Cost of Living in the Philippines

Cost of Living in the PhilippinesI’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 the Lantaw 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.


View Larger Map
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, (and also 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 the Globe 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 slowly or 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.  🙂

Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
www.lifebeyondthesea.com


 

64 comments

  1. good article Henry and a lot of thought and research went into it. i think unless your extremely wealthy, the key to living well, rather in America, Europe, Canada, Philippines or wherever, is to keep yourself on a reasonable budget. one can only afford what one can afford. money doesnt buy happiness and most of us can live on a lot less than we could imagine. No heating bills in the Philippines which can make a world of difference from living in a cold climate. Not having to own a vehicle can save you tons of money but if you prefer to live a more isolated rural life than it is a necessity to have transportation available at all times. I have done a lot of research online for houses for rent in many areas. I am focusing on northern mindanao as my retirement destination as I find the cost of renting there is affordable for my budget. your rent could be a lot less in the province but having to have a vehicle of your own could cost you more than being able to use public transportation if living in the city. all things to consider. it appears i will be able to save a lot on the cost of food over what i have been paying here in Missouri USA. Nothing is cheap here anymore. so I am looking forward to that. also sounds like I can save on cell phone and internet cost. thats always good news. I am sure your article will be helpful to many people like me.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. 🙂 Ironically most people want ‘just a number’ but it’s simply not that cut and dry. I’ve seen ebooks titled, “How To Live Like a King in the PH on $300 a Month!”. That’s kinda extreme. But it is cheaper living here. I mean, where in the US could you live comfortably and securely for $150 a month for Rent? But here, that’s available. And in the province, for even less than that.

  2. Hi Henry,

    Great article about the cost of living in the Philippines. You have a great grasp on things here in the Pearl of the Orient that many have not learned after being here for years. That is true and no smoke.

    In Bacolod, the cost of living is lower than many places in the Philippines. Bacolod is a midsize city. There has been a building boom in our area the last several years, so the competition for rentals is fierce. Great for tenants! I am often asked to help expats rent a place to live in Bacolod and with my local contacts, I can help them find what they are looking for. Some recent examples include a brand new townhouse for P7.500 per month, which is less than $200 per month. A fairly new 80 sqm house in a secure gated subdivision for only P5,000 per month and that is just a little more than $100 per month. There are many more examples.

    We have a split type air con, run it about 12 hours everyday and our electric bill is rarely over $100 per month. We also have electronic toys, gadgets and appliances that we use on a regular basis. We are not pinching centavos on our monthly budget, which averages P45,000 per month for a family of 3. A little more than $1,000 per month. We have a 7 year old son. We travel around the province every Sunday in Negros Occidental in our family vehicle and we eat out in nice restaurants a couple times each week, not fast food. I will add that we are debt free and we do not have credit cards or payments of any type. A key to our success.

    I know guys who live in the province of Negros Occidental and they are married with a child or two; their budget is $800-$1,000 per month. I also know guys who are single and they really whoop it up everyday, so their pension in excess of over $2,000 per month is not enough for them to do all they want to do.

    I could post a lot more but essentially, the amount of money it takes to lives in the Philippines depends on Location, Life Style and Financial Management. Location is very important as prices and cost vary widely in the Philippines from island to island.

    Take care and have a great week!

    ~ Gary ~
    http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com

    1. Thanks for sharing the info on Bacolod. It is amazing the deals on housing that can be had here. When I was shopping online for a place before I got here, I kept thinking my conversion math was WAY off! haha! I was like, “$140 a month??.. that can’t be right. $23 a night for a resort room on the beach? Wow!” But yah.

      In fact, last time I spent the night at Alona Beach it was Chinese New Year (I totally forgot it was that weekend) and I didn’t have a reservation. Every place my girl and I checked was totally booked up, the place was sold out. But then, at the Alona Diver’s Resort they had one room left.. an Economy room for only 750 pesos! Yeehaw!, I was good for the weekend on just $17 a night. 🙂

      Meanwhile, a chicken-thigh skewer at Alona goes for 80 pesos. ha! Oh well, win-some, lose-some. 🙂

    2. Hi Mr. Reekey,

      Thank you for this valuable information. I am a 62 year old Black American who is divorced after 25 years of marriage who is looking to retire and find a nice lady. I have talked over the years to several Filipino Ladies and I think I have met one that fits what I am looking for. I have also taken into consideration all the points I should be looking for in dealing with someone I have only met online. Your information has been thoroughly helpful and you have made me do much soul searching and investigating before coming over to the Philippines.

