The Philippines is the 13th most-populated country on Earth. Millions of tourists and expats arrive there each year, hoping to get a glimpse of some unique biodiversity. If it’s beaches, mountains, rainforests or islands you’re after, the Philippines is your spot. Also, it’s a true melting pot. Over 125 individual languages are spoken within Filipino borders.
Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to the Philippines for good, you’ll want to plan your budget. Here’s what you need to know about costs and finances while you’re there.
In general, you’ll find life in the Philippines is pretty affordable. Upon your arrival, you’ll want to exchange money from your home country into the local currency. But be careful - banks and money exchange services rarely offer fair exchange rates. To get the real exchange rate - the same one that you’d see on Google - think about using TransferWise to get your money into the Philippines without hidden fees and unexpected charges. When in doubt, you can always find the exact worth of your money by using an online currency converter before you get to exchanging your cash anyhow.
Money in the Philippines is called the Philippine peso (symbolised by ₱ or by currency code ‘PHP’). For comparison, as of summer 2017, you’ll find the PHP is worth, on average:
|Currency||Philippine peso value|
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|New York City, USA||₱165,000||₱4,000||₱6,100|
Here are the top five most expensive cities to live in in the Philippines:
- Cebu City
- Quezon City
- Davao City
- Cayagan de Oro
|Total living expenses in Manila||Average cost|
|1 person, per month||₱30,000|
|1 person, per year||₱360,000|
|student, per month||₱20,000|
|3 person family, per month||₱80,000|
|3 person family, per year||₱960,000|
|Total living expenses in Cebu City||Average cost|
|1 person, per month||₱25,000|
|1 person, per year||₱300,000|
|student, per month||₱18,000|
|3 person family, per month||₱60,000|
|3 person family, per year||₱720,000|
Quality of life in the Philippines is highly influenced by your income. A salaried job will allow you to live closer to the city centre, resulting in access to amenities and a better commute to work. In many parts of the Philippines, areas outside the city tend to be difficult to navigate and inconvenient. The good news is that, as an expat, you’ll find even the expensive city prices in the Philippines will likely be cheap in comparison to your home country.
Here are the average salaries of some common jobs in the Philippines:
|Salary averages for Manila||Average salary|
|Salary averages for Cebu City||Average salary|
Rent in the Philippines ranges from very cheap to moderate, depending on whether you choose to live with flatmates and how close you are to the waterfront or the city centre. Here’s an average monthly cost of rent in some of the Philippines’ most populated cities:
|Renting in Manila||Average monthly cost|
|student dorm room||₱18,000|
|Renting in Cebu City||Average monthly cost|
|student dorm room||₱16,000|
|Renting in Quezon City||Average monthly cost|
|student dorm room||₱11,000|
What about healthcare and dental costs in the Philippines?
The Philippines has a mixed public-private system to ensure that healthcare isn’t too expensive no matter your economic circumstances. Filipino citizens have free healthcare under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)
Here’s a summary of some estimated healthcare costs:
|Healthcare service||Average cost to you|
|monthly health insurance for 1 person||₱2,500|
|labor and delivery (no insurance)||₱50,000+|
|family doctor check-up (no insurance)||₱500|
|dental cleaning (no insurance)||₱700|
The Philippines has many mountainous and beachy areas. Unlike a European country, cities are spread out and not well-connected by public transportation. That said, in larger cities like Manila, people do take the bus and ride bicycles frequently in order to get around. One highway, the Pan-Philippine Highway, connects several islands and hubs around the country.
Here are some average travel costs for the Philippines:
|Transportation and vehicle prices for the Philippines||Average cost|
|gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||₱38.75|
|monthly bus/transport pass||₱500|
|bus ticket, single use||₱8|
|taxi tariff, 30 minutes||₱75|
|train trip, single ticket cross country||₱45|
|Toyota Corolla, new||₱965,000|
|VW Golf, new||₱1,000,000|
Public schools in the Philippines are government-funded and free to attend. However, most expats send their children to private or international schools, where the quality of education is higher. Due to the large expat population, there are several international schools in the Philippines. International schools tend to incorporate the curriculum of their home country. Fees can range from minimal to quite expensive.
Here are cost estimates for school in the Philippines:
|School in the Philippines||Average Yearly Cost|
|preschool / kindergarten||₱0|
|private school for lower grades||₱30,000 per year|
|Ateneo de Manila University tuition||₱90,000 per semester|
|Ateneo de Naga University tuition||₱50,000 to 70,000 per year|
It will take time to adjust to life in the Philippines, but having a handle on your budget can help you ease the transition. Whatever you choose to do, know that many expats have been in your situation. The resources are there for you, and hopefully this guide has helped you find them.