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Expat Exchange - Expat Philippines: 6 Best Places to Live in The Philippines
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Expat Philippines: 6 Best Places to Live in The Philippines

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: With its low cost of living, beautiful beaches, bustling cities and hot climate, expats have been flocking to the Philippines for years. Here are six of the best places for expats to live in the Philippines.

Living in Tagaytay, Philippines

"Tagaytay, I feel, is the best balanced place to live in the whole Philippines if you would consider its proximity to Manila; it has all the amenities one needs to live daily but not quite as congested, although you could feel the pinch on weekends with the influx of the tourists; it is close enough to surrounding beaches for beach goers yet because of its higher elevation, the weather year-round is the most pleasant (I�ve never had to use an air conditioner, just a fan on a few days out of the year). Baguio is cooler for sure during the cool months, but Baguio�s fog stays for days on end in its bowl like terrain. Tagaytay has a free flowing breeze that when it fogs, it is usually gone within minutes. Tagaytay�s populace are used to seeing enough expats around living among them that one can sense a degree of acceptance and safety. On the downside, multi-story buildings that are being built right now will worsen the traffic in the future. While there is no true bus terminal in Tagaytay per se, all the buses stop and queue outbound or onto the direction of Manila in Olivarez Plaza. If you want to take your time boarding and making sure you are on the right bus, that is the best place to do so. However, those same buses are ones that you can catch by the side of the road. The drawback (by the roadside) is you have little time and under pressure to decide to board or not when it stops. Once you get to know the buses and the destinations on the signboard then all you have to do is catch it by the road side. Those same buses will still stop at Olivarez to wait for a few minutes to add more passengers. The terminal is located in front of 7-11 near McDonalds. There are two 7-11's in that area, not the one near the circle," described one expat living in Tagaytay.

"I am a Brit currently live in Tagaytay at the Royale Tagaytay Estate, at least half a dozen properties for sale here from around P7,000,000 upwards small but challenging 9 hole course with no charge, free to play for residents and country club membership with plenty of facilities, swim pool, bowling, tennis and nice restaurant, 3 or 4 large golf courses within a few Km. Understand your reasons for choosing Tagaytay, Manila is just too overpowering, Tagaytay of course has a far nicer climate than the city, but can get congested during the weekend and holidays, mainly due to the poor road system which is endemic in the Philippines," explained another expat.

Living in Subic Bay, Philippines

Subic Bay Philippines An expat living in Subic Bay Freeport Zone provided an insightful overview of life there, "Subic Bay offers great amenities left behind by US military. Very quiet, most rules enforced, most traffic officers honest - tickets are cheap and easy to pay. Rules usually enforced. No flooding, PLDT phones and internet via SubicTel, Subic Enerzone has reliable power, Subic Water handles water and sewage, SBMA handles trash/recycling pick up. Medical facilities were basic but improving with two new medical centers, one in Cubi and one in the central business district. Various grocery sources including a couple wet markets. There are lots of activities for both, especially if you enjoy any form of outdoor activity. For a taste of culture such as museums or big shows you go to Manila (2 hours via toll road "NLEX") or casinos in SBFZ or Clark. Prior US military housing is very sturdy, large yards, parking. Wide range of prices depend on lease conditions. Houses to apartments available. Cheaper than expat areas in Manila but more than Olongapo or Baguio. Contact SBMA LADD, there is also a Century 21 office. Expats can hold long term leases and sublet. Security in residential, checkpoints are okay, not as good as Dasmarinas or Bel-Air. The residents are also to blame. Most expats in this area work in SBFZ or Clark Economic Zone. Clark is 1 hour away via a toll road "SCTEX". Lots of parks and recreational areas and it is safe to run, bike on the streets. This is the jungle. The stars fill the night sky. The bay is beautiful and the beaches nice. Lots of fresh air. Pet friendly. There are some nightlife and restaurants, many nightclubs and bars. In Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) there is very little crime, outside SBFZ petty crimes and other things associated with a city." In terms of international schools, this expat recommended Brent International, Casa Kalayaan and a few other smaller schools within SBFZ. Plus, Ateneo has a campus here.

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Living in Makati, Philippines

Makati Expat "The best places to retire in the Philippines are Makati City of the Metro Manila being the center of trade and businesses, where almost 90% of foreign embassies, Head offices of local and foreign banks, international schools, prestigious hotels, all sorts of international cuisine and restaurants are located. If you are into urban kind of living and may be wanting to engage in businesses while enjoying busy city life, there is no other place to be considered but the City of Makati. It is also about 30 minutes drive from the airport," recommended one expat in Makati.

