Big Things I Wish I Knew Before I Moved to Manila

I’ve been living in this tropical paradise for years now and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! Well, maybe for decent cell phone service I would. But other than that this place is pretty great. That being said newcomers should be prepared for certain things before deciding whether or not they should move to The Philippines. Even more so these moving to Manila tips will help you if you decide to move to the capital.

Moving to Manila Tips

If you’re considering moving to Manila these living in manila tips & hacks will help you tremendously.

  1.  Bring more than one pair of sandals if you have big feet
  2. Traffic is a nightmare
  3. Understand that friendliness doesn’t mean a local actually likes you.
  4. Caution while dating is a must
  5. Respect is paramount
  7. Time is merely a suggestion here.
  8. Open a local bank account if you’re going to be here longer than six months
  9. Don’t buy cell phone loads off the street
  10. The Philippines is still an Asian country despite its Spanish past.


Bring your own sandals. Specifically, bring enough pairs of sandals to last the duration of your trip. About a year ago my sandals broke and I needed to find some new ones. No problem, right? Just go to the mall and get some. Well, turns out if you have size 12–13 feet sandals aren’t so easy to find. I went to several shops in my province and they had nothing! In fact, I had to travel 2 hours to the Mall of Asia in Manila to find some.

In the end, I ended up spending $70 on a pair of mediocre sandals! Maybe if I had shopped around more I could’ve gotten a better deal, but still, that’s outrageous. The thing is I was so happy I finally found some my size that I failed to realize that the price tag of 3068 Php translated to $70 for a pair of sandals! $70 for a pair of sandals a country where the average income is $300 per month is outrageous.

I Wish I Knew That Friendliness Means Nothing

Sometimes we foreigners mistake the Filipino hospitality as a sign that a person here actually likes us. While it is incredibly easy to make friends here, someone smiling and being friendly is not a reliable metric to determine whether or not a Filipino actually likes you. It’s not uncommon for locals and smile and nod to a person’s face and then rip them to shreds as soon as they leave the room. Not understanding the difference between friendliness and friendship can be a major downfall for newcomers here. Especially when it comes to dating.

Caution During Dating is a Must

I recommend caution if you’re going to date the following groups:

Students (could be looking for a sugar daddy to pay her tuition which can be quite expensive),

Mall girls (they work long hours and don’t earn much)

A girl with no job and is about to go abroad for work. The sad truth is many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are horribly mistreated, especially in the middle east, so girls will say or do anything to avoid having to go abroad for work.

And no, I’m not saying everyone in these groups is bad. I’m just trying to give you an idea of what to expect. Discover the Best Filipina Dating Sites

Manila is Expensive

As I alluded to in my sandals story above living here is much more expensive than many foreigners initially believe. Many expats are surprised to learn that the rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in BGC (the trendy area of the city) can top $2000 a month. They’re not prepared for the cost of living for decent food at a restaurant or internet service. Many guys go broke trying to recreate the United States in Manila. You can avoid this with several living in Manila hacks. I use these hacks to pay only $70 (usd) per month for my apartment.

Related: Till Green Card do Us Part

I Wish I Knew that Time is a Suggestion

When a Filipino gives you a time of arrival you need to understand that it’s merely a suggestion. Punctuality is not a strong point in this culture. Being 15 or even 30 minutes late just is not social faux pas here. It seems the German expats that have the most trouble dealing with this.

Respect is Paramount

Prasertsri Kosin, aka Koko Narak, was a Thai citizen living in The Philippines. He was a productive resident, working a full-time job and supporting himself. There was just one problem; he was a keyboard warrior and loved getting into online arguments on Facebook and other social media websites. He probably figured it was just a pastime until someone reported him, and sent screenshots of him referring to Filipinos as ‘pignoys’ and ‘stupid creatures’ among many other things to the Bureau of Immigration.

While no one likes to be slighted Filipinos take respect very seriously. Once the BI got wind of this, his visa was revoked and he was sent back to Thailand for being an ‘undesirable alien’.

There are various stories of foreigners being denied entry into The Philippines for being rude to the customs agent. While being deported for comments on social media is rare, being rude & arrogant is a big reason foreigners are killed in The Philippines.

Related: Why Expats Get Killed In The Philippines

Don’t Buy Loads From Your Neighbor

Most foreigners that come here will do like everyone else and buy their cellphone loads from their neighbors. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not the best way to buy loads. The best way to buy a load is through Lazada’s Top Up service. The reason being is you get a 5% discount on your loads. If you have a credit card with rewards you get rewards points for buying cell phone loads. If you don’t want to buy your loads online then get them from SM Malls. The reason being is they too offer a discount if you buy 500 pesos or more worth of loads.

The Importance of Setting an International Bank Account

One night I was sitting on the bus and this guy sat next to me. I felt a weird sensation on my leg but I was half asleep so I didn’t pay attention. Upon reaching my stop I got off and reached into my pants to do my usual wallet check only to find out my wallet was gone! That’s right I got pickpocketed! My ID, cash, ATM card, and credit cards were all gone.

I walked home and immediately got on the phone and began canceling my credit card and ATM card. That’s when the real problem started. I didn’t have any money. My home credit union informed me that they wouldn’t send a new ATM card overseas. Luckily my credit card was with a large bank and they sent a new one. Otherwise, I would’ve been on the other side of the world with no access to cash! If I had a local bank account this wouldn’t have been a problem since getting a new ATM card would’ve been easy.

If you’re going to be here longer than 6 months then you need to get an international bank account. Why? Because you’ll spend so much money on ATM and transfer fees getting your own money from your bank at home. I was spending roughly $8 each time I withdrew money from a local ATM. I opened up a Borderless Account with TransferWise no more foreign currency fees.

Related: Why Expats Love Transferwise

Grab a Ride

If you’re going to live in The Philippines you need to have the Grab app. You just do. It doesn’t matter how old school you are you’re going to get tired of getting ripped off by taxi drivers who mess with their meters or give you the ‘tourist price’. With Grab, the fare is set by the app. There’s no haggling and no fuss. You can also use it to have food delivered to you and apparently now they have a bill pay option. Get the Grab app.

I Wish I Knew About Lalamove

My first apartment wasn’t what I thought it should be and plus the landlord wasn’t keeping her promises about working internet and hot water. Long story short it was time to leave. The problem was I had accumulated quite a bit of stuff. I finally found a new apartment and my new landlords helped me move. But most people won’t be that lucky. That’s where Lalamove comes in. It’s a delivery app that you download to help you move. They also help you deliver your packages and they use local drivers and trucks.

Related: Learn how to Travel for FREE

I Wish I Knew The Philippines is an Asian Country

I remember one day in a Yellow Cab Pizza restaurant I was waiting my turn to order in a jumble of people. When my turn came up the cashier called someone who came in after me. I quickly objected and said “excuse me I was next!”. She took my order but the other people, while not saying anything, had this ‘uff typical foreigner’ look on their faces. I didn’t see what the problem was. I wasn’t lying, I came in before that guy. However, Asian culture doesn’t appreciate loud mouths, even if they are technically in the right. If you want to make it in The Philippines you can’t sweat the small stuff. As I said before, respect for the other person is paramount in this society.

It’s easy to forget that because they speak English, have Spanish last names, and were an American colony this is still an Asian country and they still have many Asian values and attitudes. Find out why expats get killed in The Philippines.

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4 years ago

I found the best bank account if your going to the Philippines from the United States. It’s called Aspiration. They don’t charge ATM fees allowing you to use any ATM, and they refund fees ATMs will charge you. Been withdrawing from various ATMs in the Philippines and have gotten fees reimbursed. You also earn 1% APR interest on your money in this account. Also if you’re going to be in the Philippines for a while, I recommend not living in big cities. Smaller cities such as Lucena City or surrounding smaller towns are much much cheaper, more friendly, less worrying… Read more »