Cost of Living in the Philippines

Last Updated – Apr 22, 2024 @ 8:35 pm

Quick Take

How much is the cost of living in the Philippines?

The overall cost of living in the Philippines is relatively low compared to many other countries. A single person can live comfortably on around PHP56,000 per month, and a family of four would need around PHP123,000 monthly. Housing, food, and other essential expenses are also quite affordable for the most part.

Are you looking for a new home? The Philippines should be at the top of your list. Imagine living in a beautiful country where your money goes further, allowing you to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

From affordable housing, delicious food, and healthcare at a lower cost, the Philippines offers excellent value for your hard-earned cash.

But it’s not just about the money – the Philippines will capture your heart with its world-class beaches, lush mountains, thriving cities, and charming provinces. You’ll definitely feel your quality of life increase day by day. 

Filipinos are known for their warm hospitality. We make it easy for you to feel welcome and at home in no time.

Whether you’re exploring the vibrant culture, trying new foods, or connecting with other expats, the Philippines offers an exciting and enriching experience that will make you fall in love with this incredible country.

What is Cost of Living?

The cost of living refers to the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a specific place and time. It encompasses all the essentials required to live and can vary widely depending on geographic location, lifestyle choices, and economic conditions.

The cost of living is often used to compare the affordability of different cities or regions and can impact decisions about where to live and work. It’s a crucial indicator for understanding economic health and individual financial well-being.


Key Factors Influencing the Cost of Living in the Philippines?

Generally, here are the factors that mainly influence the cost of living in the country:

Geography

Where you choose to settle down can make a big difference. Generally, urban areas like Manila, Cebu, and Davao have a higher price tag than rural towns and provinces. 

Regarding earning power, urban wages and incomes are significantly higher than in rural areas. This offsets some of the higher urban living costs. However, income inequality is also greater within cities.

The urban-rural divide in living costs is evident in various studies. A research paper by the University of the Philippines highlights the income and wage gaps between urban and rural areas1, attributing a significant portion of this disparity to differences in the cost of living.

Additionally, a study published in PubMed examined the household financial costs of illness, finding that rural households faced lower out-of-pocket expenses than their urban counterparts2.

Housing

Living in the city center will cost you a lot if you want to rent. Take Manila, for example – renting a one-bedroom apartment in the middle of all the action can set you back around PHP25,000 per month. But if you’re willing to live a little further out, say in the outskirts or suburbs, you can find much better deals. A three-bedroom place outside the city center might only cost you around PHP20,000 per month.

For those thinking of putting down some roots and buying a place, be prepared to make a serious investment, especially if you want to be in a prime location.

In areas like Makati in Manila, house and lot prices can easily reach into the tens of millions of pesos for luxury homes. But don’t worry. There are still some more affordable options out there. Head a bit further away from the city center, you can find subdivisions with houses and lots for under PHP1 million.

Of course, if you’re open to living outside the major cities, buying a house becomes much more realistic for the average Filipino family. You can find homes and lots for under PHP2 million in many provinces.

It all comes down to your priorities and budget. If you’re set on living at the heart of the action, be prepared to pay a premium for that city-center lifestyle. But if you’re willing to compromise on location, you can find some fantastic deals on housing, whether you’re renting or buying. 

Utilities

Some expenses come with having a roof over your head – utilities. In the Philippines, you’ve got to budget for electricity, water, internet, and your mobile phone. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you live in the city.

Picture this – you’re a couple living in a cozy 85 sqm apartment in the heart of the city. You’re looking at around PHP5,600 monthly to keep the lights on, the water running, and your phones and internet connected. That’s a considerable amount of money. 

Those living alone may be spending over PHP3,000 on electricity and water alone. After all, you must keep that aircon running in the hot Philippine weather, right? Then there’s your internet connection, which can cost you around PHP1,700 monthly. Don’t forget about your mobile phone plan – another PHP2,200 on average.

Those living in the province could catch a break from these utility costs. Electricity and water will still be your most significant expenses, but the prices are lower outside the major cities.

But here’s the thing – even if you’re paying less for utilities in rural areas, these costs still make up a big part of your monthly budget. It’s not uncommon for utility bills to consume a significant portion of a household’s income, especially for families with lower incomes.

