Retire to Asia: Dumaguete – the City of Gentle People

Jeff Gill


Dumaguete City & Seaside Property


During a recent Philippines field trip (April / May 2023), I took the chance to explore one of the Philippines most popular retiree destinations – Dumaguete City, to see what all the fuss was about.

Known as “The City of Gentle People”, Dumaguete City has a reputation as one of the most popular locations in the Philippines for retirees. After spending 3 days in the region, I now understand why!!

Visayas Map

Discover Dumaguete City: The Heart of Southern Visayas, Philippines.

Situated a 1 hour 10-minute flight south-east from Manila, Dumaguete is on the island of Negros Occidental, in the Southern Visayas region of the Philippines. This grouping of islands between Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south, make up a large part of the Philippines archipelago of 7,641 tropical islands, and contain a staggering array of natural landscapes, flora, and fauna.

Dumaguete City is a great staging post for the beautiful island of Negros Occidental itself, and is centrally located to access the nearby stunning islands of Apo, Siquijor and Bohol, by local boats and ferries. 

Flight to Dumaguete
Winging my way towards Dumaguete City
Bohol’s world-famous Chocolate Hills

These islands are famous for scuba diving with the sea turtles and other marine life in the four main protected marine parks and coral reefs in the area. Retirees, visitors and locals alike, who enjoy an active aquatic lifestyle, are spoilt for choice. Bohol island contains the famous chocolate hills, a unique geological formation of coloured rounded rolling hills, which are well worth the effort to visit. 


Around Dumaguete you find 11 beautiful waterfalls, twin lakes at Mt Talinas, the hot springs, and geothermal pools of Palinpinion, tranquil lake Balanan and the steam vents near Palangbato falls They are set amongst tropical palms, mountainous ranges and coastal beaches that dot the island.
Casararo Falls – Worth all 335 steps

Dumaguete Seaside Fishing Village

Hard at work, but what an office


If you love nature and the great outdoors, Dumaguete City has a rich and unique marine ecosystem that should satisfy even the most ardent retiree. It provides livelihoods to the local fishermen and the myriad of local natural attractions supports a healthy level of sustainable tourism. 

The coastal environment, which includes 36 hectares of seagrass meadows, act as efficient carbon sinks that helps naturally mitigate the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon. 

Within this fragile, sensitive, and complex ecosystem are the sea grass meadows and an additional 36 hectares of coral reef. Dumaguete has four marine protected areas covering 104 hectares that host over 200 species of fish, sea turtles, stingrays, dolphins and other marine life, which makes it one of the Philippines most treasured scuba diving paradises.

As a coastal city, it is bounded on the east by the Bohol Sea and the Tañon Strait, serving as a natural border of southeastern Negros Island Region to the neighbouring Central Visayas.

The geothermal springs of nearby Valencia are tapped to provide Dumaguete with its major power source of environmentally sustainable sourced electricity.

Retiree’s, visitors and locals alike enjoy the tropical savannah climate, bordering a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The wet season covers the period from June to November, and the dry season starts from December to May, the hottest being April and May.

Temperatures range from 26 to 31 degrees Celsius all year round. Humidity sits between 70% and 80% for most of the year being higher in the wet season. This is just perfect for the outdoors! 

Rizal Boardwalk – Night markets & Musicians

Rizal Boardwalk – Night markets & Musicians

Dumaguete Hospital

Dumaguete Hospital with Heliport Access


It is known as a university and tourist town, with numerous universities, secondary and primary schools that attract students from all over the local provinces, along with tens of thousands of tourists that fly in to visit the regions many unspoilt and unique attractions.

As a provincial city, many services for entertainment, accommodation, shopping, food, sport, and medical facilities provide locals and retirees alike with the amenities needed for everyday living. 

When I visited, I watched the locals gather at the waterfront each evening, to chat, meet, shop in the night markets, dance and enjoy the bands and musicians that congregate to entertain the masses.

The beautiful landscaping, sculptures and historical features of the waterfront add to the friendly, cultural ambience. Dumaguete is ringed by tropically forested mountains and is set upon a beautiful coastal bay. Being a university town, the happy vibe of friendly students, becomes infectious. 


Dumaguete has four main hospitals, namely the Holy Child Hospital (HCH), Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, ACE Dumaguete Doctors Hospital and the Silliman University Medical Centre. The latter is currently associated with St. Luke’s Medical Centre in Metro Manila.

Teaching connections exist with several of these universities therefore the standard and training of the local medical personnel is above what you would normally find in the provincial areas of the Philippines. 

Should you need urgent life saving attention, several of the modern hospitals are equipped with helipads, providing access to the larger capital cities of Cebu or Manila, should that be needed. 


Dumaguete by Land

Buses from Dumaguete have routes going to Bacolod City/Negros Occidental, Cebu City / Cebu Province, Zamboanga City via Dipolog / Dapitan of Zamboanga Peninsula, Tagbilaran City / Bohol via Cebu and Cubao / Metro Manila using Western Nautical Highway. Dumaguete is 215 km (134 mi) from Bacolod City via Kabankalan-Mabinay-Bais Road.

The Dumaguete version of the motorised tricycle can fit up to 6-8 passengers. For transport to destinations outside the city limit, there are jeepney and buses travelling set and reliable routes.