      Just want to say keep up the good work. Wish I could talk to you one on one. You are very adept in what a new person who wants to get involved with a Filipino woman needs to look out for. Thank you.

  3. What about alcohol and tobacco (never mind firearms)? Specifically, how about bar bills? Cost of beer, wine, hard liquor to take home? Local brand beverage prices compared to imported brands? Henry, enquiring minds want to know!

    Also, I’m a smoker. How do cigarette prices compare? Is bulk cigarette tobacco available?

    1. With the smokes, I have no idea since I don’t smoke. But I’ll take a look next time I remember and post here. With the booze, pretty cheap. At the bar a ‘fatty’ Red Horse or San Miguel goes for about 65 pesos, roughly $1.50. But the exact same beer is 350 pesos if you buy it for a bar-girl.. so know that up-front. If I remember right I was paying about $2.75 for a Corona back in CA. And of course getting your beer at the grocery store is cheaper.

      I’ve tried some of the really, really cheap hootch here, some stuff they call Kalufa. Baby, the pirate-girl, mixed it up with some red-energy drink and calls it, ‘Gasoline’. It looks and tastes like gasoline, no kidding. And it’s got a kick to it alright. A flask/bottle goes for about 40 pesos ($1), so this is some gut-twisting booze we’re talking here.

      Meanwhile, White Zin, Merlot and/or Sparkling wines I get for about $3 to $4 a bottle. They have cheaper ones but for wine I kinda already have my narrow tastes, sweet and the smoother the better for me.

    2. A new tobacco and alcohol tax went into effect in 2013 in the Philippines but both are still much cheaper than in most places in the world. In fact, the story is that the WTO complained that tobacco and alcohol in the Philippines was unfairly low compared to all the other countries! So, a new tax law was passed.

      Today’s exchange rate is P43:$1

      I buy beer wholesale right off the Asia Brewery truck but I have to buy 3 cases at a time and pay for the bottles deposit if I don’t have three cases of empties to trade out. I buy Beer na Beer Pale Pilsen for P350 per cases, less than $10. It was P320 per case before the new tax law, so it is still affordable. The other cheaper option is to work out a deal at one of the little sari sari or neighborhood convenience stores for your beer and Tanduay Rhum. Paying cash and buying in volume by the case or cases will get a much lower price per bottle than buying just 6 bottles of beer.

      At SM Supermarket, they sell imported beers and I buy a few of those every now and then just because I enjoy different beer for a change of pace. Budweiser is P70 per bottle and no deposit. Dos Equis XX Beer was on sale at Loupes Mandalagan Supermarket last week for P36 per bottle. Coor is brewed in the Philippines and it is P27-P29 per bottle or can in the supermarkets.

      Bar prices are higher for alcohol, of course. In Bacolod, the music bars and resto bars we go to charge on average P50 for a local beer and some as low as P40. There are many girlie bars in Goldenfield in Bacolod but I never go there, as I am a happily married man and have no business there. Nope, I don’t go there even with single Filipino and expat friends. The price of drinks in those bars are much more expensive, I have been told.

      Locally made cigarettes, such as Philip Morris, BOSS and Fortune, are P35-P40 per pack, so a carton is P350-P400. Imported cigarettes are P60-P80 per pack. I do not smoke but some of my friends do. I have seen brands I had not seen in years, such as Lucky Strikes!

      At the Central Public Market in Bacolod, one can buy bulk smoking and chewing tobacco. You can buy about 5 kilos for P350-P400. It is cheaper to buy in bulk. I have seen the cigarette papers already rolled and some even have a filter already on the end, so you just load it up and light up! I don’t know how much those papers are but they are cheap or many locals could not afford them. I have seen older Filipinas smoking their own rolled cigarettes but they smoke with the fire end inside their mouth! Some of the even older ladies chew tobacco.