Transportation

The most popular mode of public transport in the Philippines, the jeepney, will only set you back about PHP12 per ride. If you’re in Manila, you can also take advantage of the bus system, with fares ranging from PHP20-100 depending on how far you’re going. Just be prepared for serious traffic, especially during rush hour.

People who want a car must be prepared to open their wallets. If you’re living in a major city like Manila, owning a car can be more of a headache than a convenience. Traffic congestion is a real problem. You can easily spend hours stuck in gridlock. Plus, parking can be a nightmare and a significant expense.

That said, owning a car or motorbike might be more practical if you’re living in a more rural area. Traffic is less of an issue, and you might have fewer public transportation options. Fuel prices are also lower outside of the major cities.


Housing Costs

Housing costs in the Philippines vary significantly between major cities and smaller towns or rural areas. As stated above, living in urban centers like Manila, Cebu, and Davao is more expensive than in the provinces.

In Manila, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around PHP18,137, while a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs an average of PHP39,240.  The prices are lower Outside the city center, with a one-bedroom apartment costing around PHP9,916 and a three-bedroom apartment costing PHP20,835.

Cebu City has slightly lower housing costs than Manila. The monthly rent for a studio apartment in Cebu is approximately PHP19,800.

In Davao, the largest city in Mindanao, housing is more affordable. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center has an average monthly rent of around PHP9,000, while a three-bedroom apartment costs about PHP15,000. 

In contrast, housing costs in smaller towns and rural areas are significantly lower. For example, in the province of Aklan, the price for an apartment is around 5,000 PHP ($95) per month. In rural areas, rent can be as low as 2,500 PHP per month for a simple home. 

When buying property, prices also differ significantly between urban and rural locations. In Metro Manila, the average cost per square meter for an apartment is 13,685 PHP.  However, prices can be as low as 1,000 PHP per square meter in less urbanized areas.

Overall, housing costs in the Philippines are highest in major cities like Manila and Cebu. At the same time, smaller towns and rural areas offer more affordable options for renting and buying property. 

Tips for Finding Housing 

The key is to use a variety of online property portals and websites to find the widest selection of potential rentals in your budget and target location.

Starting your search 1-2 months before you move is advisable for the best options.

  • Lamudi Philippines – Has over 700,000 property listings for rent and sale across the country. Easy to search by location, price, property type, etc.
  • Dot Property Philippines – Offers a wide selection of rentals and properties for sale. Includes articles and guides.
  • Zipmatch – Focuses on condos and houses in the metro areas. Has area guides and a map-based search.
  • Property24 Philippines – Straightforward property portal with listings across the country. App available.
  • Rentpad – Focused specifically on apartments and houses for rent, though it only covers 12 major cities.
  • Social Media and Expat Communities – Join local Facebook groups for rentals and apartments in your target area. Many landlords and agents post listings directly in these groups. Search “Apartments for rent in [city/neighborhood].” Ask for referrals from other expats and friends already living in the Philippines. They can provide leads and advice on the best areas to live. Expat groups and forums are an excellent place to start.
  • Local Real Estate Agents and Brokers – Visit or contact local real estate agents and brokers once you arrive. They’ll have expert knowledge of the local market and can help you find suitable properties and negotiate with landlords. Most charge a commission equal to 1 month’s rent.
  • Online Classifieds and Short-Term Rentals – Check online classifieds like Manila Craigslist, which have rental listings directly from owners. Be cautious, as there are some scams on these sites.
  • Public Housing Options – You can check the listings on the National Housing Authority website for low-income public housing, though these are very limited.

Food and Grocery Expenses

Food and grocery expenses are a significant part of the cost of living in the Philippines. The average monthly price of groceries for a single person is around PHP6,500. However, this can vary depending on factors such as location, lifestyle, and where you choose to shop.

A meal at an inexpensive restaurant typically costs around PHP200, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant averages PHP1,200.

Fast food options, such as a McMeal at McDonald’s, cost approximately PHP200. Local food stalls and street vendors offer even more affordable options, with meals often costing less than PHP100.

Filipinos choose between local markets (known as “palengkes”) and supermarkets for grocery shopping. These markets are the go-to spots for fresh, affordable produce, meat, and seafood. Prices at these markets are generally lower than in supermarkets. For example, 1 kilogram of pork costs PHP280-PHP400 at wet markets, while 1 kilogram of chicken is priced at PHP150-PHP200.

