9 Essential Things To Know Before Moving to the Philippines

01/24/2022

American moving to the Philippines to retire

Overview: Moving To The Philippines

With over 7500 islands, a warm marine climate, friendly locals, and some of the top-ranked beaches in the world; It's no secret why 8 million tourists visit the Philippines each year. The jaw-dropping natural beauty combined with low prices also makes the Philippines a top expat destination.

Whether you are a British citizen moving for affordable medical services or an American digital nomad reducing your business start-up costs, the cheap cost of living gives you more bang for your foreign currency.

Before the excitement of swimming in the ocean, experiencing a new culture, and trying exotic foods overwhelms you, there are the essential things you need to know before you move to the Philippines.

Moving to a different state is a big decision. Imagine moving to a whole other country? Yea, it's a whole other kind of animal. Once you decide to move to the Philippines, the hard part begins, getting ready to transport you, your family, your house, your furniture, and your life across the ocean to a tiny Asian country.

There are some key questions you need to know for before moving. Poor planning leads to heaps of stress for you and your family. Miss a step, and you can get caught in a customs and immigration bureaucratic nightmare.

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QUICK TIPS

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.

Exchanging US Dollars. The best way to save money in the Philippines is by using Wise to transfer money and make payments in Philippine Peso. Wise offers you the best exchange rates and lowest bank fees.

Get Travel Health Insurance. Your home insurance will not cover emergency healthcare overseas, but you can find affordable travel insurance for less than $50 that will cover your medical bills in the Philippines.

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.

Understand your potential taxes. Staying more than 180 days during any calendar year can trigger income tax in the Philippines. Get a FREE consult with an expat tax specialist to understand how taxes in the Philippines can impact you.

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How To Get A Philippines Retirement Visa For As Low As $1500
Philippines SRRV Visa Update and Requirements- All Your Questions Answered (2021)
Comparing The Expat Cost of Living In The Philippines vs the USA [2022]
Retirement Paradise- Top 10 Best Places To Live In The Philippines For Expats
6 Steps To Get A Philippines Entry Exemption Document

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How Do I Prepare For My Move To The Philippines?

Begin thinking about separating items to be sold, stored locally, disposed of, or donated to charity. The remaining items will be for your Sea and or Air shipment and your personal luggage, which you will carry. Preparation will also make a quote from your selected Moving Company more accurate.

Before packing for your move, separate your passport, airline tickets, personal luggage, and all personal documents, valuables, jewelry, medication, etc. Trying to find an essential item buried in dozens of boxes is a nightmare.

 INSIDER TIP : Filipino Banks- Even though there are international banks (Citibank and HSBC have branches), I found banking in the Philippines cumbersome. Before leaving home, contact your local banking institutions (credit cards, loans, and checking) and let them know you will be out of the country to prevent your bank from flagging your overseas transactions as fraudulent. Don't forget to sign up for online banking, so you can access your international bank accounts while abroad.

Tax Documents. Birth Certificates. Marriage Certificates. Transcripts from International Schools. Offshore Bank Statements.

Moving to a different country involves lots of paperwork. The easiest way to ensure you don't miss a crucial form, record, or certificate is to use my FREE Overseas Moving Checklists.

Do I Need A Visa To Move To The Philippines?

No. Citizens of 157 countries can enter the Philippines visa-free. However, if you plan on staying longer than 30-days, most expats will need to apply for a 6-month long-stay visa extension (LSVVE). An LSVVE can be extended up to six times allowing expats to immigrate to the Philippines for up to 3-years.

Temporary visitors looking for something more permanent than a tourist visa have two visa types to choose from:

  • Section 13(a) non-immigrant visa, if your spouse is a Filipino citizen.
  • Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV)- the SRR visa is a multiple entry visa for retired expats over 50 years old, their spouse, and their dependent children.

How do I get SRR Visa?

Read the complete 10-step process flow detailing the application and SRR Visa approval process.  

Due to the pandemic restrictions, the requirements to acquire a visa change frequently. You can read the latest updates to the SRRV program here.  

