Dumaguete is a small city on Negros Island in the Philippines. It is known as a college and tourist town with plenty to do and see. It's promixity to Apo Island, Bohol and nearby tourist destinations throughout the Visayas keep more and more visitors arriving each year.
Since Dumaguete is where I'm currently spending a lot of my time, it seems like a good first slomad location to write about.
Most people visiting the Visayas region of the Philippines would base themselves in Cebu City. As one of the biggest cities in the Philippines, it does make sense. However, for people that want to avoid the annoyances of a big city like Cebu, Dumaguete makes a great jumping off point (or even a place to hang out for awhile) for several reasons:
- There are daily flights to/from Manila/Cebu and boats to all over (for instance, Bohol and Siquijor).
- The city is easy to navigate and transportation is much simpler.
- No taxis. Tricycles are everywhere (convenient, but can be annoying too).
- You can walk to most places in town.
- The airport is small and really easy to deal with.
- Tons of affordable hotels/accomodations.
- Nice resorts nearby.
- Plenty of restaurants, bars, music and entertainment -- even if you want Western style food.
- There is an Immigration office to handle your visa extensions. (Most cities this size do not have one, and visiting these offices is something you must do every 2 months if you are on a tourist visa)
- There is a very nice movie theatre at Robinson's Mall (the one decent mall). Movies cost P140 (~$3.50usd).
While Dumaguete has it's share of issues and annoyances, it's a pretty good place to be if you want to visit the Visayas or you're looking for a place to live in the Philippines.
It is a college town.
There are several colleges in the area, including Silliman University, which is a pretty famous school in the Philippines. Students come from all over the Philippines and abroad to study. You'll see Koreans, Iranians, Japanese, etc. studying English here. There are supposedly some 30,000+ students in the area! (according to Wikipedia). This means that there are a lot of young people here. For some this is a positive and others a negative.
There are a lot of foreigners here.
There are not just tourists visiting Dumaguete, but foreigners living here. Generally these would be retired expats from USA, Canada, Australia, etc. As you stroll the boulevard along the ocean, you'll see many restaurants and bars almost entirely filled with them. While Dumaguete does have it's share of foreigners and tourists for a city of this size, they are mostly concentrated on the Boulevard and overall I don't think they impact the Dumaguete vibe (too much).
There are plenty of hotels.
Dumaguete has a lot of hotels and most of them are reasonably priced. In fact, if you know where to go, you can find an OK place to stay for as little as P400 (~$9usd). Even less if you want dorm-style. For a decent place, expect to pay in the P1000 (~$22usd) range. There are even some really nice resorts a little bit out of town.
Here are a few places I can recommend in the P1000 range, which is usually my budget:
All of those have internet available (but not necessarily in the room).
Don't expect "tropical paradise" beaches.
The beaches in and immediately around Dumaguete City are nothing to write home about. Please don't come to Dumaguete for the beaches. If you are looking for that "tropical paradise" beach, check out nearby places like Apo Island, Alona Beach or Siquijor. However, the beaches a few kilometers outside of Dumaguete (like in Dauin) have their own charm - they are very walkable, the surroundings lovely and the ocean great for swimming, snorkeling and diving.
Oh, there is traffic here.
While Dumaguete is a small town and people from Manila or other big cities might call it lazy and quiet, it is not without it's share of traffic problems. Expect to see a ton of tricycles and traffic congestion on the main roads and boulevard. One thing that really bothers me about the traffic situation is that there are quite a few buses and trucks that use the Boulevard road along the ocean, which would otherwise be a really lovely spot (honestly, it still is). Maybe one day they will make this a pedestrian only zone.
Dumaguete is (fairly) safe.
There is a lot of info (and hype) out there about safety in the Philippines. I'd say that Dumaguete is one of the safer cities of it's size in the country. That doesn't mean it's entirely free of crime. Yes, people get killed even in this "City of Gentle People". However, I've never felt unsafe and I've walked around town at some very late hours. If you use common sense and stay out of bad areas, there are rarely any issues. In my time in Dumaguete (totalling up to a few years), the worst thing that happened to me was a stolen motorcycle helmet (and I actually got it back -- a story for another day).
While I don't believe crime is much of a problem for regular citizens and tourists of Dumaguete, please keep in mind that traffic safety is an entirely different issue. Walking and driving here can be dangerous activities. Un-covered storm/sewage drains, uneven sidewalks, the absense of sidewalks, busses running you off the road, etc. are all a part of daily life here. However, I believe most cities in the Philippines (and in other developing countries) have some level of similar problems.
It's a small town.
Keep in mind that if you are looking for somewhere to live, Dumaguete is a small town. Even with 100,000+ people, it somehow manages to keep that small-town feel. Somehow everyone knows what everyone else is doing...
I like Dumaguete.
Overall, I like Dumaguete. It has it's share of problems and things I wish were improved, but I feel the good far outweighs the bad. I've stayed in Dumaguete many times over the last few years and I've found it to be a great place to live and check out other places in the area. People are friendly and accustomed to dealing with foreigners, which is a plus. There are some great restaurants and I must say I miss the place whenever I leave. Dumaguete is a place worth visiting and spending some time in if you're in the Philippines. I'm curious what you think...
I hope to go in to more detail about Dumaguete in future posts, but hopefully this provides a nice overview for people interested in the area. For more information about Dumaguete and for a list of places to stay, visit the Dumaguete Travel Guide.