A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Working Remotely in Cebu City
After nearly 5 months of nomading across Asia, I’m back in the Philippines! 🙂 This time, I stayed for a couple of months in the bustling metropolis of Cebu.
Metro Cebu is composed of Cebu City plus six surrounding cities and six municipalities, so it’s quite huge! It’s actually nearly twice the size of Metro Manila, the Philippine capital. But let’s focus on Cebu City and its neighboring Mandaue City, as it is where the action is.
On my first month, I stayed at an Airbnb condo in IT Park. Afterwards, I flew to Siargao to attend a cousin’s wedding and stayed there for nearly a week. (Hooray for really cheap flights!) 😉 I went back to Cebu and stayed at AS Fortuna, which is bit further from the city center but it has everything I need. I do work from home, but most of the time, I go to a coffee shop or a co-working cafe to work. So I compiled this list and made a guide.
If you’re an online freelancer, digital nomad, remote worker, or a student simply looking for a better place to study, I hope you find this guide helpful.
Coffee shops in Cebu with fast wifi
Most big chain coffee shops in Cebu have really sloooow wifi speed, and very few charging sockets. I think this is to discourage people from spending hours inside (sometimes staying all day), sitting on just one cup of coffee. Some come in big groups and just order a couple of drinks. I get it – it’s bad for business. Even in locally-owned cafes, you see signs on display saying “at least one order per person”.
Businesses respond to this by offering slow or time-limited wifi connection. In the recent years, Starbucks Philippines only offer 1-hour Free GoWifi connection. After your free time is up, you have the option to buy internet access through GoWifi Auto (₱15 for 500MB, valid for 24 hours). This is what I do every time I work from Starbucks.
But the speed is not great. I’ve worked from Starbucks in I.T. Park and Oakridge; every time I do a speedtest, it’s always under 3Mbps down. 🙁 Good thing, I don’t need fast internet most of the time, so that speed is workable for me.
I find Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf branches in Cebu, particularly in I.T. Park, to be really cold. They have faster internet than Starbucks, but very limited charging sockets. Some branches don’t even have sockets at all.
I’ve explored a lot of cafes to work in Cebu and I’ll share with you a few of my favorites. To make it easier, I sorted each cafe based on different areas of Cebu.
Cebu Business Park / Ayala Mall
Ayala Center Cebu is huge. And it has a lot of cafes, especially at the Terraces (where the landscaped garden is). But most of these places are crowded and packed with people, mostly shoppers bidding their time. If you prefer something familiar like Starbucks or Coffee Bean, I recommend going to their 4th floor branches as they’re much less crowded and not as noisy. But if you want more options than the usual big chain coffee shops, then here’s a few places I can recommend.
1. Red Cafe
Hidden away from the crowd, this spacious cafe is located at the upper ground floor, inside FLB Building just beside the Jeepney Terminal in Ayala Mall. This was recommended by a friend who’s a full-time stock market trader. It became my favorite spot in this part of town, so whenever I’m in the area, I always stay at Red Cafe.
— fast wifi
— ergonomic tables and chairs
— ample amount of charging sockets
— variable food selection, meals available (Korean food)
— Hard to find as it is on a separate building outside of Ayala Center Cebu
As it is tucked away from the crowded cafes inside Ayala Mall, not many people visit here making it a quiet place to work. It can get a bit busy during lunch as people come here to eat Korean food, but it’s still not as crowded as other cafes inside the mall. In fact, it is very quiet most of the time.
2. UCC Cafe
More of a restaurant than a cafe, this quaint upscale Japanese restaurant inside Ayala Mall has good coffee, a few sockets for charging, and lots of food options. For coffee lovers, I recommend you try their siphon coffee.
— Right inside Ayala Mall
— Lots of food options
— Not a good working environment (as it is a restaurant) but each time I stay here, I see a couple of people working on their laptops
— Wifi can be spotty and unreliable sometimes
3. Abaca Baking Company
This local pastry chain is well-loved among Cebuanos! They have a reputation for their yummy baked goods, made fresh daily. Their pastries go on sale at 50% off when it’s near closing time, so if you love bread, this is the best time to hoard your favorites. They have 2 branches inside Ayala Mall and another one inside I.T. Park. If you prefer a quieter place, go to the branch inside Rustan’s Department Store on the 2nd floor of Ayala Mall.
With good coffee, fast wifi, freshly baked pastries, comfy seats and tables, this is a good place to work. I personally worked from here a couple of times. The only downside is there’s NO charging sockets. So definitely go there only when your laptop battery is full.
Their ₱65 ($1.22) brewed coffee is quite cheap. You can even request for milk on the side or a creamer, if you prefer. I also tried their flat white coffee (₱145 ~ $2.73).
