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8 Safest Places to Live in the Philippines

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: With the rise of terrorism in certain parts of the Philippines, expats in the Philippines helped us compile a list of safe places to live in the Philippines. Here are 8 of the safest expat destinations in the Philippines.

Expat Philippines - 8 Safest Places to Live in the Philippines

A few years ago, we published an article about the Best Places to Live in the Philippines. Terrorism has been on the rise in certain areas of the Philippines since the time that the article was published.

Despite the increase in terrorism in certain regions of the Philippines, the country remains a very popular destination for expats and retirees. People move to the Philippines to enjoy its lower cost of living, beautiful beaches and welcoming people. To help those considering a move to the Philippines, we asked expats in the Philipines to help us compile a list of safe expat destinations in the Philippines . Here are the 8 towns and cities that made the list:

Living in Tagaytay, Philippines

"We live off the Aguinaldo Hiway in the southern most part of Silang on the edge of Tagaytay. 5 minutes from the highway, cooler, clean and peaceful. In and around us, we have a public and government hospital, a new specialist clinic, a good dentist, recreation, an abundance of restaurants and an 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive to the beach. Tagaytay has a new Mall (Serin) and two public markets. There is a new mall opening now with four theaters (Fora). There are golf courses, a plethora of housing developments and rental homes advertised commercially as well as simply seen along the road as you travel around. Within about 20 to 35 minutes you also have two large malls in Dasmarinas (SM and Robinsons) and another near Nuvali Sta Rosa (Ayala). Near Tagaytay and often even cooler is the town of Mendez that has won awards for its cleanliness. Others include Alfonso, Indang, Laurel Batangas, Silang and Amadeo. The utilities where we live are dependable, including water, power and internet with satellite TV - though internet quality and reliability seems to vary greatly as you move around the area. Ask first before moving in," advised one expat.

"One Starbucks I go to in Tagaytay must have the BEST Starbucks view in the world!! The view over the lake is amazing... When I move there I will take my Ipad and read the news with a Grande Americano every morning :) Can't wait :)," said one soon-to-be expat. "I live in Tagaytay and wouldn't move to any other place. But... Tagaytay has become somewhat urbanized of sort. Judging from the way you described the life you want to live, the surrounding towns would fit you very well. The weather will still be Tagaytay like and all the amenities will be within a short hop away. The best thing for you to do is come and stay for a time," explained one expat.

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Living in Baguio, Philippines

Baguio Philipines

"Baguio is another very cool place to live, bigger than Tagaytay and busier, Baguio sits on top of a mountain so is very cool but also rains a fair bit. But a real nice place to visit anyway," recommended one expat. "Baguio is a lovely place to visit. Like Tagaytay, it's very cool, gets extremely busy weekends and holidays as does Tagaytay. One problem with Bagiou is the bloody road up and down that mountain. Once you're in Baguio there is nowhere else to go except down that mountain. I do like it there though -- good restaurants on Session Road, live music etc. Drawback is that road is always under repair - landslides, etc. Bus drivers drive way too fast and there are many accidents on that road," cautioned one expat.

"I wouldn't be so worried about the roads. There are 3 access roads to Baguio. Yes, maybe Kennon Road (fastest route to Manila) may get closed occasionally but if that happens there are other alternative routes (Naguilian, Marcos Highway). I've travelled all three routes many times (on motorcycle, car and bus). Considering the amount of buses that go to Baguio everyday the accident rate is very low. Everyone knows in advance when storms are coming and when roads are closed. The difference in cost from a place within an hour of Rosario and from within an hour of Tagaytay is probably half the amount," responded another expat on the topic of roads in the Baguio area.

Living in La Union, Philippines

La Union Philipines

In a discussion about good surfing beaches in the Philippines, one member said, "La Union is a very popular surfing area with surf schools, sandy beaches, nice restaurants and expats. Renting a place near the beach might be expensive, but there must be cheaper around. It's about 4 - 5+ hours drive from Manila and one hour from Bagiou. I liked the place. But it does flood badly in places -- so be careful." Another expat said, "I live in the province of La Union, about 135 miles north of Manila. I love it here on so many levels. While it is not perfect, the cost of living is as low as anywhere in the country. I am on the leeward side of the island of Luzon on the South China Sea, so typhoons are only tropical storms if they come this way. Get away from Manila and look around. I live very well on my income which is about $2500/mo."

