What Is The Cost Of Living In The Philippines?

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From the temperate hills and valleys of Baguio, to the thousand islands that flank its emerald coast, the Philippines offers an easy-going way of life yet unmarred by mass tourism. Getting around is very easy, considering English is so widely spoken among the country’s hundred million population. Add to that the cheap cost of living in the Philippines, and you end up with an appealing place to call home.

If you’re asking yourself why the Philippines isn’t as popular as other Southeast Asian destinations, the answer, in my opinion, is two-fold.

One, it is generally more expensive to get to.

Whereas a bus to Cambodia may cost a few dollars from a neighboring border, a plane trip to the Philippines is likely to cost far more. And the trip time is similar to going from New York to Orlando by plane, as well as the hassle of airports, baggage check, etc. versus just showing up, putting your backpack on a bus, and going.

But, once there, the cost of living in the Philippines definitely works in your favor.

Rent is cheaper than Thailand, sometimes up to 50% less. Public transportation is convenient and organized in most parts. And two, I think there is a misconception of crime in the Philippines. It is true that parts of the country are prone to terrorism, especially the South.

Long rice terrace near the Cordillera mountains in the Philippines. The step terraces lead to a small village in the background.
The beautiful rice terraces near the Cordillera mountains of the Philippines. Charming village enclaves lay nearby.

But if you steer clear of General Santos city and the surrounding areas, you should be fine. Simply put, you should take the same precautions as you would back home.

The currency of the Philippines is called the Peso and it currently trades at 1 USD = 46 Peso.

The drawback to the cost of living in the Philippines is the higher fees you’d incur traveling back and forth from the mainland countries like Laos, Vietnam, or Thailand. If this doesn’t bother you, you’ll find living in the Philippines to be an experience second to none. It combines the best of all Southeast Asian countries, at possibly the cheapest housing prices.

Here’s a break down of the cost of living in the Philippines to help you plan for a move or a visit:

Accommodations

This is where living in Philippines really pays off. I’ll compare the rents to Thailand for simplicity’s sake. I will also be using a country average. Depending on where you live in the Philippines, you may see slight variations in these figures.

Crime can be an issue in some neighborhoods, especially when they see a foreigner move in. You’ll need to check the security measures in place before getting into any contract.

A busy street in El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines. Street stalls line the sides of the street and a beautiful limestone cliff looms in the background.
The streets and markets around the Philippines islands are very similar in charm and look to most in Southeast Asia.






The contractual norm for housing is one month’s advance rent and two month’s security deposit. I’ll give you another piece of advice: that security deposit often gets spent by the landlord and not returned, so be sure to take photos of every part of your apartment before moving in.

Hostel dorm — $7-10 / night
Hostel private room (ensuite) — $20 / night (many not listed on Hostel sites)
Mid-range hotel — $50-$100 / night
Top hotels — $100-$250 / night (I found these to be comparatively more expensive)
Luxury resorts — $250+ / night
1 bedroom budget apartment — $200 / month
1 bedroom luxury apartment — $600+ / month
1 bedroom budget apartment (so-so neighborhood) — $100 / month

Accommodations will significantly help you reduce your cost of living in the Philippines. But just remember to pick a place that is safe, as there are many beautiful apartment that lack proper security measures. If you are looking for larger apartments–such as 2 or 3 bedrooms–they’ll cost you $100-$150 more than a single bedroom.

Food & Drink

Alcohol is cheap in the Philippines, although not as cheap as Vietnam. As far as food, Western chains seemed to charge less, on average, than neighboring countries. Local food, however, seemed more expensive. It was easy for me to get a full meal for a dollar in Thailand, but I found myself paying $2-3 in the Philippines for a similar dish.

An assortment of traditional food from the Philippines laid out on a table. These are very cheap. which will drive down your cost of living in the Philippines.
I found the restaurant food to not be too spicy and definitely delicious! But street food didn’t appeal to me as much.

It definitely makes sense buying your own groceries and cooking at home to save money.

Street food — $2-3
Inexpensive restaurant meal — $3-4
McDonalds (or similar) meal — $3
Mid-range restaurant — $10-14
Starbucks Latte — $4-5
Local Boutique Latte — $2-3
Average grocery bill — $120 / month
Average grocery bill — $300 / month (high end)

It’s hard to nail an exact grocery bill, because some foods are much cheaper there, while others more expensive. Either way, your food bill will be very manageable, keeping your cost of living in the Philippines well in check.

Technology

I found technology to be pricier in the Philippines compared to other Southeast Asian countries. This may naturally change over time, but  everything from phone plans to wifi plans seemed more expensive.

Cell phone and defocused laptop of a digital nomad at a cafe in Manila, Philippines.
You will be well-connected, albeit at a slightly higher cost than neighboring countries.

Thankfully, these are usually fixed costs that only need to paid once a month, so they will not significantly affect your monthly budget.

Cell phone (basic surf & message/phone plan) — $10/month
Cell Data plan (5 GB) — $21/month
Cell Data plan (10 GB) — $38/month
International call — $.16/minute
International text — $.05/text
Internet — $40/month (you can get a 3G stick for about half that)
TV Subscription — $6-$34 (basic to max plan)

Even if you pay more for internet in Manila than you’d pay in Bangkok, it may only amount to $10 or so. But if you’re a heavy data or international minute user, you will find yourself with a hefty bill.

Transportation

Philippines has one of the strongest transportation infrastructures in Southeast Asia.  It’s transportation is both reliable and cheap, and taking the local “Jeepney” will keep your cost of living in the Philippines down.

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The Jeepney is a war-era elongated Jeep, which looks like a beefed-up Thai songtaew, and can comfortably fit 15 people (although drivers sometimes try to cram in many more!). I’ve also found the price of gasoline to be similar to its neighbors.

The EDSA Highway in downtown Manila in the Philippines. The picture is at night and the traffic lights are blurred as they speed by. The streets are colorful and full of neon and multi-colored lights.
The metropolises of the Philippines are magnetic and the people very kind.

You can get around by bus, taxi, and in the case of Manila, the light rail (LRT). A variety of smaller options, such as tricycle taxis, do exist, but if you want to get around on the cheap, renting a scooter is the way to go.

I’d be very careful driving around, not just because of the hectic traffic of some cities, but the fact you cannot purchase insurance for your scooter. You’ll have to foot the bill for any damage done.

Gasoline — $.9-$1 / liter
Jeepney —$.15 (higher if over 4 kms distance)
LRT — $.60 average, varies with destination
Express Bus — $1
Scooter — $5/day
Budget Car rental — $21+/day

To clarify the insurance issue, you are insured against third party damage (repairs on the others’ property/vehicles). But you are fully responsible for the damage done on your own vehicle. I would check your rental contract and agree on a maximum liability cap. You may otherwise find your savings depleted as your cost of living in the Philippines sky-rockets due to an accident. What more, it may have been the other driver’s fault.

The famous small island known as Willy's rock near Boracay, Philippines. It is a beautiful small island surrounding by turquoise water.
You’ll find many unique sights like Willy’s Rock, pictured here, near its infamous beaches.

Whatever your mode of transport, I’d advise you steer clear of the entire Southern archipelago, which is home to several dangerous terrorist organizations. Do not let that dissuade you from visiting the Philippines. It is a gorgeous place and, thankfully, the more dangerous areas are localized to the South.

Entertainment

The entertainment scene in the Philippines is fabulous. Fortunately, it has remained somewhat insulated from the mass tourism which hit destinations like Thailand. You’ll find no shortage of things to do there, from water sports to clubbing. The price of domestic beer in the Philippines is nearly half of what it is in Thailand, and many entertainment options, such as movie tickets, are also cheaper. The fact you can go to clubs and speak with locals in English makes it easier to socialize and make new friends.

Cinema ticket — $4
Local Beer — $.9
Import Beer — $2
Club Drinks — $3-5 (more for elite clubs)
Bottle Service — $100+
Jet Ski rental — $40/30 mins

Bottle service is where other places in Southeast Asia really have a leg up over the Philippines. The price of bottle service in places like Manila is expensive–the tab can hit $100 or (much) more.

A girl scuba diving in the beautiful waters of Boracay, Philippines islands. Corals are colorful and the water is very clear.
Water sports and diving are readily available at a decent price. The corals and underwater sea-life are a sight to behold.

In comparison, it isn’t uncommon to get $30-40 bottle service in neighboring Vietnam. The cost of living in the Philippines becomes incrementally more expensive if you’re a recreational sports lover, since the price of these activities is higher than in Thailand.

Other Costs

Random expenses you have to take into account are utilities, clothes, and staple goods. The price of apartment utilities are similar to the west, especially if you use a lot of A/C. If you can make do with only a fan, you’ll save $30-$50 a month on electricity.

Utilities (electric/water) — $120-$150
Chicken breast (1kg) — $3.50
Cigarettes — $1.50
Household helper (live-in) — $150-200

Total

Living in Philippines will place you centrally near many top world destinations and beaches. The drawback is that these paradises–namely those in other countries–require a plane or overloaded ferry to get to. Unless, of course, you only choose to visit beaches in the Philippines. You can’t just hop onto any of the hundred buses, like those found near Khao San Road, and head out to tons of other countries. Do bear in mind that the sex industry in the Philippines is active and in your face. It definitely gives Bangkok a run for its money.

