5 Reasons Why the Philippines May Be the Best Place to Build Your Internet Business

5 Reasons Why the Philippines May Be the Best Place to Build Your Internet Business post image

The TMBA guys and I spend a lot of time comparing the Philippines and Bali.

A few months back, 3 of us met up in Bali to do TMBA stuff. Eventually, we all needed to make visa runs (ah Indonesia!).

Dave had a service trip planned to the Philippines so we thought– what the hell? Why not go to the Philippines together, find ways to keep our costs down, and throw a party?

I was game. I needed to go hang out with Damian Thompson (TMBA V) anyway.

As has been reported, we had way too much fun.

Yesterday, I was talking to Damian about his start-up. He plans to base it in the Philippines. It got me thinking about the advantages of doing so. It’s good timing too– we are currently writing our 8th internship offer. It will be the third based in the Philippines.

There are a lot of reasons the Philippines would appeal to somebody over a place like Bali. Here are some that I see. I’m interested to hear what you think.

1. Particularly if you are a dude (but this extends to the ladies who are game too), the Philippines is the best value I’ve ever seen for a knock-down drag-out party.

One “rock star” night in Bali and you are on the financial ropes until your next check comes in. In the Philippines, you can have regular massive nights and barely notice the impact on your pocket book.

I’m not going to belabor this point– unless you call me on the phone…

Let’s just say this: if you like to party, the Philippines is worth a visit.

2) Hiring and team-building opportunities are truly unique.

Even with the explosion of outsourcing in the Philippines, there still aren’t enough good jobs for all the smart young people that are being pumped out by the country’s university system.

Particularly for those Filipinos who haven’t gone abroad, or moved to Manila and Cebu, there aren’t many quality opportunities.

There are a lot of smart people in the Philippines who would love to make $300 bucks a month working for your company.

Despite the challenges you will face, it’s a world class opportunity to hire and train intelligent English speakers.

3) A friendly visa goes a long way.

Last night I was talking about Indonesian visas with some entrepreneurs at the TMBA house.

I think the conversation went on for 15 minutes or more.

In the Philippines, the Visa conversations don’t get past the first sentence.

“Today I’m renewing my visa.” 

In Indonesia, the penalty for overstaying your visa is 20 dollars a day.

20 dollars a day!

In the Philippines I never once renewed my visa on time.

I paid the late fees and re-newed when it was convenient to me. You can stay in the Philippines for about $1.50 USD a day for 2 years until you need to make a visa run.

It’s difficult to put a number on it, but it’s a nice luxury to not worry about your visa situation.

Our private beach and snorkeling party cost everyone 5 bucks or something silly

4) Lower absolute costs.

I concede that if you are in absolute baseline mode the Philippines is cheaper than Bali.

I know only a small handful of people who take advantage of that. To do so, you need to live Filipino style.

I’ve met westerners living in remote places in the Philippines for under $400 bucks a month.

You could easily have a nice lifestyle there for under $800 bucks a month.

I reported earlier that a baseline scenario in Bali would could cost you $1,100 monthly. Just off the top of my head– if I imagined that same person getting comparable services and products in the Philippines the budget range would be higher– maybe $1500 monthly or more.

So while the Philippines can be cheaper that Bali, it wasn’t for me because I lived a western lifestyle. Bali is a better value for most westerners.

It’s a matter of priorities and what kind of lifestyle you like to lead.

5) Being a pioneer + being a big fish in a small pond.

Places like Bali are relatively grown up, figured out, and populated with businesses and infrastructure. Sure– there are a lot of outsourcing guys in the Philippines who have been set up for years, but if you think the Philippines as a place where digital nomads and internet types are flocking, think again.

Most westerners don’t hang around in the Philippines for long.

Walk the streets of Davao– a city of 1.5 million people– and you’ll regularly get looks like “what is THAT guy doing here?”

The kinds of business you’ll be starting, the kinds of jobs you’ll be offering, the kind of ambition you’ll have, are new.

That’s fun. That’s exciting. That’s an adventure.

It’s also tough as hell.

As they say in the Philippines: “its up to you!”





PS, if you liked this post you can sign up to hear directly from me. Just put your email address in the form below.

Published on 08.09.11
  • Firstly sir, love the tags on the post.

    Secondly,I agree on all counts. I particularly personally enjoy being a pioneer. I like being an ex-pat, the proverbial stranger in a strange land.

    Point 1 has its charms as well…


  • Hey Dan.  I’m very excited to hear about the next TMBA internship.  Loved the post as usual. You definitely portray the Philippines as being a great place to start a business.  See you around boss man.

