Moving to the Philippines: A Guide for Expats to Live Here

In recent years, many expats have experienced why “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” 

Its gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, and low cost of living have made it a popular choice for expats. The mostly English-speaking population as well as the many opportunities its growing economy has to offer also add to the attraction.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to move to the Philippines.


  1. Cost of Living
  2. Living Standards
  3. Job Opportunities
  4. Language
  5. Medical Care
    1. Finding a Philippine Doctor
    2. Pharmacies 
    3. Health Risks While Traveling in the Philippines
  6. Health Insurance
    1. Public Health Insurance
    2. Private Health Insurance 
  7. Food
  8. Crime and Safety
  9. Visa
  10. Airports
    1. Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)
    2. Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB)
    3. Clark International Airport (CRK)
    4. Iloilo International Airport (ILO)
    5. Davao International Airport (DVO)
    6. Kalibo International Airport (KLO)
  11. Shipping
    1. Prohibited Items
    2. Family Pets
    3. Finding Movers in the Philippines
  12. Accommodation
    1. Type of Home
    2. Renting Property & Lease Terms
  13. Where to Live
    1. Metro Manila
    2. Subic Bay
    3. Tagaytay City
    4. Southern Luzon Provinces 
    5. Boracay Island
    6. Cebu City
    7. Davao City
    8. Palawan Island
  14. Utilities
    1. Electricity 
    2. Water
    3. Internet
    4. Paying Your Bills
  15. Phone and Internet
    1. Mobile Phone
  16. Bank Account
  17. School
    1. International Schools
    2. Local Private Schools
    3. Progressive and Home Schooling Programs
    4. Higher Education/Graduate School 
  18. Taxation
  19. Culture
    1. Religion
    2. Role of Women  
    3. Social Customs in the Philippines
  20. Emergency Numbers to Remember
    1. Emergency Numbers in Cebu City
    2. Emergency Numbers in Davao City
  21. Moving to the Philippines from the USA 
  22. Moving to the Philippines from the UK
  23. Moving to the Philippines from Australia
  24. Best Places to Live in the Philippines
    1. Metro Manila, Cebu City, or Davao City
    2. Dumaguete City
    3. Tagaytay
    4. Subic Bay
    5. Baguio
  25. How to Live in the Country Permanently
    1. Quota or Non-Quota Immigrant Visa
    2. Special Investor's Resident Visa (SIRV)
    3. Retirement Visa
    4. Employment-Based Visas
    5. Marriage to a Filipino Citizen
  26. Essential Reading
  27. Living Your Life in the Philippines
  28. Latest Guides for Expats in the Philippines

Cost of Living

Accommodation (US$600–700) A one-bedroom serviced apartment within Metro Manila can cost around ₱30,000–35,000 (US$600–700), which covers monthly rent, homeowners’ association fees, utilities, and internet connection. 

Food and drink (US$600 to US$1,000) The monthly food and grocery expenses for a family of four can range from around ₱30,000 to ₱50,000 (approximately US$600 to US$1,000) per month. It is still cheaper to make home-cooked meals. 

Eating out (US$350-500) Eating out three times a day for a month can set you back ₱19,000-29,000 (around US$350-500) depending on your choice of restaurants. 

You can buy cheap meals for ₱150-200 (around US$3-4) at small eateries called carinderias. A meal at fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s costs ₱300-400 (around US$6–7), while a meal at high-end restaurants cost ₱850-1,113 (around US$15–20). 

Electricity (US$100 to $200) An average monthly electricity bill for a family of four living in a 3-bedroom apartment or house in Manila is around ₱5,000 to ₱10,000 (US$100 to $200) per month. 

Water (US$11.25) The basic rate for the first 10 cubic meters (m3) of water consumed per month is at ₱36 per m3 (or approximately US$ 0.75), while the succeeding blocks had higher rates. Assuming a family of 4 consumes an average of 20 m3 of water per month, their water bill in Manila would be approximately ₱540 (or US$11.25) before taxes and other fees. 

Internet (US$ 20-100) DSL plans cost around US$20-60 per month, Fiber optic internet plans are around US$ 30-100 per month, and mobile data can start as low as US$1 while postpaid ones are around US$20-60 per month.  

Mobile Phone (US$50-540)  You can purchase mobile phones from official brand stores, authorized retailers, or online platforms. You could find budget-friendly smartphones from local and international brands starting at around US$50 to US$100. Mid-range smartphones typically ranged from US$140 to US$360, while high-end flagship devices could cost upwards of US$540 or more.

Visa (US$250-450) A non-immigrant visa can cost anywhere between US$250 (one-year stay) to US$450 (three-year stay). Prepare to spend around $150 for every additional family member, such as your spouse and children. 

Read more: How Much is The Average Cost Of Living in The Philippines? 

*The currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Peso, and US$1.00 is roughly equivalent to ₱50-₱55. 

Living Standards

The favorable exchange rate from USD to PHP can provide you with increased purchasing power. This can potentially contribute to a higher standard of living in the Philippines.

The relatively lower cost of living in the Philippines compared to many Western countries can also contribute to a potentially higher quality of life. Basic necessities, accommodation, and certain services are more affordable, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle within a reasonable budget.

The Philippines is a developing country. You would see a clear difference between business and living districts even in the Manilla

Healthcare standards in the Philippines can vary, with major cities offering relatively good medical facilities. However, it’s important to note that healthcare in rural areas may not be as advanced. You may need to rely on private healthcare providers and have adequate health insurance coverage for any medical needs. Medications are generally cheaper compared to Western countries, but prices can vary. 

Your personal choices and preferences will play a significant role in determining how far your earnings can go. If you choose to live a more lavish lifestyle, spend on luxury items, or frequent high-end establishments, your expenses will naturally increase.

Job Opportunities

If you already have a new job lined up once you arrive, consider yourself lucky because it is hard to come into the Philippines as a tourist without a job and then have to look for one.  

