The Cost of Living in the Philippines

So you meet a girl and want to life with her for example in Thailand or within the Philippines. Can you live for less than US$1000 in these countries each month ?
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Waldmeister
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How you could live in the Philippines on US$1,000 a Month

Most of us dream of the day we can finally cut our ties with the working world and live out our lives in retirement. Saving up for that day can be a challenge, especially when you consider the limited amount of income you'll have at your disposal to live without worry. But what if there was a way for you to live comfortably and not break the bank? One way to do so is to consider living abroad.

The Philippines is an English-speaking archipelago nation with much to offer retirees and others seeking a low-cost yet comfortable life in an exotic locale. With just a little care, a US$1,000 monthly budget will go far in this country, providing everything you need to make a new home and enjoy your life.
  • Major cities in the Philippines give retirees access to many amenities, but usually at a higher cost.
  • Prices for apartments in outlying areas are generally 25% to 35% cheaper than most city centers.
  • Utilities and internet in a city like Manila can cost under $200 each month.
  • Food is much cheaper than in the U.S.—a meal at a restaurant costs about $3, while staple foods common to the American diet are cheap and plentiful in the Philippines.
  • Remember to register with your embassy or consulate to get safety and security information.
In fact, International Living magazine has consistently ranked the Philippines among one of the top international retirement destinations when it comes to the cost of living. And there's a whole slew of places where you can settle. Whether you decide to live in the city, in the highlands or near the beach, you should have no trouble making your budget—likely with funds left over for dining out, entertainment, and perhaps some travel.

Top Low-Cost Cities

The Philippines is home to a diverse natural environment consisting of more than 7,000 islands. While there are many worthy and inexpensive destinations in the country, expatriates tend to cluster in developed areas that provide access to services, healthcare, and other amenities. While English is an official language in the Philippines, it is not widely spoken in less-developed, rural parts of the country.

For a big city lifestyle, the national capital of Manila—located on the northern island of Luzon—delivers all the hustle and bustle you could want. Manila is one of the busiest cities in the country. It's home to government offices, higher education facilities, not to mention much of the country's entertainment including restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. But remember, because it is the nation's capital, expect a lot of traffic, congestion, and noise.

Most expatriates, however, opt for smaller cities dotting the length of the archipelago, primarily because they want to be away from the hustle and bustle. North of Manila on the island of Luzon, the mountain city of Baguio is a terrific option for those interested in a cooler climate at 5,000 feet. Moving south along the archipelago to Cebu island, Cebu City and nearby destinations provide access to modern amenities in a Filipino center of commerce and education.

Southwest of Cebu City, Dumaguete is a port town on Negros Island, popular for its seaside location and diverse natural attractions. On the far southern island of Mindanao, Davao City is a large metropolis with modern amenities and easy access to beaches and mountains.

Housing Expenses

Rent and utilities can be exceptionally cheap in the Philippines. According to the international price comparison website Numbeo.com, rent for a centrally located one-bedroom apartment in cities such as Davao City, Baguio, and Dumaguete is between $185 and $270 per month on average.

A centrally located three-bedroom apartment goes for about US$570 in Davao City, US$274 in Baguio and US$444 in Dumaguete. Prices for apartments in outlying areas are generally 25% to 35% cheaper, a terrific bargain if you are willing to live outside the city center.

Manila and Cebu City are more expensive. One-bedroom apartments in central districts near services, shopping, and entertainment cost a little more than US$600 per month in both cities. While rent over US$600 is probably manageable on a US$1,000 budget, you may want to make things easier on yourself by considering cheaper options in outlying areas where a similar apartment is under US$220. A three-bedroom condominium in central Cebu City is about US$760 on average, while the same accommodation in Manila is over US$1,800 per month.

Utilities are generally very reasonable, especially if you avoid around-the-clock air conditioning. Utility costs including electricity, water, and garbage service outside Manila are typically around US$118 per month. Unlimited broadband Internet service averages US$43 per month.

In Manila, utilities average around US$130 per month, and Internet service costs about US$50 per month. Prepaid cellphone service costs around 15 cents per minute across the country, but they may be cheaper depending on current service plans and promotions.

Food Expenses

You should have no trouble eating very well on less than US$200 per month if you dine mostly at home and stick to Filipino food brands, as well as local fruits and vegetables. Many staple foods common to the American diet are cheap and plentiful in the Philippines. A dozen eggs cost less than US$1.75—the same as a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Rice is under 50 cents per pound, bread is less than US$1 per loaf, and locally produced cheese is about US$2.50 per pound. Pasta and other packaged foods familiar to expatriates are widely available in most of the country. Fruits and vegetables are sold in open-air markets and grocery stores across the country, usually at substantially lower prices than in the United States.

According to Numbeo.com data, basic and mid-range restaurants are cheap enough that you can afford to eat out on a regular basis if you choose. A simple but tasty and hearty meal at a busy local restaurant costs around US$3 on average. A three-course dinner at a mid-range neighborhood restaurant costs about US$16 for two people, not including alcoholic beverages. A pint of Filipino bottle of beer is about US$1, while a 12-ounce import costs US$1.96. Beer prices are slightly cheaper at local markets.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that tap water is unsafe to drink in the Philippines. Bottled water is widely available and inexpensive throughout the country. A 12-ounce bottle costs about 36 cents on average. In most cities, five-gallon containers are also available at an even lower price per volume.

Health Care Expenses

Many cities in the Philippines have first-rate hospitals with modern equipment and highly trained medical professionals, many of whom were educated in the U.S. and other western countries. However, access to quality care is generally rather limited in smaller cities and in rural areas of the country. International Living magazine reports that many expatriates choose to forgo health insurance because the costs of care are so low in the Philippines. While self-insuring is definitely an option, expatriates may choose to purchase a health insurance policy. PhilHealth is the public health insurance option in the Philippines. Policies are also available from private insurers.

Other Expenses

Basic living expenses including personal hygiene products and household cleaning products are generally inexpensive in the Philippines. Items such as clothing, contact lenses, home decorating items, souvenirs, and the like are generally much cheaper than similar goods in the U.S.—provided you shop wisely and purchase local brands. Although these kinds of expenses vary from person to person, most expatriates should be able to meet a budget of US$100 per month for these items.

Public transportation is widely available in Filipino cities. In most cases, there are at least several different options, including taxis, motorized tricycles, jeep taxis known as jeepneys, and public buses. A one-way trip in the central city districts costs as little as 17 cents on a bus or tricycle. Taxis start at less than US$1 plus approximately 50 cents per mile.

A Final Budget

Basic living costs in Dumaguete, Davao City, or Baguio may include:

US$225 for a nice one-bedroom apartment in a good location
US$200 for groceries
US$125 for utilities, Internet, and cellphone service
US$100 for personal and household items
US$40 for transportation

This budget leaves US$310 to spend on health care, better accommodations, dining out, travel, or another personal priority. You might also consider committing some funds to a special account for emergencies or other needs.

A Word of Caution

Just as you would with any other destination, it's a good idea to check in with travel advisories and warnings—whether that's for a vacation or for permanent residence. The U.S. State Department has travel advisories in effect for several parts of the Philippines. As of April 2019, the Sulu Archipelago, including the southern Sulu Sea, has a do not travel advisory because of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Marawi City in Mindanao has the same advisory for suspected terrorism and civil unrest. People are also advised to reconsider any travel to other parts of Mindanao because of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Regardless of where you go, it's always a good idea to register with your national office in the Philippines. By doing this, you'll receive information about safety and security, and allows the U.S. embassy or consulate in the area to reach you in cases of emergency.
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Thu May 21, 2020 8:29 am

Pro | Cons - Retirement Planning in the Philippines

Each year, InternationalLiving.com's Global Retirement Index ranks the top 25 retirement destinations in the world, based on factors like climate, healthcare, fitting in, benefits and discounts, and cost of living. The Philippines, an archipelagic country of more than 7,000 islands, made the 2018 list, scoring especially well in the Cost of Living, Fitting In, and Entertainment & Amenities categories (though it did not make the top 25 in 2019).

Although 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.

For most people, the decision to retire abroad is a difficult one, and it can be even more of a challenge to decide where to settle down. Issues of safety are of increasing concern, along with costs. The recent anti-drug violence in the Philippines should be factored in with other issues. To get your research started, here are some of the pros and cons of retiring in what is considered one of the world's best retirement destinations: the Philippines.

Pros

Low Cost of Living

Many choose to retire overseas to find a lower cost of living. The Philippines doesn't disappoint, and most expats can live comfortably on about US$800 to US$1,200 a month - including dining out and in-country travel - according to InternationalLiving.com. The average retired U.S. worker's Social Security benefit is US$1,404 per month as of Jan. 2018, which means your monthly benefit alone could be enough to cover your basic living expenses in the Philippines. An added perk is that household help is very affordable, so it's possible - even on a tight budget - to hire someone to help with the cooking and cleaning.

Expat Incentives

The Philippines welcomes expats and even has a government agency dedicated to attracting foreign retirees. Expats here receive a number of financial benefits, including discounts for the 60+ crowd, the duty-free import of $7,000 worth of household goods, and exemption from airport travel taxes. In addition, expat residents are allowed to work or start a business. Also, once you have permanent residency, you can stay in the Philippines for as long you like (your retiree visa does not expire), and you can leave and return without reapplying for residency.

Beautiful Setting

The Philippines is known for its tropical climate and natural beauty. From the tops of its lush mountains to its colorful coral reefs—and everywhere in between—it's easy to be in awe of your surroundings almost anywhere in the country. Its many beaches (remember, there are more than 7,000 islands) are perhaps the biggest draw. Places like Boracay in Aklan, with its white sand and crystal clear blue water, and El Nido in Palawan, a richly bio-diverse area where limestone cliffs rise from the sea, attract people from all over the world.

Cons

Infrastructure Problems

In recent years, the Philippines has been one of Asia's fastest-growing economies, but problems with infrastructure could hold the country back. According to a recent World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, infrastructure problems are among the leading economic obstacles the country faces. What does that mean to expats? Depending on where you live, you could experience power failures, prolonged water shortages, outdated telecommunication systems, and deteriorating bridges and roads.

Healthcare

Although expats have access to excellent and affordable healthcare in Manila, the country's capital (International Living's 2018 list ranks the country 88 for healthcare), some areas in the Philippines don't offer the same level of care, lacking both infrastructure and investment. This can be especially problematic for expats who have chronic conditions that require regular treatment, or who have conditions that would be considered out of the ordinary.

Safety Concerns

The most recent violence issue was the campaign against drugs launched when President Rodrigo Duterte came to office on June 30, 2016, that had resulted in thousands of deaths. The Philippine Senate is investigating the deaths, and President Duterte told legislators not to interfere, warning that they could be arrested if they blocked actions directed to improving the country. A recent Philippines Travel Advisory from the U.S. Department of State, dated Jan. 24, 2018, urged U.S. citizens to "exercise increased caution in the Philippines due to crime, terrorism, and civil unrest." It further stated that citizens should avoid travel to the Sulu Archipelago, including the southern Sulu Sea, for these same reasons.

It also urged citizens to stay away from Marawi City and other areas of Mindanao due to terrorism and civil unrest. The advisory suggested citizens reconsider traveling to "the vicinity of Mayon Volcano in Albay Province, Luzon due to volcanic activity." Certain regions in the Philippines are generally considered as safe as other places in Southeast Asia. The advisory noted that "terrorist and armed groups continue plotting possible kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks in the Philippines. Terrorist and armed groups may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, markets and shopping malls, and local government facilities. The Philippine government has declared a 'State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao.'"

