Comparing The Expat Cost of Living In The Philippines vs. the USA [2022]

09/14

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QUICK SUMMARY- COST OF LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • Monthly budget in the Philippines for a single person = $1,500 <skip to budget details>.
  • Location and lifestyle are the major drivers to your cost of living in the Philippines.
  • Manila, one of the most expensive cities in Asia, is still 50% cheaper than the US.
  • Smaller cities outside of Metro Manila can cut costs by 60% or more.

Video Summary Cost Of Living In The Philippines vs. US

Home prices in the US have risen to comical stratospheric levels. Some formerly affordable states are seeing housing costs spike up to 30%. The average rental costs in the US tops $$1,680 per month for a one-bedroom.

What if I told you that by jumping on a plane to the Philippines you could spend $1,000 per month to pay not just for housing, but food, transportation, utilities, healthcare, and still have enough change for leisure activities and active social life?

Over 220,000 US expats live in the Philippines to enjoy a higher quality of life with lower living costs than the US, UK, or Europe. With English-speaking friendly locals, a straightforward Philippine retirement visa, and three of the Top 10 "Best Islands in the World," it's easy to see why nearly 4,000 American retirees call the Philippines home.

Read on to see how much you can save by
moving to the Philippines and get real-life examples of how affordable life can be and the type of lifestyle you can enjoy on this tropical island paradise.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

QUICK TIPS- PHILIPPINES

Show a mandatory departure ticket. You cannot enter the Philippines on a one-way ticket if you only have a tourist visa or visa on arrival. You will need a flight ticket with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by showing immigration you have  a cheap onward travel ticket for just $14

Get help with your visa. The Philippines visa process can get complicated. The rules and regulations change frequently. Avoid the hassle of dealing with the immigration bureaucracy by speaking with a Philippines Visa Specialist.

Learn some basic Tagalog phrases. While nearly everyone speaks some English, learning some basic Tagalog is always appreciated by Filipinos. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

Save On Moving Costs. Save up to 40% on your international moving costs. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with 10,000+ pre-screened global moving companies to save you time and money. Fill out our 60-second form and get 5 free quotes from accredited moving companies competing for your business.

Get COVID-19 Health Insurance. Your home insurance will not cover you while abroad. However, you can find affordable travel insurance for less than $50 that will protect you in an emergency.

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Average Cost Of Living In The Philippines In USD


The local currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 50.38 PHP. For reference, 1 Euro = 56.63 PHP.

  • €1000 Euros = 57,137 Pesos 
  • £1000 Pounds =  67,360 Pesos

The top places for expats to live in the Philippines will cost roughly $1,000 to $1,500 per month for a single person. Lifestyle and location as a tremendous effect on your monthly cost in the Philippines. The most expensive cities are in Metro Manila, where neighborhoods like Makati and BGC have thriving expat communities who enjoy the nightlife, shopping, and entertainment amenities that come with living in the Capital city. However, the popularity comes at a cost both in crowds, traffic, and average prices of housing and food. 

Smaller towns and mid-sized cities can offer you significantly better value for your money. You may have fewer international restaurants and nightlife, but you still have reasonable expat amenities and you get closer to the famous white-sand beaches the Philippines is known for. 

What Does It Cost to Live In the Philippines?

$1500- MY EXPAT COST OF LIVING IN MANILA DETAILS [HIDE]

Total Monthly Expense $ 1,498
COST PER MONTH
Rent- Furnished New 1 Bed, 1 Bath Western Style - Upper Middle Class Area500
Maid Service 1 day per week/2 hours per day48
Total Housing Expense548
Water/Sewer/Garbage/Electric 100
High Speed Internet20
Cable TVINCLUDED
Cell Phone- 4 GB Internet Per Month12
Total Utilities132
Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.8
Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.20
Total Supplies28
Massage- Home Service 1 Session per Month5
Haircut 10 times per year3
Total Personal Luxury8
1st run movie 1 time per month6
Budget Night Out-3 beers at local bar 1 time per week17
Local Gym Membership- Weights and Group Classes50
Total Entertainment73
Home Cooked Meals 7 times per week102
Street Food 7 times per week121
Local Sit Down Restaurant 7 times per week182
Total Food405
Uber or Taxi-14 times per week303
Total Transportation303
Exchange Rate to $1 USD50

Here is a personal breakdown of my spending living in BGC in Metro Manila. I spend more on food and less in entertainment than most people, as I use going out to eat with friends as entertainment. I spent quite a bit in transportation, at some point I might simply look at a leasing a car with a private driver. 

Chart by Visualizer

Where Does The Philippines Rank In The Cost-Of-Living Index?

According to Numbeo's cost of living index by country, the Philippines ranks as the 54th cheapest country in the world (out of 138 countries), 58 spots above the 112th ranked United States.

