The Philippines is a popular retirement destination in South East Asia. But how much does it cost to live a comfortable life in the Philippines?
How much is the cost of living in the Philippines? This is one of the questions I always get asked about the Philippines. In this post, I am going to break down how much it really costs to live in this beautiful country.
As you may probably know, the very thing that makes the Philippines one of the most popular retirement locations in Asia is the affordable living costs here. And this is also one of the reasons why we moved from Puerto Rico/ US to the Philippines.
Yes, you can retire in the Philippines and live a comfortable lifestyle at a fraction of the cost that you would spend back in the US.
I’d like to note, though, that there are many things that are quite more expensive here. However, if you live like the locals and you spend smartly, you can live MORE for a lot less here!
Let’s dive in!
Cost of Living Index (Philippines vs. USA)
If you are going to stay in a specific country for the long term, checking out its cost of living in the Philippines index is a good way to gauge its affordability.
Simply put, the cost of living index allows you to compare the costs of various expenditures, including housing, food, transportation, utility, clothing, entertainment, and healthcare.
According to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index by Country 2022, the Philippines rank 92 out of 138 countries. The cost of living index in the Philippines is 37.06, making it more affordable than Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, and Mexico.
Meanwhile, the USA ranks 27th, making it a significantly expensive country to live in. With the USA’s cost of living index of 70.13, we could see that the living costs in the US are almost twice the cost of living in the Philippines.
What is the Cost of Living in the Philippines?
How much do expat retirees need to live comfortably in the Philippines? Let’s break down the expected living expenses for a single person retiring in the Philippines.
Important note: While the Philippines generally has a low cost of living, the expenses in the city or metropolitan area can be relatively more expensive than living in the provinces.
For reference, we have converted the costs in the Philippines Peso to US dollars ($1 = PHP 50). That is a very conservative rate as, at the time of writing this, 1 USD is around PHP 58.
Let’s start with housing costs as it typically the biggest expense for most Americans. Rental costs can vary wildly, depending on where you want to live. As already said, rental costs in the city center can be more expensive than in the countryside.
Assuming that you are a single person looking for a place to live in the city center (Manila, Makati, BGC).
A one bedroom apartment in the city costs around $341 (PHP 17,050) while the average monthly rent for one bedroom apartment on the outskirts of the city is around $190 (PHP 9,500).
If you wish to live a more lavish lifestyle, you can opt for luxurious apartments and rental homes with modern amenities and facilities plus the best locations. The rates for 3 or more bedroom rental homes or apartments in the heart of Manila could go as far as $2000 per month (PHP 100,000).
If you want to save money on the monthly rental costs, you could opt to live in other beautiful, yet cheaper cities like Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Dumaguete. These cities may be far from the capital, but the housing rental costs are cheaper in these areas.
The Philippines has a reliable transportation system despite the terrible traffic during rush hours. In the city, you can find public transport buses, taxis, and jeepneys as well as ridesharing services like Grab and Uber. You can also take the railway to get to places a lot more quickly.
Transportation costs in the Philippines are pretty cheap. For instance, a one-way bus ticket costs around $0.21 or PHP 10 while the monthly pass for the local bus is around $10.60 or PHP 530.
Taxis are also plenty in any major city in the country. The normal tariff for a taxi start is only around $0.80 or PHP 40 while the normal tariff per one kilometer is only $0.28 or PHP 14.
If you don’t want to take public transport, you can opt to buy your own car, but expect their costs to be more expensive than in the US. You could save money by buying a second-hand car instead.
Living in the countryside can prove to be even more economical in terms of transportation costs. But the downside is that roads are often not paved and traveling may become quite uncomfortable (unless you get used to it).
Grocery and Food Costs
Now let’s get down to how much food costs in the Philippines.
Fortunately, food in the Philippines is still cheap when compared to the US and other western countries. For example, a dozen of eggs in the Philippines is $1.70 (PHP 85) but it’s $2.41 in the US (PHP 120).
Even with a monthly budget of $1000, you can still enjoy good food in the Philippines. Supermarkets in the country have a good range of food products, even items that are imported from the US.
But if you want to save money on food expenses, you must substitute your favorite imported brands with local brands. You’d be surprised that almost anything has a Filipino counterpart in the stores.
Also, supermarket prices tend to be more costly, so try exploring the local daily markets where you can source fresh produce like meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Local markets are maybe crowdy but this is where you can find the best deals on food prices.
If you’ve got dining out figured into your monthly costs, then you’ll find that a lot of restaurants and fast-food chains in the Philippines really affordable.
For instance, you only spend around $3.43 (PHP 171) for a basic meal in an inexpensive restaurant in the Philippines compared to spending $15 (PHP 750) in the US. We also have a counterpart of McDonalds where you can get fried chicken with rice and drinks for only $1.80 ( PHP 103).
A three course meal in a mid range restaurant good for two persons is about $22.87 (PHP 1,100) but you would spend roughly $65 (PHP 3,250) in a mid range inexpensive restaurant in the US.
Wherever you are in the country, you’ll find entertainment options of various kinds to make your stay in the country even more enjoyable. If you’ve always liked seeing new people, you can go to different entertainment and sporting events, watch movies at the cinemas or visit theme parks. All of these are available in bigger cities and metropolitan areas.
Fancy drinking at a bar or a club or watching a movie in your spare time? Chances are you won’t spend as much as you did back in your home country.
So how much does it cost to enjoy leisure activities in the Philippines?
Well, let’s start with social drinking. Drinking half a liter of domestic beer will only cost you around $1.09 (PHP 54.5 ), but it is $2.94 (147) in the US.
If you want to stay fit and healthy, you might consider going to the gym a non-negotiable. Thankfully, the average monthly fee for fitness gyms in the Philippines is only about $36.13 (PHP 1800).
Other leisure activities like going to see an international release movie at a cinema cost around $4.76 (PHP 238). You could also book a tennis court on the weekends for only $5.46(PHP 273) per hour.
Expats are also drawn to retire in the Philippines because of the relatively cheaper healthcare costs. Healthcare is pretty modern and advanced in the country, especially in the city centre and metro areas.
Filipinos are enrolled in Philhealth, a public health insurance program that allows them to avail of hospitalization and treatment for a lower price. SRRV holders and their family members can avail of Philhealth to augment a significant portion of their healthcare costs.
Expats are not enrolled in the program so getting private health insurance is always a good option. Some may think that insurance premiums are somewhat expensive, but for most expats, these premiums are a lot cheaper compared to what they would pay in their home country.
Of course, if you would compare costs of insurance providers, you’d certainly find the most affordable options for you.
With private health insurance, expats can go to a private hospital and avail treatment and procedures without hurting their monthly budget.
Utility Expense in the Philippines
It is also important to figure out the cost of utilities in the Philippines if one wants to live comfortably in the country.
The estimated monthly costs of utilities in the Philippines (water, electricity, heating, cooling) for an 82-meter square apartment is around $107.82 (PHP 5,391) but in the US, you would need to spend around $171 (PHP 8,550).
Now let’s compare cost of the internet between the Philippines and the US. In the Philippines, unlimited data running on 60mbps is about $42.06 (PHP 2,100) while in the US, you would spend around $67.65 (PHP 3,400).
As for communications, the prepaid mobile tariff minute is $0.15 (PHP 7.5). You can also avail of mobile data and there are a couple of service providers to choose from. But to give you an idea, you can easily find mobile data for less than $2 per 1 GB.
Living in the City vs. Province
Overall, the cost of living in the Philippines is lower compared to other countries, making it a highly appealing retirement destination in Southeast Asia. But where you retire exactly can impact tour estimated monthly costs.
If you want to save even more money or live comfortably with a smaller budget, you can opt to settle outside the city center, or better yet, in the province.
Life in the province in the Philippines is cheaper by around 50% than living in the city centre. Life is more peaceful, the breeze is healthier and you’ll always have access to fresh produce.
There are trade-offs, of course. You won’t find a lot of modern amenities in the province, and healthcare might be lacking.
Example of Monthly Budget for Expat Retirees ($1000 a month) For a Single Person
It is very possible to live comfortably in the Philippines for a monthly budget of $1000. In fact, my mom only lives on a $500 budget. This covers her food, utilities, medicines and more.
Here’s a sample monthly budget for your reference:
- Apartment rental – $200-300
- Utilities (water, electricity, internet, prepaid mobile usage) – $100-$200
- Transportation – $100
- Food -$250
- Health insurance premiums – $50
- Luxury and entertainment -$100-$200
As you can see, it is possible to live comfortably in the Philippines as a single person for only $1000. But depending on your location, lifestyle, and personal circumstances (if you live with family or have health issues), you might incur additional costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Philippines good for expats?
Yes, the Philippines is one of the best retirement locations for expats because of its low cost of living, tropical climate and a lot of people speak and understand English.
Is $1000 enough to live in the Philippines?
Yes, $1000 is enough to live comfortably in the Philippines, especially if you are frugal and wise with money. But you may want to bump off the budget by a couple of hundred dollars if you live in a more expensive area (like the city center).
Are things expensive in the Philippines?
Compared to other western countries, things in the Philippines aren’t that expensive. Food, especially if sourced from the local markets, is incredibly cheap (and fresh too). Other things like clothing, transportation, and housing are relatively cheaper in the Philippines.
There are still many things that are more expensive in the Philippines such as electronics, but you can always opt for local brands instead of US brands to pay less.
How much does it cost to live comfortably in the Philippines?
It really depends on your location and lifestyle, but if you are single, a good starting point would be to have an average monthly net salary of $1000. With this money, you could live a decent retired lifestyle in the Philippines, and you might not use all of it if you live in a province where the cost of living is even cheaper.
If you are an expat looking to retire in the Philippines, it’s good to know first what the cost of living looks like in the country. Fortunately, you don’t need much to live comfortably in the Philippines as the expenses here are significantly lower than in other countries.
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