— lots of food options; freshly baked pastries
— fast internet
— Can’t charge your gadgets
AS Fortuna (Banilad / Mandaue)
1. Cafe Berry
This is by far my most favorite cafe to work in Cebu! Why? Lots of ergonomic tables and chairs, fast wifi, what more can I ask for?
Their coffee, though, is just so so. I usually order a latte every time I go a cafe, and I find their coffee too weak. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, and the taste of your coffee means a lot to you, you probably won’t like this place. But if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love it here! They have many different flavoured “snow” desserts, sundaes, and frappe drinks.
They don’t have much food options, just some cakes and Korean cup noodles. If you want to eat proper food, I recommend going out to Jolibee and other food places nearby. I noticed some people go out to eat and just leave their stuff in the table for them to come back later. The staff don’t mind. They also don’t pressure you to leave despite being there for hours.
— Fast wifi
— Lots of tables and chairs
— Plenty of sockets for charging your gadgets
— They only serve cake and Bingsu, no proper food.
— No service water (they sell bottled water at 45pesos)
— Toilet is outside, but you can leave your things (do it at your own risk)
2. Ma.an Coffee Factory
This is a really quaint cafe! I love how it’s designed; it gives off a rustic vibe 🙂 It actually reminds me of the cool artsy cafes in Chiang Mai with industrial interior.
They have a bookshelf corner (although I can’t comment on their book selection) where you can sit down and work on your laptop or study. It’s a bit high with their high chairs so I find it uncomfortable. I prefer sitting either on the long table area (where the fiber wifi router is) or in one of those square tables where I took the pic above. But these tables gets occupied quick! They have 3 wifi routers, and they’ll give you the wifi password based on which area you’ll be sitting.
If you’re a coffee enthusiast and love good coffee, this is the place for you. If you order an espresso or americano, they offer 3 types of coffee beans from different parts of the world, including Philippine arabica coffee beans.
— Decor makes you feel creative and inspired! (haha) Even their toilet looks nice
— High speed internet
— parking space outside (but it’s limited and can get filled up really fast, especially late in the afternoon)
— Their coffee is a bit pricier compared to other coffee shops (but it’s artisan coffee, so you’re paying for quality)
— Drinks are served only in 1 size
— Can get really crowded in the late afternoon and evening
3. Drip & Draft
This artisan coffee shop is located inside Streetscape Mall, which is right next to the entrance of the upscale Maria Luisa subdivision. I sometimes drop by here as it is near my gym (Fitness Nation). They’re quite known for their cold brew. Fair warning, their drip coffee is quite strong. The first time I had coffee here, I ordered a latte, and later on the barista offered me a cup of their drip coffee to try. My heart was palpitating later! 😅
They have charging sockets, and time-limited wifi where they give you an access code. Sometimes they give me a wifi code for 2 hours, other times 3 hours. Wifi speed is not that great (2-5mbps) but there’s only a few people around so you don’t have much competition. I haven’t personally worked there with my laptop, but I’ve seen a couple of people working on their laptops each time I visit.
— Great artisan coffee! Perfect for coffee connoisseurs
— Latte art
— Quiet place to work
— Location is a little out of the way
— Wifi is not fast (under 5mpbs)
Coworking Cafes in Cebu City
A co-working cafe is like a cross between a coffee shop and co-working space. Most cafes tend to be crowded, noisy, don’t have many charging plugs/sockets. On the other hand, coworking spaces can be quite pricey making it out of reach for the budget-conscious.
Although the set-up varies, coworking cafes charge either per hour or per day. Some of them offer a free 1 to 2-hour use when you buy drinks or food worth a certain amount. This makes it no different than when you go to a coffee shop, buy a drink and stay for a couple of hours. The upside with coworking cafes is the reliable high-speed Wifi (they often have fiber internet) and lots of charging sockets!
If you’re on a budget or think that paying 400-500pesos ($7-$10) per day on coworking space is too much, but need a quiet place to focus, then a coworking cafe is your best option.
1. The Workplace Cafe
Located within short distance of universities like University of San Carlos, University of Cebu and South Western University, no wonder this place is often packed! It’s also near downtown “old” Cebu, where the city’s main tourist attractions can be found.
Their space is huge! They have 2 floors, a napping station (with sofa bed and bean bags!), and a small conference room. If shared tables and open spaces aren’t your thing, there’s a cubicle room where you get your own cubicle.