Another expat in Makati said, "Central Makati and Fort are very safe places, day and night, but traffic means kids cannot ride bikes or walk alone outside the villages. Nobody gives way to pedestrians, and crosswalks and lights are decoration only. Apartments in Makati and Fort Bonifacio are generally secure with excellent size and quality, big pools and maybe gyms and tennis. Nowhere for bicycles. Recommended apartments are One Roxas Triangle (ORT), Four Seasons, One Salcedo, Pacific Plaza, Essensa, Greenbelt, Serendra, Hidalgo. Many other excellent apartments, 200-300sqm rents 140,000-250,000 pesos per month. Can get smaller and cheaper. If you are paying your own way, you are in for a shock. Rents on Village houses and the above apartments are huge, and services can be expensive. Electricty is very expensive, 15,000-40,000 pesos a month. Ours is 35,000 a month. Expat life here is very comfortable, and all familiar foods and services are available. Many expat groups here, so isolation is not a major issue. Easy way to describe greater Manila, think Los Angeles without the freeways or beaches."

"There are areas in Makati that are safe and I would highly suggest that you consider living in a gated community where the security guards will always scrutinize the people coming into the village. Your decisions will depend on your monthly budget. Will you consider doing rent to own? I always recommend families to do a short term rent first while you are looking for a house to live and settle in for a longer term. Depending on how many kids you have, there are recommendable condos that will rent for short terms right infront of Greenbelt. I feel safe in that area because there are security guards all over the place and it is owned by the Ayalas which is heavily guarded. I would rent a condo across the greenbelt area and walk down the mall area where it has great landscaping in the middle with parks that you can walk with your family safely. I would go for my daily exercise in the park area every morning. This is also a financial district so it is quite busy in a way, but at least there are a lot of professional people walking around," suggested another expat.

Living in Cebu City, Philippines

Cebu Philippines Expat "Cebu is a larger city with most government services available there. I have to travel there by ferry from Ormoc City, Leyte, every time I need to go to the B.I. for my Visa processing since it can only be done in Manila or Cebu for residency issues. You can live nicely on a budget of $3,500.00USD, that translates to about 145,000.00PHP here in the Philippines. My rent here is 8,000.00PHP a month for a large 2 bedroom apartment. Electric runs me 4,000.00PHP and 100.00PHP for the monthly water service. My housekeeper is 3,000.00PHP a month and nanny is 2,000.00PHP a month. My budget here is 60,000.00PHP and that does not include my USA bills. I find Wells Fargo Bank works well because of their international transfer ability for me in transferring money to my Philippine Bank. If you plan on making it a permanent move, I would recommend that you make sure your legal documents are approved by the Philippine embassy in your country, as this is one of the problems I encountered after moving here. If you enjoy fishing then bring your fishing things with you, you can not buy rods or tackle here, no one sells the stuff here," advised one expat living in Cebu City.

Living in Baguio, Philippines

Baguio Philippines Expat One expat in the Philippines said, "Baguio is my first choice for living outside the Metro Manila. It is cool (sometimes cold) year-round as it is situated at 1800 meters (about a mile-high) at the base of the Cordillera Mountains. It is the jumping off point for the Ilocos region and the Mountain Provinces. The once small town is now a major city and the economic and educational hub in Northern Luzon. The place is teaming with locals, tourists, ex-pats, and tons of students. The major drawback is that the city was built for 25,000 and is now overpopulated with 500,000+ during the peak summer season. The congestion in the Central Business District (CBD) is really bad! However, this doesn�t deter people from coming back to frequent this �Summer Capital of the Philippines�. If you are semi-retired (or better) and want to beat the heat of the lowlands, Baguio is the place to be. This is the best option for ex-pats. There are plenty of ex-pats in Baguio. You can find them along Session Road, at SM City, Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club, City Market, and any of the major schools, colleges, or universities, especially during special events like the Flower Festival and Oktoberfest. SM Malls again has taken over this community. The open-air mall here is much smaller than those in other locations, however they have eight movie screens, along with plenty of shops and dining options. In its former years, Camp John Hay used to be the playground for Americans and other foreigners, as well as upper-class Manilenos. The mountain resort was famous for its miniature golf course, bowling alley, roller-skating rink, horse & pony rides, and dozens of picnic areas and walking trails. Although it�s been a half-century from its glory days, John Hay has a new membership golf club, hotel, condos, townhouses, cabins, concessionaires, and duty-free shops. Brent International School in Baguio is my recommendation. Despite the sprawl, there is still plenty of green. Most of the hills inside town are overgrown with housing, however take a stroll through Burnham Park, Wright Park, Mansion House, Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club, Philippine Military Academy, Botanical Gardens, Sunshine Park, Teachers� Camp, and Mines View. If you�re energetic, take a walk from Camp John Hay back down South Drive back to the city center. This is only one of a few places in town where you can still see pine trees. You can drive or hop a bus to San Fernando, LU and the beach in less than an hour. Also, check out Klondike Hot Springs resort at Camp 1 at the bottom of Kennon Road. Baguio is relatively safe compared to Manila or other large cities. However, always take precautions as there are opportunists everywhere. I lived in Baguio for two years and never had an incident. However over the same period of time in Metro Manila, I�ve been a victim of a mugging, a couple of cell pone pick-pockets, a car break-in, and dozens of taxicab rip-offs. Watch your personal belongings especially during Panagbenga (Flower Festival). This started out in 1994 as a small town festival and has evolved into a mega-commercial month-long event that draws close to a million visitors during February. There are close to a hundred thousand visitors during Parade Weekend alone. Also, watch yourself when roaming the City Market and malls.