The country's cost of living index score estimates the Philippines is roughly 43% less expensive than the US. 

Chart by Visualizer

Compared to Western countries, the costs of living in the Philippines remain extremely low. However, the low living costs and an easy visa program have increased the country's popularity and driven up prices in some popular retirement locations.

Manila, especially, is getting notoriety as the "World's Poorest Expensive City." However, there is still tremendous value in destinations outside of the Capital. 

Average Cost of Living In The Philippines by Major City

Monthly budgets in urban metros (specifically Manila, with Cebu City prices also climbing) are significantly higher than on the islands, in smaller towns, or rural areas. Though Manila still has lower rent compared to the US, UK, or EU, the housing prices in the Capital are incredibly costly compared to the rest of the country.

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in Davao City, considered the safest city in the Philippines, can be 50% less than Manila.

In Dumaguete, a charming university town one hour from Manila, my monthly cost was roughly $900 per month. That is about 795 Euros or 675 Pounds.

 Monthly CostsPopulation
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental$925134,103
Makati, Metro Manila$1500629,616
Subic Bay, Zambales$1250111,912
Tagaytay, Cavite$97585,330
Baguio City, Luzon$950366,358
Lipa City, Batangas$900372,931
BGC, Taguig City$1500886,722
Davao City, Mindanao$11001,776,949
Cebu City, Cebu$1200964,169
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental$1050600,783

How Does The Cost of Living In The Philippines Compare To The US?

Look at the cost comparison below representing the Top 4 essential expenses in the US: housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average living costs in a major city.

Even when comparing Manila, by far the most expensive city in the Philippines, to a medium-cost city in the US (Portland), the lower cost of living in the Philippines saves you over $12,000 a year.

Essential Living Costs

US-

Portland

PH-

Manila

HOUSING

$962

$680

FOOD

$313

$405

TRANSPORTATION

$862

$303

HEALTHCARE

$353

$60

Total Average Per Month

$2,490

$1,448

Save 42% on Major Monthly Expenses

Is it cheaper to live in the Philippines vs. Thailand?

Mercer's latest ranking cost of living city rankings placed Manila 78th out of 209 international cities, still cheaper than Bangkok, Thailand, or Taipei, Taiwan, but more expensive than other SE Asian countries like Hanoi, Vietnam, or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Housing Costs In The Philippines


rent one-bedroom city center

$645

For Americans, housing is our biggest expense. Nearly 1/3 of the average American's paycheck is used solely to keep a roof over our heads. The average monthly rent in the US is nearly $1,700 per month. Even in Manila, which has the second-highest rent prices in SE Asia, the cost of rent here is still 60% less than in the US. 

Expats pay an average of $650 in rent per month for a newer one-bedroom apartment in Makati City. Makati, the most desirable expat neighborhood in the most expensive city in the Philippines, still saves you nearly $12,000 per year on rental costs. Imagine how much you can save in cheaper cities in the Philippines, where prices are 60% less than in Manila.   

  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Center - Philippines $305 vs. USA $1,360
  • Apartment(3 bedrooms) in City Center - Philippines $645 vs. USA $2,230
  • Apartment(1 bedroom) Outside City Center - Philippines $175 vs. USA $1,105
  • Apartment(3 bedrooms) Outside City Center - Philippines $365 vs. USA $1,805

 INSIDER TIP :  Condominium Fees - Check your contract for association dues or condo fees. For short-term rentals, your landlord normally includes condo dues into your monthly rent payment. However, for long-term leases, there may be a separate monthly fee. In addition to paying for cleaning common areas, regular maintenance, and sometimes include garbage and water, condo fees also pay for luxury amenities.

Common Condominium Amenities Include:

  • Fitness Center
  • Game Room
  • Movie Theater
  • Library
  • Playground
  • Security

Monthly Utilities

$132

Your electric bill will peak in the hotter dry seasons (March through October). However, over the course of a year your monthly utility bill for a 915sqr² - 85m² apartment will average roughly $155, inclusive of high speed internet. 

  • Basic Utility Costs - Philippines $111 vs. USA $168 
  • Internet 60 Mbps Unlimited - Philippines $44 vs. USA $67
  • Mobile Data Per GB - Philippines $1.77 vs. USA $3.33

 INSIDER TIP :  Electricity Prices- The Philippines has the highest electricity prices in Asia, at approximately $0.20 per kWH. For a one-bedroom apartment, you can expect to pay up to $100 if you keep the air conditioner temperatures at artic levels for more than 8 hours per day. You can cut your electricity bill by 30%-50% if you replace older window-style air conditioners with inverter split-type air conditioners.

Food Costs In The Philippines


Food Costs

$548

Local Filipinos food is diverse. The country has been a cultural melting pot for Southeast Asia for centuries combined with 5+ more centuries of colonization by the Spanish and the Americans have made  Philippine cuisine a unique mash up, quite different than any of the country's neighbors in South East Asia.  