  • Justin Miramontes

    “Up to you!” Hahaha, I can still hear them saying that all the time. That and “same-same” were my favorite. :)

    Well I agree with this post 100%, so much so that my flight leaves in about a week :) I’ll be setting up shop in Manila for the most part (Taguig) but I’m definitely going back over to Puerto Galera for some R&R. I never even got to checkout BadLadz last time I was there! (Sabang… too much fun) I’ll make a point visit while you’re there, assuming the TMBA VIII is there?

    edit: I’m really diggin this new design btw!

  • Dan

    Hey Justin… I catch myself saying “it’s up to you!” all the time outside of the Philippines and people just look at me weird. 

    That’s awesome to hear about your office! See you in September man…. we’ll be in PG for sure. Yes, TMBA VIII is in PG.

    Thanks for the love on the design :)

  • Dan

    Thanks Alex. Working on the offer right na. 

  • Dan

    Love bein’ an expat too. If you believe life is fundamentally strange, becoming a foreigner  is an efficient way to get everyone else on the same wavelength. Does that make sense? ! Ha… anyway, see you soon man. 

  • Money Maker

    Great, reading this blog makes me want to pack my bags right now and move to the Peenes!!

    BUT, what about a comparison to THAILAND instead of Bali?

  • Ahhhh..the joys of being on overstayer! If I keep doing that mess..I may have to consider moving to the Philipines where I can afford to be somewhat illegal. Conversation, vino and chocolate=great evening!

  • Dan

    Go for it! Check out the archives…

  • Dan

    was great! agreed, missing the wine already. we need to figure out a source for that kind of thing….. ahem….

  • Yeah the Phils is a lot of fun, I planned to be in Davao for 2 weeks and now it’s been almost 2 months.

    Because almost no foreigners go here, you are basically promoted to Brad Pitt status as soon as you step off the plane. For better or for worse you will get stared at. And compared to Manila (which I can’t stand), Davao is actually clean, green, safe, and not crowded.

  • Dan

    A mafioso mayor helps. :D Check out Puerto Princesa for further proof! 

    Can suck you in! Looking forward to hanging out shortly Dave. Great post this weekend, for those that didn’t catch it:


  • yup i am living like a local here under $400 a month but it’s still fun and great and I don’t mind. My location is excellent. Buses to metro Manila/Makati right on the main road, a market, SM/my gym. All within 10 min from me. Also thinking of moving a bit further south away from the city where I can have a bit more nature and have the same rent amount with bigger/better space! Most my social circle (through bf) actually lives a more upper class lifestyle with their own cars, maids, cooks and drivers! Interesting. But it’s nice surrounding myself with these types of people and they are starting to notice me as a designer.

  • Dan

    That’s balla! You are one of the few who is pulling it off… I know a guy in the diving industry who is rocking a similar budget and he loves the Philippines. Not sure I could manage to survive in Manila, however… I find myself really really really missing green space when I’m there for too long…. following your blog na looking forward to your business/lifestyle adventures…

  • Johnjoe1122

    Good post and very encouraging. I’ve been floating around SE Asia for nearly a year working as a digital nomad. I would mind settling for a bit and expanding my online business. The only thing I worry about in the Philippines is internet connectivity and speed, especially outside the big cities.

    I’m done with staying in massive metropolitan areas. The last 5 months had me holed up in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarata. I badly need some fresh air!

    Can anyone recommend a relaxed town, preferably near a nice beach, that has decent internet? I know it could be a tall order!

  • Dan

    Could be John, although depending on your budget you can often get 2 lines + talk to the local internet cafe owner to ensure you’ve got a few backups in place. That’s basically what I did in Dumaguete when I lived there, that’s basically my favorite all around town in the Philippines. Perhaps Boracay would be the best spot for you? Know a few guys running businesses from there and it’s a probably in some ways a better spot to live than to visit. Runners up would be Puerto Galera, Bohol…

  • Johnjoe1122

    Thanks for the info Dan. I’ll research those places. My budget is around $2000 p/month at the minute. Which one of those places had the best/reliable internet connections in your opinion?

  • Dan

    Unfortunately I can’t answer that question. It depends a lot of the particulars of your experience there as well… in all 3 places I was able to get my work done. I can imagine you can do better or worse depending on the day, place, service, crazy impediment, you name it. If you’ve got a budget like that, you’ll be able to get it done for sure with a few backup plans/cafes/smart bro wireless stick, etc.

  • MagicTravelAndrew

    Hi Dan. Any chance you could help us decide between locations in the Philippines? We’re in Taiwan right now and have an empty month in our schedule between now and a trip home for Christmas. We figured we’d use it to check out this place you keep talking about :p

    We’ve got approximately 1 month and would like to spend that in a single spot. We’ve been on the road for a long time and have had our fill of shifting from place to place for the time being. Half decent net access would be nice plus a beach. We’re tossing up Dumaguete, the bright lights of Davao, Puerto Galera (Badladz resort perhaps) or somewhere else. Any thoughts?