Living in General Trias Cavite, Philippines

General Trias Cavite is a little more than an hour south of Manila. "We bought a property last year in General Trias Cavite at Eagle Ridge Golf Course, along Governors Drive. What I love about the place - it's quiet, close to hospitals and close to schools (De La Salle Cavite)," described one expat.

Living in Subic, Philippines

Subic Philipines

One expat offered advice to a newcomer looking for advice about where to live in the Philippines, "If you are a first timer coming to the Philippines, I'd first remind you that this is or can be a dangerous 3rd world country to just drop in on and stay. That said and for those reasons, I'd suggest an area outside of but close to the old US Navy base in Subic Bay on Luzon Island. Good area with complete infastructure on base that is hard to find anywhere else. Borcay is simply too expensive when Subic offers more for far less. Check out their chamber of commerce at the link at the end of my post. Good luck and enjoy the Philippines." "I like Subic it's a lot cleaner than some other places I have visited. Went to a few resorts there can't say I noticed the water being polluted it was great. Go to Texas Joe's, best burger I have ever had, really good seafood restaurant opposite. Nice restaurants on the beach as well, police cruising the area. I liked it," said one expat. Another said, "Subic, it's very clean lots of expats, good beaches, restaurants etc Clark has big shopping malls, it's nice there."

Other expats debated the cleanliness of the beaches in Subic. One explained, "Baloy Beach or any other water in the Subic area is not what someone would call a beach or clean water that an expat would want to wade in. Just like GaryD had mentioned Subic, like Manila, is a bay. A lot of pollution gets stuck in it that doesn't move much."

Living in Santa Rosa City, Philippines

With a population of over 350,000, Santa Rosa City is located 24 miles south of Manila. An expat living in Santa Rosa City described what he likes about life there saying, "The friendliness of the people. I get invited to dinner and parties all the time. I appreciate the strong families and the conservative morality. Crime is much less here than what I saw in South America." Another expat in Santa Rosa City explained that your choice of subdivision will make a difference in terms of safety. He said, "We have friends in La Joya subdivision in Santa Rosa City. They are able to leave their bicycles unlocked in their open garage and never had a problem. It's not so safe where we live. No violence, but we are one block off the main drag and beggars and mental cases come by going through our trash. They even stole our trash can. So it depends not only from town to town but subdivisions also vary greatly. Generally the subdivisions where the professionals live are safe."

Living in Manila, Philippines

Ortigas Center Philipines

Many expat retirees dislike Manila, but if you are moving to the Philippines for work, Metro Manila is very likely to be your destination. One expat described the misconceptions about safety in Manila. He said, "Manila is not as bad as many people make it seem. I lived or worked in Manila for 25 years. I was never held up and was never in real danger. You must understand how the people think and the do's and don'ts of living in the Philippines. All this time I used jeepnies, rode a motorcycle and drove a car (all at various times). I grew up in the Catskill mountains (quiet, peaceful, no pollution or traffic). I learned to adjust. I agree the traffic is terrible (it can't be worse than Tagaytay on weekends). You have to learn where and when you can travel. Pollution is terrible (air and water). I lived in a relatively clean subdivision, played tennis several times a week, played golf occasionally and lived in air conditioning most of the time. Every place has it's advantages. Would I live in downtown Manila (Escolta), no, but there are many places within Metro Manila that are livable and relatively safe. It does take getting use to. I didn't say it's my ideal place to live but it's not as bad as most expats moving to the Philippines thinks it is. Ask all the expats who are working for multinational companies or embassies. Of course it costs a lot more to live in Metro Manila but I wouldn't say it's more dangerous than many other parts of the country. You can blend in in Manila. Other areas you stick out like a sore thumb."

"This is so income dependent. If safety is your primary concern and you have the money, a place like Ayala Alabang or Greenhills would be the place. Just look for a subdivision with lots of Mercedes and BMW's in the driveways," suggested one retiree in the Philippines. Ayala Alabang is 45 minutes south of Manila and has a population of over 20,000. Greenhills is the name of a shopping center in the Greenhills area that lies about 30 minutes east of Manila.