Foreigners are allowed to work in the Philippines, but the company hiring you must first prove that they can’t hire a Filipino for your position because none of them are qualified enough. If it all works out, you’ll get a 9G work visa. 

We advise that you start looking before you come to the Philippines. This way, you will be hired as an expat — and get expat packages, which are way higher than local salaries.

Expats with teaching qualifications and English proficiency can work as ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in language schools, international schools, or universities.

Some multinational companies operating in the Philippines hire expats for specialized positions or to bring in specific expertise. These positions may be in fields such as finance, engineering, marketing, technology, or management.

Expats with experience in development work, humanitarian aid, or social services may find opportunities in NGOs and international organizations operating in the Philippines. These roles can involve community development, project management, research, or advocacy work.

With the rise of remote work and digital nomadism, some expats choose to work as freelancers or remotely for companies based in other countries. This can include fields like graphic design, writing, programming, digital marketing, or consulting.


Expats won’t have any major issues communicating with Pinoys because most speak and read English fluently. 

Though the official language is Filipino, there are still over 500 dialects in the country with most speaking Tagalog, followed by Cebuano or Bisaya, Ilokano, Ilonggo, and more. 

Read more: A Guide to Learning Tagalog for Beginners 

Medical Care

The Philippines is made up of over 7,600 islands. Though health care services are generally available all over the country, facilities in far-flung provinces are still not up to par with Western standards. 

Despite this, expats can enjoy high-quality and affordable healthcare, especially if they live in or travel to Metro Manila where the medical and healthcare centers (both public and private) are of a higher, world-class standard and are staffed with some of the best doctors in the world.   

The country’s overall healthcare system is managed by the Department of Health (DOH). It runs public hospitals and community clinics nationwide. Private hospitals are also available and usually have better technology and facilities though they charge much more than government hospitals, which are almost free. 

Expats will also find it extremely easy to communicate with medical personnel because of their high level of English speaking skills. Most Philippine doctors are top university graduates with almost a third of them having either studied or practiced in US medical schools and hospitals. 

The nursing and medical technician personnel in the Philippines are also world-class — with the Philippines supplying over half a million nurses to countries like the USA, Canada, and the UK.

Some of the best hospitals in the Philippines are St. Luke’s Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, and Chong Hua Hospital

Finding a Philippine Doctor

It is easy to find a good doctor or a good dentist in the Philippines since there are so many of them. You can ask your employers for referrals, as well as other expats and Pinoy friends. You would need one because it is difficult to get medication without a prescription even if you are a foreigner.  

You can also use The Filipino Doctor, a database of all the doctors in the Philippines that also has an app for easy access. 


There are many pharmacies in the Philippines with chains like Mercury Drug and Watsons as major players. The availability of rare or high-risk medicines is also quite stable with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies very active in the local medical and business scenes.

Health Risks While Traveling in the Philippines

The Philippines is a tropical country, and you might be exposed to diseases and health risks such as dengue, malaria, typhoid, cholera, leptospirosis, rabies, and more especially as you venture further out from the big cities. We highly recommend that you update your and your family’s vaccines before travelling.

Read more

Health Insurance

As an expat in the Philippines, understanding the healthcare landscape and ensuring adequate health insurance coverage is essential for your well-being and peace of mind. The Philippines offers a diverse range of healthcare services, but the quality and accessibility can vary. 

Public Health Insurance

The Philippines has a National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) (PhilHealth) that covers all employees working in the country, including foreigners.  

You and your employer help finance this insurance system as well as contributions from local and national government subsidies. 

You will both equally share the monthly contribution rate of 2.75% of your salary (as from January 2018) to pay into PhilHealth. 

PhilHealth coverage is available to individuals who are residing in the Philippines for at least six months.Foreigners who are holders of the Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR i-Card) are also eligible.

PhilHealth aims to provide access to affordable healthcare services for all registered members, including those who are less privileged or have low incomes. It covers a wide range of medical services, including hospitalization, outpatient care, and preventive healthcare.

However, the system is not perfect. There have been reports of long waiting times, inadequate healthcare facilities, and disparities in the quality of services across different regions.

While the quality of public health insurance in the Philippines has room for improvement, it plays a significant role in providing healthcare coverage and financial protection to a large portion of the population.

Private Health Insurance 

The Philippines is teeming with insurance companies that offer private health packages according to your needs and budget. 

Some of the more popular companies include Allianz Care, Philam Life, and Pacific Cross Insurance.

Most expats may be more accustomed to private health insurance systems in their home countries and prefer to maintain that familiarity when living in the Philippines. Opting for private health insurance can provide them with a sense of peace of mind, knowing they have coverage that aligns with their expectations and prior experiences. 

Also, some private health insurance plans for expats provide coverage not only within the Philippines but also internationally. This feature is particularly advantageous for expats who frequently travel or require medical treatment outside the country.

Read more: An Easy Guide to Expat Health Insurance in the Philippines 


Filipino cuisine is a mix of Spanish, Chinese, Western, and many other international influences tweaked to suit the Filipino palate. So expect a variety of dining options — from fine dining restaurants to local and international fast-food chains to street food serving local, international, and Filipinized international dishes.  

Boodle fight in the Philippines
Boodle fight in the Philippines

Don’t forget to try the Boodle Fight when you are in the Philippines. A boodle fight is a unique and exciting Filipino dining experience that brings people together to enjoy a feast with their hands. It is a popular tradition among military groups and during special occasions or gatherings. During a boodle fight, a variety of traditional Filipino dishes are laid out on banana leaves spread across a long table.

Expect to spend around $150–200 for a month’s food supplies, whether you buy from supermarkets, small neighbourhood stores (called “sari-sari store”) or convenience stores. 

You can also shop at wet markets to buy fresh and cheap produce. In the Philippines, a variety of products can be bought in the smallest of portions, many of which are sold in small packets. You can buy a stick of cigarette from street vendors and sari-sari stores, a sachet of shampoo, or a single egg. 

