El Nido: Paradise on a Budget (Doc’s Passport Score: 80)

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El Nido, nestled in the northern tip of the beautiful island of Palawan in the Philippines, is a picturesque tropical paradise, offering a stunning montage of azure waters, limestone cliffs, and pristine beaches. But there’s more to El Nido than meets the eye. This jewel of Palawan has been attracting an increasing number of expats over the years, lured by the promise of a relaxed, island lifestyle. But how does El Nido fare as an expat city? Let’s break it down.


Natural Beauty & Outdoor Recreation: 5/5

With its captivating beaches, coral reefs, and lagoons, El Nido is a real-life paradise. If you’re into diving, island hopping, or simply lounging on the beach, El Nido takes the cake.

Affordability: 13/15

Despite its status as a top tourist destination, the cost of living in El Nido remains surprisingly affordable, particularly when it comes to housing and food.

English Language Accessibility: 9/10

The Philippines is known for its English proficiency, and El Nido is no exception. Whether you’re navigating the local markets or making friends with the locals, language barriers are almost non-existent.

Safety & Security: 11/15

El Nido is generally safe, with a lower crime rate compared to major cities. However, as with any popular tourist destination, expats should take the usual precautions against petty crime.

Availability of Internet: 8/10

Internet access has improved greatly in recent years, making El Nido a viable option for remote work. However, don’t expect the ultra-fast speeds you might find in larger cities.

Climate: 4/5

El Nido boasts a tropical climate, with plenty of sunshine throughout the year. It can get quite hot and humid, especially during the summer months, but many expats find the weather to be one of El Nido’s many charms.

Proximity to a Good Airport: 7/10

El Nido has its own airport, which offers flights to and from Manila. However, flights can be irregular, and international travelers will still need to transit through Manila.

Public Transportation and Infrastructure: 7/10

The town is small enough to navigate by foot, bike, or tricycle. Infrastructure is not top-tier, but it’s steadily improving, particularly in the areas frequented by tourists.

Food, Dining & Social Scene: 3/5

El Nido’s food scene is dominated by fresh seafood and Filipino fare. There are a good number of restaurants and bars, but the choices can be limited compared to larger cities.

Availability of Emergency Medical Care: 3/5

While basic medical facilities are available in this tropical wonderland, serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to Puerto Princesa or even Manila, which is something expats should keep in mind.

Cultural, Recreational Activities & Entertainment: 3/5

El Nido is primarily known for its natural attractions, but it also hosts cultural events and festivals. Nightlife is mostly laid-back beach bars and occasional live music events.

Expat Community & Services: 1/5

The expat community in this remote island is growing but remains relatively small. Expat-targeted services are not widely available and may require a trip to a larger city.

Final Results

With a total Doc’s Passport Score of 80 out of a possible 100, El Nido earns a solid B. This score specifically caters to expats looking for a laid-back lifestyle on a budget, not tourists in search of a vacation hotspot. If you’re drawn to a slower pace of life and stunning natural beauty and are willing to navigate some infrastructural limitations, this island paradise may just be your dream expat destination.

This evaluation is geared towards expats seeking affordable living arrangements and not those looking for vacation spots or other purposes.  If you are younger and looking for more of a “passport bro” take on things, check out my Passport Bro Score for this city.  

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