On the other hand, supermarkets offer a more comprehensive selection of products, including imported goods, and are often more convenient. However, prices tend to be higher compared to wet markets.

A side-by-side comparison of grocery prices between the Philippines and Canada found that while some items were more expensive in the Philippines, others were surprisingly on par with Canadian prices.

To save money on food expenses, many expats and locals choose to shop at wet markets for fresh ingredients and only visit supermarkets for specific items that cannot be found elsewhere. Cooking meals at home using local ingredients is also cost-effective, as dining out frequently can quickly add up.


Transportation Expenses

Getting around in the Philippines can be an adventure, and the good news is that there are plenty of options to suit every budget. 

Public transportation is the way to go if you’re looking to save some cash. As stated above, jeepneys rides are as little as PHP12 per ride. Tricycles, which are motorcycles with a sidecar, are another affordable option for short trips, with fares starting at around PHP10.

If you’re in Manila, hop on the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) or LRT (Light Rail Transit) for a quick and efficient way to get around. Fares range from PHP15-PHP30 depending on the distance.

If you prefer the convenience of having your wheels, be prepared to shell out some serious cash. Buying a car in the Philippines can be expensive, with a basic sedan like a Toyota Vios starting at around PHP700,000, and that’s just the beginning – you’ll also need to factor in the cost of maintenance, insurance, and fuel, which can add up quickly.

Consider getting a motorcycle or scooter for a more affordable option. Prices start at around PHP50,000 for a basic model, and they’re a lot cheaper to maintain and insure than a car. Just be sure to invest in a good helmet and protective gear, as traffic in the Philippines can be chaotic.

If you’re looking to save money and get some exercise at the same time, why not try biking or walking? Many cities in the Philippines are becoming more bike-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes and rental options everywhere. Walking is also a great way to explore your neighborhood and get to know the locals.

Biking and walking may not be practical for longer distances or during the hot and humid summer months. But short trips around town are a great way to save money and stay in shape.


Healthcare Costs

Understanding the difference between private health insurance and public healthcare is crucial. While both options have pros and cons, the costs can vary quite a bit.

People who want more comprehensive coverage and can customize their plans prefer private insurance. But be prepared to shell out some serious cash. Depending on the type of coverage you choose, you could look at premiums anywhere from PHP1500 to PHP10,000 per month. 

On the other hand, public healthcare through PhilHealth is a much more affordable option. If you’re employed, your contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck, and your employer will cover half of the cost. This works out to around 4% of most people’s monthly salary. So, if you’re making PHP10,000 per month, you’ll pay around PHP450 for your PhilHealth coverage.

But here’s the thing – even with PhilHealth, you might still have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses. A recent study found that Filipinos shoulder anywhere from 34% to 44.7% of their medical costs, even with PhilHealth coverage. That means if you have a hospital stay costing PHP100,000, you could be on the hook for up to PHP44,700 out of your pocket.

Some common out-of-pocket expenses that Filipinos face include doctor’s fees, laboratory tests, and medication. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you have a severe illness or injury. A study by the World Health Organization found that the average Filipino spends about PHP9,839 per year on healthcare expenses. 

Healthcare costs in the Philippines are a mixed bag. While public healthcare through PhilHealth is more affordable, you may need more than just what you need.

Although private insurance (including HMOs) can offer more comprehensive coverage, it comes at a steeper price. The key is to research, understand your options, and find the right balance for your budget and your health needs.


Education Costs

Education costs in the Philippines vary significantly depending on the level of education and the type of institution (public or private).

Here’s a comparison of tuition fees for primary, secondary, and tertiary education in private and public schools and information on international schools.

Tuition Fees Comparison: Private vs. Public Schools
Level of EducationPrivate SchoolsPublic Schools
Primary (Grade 1-6)PHP30,000 – PHP100,000 per yearFree under the K-12 program
Secondary (Grade 7-12)PHP50,000 – PHP150,000 per yearFree under the K-12 program
Tertiary (College)PHP60,000 – PHP200,000+ per year, depending on the course and institutionFree tuition in state universities and colleges under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931)

The table shows that public schools offer free education at the primary and secondary levels under the K-12 program. State universities and colleges also provide free tuition for tertiary education under RA 10931. In contrast, private schools charge varying tuition fees across all levels, with costs increasing as the level of education advances.

