· By brian macy

Living in the Philippines as a Digital Nomad: A Comparative Look at Manila and New York City


The Philippines, with its tropical climate, friendly locals, and vibrant culture, has emerged as a semi-popular destination for digital nomads. Among its cities, Manila stands out as a bustling metropolis offering a blend of modern amenities and traditional charm.  Manila is the city most people think of when living in the Philippines but Manila has various different sections with a very different cost and lifestyle.  This article explores the experience of living in Manila as a digital nomad, with a particular focus on the cost of living in various districts, and compares it to living in New York City, and surprise surprise Manila is waaaayyyy cheaper.  

Cost of Living: Manila vs. New York City

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, offers a significantly lower cost of living compared to New York City. Here's a breakdown of key expenses:

  1. Accommodation:

    • Manila: Renting a one-bedroom apartment (short-term lease) in central districts like Makati or Bonifacio Global City (BGC) ranges from $800 to $1,200 per month. In less central areas like Quezon City and Pasay, rents can be as low as $300 to $700.  (As the price goes down your chance of getting pick pocketed or robbed goes up)
    • New York City: A similar apartment in Manhattan or Brooklyn can cost between $2,500 and $4,500 per month, with prices in outer boroughs like Queens or the Bronx starting around $2,000.  I used to live in Housing projects in Brownsville Brooklyn and while the cost of living was lower the crime was significantly higher and the gun violence was rampant.  On the flip side it is a great location if you want to become a crackhead or drug addict.  
  2. Food and Dining:

    • Manila: A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs around $3 to $6, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant can range from $20 to $50.  Filipino food in my opinion but Liempo and many of the dishes are not healthy but fruits and vegetables are very affordable so for me cooking at home is the way to go.
    • New York City: Expect to pay $15 to $25 for a basic meal, and $70 to $150 for a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant.  In New York city usually you are to busy working to be able to cook so pizza is an affordable option.  Every pizza shop I ever went to in NYC has been good, you can go deep in the ghetto and the pizza is just as good as elsewhere, just make sure to protect your neck (wu-tang voice)
  3. Transportation:

    • Manila: Public transportation is affordable, with jeepney and bus fares typically less than $0.50. Ride-sharing services like Grab cost around $4 to $10 for short to moderate distances.  Grab has a good food delivery service also.  
    • New York City: A monthly metro card costs $127, and ride-sharing fares are generally higher, starting at around $10 for short trips.  Taxi's are cool but sometimes they do smell bad.
  4. Utilities and Internet:

    • Manila: Basic utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) average $100 to $150 per month. High-speed internet costs around $30 to $50 per month.  Don't drink the tap water.  
    • New York City: Utilities can range from $150 to $250, with high-speed internet costing around $60 to $100 per month.  Don't drink the tap water if you live in public housing.

Comparing Districts in Manila: BGC, Makati, Quezon City, and Pasay

Manila's districts offer diverse living experiences.  When I lived in Quezon city I got pick pocketed and my son got threatened by a drunk man and everyone kept telling me to move to BGC.  Personally I like experiencing the filipino culture and not living with all foreigners but as a foreigner you do have a target on your head for crime outside of BGC and Makati is nicer too but here’s a closer look:

Bonifacio Global City (BGC)

Overview: BGC is a modern, upscale district known for its clean streets, skyscrapers, and numerous amenities. It’s popular among expatriates and digital nomads.  A girl involved in real estate who I know loves BGC but is quick to mention it is not the real Philippines.   You are extremely safe in BGC day or night, but along with the decreased crime comes the increased price.  

  • Cost of Living: High, with one-bedroom apartments ranging from $800 to $1,200 per month.
  • Lifestyle: Vibrant nightlife, high-end shopping, and plenty of dining options. The area is pedestrian-friendly with many parks and recreational areas.
  • Suitability for Digital Nomads: Excellent, with numerous coworking spaces, reliable internet, and a safe environment.  As a digital nomad I struggle in finding coffee shops with wifi and power outlets but in BGC this is the norm.  


Overview: Makati is the financial hub of Manila, home to many multinational corporations, banks, and embassies.

  • Cost of Living: Moderate to high, with one-bedroom apartments costing $700 to $1,200 per month.
  • Lifestyle: Busy and cosmopolitan, with a wide range of restaurants, bars, and shopping centers. It has a dynamic cultural scene with museums and galleries.  They have P Burgos street and some red light districts here for you folks that like to pay for play.  
  • Suitability for Digital Nomads: Good, with a robust infrastructure, many coworking spaces, and a central location.  Not very coffee shop has wi-fi and remote working options available so do your research before you go to places.  

Quezon City

Overview: Quezon City is the largest city in Metro Manila by area and population, known for its universities and residential neighborhoods.

  • Cost of Living: Moderate, with one-bedroom apartments ranging from $300 to $600 per month.
  • Lifestyle: More laid-back compared to BGC and Makati, with numerous parks, local markets, and a growing number of dining and entertainment options.  I got pick pocketed here, a guy ran by and snatched my phone out of my pocket very fast.  After the fact I read online that the chances of pick pockets are high in this area, and they are very good this was obviously not his first time pick pocketing.  
  • Suitability for Digital Nomads: Good, especially for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. There are fewer coworking spaces, but cafes and other venues offer ok work environments but again use google before you go not every coffee shop has wifi and is digital nomad friendly.  If I had problems with finding a reliable coffee shop or coworking space the mall is always a last resort.


Overview: Pasay is known for its entertainment hubs (red light districts), including the Mall of Asia and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

  • Cost of Living: Moderate, with one-bedroom apartments ranging from $300 to $700 per month.
  • Lifestyle: Busy, with a focus on entertainment and tourism. Proximity to the airport is a plus for frequent travelers.  I like the market in Pasay they have good fruits, vegetables, chicken, and many other products for low prices.  
  • Suitability for Digital Nomads: Decent, with several coworking spaces and a variety of cafes. The area can be congested, but offers vibrant nightlife and dining options.  I never experienced any crime there but I was warned about it numerous times.


Living in Manila as a digital nomad offers a unique blend of affordability, cultural richness, and modern conveniences. When compared to New York City, the significantly lower cost of living in Manila allows for a comfortable lifestyle without compromising on amenities. Each district within Manila—BGC, Makati, Quezon City, and Pasay—offers distinct experiences catering to different preferences and budgets, making it an attractive destination for digital nomads from all walks of life

Comparison Highlights:

  • Cost: Manila is significantly more affordable.
  • Accommodation: Variety of choices in both cities; higher cost in NYC.
  • Dining: Affordable and diverse in Manila; more expensive in NYC.
  • Transportation: Manila offers cheaper public transport; NYC has extensive metro coverage.
  • Internet & Utilities: Lower costs in Manila, but they have a system on the phone where you load up data and calls separately instead of a monthly bill, it is confusing and takes a while to get used to.  




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