What the country lacks is a street food scene on par with Vietnam, Thailand, or Malaysia. Expats and most upper-class locals avoid the questionable hygiene and quality of most street vendors.   

However, you'll find plenty of affordable options at "fast-casual" or local mid-priced restaurants are delicious and incredibly cheap. Even on a $1,000 a month budget, you'll have lots of opportunities to eat out.

Home-cooked meals are still the cheapest meals and as a former US territory, you will find most US brands and ingredients you normally enjoy available at specialty supermarkets. However, I warn new expats,

"Expat life is remarkably cheap. Imported life is costly." 

If you try to recreate your imported wine, steak, and truffle cheese lifestyle in the Philippines, you will blow through your monthly food budget in hurry.

 INSIDER TIP :  Buy Local Products To Cut Your Food Costs- The biggest money-saving tip I recommend is substituting local brands can save you up to 70% or more compared to imported brands.

Cost of Groceries- Local Markets and Supermarkets

You may have to send you maid to get the best prices, but local daily markets are where you can score the cheapest fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Otherwise, you can find US-style supermarkets in most major malls. The prices local goods will be cheaper than the US, but higher than what you would pay at the local market. 

Again, use locally grown produce vs. imported ingredients for better savings

  • Local Kangkong ($2 per lbs) vs. Imported Spinach ($4 per lbs) 
  • Local Papaya (0.70 per lbs) vs. Imported Seedless Grapes ($4.50)
  • Local Bread Rolls (0.40 per 0.5 lbs) vs. Imported Bread Rolls (1.25 per 0.5 lbs) 

Cost Of Eating Out In The Philippines

  • Inexpensive Restaurant - Philippines $3 vs. USA $15 
  • Mid-Range Restaurant (2 People, Three-courses)- Philippines $19 vs. USA $60 
  • Big Mac Index - Philippines $2.82 vs. USA $5.65

Budget Bites $3- Grilled Chicken Meal

Mid-Range Restaurant (Two People) $19- Mendokoro Ramen

Average Dinner Expensive Restaurant $15- Soy Garlic Lamb Chops

Entertainment Costs In The Philippines


Entertainment and Sports

$136

 You will find most of your leisure and entertainment options are much cheaper in the Philippines than back home. Even a budget of $1,000 per month in the Philippines gives you extra spending money for fun social activities. 

  • Movie Tickets - Philippines $3 vs. USA $15 
  • Local Beer (0.5L) - Philippines $1.25 vs. USA $5 
  • Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) - Philippines $2.25 vs. USA $8 
  • Fitness Club - Philippines $36 vs. USA $37

 INSIDER TIP :  Tourist Prices- Especially in the more touristy islands, avoiding the tourist spots stretch your entertainment budget further. It won't take you long to find out which places cater to expats vs. locals. And while nearly everyone in the Philippines speaks English near fluently, picking up a few Tagalog phrases can go a long way in getting you better deals and avoiding a "tourist tax." 

Transportation Costs In The Philippines


Transportation

$54

Where available, public transportation is cheap. However, while Manila has a light rail (LRT) and metro (MRT), the rest of the country lacks mass transportation. system. Outside of the Capital, public transport consists of jeepneys and trikes. While this is the cheapest mode of transportation, most expats find the convenience of Grab (Southeast Asia's alternative to Uber) worth the small fee. 

picture of American family using a trike to reduce their cost of living in the Philippines for expats

Trikes pass for public transport in the Philippines

 INSIDER TIP :  Private Drivers-  Expat retirees with a little extra budget, I recommend working with a local car rental company that will provide you a long-term lease for a newer compact SUV that comes with a personal driver. While $400 per month isn't cheap, having a personal chauffeur deal with Manila's hellish rush hour traffic and the headaches of finding parking is an affordable luxury worth considering.

Other Living Costs In The Philippines


Affordable Luxuries In The Philippines

Driven by the lower average salary, any service that can be provided by local Filipino labor will be an affordable luxury only the wealthiest American retirees could afford in the US.

Aside from the personal driver mentioned in the previous section, you can enjoy a lavish lifestyle that includes: 

  • Weekly Massages- $5 per hour for services at your home
  • Manicures- $12 - $20 depending on service
  • Private Driver With Car- $400 per month
  • Live-in Household Help- $100-$250 per month + board
  • Food Delivery- $1 (Food Panda or Grab Food are the Philippines version of Uber Eats or Door Dash)
  • Weekly Maid Service- $10 to clean a two-bedroom apartment

group of female housekeepers expats can afford with the low cost of living in the Philippines vs the USA

A housekeeper costs an average of $82 per month in Manila and $50 in rural areas.