Food is affordable and accessible, and there is a wide range of foreign cuisines available in the country.  When it comes to convenience, there are several food delivery services that are available in major cities of the Philippines. 

One of the most popular is FoodPanda — riders in the iconic pink logo can be seen in most cities in the Philippines. 

Rice is a staple and is available in all meals, while pork is lovingly prepared in hundreds of ways. Signature Filipino dishes include adobo, a meat dish stewed in vinegar, garlic, pepper and soy sauce, and Lechon, a whole roasted pig stuffed with herbs that prompted the late Anthony Bourdain to declare it as “the best pig ever”.

Lechon is a popular dish in the Philippines. Lechon Kawali is one of many iterations of lechon.

Crime and Safety

Safety can be a concern in certain parts of the Philippines. Some areas may have higher crime rates, and expats are advised to exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially in unfamiliar places. 

While Metro Manila has its share of crime, it is important to note that most residents and visitors do not encounter any major safety issues. Compared to Metro Manila, Cebu City generally has a lower crime rate. Meanwhile down South, Davao City is known for its strict law enforcement and safety measures. The local government places a high emphasis on security, which has contributed to Davao City being perceived as relatively safe compared to other urban areas in the country. 

It’s helpful to research the safety reputation of different cities and neighborhoods before deciding on a location.


If you are from any of the countries whose citizens can visit the Philippines visa-free, you can stay as a tourist — the duration can be anywhere from a week to two months, provided you present an outbound ticket upon entering the country.  

After staying for 60 days, a tourist must apply for an Alien Registration Card (ACR I-Card), valid for one year.

Those who are moving to work must apply for an Alien Employment Permit (AEP), which the employer must handle, including organizing all the necessary documents and forms. To get an AEP, the sponsoring company must show that no local Filipino is qualified to do the job they hired you for.

Those planning to stay longer can apply for a non-immigrant visa, given to foreigners who will study, engage in business, and work in the country. 

You might also want to look into the Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV) that allows expats 35-49 years of age to come and go at any time. However, SRRV has financial requirements where you either make a bank deposit of US$20,000 or US$50,000 if you plan on purchasing an apartment or vehicle in the future.

If you have a Filipino spouse, you can apply for a Section 13A spouse visa, which will allow you to work even without an Alien Employment Permit (AEP).

Read more: A Guide to the Philippines 9A Visa 

        A Guide to the Permanent Resident Visa in the Philippines 


There are 88 airports in the Philippines, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). Of these, 21 are classified as international airports, 21 are classified as principal airports, and 46 are classified as community airports. Some of the most popular airports in the Philippines include:

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)

This is the busiest airport in the Philippines, located in Pasay City, Metro Manila. It serves as the gateway to the Philippines for many international travelers.

Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB)

This is the second busiest airport in the Philippines, located in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. This airport is a major transportation hub for the Visayas region, serving both domestic and international flights.

Clark International Airport (CRK)

This airport is located in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. It serves as a secondary gateway to the Philippines and is a major center for air travel in the Northern Luzon region.

Iloilo International Airport (ILO)

Located in Iloilo City, Iloilo, it serves the Western Visayas region for both domestic and international travels.

Davao International Airport (DVO)

This airport is located in Davao City, Davao del Sur. It is a major gateway for travelers flying to and from the Mindanao region.

Kalibo International Airport (KLO)

Located in Aklan, it is the main airport for tourists visiting the world-famous Boracay island.

Book your flights to the Philippines early especially if you plan to arrive in December when many Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) come home for the holidays. 

Check out the Philippine Travel Associations‘ biannual travel expos in February and August for airlines’ discount flight deals. 

The total flight duration from the US to the Philippines is at least 16 hours for a non-stop flight and around 36 hours for flights with layovers.  

Logo Philippine_Airlines
Philippine Airlines is the country’s flagship carrier

Philippines Airlines, the country’s flagship carrier, operates flights to the Philippines. For those traveling from the US, note that the only airports offering non-stop flights to the Philippines are the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport, and the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 

If you are settling somewhere other than Manila or Cebu, check out Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Airlines, or Air Asia Philippines for domestic flights.   

You can also book a travel agency to arrange a car or van service to pick you up from the airport or use ride-hailing apps such as Grab. 


Bring personal items you can’t live without like mementos, photos, favorite books and toys, as well as computers, laptops and other gadgets. 

Everything else is readily available at affordable prices like clothes, food, home appliances, furnishings, toiletries, and even vehicles. There are lots of car dealerships as well as many second hand vehicles for sale.

You can fly to the Philippines with many of your personal belongings and buy everything else in local shops.

Some items are more expensive in the Philippines such as electronics, vitamins and supplements, luxury goods, baby furniture and accessories ( baby car seats, high chairs, etc.), and books. 

You can get them shipped here from online stores, but it might be worth checking the shipping costs; some items might be more expensive to order online than to buy them in Philippine stores. 

Prohibited Items

The Philippine government does not allow certain items to be brought into the country like firearms, any mechanical devices used in gambling, and illegal narcotics or synthetic drugs.

You can check the Philippines Customs website for a complete list of prohibited items. 

Family Pets

You can also bring certain types of pets, provided you take the necessary steps to get clearances and permissions. 

Remember, though, that the Philippines is a tropical country with a warm climate, so you need to take this into consideration if you’re bringing a cold-weather dog, for example. 

Bringing in certain exotic or endangered animals is also prohibited.

Check out our quick guide to bringing your pets to the Philippines.

Finding Movers in the Philippines

Finding a mover in the Philippines is easy. A quick Google search should give you some leads, but if you need help finding international movers, fill out the form on this page

You can also ask your new employer for recommendations or if you have local friends, or family in the Philippines, ask them for some referrals as well.

Read more: Shipping to the Philippines: Services, Costs, and Customs 


The Philippines has a wide range of accommodations you can choose from based on you or your family’s specific needs and budget. 

You will be limited to renting at first since foreigners are not allowed to own property in the Philippines other than condominiums (pending clearances and other conditions).

