Living in Philippines
Last updated on Nov 07, 2022
Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees talk about what it is really like living in Philippines. They offer advice about meeting people, cost of living, finding a home and more.
What do I need to know about living in Philippines?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Philippines, they said:
"If coming from the United States: 1. Make sure that you have a reliable income of at least $1,500/month. Lots of older expats here live on SS or pensions. 2. Open an account at Charles Schwab bank before you depart, as they refund 100% of your ATM fees each month. Philippines is a mostly cash society so you will be doing lots of ATM trips. 3. Practice driving a motorbike if coming to Dumaguete. There are no taxis here, public transit is limited and cars are quite expensive. We actually live in Valencia which is 8 miles outside of Dumaguete. The higher elevation means that it is cooler. Motorbike is a must otherwise you are stuck! 4. Eat like a local to save a few bucks. Foreign foods are available at a few stores but prices are high. 5. Keep an open mind and calm down! Filipino society is much more laid-back than the U.S. You will need to be patient at times. 6. Have fun! I've visited many other places in The Philippines but so far Dumaguete is my favorite," explained one expat living in Dumaguete, Philippines.
"Please come! Several of my friends have done, but all are in other locations and mainly retirees like myself. Several have taken permanent residence in Philippines; I should add - particularly now that UK has become degraded (say-no-more!)," said another expat in Taguig.
How do I meet people in Philippines?
When we asked people living in Philippines about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:
"I've met a lot of fellow expats at my apartment complex. Most of them have lived there for years and are currently in their 60s or 70s. It's also easy to meet new Filipinos. Everyone has a smile on their face and most are quite friendly," remarked another expat living in Dumaguete, Philippines.
"I am a rather elderly male married to a Filipina for 25 years and spend 2-3 English Winter months in Bonifacio Global City in a condo, which we share with my daughter, who has been resident there for 5 years (was a gap-year!) and she is already fluent in Tagalog! This area is fantastic, with the newest and largest SM Aura Mall, and fairly new Market-Market Mall, both with loads of shops and restaurants plus the new wider roads and even more shops and restaurants. There are many tower blocks and new condos. The only thing I miss is expats for chats, meetings, etc. So I would welcome news of any expats/expat clubs and meetings in or near to Bonifacio Global City.," added another expat in Taguig.
What is life like in Philippines?
When we asked people living in Philippines what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:
"Filipino culture revolves around the family. They are much more cohesive and loving than the average Western family. That being said, locals are very welcoming to foreigners here. The Filipino couple that owns the sari-sari (small store) down the street invited me over to sing karaoke," commented one expat who made the move to Dumaguete.
"Well, it's well-known that when you marry a Filipina, you also marry her family! Mine are many, and obviously have lots of young and beautiful children to spoil. But they also have financial problems, and shortage of employment prospects (many are poorly paid even as balikbayans (overseas workers) but never ask for help, so it gives us expats the chance to provide direct-charity, which makes one feel good," remarked another expat living in Taguig, Philippines.
Is there a lot of crime in Philippines?
We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:
"Live in a highend subdivision that INFORCES its rules and regulations. There is a reason EVER single house has an 8 ft wall and barbed wire around the top.," added another expat who made the move to Davao.
"No. Less crime than most places. There is crime, but if you don't look for it you probably won't find it," explained one expat living in Angeles City, Philippines.
Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Philippines accepting of differences?
"Most people are Catholic and the local church is well attended. I would say that they are accepting as long as people with different beliefs are respectful," added another expat in Dumaguete.
"I'm constantly puzzled why, with so many tower blocks and new dwellings, I rarely see expats in the local malls, so I assume that many of the condos - such as the. 50-storey tower block in which we live- must be either held by expats as investments for the future, or by overseas workers? In the 25+ years that I have either lived in or visited Philippines, the only problems I know of were when many areas of Mindenao were passed to Muslim control. (I'm certainly NOT racist, having worked on development projects in many countries, and always preferred village life)," remarked another expat who made the move to Taguig.
What are the schools in Philippines like?