Tired of endless hours spent researching complicated visa requirements?

Knowing how frustrating it is to navigate a foreign country's immigration process, I started a new visa service to make life easier for expats who want to live and retire abroad,

I pre-screened and carefully selected partners with decades of expertise helping expats like you cut through the government red tape, clarify the visa options, and ease your worries about moving to a new country.

What Am I Prohibited To Bring On My Move To The Philippines?

young family moving to the Philippines to retire


These items are strictly prohibited; please ensure Philippine customs doesn't find contraband items in your shipment. You don't want a bad first experience. Customs regulations prohibit the following items:

  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives; obscene literature, Pornographic material, photographs, or films; politically undesirable literature; illegal drugs; gambling machines and paraphernalia, transceivers, live plants, etc.
  • Vehicles: While not forbidden, I don't encourage importing your car to the Philippines due to excessive customs and duties.

Can I Bring Alcohol In My Shipment?

Official guidelines for Alcohol and Tobacco are as follows: Alcohol: 2 bottles. Tobacco: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 250 grams of pipe tobacco. Please check with your moving company for guidance.

Will My Electronics Work In The Philippines?

The Philippines is technically 220V and 50Hz, but most expat housing has both 110V and 220V. Be sure to check on this when doing your home search. Transformers, which can cost approximately US$100.00 each, are easily purchased here. For more detailed information, google World Voltage & Plug Specifications.

How Do I Move My Pets To The Philippines?

Pets can arrive in the Philippines as either Manifest Cargo, which is an unaccompanied shipment, or Hand Carry, which you book as "Excess Baggage." Importing a pet also requires:

  • A Licensed Veterinarian (For Americans, this must be a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian), must certify your animal has been examined, is healthy, and free of internal and external parasites. The exam must come with a signed Health Certificate issued within ten days of arrival in the Philippines,
  • An Import Permit from the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI)
  • Mandatory identification of a pet dog or cat with ISO compliant microchip / RFID (radio-frequency identification)
  • Valid Vaccination Certificates against rabies, canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, leptospirosis, canine parvovirus, or feline panleukopenia

Any missing requirements may be required your pet to quarantine on arrival to the Philippines.

WARNING : Any dogs and cats without a microchip / RFID identification can be declined entry into the Philippines. You would be responsible for all costs to ship them back home.

Should I Bring My Pets With Me To The Philippines?

Most households have pets, and pet relocation is a hard decision. No one likes the thought of leaving their furry loved ones with a friend or relative, worse, up for adoption by a stranger. If you are considering moving with your pet, consider:

  • Can your pet adjust to a hot and humid tropical climate? Some pets, especially long-haired animals, can develop some medical problems.
  • What are the quarantine requirements of your home country? If you bring your pet back, it is a potentially grueling process they will have to endure.
  • Governments have different regulations. As a precaution, when importing your pet, ensure you have all the relevant documents from each country in order.

Do I Need Health Insurance?

Yes. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. You will either need to get PHILHEALTH medical insurance or 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 to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US. 


How Long Will My Shipment Take To Be Packed, Moved, And Delivered In The Philippines?

The ocean transit time will differ from each origin point, so it is best to ask your moving company in advance of your move. Once you have the ocean transit time, you can add these times to your schedule:

  1. After loading your container, it will take 4 to 10 days to move the container to the departure port and load the container on a ship.
  2. If you are moving to Manila or another city on Luzon, it can take between 8 to 10 working days once your shipment arrives at Manila port for customs clearance and delivery to your home.  
  3. Other islands outside of Luzon may take several days longer.

How Much Will Moving To The Philippines Cost?

