What You Should Know if Moving to The Philippines From The USA

As I sit here in a cybercafe because my internet service is down once again, I began to ponder about how much I’ve learned since moving to The Philippines from America.  After I ‘retired’ at age 32 and moved to The Philippines my life has been a cakewalk compared to what it was before.

There seem to be a lot of stories out there of people living like a king for $500 a month here, but that’s not what I see. First off there’s no way you’ll be living in Metro Manila on that meager amount.

Secondly, even in the province that’s pushing it. I am a homebody that sits on the computer all day and am very content doing so. However, most foreigners will want to go to a decent restaurant, a bar, take their girl out for a good time, shower with hot water, and have a home that isn’t infested with cockroaches and rodents.

There’s no way you’ll be able to do anything like that for just $500 a month. In the province, I’d say you need at least $700-$1,000 per month to live a lifestyle that’s comparable to the US, and in Manila, it can be around $2,000-$3,000+ per month.

Moving to The Philippines From The USA to Retire

Every year more and more Americans are choosing to move to The Philippines to retire. Most are single men but there are some couples as well. A lot of guys are attracted by the low cost of living and the friendly nature of the Filipino people. The Philippines also makes it easy for retirees to get a permanent visa, especially if you are a veteran.

However, many are frustrated by the poor level of services and frustrated with gold diggers.

The Philippines is a good choice if you are flexible enough to understand that you are moving to a developing nation that doesn’t do things that way you’re used to. A lot of guys go broke trying to re-create their US lifestyle in The Philippines. It’s actually more expensive to live a western lifestyle in The Philippines than in the US.

That being said you can live a great life if you learn to be flexible. I live on $700 a month and that’s enough to pay for my condo, going out to eat once a week, and taking a trip somewhere else in The Philippines once a month.

Health Insurance in The Philippines

If you are moving to The Philippines as a retiree health insurance is something you should seriously think about. The number one source of e-begging I see on expat forums for unexpected medical expenses.  While there’s a VA hospital in Manila they’ll only treat you for military service-related conditions. That means if you develop a heart condition while there you’re on your own.

A good thing about The Philippines is they give you complimentary coverage in their PhilHealth government insurance with their retirement visa.  But PhilHealth doesn’t cover everything.  What is covered varies from the procedure to which hospital you go to.  There are other private insurance plans you can buy but the best insurance is to have savings. Health care is relatively inexpensive here and you’ll be fine so long as you have savings.

No Land for You!

This seems to be a massive issue with American expats. They come here and are desperate to partake in land ownership. They know The Philippine constitution expressly forbids foreigners from owning land. However, they think they can find some clever scheme to get around the land ownership laws.

Plus, it’s super easy to find someone willing to sell them a piece a paper that says the land is theirs so why not try, right? Some of the tricks I’ve seen are setting up fake corporations, creating auto-renewing or indefinite leasing agreements, and putting the land in a local’s name (usually their girlfriend) and placing a lean on the property.

The problem with all of these schemes is while some of them may be clever; they all have one fatal flaw. These schemes mentioned above all amount to de-facto land ownership which is not only forbidden by the Philippine constitution but also their Anti-Dummy Law. That lawyer who you paid 5000 pesos did mention the Anti-Dummy Act right?  The Anti-Dummy Act is a law specifically created to prevent foreigners from trying to get around the equity restrictions in land and business ownership restrictions


Be it enacted by the National Assembly of the Philippines

Section 1. Penalty — In all cases in which any constitutional or legal provisions requires Philippine or any other specific citizenship as a requisite for the exercise or enjoyment of a right, franchise or privilege, any citizen of the Philippines or of any other specific country who allows his name or citizenship to be used for the purpose of evading such provision, and any alien or foreigner profiting thereby, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than fifteen years, and by a fine of not less than the value of the right franchise or privilege, which is enjoyed or acquired in violation of the provisions hereof but in no case less than five thousand pesos.

Read the Full Text of the Law

In short, you may rent, lease, and in limited circumstances own a condo–that’s it! The next time you hear a foreigner bragging that he owns land through some brilliant scheme ask him to provide some examples where this idea held water in court.  Expats have gotten killed over land disputes. They’ll try to buy land by putting it in their girlfriend’s name. She’ll sell it, and when he tries to get the proceeds of the sale, her family will get rid of him.