"Since it is a small school, easier to make friends and parents are welcoming, as well as the teachers. It's like a family, no bullying. Academically, there are homeworks so kids can learn more. Also, since it is a Chinese international school, kids will be taught Chinese culture and Mandarin language. My experience is Grade 1 -5 and so far I am satisfied. What the school lacks in facilities, they compensate with caring teachers/staff and good curriculum. For elementary, I do recommend it," commented one expat when asked about Chinese International School Manila in Taguig.
"Check out their Facebook (Noblesse International School) or website, contact them, and if possible set up a meeting with the School Director and Principals. Education is the priority at this school. You will not regret it," explained one expat in Angeles City, Pampanga Province, Philippines with kids at Noblesse International School.
Is the cost of living in Philippines high?If you live in Philippines, newcomers to Philippines would love to hear your answer to this question.
We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in Philippines, they wrote:
"That's a difficult question. It all depends on the retiree's needs and his ability to live within his means. I believe that one can make it work at almost any income level if they are willing to make the appropriate sacrifices," commented one expat who made the move to Angeles City.
"For Air conditioning, internet, phone, cable TV, water, tax, transportation, pharmacy, food and hardware, and all extras cost me $1200 Canadian dollars a month," remarked another expat living in Prudential Village, Daliao, Davao City, Philippines.
"One can live on a tight budget when shopping at local markets, buying local produce. Affordable accommodation can be easily found and a 2 bedroom house can be rented at US 200 dollars a month," mentioned another expat living in Angeles City.
"Living costs including the lease of a small furnished apartment depend on where the apartment is located. In a non luxurious area they normally do not exceed 1200 USD per month. Public transportation is cheap," said an expat in Manila.
What type of recreational facilities are in Philippines?
When we asked people living in Philippines about recreational activities, they mentioned:
"There's a great golf club and driving range in the CutCut area and it's patronized by expats and locals alike. All top hotels have swimming pools that offer daily rates to casual visitors and many have a kids play area. All suburbs have a football/ sports pitches, but are not always well maintained. Unfortunately, there are few sports clubs," added one expat living in Angeles City.
"Swimming can be done in the public pool of a sports stadium rather close to where I am living. Golfing in a nearby golf course by members of the golf club. Hiking in a public park nearby," commented one expat who moved to Manila.
What is the weather like in Philippines?
"It's almost always hot, but it does cool down in the evenings. Typhoons blow in on occasion, but there are always public warnings to keep the public informed of the dangers," added one expat living in Angeles City.
"There are two main seasons. The rainy and the dry season. The rainy season is characterized by frequent typhoons (July - December) The dry season is very hot and humid (January - June)," commented one expat who moved to Manila.
Are there good restaurants in Philippines?
"All hotels have nice restaurants and local canteens offer inexpensive dishes. Korea Town has a wide choice of Korean, Japanese, Italian, Filipino restaurants and offer the best service in town," mentioned another expat inAngeles City.
"There are lots of restaurants selling local and international food. Bars and discos offer a wide range of entertainment until the early morning," commented one expat who moved to Manila, Philippines.
Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Philippines?
"There are large supermarkets dotted all around the city and there are numerous markets with fresh produce. Shopping malls, with all the latest gear, as well as nice affordable gear are found in most areas," mentioned another expat inAngeles City.
"Shopping can be done in malls or markets. They are located in practically all cities in Metropolitan Manila," commented one expat who moved to Manila, Philippines.
What are the visa & residency requirements in Philippines?
"Most passports are given a three month visa on arrival and one can arrange longer stays through the many visa agents found in most hotels," commented one expat living in Angeles City, Philippines.
"A residency permit can be obtained through a yearly quota system or if you are married to a local person- on the basis of the marriage. Foreign visitors upon their arrival in the Philippines are granted a free tourist visa for 30 days, which may be extended to 59 days through the immigration. Before the expiry of the 59 days visa the foreign visitor may extend his/her visa to 60 or 180 days more. The tourist visa maybe further extended up to 3 years," remarked another expat living in Manila.
Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Philippines?
"I have not had to use my insurance here because the cost of care has been so inexpensive. I had to get an MRI which cost me less than 200 USD," mentioned another expat inAngeles City.
"There are a lot of health insurance choices on offer and it is highly recommended to go on one of them. To be without cash and medical insurance may become a death warrant for the "Unprepared"," commented one expat who moved to Angeles City, Philippines.
About the Author
Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.
Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.
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