International Schools: Availability and Cost

International schools in the Philippines cater to expatriate families and local students seeking a globally recognized education. These schools offer curricula from countries like the United States and the United Kingdom and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

As of 2023, there are 37 international schools in Manila alone. Tuition fees for these schools are significantly higher compared to local private schools. For example:

  • International School Manila: Annual tuition fees range from $8,860 for preschool to $17,940 for high school (Grades 11-12)
  • British School Manila: Annual tuition fees for Grades 10-11 are £5,415, while Grades 12-13 cost £5,895 
  • Brent International School Manila: Annual tuition fees for Grade 12 are $19,840 

Enrolling in an international school can cost anywhere from PHP500,000 to over PHP1,500,000 per year, depending on the grade level and institution. This makes international schools the most expensive education option in the Philippines.


Utilities and Miscellaneous Expenses

When living in the Philippines, it’s essential to factor in the costs of utilities and other miscellaneous expenses.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for electricity, water, internet, mobile phone plans, and leisure activities.

Average Monthly Costs for Utilities
UtilityAverage Monthly Cost
ElectricityPHP2,000 – PHP5,000 for an apartment (85 sq.m)
WaterPHP 300 – PHP 500
InternetPHP1,000 – PHP2,000 for a basic plan

The actual costs will depend on your usage and the size of your home. Electricity tends to be the most expensive utility, mainly if you frequently use air conditioning.

Mobile phone plans: prepaid vs. postpaid options
PrepaidPostpaid
PaymentPay for services upfrontBilled at the end of each month
ContractNo contract requiredUsually requires a 6-24 month contract
FlexibilityHigh flexibility to control spendingLess flexibility, tied to a monthly plan
CostLoad denominations start at PHP5 and go up to PHP1,000 Monthly plans range from PHP299 to PHP2,999 or more, depending on the provider and inclusions
Credit checkNo credit check is requiredA credit check may be required
Data allowancePurchase data as needed, with promos like PHP50 for 1GB valid for three daysComes with a set data allowance per month, ranging from 2GB to 61GB or more
PerksLimited perks and promotionsOften comes with perks like free texts, calls, or streaming services
Overage chargesThere are no overage charges, and service stops when the load is exhaustedOverage charges apply if you exceed your monthly allowance, typically PHP5 ($0.09) to PHP20 ($0.36) per MB
International useDifficult to use internationallyEasier to use internationally, with roaming options
Device optionsLimited options or buy your own deviceCan come with a subsidized or free device with a contract, with monthly device fees ranging from PHP200 to PHP2,500 or more

Prepaid plans are generally more popular in the Philippines, with around 96% of mobile subscribers opting for prepaid services. This is due to the flexibility and lower costs associated with prepaid plans, which suit the needs of many Filipinos.

However, postpaid plans are becoming increasingly popular, especially among heavy data users and those who want the latest smartphone devices. Postpaid plans often come with larger data allowances and perks like free texts, calls, or streaming services, making them a better value for some users.


Leisure and Entertainment

ActivityAverage Cost
Movie ticketPHP250 – PHP350 per person
Gym membershipPHP1,500 – PHP2,500 per month
Fitness classes (yoga, Zumba, etc.)PHP300 – PHP800 per session
Eating out at a mid-range restaurantPHP500 – PHP1,000 for a meal for two
Fast food mealPHP150 – PHP300 per person
Domestic beer at a barPHP50 – PHP100  per bottle
Cocktail at a barPHP150 – PHP300 per drink
Coffee at a caféPHP100 – PHP200 per cup
Amusement park entrance feePHP500 – PHP800 per person
Massage at a spaPHP300 – PHP1,500 per hour, depending on the type of massage and spa
Karaoke room rentalPHP300 – PHP800 per hour, depending on the establishment
BowlingPHP150 – PHP300 per game, plus shoe rental
Movie streaming subscriptionPHP149 – PHP549 per month, depending on the provider (Netflix, iflix, etc.)
Music streaming subscriptionPHP129 – PHP169 per month (Spotify Premium, Apple Music, etc.)