In a recent thread on the Philippines forum, titled Manila Accommodation Options and Safety, a woman contemplating a move with her partner to Manila for a job opportunity in Ortigas Centre asked about safe places to live in that area. One expat replied, "You would not be able to find a house for rent within 15 minutes of Ortigas Centre (Greenhills, White Plains, Valle Verde, Green Meadows) for anything near 40T pesos a month. Most likely 60T-100T. Unless you have a need for a yard, you'd be better off with a condo. There are some relatively new ones that are pretty nice in that area which should have their own swimming areas, gym, etc. in a gated area with good security. My ex brother-in-law lives in a nice condo in that area that has all the above accommodations (probably would cost 60T-100T a month). In places like that any taxi's would be safe and registered with the association. You'd be within a short distance of some of the nicest restaurants and one of the nicest malls in Metro Manila."

Living in Lipa, Philippines

One expat described living in Lipa, Philippines saying, "Lipa is still a little cooler than most lowland areas. It is located on the SLEX Highway between Manila and Batangas City, handy for business or to the beaches and coastal areas. The City has an SM mall with shopping theaters and restaurants and you are also within a short drive to Mt. Makiling Park and Botanical Gardens. If you are a diver, the Mabini area has many dive resorts or you are also a short drive or the white sandy beaches near Laiya. You are also near the Calamba area and many hot springs resorts. If you like fresh water fishing, you are about a 3 hour drive to Lake Caliraya, a large man made lake stocked with bass and Resorts on the lake are affordable. You can also drive north and west through Tanauan down to the town of Talisay along Taal Lake to the Taal Lake Yacht Club where you can learn to sail or rent a sail boat once you've proven your seamanship abilities -- or you can continue up the road to Tagaytay. The five lakes area near Alaminos on the Laguna Lake loop is also close by as well as Mt. Banahaw. If you golf there is the Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club, though I have no idea of the what the fees might be. You can also drive to Batangas and take a ferry to Mindoro and more resorts and beaches. Wherever you land if your new to the Philippines, rent first or always and check out the reliability and availability of the utilities before you pick a spot."

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Popular Expat Areas with Security Issues

Sadly, terrorist attacks and conflicts between terrorism groups and Philippines Security Forces have been happening closer and closer to popular expat destinations, where expats have enjoyed living for many years. If you are preparing to move to the Philippines, be sure to get an up-to-date report about the cities and towns that you are considering. Below are some popular expat destinations that have been impacted.

Marawi City in the northern part of Mindanao Island

The U.S. Embassy reported, "The U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. citizens that there is an ongoing conflict between terrorist groups and Philippine Security Forces in Marawi City, Mindanao. Media reports suggest that there are multiple dead and injured. On May 23, 2017, the Philippine government declared martial law throughout the Mindanao region for 60 days. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been placed on high alert." Marawi City is in northern Mindanao. Expats in the Philippines have been discussing the situation in Marawi City.

Mindanao Island was been placed under a state of martial law in May 2017 by President Duterte. A recent article in the New York Times, Duterte Seeks to Extend Martial Law in Marawi as Militants Hold Ground, explains that Duterte is asking Congress to extend the state of martial law, which was initially slated to end on July 22, 2017. The state of martial law impacts the entire island of Mindanao.

Davao City on Mindanao Island

In September 2016, US Embassy in Manila reported, "An explosive device was detonated in a crowded market in Davao, Philippines on the evening of September 2, 2016." In a recent forum discussion, expats in Davao discuss the impact martial law has had on their everyday lives.

Prudential Village in Toril on Mindanao Island

Prudential Village in the Davao suburb of Toril near Vales Beach has long been a popular expat destination. Prudential Village is on Mindanao Island, the second largest island in the Philippines.

Living Safely in the Philippines

Please keep in mind that safety and security are an issue everywhere in the Philippines. One expat summed it up saying, "IMHO safety comes down to two major factors. One is location naturally. Don't choose an area where people lie cheek and jowl in extreme poverty (Tondo comes to mind). The second is personal behavior. If you hang out in sketchy areas and flash your money around your asking for trouble. I personally do not live in a sub division, but in an older, working class area. We built our house in view of protection against the casual thieves and break ins and have had no problems in almost 5 years here. Bottom line, don't retire in an active war zone and don't act like an idiot a person can live a safely here as anyplace else in the world."

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jul 18, 2017

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