  • Dan

    I’d recommend not staying in one place because you’d probably get more value in other countries in SEAsia if you are looking to grab a spot and crank on some work (for example, anywhere-ville Vietname), managed apartments in the province are a bit more of a logistical hassel and WIFI can be spotty, I’d make the rounds– Boracay to Palawan (motorbike up the whole island) and Bohol, then settle in Dumaguete or Davao for a week and see what’s what.

  • frank

    Hi Dan,

    I am a new subscriber to your blog. I have long experience in south Asia, except in the Philippines.

    Realize this post is a couple of years old, but i would truly appreciate if you could take a moments to confirm;
    Is the Philippines still as cheap and easy on the stay (visa) as you previously mentioned? i am considering making a move sooner than later.

    ps. congrats, it’s a great blog for us hustlers

  • Dan

    Hi Frank, thanks for your comment and for subscribing to the blog.

    The Philippines, along with Vietnam, has some of the friendliest Visa terms in the region. You can stay for close to 2 years without making a visa run, you just have to make sure you go to the immigration office to renew. You can do all of this on a visa on arrival tourist visa and it’s pretty lax.

    Regard “cheap”– it’s very complex as in general in the Philippines luxury items and accommodations are more expensive than the rest of SEAsia. I lived well in Manila for a year and spent just as much as I would have San Diego. That’s party due to demand and partly due to infrastructure.

    If you wanted to “go native” and baseline, you could live in a place like Davao city, or on a nice island like this gent:


    But in terms of “value” your money would go a lot further in places like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, all of which you could live in nicer cities for a $1500 a month on up.

    The key thing is the Philippines is very different from the rest of SEAsia– much less developed, much grimier, friendly, more western in some ways (like language) and less in others (like development).

    All to say– couldn’t hurt to visit! :D

  • jeeves

    Heading out to Philippines myself. Being a web guy, where should I hang out? Any recommended places? I have no plans to setting up business there, but do have some application in my mind that I don’t mind teaming up to build them.

  • jeeves

    Do you mind sharing bit more details. I am heading off there today, and would love to get some real information as in how to live cheaply while working off on the net, making web stuffs for clients in Sweden and Australia.

  • Gary Reed

    Hey Dan,
    I want to go “absolute baseline mode” for awhile and am interested in the Philippines, but am curious is 15 mbps is an unreasonable expectation? Are 15 mbps and “absolute baseline mode” mutually exclusive? btw, I could probably swing $500/mo total living expenses…

  • yes that’s unrealistic outside of major metro (and even there you’d need PREMO services). Vietnam and Thailand are options, but if you are in absolute baseline mode I think it’s unrealistic to expect stable internet at all because your flexibility will be limited.

  • Gary Reed

    Thanks for the quick response Dan. I will look into Vietnam. I guess Thailand is tightening up its Visa requirements so I’m not looking too seriously there. I am doing this for a career change – so flexibility isn’t as important to me as to a traveler… I assume that’s what you were getting at… Any other advice? It would be most appreciated!

  • Hey Gary interesting question, the two top spots are certainly Viet/Thailand, a lot reports of really inexpensive living in northern thailand (600USD/mo) aren’t really clear about the new visa regs, like does that factor in having to fly to Singapore every few months etc.

    Vietnam defo much less stressful regarding visas. If you don’t mind living in a crazy city, it’s *easy* to find 250/300 / mo rentals and food is 1.50 USD a meal for good quality. Visa renewals are possible in country which saves you travel expenses (but still costs ~100+USD in fees) every three months (can’t remember the exact fee). If you are looking for something more low key, you could fly right in to Danang.

  • Bryan

    I’m finally having our Operations Manager (the single guy!) head over to the Philippines to visit our office there, give them pointers and generally build up the relationship. I’m probably overly cautious based on everything I read but is the VISA issue really as easy as it sounds? What do you tell customs when you arrive?

    We’re looking for other KPO companies in Manila or Cebu that might be interested in meeting with him to talk about strategies on “how they do it”. Do you have anyone you would suggest? I can email you offline if better.

  • cool! yeah he just needs to have an outbound ticket (even if a local cheap one like air asia) then he can get VOA and just keep extending it at immigration offices. if immigration asks you what you are doing just be honest or say you are visiting. no leads on the KPO thing but you shouldn’t have a problem running into people.

  • Bryan

    Thanks! I’m super excited for him and our company. I think it will be a major step forward for us.

