When expats ask about the cost of living in the Philippines, this question is generally not that easy to answer. At the end of the day, your monthly expenses largely depend on your location and the type of accommodation you choose. Whether you are single or moving abroad with your family also has an effect on your cost of living in the Philippines.
Supposedly minor details, such as the type of groceries you buy and the place where you buy them, can make a difference as well. Cow’s milk, for instance, is hardly ever available at the local grocery stores and if so, then it is usually more expensive than soy milk. At the same time potatoes, donuts, peanut butter, and chocolate are more expensive than in some western countries such as the USA for instance.
Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in the Philippines.
Anyone who moves to the Philippines for a few months or a few years will most likely decide to rent a studio, an apartment, or even a house. The overall cost of living in the Philippines and the rental costs in particular will, as you may already know, vary considerably depending on which type of accommodation and which island you choose.
To give you an idea, a large apartment or condo in Cebu can cost anywhere between 27,000 PHP and 50,000 PHP, per month. In Manila, you would pay between 30,000 PHP and 70,000 PHP for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center, while the price lies between 15,000 PHP and 25,000 PHP in Quezon City. Smaller places at so-called boarding houses can be rented for as little as 4,000 PHP if you want to save on your cost of living in the Philippines, although you should not expect too much from these cheap accommodations.
Some people, usually those who settle down in the Philippines for good, decide to buy property instead and thus opt for a lower cost of living in the Philippines in the long term. Buying a house or a condo is far more affordable there than in many western countries. Most homes are attached or single-detached homes. The former are available starting at PHP 2,200,000, while the latter will cost you PHP 5,500,000 and up. At this price, you will mostly likely get you a three-bedroom house with a parking lot in a more affluent neighborhood. Keep in mind that while foreigners are allowed to purchase housing, they cannot buy land.
While housing costs do not drive the cost of living in the Philippines through the roof, utility costs can be a lot higher than you might expect. For an average-sized apartment, you will have to pay between approximately 3,000 PHP and 6,000 PHP for basic utilities (including electricity, heat, water, and garbage disposal). In fact, the Philippines has one of the highest electricity rates in Asia. In August 2016, the cost for electricity is down to 8.50 PHP per kilowatt hour from the high of 9.12 PHP in August 2015.
Unless you work from home, chances are that at least a small part of your living cost in the Philippines will cover transportation. First off, the public transportation system is not very well developed, due to the fact that the Philippines spread out across various islands with deep rainforests and almost untouched nature. This is also why inter-island travel, mostly done by boat, is rather common. You can take a ferry or catamaran, or a Bangka if the distance is not great and you don’t have much to transport.
There are many different ferry companies that offer transportation at varying prices and reliability. It makes sense to ask around to find out which companies offer safe and not-too-crowded transportation. To give you an idea of what to expect: the fare for a ride from Manila to Cebu City costs between 2,000 PHP and 4,000 PHP. For short trips, you can choose Bangkas, which are a lot cheaper, albeit less luxurious. For longer trips, you should also check the fares of local airlines. In some cases you can get a great deal there and keep your cost of living in the Philippines down.
If you do not plan to cross over to another island and don’t have a car, jeepneys and buses are the preferred modes of transportation. A jeepney ride usually costs around 7.00 PHP, but make sure to enquire about the exact fare beforehand. Long distance journeys will add more to your cost of living in the Philippines. In this case, however, you should consider taking the bus instead. The bus fare amounts to about 1.80 PHP per kilometer. Keep in mind that air-conditioned buses are about 15% to 20% more expensive.
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