Related: Why Foreigners Get Killed in The Philippines

Starting a Business Can be Tough

So many people come here thinking they have some grand idea for a business that will make them filthy rich! Some common ones are they want to start a sari-sari or a piggery. Aside from the land ownership restrictions I just talked about, The Philippines also restricts which businesses a foreigner may own. The general rule is 40%, but in some cases, it’s even less. However, there are cases where it’s more. While the list is always changing chances are high that you’ll never be able to own a sari-sari, a restaurant, or a piggery.

Consider this, most of the guys that try to start a business like that fail anyway. If you genuinely want to own a successful business try to think outside of the box. I promise you, most of the grand ideas that you have for a business were also thought of by someone else before.

Related: List of Businesses You May Own in The Philippines

Finding Work in The Philippines

Sorry to bear the bearer of bad news but unlike the rest of Asia, teaching English is off the table The Philippines. Mostly because they already speak English so there’s no need for foreign English teachers. I wouldn’t recommend trying to work under the table either. You’ll open yourself up to exploitation by an unscrupulous employer. It’s also a quick way to get yourself deported.

Even if you did manage to find a job from an honest employer your salary will be low. Most call centers in the provinces pay around $10 a day and around $15 per day in Manila.  Most people that come here are pensioners, digital nomads, or already working for a company that has an office in The Philippines.

Related: Why US Citizens Get Deported from The Philippines

Things You Need to Bring With You

Oh, I don’t need to bring anything with me, except my debit card! That’s what I thought when I first came here at least. The truth is there are some things that you should bring with you from the US as they are very hard to find here and if you can they’ll be very expensive. The most important one for me was a backup computer. I’m a blogger and using a computer is how I make my living. Well, when my trusty laptop decided to die, I was in for an unpleasant surprise at the computer store.

The Philippines has some tariff or import duty on computers which makes them cost nearly double what they do in the US. In my case, a high-quality computer is a must, and it actually would’ve been cheaper to fly to the US, get a laptop there, and bring it back than to buy one here.  That’s why if your computer is essential to you then you need to bring a backup computer with you.

Related: 10 Things I Wish I Brought With Me to The Philippines

The Lifestyle in The Philippines

The lifestyle you’ll have will depend on where you are in The Philippines. If you live in a big city such as Cebu or Manila you can have a faster more western lifestyle. If you live in the provinces you can expect a slow pace of life and to listen to roosters crowing all day every day.

Most guys who come here are looking for a slower pace of life and want to relax. In the province, you’ll generally be left to your own whims to entertain yourself.  If you plan to live in a large city it’s easy to go broke trying to re-create a western lifestyle and/or juggling too many Filipino partners.

Why I Love Gold Diggers in The Philippines

Life and Culture in The Philippines


It’s Not like Moving to Another State

The Philippines is the place where basic things can go wrong. For example, when I moved from Manila to Negros, I wanted to bring some of my appliances in an attempt to save money. I used 2GO Freight Services. I went into their office on Saturday, they gave me an estimated price, and their employee repeatedly assured me that my things would be picked up on Monday before lunch.

Monday evening arrived, and I called, and they told me the courier was not available, but they would come on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon I called, and they said they would be there around 2 pm. When they finally did arrive, it turned out their estimate was way off. I decided to sell most of my appliances to my landlords. But that’s just an example of the polite but poor customer service you can expect here. Things like that can be quite maddening.

Some expats get the wrong idea that just because English is widely spoken here that moving to The Philippines from the USA is like relocating from New York to Hawaii. It’s just not true. There are some distinct cultural differences and some things that will gnaw at you. For example, ‘sorry sir out of stock’ is something you can expect to hear quite often when going to your favorite store.

Being explicitly told whatever you paid for to have done by a company and then returning to find out they haven’t even started are just a few of the things you’ll experience here. Some guys can’t take it, and they lash out which could lead to more significant problems.  You need to learn how to let things go if you want to be successful here.

How to Get a Permanent Visa in The Philippines

The visa process to move here is a bright spot for the country. The Philippines is one of the most accessible countries in the world for an American to be an expat. Most expats move here either on what I call the indefinite tourist visa or the Special Retiree Resident’s Visa (SRRV). The tourist visa is free for the first two months and can be extended every 59 days for 3,069 pesos after that. Unless you plan to work or start a business getting a visa will be the least of your problems.

Related: How to Stay in The Philippines Permanently

Subscribe to get email updates about current events and special promos in the Philippines

Promo: Get one free transfer with Transferwise

I respect your privacy and will never spam
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments