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The Cheapest Places to Live in the World – 2014

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Would you like to feel wealthier?

You could work more hours. Or get a higher-paying job. Or become a hermit and never go out or buy anything.

Or you could just move.

cheap living Mexico

At an exchange rate of 12.5 to the dollar…

Each year I do a rundown of the cheapest places to live in the world, giving readers examples of real “normal person” costs in places where you can live well for less. By nature it can’t be complete—it’s an idea generator. Invariably it also generates lots of questions in the comments and by e-mail, so next year I’m going to answer all those questions in a book. The final title will be determined later, but let’s call itCheap Living Abroad right now. If you want to keep up with the progress, help shape the content, or be a reviewer when it hits, go sign up on this page.

When you do, you’ll get a free report on “12 Places You Can Stay for Four Months or More on a Tourist Visa.”

For now though, let’s look at where you will be able to get by on far less money than you can in your own country by living somewhere else. Here are some of the cheapest places to live in the near future based on actual prices, economic conditions, exchange rates, and ease of staying for a while.

It’s not hard finding a cheaper place to live than where you probably live right now. That list would probably be 100 countries long. You could just pull up Gross Domestic Product breakdowns and compare it to your country’s. A list like that will only take you so far, however. Just because Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, or Haiti is cheap doesn’t mean you’re going to want to live there. Other places are a bargain and very desirable—like Indonesia or the Philippines—but the visa situation makes it very tough to buy or even set up residency unless you’re going to marry a local, get a job with a multi-national, or start your own corporation.

Also, keep in mind that tourism deals do not always translate to cheaper residency. Just because you always see ads for beautiful Croatia holidays at bargain prices, don’t split for the city of Split thinking that rents and restaurant meals are going to be cheap. Tourist towns are priced for tourists.

The cheapest places to live in the world don’t change drastically from year to year, solast year’s report is still full of great ideas. Economic conditions change though, as do visa requirements, so here’s an update for the coming year, arranged by continent.

Cheapest Place to Live in Europe

In terms of economic growth, Europe is the sickest region in the world right now. So while it’s not cheap, in the real estate world you can find lots of value. Even if you’re not buying, there’s big supply and low demand in countries where people are trying to get an income from second homes, where relatives have moved in together to save money, and where overbuilding has created a glut of empty apartments. If you’re already a European Union passport holder, moving to another country here is a no-brainer. You’re mobile, you’ve got budget flights home to see the relatives, and you’ve got very few visa hurdles.

Budapest

Hungary

Prices for rent or purchase are great in Hungary. Even in Budapest you can find a furnished apartment in a convenient area for 300 euros or less. Prices for eating out, drinking wine, and entertainment are half what you’re probably paying in your home city. Head to a smaller city and prices drop more.

If you have ancestral roots in the country, you can get a fast-track citizenship, with a dual passport. You have to speak Hungarian, but this is a back door into the EU and Hungary would be a great place to live in Central Europe. This is one of The World’s Cheapest Destinations for travel and you can hop on a train here to visit neighbors Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania. For more details, see my post on traveler prices in Budapest (and assume as a resident, you’ll find lower ones…)

Romania, Slovakia, and BulgariaRomania living

I’m lumping these three together because they all have a glut of housing for the same reason: a lot of their citizens are living abroad in order to make more money than they can at home. In the cities this means anyone who comes in with cash can find a nice apartment for 250 euros relatively easily. If you head into the countryside, there are entire blocks of empty homes that are either temporarily or permanently empty. If you’re a buyer, you can pick up a house or new condo for less than US$50,000. If you’re a renter, “How much have you got?”

Slovakia isn’t as well set-up for inter-city transportation as the other two, but you can get between the main population centers on a train or bus. In Bulgaria and Romania, you will eat and drink very well for cheap and you can move between cities for a few dollars. See past posts on prices in SlovakiaBulgaria, and Romania.

Portugal

I visited Lisbon and then did a week-long bike trip through the rural Alentejo region of Portugal earlier this year and found the prices on some things comparable to what you would find in Eastern Europe. But you get those cheap prices in a warmer climate that borders the ocean. And if you learn the language here, you can use it in huge Brazil.

With the economic crisis in Europe hitting Portugal hard, it’s a buyer’s market for real estate. With unemployment high, there’s little opportunity for living expenses to rise for those renting and buying groceries either. The great wine here is a terrific bargain and there’s a tremendous amount of inherent beauty. The big drawback for Americans is this is a full member of the EU, with the same residency hurdles you will face anywhere else in Western Europe. Prepare for a long, drawn out process with the bureaucrats.

cheaper living Portugal

Internet in The Philippines

I can’t imagine to live in the Philippines without the Internet. Luckily, Internet access via DSL is available on most islands in the Philippines, may it be over the good old Telephone Land line, direct cable or wireless over the mobile towers.
If you stay on a very remote island however, you may experience some speed problems, in fact you will have to test which provider (Globe or SMART) serves you best.
You may also have access to the Internet by a satellite dish but the cost for that is about 15,000 Peso a month.

 

If it comes to prices, this are the packages currently available at Globe Telecom (2013):

  • P 799,- Landline & Internet 1 Mbps (3 GB/month)
  • P 1099,- telephone & Internet, 1 Mbps via land line (Preimium Broadband)
  • P 1299,- telephone & Internet, 2 Mbps via land line (Premium Broadband)
  • there are other rates available

Mobile Internet (You can Use your smartphone with a Globe SIM Card as a Hotspot):

  • P 50,- “Supersurf” good for 1 day
  • P 200,- “Supersurf” good for 5 days
  • P 999,- “Supersurf” good for 30 days (To be actvated by SMS) other rates for 1 or 5 days are available.

Globes competitor SMART offers wireless services only:

  • SMART Bro: P 1245,- for an USB Stick Modem with Sim Card. Inclusive 120 hrs Internet for the first 5 days. After that it’s P 20 per hour or P 50 per day (apply day by day per SMS). The Speed is mentioned with up to 1 Mbps but it’s much slower most of the time, depending on signal strength.
    I am trying Smart Bro right now in March 2011 and the maximum download speed is about 48 kbps, even with a full 5 bars signal strength.
  • Further offers are available at SMART with a fixed modem/router with speeds from 512kbps up to 2Mbps and unlimited access to the internet. Monthly costs starts at P 999,- for the packages.

User interface with Smart Bro in the Philippines
This is the user interface with SMART Bro: Maximum download speed is about 48 Kbps on a lucky day. See the signal strength (upper left) and the receive Rate at the lower right of the picture.