Hourly Rate: ₱50 ($0.90) for the first hour, then ₱35 ($0.66) per hour afterwards
*When you order any handcrafted beverage, you get a free 1 hr. stay
Daily Rate: ₱280 whole day ($5.28)
Monthly Rate: ₱4,000 whole month ($75.47)
— quiet environment
— open till late from 10am to 6am everyday, except Sundays (12pm till 6am)
— long waiting list for the monthly rate (6 people on the list, as of Oct. 11, 2018)
— different wifi password per device; you’re given 2 access codes (valid for 20hrs) but you can ask for additional access codes if you have more gadgets
How To Get There By Public Transport:
From Ayala Mall jeepney terminal, take 14D then stop at Metrobank Ramos.
2. Headquarters (Work. Study. Chill)
Centrally located along North Escario Street, this coworking cafe is easily accessible by public transport. It’s also near Ayala Mall, about 15 mins. walk if you’re up for it. It’s within the Vibo complex, with the hippest Starbucks in Cebu right across it. It can be hard to find. Facing Starbucks, you’ll find it at the 3rd floor of the building to the left. It doesn’t have many food options but there’s a lot of restaurants and food places nearby. There’s a Burger King within Vibo, and across the road, there’s Lunhaw Vegan Cafe.
Hourly Rate: ₱30 ($1.77) per hour, with 1 complimentary brewed coffee or iced tea.
*Add ₱50 for unlimited brewed coffee or iced tea.
*When you buy ₱110 worth of food and drinks, you get 2 hours free access.
Daily Rate: ₱280 ($5.28) whole day, comes with unlimited brewed coffee or iced tea
Monthly Rate: ₱4,000 whole month ($75.47)
— wide tables
— really fast wifi (fiber internet)
— unlimited internet, no gadget limitations (the wifi password is written at the back of your number)
— guaranteed 2 charging sockets per table (it’s underneath every table; I had a hard time looking for it, as I was looking for wall sockets.. lol)
— common CR (shared with other establishments); no toilet paper
— you have to walk 2 flights of stairs (it’s on the 3rd floor)
How To Get There By Public Transport:
From Ayala Mall (jeepney terminal), take 14D then stop at Vibo.
Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/headquarterscebu
Co-working Spaces in Cebu
If you want to bring your own food (or have it delivered), and need a microwave to heat it up, then a coworking space is your best option. The main difference between a coworking cafe and a coworking space is the availability of a kitchen.
1. iiOffice Cebu
Located near the Capitol, iiOffice Cebu is very accessible by public transport. This cool Japanese-inspired coworking space offers the cheapest daily rate at ₱300 ($5.66). Their monthly rate of ₱4,000 ($75.47) comes with a postal address use (for your mails), 10 hours use of the conference room, and access to their partner co-working space in Manila. The stylish design and colorful interior makes this an ideal spot for creatives looking for a spark of inspiration.
Open from 9am to 7pm, this place is certainly not for the night owls. But if your working schedule follows that of an office worker, this is perfect.
They host events: art workshops, Startup Weekend.. just to name a few of their recent events. So if you’re interested, be sure to check them out.
2. The Company Cebu
Owned and managed by a Japanese company, The Company Cebu is actually their first venture outside of Japan. They now have coworking spaces in other cities like Bangkok, Singapore, and Honolulu (Hawaii).
They’re open from 8am to 8pm. You can drop in for a day for ₱400 ($7.55). It’s ₱1,500 ($28.30) for a week and ₱6,500 ($122.64) per month. For digital nomads wanting to stay more than a day but can’t commit a full week or month, you can get the “Flex Seats” plan for ₱2,000 ($37.74).
But all these plans give you access only from Mondays to Fridays. If you want 24/7 access, they have a ‘dedicated seat‘ plan for ₱8,000 ($150.94) per month.
They regularly host events; check out their Facebook page (link below) for more details.
3. ASPACE Cebu
With wide open spaces, reliable wifi, an industrial interior, ASPACE Cebu is a creative hub for startups, freelancers, bloggers and entrepreneurs. With branches in Metro Manila, ASPACE is actually a coworking space brand known for fostering a collaborative coworking environment.
You can access their drop-in cowork lounge for ₱500 ($9.43) per day (only from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday). Seats are not very comfy though (no back rests!), but they do have bean bags. 😉 You can access their cowork club for ₱10,000 ($188.68) for 1 month (30 days). They have more ergonomic chairs there, and you get 24/7 access.
Which is better – cafe or coworking space?
Ahh, the good old debate 😉
Honestly, it all depends on you — your working style, budget and preferences. Some people love the vibe of coffee shops while other can’t work in noisy environments. Some people prefer an office environment for them to be productive.
Wherever you choose to work, I hope you find this guide helpful.
Are you a digital nomad visiting Cebu? Or an online freelancer based in Cebu?
I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
Where do you work? Do you know of cafes or coworking spaces that I haven’t listed above? Leave a comment below and let me know.
Note: Exchange rate used (USD 1 = ₱ 53)