Hiring an international shipping company to move your household goods from your country of origin to the Philippines can potentially be your most significant expense. The total costs to transfer your personal effects are driven by how much stuff is moving with you, method of transportation, shipping distance, route popularity, and additional moving services required.

map showing container cost of moving to the Philippines

 Estimated cost of shipping a 40 foot container from New York To the Philippines is ~$2000 USD Image Source

  1. Amount of Stuff- The more things you move to the Philippines, the more expensive moving service can cost. These personal effects are your most controllable moving cost. For example, I have lived in over 12 different countries while moving with only one piece of luggage; moving to a foreign country costs me nothing. Comparatively, I know a Filipino moving back to the Philippines from the USA who needed a 20-foot and 40-foot container for all his belongings. 
  2. Distance and Route- The further the distance from your county of origin to your destination country, the more expensive your relative shipping costs. In addition, the popularity of the route also matters. For example, there are regular shipments moving to the Philippines from the USA, which keeps prices down.
  3. Transportation method- If you need to move quickly, air freight is the fastest but the more expensive method. Most expats use sea freight, which is the cheapest option.
  4. Concierge moving service- Relocating to a foreign Asian country is already stressful. Packing the entire contents of your house into boxes yourself makes your move even more of an ordeal. A relocation company can send a professional crew to pack and unpack your home into moving boxes for an additional cost. Not only do you have the peace of mind that everything is professionally packed to arrive safely in your new home in the Philippines, but international moving companies may not accept liability for damages if the company didn't pack the item.

 INSDIER TIP :  Americans Moving from the US to the Philippines- If you move to the Philippines to retire, Balikbayan boxes are a low-cost way to ship your personal belongings. For a low flat rate, shipping companies specialize in transporting sea cargo of boxes from the United States to major cities in the Philippines. Prices for a large box (24 inches x 18 inches x 24 inches) can be shipped to Manila for $75 or Mindanao for $90. Google Balikbayan boxes + your country to get more information.

DESTINATION

JUMBO BALIKBAYAN BOX COSTS

Cell

 Size: 24" X 18" X 24"

Makati City, Manila

$75

Luzon, outside of Metro Manila

$80

Cebu City, Visayas

$85


Davao City, Mindanao

$90

Other International Moving Costs

The costs above only pertain to the price to ship your goods to the Philippi. However, an international move has several additional costs, including insurance, customs fees/importation fees/duties, land transportation costs. Get a moving quote from a certified international relocation expert to ensure competitive rates and no hidden fees.

Insurance For My Shipment When Moving To The Philippines

Your moving company can provide complete Marine Transit Insurance, covering your household items from origin residence to destination delivery ( they can also offer long-term storage and storage in transit insurance extension).

When filling out the Insurance Valuation Coverage Document, you should be as detailed as possible, considering the cost of Replacement in the Philippines. Most furniture made outside of the Philippines is very costly to buy locally due to duties and taxes.

Be sure to separate articles with a high replacement value. For instance, if you have four jackets: three cloth and one leather, you can aggregate items of similar value, like the cloth jackets, but you should list the expensive leather jacket separately.

 INSDIER TIP :  Marine Transit Insurance will not cover high-priced jewelry, fur coats, coins, stamps, or other expensive collections or high-value memorabilia. I suggest leaving valuables in your home country in a bank safety deposit box or hand-carry them on the airplane.

Duty-free entry of household goods shipment

SRR Visa holders and other non-resident retirees are allowed a one-time customs duty and TAX-FREE importation of your household goods and personal effects valued up to $7,000 USD. Imported household goods must have been owned and used at least six months before entry. The shipment should arrive within 60 days of the owner's arrival.

 INSDIER TIP :  Avoid Unnecessary Customs Taxes- I discourage purchasing numerous new items before moving to the Philippines. Customs can tax brand new appliances or "commercial quantities" of items they discover in your shipment. Check with a professional moving company for guidance before stocking up.

Will Moving To The Philippines Double My Taxes?

A Non-Resident Foreign National only pays taxes on any income earned in the Philippines. Any income an expat earns outside of the country is tax-free. However, the Philippine Government taxes locally-sourced income (wages from working in the Philippines, local business profits, or having rental property here). Expat taxes are complicated; always consult a tax specialist to confirm how International taxes affect you.

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