      There are several tropical fruit wines made in our province in Victorias City. Sangria, Bignay, Duhat and Mangga. Those are really good, especially bignay wine. The price is about P250 per bottle but can be P300 if you buy at Merci Pasalubong. Shoppers picks sells imported Australian wine for P99 per bottle, so that is the bargain. Laughing Lizard Red is one Australian brand.

      Have a great day!

      ~ Gary ~
      http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com

        1. You are welcome, Henry, and thank you much for the shout out!

          The Shoppers Pick stores are good places to check out. Most everything in there is P99 each but some are less and the bigger ticket items are a little more, around P200, but still awesome deals.You never know what you will find in that store and often some pleasant surprises.

          I bought a bottle of Tapatio Salsa Picante Hot Sauce for P69 in Shoppers Pick, so it was cheaper than P99. I bought a jar of Verakaff instant coffee for P99 and it is a product of Mexico. One has to use 2-3 teaspoons of this coffee to get that Nescafe taste that most Filipinos are accustomed to, if you are going to serve it to them.

          Canned pinto beans (cheaper than P99), David flavored Sunflower Seeds, Tootsie Roll Pops for our son, microwave popcorn, cranberry juice and the wine I mentioned in my previous post are some good items I found at Shoppers Pick. They also have a good selection of vitamins if anyone is interested and at P99, you sure can’t find that in the GNC Stores in the mall!

          Have a great day!

          ~ Gary ~
          http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com

          1. Sounds like a place I need to visit for some cooking ingredients I’d use. Another place for deals on houseware stuff is the UniTop stores. You have to check the quality of some things, but for lots of items (clocks, dishware, cookware, rice cookers, etc.) you can find some deals there that I’ve found are about 30% cheaper than the main malls.

      1. I often buy bulk tobacco, pre-made cigarette tubes and use a nifty little machine to make my own smokes. A six ounce can of premium cigarette tobacco is $24 — most of which is tax to discourage smoking. 11 pounds (5 kilos) of tobacco for less than 10 bucks is still way cheaper than I’ve ever paid here, even as far back as 1970!

        1. There are two reasons why the bulk smoking and chewing tobacco is so cheap in our area. One reason is because there are not any tax stamps on it and because it is grown locally in the Philippines. 5 kilos of chewing tobacco is about the cost of two pouches of Red Man anywhere in the USA and those pouches are very small with actual content of tobacco.I forget exactly since I have not lived there in 13 years but maybe less than 2 ounces! In each pouch.

          ~ Gary ~
          http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com

  4. My two bedroom apartment was unfurnished, and I had to buy my own aircond unit,(a small window type for about 200 us dollars) I live in the out squirts of Tagbliaran city. My rent is 150 per month. The area is nice and secure, close to two malls and five major hospitals.We are happy here but plan to move next year to a small island on the north of Bohol. There I will be able to have a small one acre (retirement ) farm and will hopefully be able to grow most of my food there. The land was very cheap, but you would not expect to ever see other foreigners in a place like this. I know this type of living is not for most expats, as I will be living almost filippino style. But I have looked at the advantages and disadvantages and this is the life I believe I will like better.

    I will build my own small native house to start, but with the saving on food and rent here in the city I will be able to gradually build a nice place for my family.There is a small town on the island, and an urgent care type hospital, but for a real hospital you have to take a short boat ride (ten minutes) to Ubay, and for a first class hospital you have to go all the way to Tagbilaran city which is about two hours by car. For a shopping mall I would also have to go to Tagbilaran so going to the movies for date night would not be an option, but maybe a once a month journey to the mall could be possible as we have many friends in the area to visit. There is great fishing in the area so my passion for sport fishing could be filled everyday. All sea food there from crabs, shrimp oysters scallops and even the fish are less than half of what you could find in the city, but mostly I can catch my own, The way I see it, the money I spend each month here, can go towards building a better little farm for my family, with goat to milk, chickens to eat and lay eggs, even a few pigs for fiesta time and all the fresh veggies and fruits we can eat. Here in the city I have not enough to occupy my time ad for me to go native is my best option.