Before you leave your home country, we recommend visiting Philippine real estate websites and portals like Asia Property HQ. You can easily filter what properties are available based on location, budget, size, and more, so you get a general idea of available listed properties. 

Type of Home

You might need a house if you are with your spouse and children, but a flat will do if you are flying solo. This can also help you narrow down your search. You could even go for a room rental in someone’s home via Airbnb if you are on a tight budget and want to start small. 

There are many homes for rent or lease in various gated communities found in the major cities with many landlords who cater strictly to the expat market. 

If you move to the Philippines with your family, you might want to rent a house instead of an apartment.

An ongoing nationwide construction boom also bodes well for your hunt for a flat; there are many newly completed apartments in all the major cities for you to choose from. 

Most apartments come fully furnished with essential appliances like a stove, refrigerator, and washing machine. There are laundromats within most neighborhoods that charge $1-2 per load. You may need to purchase electric fans and even an airconditioning unit as the weather can get humid in the summer. 

Most newly built condominiums have a fitness center and a pool. If you’re renting in the outskirts of Metro Manila, rates for the same type of accommodation may cost around $100-200 or even less. 

Renting Property & Lease Terms

Many employers arrange all accommodations and rentals for their expat employees. 

Filipino landlords prefer long term leases — two years or more — so companies usually rent a property for five years, for example, and just assign it to their expat staff and get rental payment via salary deductions. 

If you will be arranging for your own housing, there are some accommodations available for a minimum of one year and are often renewable. 

The standard payment terms are two months’ security deposit and one month’s advance. Higher-end apartment owners — and property owners who agree to a minimum one year lease period — require one year’s rent in advance in the form of post-dated checks. 

Before you sign any lease contract, though, get a real estate lawyer to check the documents or ask your company’s human resources department to help you validate the agreement. Most lawyers offer this service and will only charge minimum rates.  

If you prefer shorter term accommodations, expect to pay a bit higher than regular rentals (if computing per-day rent) especially in major cities. Options include Airbnb rentals, hotels, and serviced apartments. 

There are many condo-hotels/serviced apartments in Metro Manila and Cebu — from major global players like the Marriot & Ascott chains down to cheaper micro-apartments/hostels. In the rural areas and provinces, many of the beach resorts, bed and breakfasts, and traveller inns will gladly accept long term guests as well.

Read more: An Expat’s Guide to Buying a Condominium in the Philippines 

Where to Live

The country’s landscape shifts from extremely rural to highly urban: the mega-metropolis that is Metro Manila and to a smaller scale, Cebu and Davao, the main cities in the central and southern parts of the country.  

If you are moving for work, chances are that your employers have already arranged your housing. Most expats in the Philippines are assigned or prefer to live in the National Capital Region, specifically in the two central financial and business districts: Makati City and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Here are some of the areas you can consider to make your new home.

Do you want to settle in a rural area, an off the beaten track location, somewhere near the ocean, or smack in the middle of a bustling city? 

Consider which region you are planning to settle in based on its proximity to your new job, to friends and family, to public transport, and nearby services and amenities (like shopping centers, schools and hospitals). 

high rise in makati
High-rise buildings along Makati in Metro Manila

Metro Manila

The majority of expats in the Philippines live in Metro Manila, the country’s capital and largest city. Metro Manila is home to a wide range of expat communities, from retirees to business professionals. 

The city is also a major center for education, healthcare, and entertainment, making it a popular choice for expats of all ages.

Metro Manila is also home to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and is where many multinational companies are headquartered. The metropolis has a well-developed property market, but it is also extremely congested. 

Unfortunately, in big cities within Metro Manila, poverty is prevalent and part and parcel of the local reality. You’ll have to deal with bad traffic jams, and the  crime rate is quite high. You’ll also have to contend with air pollution and, during the monsoon season, flooding in certain areas. 

Subic Bay

Subic Bay is a former US Naval base that is now a thriving economic zone and tourist destination in the Philippines. It is located about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila and is home to a diverse population of Filipinos, expats, and tourists.

The area has a large expat community, which can be helpful for newcomers who are looking for support and social connections. There are various expat groups and organizations that regularly organize events and activities.

However, Subic may not be ideal for expats who require easy access to international schools or specialized healthcare facilities. While there are some schools and medical facilities in Subic, expats may need to travel to nearby cities for more comprehensive services.

Additionally, some expats may find that Subic lacks the cultural and entertainment options that they are looking for, particularly in terms of nightlife and shopping.

Tagaytay City

One of the main advantages of living in Tagaytay City is its proximity to Manila, which is less than two hours away by car. This makes it convenient for expats who need to travel to the capital for work, leisure, or medical reasons.

Tagaytay City also has a range of amenities that cater to the needs of expats, including international schools, shopping malls, and healthcare facilities. 

The cost of living in Tagaytay City is generally lower than in Manila, although some amenities and services may be more expensive due to the city’s tourism industry.

However, while Tagaytay City has a range of dining options, expats who crave international cuisine may find the selection to be limited.

Also, if you require easy access to beaches or a bustling urban environment, Tagaytay City may not be the place for you. The city is situated on a ridge, so while it offers stunning views of Taal Lake and the surrounding countryside, it does not have direct access to the sea. 

Southern Luzon Provinces 

The Southern provinces of Luzon (also referred to as CALABARZON which stands for Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), specifically Laguna and Cavite, are also popular with expats because they’re relatively safer compared to Metro Manila and because of their proximity to Metro Manila. 

Laguna and Cavite are only roughly 1–2 hours’ drive away from Metro Manila, thanks to an extensive freeway system. Housing options include gated communities, mid-rise condominiums, and rural properties available for all budgets. 

There are many restaurants, hotels, and golf resorts, mountain ranges, lakes, and resorts in these provinces. 

Boracay Island

Boracay is a small island located in the central Philippines, specifically in the Western Visayas region. The island is only 7 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide at its narrowest point.

The island’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and there are many resorts, hotels, restaurants, and bars that cater to tourists. The island has a vibrant nightlife scene, and there are many activities for visitors to enjoy, such as snorkeling, diving, and island hopping.

If you enjoy the beach lifestyle and want to live in a small, close-knit community, then Boracay may be a good option for you. However, it is worth noting that the island can be quite crowded and busy during peak tourist season, which may not be to everyone’s liking.

Cebu City

Next to Manila, Cebu City is the second most popular choice for most expats, especially if you’re looking for opportunities to work or start a business. Cebu City is located in the central region and also home to a large expat community, so you will have the opportunity to meet and socialize with people from different parts of the world. 

Accommodation, food, and transportation are generally affordable, which means that you can stretch your budget further while still enjoying a good quality of life.

However, just like any city, Cebu City has its challenges. Traffic can be heavy and chaotic, particularly during rush hour, and air pollution can be a problem in some areas.

Davao City

Davao City is the largest city in Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island. Compared to other cities in the Philippines, such as Metro Manila and Cebu City, Davao City is relatively affordable. 

The city is rarely affected by typhoons, making it a relatively safe place to live. 

Being the home city of former President Duterte, Davao City is generally considered a safe place to live, with low crime rates compared to other cities in the Philippines. The city has a strict anti-smoking ordinance, and a curfew is in place for minors to ensure their safety.

Palawan Island

Palawan Island is an excellent choice for expats who appreciate nature, adventure, and a relaxed way of life. The island is a beautiful and serene tropical paradise located in the western part of the Philippines. It is known for its crystal-clear waters, breathtaking beaches, stunning limestone cliffs, and lush forests, making it an ideal location for expats seeking a peaceful and nature-filled lifestyle.

Palawan Island is a popular destination among tourists, but it also has a growing expat community. There are several international schools, hospitals, and amenities available for expats to enjoy. 

Palawan is also home to The Earth School developed by UNEP and Ted-Ed. 

Whichever location you choose, make sure it is in a secure and crime-free area. 

Read more: Best Places to Live in The Philippines For Expats


Your main bills will cover the following utilities and services: electricity, water, internet, and your mobile phone plans.

Sadly, these companies are practically monopolies, so prices are a bit higher as compared to other Asian countries.  The quality of service has improved steadily over the last two decades though they are still not 100% consistent. 

Once you have secured property to live in, you have to discuss with your landlord how the bills will be handled. 

In the Philippines, most utility accounts are in the name of the landowner to prevent red tape and the often arduous process of changing the account name over to you, the tenant. 

What often happens is that you will get the physical bills and be responsible for paying for it monthly, even though it is not in your name.  

Remember to check with your landlord regarding the current status of all the bill payments before signing any contracts. 


Electricity in Metro Manila and most of Luzon is provided by Meralco, while Veco supplies power to Cebu and most of the Visayas region. 


Water in Metro Manila is supplied either by Maynilad Water Services, Inc. or Manila Water Company. Manila Water Company also supplies water to most of the country renamed as Cebu Water Company and Laguna Water Company. 

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which oversees the water supply in Metro Manila, implemented a volumetric billing system based on the amount of water consumed by households.


There are five internet service providers (ISP) in the Philippines that offer a wide array of packages to match your budget and bandwidth usage. These ISPs are Converge ICT, Globe, SKYCable, and PLDT .

Paying Your Bills

There are various ways to pay your utility bills in the Philippines. You can physically make your payments in their offices, numerous remittance payment centers around town, in convenience stores, as well as online using your credit card, or via online banking.

Phone and Internet

Internet connection prices in the Philippines start at a low of $10 a month to a high of $600 a month. There are five internet service providers (ISP) in the Philippines that offer a wide array of packages to match your budget and bandwidth usage. These ISPs are Converge ICT, Globe, SKYCable, and PLDT .

Mobile Phone

There are only two mobile phone providers in the Philippines, namely Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, and you can easily get an account under your name and one not tied to your work or landlord. Both offer a dizzying range of pre-paid (top-up credit) or post-paid (fixed monthly rate) plans for your mobile wifi and phone needs.  

Globe and Smart are in constant competition with each other to get the lion’s share of Philippine mobile users that they sometimes give phones and credits away amongst so many other freebies. This is why it pays to monitor special deals to maximize your savings. 

Bank Account

If you are moving to the Philippines for work or to retire, you will need to open a bank account to receive your salary, pensions, dividends as well as help you facilitate paying for all your bills, utilities, and send money from home.  

There is a thriving banking system in the Philippines. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or Central Bank, regulates the entire industry made up of international and local universal, commercial, rural, cooperative, and thrift banks.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is the Central Bank in the Philippines

Most will allow foreigners to open savings and checking accounts in either Philippine pesos or US dollars. 

You can also get both debit and credit cards from your local bank, which are widely used in major urban cities. But always have cash handy when you travel into more rural areas due to technological limitations (limited phone lines and internet connections).

The four biggest Philippine banks are Banco de Oro, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Landbank, and MetroBank.  

There are also several international banks in the country including ANZ, Bank of America, Citibank, Deutsche Bank AG, ING Bank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). 

Read more: How to Open a Bank Account in the Philippines 


If you are moving with your children, you are going to have to think of where they will continue their education. 

Philippine culture places great importance in education. There are many schools you can choose from but to make this daunting task easier, you need to decide where your preferences lie. 

The school should be in a safe and accessible neighborhood, preferably near where you live or work. What qualities are you looking for in a school? What is your preferred model of education for your kids?

International Schools

International schools are perfect for children who have moved from different countries. Though it can be costly if not subsidized by your employer, the curriculum is globally recognized, and your child will be exposed to children from different nationalities and religions. 

Popular international schools include International School Manila and the British School Manila.

Local Private Schools

Some expats enrol their kids in local private schools to expose them to the Philippine way of life and culture.

The curriculum is mandated by the Department of Education, matching global standards with many middle class as well as affluent Filipino high school students moving on to study university abroad in the USA or Europe. 

Most private schools are Catholic-oriented and are not co-ed, though. Popular Metro Manila schools include De La Salle Greenhills and Assumption College

Progressive and Home Schooling Programs

Interest in progressive Schools — or schools that follow Montessori, Waldorf, and other non-traditional methods — have grown in recent years in the Philippines. Home schooling is also extremely popular, with many parents committing themselves to teaching their children full time.  

Higher Education/Graduate School 

If you don’t have any children with you but are interested in further studies, the Philippines have some of the best universities in Asia and the world. 

Popular universities include the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and University of Santo Tomas.

The Asian Institute of Management is also headquartered in Makati City. This international management school and research institution attracts foreign masters students from all over the world to take advantage of one of the best business schools in Asia.

If you are more artistically inclined, there is the UP College of Music in Quezon City as well as the one of the world’s top filmmaking schools, The International Academy of Film and Television in Cebu City.


As a foreign resident working in the Philippines, you are required to pay taxes on your net taxable income.

This is because most foreigners working are also classified as resident aliens due to their prolonged stay and employment period, so their taxes are the same as those of Filipino nationals. 

The rates range from a low of 5% to a high of 32% depending on your income, with the employer deducting the taxes at the source, so you don’t have to go to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the country’s governing tax body, monthly. 

Here is the latest Philippine income tax table:

Monthly Salary BracketTax RateAmount 
Php 0 – Php 10,0005%0.00
Php 10,001 – Php 30,00010%500.00
Php 30,001 – Php 70,00015%2,500.00
Php 70,001 – Php 140,00020%8,500.00
Php 140,001 – Php 250,00025%22,500.00
Php 250,001 – Php 500,00030%50,000.00
> Php 500,00132%125,000.00

You can check the Bureau of Internal Revenue website for the up-to-date tax rates. 

There is also a 12% Value-added tax (VAT) on almost all goods you purchase except for agricultural food products like vegetables, which are exempted.


The Philippines has often been described as a Chinese, Southeast Asian child that was raised for 300 years in a Spanish convent and then 50 years in Hollywood. This phrase pretty much sums up the cultural influences still found in the population today. 

partying Filipinos
Filipinos are friendly. They also love to have a party.

It makes for an interesting mix of ideas which you’ll definitely enjoy experiencing during your stay in the Philippines.  


The Philippines holds the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia that is predominantly Roman Catholic. 

This is because Spain colonized them for a long time. Over 80% of its almost 110 million population is Roman Catholic, while the remaining 20% is broken down as follow: 10% Protestant, 6% Islam, and the remaining 4% split between Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and traditional tribal religions. 

Role of Women  

The Philippines has been accused of having a machismo, misogynistic society and in some pockets of the country, this still holds true. However, it is predominantly a matriarchal society, where the woman and the mother are highly respected — and sometimes makes all the decisions — within the family unit. 

Women have the same political and social rights as men, with many holding public offices and the top positions in various business and industrial sectors. In fact, the first female head of state in Southeast Asia was Corazon Aquino who was elected in 1986, making her second overall in Asia after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India. 

Social Customs in the Philippines

Filipinos are extremely warm and friendly. They are easy-going to a fault and most expats have an easy time befriending locals who enjoy hanging out with foreigners to share experiences, food, and to learn about their countries of origin. 

Socializing revolves around food and celebrations since Pinoys love to party as well! Fiestas or patron saint feast day celebrations are happening all over the country every single day. 

Filipinos are friendly. They also love to have a party.

Don’t be surprised to find yourself in a seemingly never-ending series of gender reveal, christening, weddings, kiddie birthday parties, confirmations, graduations, promotions, retirements, separations, anniversaries, school reunions (even if you didn’t study there!) and even funerals and cremation celebrations.  

Pinoys usually give a free pass to expats who might not be familiar or aware of certain words or gestures that can seem insulting or offensive. They’ll happily teach you what you are allowed or not allowed to say, act, or do. 

But like in most of Asia, saving face is deeply ingrained in the Filipino psyche.

They don’t take too well when corrected in front of others as well as being exposed to public displays of anger and disappointment.

Filipinos either will stay quiet or may laugh, crack a joke and expertly change the topic to avoid further embarrassment. 

To find other expats, join the many groups and clubs, as well as  work or at schools.

Emergency Numbers to Remember

When planning to move to the Philippines, it’s important for you to be aware of emergency numbers in case you need assistance or support. The emergency numbers in the Philippines may vary slightly by region, but here are some important ones to remember if you will be based in Metro Manila:

Emergency Numbers in Cebu City

Here are some key emergency numbers specific to Cebu City:

Emergency Numbers in Davao City

Here is a list of important emergency numbers to remember when you move to Davao City:

Moving to the Philippines from the USA 

Nearly 300,000 American expats have found their way to the Philippines, each with their own unique reasons for making the move. One thing that many of them share, though, is the allure of an affordable way of life, the chance to retire early, and the wonderful connections they’ve formed with Filipinas in various roles like girlfriends, live-in partners, wives, caregivers, employees, and more. You’ll often come across stories of retired US Marines, happily married to Filipinas, as a testament to the warm bonds forged in this beautiful country.

Many Americans in the Philippines rely on their US military pensions to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. With the cost of living in the Philippines being only a fraction of what it is in the US, it makes perfect sense to plan and save for your retirement in the US and then make the move to the Philippines when you’re ready to enjoy your retirement years.

Among the challenges faced by American expats in the Philippines, one common concern is the heavy traffic in Metro Manila, which can sometimes last from 7 AM to 9 PM on weekdays and Saturdays. To tackle this issue, some have found success in planning their travels between 10 AM and 2 PM when possible. Retired expats who don’t have to commute to work are in a more fortunate position. However, for those who do work in this bustling area, many expats recommend considering renting a condo or apartment near their workplace. This traffic congestion arises from a shortage of roads and the high population density in the area.

The majority of American expats choose to make their homes in Metro Manila, Olongapo, and Subic Bay in Zambales, as well as Clark Field in Angeles City. Subic Bay, having a rich history as a former US naval base, has long been a magnet for American expats in the Philippines. Thanks to the welcoming and accustomed locals, expats can feel comfortable without worrying about standing out. The same welcoming atmosphere can be found in Clark Field, where significant US military bases were once located.

Since you have a US passport, you are permitted to enjoy a 30-day stay in the Philippines without the need for a visa. Nevertheless, if you desire to extend your stay beyond this duration, you have the option to request a visa extension through the Bureau of Immigration.

Relocating from the US to the Philippines involves the substantial task of transporting your household possessions and personal items. Nonetheless, with proper planning and preparation, this process can be relatively seamless. Some of the most widely-used moving companies in the US that can help you relocate to the Philippines are:

One of the key choices to make is whether to transport your belongings by air or sea cargo. Air freight is usually faster but comes with a higher price tag, making it ideal for time-critical, high-value items. Meanwhile, ocean freight is slower but more budget-friendly, particularly for sizable shipments, making it the preferred choice for sending larger quantities of goods simultaneously.

The quickest way to ship items is through air freight, which typically requires about 3-5 days for delivery. Moving companies can organize departures from prominent US airports, with some able to guarantee a delivery time to the Philippines of not more than 5 days.

A quick note: the precise duration for shipping from the US to the Philippines hinges on the time needed for customs clearance within the Philippines. Typically, for ocean shipments destined for the Philippines, the standard timeline for customs clearance and delivery would be approximately one week.

Relocating to the Philippines typically incurs expenses ranging from US$7,200 to US$24,000. The specific cost is dependent upon the quantity of items you’re transporting and the urgency of their arrival.

Shipping items from the US to the Philippines takes approximately 4-6 weeks for a private container via sea, with the actual time varying depending on the specific port location. If you opt for a shared container for your household items, the transit period extends to roughly 8-10 weeks.

If you are receiving a pension in USD, living in the Philippines will be significantly more convenient. Ignore online advice claiming that your expenses there will match those back in your home country. If you approach it wisely, you can substantially enhance your quality of life for a fraction of the expenses you’d incur back home. For instance, renting a residence costs ₱25,000 (around US$442), which is comparable to a house that would set you back around US$4,000 monthly in California.

Moving to the Philippines from the UK

While the numbers may not match those in Spain, Australia or Thailand, it’s worth noting that the Philippines still has a notable British community. There are around 10,000 British expats living in the Philippines.

Most British expats choose to live in major cities such as Metro Manila or Cebu City, while some settle near the beach such as Bantayan Island in Cebu or in places like Naga City in Bicol.

A couple receiving a UK State Pension of £18,000 annually can afford a comfortable lifestyle in the Philippines. But it’s important to note that they won’t receive regular cost-of-living adjustments, especially if they choose to reside on one of the serene, far-flung paradise islands such as Palawan or Boracay with picturesque white sandy shores and pristine tropical waters.

Many retired UK expats find the Philippines to be a welcoming haven, where the warmth is especially soothing for their achy joints. They enjoy being in the open air rather than cooped up indoors. The sea’s inviting temperature makes it ideal for a leisurely swim, and their gardens flourish all year round.

A heartwarming tip for expats who are married to Filipinos or Filipinas is to think about splitting their time between both beautiful countries. In the case of someone from the UK, it can be advantageous to keep a home there, especially for the access to free healthcare and education, and the enticing job opportunities with great wages and working conditions, made even better by the favorable exchange rate. On the flip side, the Philippines is a perfect place for relaxation, personal fulfillment, and enjoying a wide range of goods and services.

However, life in the Philippines isn’t always a walk in the park. For instance, when younger expats from different parts of the world come to the Philippines and immerse themselves in the local culture, like seeking employment in the country, they quickly realize the significant hurdles caused by government corruption. These widespread issues can harm the nation, sometimes leading these newcomers to make a quick choice to leave.

Nonetheless, once you’ve made the exciting decision to permanently relocate from the UK to The Philippines, there are some important steps you’ll want to take to make the transition official and hassle-free:

1. Share your new address in the Philippines with your local council in the UK.

2. Decide whether to stop or arrange for state benefits to be paid to you in the Philippines.

3. Have a chat with the International Pension Centre to understand how to claim or receive your state pension.

4. Notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about your move and simplify your tax matters by filing a Form P85. Additionally, if you’ve had a recent employer in the UK, remember to file a P45.

5. When you apply for your Philippines visa, be sure to obtain an ACR i-Card. This card serves as your identification for smooth passage through immigration controls.

6. If you plan to work in The Philippines, you’ll also need to secure an Alien Employment Permit (AEP).

Both the ACR i-Card and AEP can be obtained through The Philippines consulate and embassy in the UK.

Here is a list of the most popular moving companies servicing the Philippines from the UK:

Using either individual shipments or grouped consignments typically results in an average delivery time of about 6 to 7 weeks. If your delivery isn’t going to a mainland province, it might take a bit longer. Keep in mind, though, that these times can change based on shipment quantities, potential customs or immigration hold-ups, and the current weather conditions. When you opt for a private container, you can usually expect it to take approximately 5 to 6 weeks for the goods to reach your doorstep.

You can bring your used household items and personal belongings into the country without paying duties, as long as you have the right visa and secure a tax exemption from the Department of Finance within 90 days after your items arrive. 

If you’re a returning resident who has been away for more than 6 months, you’ll also need to get the same exemption, but there might be some duty charges on items beyond your personal exemption of ₱10,000. Just remember, all your shipments should arrive within 60 days of your own arrival.

