A Complete Guide to the Cost of Living in the Philippines

Last updated on June 10th, 2024 at 08:41 am

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country with a low cost of living that appeals to visitors and expats from around the world. The cost of living in the Philippines is similar to that of other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia and Thailand, but it’s significantly less than expensive cities like New York City and Singapore.

Still, the cost of living in the Philippines can vary widely depending on your lifestyle and where you choose to live. Here’s our guide to the cost of living in four different cities in the Philippines and how to calculate your average monthly expenses.

How to determine the cost of living in the Philippines

Cost of living is the estimated monthly cost of food, housing, healthcare, and other basic necessities. We’ll use the cost of living index provided by NomadList to compare the cost of living in the Philippines for locals and expats.

If you’re a retiree or digital nomad, then your money will likely go further than if you’re earning a local salary. For example, a software engineer in Manila can expect a salary of $16,190, compared to an average salary of $49,077 in Singapore.

The official currency of the Philippines is the Philippine peso, which uses the currency abbreviation PHP and the symbol ₱. A peso is divided into 100 sentimos. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 20 pesos and 1, 5, 10, and 25 sentimos. Banknotes range from 20 to 1,000 pesos.

To keep things simple, all of the prices below are shown in U.S. dollars (USD) so you can easily compare them to other currencies of the world.

The cost of living in the Philippines by city

Cost of living in Philippines: man putting coins into glass jars

As in many countries, it’s more expensive to live in major cities—like Manila and Quezon City—than it is to live in rural areas. Housing accounts for the biggest differences in cost, but food, transportation, healthcare, and other monthly expenses also play a factor. Keep in mind, online shopping is widespread in the country, the prices of which are unaffected by region.

Here’s what you can expect to pay in four popular regions of the Philippines.

Manila

Manila is the capital of the Philippines and is the second-biggest city after Quezon City. It has a population of 1,846,513 million people and offers an urban lifestyle with direct flights to many international destinations.

According to NomadList, the cost of living for an expat is more than for a local:

  • Cost of living for expat: $1,460
  • Cost of living for local: $1,050
  • Housing: $943 for a studio apartment
  • Food: $5 for dinner and $1.20 for coffee

Teleport’s estimates are lower, at around $630 for a medium apartment. It also notes that the cost for public transport is $20 and a gym membership is $43.

Cebu City

Cebu City is a centrally located city that’s one of the country’s main shipping ports. It’s a popular tourist destination as well as a technology hub. The cost of living in Cebu is less than in Manila, but it’s still one of the more expensive cities in the Philippines:

  • Cost of living for expat: $1,260
  • Cost of living for local: $869
  • Housing: $850 for a studio apartment
  • Food: $2.90 for dinner and $0.67 for coffee

Baguio

Baguio offers a very different lifestyle than Cebu City and Manila. It has a cooler climate due to its higher elevation and forested surroundings. Baguio has a population of 366,000, many of whom are students. Average rents in Baguio are less than in Manila, but the cost of food and drink is comparable to larger cities:

  • Cost of living for expat: $1,495
  • Cost of living for local: $813
  • Housing: $697 for a studio apartment
  • Food: $5.07 for dinner and $1.22 for coffee

Davao

Davao is situated in the south of the Philippines and is the third-largest city after Manila and Quezon City. It’s located near Mt. Apo, a dormant volcano and the country’s tallest mountain, and it has a strong culinary scene and agricultural sector.

With studio apartments available for less than $500 per month, Davao has the lowest cost of living in the Philippines for a major city.

  • Cost of living for expat: $955
  • Cost of living for local: $614
  • Housing: $485 for a studio apartment
  • Food: $4.36 for dinner and $1.22 for coffee

Average monthly living expenses in the Philippines

Woman writing on a piece of paper

Based on these figures, Manila has the highest cost of living in the Philippines, while Baguio and Davao are both more affordable. But you can live cheaply or exorbitantly anywhere in the Philippines, depending on how you choose to spend your money. This is especially true if you’re accustomed to the cost of living in a country like Canada, Germany, or the United States.

Here are four key factors that can impact the cost of living in the Philippines. Note that education isn’t included here.

Housing

Housing is the biggest factor in determining your average cost of living each month. If you’re a single person renting a studio apartment in the city center, you can expect to pay more than if you share a one-bedroom apartment or live in a rural area.

Monthly rents may be higher for expats in short-term accommodation than for locals who buy or rent property long term. Although the Philippines is a popular country to retire in, foreign nationals can’t buy real estate—just certain condominium units.

Food and drink

The cost of food and drink in the Philippines is more affordable than in many countries, thanks to its abundant seafood and world-famous street food culture.

The cost of a cappuccino in Manila is around $2.90, while a domestic beer is $0.85, and lunch at a mid-range restaurant is $4.40. Eating at international chains like McDonald’s may cost more than shopping at supermarkets or eating popular Filipino foods.

Healthcare

Healthcare expenses are different for expats and locals. Filipino citizens have access to free health care through PhilHealth, while non-citizens will need to purchase their own health insurance plan, ranging from ₱1,400 to ₱60,000 pesos per year.

Filipino retirees also get access to the country’s Social Security System, while retirees from overseas will need to rely on their own retirement savings or income.

Transportation

Transportation costs are relatively low in the Philippines, with many Filipinos opting for shared transportation rather than owning a personal vehicle. Manila has several public transport options, including the MRT and the LRT.

But the most affordable and convenient form of transport is the Jeepney—converted Jeeps that can fit up to 20 passengers at a time. Although smaller cities have limited public transport options, there are still plenty of ways to get around. You can always catch a ride on a trisikad (a cycle rickshaw) or pedicab for just a few pesos.

The Philippines doesn’t have a large railroad network, so you’ll need to catch a bus to get from one city to another. If you want your own mode of transport, motorcycles are going to be a more affordable option than cars.

Sending money to the Philippines

Woman happily using her phone

The Philippines has a low cost of living, making it a popular destination for retirees and expats alike. But salaries in the Philippines are lower than average, and many Filipinos and Filipinas choose to work abroad and send money back home.

If you’re thinking of moving to the Philippines or you’re one of the 1.8 million Overseas Filipino Workers who need to send money back home, Remitly can help.

Our easy-to-use money transfer app allows you to send money to the Philippines with low transfer fees and a competitive exchange rate.

You can transfer money directly to your recipient’s mobile wallet or bank account, or they can pick up cash at one of over 23,000 locations.

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