    1. Sounds like a good plan. As I’ve said before, our bliss is something we take with us to the places we go. Anyone that can find the place where they are happiest is way ahead of the game, and sounds like you know exactly what you want.

  5. Hey Henry, my place in Iloilo which is a 4 bed detached house fully furnished with aircon in the bedrooms is around $300 a month. 10mins from city centre and right on top of market, schools etc. also you never mentioned the cost if you wanted to buy a car. Personally I think cars are ridiculously expensive, I was offered a 15yr old Honda for nearly 200,000php. In uk same car would be 20,000php.

    1. Thanks for the auto price, I haven’t done much auto shopping (yet) but looking to get a multi-cab in a few months. That’s a great deal on the home! And sounds pretty close to town for whatever you need.

  6. Rusty Thomas Jennings – Are you not afraid of the ASWANG?!?!?!? 😀 It sounds like you have a great plan! We’re considering similar, without the actual farming, so we can get there sooner and live off savings until we can get our retirement funds. It will still be years out, but we’re toying with the idea. It’s a matter of how much junk we want to leave behind and how much to ship. Will you get electricity and running water before you move in or will you be roughing it for a while? Are the risks of geographical events higher on the small islands? Flooding is the largest natural risk, I think, so I am hoping to get some land with altitude. Best wishes for your relocation!

    1. Flooding is not an issue everywhere in the Philippines. We have two houses in the Bacolod Area of Negros Occidental, one in the city and one about 43 km south at our farm and we are never bothered with floods. Our area is rarely directly hit with a typhoon because we have Negros Oriental and Cebu on the east of the island, Panay and Guimaras to the west and Palawan above us

      We actually can live a lot cheaper in the province at our farm than in the city but we sacrificed so our son can get a quality education. On the farm, we grow our own vegetables, we have many fruit trees, free range chickens with lots of eggs, we have cows, ducks and goats. We have a piggery to hold 15 pigs but we stopped that venture due to the high cost of hog feed, but still if one kept a pig or two for self consumption, I think it would pan out. We also grow 3.1 hectares of rice, so we have plenty and a lot to sell at harvest time to one rice trader.

      Electric is supplied by a co-op, so it is cheaper in the countryside than in the city. 43 km is near enough to make a day trip to the city for shopping when expat style food products are wanted.

      Bacolod is a mid-size city but it offers many things that foreigners enjoy. I enjoy Mexican food and have no problem buying Old El Paso or Ortega refried beans. My wife grows cilantro and i found that the Philippine brand tortillas, both corn and flour, & taco shells are great! Mega Mexicana is the brand and much cheaper than Old El Paso brand. I am ready for tostadas about now! We use the local lime, calamansi, and my wife grows it in pots. Hot sauce and hot peppers are common in our area. My wife also grows chili peppers from time to time.

      Have a great day!

      ~ Gary McMurrain ~
      http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com

      1. Sounds wonderful. I visited a man’s farm in the province area of Iloilo that sounds similar to what you have and it’s pretty cool. As you said, free range chickens, eggs, animals and the beauty of the province. Pretty awesome, you’re a lucky man.

  7. Thank you Gary! I’ll look over your website later, on a short break at work now. I spent a few days in Bacolod as my home base while chasing around the steam locos on the sugar plantations. I enjoyed my stay and was there for Mascara.

    Can’t eat the animals. They will become my wife’s pets. So any livestock farming will produce negative profits! At least we know up from it will be a failed biz and not put too much into it. Crops for self consumption on the other hand is a great idea, I think. Neither of us is afraid of hard work. Half of us are afraid of sunlight, you know how that goes.

    Another benefit of getting out away from the cities, my number 1 biggest complaint is the constant noise. I didn’t notice it when I was younger. Last visit I had to wear earplugs any time I left the house. It seems worst every time I go there. Maybe I’m more sensitive with age, or maybe it’s getting worst, or maybe it’s less noticeable on the first visit, because you are paying attention to so much other stuff. When I lived there in the 80’s, I lasted 6 months in the city, working on noisy jets all day, loud bars at night, then I bugged out as far as I could get without too long of commute and found a rental in the rice patties at the edge of the mountains. And that’s what I want to get back 😀 I don’t really care if it takes an hour or two to get to the mall, all the better.

    Of course, if I’m the one making the noise, it’s OK LOL

    Thanks again, back to work now…

    1. You are welcome, Jon. The MassKara Festival is now a 21 day event in Bacolod and begins October 1. Every hotel room in the city will be booked, as usually.

      I am at the point that the crowing roosters do not bother me. It is quieter in the province and the house where we live in the city is in a quiet neighborhood. Noise pollution is not a problem.

      A friend of mine from Houston, Texas, did a dry run for about a year concerning actual homesteading in the Philippines and it worked out for him. They even made their own soap and candles! They baked their own bread and pizza, made their own cheese, made their own sausage and were pretty self sufficient. He and his wife put together a sari sari cart, including fresh pork daily, and sent a nephew out with it in their community, so they had a small income daily. They raised their own pigs, raised quail to sell the eggs and they also had chickens. The quail were eaten when time for culling. They returned to Houston to work a few more years and are returning to the Philippines to make a go of it full time by the end of the year. They both get their SSA now, so they have a pension.

      Have a good day!

      ~ Gary ~
      http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com
      allaroundbacolod@wordpress.com

      1. Born and raised in Philippines and left on 1972 and never been back since then. I know Philippines like the back on my head. I have $1250 social security to live to tell the tale and have lost most of my friends. I have hundreds of friends and classmate that I did not get in touch with and some of them belong to powerful families and very influential. I just do not know how to find them and I did or if do find them it will be a home run. I know that $1250 is not much but I am 65 years old and Philippines is in my roots. I am not a Pilipino but my heart is. We left the Philippines during Marcos regime because my dad works for the Manila times and the American embassy told us to leave. That is the past and now in my heart that this place will be my resting place. Please advise if you can do about doing this big move and if you have any idea how to find my friends. Thank you and looking forward to hear from you or anybody that can help me with my transition and yes I speak fluent Tagalog. I know all the places you mention and been there done that. I have social security insurance have to ask if you can use it there and credit cards. Please Help.
        Respectfully yours Joe Baro
        764 Charwood circle
        Henderson, Nevada 89014 USA
        702-913-7078

  8. hello Henry,
    It was really nice article, I enjoyed it and learned a lot of things in Mactan, I’m planning to visit Cebu city to get some classes in Tagalog language for one month. Just wondering, if you recommend any school over there? I’m coming from Chicago, IL and thinking to retired in future in Cebu.
    Thank again
    Khalid

  9. but how much does it cost to party. How much is beer, cocktails. How much do night clubs charge? and how much do the basic teaching jobs pay?

    1. To answer your question about teaching in the Philippines, landing an actual teaching job is very difficult for expats. I was an English teacher in China for 9 years before moving to the Philippines in 2009 and the most I could make per month teaching in one of the Korean owned language schools in the Philippines is P20,000 per month! No thanks. There are some International Schools in large cities but any teacher hired should have a degree in Education and preferably a Masters Degree. However, those jobs do not come open very often from my experience.

      If you have the proper visa, you can gather your own students from the large Korean community or maybe from among the Chinese, Taiwan and Japanese foreign students. You can charge P200 per hour, so if you have a class with 10 students, you can collect P2000 per hour for teaching a class of 10 students.

      Since I am a happily married man since 2003, I don’t go to exotic bars with the non-stop erotic dancing. My wife and love music, so we have gone to a number of bars with live bands. No cover charge but you must order at least one round of drinks or food and other drinks, such as Coca Cola and iced tea. Beer is never more than P60 per bottle unless you order an imported beer and those are usually P150 per bottle. Cocktails start at P100 and can be as much as P175 depending on what you order.Red house wine is P95 per glass and about P1,000 per full bottle.

