quaint than other BPO centers around the Philippines.

In 2014, Forbes Magazine named Dumaguete the 7th most popular city in the world to retire behind Algarve Portugal, Cuenca Ecuador, Georgetown Malaysia, Chiang Mai Thailand, Pau France, and Medellin Colombia. In 2018, the Philippine Retirement Authority named Dumaguete the best place to retire in the Philippines.

In addition to students and retirees, Dumaguete attracts many international tourists because of the beach resorts, dive sites, and the dolphin and whale watching.

There is a Sandurot Festival in Dumaguete every September. This festival expressly celebrates Dumaguete’s history of welcoming foreigners. The welcoming culture pre-existed Spanish colonial times when people from foreign cultures arrived here and created a diverse culture and citizenship. The festival includes dancing to drums by school-aged children of Dumaguete. The dancing parade ends in Quezon Park where grand prizes are awarded for creativity and expression. The traditional dances tell stories about Dumaguete traditions.

Another festival, the Buglasan Festival, is celebrated every October. The festival activities are everywhere but mostly centered in Dumaguete. The street dancing activities happen on the 3rd Friday of the month of October.

Like almost everywhere in the Philippines, shopping malls are the place to see and be seen. There are seven large markets in and around the city.

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This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thank you for your interest in our Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines information. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?

10 thoughts on “Retire on $800 Month in Dumaguete Philippines”

  1. enjoy you web site, hope to travel to Dumaguete some time in sept are oct, turn 65 in april. PS still working in States

    1. Thanks Gerard. I appreciate the vote of confidence. 🙂 Plus your comment helps our webpage show up in google searches. So thanks, Dan

  2. I enjoyed your video on $800 a month Due mah gette ( my Filipino friends laughed and cringed every time you said something
    However a couple of small corrections
    1 much of your video is in siquijor island not Dumaguete
    2 SRRV visa is not needed if you stay over 6 months ( basically you can renew visa at 2 to 6 month increments up to 36 months)

  3. Hello Dan! What a cache of Information here! My parents graduated from Silliman University; my Mom grew up in Dumaguete and it’s environs with relatives galore! Her father was the first governor of Negros Oriental and we spent many summers in Dumaguete while growing up since we lived in Ft. William McKinley (now known as the Global City) in what we formerly called Makati where Dad served in the Philippine Military and retired a colonel. My parents and all their 5 daughters (I’m #4) migrated to the US in the 70s snd 80s. But one sister has gone back to Dumaguete Time and again and has been convincing us to ‘go back home’ and retire in Dumaguete! Your article was posted by one sister in our ‘sister thread’ a few minutes ago and I’m savoring every word you’ve written! Thank you for doing the work for us! I can’t wait to watch your video and enjoy them before I sleep tonight, ready with pen and paper to write down salient points, for me anyway! ?
    We were planning for a grand family reunion in January next; many of us coming from all over the world but with the Coronavirus very much alive, all plans are on hold! Keep us apprised of this beautiful place we called paradise while growing up! We just might pop up one of these days while you’re there ? daghang salamat gyud!!!! ?Looking forward to watch your other videos!
    ~ Bing

      1. Hey Mabuhai

        Ran into your site and was curious if your still there Jan. 21 2021 and how you ‘see things?’

        Let me introduce myself- Al is my name – I am American, married a Filipina some ten years ago and still am happily married. Anyway- I’ve been going back and forth to PI since ’78 (Then they did play only 3-songs and Hotel Cal. was one!) I built a house outside Davao City as that is where my wife’s family is living- yet I ‘escaped’ to the island of Samal as often as I could- beaches, clean air- no noise and few people!!!! For me- that would be one of the places I’d consider settling in if we could get back- as we’ve now been STUCK here in the State of Connecticut now since Corona!
        I still have some Filipino friends in Samal that I write almost daily so I appreciate their Lock Down circumstances. However- I’d like to here from an American and what you hear with the other Expats as far as – your restrictions (The ‘poor’ in the Big cities must be suffering horribly!) and do an Expats see any relief, are they handling well or feel its simply time to get out??? (I live just north of NYC and anyone who Has Money is definitely buying ‘houses’ here in Conn. fast and at well above market rates!!

        1. Yes, the locals are struggling in the Philippines. We are in Mexico now and they are struggling here too. Most of the ex-pats that left departed in the first few months. A few more have trickled out over the months since. However, we left in September for Mexico since that was the only country where Qiang and I could stay for 5 months visa-free. People are moving away from the big cities on the west coast of the USA too.

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