The Bottom Line

The Philippines is home to a well-established community of expats who have retired overseas in search of a better climate, change of scenery, new cultural experiences, affordable healthcare, and a lower cost of living. The Filipino people are very warm and welcoming to foreigners, and the country offers a number of incentives to retirees. Making the decision to retire abroad—and figuring out where to go—are difficult steps that take lots of research and planning. Like every other country that might be on your list of potential retirement spots, the Philippines has both its pros and cons. Each should be carefully evaluated before making any decisions. It's a good idea to visit the area, preferably more than once, before making any decisions about retirement. Try to visit from a resident's perspective, rather than as a tourist.
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Opening Bank Accounts in the Philippines

Money in the Philippines

Similar to the U.S., the banking system in the Philippines supports large international banks, national banking institutions and small, rural banks. Expats typically choose either national banks such as Philippine National Bank, Metrobank and Bank of the Philippine Islands or international institutions such as Citibank, Bank of America and HBSC. In general, expats should avoid small, rural banks as they tend to offer limited services and may be subject to closure with little or no notice.

Internet banking is available through most major national and international banks, and physical banks are usually open between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on business days and closed on weekends and holidays. The official currency of the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP). Notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 PHP. One peso is equal to 100 centavos, and coins are issued in 10, 5 and 1 PHP, and 50, 25, 10 and 5 centavos.

Opening an Account

To open a bank account in the Philippines, you must visit the bank in person with several identification documents in hand. While you will always be required to show documentation at any bank, the particular documents that are required may depend on the bank. Many banks require you to have an Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card), a microchip-based, credit card sized identification card.

All foreign nationals holding immigrant and non-immigrant visas (including holders of a Temporary Visitor’s Visa) – who have been in the country for more than 59 days – are required to apply for an ACR I-Card. You can apply for the card at the main office of the Bureau of Immigration or at one of its field offices throughout the country. The card costs $50, plus P500 (about $61 total). In some cases, you may be able to open an account without an ACR I-Card; however, you may be required to meet directly with the bank manager before an account can be approved.

You will also need a passport or some other form of photo identification, a passport-sized photo of yourself and proof of your address, such as a current utility bill or rental contract. The bank will also require a minimum deposit for the account to be opened. The Philippine National Bank, for example, has a minimum deposit of P10,000, or about US$225.

The bank may also require a bank reference from your country of permanent residence or country of citizenship. The Philippine bank may contact your bank of reference directly, or ask you to submit written certification from the bank. If you were not introduced to the bank by an existing bank client or employee (which is often the case), your account might be put on hold until the reference process is complete.

Are Deposits Insured ?

In the United States, any money you deposit at an FDIC-insured bank is automatically protected by the FDIC (the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), created in 1933 in response to the many bank failures of the 1920s and early 1930s. This includes deposits made to a checking account, negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) account, savings account, money market deposit account (MMDA) or time deposit, such as a certificate of deposit (CD) – with a coverage limit of US$250,000 per depositor, per account. If a bank fails, the FDIC ensures you get quick access to your insured deposits.

The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation offers a similar program, but with a much lower level of protection than FDIC provides to U.S. depositors. In the Philippines, your deposits are insured up to P500,000 (about US$11,000), which applies to the total amount of money you have on deposit in a bank, not to each individual account. So even if you have several different accounts, you are insured up to only a maximum of P500,000.

The Bottom Line

Expats and visitors have a number of options for banking in the Philippines. Large, national banks and international banks – including CitiBank and HBSC – are popular choices for expats. Citibank, for example, offers free withdrawals from any ATM in the Philippines (and 20,000+ Citibank ATMs worldwide) and online banking, so it’s easy to keep track of your finances. With any account, be sure to read the fine print so you know what fees to expect: Citibank, for instance, changes P500 a month if your combined average daily balance falls below P500,000.
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