Moving to the Philippines from Australia

The cost of living in the Philippines is quite affordable when compared to Australia. Australian expats who choose to live in the rural parts of the Philippines can look forward to a relaxed and welcoming ambiance. The consistently warm climate means there’s no need for blankets, heavy clothing, or home heating, making life even more comfortable.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing. When you step out of the gated communities, you might notice a lot of litter strewn around the streets. It’s regrettable that some members of the Filipino population seem to show little concern for keeping their neighborhoods and urban areas clean.

For many Australians, places like Dumaguete, Angeles City, Iloilo, and major cities like Manila feel like a second home.

Australia has established a visa-waiver arrangement with the Philippines, allowing Aussies the opportunity to explore the country for an initial period of 59 days upon entry without the requirement of obtaining a work visa. 

For those contemplating a visit prior to a potential relocation, it is advisable to consider traveling as a tourist, as no visa is necessary for stays lasting less than 30 days. Should you plan an extended visit exceeding the 30-day limit, it is recommended to apply for a 9A visa through the Philippine consulate located in Australia.

If you’re looking to work in the country, the usual route is to go for a 9G visa, which is tailor-made for foreign workers like you. It’s best to kick off this process before your arrival, especially if you’ve already landed a job with a Philippine company before making the move. Typically, it takes about five weeks for the visa to get processed, and it’s a good idea to handle it with careful planning, making sure your documents are properly attested and certified while you’re still in Australia. Many times, your future employer will step in to provide helpful guidance about what documents you need and when they’re due.

When you’re ready to move, most seasoned Aussie expats suggest avoiding shipping items to the Philippines that you’ve personally packed, as Customs tends to subject them to thorough inspection upon arrival. It’s a better idea to have your moving company handle the packing to ensure a smoother clearance process with fewer complications.

When you’re shipping your household belongings to the Philippines via sea freight, you can expect it to usually take around 5 to 7 working days if you opt for a Full Container Load (FCL) service. 

However, if you choose services like Less than Container Load (LCL)or shared container services (groupage), the delivery time will be extended because your items will need to be grouped with other shipments heading to the same destination. It’s a good idea to have a chat with your removal consultant about these choices and their associated shipping times, as they can vary significantly depending on your specific destination, especially when compared to the quicker FCL service.

When it comes to hiring movers for your move from Australia to the Philippines, you can expect the expenses to range from approximately AU$800 to AU$7,700. Some of the more popular moving companies that can ship from Australia to the Philippines include:

Best Places to Live in the Philippines

There are several opinions on this topic. There is no one right answer as this entirely depends on what your preferences are. The below places have a significant presence of expat retirees. And consequently, they always come up as common answers anytime you ask an expat where the best place to live in the Philippines is:

Metro Manila, Cebu City, or Davao City

If you have a preference for bustling urban environments in gated communities and high-rise condominiums, there are certainly some advantages, such as abundant shopping malls, a diverse culinary scene, and ample entertainment options. However, it’s worth noting that there are also drawbacks, including heavy traffic congestion, noise pollution, subpar air quality, and sweltering temperatures.

Dumaguete City

In 2019, the Philippine Retirement Agency recognized this city in the Visayas as the Best Retirement Area Deemed as Retiree-Friendly (RADAR). Home to a community of European expats, this city in Negros Oriental is a moderate sized college town known for its coastal, relaxed atmosphere with plenty of excellent dining options. 


Tagaytay strikes a remarkable balance as an ideal place to reside within the Philippines, particularly when you take into account its proximity to Manila. It offers all the essential amenities for day-to-day living without the intensity of congestion, although weekends may witness an uptick in tourist activity. Furthermore, it is conveniently situated near neighboring beaches, catering to beach enthusiasts. Additionally, owing to its higher elevation, Tagaytay boasts consistently pleasant weather throughout the year.

Subic Bay

Subic Bay boasts a wealth of amenities, a legacy from its time as a former U.S. military base. It’s a remarkably tranquil area where regulations are diligently upheld, and the majority of traffic officers are known for their integrity. Generally, you can expect strict enforcement of rules, and flooding is not a concern in this region.


The province has a year-round cool (occasionally cold) climate, attributed to its elevation of approximately 1,800 meters (about a mile high) at the foothills of the Cordillera Mountains. Furthermore, Baguio serves as a gateway to the Ilocos region and the Mountain Provinces. What was once a modest town has evolved into a thriving city, now recognized as the primary economic and educational center in Northern Luzon. The city buzzes with a vibrant mix of locals, tourists, expats, and a significant student population.

How to Live in the Country Permanently

Becoming a permanent resident in the Philippines as an expat involves going through a formal process and meeting certain criteria. 

Here are some common pathways to obtain permanent residency:

Quota or Non-Quota Immigrant Visa

The Philippine government offers immigrant visas under specific categories, including quota and non-quota visas. Quota visas are limited in number and subject to annual quotas set by the government. Non-quota visas, on the other hand, have no numerical limits. These visas are typically granted to individuals with close family ties to Filipino citizens or former Filipino citizens AKA Balikbayans.

Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV)

The SIRV program allows foreigners who invest a substantial amount in the Philippines to apply for permanent residency. The minimum investment required varies and is subject to change, so it’s important to check with the appropriate Philippine government agencies for the most up-to-date requirements.

Retirement Visa

The Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) offers a Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) program for foreigners who wish to retire in the Philippines. 

It requires a minimum age (usually 35 or 50 years old) and meeting financial criteria, such as depositing a certain amount in a Philippine bank or purchasing property.

Employment-Based Visas

Expats who have secured employment with a Philippine company or have been offered a job by an employer in the Philippines may be eligible for employment-based visas. These visas are typically valid for the duration of the employment contract and may provide a pathway to permanent residency after a certain period of continuous employment.

Marriage to a Filipino Citizen

Foreign nationals who are married to a Filipino citizen can apply for a spousal visa. After a certain period of marriage, the foreign spouse may become eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Find out more: 

Essential Reading

Here are some of the most important guides you must read when moving to the Philippines:

Living Your Life in the Philippines

Find common topics that will help you overcome the challenges of living, working, retiring, and starting businesses in the Philippines.

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