The cost of living in the Philippines is rising and expenses aren't as cheap as new arrivals may expect. Nevertheless, most expats find living in the Philippines to be relatively affordable, especially compared to some Southeast Asian countries.

According to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2020, Manila was ranked at 80th out of the 209 cities surveyed. This placed Manila as having a cost of living lower than Singapore and Bangkok, but more expensive than cities such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi. 

Within the Philippines, the cost of living varies depending on where one lives. Overall, Manila is the most expensive area, with Cebu following closely behind. The cost of living on some of the outlying islands and in rural provincial areas is much lower.


Cost of accommodation in the Philippines

Accommodation will likely be an expat’s biggest monthly expense in the Philippines. Rental rates vary depending on the location and whether a property is furnished or unfurnished; generally, the closer to tourist areas and city centres, the more a tenant will pay. Prospective tenants should acknowledge that many landlords prefer to rent to foreigners, and may charge a higher rental.

Utilities such as water and electricity are often additional costs for the tenants. Other monthly payments to consider include internet, telephone line, cable television and air conditioning maintenance. Note that electricity is expensive in the Philippines and these costs will increase when intensely hot and humid summer months demand the use of air conditioning. Many homes do not have central air conditioning and expats may need to pay to have this installed.

Fortunately, expats moving to the Philippines as part of an international relocation often have housing expenses covered by their company. Another luxury that expats may find they can afford in the Philippines is household help such as nannies, domestic cleaners, drivers and gardeners.


Cost of food in the Philippines

The cost of food in the Philippines is lower than what many expats may be used to. Relatively cheap fresh produce is readily available at local markets and street vendors, but imported Western foods and international brands in supermarkets are expensive. 

Food in restaurants is affordable, and many expats will find that they can eat out regularly. Cigarettes and alcohol are also relatively cheap.


Cost of schooling and education in the Philippines

Families moving to the Philippines with children will find the cost of schooling and education to be their second biggest expense after accommodation. Most expats in the Philippines send their children to international schools, which come at a hefty price.


Cost of transport in the Philippines

Public transport in the Philippines is relatively cheap. While using a taxi on a regular basis can become expensive, local jeepneys and buses offer more inexpensive options. 

Expats looking to buy a car in the Philippines may find prices to be more expensive than what they may expect back home. This is largely due to high import duties. Many expats hire a driver for getting around; this is something that companies often provide for their senior executives working in the Philippines, and it’s worth considering during contract negotiations for a posting to the Philippines.


Cost of living in the Philippines chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Manila in December 2020.

Accommodation

One-bedroom apartment in city centre 

PHP 33,500

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre 

PHP 109,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

PHP 16,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

PHP 40,000

Shopping

Dozen eggs 

PHP 96

Milk (1 litre) 

PHP 90

Rice (1kg) 

PHP 52.50

Loaf of white bread 

PHP 61

Chicken breasts (1kg) 

PHP 199

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) 

PHP 120

Eating out

Big Mac meal 

PHP 150

Coca Cola (330ml) 

PHP 36

Cappuccino 

PHP 130

Bottle of local beer (500ml) 

PHP 77.50

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant 

PHP 1,000

Utilities/Household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) 

PHP 7.50

Internet (10 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)

PHP 2,500

Basic utilities (electricity, water) 

PHP 5,700

Transport

Taxi rate/km 

PHP 13.50

City-centre bus fare 

PHP 20

Petrol (per litre) 

PHP 46

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