What are the Real Requirements and Secrets of Living as a Foreigner in the Philippines?

I would like to hear from people who have been here a long time - at least five years, but better ten - what are the strategies for long-term living in the Philippines?  Assume that one is married to a Filipina, but then what - rent? buy? work? how to treat other kanos? how to treat local politicians? how to treat local thugs? how to treat local children and families?  Thanks.

As former US Peace Corps

As former US Peace Corps staff, former owner of my own company in the US. I only have a small pension, a little social security and some savings. But I am living in good style, on a budget, with hospitable people who speak English. I do feel like a king. And, I am putting away a few dollars every month.

My two live in maids cost $35 per month, and of course their food. Having maids make me feel like a king and take all the mundane chores out of my life. Actually, they are more like daughters. My Filipina wife enjoys the freedom from housework and errands as much as I do, and the maids appreciate their jobs, and us.

I pay $160 for a small three bedroom, three bath house, with a nice yard that the maids keep up with the help of the neighborhood kids. It is in the university area of Cebu City, the Paris of the Philippines, where the mountains meet the sea. The land of scuba diving and beaches, rain forest wandering and night club hopping. There are excellent hospitals nearby. My next door neighbor is a MD, her husband, an engineer. They are not rich, but the neighborhood is mostly professional, upper middle class. Houses in big guarded subdivisions with swimming pools can be had for about $1,000 per month, but besides the cost, I like the friendliness of the people in the more modest neighborhoods. Finding a house like mine as such a good price will take a month, maybe, but you could get lucky and find one in a day.

Public transportation is great in Cebu City, a city of about 500,000 hospitable souls. The Philippines is the only English speaking Christian country in Asia, so communicating with the driver is not a problem. Taxis are air-conditioned, new, and readily available. You can go to anywhere in town for $2.00 and a long trip to the airport is about $5.00. Make that even less with the recent continued devaluation of the peso. Yesterday I went to visit a friend and my taxi fair was 25 pesos. I gave him 30 pesos, .75 US cents. He chased me when I got out of the car to give me the change, about .10 cents. He could not understand why such a big tip, or a tip at all. I guess I am just a spendthrift. I do not recommend buying or driving a car here. BTW, today's peso rate was 43 to 1 US dollar.

Jeepneys are the way most people travel. They are lokal (local) ornate or gaudy, depending on your taste, jeep style vehicles that carry from 16 to 18, on each side in the back. Two ride with the driver. They have flags, decorations, colors, family and nicknames, logos, mud flaps, and other ornaments covering them. And even altars on the dashboards. The shotgun seat is best and reserved for the disabled. You can travel across the whole city for about .05 US cents. Jeepneys are harder to get at rush hour, though there is not too much rush here. Have you heard of Filipino time? Jeepney travel is a good way to meet a lot of nice local folks. They do love Americans and all foreigners here, perhaps to a fault. You can do no wrong, if you are a guest in their country. Jeepneys and taxis are safe. In fact Cebu City is a lot safer generally than most places I have lived in the States. You can walk the streets at 2:00 in the morning and have no problems, male or female, in almost all parts of the city.

I got a haircut and short massage yesterday from my best barber in his air- conditioned shop for .75 cents. My dentist has put caps on my teeth for $65 per cap. He practiced in the States, Century City, as a cosmetic dentist for five years and brought all his equipment back with him. That is why he is so high, compared to other dentist here, he says. I can't let him know how outrageously low I feel his prices are, now can I? A face lift, the works, eyes up and down included, is about $4,000 including three day stay in a quality hospital and the many costly tests required prior to qualifying for this elective procedure. Airfares are low here, so if one is considering dental work or cosmetic surgery, they could save a bundle just coming here for that work. The saving would more than pay for the airfare and other expenses in most cases. Now if you are only going to have one gold heart implanted in a tooth, it may not be a good idea. But I don't know recent US dental prices. It may pay.

There are two major shopping malls here with almost everything you can get in the States. Some of the imported good are higher priced but some are lower. Books, reprints for sale only in the Philippines, can be very cheap. There are the local markets that are more "old Filipino" in nature where a lot of bargaining goes on. At the malls the prices are fixed price. The local markets are much more colorful, but you have to be a skilled negotiator to survive. Southeast Asians are known for their bargaining skills.

If you get crazy for American food it is all here, from McDonald's to the Marriott Hotel's best restaurant I have ever eaten in. The Hyatt is pretty good too. Radio Shack is here, and other discount US retailers have just gotten permission to move in, including banks. There are Casinos, all the latest movies (movies are about a dollar for the best, in English) and thousands of computer diskettes for just a couple of dollars, though not quite legal, I understand. Playstation games are less than $1.00 but only run on the 220 voltage. I trained one of my maids who was formerly a cook for a group of Japanese students how to cook American. She is excellent. And I get my hot whole wheat bread fresh from the oven every day.

Filipino men are very handsome and romantic. The women are beautiful and a delight to be around. Nightlife is fantastic and cheap. I guess the Philippines is known for that, more than anything else is. I don't so much nightlife because I married one of these beauties seven years ago. She is the best thing that has happened in my life, next to moving here.

Universities abound in Cebu. It is an excellent place to get a very cheap but good education. You may know of the many Filipino MD's, nurses, CPA's, lawyers, etc. working the States on their Filipino credentials after taking a state test of certification. The courses here are geared to US requirements. Computer schools have sprung up everywhere in the last few years. A private tutorial on Corel Draw or PhotoShop or some such by a local computer school teacher, is about $50 if they come to your home: about $5.00 less if you go to them. Language lessons, if you want to learn just about any foreign language can be had for about $1.00 per hour.

There are some political and economic problems, but they do not seem to be a threat to me here in Cebu. All of that seems as about as remote to me as the States. All I know is the peso continues to weaken and the dollar gets stronger every time some radical group makes a bomb scare in Manila. I do not recommend even visiting Manila. It is dirty, expensive and unfriendly, compared to the rest of the Philippines. This isolated violence, mostly in Manila and a large island far to the south, Mindano, is recent and hopefully short lived.

thank you for this posted

thank you for this posted information. i have heard much about living there and am planning a move early next year.


wow thank u for the info. i am goig to visit there in the near future, met a beautiful girl there and want to visit anymore info would be great and thank u again


love the philippines

i was in the philippines back in feburary. met my fiance and her family. i missed my flight in china. had to spend the night in china. her, her and her mom was at the airport in manila waiting for me. the airport in china woulnt call manila and let them know what happened. i had no way to call her. when i got to the hotel i was able to send her and email. they spent half the night in manila looking for me. the next morning i got a phone call from her. she was crying. she didnt know what happened to me. we talked about it. and that evening her and her sister came to manila and met me at the airport. we saw each other. she threw the sign with my name on it down. we went running to each other. we hugged and kissed. and i said its about time. the women over here wouldnt go thru that much trouble for a man. i spent 11 great days there. everyone was great. and so nice. im going back in the spring. and then she is coming over here. we are going to both work for 5 years over here and save all of our money. then move over there and open a grocery store and live the rest of our lives together. oh yea i forgot she is from pampanga. and her name is miriam. she is college educated and a teacher there. she speaks perfect english. and she is beautiful. this was suppose to be a short message . sorry. to any guys who havent been. what are you waiting for. sincerly james

What a great story


What a great story.  That definitely gave me inspiration and even more reason to go there for a while to really experience the true values of the country and the people.  I've been there several times before, but under different circumstances.  Now, I'm looking for a longer term stay.  Being of retirement age, I am actually considering living there permanently.  But, I know it's best to spend a few months there first, looking around and being sure I can handle the differences in the culture and the rights I would give up as an American if I lived there.  But, in exchange for those, I hope to experience a lifestyle at a cost I could never hope to achieve here.  Have you had any experience, or do you know anyone in subic?  I've heard that is a very "westernized" area with lots of Expats.  Again, thanks for your heart warming story.  Best of luck to you and your future wife.  You're right about one thing, there are no more loyal and caring Christian women than you will find in the Philippines.



I have a simular story!


I too have a beautiful woman there in the philis she's from Bislig a country girl and had lived in Davao for about 6 years with her sister but now back home in her home town now, I have been to the philis 3 times already twice for my first wife (Didn't work out city girl) and last time was recent in Nov. 16 to the 27th 2011 I will have to say they were best days of my life seeing her in person for the first time after us being on line for the last 12 months, She speaks really good english as so does her 7 yrd daughter and her mother, father and rest of the family. I have already petition for her and my new daughter but i'm so ready to be with her. She really dosen't want to come here to the states but she wants to be with me  and if i could afford it i would sell everything i have and go back and live there. I want have enough money to be secured in maybe starting a business as well we will be back in a couple of years after she's here with me and get married there too! The people in the phils are so friendly but you are right you have to be smart and on guard i not have any trouble mainly because i'm 6'1" and about 260lbs. look military too and only 47 yrs old  so they tend to not try anything with me plus my girl looks out for me too which helps. I want to learn the language so i can interact  with all. Just a great place to be will be glad to get back there soon.

Thanks, Todd

prices have changed since 2008 in cebu!

Just so you know that everything is high in cebu now! just as bad as Manila, The place to be is in Davao and sorrounding areas. The people are still nice in cebu,Davao and the small communitys but Manila is a different story! Anyways if you plan to stay in cebu bring lots of money!

Places to be

Well, I have observed that foreigners are so concentrated in the the southern part of the country. . . and it is because of the beautiful beaches which compliments the tropical climate of the country. But, for those who would love the mountains, rivers and streams, slopes of valleys and hills plus the vibrant greeneries of the rice, corn and vegetations in the north. . . I am proud to say that Region 2 is the perfect place to give a visit. People here  are as hospitable and friendly as the other filipinos all over the country, but a little more conservative in character and lifestyle. Expect them to feel embarrassed when kissed in public, lol! and although modern fashion trends is now being introduced in the region, still you will notice the touch of old values in the community. 

I have not much time today to promote more of the beauty of the region to convince foreigners to visit us here, but, I will soon write more and hope to post and share some  photos of the place.

My customers are now coming for lunch, i will be back! lol!



Met a girl in famay laguna! I

Met a girl in famay laguna! I want to visit and retire there soon! Does anybody know this area and would it be a good place to retire? I will have about 1400.00 a month to live on! Would that do?

year long visa in cebu

I was reading some posts on this site and some people talked of being able to get visa for a year at a time. How and where can you do that.  I will be living near cebu and hate flying. The boat ride is a day long to manilla to renew visa every couple months. I have also heard of residency visa, but with no clear indication of how much is to be deposited in a bank there.  Any help on these subjects would be greatly appreciated, thanks Gil


Hi Gil, If you are not married to a Filipina, you will have to return to the local immigration office in Cebu every 2 months for a painless extension.  If you are married to a Filipina, then when you enter the country you will get 12 months and you will not need to make the painless trips to the local immigration office.

I am interested in living in

I am interested in living in Olongapo City. I have done alot of research but would like to hear from anyone with personal experience. Thank you



How do I set up SS derect deposit when I visit Philipinnes?....

I haope some American expats can help me with this question.  My wife(a filipina) and I will be visiting Dagupan City in the winter months of this year to visit her family and seeing our grand daughter for the first time.  I will stay longer to start building our retirement home.


I am hoping this site can help me with the above question regarding direct deposit.  Should I leave the direct deposit in the US and withdraw from an ATM at a local bank....and is this possible?


Also, I am hoping this site can put me in contact with American expats in the Dagupan City/Pangasinan area.



Thank you,



Keep your money in the USA and withdraw via an ATM.  It's very easy.  Don't trust Filipino banks.



Moving to the Philipines - Social Security

I havent traveled to the Philippnes yet but I will be i early 2013. I already now I will retire there and I ave met the Filpina I will spend the rest of my life with. My question is about Social Security. If I move to the Philippines do I ave to give up my Social Security if I become a permanent resident there?




Only if you give up your citizenship of being from USA! .

You can retire there and become{ resident!}

But not citizen of phils/ {Only Resident!!!!}

 How ever! any medicare will be lost.

USA will not allow medical services from medicare there!

 It is same with  S.S  disability as well> You will loose medicare coverage / but not monthly check.

You will get direct deposite to USA bank and use ATM for any use you may need, or of course credit cards & debit// have heard not to trust "any" phils bank!

Medical will be out of pocket expense or find a "Medical provider personal insurance" & make sure they will be accepted by medical service provider and that the company you choose for coverage will pay within area of Phil's






Texan in the Philippines

My Filipina wife ( of 32 1/2 years) and I have lived here in Calbayog City Samar for a little over 2 1/2 years now and we just love it.  I wanted to tell people on this site that are asking about Visas that the website PhilFAQs.com is a very good source for that.  The gentleman that mention that he knows he should spend some time in the Philippines before moving here, is absoultely right.  I highly recommend doing just that.  There are many expats from all other the world that are retired here and a lot of us have blogs.  Please read my blog (TexaninthePhilippines) and leave a comment on your situation.  I'll bet that I can even find an expat close to the area that you want to retire to in the Philippines, or pretty close anyway.  I will answer any questions I can and the other readers on my site are very helpful with injecting their knowledge of things also.

Direct Deposit

Jarvis you should leave you direct deposit in the US.  Hopefully you have an account at a bank that also has a bank in the Philippines.  That would eliminate any international service charges or having to wait 21 days to receive your money.

Please visit my website (TexaninthePhilippines) and myself and the readers there can help you further with that and other questions you may have.

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