Advice for Expats

Living in The Philippines: The Real Pros & Cons

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 this list of pros & cons to help you determine if moving to The Philippines is the right decision for you.

The Pros & Cons of living in The Philippines include:

  • An extremely low cost of living (except if you live in the
    bourgeoisie areas of Manila)
  • Great tropical weather–its warm year around
  • Physically attractive & friendly locals
  • Everywhere is relatively close to the beach
  • Tons of shopping malls
  • Lax visa policies

Cons

  • Terrible traffic if you live in a major city like Manila or Cebu
  • You’ll attract scammers like a bear to honey
  • The local cuisine is generally given low marks (boiled chicken heads anyone?)
  • Typhoons

Cost of Living in The Philippines

Here is a cost of living estimate for a single person living outside of Manila for one month:

 

ITEM COST IN PHILIPPINE PESOS
Rent/Housing  5000
Food 4000
Cell phone loads 1500
Utilities 3000
Transportation 1000
Miscellaneous 3000

TOTAL 17,500 ($350 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.

Medical Insurance in The Philippines

This is so important yet it seems to be the most neglected item that causes problems for expats. Guys, if you want to live here then you need medical insurance. Period. Even if out-of-pocket medical expenses are relatively cheap they can still add up. The number one source of e-begging I see on expat forums is to help cover unexpected medical expenses.

The good news is medical insurance isn’t difficult to get. Foreigners are eligible to enroll in PhilHealth–the government’s healthcare system. All you need is your Alien Registration Card (ARC-I card). The annual costs are just 17,000 PHP ($360) if you’re not on a retiree visa and 15,000 PHP ($300) if you are. What’s even better is you can pay quarterly. There’s simply no excuse not to have medical insurance here. If you can’t afford $360 a year then you have no business living here.

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.

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.

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

Shopping Malls

The Philippines is the place for shopping malls. 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Related: Why Expats Get Killed in The Philippines

If you are not white you will 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.

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. 

Related: How to Find a Filipina Wife

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

Should You Move to The Philippines?

These are my 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. But 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.

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3 thoughts on “Living in The Philippines: The Real Pros & Cons

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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