My total breakdown of the cost of living in the Philippines:

Accommodation, modern— $450 (includes utilities)
Food & Drink — $300
Technology — $50 (includes basic internet)
Transportation — $100
Entertainment — $200

Total — $1100

The above budget allows for a comfortable living in the Philippines, without having to skimp on fun. You could realistically cut this budget in half if you’re willing to rough it and live in a questionable neighborhood, and eat mostly street food.

Beautiful mountain and rice terraces near Banaue, Philippines. It is sunset and the sky is colorful, with the rice paddies in the foreground.
The Philippines is mysterious in its beauty. It is an affordable paradise, and feels more secluded than places like Thailand or Cambodia.

The Philippines job market isn’t the best for English teachers, and you certainly won’t make a lot of money there if you choose to teach. It is probably another reason why the expat scene hasn’t caught on like it has in Thailand. The cost of living in the Philippines may be cheap, but it’s job market could use a little improvement. If you work online or remotely, however, you won’t have to worry much. You’ll soon find your days turning to months, and possibly more.

The Philippines and its photo-perfect mountains and beaches won’t disappoint.
 

A few additional resources you may be interested in:

Have you ever lived in the Philippines? What was your cost of living in the Philippines? What prices would you update on this list?

 
 

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12 comments on “What Is The Cost Of Living In The Philippines?

  1. Very nice details. I am planning to move to Quezon City in June. I am hoping that area is cheaper than Manila and I can keep my budget to around $1100. I want to work online and I know you mentioned in one of your comments that you work online. I would love to get more details on what you do.

  2. What is the job market like for college educated? I have a 4-year degree + an M.S. in operations management. I have worked 12 years as a manager in manufacturing, part of that time in the I.T. department and the rest as a supervisor in production. Is the Philippine job market full of opportunity for someone like me?

  3. I am planning on moving to the Phil in about 4 months. I have about 2.5 million peso in today’s exchange rate. I am planning on marrying in country and starting a pig farm on my fiancee’s family’s land (Oriental Mindoro).

    Any advice or tips would be more than welcome.

    Gregg

  4. Comments are very good, the ranges in the Phil’s are much like other countries, what I mean is an American would know it costs way more to live in San Francisco than say Little Rock Arkansas, A Canadian would say much more to live in Vancouver BC than say Regina Saskatchewan
    I have been happily married to a Filipina for 12 years, she is from up north on the coast of Luzon
    life is very safe there and very inexpensive compared to Manila or Boracay or Baguio. I feel the two advantages you have in the Philippines, over other Asian countries, are the language issue, Filipino’s start reading and learning English in 1st grade and although they don’t all speak it well they can usually understand you if you speak slowly and use common words. Also even if you are not a Christian you were probably raised in a country with Christian values and so you will find the cultural values in the Phil’s a little closer to what you were raised with at home. If you are more than 6 feet tall you will find jeepney’s and trike’s a bit uncomfortable but the bus service is comfortable and affordable. I personally find Manila noisy and lots of pollution from so many trikes and cars, so we tend to leave there as quickly as possible, there are many places to see in the Phil’s that are very reasonable and very safe, my only words of caution are, remember there are many poor people and if you leave your stuff un watched they will be tempted to take it and sell it to buy food. In the bigger cities like Manila be careful around the airport, as soon as they see you are a westerner the transportation hustlers will try to get you to ride with them for a price that will end up being ten times the going rate, we always take a metered Taxi, just ask the airport personnel where do I catch the metered Taxi? I hope these comments help and if you visit the Phil’s I hope you have a great time, I have been there at least 20 times now and when I retire will live there for part of the year

  5. Hi there, i am moving to the Philippines in August and will be earning $5500 USD/mth and living in Eastwood City. I have a family of 4 two kids gr 4&5. Will this amount of income be sufficient for that area?

    Cheers,

    MP

    1. Hi Mike, that’s a very good salary for the Philippines. It should get you a nice place with a pool and maid. Just like any other city/country nearby, however, there are places available that are enormously expensive and over-the-top luxurious. But if you opt for a reasonably nice home, you’ll be fine. Schools typically cost 7-10k USD per year (private schools). That kind of income will take you a long way in the Philippines.

  6. I’m moving to the Philippines within a month, afrer one year of preperation, i do believe that the cost of living can be effected by the region you are moving to. And If you go more rural, your expenses will be a lot less than in a city or a touristic area.
    JC from Holland recently posted…Prison in the NetherlandsMy Profile

    1. Rural towns are definitely cheaper, the problem is the wifi in many. I really need strong wifi for my work, and some of the smaller rural areas have spotty connections. Hope you enjoy the move, JC, I’m sure it will be a great experience!

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