      I buy beer for home consumption right off the delivery truck in our barangay in Baoclod City. With the empty 24 bottle case, I can buy Asia Brewery’s Beer na Beer for P380 per case. This is a wholesale price. San Miguel Pilsen is P504 per case wholesale if you have an empty case of bottles. Deposit is standard P2 each bottle if no empties to trade in.

      I hope this helps.

      ~ Gary McMurrain ~
      http://www.retiringtothephilippines.com
      allaroundbacolod@wordpress.com

    2. It depends on your idea of ‘partying’. Beers at most places are less than $1 USD. But in the Philippines you can easily end up with an entourage of 8 people all expecting you to foot the bill, even if they are total strangers. If a person plans on hiring a bargirl for an evening of company, depending on the city.. figure about $50-$70 if they feel they can soak your for it. Plus, figure in hotel costs (another $25, unless you get a quickie-hotel dive for a few hours at about $5).. since taking a stranger to your home in a foreign land is simply not a good idea. But in general, a person can go out for a night of dancing and booze for a lot cheaper than in the U.S.

  10. HI HENRY
    well what a great site , and very interesting reading but still got a lot more to read !
    i started by looking at the pig farm you have on utube ! and led me to this great site !
    anyway i am from the UK and like you wanting to move to Cebu area , and by chance also thinking ways of making a living , so ive been looking at farm land around the Consolation area and liloan , and been looking for land between 1.5 hectares to 2.5 prices seem to be about 350 to 700 pessos per sqm ! yes it seem s cheap !
    but how much land would i need for a piggery , and also wanting to build an house , how big was the land in Bohol ?

    i will write more later has its late here !
    but keep up the good work , you are a good man for giving so much of your time to help others ! God Bless you
    regards Len

    what a great site

    1. It depends on what you compare it to. In the US, a small lot will cost a minimum of $90,000. In the PH, a comparable lot can be purchased for less than $8,000. (less than 1/10th the price) In the US, property on the beach will start at over $750,000. In the PH it can be had for less than $30,000 and even less in more rural places. A ‘rip-off’?? Hardly. More like an amazing bargain.

  11. Hi Henry,

    I appreciate your post regarding the cost of living in the Philippines. You have made an extensive research and I couldn’t agree more on your post here.

  12. hello, I am handicap man, wonder if I could make it there, I lost a leg last year
    pretty well wheelchair bond till I lose weight but , would like to try to live my early retirement there,of course with help , I don’t mind living in harder area ,

    1. To be honest.. much of the rural PH is simply not wheelchair friendly. It’s very rare on small islands to come across sidewalk for even a short distance of 20 feet. Your best bet would be a city like Cebu (not Manila). Cebu is big and with malls like SM and Ayala you could enjoy easy wheelchair access to everything. I’d advise having someone who could help you out in person there to find the right housing and work out transportation. Jeepneys, tricycles and motorcycles would not work in your case so you’d be looking at taxis for the most part. The buses here are mostly for city to city, not inter-city travel.

  13. hey henry. just watched your video on learning to ride a scooter in the phils. i’m a few years older
    than you and i did pretty much the same thing… learned to drive a scooter… here in thailand. took
    several years to get used to driving on the LEFT side… expecially difficult turning at corners.

    now i’m a bit bothered by driving on the RIGHT side ever again.

    injoy you videos. just found your site a few days ago. i hope to be able to visit the phils in a few
    months.

    bruce

  14. Love your site, ive visited Cebu 4 times in the last 2 years and cant wait to get back, i love the chaos of Mabolo and Hipodromo, i like the squatter areas and the people there. I would love to move there permanently, but im not sure how to generate an income there. i took a tricycle ride around Tagbiaran too, lovely place.

  15. I just happened to come across with your site. I am a Filipina who’s been wanting to immigrate to a different country. I am just inspired with your article and comments of eagerness to move out of your comfort zones and live to a totally different world. Be it for the cost of living or the excitement of being able to live in a new environment, its just priceless. Its like you were born again. We were the same as you, not just we want to live also in the Phils, but we’re the same for seeking a new way of life some place else. So i wish you all the happiness and best of luck on your new life here in the Phils.