  • Gary Reed

    Hey Dan thanks again for the info on Vietnam- I’ve been doing some web research ever since. Tonight I chatted up three Vietnamese people at a local Vietnamese restaurant here in town (in northern California). They recommended Da Nang. They may be biased since that is where they are from :-) I came home excited and just finished reading your “5 reasons to love Vietnam” – you mentioned that there probably aren’t many places an entrepreneur would want to base them-self outside the two largest cities. I’ll be there for school (online) – but similar needs. Can I ask your thoughts on Da Nang – specifically it’s limitations? You mentioned it as an option as well as the Vietnamese I met tonight.

    And here is some info on the new Thai Visa situation I mentioned in my last comment http://asiancorrespondent.com/122727/thailand-visa-run-crackdown-alternative-destinations/

    Thanks for your writing!

  • You got it Gary, Danang would defo be the third option, it’s a clean city on the ocean I dig it a lot… you can get a lot more for your dollar there and will generally live a more ‘local’ lifestyle as the number of expats and international type places are significantly less than the majors. Danang also has an international airport so huge plus there. I’d defo check it out, will appeal to those who don’t mind living a low key lifestyle.

  • Impe83

    Great Dan, thanks I was exactly wandering also about this! 1. do a fake outbound ticket works too? (just a print of an edited ticket) 2. Do I can keep on extending the same visa without going out?

  • hey this is a complex question probably better answered in other places, but the short of it is if you do 1) with a non partner airline it’s generally okay and 2) you can do this for about 2 years, although after 6 months in country you need to go to manila to get an exit permit. please double check this advice! :)

  • Ichigo Kurosaki

    Im going to follow you on disqus because im 17 and when im older i want to travel all around asia (specifically japan) and visit some of the places you’ve been to. Also i really like how you write about the places you’ve been to, you put alot of detail and info about the places.

  • cheers Ichigo sounds like fun to me ! :)

  • Kepala Batu

    I’ve been building a company in Cebu for the past 1.5 years. I can confirm that visas are easy, almost as easy as Cambodia. I don’t step foot in Immigration. I pay an extra 600 pesos for a travel agency to take care of extensions for me. However, when I last needed an exit permit, I did need to go in myself an play the waiting game. Fugazi buzzing in my head.

    There are plenty of foreigners here, although not in the concentrations found in Bali or Thailand. However, few of them are in business. In fact, few aren’t retirees. All but one of my friends here are in their late 60’s, early 70’s. Social interaction here is pretty minimal.

    Partying is cheap. However, where do you go? I don’t know about Manila, as I avoid that place like the plague. But in Cebu, venues are quite limited to some low end go-go bars, a small handful of regular bar/pubs, noisy Filipino discos, and the mall, which shuts at 11. And then when you go out, who will you be partying with? Again, most foreigners here are senior citizens. I’ve found intermingling with the Filipinos a lot tougher than it seems. In my opinion, partying here lags way behind places like Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Jakarta, or Saigon.

    Asise of alcohol and tobacco prices, the cost of living here is higher than Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, or Cambodia. I know as I’ve lived in all of them. You mentioned that low absolute cost is low. I prefer to look at value for money. A meal for 60 baht in Thailand or Vietnam can be pretty good. For the same money here you are eating dog food. Rent can be affordable, but you live around crowing roosters, barking dogs, smoggy jeepney filled streets, and the like. I just had the waste collection come and pick up my garbage for the first time in 6 weeks today as some rent seeker wasn’t getting the money they wanted. And I live in a decent neighborhood. If you want something nice that you don’t need to work on and furnish, expect to be paying over $1000/month, easy.

    Easy to find a date here. Hard to find one that doesn’t have a kid. Hard to find one that exercises and doesn’t have a tire around their waste. The low of the low life women here seems to surpass the contemporaries in neighboring countries. As do their numbers.

    I do think that there is plenty of opportunity to make business here. It isn’t nearly as saturated as many of the neighboring countries. The economy is growing and there is opportunity. There are plenty of people looking for work. I think you can get good help. I certainly have some excellent people. If you can manage well, you can build a team of skilled people.

    Filipinos are an easy to get along with bunch. They’re are always ostensibly happy. Making friendships is another story, but it’s like that all over.

    I’m glad I came. But I’m looking to other countries for greener pastures. It gets pretty quiet here and lonely with the void of a social network. Easy visas and cheap beer only go so far…

  • Ilse Savenije

    Hi Dan, thanks a lot!! What about the internet speed in the Philippines?

  • Robert Hall

    I need Urgent Nanny,Caregiver salary per month: $4000 Nanny.
    Location: (United States)Florida.
    Age: 6years Old Boy his name is (Alan) Contact Email: roberthall48@hotmail.com

    Expect your RESUME if Interested.

    Dr Robert Hall.

Next post: