Many foreigners ask me what is the cost of living in the Philippines before they fully commit to booking their plane ticket.
One of the wonderful things about the Philippines is you can create your own custom lifestyle depending on your budget and how you feel at the moment.
Many tourists/expats come to the Philippines and live on a cheap shoestring budget. It’s a haven for retirees and senior citizens who retired from their jobs and live on a limited, fixed income.
They rent cheap apartments for as little as $60 per month and eat cheap food like noodles, rice, fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, you have your international playboys who spend as much (if not more) money as they do in their home country. They live in expensive highrise condos, dine at upscale restaurants, party at expensive nightclubs, and drive luxury cars.
It’s easy to carve out a lifestyle that fits your morals, needs and budget.
Cost of Living in the Philippines (By Category)
If you are planning to move to the Philippines or just visit for a few days, here’s what you need to know about prices & spending money.
Salaries & Wages
Salaries in the Philippines are much lower than western countries, but this also keeps prices for most goods and services extremely low.
The average salary in the most expensive part of the country, Metro Manila, is about $10 per day (500PHP). $300 per month is a good starting salary for most Filipino locals in Manila’s main business district, Makati.
In other parts of the country like Cebu and Davao, the salaries are much less. Salaries are closer to $200 per month outside of the Philippines’ capital city.
Many Filipinos seek work opportunities abroad in places like US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East to earn a bigger salary and take care of their families.
Educated professionals such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants often seek work abroad while leaving their family and spouse back home.
Another popular overseas job for Filipinos is nursing and working as a nanny. Many travel to the Middle East to work in the home of an Arab family to earn more money.
If you want to work in the Philippines, your salary will probably be mucher lower than back home. However, you benefit from the lower cost of living so you will be able to adjust quite nicely.
The best strategy is to earn a western salary (working remotely for a US/European company or own a business) while living on the Filipino budget. This will free up A LOT OF CASH for other purposes like investments, buying real estate or saving for retirement.
Food, Beverages and Eating Out
Food in the Philippines is incredibly cheap and you can spend as little as $2 per day on your food costs.
You have lots of options when it comes to purchasing food. There are plenty of supermarkets, fast food restaurants, upscale restaurants, convenience stores, markets and street vendors selling all different kinds of things to eat.
There are several supermarket chains in the Philippines with the most popular being SM Hypermarket, owned by billionaire Henry Sy.
You walk in and shop for food like any normal supermarket back home. The prices are a bit higher but the supermarket has so many different choices (including many items you’ll find back home).
Here’s a quick list of prices:
- Bread: $1 per loaf
- Rice: $1 per kilo
- Eggs: $1.50 per dozen
- Meat: $2 per kilo
- Fruits: $3 per kilo
- Vegetables: $2 per kilo
- Potato Chips: 25 cents for a small bag
- Peanuts: 50 cents for a small bag
Fast Food Restaurants
Many international fast food chains operate in the Philippines and you’ll find McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, Dominos, and Pizza Hut in most major cities like Manila, Angeles, and Cebu. There are also local Filipino chains like Jolibee and Chow King as well.
You can order a regular value meal at McDonald’s for $2 or order a regular sizedpizza at Domino’s for $4. If you eat fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll spend about $6 per day.
Many pizza chains offer a Buy 1, Take 1 promo on Tuesdays and Thursdays so you can save a bit of money if you go with a friend.
The most expensive method of eating in the Philippines is dining at a upscale restaurants. These places are slightly cheaper than dining out in western countries, but much more expensive overall.
You’ll pay around $5 for a main dish and $2 for an appetizer. Drinks are usually around $1 each. If you dine out everyday, then you’ll really increase your food budget in the long run.
It’s healthy and cheaper to shop at the market and prepare your own meals.
711, MiniStop, and Family Mart are the most popular convenience store chains in the Philippines. The prices are higher than the supermarkets but they stay open 24/7. They sell all kinds of cheap things like noodles, snacks, candies, peanuts, rice, friend chicken, sandwiches, potato chips, etc.
Most items cost around 25 cents to $1. They also sell prepared meals for around 60 cents.
You can spend about $2 in the convenience store and have enough food for 1 meal. Add a can of juice or soda pop and you’ll spend no more than $3.
Local markets offer the cheapest prices for fruits, vegetables, and meats. You simply pick what you want then pay per kilo (2.2 lbs) for your items. Speaking tagalog in the markets is a good strategy to save a bit of money. Here are some helpful phrases:
Magkano? = How Much?
Mahal = Expensive
Prices are higher in Metro Manila and get much cheaper as you move further away from the city. Here’s a list of the average food prices for fruits and vegetables:
- Mangos: $3 per kilo
- Apples: $1 per kilo
- Oranges: $1 per kilo
- Bananas: $1 per kilo
- Vegetables: $1.50 per kilo
Local Restaurants and Street Vendors
Many Filipinos open a mom and pop restaurant underneath their home and sell all kinds of different foods. While the prices are cheap, I recommend avoiding these places due to hygiene concerns.
You don’t know exactly how clean these restaurants are and you cannot compare western health standards to those in the Philippines. There is no FDA protecting consumers from malpractices in the restaurant industry.
If you get sick in the Philippines, then you invite a whole bunch of problems that you want to avoid.
Accommodation Costs – Hotels, Condos and Apartments
Your biggest cost in the Philippines will be your housing unless you have a generous nightlife budget. You’ve got a wide variety of choices depending on your wants, needs and budget.
Many Filipino locals spend very little money on rent while some high earners spend a typical western budget on their home. It really depends what you want in the long run.
Local Filipino Rent Costs
The average Filipino spends around $80 per month on rent for their apartment. This will get you an unfurnished apartment outside of the city center. You save a lot of money with this strategy, but you must commute everywhere because you live far away from the nightlife.
Hotels are convenient for short term stays and they range from $10 to $100 per night depending on the location and amenities.
You can find cheap budget hotels on [eafl id=”100000416″ name=”Agoda” text=”Agoda”] that come with a double bed, cable TV, refrigerator, A/C and free WIFI.
Upscale hotels cost between $40 to $100 per night and you’ll have everything including King size bed, international cable TV, hot water kettle, microwave, WIFI, A/C, gym access, swimming pool, jacuzzi, mini bar, and room service.
Check [eafl id=”100000416″ name=”Agoda” text=”Agoda”] for the best hotel prices in the Philippines.
Condos are the best option for short and long term stays because you get privacy, security, amentities and a feeling of being at home that doesn’t exist in hotels.
Prices are determined mostly by the location of the condo building. The closer to the city center, the higher the price.
If you want to stay in Metro Manila, then you’ll find the best and most expensive condos located in Makati, BGC and Rockwell. Short term monthly rentals cost between $600 to $800 while long term rental contracts cost between $400 to $600 per month.
If you don’t mind living outside the main foreigner areas, then you’ll find decent condos for around $200 to $300 per month.
However, I highly recommend avoiding these areas due to safety concerns. I’ve read plenty of horror stories involving foreigners who lived outside of the main tourist areas where it’s much cheaper.
Don’t risk your safety and future over $100 so simply search for a cheaper deal if you’re under a tight budget.
Many expats opt for a cheap unfurnished apartment near the tourist area because it’s much cheaper and affordable than a fully furnished condo.
You can find cheap apartments for around $150 to $200 on OLX or just walk around the area you want to live in and call the phone numbers listed on the building.
These apartments are empty so you’ll need to buy a bed, TV, install WIFI, etc. If you plan to living in the Philippines long term and don’t mind paying utilities, then this is your best overall option.
Nightlife in the Philippines is a unique experience and you’ll definitely want to check out the main attractions when you first arrive. You’ll got everything from girly bars to upscale nightclubs that fit every type of budget.
If you want to save money, then avoid going out all the time. Heading to the bars & nightclubs every night will put a big hole in your budget.
There are two types of bars in the Philippines: regular pubs and girly bars.
Regular pubs are the cheapest place to drink and hang out. Most drinks (alcholic and non-alcoholic) cost $1 each. If you arrive during happy hour (usually 6pm to 8pm), they offer even cheaper drink specials.
Girly bars are like discos where girls dance on stage and encourage you to buy them drinks. Most go go bars charge $2 for a drink and $5 for a lady drink. Many of these girls are available to “hang out” as well for about $60. You’ll find most of these bars in Angeles City as well as parts of Makati, Malate and Ermita.
You’ll find both younger and older foreigners hitting up the nightclubs to hang out and meet Filipina women. The nicer nightclubs charge an entrance fee of around $5 that comes with a handstamp and 1 drink.
Other nightclubs are free to enter, but the drink prices are more expensive. Again, you’ll pay at minimum $5 for a drink at most clubs.
You’ll find a nice mix of foreigners, locals and freelancers at the best nightclubs. The best nightclubs are:
- Manila: Royal, Black Market and Time
- Angeles City: High Society (HiSo)
These clubs play the best music and offer the hottest selection of Filipina girls.
How Much Money Do You Need to Live in the Philippines?
Filipinos live off of $300 or less but most westerns will feel more comfortable with a slightly higher budget. You can still enjoy western luxuries while saving a lot of money.
$500 is a reasonable monthly budget for foreigners if you find a cheap room, cook your own meals and avoid binge drinking.
Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health and will invite problems into your life. Whenever I hear something bad happen to a foreigner, there is alcohol involved 95% of the time. Abstain from alcohol if possible. Otherwise, drink responsibly!
If you want to go out more often and meet Filipino women, then $1,000 is a reasonable monthly budget for your needs.
That’s around 50,000PHP and most Filipinos would be shocked to spend that much money in 1 month.
Track your finances using Mint and see where all of your spending goes. You can easily cut out unnecessary expenses or stop going out at night to save more money.
Wrapping Things Up
Living in Asia has its advantages and the cost of living is definitely one of them. The Philippines is much cheaper than the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe and you can save a lot of money if you earn a decent living online or have a large retirement/pension.
Cost of living is an important part of traveling so do plenty of research before you visit any country. You work hard for your money so be sure to get good value from your labor.
If you have any questions or concerns, please share them in the comments section below.