  16. Hi Carl a multicab is a very small utility vehicle just about big enough for 2 foreigners in the front. They have a small engine 1000cc and an open back for carrying goods. Death on wheels is how I look at them as I’ve driven a few and I’ve never felt that safe in one.

  17. I’m looking to stay in Mactan(preferably the east side) for 2 months, but I haven’t been able to find anything near the prices you’ve listed. Do you have any suggestions on where to start looking for places? I don’t require a lot of space(I’ll be living alone). A small studio with a/c and a decent Internet connection is really all I need. Every place I’ve looked at is at least 18,000 pesos a month..or more. I’d appreciate any advice you might have on where to look.

    1. The east side is probably going to be more expensive since that side has all the resorts. Check out the four block radius from the Grand Mall.. that’s where I found my place for 4,000p a month.

      1. Thanks for the heads up. Although it’s a bit pricier, do you know anything about Casablanca Garden Apartments? Btw, I found your site via your Youtube channel. Lots of information…really appreciate your perspective!

  18. Thank you for this informative article, Henry! This will give expats a general idea if and when they decide to settle in the Philippines. As for getting your own car or not, that would depend on the place you’re going to settle in. Places within or near the city has a lot of transportation, so you don’t have to worry. But if you’re going to live in the outskirts, having a car (with insurance) can be handy. Some of my friends who live here have a car so they can enjoy driving around the place whenever they want to.

  19. Hello Henry,
    I really enjoy watching your videos on youtube and reading through your website. Bohol is a great place to be at. I visited there once before. I loved the feel of Bohol. Hey, I have a question that I hope you can answer. What is the name of that apartment complex where you stayed at for 9months in Mactan? You said you paid $125 a month. Sounded like a good deal. I have visited and stayed in the Philippines for a total of 3 months last year. Each time in the Metro Manila area, where my rent for condos were 30k peso 25k pesos, and then managed to get 15k peso on the last condo I rented, but came out to be like 17500 peso with some extra usage charges. I would like to find a much cheaper place to stay at when I come next. 5-10k total would be nice for a month for an apartment/condo. I love Cebu, so Mactan would be a great place to visit again and stay for a while. I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me the name of that newly constructed apartment building that you said you stayed at when you first came to the Philippines that you paid $125 for. I look forward in hearing your response. Good travels man and thanks for sharing all of your Philippine experiences. Take care, Randall.

  20. Just an idea for an article on cost of living. Most individuals who retire in the PH make between 1,000 and 4,000 U.S. a month. I think a good article would be to explore the different standards of living that you could have between a bracket for example 1,000 – 1,250 and then 1,500 – 2,000, —– 2,500 to 3,000 —— 3,500 to 4,000 a month etc. It should include photos of houses/condos in this price range as well as amount of times you can eat out and at what level of restaurants etc. People need to understand what standard of living they are capable of getting for their money. I visited the PH with the purpose of deciding if I could retire there. I traveled to various locations and for me and my wife it would take 4k a month to live comfortable which sounds like a lot but it is half of what I spend now. The PH is a good deal but it is not a give away either.

  21. This is my wish to go to the philippines, and I am looking at Dumaguete as the destination. I’m in my mid 50’s and hope to survive on my social security disability of 1,458 a month better than I will in the USA.

  22. What all has to be done to move over there? I like the idea when I retire next year. I have a pension but not much money. Finding a wife would be nice too.

    1. As a single man, if you can have about $1,200 a month income you will be fine in the PH. And that’s with a little left over from the budget, to be safe. Then it’s just a matter of choosing which island you like best and renting a place for about $250 a month.

  23. What is the home insureance like over there, is it reasonably priced, fair coverage, are there certain damages which are routinely not covered such as damage incurred as a result of a typhoon or earthquake?

    It would be pretty devastating to spend your life savings on your dream home in the Philippines for it to be swept away by a typhoon like Yolanda.

    1. I’ve not looked into it, so I really couldn’t say. I imagine the coverage for a condo would be different than for a single family residence. Most typhoons go to the north end of the PH, not so much in the central or southern ends.

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