The Real Pros & Cons of Living in The Philippines

Trying to decide whether or not living in The Philippines is the right choice for you? I love this country but there are many facets of life that can drive an expat crazy. That’s why many foreigners who come here only last a couple of years. You can use this list of pros & cons to help you determine if moving to The Philippines is the right decision or not.

The Pros & Cons of living in The Philippines include:

 

Pro: The Natural Beauty

When I surveyed a group of expats they cited the natural beauty as their favorite thing about living in The Philippines.  This is no surprise since The Philippines is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. Outside of the major cities, human development is low which means you get to see beautiful virgin land. When I go out into the provinces I imagine this is what Captain Magellan and Cook saw when they first sailed to Southeast Asia. 

Here’s what one of the participants said:

All the above. Plus the vibrancy and energy of big city life in Manila, the fellow foreigners in Manila, the nightlife, the laid back “anything goes” attitude (that sadly is diminishing) and the feeling that you’re in a place that is rapidly developing and history is being made.

 

Pro: Low Cost of Living in The Philippines

The Philippines has some of the lowest costs of living in the world. Above all else I’d say that’s why the majority of people choose to retire here.

The general rule is you need between $500-$1500 in the rural areas and $800-$2000 a month in the cities to live a western lifestyle that you’re used to back home. Guys that try to live like locals usually don’t last long here.

That’s because living like a local means you’re sleeping on the ground with a very thin foam mattress in a hot and humid room with mosquitos buzzing in your ears all night.

Please don’t think you can live the rest of your life on a $10,000 lump sum. If you have a lump sum you’ll need about $300,000-$500,000.

That’s assuming you have no additional income and you have your money invested in an index fund which will give you a 10% average annual return. Based on the 4% rule, this will allow you to withdraw $1200-$1666 a month from your account without sucking it dry.

Here is a cost of living estimate for a single person living in a provincial area for one month:

 

ITEM COST IN PHILIPPINE PESOS
Rent/Housing  15000
Food 5000-8000
Cell phone loads 1500
Utilities 3000
Transportation 3000
Miscellaneous 3000
TOTAL 27,503 ($550 US)

This is my cost of living but keep in mind that I don’t drink alcohol, live in a large city, go out much, nor have a sugar baby.

Your own cost of living here depends on two main factors 1. Where you live 2. How you live. Like everywhere else in the world cities will cost more than rural areas. If you want to live in Baguio, Dumaguete, or Davao City you can expect to pay around $155-$220 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in a decent part of town.

Where it gets expensive is in Cebu City and Manila. In these cities, the average rent for a one-bedroom in a decent area is going to run you about $400 a month. However, as I mentioned before in my Living in Manila Hacks article, Manila can be astronomically expensive.

If you want to live in the trendy areas of the city such as BGC you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $2200 for an apartment there! Don’t despair, you can still live in Manila on a tight budget. Read how in the article I referenced above. You can get away with $200 a month for food almost anywhere in The Philippines.

Pro: Low Medical Costs

After a particularly grueling Muay-Thai practice I noticed a sharp pain in my foot. I was just going to walk it off (bad pun) but my coach insisted that I go to the hospital to get it looked at. Not having medical insurance I was really worried about the costs but I decided to just suck it up. 

Much to my surprise after the consultations and x-rays, the bill came out to a measly $37.25. Now that’s a surprise that I like! Even better my foot wasn’t broken they just told me to stay off it for a couple of days. 

A critical consideration for many retirees is the cost of medical care. In terms of medical costs, The Philippines is very competitive. Here’s a breakdown of average medical costs in The Philippines in US dollars ($).

Healthcare Item Average Cost in the Philippines
PhilHealth insurance plan $360 per year for foreigners
One-night hospital stay $50 
Emergency room visit $50 per night
Doctor’s office visit $10

 

Pro: Shopping Malls

Mall of Asia (MoA) in Manila Philippines

The Philippines is the place for shopping malls. Malls are a huge part of the Philippine culture as they offer an oasis from the hot tropical sun and torrential downpours. I wouldn’t be surprised if the country has the largest amount of malls per capita in the entire world. You can’t go more than 4 miles in a city without running into some sort of mall.

The biggest chains are going to be SM Malls and Robinson’s. You can get pretty much anything you need at the mall. If you are in Manila and want to save money you can go to Divisoria which is one big outdoor megamall. Be careful of snatchers and pickpockets though!

Pro: The Weather

So why stay if the food is terrible? Other than the extremely low cost of living the biggest benefit is the weather. You can expect temperatures year-round to range between 72-85 degrees (Baguio is a cold paradise). The humidity is great for my skin. You’ll get a lot of rain during the rainy season and if you live in a lower elevation, typhoons and the flooding they cause can sometimes be problematic. But other than that the weather here is perfect.

Pro: The Filipino People (The Locals)

The number one reason foreigners give for staying in The Philippines is the Filipino people. Here’s the thing. The Filipino people are the number one reason expats stay but they’re also the number one reason that expats leave.

That being said you will also meet some of the warmest, most helpful people you’ve ever met here. Many expats will tell you their Filipino partner was the best thing that ever happened to them. If you are interested in someone with good traditional values and will treat you well then the Philippines is the right place for you! If you want to meet Filipinas then check out my list of best Filipina dating sites. 

Con: The Filipino People (The Locals)

If you are not white you may experience racism, especially when it comes to dating people of the middle and upper classes. Also, most of the population will see you as a walking ATM. But its not just in dating. Landlords, small business owners, and others will also try to cheat a foreigner that doesn’t know the true price of things.

It’s absolutely true that Filipinos are genuinely friendly and hospitable but it’s also true that The Philippines is home to some of the biggest tricksters and con-artists around. Go to any expat forum and you’ll see stories of expats getting cleaned out by a local (usually a girl) or in some failed business venture.

