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 relatively affordable, especially compared to some Southeast Asian countries.

According to Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey, Manila ranked 133rd out of the 227 cities surveyed. The capital city’s cost of living has recently eased, which has seen it move down from 122nd in the 2022 survey, making it more affordable than Lisbon and Buenos Aires.

Within the Philippines, the cost of living depends on where expats choose to live. Overall, Manila is the most expensive area, with Cebu trailing closely behind. The outlying islands and rural provinces are much more affordable.


Cost of accommodation in the Philippines

Accommodation will likely be an expat’s biggest monthly expense in the Philippines. Rental prices vary considerably; generally, the closer to tourist areas and city centres, the more a tenant will pay. Prospective house hunters should know that many landlords prefer renting to foreigners and may charge higher rental fees.

Utilities such as water and electricity are often additional costs for tenants. Other monthly payments include internet, telephone line, cable television and air conditioning maintenance. Note that electricity is expensive in the Philippines, and these costs will rise during the intense summer months when air conditioning use typically increases. Moreover, many homes do not have central air conditioning, so expats may need to pay out of pocket to install it.

Fortunately, expats moving to the Philippines as part of an international relocation usually have their housing expenses covered by their company. Expats in the Philippines can also typically afford household help such as nannies, drivers, gardeners and domestic cleaners.


Cost of groceries in the Philippines

The cost of food in the Philippines is lower than many expats may expect. 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 inexpensive.


Cost of healthcare in the Philippines

The standard of healthcare in the Philippines varies, with hospitals in the major cities offering exceptional care and the rural areas leaving much to be desired. Expats working in the Philippines will likely need to contribute to the national health insurance, PhilHealth, and receive free care. Healthcare professionals in the Philippines are generally highly trained, but equipment at public hospitals may not be up to standard. Expats who can afford it should consider purchasing a health insurance policy to have affordable access to private hospitals and their top-tier equipment and infrastructure. 


Cost of entertainment and eating out in the Philippines

The lifestyle in the Philippines offers activities to suit all preferences and budgets. Budget-conscious expats will find delicious local cuisine at their neighbourhood restaurants at a low price, while there are also opportunities for fine dining in major cities such as Manila and Cebu. 

Most of the leisure activities in the Philippines centre on outdoor and water activities. Thanks to the country’s breathtaking natural landscape, expats can swim, surf, hike and scuba dive for a nominal fee. To save even further, expats can invest in their own surfing and diving equipment. 


Cost of education in the Philippines

Families moving to the Philippines with children will find the cost of school and education another significant expense for expats after accommodation. Most expats in the Philippines send their children to international schools, which generally come at a hefty price but offer exceptional, globally recognised curricula.


Cost of transport in the Philippines

Public transport in the Philippines is fairly cheap. While using a taxi regularly can become expensive, local jeepneys and buses are the more economical options.

Expats looking to buy a car in the Philippines will find that the cost in the country is proportionally higher than in their home countries due to high import duties. Many expats hire a driver, and companies often provide them for their senior executives working in the Philippines, so expats should consider this during their contract negotiations.


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 September 2023.

Accommodation

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre 

PHP 30,100

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre 

PHP 85,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

PHP 16,100

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

PHP 40,400

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

PHP 111

Milk (1 litre) 

PHP 96.40

Rice (1kg) 

PHP 54

Loaf of white bread 

PHP 74.33

Chicken breasts (1kg) 

PHP 276

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) 

PHP 160

Eating out

Big Mac meal 

PHP 200

Coca-Cola (330ml) 

PHP 53

Cappuccino 

PHP 167

Bottle of local beer (500ml) 

PHP 70

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant 

PHP 1,600

Utilities/Household (monthly)

Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data

PHP 2,300

Internet (60 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)

PHP 1,830

Basic utilities (electricity, water) 

PHP 6,475

Transport

Taxi rate/km 

PHP 13.50

City-centre bus fare 

PHP 30

Petrol (per litre) 

PHP 77.58

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