You should also know that:

  • if you order a telephone land line only, the monthly charges are 500,- Peso already.
  • If you want to use SKYPE, your DSL speed should be al t least 512 kbps (1 Mbps is better)
  • The DSL signal is available most of the time. Over the last few years, the service improvement was significant, at least here on Bohol Island.

If you want to rent a house or a flat in the Philippines and you are depending on an Internet connection, ask at the local provider about what is available in that area. But be carefully: Even if land line and DSL is available in general, it does not mean that they will also have an free access point available at that particular place.

Banking in The Philippines

For me, the Banking System in the Philippines is a little bit outdated. Even in the age of computers and Internet, it is not possible to make a money transfer from one bank company to another. If you enter a bank, you will usually receive a number which tells you how many people are already waiting to be serviced and how long you have to wait.

Once I had to make a simple money transfer of 2500,- Peso to our daughter and it took Five Hours(!) before we could hand the voucher to the lady behind the counter. We entered the bank at 10:00 am, drew what I call a “lucky number”, and noticed, that we had 120 or so people waiting before us. So we went shopping first and came back at 2:00 pm and still had to wait another hour before our number appeared on the sign board. In the end, the service charge for this simple transfer was 50,- Peso(!). Even back home in Germany a money transfer like this would cost a service charge of only 0.13,-€ (8 Peso).
No wonder that other private companies likeWestern Union Bank or the Lhuillier Pawn Shopstook over those money transfer services and doing well on it.

This situation has gotten a bit better now, after the major banks opened up branches in most shopping malls and the people now have more options to do their banking business. The waiting time was clearly reduced.

Traveler Cheques” seem to be another unknown word to bank employees. You can exchange Traveler Cheques only at some rare Travel Agencies or maybe in some foreign owned resorts or at some smart Indian Money Changers but not in a bank.
Some bigger Banks offer Online Banking to their customers, like the PNB, Philippine National Bank or the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). But what can you do there with your online banking? You can view your account balance and make a money transfer within the company and that’s it. At BPI, if you want to pay some bills or load your cell phone over your bank account, you’ll have to register that companies or cell phones in your account first.
Instead of paying interest for your positive balance, most Philippine banks will charge you service charges of up to 300,- Peso per month, if your balance drops under a certain amount like 2500,- Peso or so…

You can easily open a bank account as a foreigner in the Philippines and they will also give you an ATM Card, that allows you to pick up money at ATM machines nationwide. Some banks will ask you now an “ACR” (Alien Certificate of Registration), before you can open an account. You can get that at the nearest Immigration Office.

If you have a monthly income from abroad, I would recommend to look for a Free Online Account with a free VISA Card that enables you to withdraw money at Philippine ATM machines free of charge. We have some online banks in Germany which offer that service but you have to look in your country.

If you want to withdraw money at ATM’s in the Philippines with other credit cards which are not free of charge, be aware that the maximum payout per transaction on most machines is 10,000,- Peso or less. So you will have to pay your service charge for every transaction you have to do.

Philippine Visa Overview

This is a list of the most important Visas and Immigration Regulations for the Philippines:

αρχείο λήψης (3)

People from most European countries and the US can enter the Philippines without a Visa and will be granted an entry permit for 30 (new!) days. This permit may be extended at any Immigration Office in the Philippines for another 38 days and thereafter every two month for up to 16 month in total. Please read the section about Visa Extension for more details.

Philippines Embassies abroad will also issue different sorts of Tourist Visa for the Philippines:

  • 3 month Tourist Visa, 1 entry: 39,-€
  • 6 month Tourist Visa, multiple entry: 78,-€
  • 12 month tourist Visa, multiple entry: 117,-€

Prices for Visas are taken from the Philippine Embassy in Germany but should be the same in all other countries.

If you are married to a Filipino citizen, you may ask for a Balik Bayan Stamp in your passport at the Immigration point where you want to enter the Philippines. A Balik Bayan stamp is good for 1 year and is free of charge. You have to bring you marriage certificate in English, your Filipino Spouse and you have to ask the Immigration Officer for it. Please read under Balik Bayan Visa for more details!

Also, if you are legally married to a Filipino you may apply for a Permanent Resident Visa 13A for the Philippines, as stated in the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, Section 13. Please look underResident Visa for more details.

If you are already retired and/or at least 35 years old, you may also apply for a Special Resident Retirees Visa from the PLRA ( Philippine Leisure & Retirement Authority) This Visa is not only for retirees, but also for investors and other people who just want to live in the Philippines and can prove their financial status. You can download the PDF File for detailed information and requirements.

 

You can now easily extent your stay in the Philippines for up to 16 month without ever having a Visa for the Philippines and without ever leaving the country.

αρχείο λήψης (1)

Most foreigners enter the Philippines without any Visa and they will get a stamp in their passports which is good for 30 (new!) days. If someone wants to extent their stay, you would have to go the nearest Immigration Office and get your first extension, good for another 38 days. The cost for this first extension is 3010,- Peso.
Now you are already 59 days in the Philippines and your regular extension series starts by showing up at the Immigration Office every 2 month, just maybe a couple of days before your stamp expires.

 

If you have to go to the Immigration Office, make sure to wear long pants, a nice shirt and shoes. Otherwise you might not be serviced, some Immigration offices (Cebu) might not even let you in.

New in August 2013: Tourists without a visa will now be allowed to stay for 30 days instead of 21. There might be an extension of up to 6 month available now. Stay tuned in.

Last Update: August 2013

Enter the Philippines without a Visa: 21 (now 30) days for free!

After 21 Days “Visa Weaver” for another 38 Days
Visa Weaver
500,- Peso
Visa Application Fee
1000,- Peso
Certification Fee (new 2008)
500,- Peso
Express fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Legal Research fee
30,- Peso
Total:
3030,- Peso

Since 2010 there has been a change with the ACR! The Philippines now produce a so called ACR-I Card with an electronic chip containing you biometric data, such as address and finger prints. This card is supposed to replace the old paper based ACR and costs additional 50 U$ or about 2100 Peso. Read more information about the ACR Card

After this 59 days you’ll get a Visa Extension for another 2 month!
The Extension
1000,- Peso
Application fees
600,- Peso
Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR)
1000,- Peso
Head Tax
250,- Peso
Certification Fee
500,- Peso
Imigration Clearance Certificate
700,- Peso
Legal Research Fee
50,- Peso
Express Fee Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Total:
5600 Peso

 

Next extension for two month :
Visa Extension
1000,- Peso
Application Fee
300,- Peso
Legal Research Fee
50,- Peso
Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Total:
3350,- Peso

By now you are already 6 month in the Philippines for 14300,- Pesos, but it goes on:

Extension after 6 month for another two month :
Visa Extension
1000,- Peso
Certificate of Residence, temporary Visitor
1400,- Peso
Application Fee
700,- Peso
Certification Fee
500,- Peso
Express Fee Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Legal Research Fee
50,- Peso
Total:
5150,- Peso

 

Next extension for another two month:
Visa Extension
1000,- Peso
Application Fee
300,- Peso
Legal Research Fee
50,- Peso
Certification Fee
500,- Peso
Express Fee Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Total:
3350,- Peso

 

Last extension for 2, to a total of 12 month:
Visa Extension
1000,- Peso
Application Fee
300,- Peso
Anual Report Fee
300,- Peso
Legal Research Fee
50,- Peso
Certification Fee
500,- Peso
Express Fee Certification
500,- Peso
Express Fee Processing
1000,- Peso
Total:
3650,- Peso

The total amount for one year’s extensions is 26450,- Peso!

Since August 2007 you can now extent your Visa another two times, for up to 16 month in total. After 16 month however you should finally make a Visa Run or try to get another extension for up to 24 month from the “Chef of the Immigration Bureau for Regulations”. This might become too complicated, so it might be easier to make a Visa Run or to try to get a permanent residence.

The easiest and the cheapest way to get a long term visa for the Philippines, is the Balik Bayan Stamp in your Passport. This stamp is good for 1 year and can be extended at least once for another 6 month.

Good for one year: The Balik Bayan Stamp in your passportTo get a Balik Bayan Stamp in your Passport on arrival,

  • you must be married to a Filipina
  • you must present an english translation of your marriage certificate and
  • your Filipina wife or husband must be together with you.
  • Most importantly: You have to ask the Immigration officer for it, they won’t give it to you automatically.
  • The immigration officer is not obliged to issue a Balik Bayan Visa even if you meet all the requirements. Nevertheless, it is rarely denied.

The best of it: It’s totally free of charge

The Balik Bayan Stamp is available for direct relatives of Filipino citizens and former Filipinos who have changed their citizenship to another country.
If your Filipino husband or wife still has a valid Filipino Passport, he or she doesn’t need a Visa or stamp in their Passports of course.

 

If you are legally married with a Filipino citizen, you may apply for the permanent Resident Visa (13A) as stated of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, Section 13. You must meet the following requirements:

  • Notarized letter of application by the Filipino spouse
  • Accomplished and Notarized General Application Form
  • Copy of the birth certificate of the Filipino spouse, authenticated by the NSO
  • Authenticated copy of the Marriage Contract by the NSO or Philippine Embassy abroad (if you got married abroad)
  • Immigration Clearance Certificate
  • Copy of the foreigners passport showing the date of arrival and Visa (Balik Bayan Stamp)
  • certification of a savings bank account with the minimum 10,000 US$ on it to prove, that you can financially support your family
  • pay about 20,000,- Pesos in total for fees (10,000 for application and another 10,000 for approval)

After the application is submitted, it may take several weeks or even month before you will finally receive your Resident Visa. After the first application, your Resident Visa will be granted for only one year.
After one year you’ll have to submit another application but in a more simple way and the Visa then will be good for 10 years, before it needs to be extended again.

You can apply for the Resident Visa (13A) at the Immigration Offices in Manila, Cebu and Davao City. You may also ask for advice and help at any other Immigration Office in smaller cities in the Philippines.

After all, applying for the Resident Visa in the Philippines is a very time consuming process. If you are married to a Filipina anyway, you might also think about staying in the Philippines on the basis of a Balik Bayan Visa and make a short Visa Runout of the Philippines once a year.

Another way to get a permanent residence visa for the Philippines, is the Retirement Visa orSRRV Visa. This Visa does not depend on whether you are married to a Filipino citizen or not, like the 13A Visa but it is based on a money deposit in a accredited philippine bank.

The Philippines advertise this kind of visa with some advantages such as: Exemption from Customs Duties & Taxes for the importation of personal effects of up to 7000 US$, Exemption from Travel Tax, if your stay in the Philippines is no longer than 1 year, Exemption from the Immigration Exit Clearance and Re-Entry Permits, Exemption from the Immigration I Card/annual registration requirement and Exemption from securing special study permit or study visa for child/children.
Please note that the application for this visa is a very complicated and time consuming process. Don’t give up!

There are basically four groups of people who may apply for the SRRV Visa:

  • SRRV Classic:
    • 35 -49 years old: 50,000 US$ Deposit
    • over 50 years old without pension: 20,000 US$ Deposit
    • over 50 years old with pension: 10,000 US$ Deposit. The pension must be at least 800 US$ for a single or 1000 US$ for married couples.
    • The deposit for SRRV Classic is convertible into an investment of at least 50,000 US$
  • SRRV Smile
    • 35 Years and older: 20,000 US$ Deposit
    • Deposit is not convertible into an investment and must be locked in the bank
    • The Deposit may be withdrawn when the SRRV Visa is canceled.
  • SRRV Courtesy:
    • 35 years and above and a former Filipino citizen
    • 50 years and above for Ambassadors & retired Diplomats: (1500 US$ Deposit)
  • SRRV Human Touch
    • 35 years and above: 10,000 US$ Deposit plus
    • pre-existing medical condition that requires medical or clinical care services
    • a pension remitted to the Philippines of at least 1500 US$

The Application Fees are the same for all 4 groups: 1400 US$ for the principal and 300 US$ for each spouse or child. This is a one time payment.

An annual PRA Fee of 360 US$ for the principal with up to two dependants. (Only 10 US$ for SRRV Courtesy) must be paid upon enrollment and every year thereafter.

Required Documents:

  • Duly accomplished SRRV application form
  • Original Passport with valid Entry Visa
  • Medical Examination Clearance
  • Police Clearance from the Country of origin
  • NBI Clearance (National Bureau of Investigation)
  • 12 ID pictures 2″ x 2″
  • Additional roof of relationship of spouse and child
  • Former Filipinos only: NSO authenticated birth certificate
  • Ambassadors/Diplomats: Certificate of employment

Maybe once a year you will want to leave the Philippines for a new Visa, to visit your family and friends back home or simply to breath some civilized air from a neighboring country.

Even if you live in the Philippines on the Visa Extension basis, after 12 or 16 month you have to go out and come back in, to start the extension process from the beginning. In Thailand, we used to call that aVisa Run!

But, to make a Visa Run in the Philippines used to be more difficult and more expensive than in Thailand because you always have to book a flight to leave the country (In Thailand you can use a bus or a van). Today, you still have to do that but flying became much cheaper than maybe 4 or 5 years ago.

To leave the Philippines for a short weekend shopping trip, maybe to Singapore, Hongkong or even Bangkok, you can now go with one of the many budget airlines that serve the Philippines. By now, most of them only use the Clark Airbase in Angeles, north of Manila but we can hope that sooner or later some of them would also fly to and from Cebu in the South of the Philippines.

So if you stay somewhere in the North of the Philippines in Luzon and Angeles, you can choose between Tiger Airways from Singapore, Air Asia, from KL in Malaysia or Asiana Airlines from Korea.
If you stay somewhere in the South of the Philippines, you might have to stick to Cebu Pacific or Silk Air, which serve the Cebu or Davao to Singapore Route, without going to Manila first. Cebu Pacific also has direct flights to Hongkong from Cebu for a reasonable price.

The last time I tried to make a booking for a Cebu to Singapore flight, I ended up with about 15.000,- Peso or about 300,- US$ return for two people.
Using Air Asia from Angeles I managed to book flights for three people from Cebu to Clark, Clark to KL and KL to Hat Yai in Thailand and return for 270,- € or 380,- US$ in total.
All you have to do is to book early enough, maybe two month or three month in advance and you will be OK.

If you want to go out and get a new Balik Bayan Stamp in your passport on your return, make sure to bring your Filipina wife, otherwise the Balik Bayan status will not be granted.

As a US or European citizen, you can enter most of the neighboring countries of the Philippines without a Visa at least for a few days: Singapore (30 days), Thailand (30 days), Malaysia (up to 90 days), Hongkong (up to 90 days)

ACR stands for Alien Certificate of Registration and since sometime in 2010, there is now a newACR I-Card in the Philippines. This is a proper identification card in credit card format, with the biometric data of the holder, such as picture, address and fingerprints. However, other data, such as type of visa and the various entries and exit of the proprietor, are also to be stored on the card.

The additional cost against the old paper version of the ACR, is 50 US$ or 2100 Peso. So if you stay in the Philippines without a visa and have to do your extension every two month, the 2nd extension now costs about 6860 Peso.

Who needs the ACR-I Card?
Well, if you read the description on the official Web site of the Philippine Immigration, you need to study some paragraphs and legal texts first to understand it but it comes to the point, that all foreigners who stay longer than 6 month in the Philippines on a Non Immigrant or Resident Visa, must have this ACR-I Card!
Also, all foreigners who stay in the Philippines without a Visa and have to do their extension every two month at the Immigration office, need the new card for their second extension after 59 days already.
Some banks in the Philippines will also ask you an ACR, when you want to open a bank account in the country. But you can also do that without the card.

Foreigners who stay in the Philippines on the basis of a Balik Bayan Stamp in their passports, are exempt from the ACR Card so far.

The following Immigration offices can issue the new ACR-I Card:

  • San Fernando, La Union
  • Aparri, Cagayan
  • Subic
  • Batangas
  • Legaspi
  • Iloilo
  • Cebu
  • Tacloban
  • Zamboanga
  • Cagayan De Oro
  • Surigao
  • Davao

There are reports, that also the Immigration on Boracay issues the card within 24 hours.

Other immigration offices will have to send your application the main office in Manila and it may take a few weeks before you finally receive it. This has no effect on the visa extension, however.

Where to stay in the Philippines?

Hard to say! The Philippines have more than 7000 Islands so there are too many opportunities. How can I give an advise about where to stay, on which of the islands? In fact, you have to find that place by yourself.

Most foreigners stay at or near the place where their filipino wife comes from. The family might have a piece of land left for you, where you can settle down, build your little house and make your living. But if you don’t want to have the whole family around you all day long you might want to look for a place a little further away. However, be aware that Filipinas mostly want to stay at least in their language region. A Tagalog speaking Filipina from Luzon does not feel very well when she has to live in the Visayas and doesn’t understand a word of what the people around her are talking. Trouble ahead!

Another big group of foreigners end up at the place where they first landed on their very first holiday in the Philippines. You should really travel around and have a look at different places before you decide where to stay. There is so much to see.

For myself, the only place where I don’t want to stay in the Philippines is any big city in the Philippines. A lot of foreigners tend to stay in cities because they are used to or they like the nightlife, or they found an apartment in the Internet or they think that this is the only place where their kids can go to school.
All wrong!
Philippine cities are a nightmare for me. They are expensive, dirty, polluted and have always a very high crime rate. Houses in residential areas have high walls around the houses, so you can’t even look out.
If I would want to stay in a city, I would probably stay there back home in Germany but not in the Philippines.

When I think about living in the Philippines, I think about white beaches, palm trees, clear water in the ocean and stuff like that. I want to go swimming, diving and do other sorts of water sports. You can’t do that in a city.

So if I finally would have to give an advice where to stay in the Philippines, I would recommend to look around on the Islands of Bohol, Camiguin, Siquijor, Dumaguete or even Cebu, if you can find something outside of Cebu City. But there are other nice places, too. I just haven’t seen them all, yet.

Last not least, another place where you maybe don’t want to stay is the area of Leyte. Leyte is nice but its always hit by typhoons and really bad weather. So if you don’t want to rebuild your house every year, don’t stay in Leyte!

Moving to The Philippines

If you look at some people’s postings in some forums in the Internet, who want to move to the Philippines, you may think they are a little crazy. It seems that they want to move to the Philippines, without ever having been here before and without knowing the people and the lifestyle in the Philippines.

By thinking this way, they also try to organize their long term stay in the Philippines like a short term holiday: They search all over the Internet to find a place like a house or apartment for rent in the Philippines (or even to buy), They organize a container or two, to bring their whole household including car, motorbike or what ever they own with them to the Philippines.

Well, if you are moving to the Philippines, you certainly have to change your way of thinking. You have to wash your brain and start from scrap.

 

When you plan to move to the Philippines you should…

  • have been here before to check out the people and lifestyle and see if you actually like it and if you can live with it. Living in the Philippines is not the same as living in any western country!
  • find a house by yourself by driving around at the desired location and watch out for some signs saying: “For Rent” or “For Sale“, what ever you prefer.
  • not waste your money by bringing all your household in a container. Just send the most important stuff in a Balik Bayan Box and sell the rest to your friends at home or at Ebay! You can buy almost everything in the Philippines for a much lower price than at home. Some goods you want to bring might not be suitable for the Philippines and won’t even work there, like a TV (NTSC in PH), some electric tools , a washing machine and alike due to their technical behavior.( 220-240V, 60 Hz in the Philippines)
  • read about the technical specialties in the Philippines on on this site (coming soon)
  • not believe everything people tell you in some forums.

Manila airport

When guests arrive from other countries, a country’s main international airport is the first thing they see and experience, to evaluate the whole country. Accordingly, most countries in the world, also in Asia, made their international airports a world of it’s own. Restaurants, shopping centers and even a swimming pool (Singapore), one finds for example in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur etc., but not so in Manila.

 

The international airport in Manila however, is more like a prison, which you can enter only, when you can show a valid ticket and your passport. As you enter the building, your baggage is X-rayed, all the papers checked and you have to pass through a body scanner, without a belt, jacket and purse, of course. A few years ago, a German citizen got so upset about the checks that he dropped his pants and ended up in jail for a few days. So if you were brought to the airport by some relatives or some friends, you have to say good bye to them outside the airport building. They are not allowed to get in.
After the entrance checkpoint, you end up in a relatively small hall with no chairs, where you may join the queues at the check in counters.

Left Luggage Counters:
For many years, there hadn’t been a Left Luggage Counter anywhere at Manila Airport. Now you have two options in case you have to spend a few hours in Manila, before your connecting flight. Inside terminal one, where all international flights depart, there is an Excess Luggage Service Counter, where you can leave your luggage for 200 Peso per piece per 3 hours. You will find this counter in the departure area.
Another option is the nearby Mall of Asia! A huge shopping mall and only a few minutes or 150 Peso by Taxi away from the airport. There you will find a luggage counter for an unlimited number of lpieces and you can spend and enjoy the whole day in the mall.

Arrival in Manila:
The airport in Manila consists of three main terminals and passengers of almost all international Airlines will arrive at the oldTerminal 1! After disembarking the aircraft, follow the other passengers to the immigration checks and look for the assigned belt in the baggage claim area.
Beside the belts and still inside the building, you will find some money changers where you can change some money to pay for a taxi and maybe a hotel room. The exchange rate here is not the best so don’t change everything at once. There are also some people selling SIM cards for the different mobile phone companies of the Philippines. Normally you can buy this start up packages for only 30 Peso but at the airport, they sell them for 150!

Need a Hotel in Manila? Find it here: Hotels near Manila Airport

When you step outside the building you find metered Airport Taxis at the far left side of the building and a free Shuttle Busto the other terminals at the far right side. A ride to T2 will take only 10 Minutes but it’s 20 to 30 Minutes to T3. If you are in a hurry, take a taxi. Please be aware that the airport taxis charge about twice as much as the normal city taxis. The meter in the airport taxis starts with 70 Peso, normal taxis is only 40 Peso.

Manila Airport Terminal 3
Terminal 3 at Manila Airport: Here you have to fall in line 6 times(!) before you may finally enter the plane

The 3 (4)Terminals:
As I already said, the airport in Manila consists of 3 Terminals: The oldest Terminal 1 handles all international flights of all international airlines. Terminal 2 is for Philippine Airlines (PAL) only and the newest Terminal 3 is for all other domestic airlines like Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express.
A taxi ride from T1 to T2 takes only 10 minutes but to get from T1 or T2 to T3, the taxi has drive to the opposite site of the airport and that may take 20 -30 minutes.
Between T2 and T3 is still the old Domestic Terminal. There are still some small airlines like SEAIR and Zest Air using it. Please also read: The Airlines of the Philippines

Manila Departure
If some day you have to leave this wonderful country, this will most likely happen via the old Terminal 1 at Manila’s International Airport. Due to the already mentioned lack of seating and other entertainment venues at T1, you should arrive at the airport as late as possible but still early enough to compensate for possible delays at the check points for entering the building.
After checking in, you have to pay the mandatory 750 Peso Airport Tax and may then, after passing through the passport control and another security check, enter the so called departure area. Here you find a few snack bars where you can buy some overpriced sandwiches and drinks. If you have to use the bathroom, be aware that there is no running water, most of the time.
Maybe the last “rip-off” point in the Philippines are the money changers in the departure area. If you want to change your remaining Pesos into foreign currency they will hand out only straight numbers and keep the change, sometimes up to 200 to 300 Peso, for them self. Not so much you might say but with a few thousand passengers every day, it adds up!

First time to the Philippines !

At some point, one does anything once for the first time and so it is with your first trip to the Philippines. I can read in the emails I get, that there are a lot of people who really want to live in the Philippines but they have never been there in their life before.

Others have completely wrong ideas about their life in the Philippines, about how to deal with the locals and how to deal with authorities. They think, it might be just the same as in their home country. So that if they need a job, they just have to go the the employment office and that’s it or booking a flight to Manila is enough, anything else we will see…They can’t be more wrong!
Those people, who arrive in Manila and don’t know where to go and what to do, will be ripped off by locals as well as by their own countrymen who they may ask for some help or advise. The adventure starts, when you step out of Manila Airport without being able to tell a taxi driver where you actually want to go.

Consequently, if you plan to live in a country like the Philippines, you should go there on an extended holiday first and look around in the country before you decide if you like it or not. On this holiday, don’t just stay in one tourist place but travel around and look for a nice place that meets your expectations. If you found a nice place, look if there are any houses or apartments for rent and for how much. Many people also make their decisions based on how far the nearest hospital is. Also important: where or how far is the nearest place, where you can buy all your daily needs like food and also some hardware.
And do you have to extend your Visa every two month, so where is the next Immigration Office? Or are you already married to a Filipina? Then you don’t need to worry, she will know a nice place to stay: as near as possible to the rest of her family…

If you are on your own, don’t be too talkative and confident in other people, locals as well as your own countrymen and don’t tell anybody how much money you have saved and that you don’t know exactly what to do with it.

  • If you want to emigrate to the Philippines, go there on a holiday first and see if you can deal with the country and it’s people.
  • Make a scheduled plan about where you want to go, which islands, which hotels…
  • Book the necessary flights with any domestic airline in advance.
  • Don’t trust anybody, especially not your own countrymen who already live in the Philippines
  • In the Philippines you have to be able to help yourself rather than bother authorities or other people with your problems.

Enjoy your stay in the Philippines!

Why in The Philippines ?

Why should you decide to live or retire in the Philippines? There are many reasons for and against the Philippines and there are other options, too. Here I will give you some reasons that speak for the Philippines:

One of the main reasons for somebody who want to live in the Philippines is of course the climate! Even if it rains all day long, it never gets colder than maybe 20°C or so but most of the times it’s around 30°C. That’s good for your bones and your body, specially when you feel a pain already due to cold.

The Philippines is a country where other people do their holiday, so that’s another good reason to stay there for ever. What could be wrong with a place where people spend their holiday?

It’s easy to stay in the Philippines and not as complicated as in Thailand for instance. You can even stay in the Philippines without a visa for u to 24 month, before you would have to leave the country for a day or more, to start your visa extensions again. In Thailand you have to leave the country every 30 days without a visa or every 60 or 90 days with a tourist or Non Immigrant Visa.
Specially when you are married with a Filipina, you can easily apply for a permanent residencewhich will be granted in 99% of the cases.

Life is a beach! With more than 7000 islands, the Philippines have plenty of beaches, where you can spend your day, swimming in a blue lagoon or a waterfall, diving, fishing, sailing plus anything else you can do in the water.

Some people come to the Philippines and want to stay in or at least near a big city, because they want to stay near a hospital, have their children go to school or university or they simply like the fact of easy shopping. But don’t forget that Philippine Cities are dirty, polluted and have a high crime rate. For me, it’s not really fun to stay in any city in the Philippines. I don’t want to stay somewhere surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire and protect my house with hightec alarm-systems and body guards.

The Filipinos are friendly and hospitable. They respect you as a foreigner and don’t want to get rid of you like it is in Thailand sometimes. You should be friendly and respectful to them, too, otherwise you won’t make it in the Philippines for a long term. We had a case in the neighborhood with a nasty foreigner were the Filipinos made a petition and the foreigner had to leave to another village. He was unhappy, angry and shouting to his family and neighbors, which led to the fact that he was anunwanted person.

Cost of living in the Philipines

I’ve been asked at least half a dozen times regarding the cost of living in the Philippines and wanted to wait until I could really take time to give a full response.  Things have finally calmed down here after a big of local and online drama so, let’s take a look at this.   The first thing we have to look at is the definition of ‘living’, whether it be here or anywhere else.  (all prices shown are in USD)

 

Now, if someone here in the Philippines were to ask me, “What is the cost of living in the United States?”, I couldn’t just answer with, “Oh, it’ costs X-amount.”  Do they want to live in New York?  California?  Kansas?  The cost is different between city and rural areas.  And what sort of lifestyle are they looking to live?  Even in California there’s a big budget difference between Beaumont and Beverley Hills, even if you’re just looking at basic food, housing and transportation alone.

 

And so it is with the Philippines.  What island are we talking about?  City life or Province life?  Renting or Owning?  High, mid or lower-income level lifestyle?  Each of these is a factor to consider.  So what I’ll do here is try to give a ‘ball-park’ figure along with some general costs for the basics which need to be adjusted depending on how you live.

GROCERIES / DINING OUT:
Ranges from $160-$225/month

The range depends on a few factors.  How much you dine-out versus cook your own food.  also whether you dine-out at expensive places or low-end locales.  And finally, how many people you are buying food for, are they big eaters?, etc.  The range I give is for two people with a fairly moderate lifestyle..

As a good for-instance to begin with, let’s look at one of the basics.. Food.  With groceries, here you have a couple of options; Supermarkets, ‘Merkados’ (the marketplace) and dining-out.  At the supermarkets, as a general rule I would say don’t expect to automatically save money on your grocery bill.  Groceries here cost about the same, even taking the exchange rate into consideration, with exception to a small list of items.  For instance, most large  grocery stores here such as Alturas rarely carry milk.  You’ll find powdered milk and soy milk, but rarely if ever will you find real cow-milk.  Not manygot milk? dairies here on the islands.

You can still get milk at the larger membership grocery stores, although it will generally be more expensive than what you’re accustomed to.  Along those lines, same for cheese or any other real dairy product.  Artificial cheese, yah, that you can find but real cheese and your best bet is the membership places like S&R Membership Stores.  But don’t expect to find an S&R on the smaller islands, most of those are in the bigger cities.  Meanwhile, canned, corned-beef is very popular here and it’s actually part of my favorite breakfast with rice and eggs.

Same story for good beef.  You can get some beef at the merkado depending on the area you’re in.  But for the most part expect to find mostly chicken, pork and seafood for meats. The good thing is that fish and shrimp are generally cheaper at the merkados, as well as vegetables.  So whether or not you are willing to shop the outdoor marketplaces, which can be less organized and not air-conditioned like the supermarket will affect whether you save on groceries or not.  Other items that I was surprised to find cost more here are items such as chocolate, peanut butter, potatoes and donuts.  In the US you can buy a full 10 pound sack of potatoes for less than $2.  Here I’ve paid as much as $2 for just four medium sized potatoes.  Again, Idaho is a long ways from here so, if it’s being shipped in from a distance expect it will cost more.

And that’s the general rule when it comes to groceries; If it’s imported, it costs more.  One everything tastes better with it sits on a FITA - hmm doesnt rhymeof my favorite crackers back home are RITZ crackers.  Here, an exact duplicate (perhaps even the same manufacturer under a different name?) makes them but here they are called FITA crackers.  It is not ‘like’ a Ritz cracker.. it IS a Ritz cracker, just in a different box.  And much cheaper so, I’m happy.  So the lesson to be learned here is that if you want to save some money on groceries, be open to the local brands rather than buying the ‘imported’ brands you are accustomed to out of habit.

With dining out, depending on where you go it can be cheaper to just eat-out than cook sometimes.  Fast-food here isn’t any better for you than anywhere else, so I don’t recommend that.  Here you will find familiar favorites such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Shakey’s to name just a few.  Jollibee is the McDonald’s counterpart empire here when it comes to fast-food burgers.  Between the two, I always choose Jollibee over McDonald’s only because I simply can’t stand McD’s on any continent.  But that’s just me.  Other people seem to prefer Ronald over the Jollibee, and that keeps the lines somewhat shorter at Jollibee’s for me.  Of the major fast-food franchises I’d say that the best bang-for-your-buck are to be found either at KFC or Chow King.  Each has lunches you can grab for under $3 to hold you over til you get a ‘real’ meal later.  Chow King haschow king - chow pao this snack called a ‘Chow Pao’, patterned somewhat after a Siopao.  Now, a real siopao is much better, in my opinion . I love the real siopao.  It’s a steam-baked, soft bread with meat inside.  Chow King makes their version kinda like a McMuffin with some meat and sauce inside.  It’s not ‘fantastic’ but it’s a decent snack to hold you over while cruising the mall.  You can get one with a drink for about 75 cents.