Additional Costs To Live In the Philippines

SRRV Visa Costs

$1,400- ONE TIME PROCESSING FEE
$360- ANNUAL FEE PER FAMILY

*The SRRV Courtesy and Expanded Courtesy have a reduce annual fee of only $10
The annual fee covers up to three family members. Each additional dependent is $100 per.

For expats who do not qualify for the retirement visa, the Philippines has several visa options, including an extendable 9a tourist visa or 13a marriage visa that have smaller financial qualifications. You can find downloadable applications forms here.

Healthcare Costs In The Philippines

Healthcare

$60

Expat retirees with an SRRV visa can buy into the country's public healthcare system (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth). The insurance premiums cost foreign Nationals roughly $300 per year. 

However, PhilHealth only covers public hospitals, while expats retirees prefer the better equipped and better trained medical care at a private hospital. The additional costs for private medical insurance depend on age, pre-existing conditions, deductibles, and coverage limits. 

Example of the private health insurance costs for a 25-year-old male or female in PESOS

picture health insurance prices that reduce the cost of living in the Philippines vs the USA

Example of the HMO insurance premiums for a 25-year-old male or female

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:

  • Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you to maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
  • Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than in the US. 

Taxes in the Philippines

American retirees with the SRRV have the potential to substantially reduce their total taxes paid, depending on how their income is sourced. SRRV holders generally do NOT pay taxes on their foreign-sourced income, such as overseas ETFs and stocks or rental property in their home country. 

In addition, the Philippines and the United States have a double taxation treaty, allowing you to potentially get a foreign tax credit. International tax law is complicated. Consult a tax advisor for more information.

Average Salary In The Philippines

Average salaries are a good way to gauge the "real" cost of living in the Philippines. Manila, the country's largest city and the business center, has the highest wages in the country. If an expat earns more than the average salary in Manila, he or she will be able to afford an upper-middle-class lifestyle in any mid-sized city or town in the Philippines. As a comparison, the average monthly income outside Manila is 70% lower ($301 per month).

INCOME GROUPMONTHLY INCOMENUMBER OF PEOPLE (,000s)% of Wealth
Rich$4636+360.03%
Upper Class$2790 to $46361,0001%
Upper-Middle Class$1621 to $27903,0003%
Middle-Middle Class$927 to $162111,20010%
Lower-Middle Class$463 to $92731,00029%
Low Incomeless than $46358,40056%
Expats earning over $2,790 are in the Top 1.3% of the country.

How much is the minimum wage in the Philippines?

The Philippines has a different minimum wage requirement depending on the region and if the job is agricultural (Farm labor). For reference, the highest minimum wage set by the Department of Labor and Employment is 16,110 PHP per month (roughly $318 USD per month.

Compare Cost Of Living In The Philippines

Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy. 

Final Thoughts: Expat Budget In The Philippines

Spending less than $1,500 per month for a comfortable lifestyle complete with warm sun, white-sand beaches, and crystal clear water sounds like an affordable bargain. Whether you are an expat retiree or digital nomad, the quality of life in the Philippines is one of the best values in Southeast Asia.  

But like any country, location and lifestyle will drive your cost of living in the Philippines. However, this beautiful country is made up of over 7,000 islands. You can live anywhere from mountain towns to beach villages. There are quaint coastal cities, large metropolises, and everything in between. You are bound to find an expat destination with your ideal balance of infrastructure, price, and convenience. 

FAQs: Expat Cost of Living In The Philippines

How much does it cost to live in the Philippines for a year?

$18,000 per year in Manila would cover rental costs, food, transportation, and other living expenses. Yearly costs in the Philippines can be even cheaper outside the Capital city.

How much does it cost to retire in the Philippines?

Between $1000 and $1500 per month to retire very comfortably. If you're an American looking for a popular retirement destination abroad, the  Philippines might be your ideal low-cost option. With the lower prices on housing, health care, and other living expenses, expat retirees can afford to spend more on activities and amenities for a more rewarding and enjoyable retirement.

How much do you need to live comfortably in the Philippines?

You can live a comfortable life in the Philippines for between $1000 and $1,500 a month. These monthly costs assume an upper-middle-class lifestyle with Western-style housing and active social life and frequent meals out. Depending on where Philippine city you choose, that monthly budget can include a personal helper like a nanny, cook, or maid.

What is more expensive in the Philippines than in the US?

Not everything is cheaper in the Philippines. Here is an example of surprisingly expensive things in the Philippines:

  • International School- Expat families with children will spend between $8000 to $17000 per child per year for private school education.
  • Imported Electronics- If you are the type of person who must have the latest iPhone, expect to pay 25% more due to import tax,  customs, and duties.
  • New Cars- Shipping and taxes increase car costs by 25%+. As an example, a Toyota Corolla Hybrid costs $35,000 in the US vs $45,000 in the Philippines. 

About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old.
I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US.
I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

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