Dumaguete by Sea

Dumaguete, as a major port city, is a jump-off point for passengers/tourists who are going to other Visayas and Mindanao areas. It is also accessible for passengers and tourists going to Cebu City.

There are smaller ports north of the city where short and frequent ferry connect mostly to Cebu Island are available. Dumaguete is a port of call for travellers to Manila, Dapitan and Zamboanga City.

As a major point of the Philippine Western Nautical Highway System, daily ferry connections to the islands Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Mindanao are operated by Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation (Fast Cat), Montenegro Lines, Medallion Transport, Ocean Jet Shipping, Lite Shipping, Cokaliong amongst others.

Dumaguete by Air

Sibulan airport provides daily flights to and from Manila (1 hour 10 minutes) and Cebu City (46 minutes) through Cebu Pacific, Cebgo and PAL Express while Cebgo is servicing both Mindanao important urban centres, thrice weekly flights to Davao City and Cagayan de Oro. 


Using Retire to Asia’s cost of living calculator we compared an Australian city (Sydney) with the cost of living in Dumaguete: Our findings were:

RTA Retirement Calc


Based on the above data, the headline Cost of Living savingsof living in Dumaguete over Sydney is $22,611 p.a or 54% p.a. After adjusting for your personal health and property costs, it gives you a total annual savings / (deficit) of $41,987 p.a or 100% p.a.


This couple, who need $42,000 p.a to live on in Sydney, move to Dumaguete and only need an Australian equivalent of $19,389 p.a. to fund the same lifestyle.

This 54% SAVING is due to the lower cost of living in the Philippines and equates to an annual cost of living savings of $22,611 p.a. Most retirees would be happy to be $435 p.w of income better off.

Simply put $19,389 p.a in Dumaguete = $42,000 p.a in Sydney. This couple is much better off!

But it Gets Even Better!

Adjusting for property costs, (Sydney rent of $30,000 p.a. less Dumaguete rent of $6,624 p.a., adds a further net income of $23,376 p.a, for our retiree couple). Had they stayed at home in Sydney, no rental income would have been earned, so this is a big NET WIN for them as homeowners.

Further adjusting this for health insurance costs (pausing their Australian health cover) and taking out basic overseas cover of $4,000 p.a), we arrive at a total net annual saving of $41,987 p.a.

Financially they are $41,987 p.a. better off each year due to the large cost of living savings AND generating net rental income from their own Sydney home. Imagine the size of their nest egg if they did this for 5 to 7 years or longer? Savings of $210,000 to $292,000 respectively, could accrue. 


RTA Table 2

Moving from Sydney to Dumaguete should afford you the ability to increase/decrease your equivalent retirement budget. After adjusting for your net property and healthcare costs, if you were to live on $61,376 p.a in Dumaguete this would be similar to living on an equivalent retirement lifestyle budget of $132,951 p.a. if you were to remain in Sydney.


Using the above example, if this couple saved all their savings of $41,987 p.a, they could build a nice nest egg over a 5-to-7-year period of $210,000 to $292,000. Even more if they stayed there longer.

However, if they wished to spend some or all that extra retirement income on a bigger and better lifestyle, how much could they live on?

In Sydney they lived on $42,000 p.a. and by moving to Dumaguete, this increased to their new Adjusted retirement income figure of $61,376 p.a. (extra net rent less health costs).

By applying the 54% lower cost of living in Dumaguete, Philippines, this equivalent retirement income of $61,376 p.a = $132,951 p.a in Sydney. Imagine living an Equivalent retirement income lifestyle of $132,951 p.a compared to $42,000 p.a.

Such is the power of a lower cost of living!

In essence, they have gained an equivalent useable income of $90,951 p.a by increasing their purchasing power in the Philippines compared to Australia, based on their newly adjusted retirement income level.

This is what our clients do when we help them relocate and retire to SE Asia. Not only do they enjoy a better, healthier, and more adventurous lifestyle, but it puts them into a lot better financial position, in many cases. 


It is interesting to note that the full age pension for a homeowner couple (combined) as of March 2023 is $41,704 p.a, just shy of the $42,000 p.a. example we have used.

Yes, there would be some part pensions adjustment for the newly won rental income, but it does highlight that the cost-of-living savings in SE Asia are potentially available to most people should they choose to explore that option for themselves. 


We invite you to try our Retirement Cost-of-Living Calculator to compare your own city and 40 other Australian locations with, one or more of the 48 individual SE Asian destinations, for yourself.

There are 1,920 possible comparison combinations available, so we are confident you should find one or more that may suit your retirement and relocation plans! Save and print out each one you do!

Once you understand financially that it is possible, especially for homeowners, then you are only limited by your imagination of what and where your dream relocation/retirement lifestyle could be. 

Remember, we are in the business of helping people make the move to SE Asia happen, so please contact us if you have any questions or need further help.

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If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Jeff Gill

Jeff Gill

With 25 years of travel experience to 73+ countries including SE Asia, Jeff now enjoys helping others retire there. He invites you to experience the people, culture, food and amazing landscapes of the SE Asia region for yourselves.

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If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Jeff Gill

Jeff Gill

With 25 years of travel experience to 73+ countries including SE Asia, Jeff now enjoys helping others retire there. He invites you to experience the people, culture, food and amazing landscapes of the SE Asia region for yourselves.

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