QUICK SUMMARY- COST OF LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES
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.
Other Guides On Expat Life In The Philippines
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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 $1,500 per month for a single person. Lifestyle and location as a tremendous effect on your monthly cost in the Philippines. The most expensive cities are in Metro Manila, where neighborhoods like Makati and BGC have thriving expat communities who enjoy the nightlife, shopping, and entertainment amenities that come with living in the Capital city. However, the popularity comes at a cost both in crowds, traffic, and average prices of housing and food.
Smaller towns and mid-sized cities can offer you significantly better value for your money. You may have fewer international restaurants and nightlife, but you still have reasonable expat amenities and you get closer to the famous white-sand beaches the Philippines is known for.
What Does It Cost to Live In the Philippines?
|Total Monthly Expense||$ 1,498|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- Furnished New 1 Bed, 1 Bath Western Style - Upper Middle Class Area||500|
|Maid Service 1 day per week/2 hours per day||48|
|Total Housing Expense||548|
|High Speed Internet||20|
|Cell Phone- 4 GB Internet Per Month||12|
|Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.||8|
|Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.||20|
|Massage- Home Service 1 Session per Month||5|
|Haircut 10 times per year||3|
|Total Personal Luxury||8|
|1st run movie 1 time per month||6|
|Budget Night Out-3 beers at local bar 1 time per week||17|
|Local Gym Membership- Weights and Group Classes||50|
|Home Cooked Meals 7 times per week||102|
|Street Food 7 times per week||121|
|Local Sit Down Restaurant 7 times per week||182|
|Uber or Taxi-14 times per week||303|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD||50|
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.
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.
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 Costs Population
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental $925 134,103
Makati, Metro Manila $1500 629,616
Subic Bay, Zambales $1250 111,912
Tagaytay, Cavite $975 85,330
Baguio City, Luzon $950 366,358
Lipa City, Batangas $900 372,931
BGC, Taguig City $1500 886,722
Davao City, Mindanao $1100 1,776,949
Cebu City, Cebu $1200 964,169
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental $1050 600,783
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
Total Average Per Month
Save 42% on Major Monthly Expenses
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES COMPARE TO OTHER EXPAT DESTINATIONS?
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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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Cost Of Eating Out In The Philippines
Entertainment Costs In The Philippines
Entertainment and Sports
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.
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
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.
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:
Additional Costs To Live In the Philippines
$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
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
Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?
Most likely not. Your health insurance is unlikely to provide adequate medical coverage for any injuries sustained outside your home country.
You will either need to get local medical insurance, Travel Health Insurance or Expat Medical Insurance.
If you live abroad, expat medical insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US.
My International Health Insurance covers me everywhere I travel for roughly $60 per month.
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 GROUP||MONTHLY INCOME||NUMBER OF PEOPLE (,000s)||% of Wealth|
|Upper Class||$2790 to $4636||1,000||1%|
|Upper-Middle Class||$1621 to $2790||3,000||3%|
|Middle-Middle Class||$927 to $1621||11,200||10%|
|Lower-Middle Class||$463 to $927||31,000||29%|
|Low Income||less than $463||58,400||56%|
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.
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
$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.
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.
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.
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.