Living in Leyte Island, Philippines

Leyte Island Philippines "Leyte Island is an inner island and is somewhat protected from the weather systems. Most of the storms from the east here have to cross another island and then the mountains here before getting to Ormoc City, so they have usually have weakened out before they hit. The Ormoc area on the island of Leyte is set on the eastern edge of a large cove type island area. The island is protected from most things and has Cebu Island to the west to protect it and no active volcanic areas are present. As for buying land here, unless one of you in the family is Philippine citizen then you can not own land here, you can however own a condominium on top of the land here. If you go outside of the town area you can find land at a reasonable price. A friend here just bought a home in a subdivision here for $1,000,000.00php pesos," advised one expat.

"I am living on Leyte Island and find the people here very nice and helpful. So far I have not had any bad incidents of theft here and the locals seem to lookout for foreigners and keep the undesirables away from them. There are police and security all over the place, not like the USA where you can go all day and not see an officer. Unfortunately the language here is English, but everyone here speaks Philippino instead, some understand it a little, but I find them telling me they do not have the item I am looking for and it is right on the shelf behind them. There are 4 major dialects here and I am lucky that my wife speaks several of them so we get around and communicate very well with the locals. The climate here is tolerable with 85 degree days, but high humidity. It does not seem so bad by the ocean here in Leyte, not like where I lived near Yosemite with 105 degree days all summer," described another expat living on Leyte Island.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame 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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Jun 30, 2014 12:33

know any services, etc. that would assist a disabled person move/transition to the Philippines?

Jan 14, 2015 22:24


Jan 15, 2015 18:01

any ideas for the best area for a disabled person?

Feb 25, 2015 18:03

Betsy, Nice article that covers several areas in a way that provides an overview, yet allows one to do more research. Two comments about items that I think you should look at for the Subic part. First, last year they had the first baha that ran right though town because the canal got blocked. Second, the 1 hr ro Clark is correct, but getting into Manila (airport for example) can be a full-day trip anymore with excess traffic and trucker protests. regardless, Subic, with the new Harbor Point Mall and other improvements is a place that many can find the balance of city but with low cost living they might seek. Cheers and we will be back in Subic in April to celebrate with family and look at the progress on our Camaya Shores property. Cheers and salamat po.

Jun 24, 2015 16:41

Hi Ms. Burlingame. Thank you so much for providing me with this information. My Filipina wife and I are considering a move to Tagaytay (we spent the month of May there in a town home) in March 2016. I know this is an unrelated question, but do have any personal experience with or would you know expats who have moved there and require prescription medications that are not available in the Philippines. I have been racking my brains trying to find an answer to this question and I even emailed Mercury Drugs' corporate headquarters, but I have never received a reply from them. Any advice you can give me will be greatly appreicated.

Jul 29, 2015 16:41

The information about Leyte Island is dangerously outdated and misleading. in November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban, Ormoc City, and many other communities on Leyte Island. I don't think it's prudent to suggest that any island in the Philippines is sheltered from typhoons.

Oct 19, 2015 01:59

(1)-Dumaguete (2)-Olanguete

Jan 13, 2016 08:44

Dear betsy, Really, you choose Leyte over Davao ? There is no place in a list like this for Davao? Did you know that there is a part from the philippines where all the fruit comes from, where there are no typhoons and where there is a City that is considered 4 most safest city in the world(by the United nations). A bit of a pity. would love to do a profile for you on mindanao.

Oct 27, 2016 21:35

Not many would agree, but I still enjoy Ermita for nostalgic reasons (once the nightlife capital of the PI with over 200 bars and restaurants in the del Pilar/Mabini area.) but because everything worth doing is within walking distance. No traffic unless you want to leave it! Great fish watching in Ocean Park, historic bookstore on Padre Faura, still vibrant nightlife and great diversity music at LA Cafe. Calle 5 and GPoint,and karaoke at Max on Maria Orosa, A great buffet at Dads,, Nice historical tours of Intramuros, Paco Park and Corregidor. All very near to a wide variety of hotels both 5 Star and very reasonable Aussie run budget places, and a large number of medical facilities , two large malls and antique. Places to shop at again all within walking distance. Leave your car at home. A short cheap cab ride away are the CCP complex and Mall of Asia

Mar 11, 2018 23:00

Hello I am from Dallas, Texas, planning to move to Phillipines is cebu city place to move , I am single financially secure, Just want to rent with all amenties at a nice place any suggestions. I have read lot but never been to Phillipines

Jan 15, 2020 22:43

I think Negroes lsland is the best place to live. It is safe for the most part. It is somewhat tsunami proof because it will hit other islands and reduce the danger. Friendly people. Prices are a little cheaper than Cebu or Luzon Islands. Come and see.

Feb 8, 2020 21:24

Davao City!

Cloud 9 Pier in Siargo, Philippines

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