As for restaurants, if you go to Ayala Mall or any mall comparative to it you will find some nice dining places where you can blow about $10 a plate for dinner, or more if you’re so inclined.  TGIF in the Philippines for instance has some good food, but you’re not going to pay less there, chances are you’ll pay more than you would at a TGIF back in the US.  So don’t assume that everything is cheaper here in the Philippines.  Again, if the products/ingredients have to be imported.. it’s going to be more expensive, not cheaper.

Now, if you’re a bit more adventurous like me and willing to eat at the marketplaces or vendors along the street as you wander about, you can get lunch or dinner for insanely low prices.  Unless you are in a tourist area, at a typical BBQ stand you can get several large pieces of chicken, half a dozen skewers of pork, some hanging rice and a drink for about $3.50.  I’ve had 6 Lumpia, a bowl of chicken/rice porridge, a hard-boiled egg and drink for $1.50 at the marketplace.  There are also other places, such as theLantaw Floating Restaurant Lunch at the Lantaw - Mactan Cordovawhich serves Filipino foods.  Nipa-hut ambiance with a great view of the ocean and yet at some very reasonable prices, about $5.50 a plate.  I went there in January and again last month, I love that place.  It’s located on Mactan in the Cordova area.  Another great place to eat is Manang Fe’s, just down the street from the Grand Mall, also on Mactan.  Fantastic bbq there.  So, between some smart shopping at the grocery store, a bit of shopping at the merkado, a little dining out once in a while and some street-bbq.. I’d say groceries are about the same with no major savings ‘overall’ on a monthly basis.

HOUSING:  Owning versus Renting, City versus Province
Rental Ranges from: $170-$450/month  (up to $850/month for upscale, multi-story home.)

RENTING:  As you’ll notice, the range is kinda wide.  But that’s because when it comes to housing we could be talking about anything from a studio/flat to a multi-story home.  My former studio, which I stayed at my first 9 months as I arrived on Mactan was only $125 a month.  In my case I was living as a single-guy.  The studio was newly constructed and only a few blocks from a nearby mall.  It had a main room which I used as an office, a narrow kitchen, a decent sized bedroom and a fairly large bathroom.  I was very happy there, it met all my needs and was in a secure enough area.   My monthly utility bills for electricity and water totaled about $45 a month.  I used an electric range so, no propane bill.  Bottled water usually runs no more than $5 a month.  Now, for about $250 a month you can get a larger, nicer studio but you’re still looking at a 1-bedroom depending on what city/island you’re looking in.

But let’s say you want a nicer, more upscale condo with at least 2 bedrooms and nice Condo - Cebuamenities than you’re basic studio/flat.  If you Click Here you can see what the local market is going for Condo or large apartment in the Cebu area.  (Prices are in Pesos which you can convert -here-, or simple divide by 41 to get a ball-park figure.)  The range goes anywhere from $600 to $1,100 a month.  This is to rent, not buy.  Many come with on-site swimming pool, laundry facilities, security and wireless so you’re getting a bit more luxury and extras for the money.

Now, I’ll throw this out there but try to take it with a grain of salt.  There are places you can rent in the city for about $65 a month and ‘survive’.  These places are called ‘boarding houses’.  But it’s not a big house where you rent a room and they make breakfast for you in the morning, so get that idea out of your head.  Think more in terms of an 8′ x 16′ room boarding house - cebuwith a door.  We’re not talking about much more than a room with four walls and a closet.  Big enough for a twin bed, one-person and no bathroom.  (the bathroom/shower is shared, down the hall)  If things got weird and you were low on cash you can find such places listed on Cebu-Craigslist: Rooms.  This also might be an alternative if you didn’t plan on being ‘home’ much and doing lots of local island hopping but needed a place to basically just sleep a few nights a week.  Sort of like a back-packing hostel if you will.  Some of them are run cleanly and securely while others the management just really doesn’t care.  They are sometimes in the not-so-desirable parts of town so they aren’t the kind of place you’d want to keep many valuables.  Mostly they are used by locals, often Filipinas, who just need an inexpensive place to stay while working in the city.  Some boarding houses accommodate two people with a bunk-bed.

BUYING:  There’s a minor, on-going debate in the expat-forums as to whether its better to Rent or Own in the Philippines.  Honestly, I think it’s a fruitless debate because both have their pros and cons, depending on the priorities of each individual.

The benefits of buying are that, when purchased through a Filipina wife (foreigners can purchase housing, as in condos, but not the land) is that if/when the time comes that the foreigner husband passes away, the Filipina wife will at the very least have a home to live in that is paid for.  Owning a home in the Philippines is far more affordable than in the US.  Plenty of expats pay off their home either up front or in less than 3 years.  Or they have it custom-built or via a pre-fab design and pay it off by their first year.  Knowing that you can leave your future widow with some sense of security is a good and admirable thing.  So I’m all for that.

The argument against owning is that it comes with the usual; taxes and upkeep.  Some people just don’t want to be tied down to one location.  They want to travel around a bit before putting down some permanent roots.  That’s understandable.  Sometimes things can get out of hand with the locals in the neighborhood or barangay politics to where that area AlonaBeachis no longer a pleasant place to live.  Instead of just finishing out a lease, the house would have to be put up for sale, escrow and that whole song and dance.

The benefits of renting are, as mentioned, mobility.  As in my case, when I visited Bohol I was so impressed I just knew I had to move here.  I happened to be on the last two months of my existing lease for my studio on Mactan so I simply consumed my deposit the last two months and moved my stuff to Bohol.  Here you will usually be asked for 2 months deposit.  However never, ever expect to get your deposit back.  That money was spent by the landlord a long time ago.  So here the usual practice is to simply consume the last two months of the rental rent-free using the credit of the deposit.  That’s just how it’s done here the majority of the time, with exception to perhaps large condo associations.

The downside to renting is that if you are married and you pass away, the rent now becomes the burden of your widow since the place is not owned.  And unless you are leaving her with continuing benefits of some kind to give her income it could leave her and your children with nothing and no place to live.  But if you are a single-man and have an interest to explore around the Philippines, renting is definitely the way to go.

Homes here will be either single-detached or attached homes.  Some of these ‘homes’ are detached home in cebu areamore like what we might call a large, double-story condo as far as the design goes for attached homes.  Often they are referred to as a ‘townhouse‘.   An attached home will range anywhere from $50k to $75k in the Cebu/Mactan area.  Meanwhile a single-detached  home with the same 3 or 4 bedroom, 2 bath would go for around $120k to $220k.  You can browse some of the current homes available in the Cebu area -Here-.