I love the low cost of living, and the Philippines has so many gorgeous places to visit. The people? Well, I have some wonderful and amazing Filipino friends, but dealing with the people on a whole can be exhausting 

Related: How to Find a Filipina Wife

Pro: Lax Visa Policies

No visa running in The Philippines is required. Unlike Thailand which makes it difficult for expats to stay there long term, The Philippines has one of the laxest visa policies I’ve ever seen.

It’s the only country I’ve ever been to where you can just extend your tourist visa for 3 years. They also offer a relatively easy-to-get residency visa if you get hitched with a Filipino citizen. The only time you’ll have visa issues is if you don’t keep up on your visa extensions.

Related: How to Stay in The Philippines Permanently

Con: Services and Infrastructure Issues

“Sorry sir, out of stock ” is a phrase you’re going to hear a lot if you live here. The Philippines is still a developing nation and you can’t expect the same 1st world service you got back home. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to be out of stock of the most common menu items.

Before the only choices for the internet were PLDT or PLDT but now there are a few more options. Expect that your cell phone may not get good service indoors because the frequencies the companies use don’t penetrate walls very well. In the provinces, 4G coverage is still not available in many areas. Outside the major cities, brownouts are a daily occurrence. 

The biggest infrastructure issue you’ll notice is, of course, the inadequate road space but there’s more to it than that. The tap water is not drinkable and I’ve had apartments where the water that came out of the faucet had little pebbles in it.

Con: The Traffic Situation in The Philippines

Last year in June I was looking forward to some time away from the city. I had my plane tickets to Bacolod and my friend was ready to receive me.

I landed, and he picked me up at the airport. As we got closer to my hotel in the city center I saw. Traffic! Aahhh! I thought I had gotten away from it. He just laughed and said yup there’s even traffic here.

If you want to come here then we need to talk about traffic. The Philippines is a nation of over 100,000,000 people in a land area the size of the state of California. For your reference, California has a population of approximately 40,000,000 people.

That means traffic is going to be a problem almost anywhere you go. Everyone knows Manila is one big gridlock but even in the smaller cities, such as Bacolod, you should expect some traffic.

Related: How to Get a Drivers License in The Philippines

Con: The Food in The Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move on Massimo Bottura Philippine Cuisine is coming for you! But no seriously, the food here sucks. Sorry to be harsh but it’s the God’s honest truth. Things that we westerners may be used to such as spaghetti and even nachos they managed to make taste horrible.

Never before in my life have I eaten spaghetti sauce or nacho cheese with a pound of sugar in it. The spaghetti sauce is ketchup with cut-up hot dogs in it.

Some other Philippine ‘delicacies’ include:

Boiled chicken heads

Duck embryo

You get the picture. You don’t come to The Philippines for the food. After spending 3 years here I’ve started to see McDonald’s as a delicacy.

Con: The Crime Rates

Lonnie Simon Weig was a retired American soldier who went on a routine jog on Sunday morning at 5 am in Baclayon Bohol Philippines. No one knows exactly what happened afterward but the South Dakota native was found with two gunshot wounds in the head and one in his abdomen.

 There’s a reason almost everyone who is middle class and above lives in gated communities in The Philippines. While most of the crime is locals vs locals, expats certainly are victims of serious crimes including murder. I have an entire article on why Expats Get Killed in The Philippines. The Philippines has some of the highest crime rates in South East Asia and unfortunately, expats are sometimes the target of that crime.

The murder with firearms rate is 3x higher than that of the US (source).  Crime is one of the top concerns of voters in The Philippines after the availability of jobs and low wages.

Should You Move to The Philippines?

These are the pros and cons of living in The Philippines. I hope this gave you a good idea of whether or not this place is right for you. Really that can only be determined by you.

The best way is to come here for 3 months. Live like an expat and experience the country for yourself. That’s how you’ll know for sure. Besides, you can always move on if it doesn’t work out. Good luck! 

For me personally, didn’t want to take my wife back to USA away from her family. But also kinda got burned out with American way of life, want to experience something different. I can easily adapt to new places, so nothing in PH has been a real challenge so far. Just kept an open mind about a lot of things and tried to minimize comparing how things are done in US vs here. Can’t wait to travel more though. Only had a chance to travel north to Clark area, and El Nido.

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Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly
3 years ago

Interesting article, shopping malls,? What sort of attraction or reason to stay or visit because of malls?
Good weather is available throughout this area,
Physical attractive people???? And close to beaches, yes indeed quite true, lax visa policy? Malaysia gives 90 days on arrival at no cost , and its quite cheap to travel and find accommodation, food 👍👍😀. Personal safety 👍. Yes they have shopping malls..
my first visit to phils 1984. Last visit 2018.

Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Kelly

Should say on food and personal safety I’m referring to Malaysia not phils

Kevin Brooks
Kevin Brooks
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Kelly

SM or “Shoe Mart” is the largest chain. Mega mall in Manila is 5 stories and 1/4 mile long, second in size only to Mall of America. A short way to Robinson’s Mall. They are everywhere in Manila. Not so much in the Provinces.

No Spam
No Spam
3 years ago

Though the Philippines is still a low-cost country, it did not rank at the very cheapest level for cost of living; that honor belonged to Cambodia, which got 100 of a possible 100 points. For 2018, the Philippines earned 90 –  the fifth cheapest. (Vietnam came in second, at 96.) The country also scored 96 for Fitting In (is English spoken, are locals welcoming, is there an expat community, etc.), the second best of any nation. Only Ireland scored higher, earning 97.

Drew
Drew
2 years ago
Reply to  No Spam

Ireland? This country is super expensive with abysmal weather. I think what ever ranking you saw wasn’t very accurate.