Now, these are for pre-built homes with nice designs ready to go, new and turnkey.  What many expats do is purchase the land via their Filipina wife and have a home built to spec for anywhere from $35k to $70k (or higher if they wish), saving money by simply paying for labor, fees and materials themselves without the costs of a developer bumping up the price.  This involves a bit more patience and at times, anxiety, but it’s cheaper than going with a pre-built home.  You can see a home currently being built by one of our readers here.. Roxas Ron’s New Home in the PH.

Now, keep in mind that these homes are in the City.  Out in the province the price drops substantially for both rentals and buying.  In the province you can find large homes for rent for as little as $350 a month.  Smaller homes for rent for a low as $175.  And then there are some homes which most expats would really be out of their comfort zone, but two in my area go for about $80 a month, but need lots of work.  One of them is a 2-story with 4 bedrooms.  So in the province.. there are some deals.  If you’re looking in a small town on a small island with no ‘big cities’ other than the main part of town, you can get a much better deal on renting an apartment, under $100 a month.  But the trade-off is that you will not be conveniently located near any big malls or hospitals.  If you want to catch a movie at the theater you may have to either cross the island or even take a ferry to the next island.  One island that may catch your interest if you prefer a more rural, province-like atmosphere away from the city is the isle of Guimaras.

Guimaras is located just off the coast of Iloilo and can be reached by ferry throughout the day.  Iloilo has malls and all the usual big-city amenities you may want.  But if you prefer a more tranquil, peaceful province life you may want to consider Guimaras which is right across the bay.  This way you have the city when you want it, the province on a daily basis with a lower cost of living.  Me, I love the province life with all its greenery and tranquility. But one man’s tranquility is another man’s boredom so I can’t say either Bohol or Guimaras is for everybody.  But if you want a slower lifestyle then you ought to at least check out Guimaras, it just might be what you’re looking for.

 

LIFESTYLE

Phones/Internet:  What we’ve looked at so far have been Food and Shelter, the basics.  Around this is built all the other expenses you’ll optionally choose depending on your lifestyle choices.  One line-item almost all of you will want is Internet.  I went more into detail on internet choices in this article, (andalso in this article) but as far as cost you can expect to pay about $19 a month for a wi-fi 4G globe versus sunbroadband adapter (usb dongle).   That comes with a daily cap of 850Mb.  If you happen to go over the cap accidentally you are cut off until midnight that night and then your access is restored automatically.

Another must-have, for most, is a cell phone.  I’ve found that the best deal if you plan to actually use Voice to call people (as opposed to texting) is theGlobe Unlimited plan for about $14 a month.   The plan is the same for standard or smart-phones and includes unlimited texting within Globe network and some credit towards other networks as you build up points.  Now, if you don’t plan on doing voice-calls, which is very common here, and plan to only text other people, then the Unlimited Text plan from Sun network is a better deal at around $9.50 a month.   Most Filipinas are on Sun since it’s cheaper, just so you know.  I’ve tried using Sun’s voice plan and.. it really, really.. really sucks.  So, for voice calls.. Globe, texting.. Sun.

When it comes to buying a phone here.. you won’t have to look far.  Any mall has a phone store practically every 50 feet.  You can get anything from a $19 basic phone to a $200 smart-phone.  Here, you buy your own phone, insert a SIM card (cost: fifty cents, often free with the phone) and then you buy Load to pay for either your minutes or unlimited plan.  When the load is exhausted, you just buy more.  You can either buy it on a plastic card, enter the code and the load is installed or you can buy it from just about any business as they transfer it from their phone directly to yours electronically.  Even a remote sari-sari store often provides load in either format.  One thing about the load-cards.. the instructions are in super-tiny font so, having your reading glasses.  Also, enter the number code slowlyor you’ll likely have to re-enter it all over again.

Transportation:  One great thing about living in the Philippines is that in most cities you can absolutely get by without a vehicle of your own.  No monthly payment.  No insurance.  No maintenance.  No need for a car.  Depending on how far you are going there are several modes of travel to take advantage of.  One is by way of Tricycle.  These are motorcycles with a sidecar.  There are even bicycle versions available for just getting a few blocks from one neighborhood to the other.  A motor-Tricycle, if you ride with other passengers aboard, costs 8 pesos per ‘ride’.  A ‘ride’ is generally 2 miles distance, give or take.  And 8 pesos is only about 17 cents so, for getting around town it’s a great deal.

And then there are the ever-famous Jeepneys.  The key to using the jeepneys is that if you don’t know the area, take the jeepney that is going to a major landmark you are familiar with.  Usually this will be the nearest mall or shopping center.  If by chance you take the jeepneywrong one and end up in unfamiliar territory (as happened to me), just cross the street and take a jeepney going back to where you left from.  Jeepneys also cost about 8 pesos per ride but usually go for distances of about 5 miles, so use those instead of tricycles for longer distances.  A jeepney ride here on Bohol takes me to the beach at Alona from Tagbilaran, a distance of about 20 miles for just 25 pesos, about 55 cents.   It’s something of an experience, an adventure to me, travelling around this way.. personally I find it kinda fun.

Now, if you have a bunch of groceries with you taking a taxi is a better option.  When using taxis here it is good to establish, “With the meter.” to avoid any special pricing that invariably costs more than the metered rate.  Ballpark, the taxis seem to be about 40 pesos per mile, so about a dollar a mile.  I could get from the center of Mactan to Ayala mall in Cebu for about 180 pesos, roughly $3.75.   Another way of getting around are the V-Hire vans.  The same trip from Mactan to Ayala in a V-hire only cost me 35 pesos, roughly 80 cents.

There are also buses available.  For about 120 pesos (about $2.50) I could get from central Cebu to the northern end of the island up in Bogo, perhaps 35 miles away.  And for between islands the ferry from Mactan to Cebu is only 15 pesos, that’s like 35 cents.

So.. all in all getting around without a vehicle is not a problem, lots of choices.  For me, I found that I was spending maybe $30 a month on transportation.  Your amount will vary depending on how much you move around and which mode of transport you like best.

CONCLUSION:

So.. getting back to answering the question, “What does it cost to live in the Philippines?”, I hope you’ll be able to look at the range of main expenses and be able to figure about how much you will need for the particular lifestyle you prefer.  Other items such as nightclubs, island-hopping, scuba diving, tourist attractions and such can be added on top of the basics of food, housing, transportation and communications.  If you’d like to share some of the costs to your particular island feel free to share in the Comments section (below).  Since most of my exposure has been in the Cebu, Mactan & Bohol regions I’ve focused on those.  So any added info you can share on from other islands is much appreciated.  🙂