The costs of leisure and entertainment activities in the Philippines can vary depending on the type of activity and the establishment.

Some activities, such as going to the movies or eating out, can be relatively affordable, while others, like gym memberships or spa treatments, can be more expensive.

It’s important to note that these prices are averages and may vary depending on the location and specific establishment. In general, leisure and entertainment costs in the Philippines are lower compared to many Western countries, but they can still add up quickly relative to local wages.

As such, it’s essential to factor in these expenses when budgeting and to make informed choices based on your priorities and lifestyle.


Tips for Managing Living Costs in the Philippines

Here are some of our tips on how to lower your living expenses without sacrificing your quality of life.

Create a Detailed Budget

Whether you’re an expat adjusting to life in the Philippines or a local looking to manage your finances better, creating a detailed budget is essential. List all your income sources and expenses, including rent, groceries, utilities, transportation, and discretionary spending.

Using a budgeting app or spreadsheet can help you easily track your spending and identify areas where you can cut back. Make sure to revisit your budget regularly and adjust as needed, especially when your income or expenses change.

Reduce Housing Costs

Housing is often the most significant expense for both expats and locals in the Philippines. To lower your housing costs, consider living with roommates or in a smaller space. 

If you’re renting, try negotiating with your landlord for a lower rate, especially if you’ve been a reliable tenant. 

For homeowners, look into refinancing your mortgage to secure a lower interest rate and reduce your monthly payments. Remember, even small savings on housing can add up over time.

Save on Groceries and Dining Out

Food is another major expense for most people in the Philippines. To save money on groceries, plan your meals and create a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases and reduce food waste. Buying generic or store-brand products instead of more expensive name-brand items can also help you save. 

When it comes to dining out, look for deals, split entrees with friends or family, or opt for cheaper menu items. Cooking meals at home is often the most cost-effective option, so pack lunches for work or school whenever possible.

Reduce Transportation Expenses

Getting around in the Philippines can be expensive, whether you’re an expat navigating a new city or a local commuting to work. To reduce transportation costs, use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk whenever possible. 

If you need a car, consider buying a used vehicle (with low mileage) instead of a new one to save on monthly payments. Shopping around for the best deals on car insurance and considering raising your deductible can also help lower your premiums.

Lower Your Utility Bills

Utility bills can quickly add up, especially in the Philippines, where air conditioning is often a necessity. To lower your utility costs, use energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and unplug devices when not in use. Adjusting your thermostat, using inverter appliances, using fans, or opening windows for ventilation can also help reduce your heating and cooling expenses. 

Additionally, conserving water by fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and using water-efficient fixtures can lead to significant savings over time. Feel free to negotiate with your cable, internet, and phone providers for better rates or switch to cheaper alternatives.

Manage Your Debt

Managing debt is crucial for both expats and locals in the Philippines. If you have high-interest debt, such as credit card balances, focus on paying them off as quickly as possible to reduce interest charges. Consider consolidating your debt with a balance transfer credit card or personal loan to secure a lower interest rate. 

To avoid falling into a debt trap, only use credit cards for purchases you can afford to pay off in full each month and avoid taking on new debt whenever possible.

Boost Your Income

Sometimes, more than cutting expenses is needed to make ends meet. If you find yourself struggling to cover your living costs, consider boosting your income.

This might mean asking for a raise at work, looking for a higher-paying job, or taking on a side hustle or freelance work in your spare time. Selling unwanted items online or at a garage sale can also help generate additional income while decluttering your space.


Disclaimer: All information listed in this article is for information purposes only. Although utmost effort was made to ensure accuracy of information on this website, readers must not solely rely on it in making any investment or financial decision since it does not take into consideration the risk tolerance, financial situation, investment goals, and experience of readers. It is best to consult a professional financial planner or your bank before investing to make a more informed choice and limit your risk exposure.

Sources

  1. Philippine Review of Economics
  2. National Library of Medicine

About jasonacidre

Jason Acidre is the publisher & head of digital content strategy at Grit PH.

He is a serial tech entrepreneur, organic digital consultant, and a financial literacy advocate in the Philippines. In 2011, he started his first venture, a digital marketing agency that specializes in technical SEO, content marketing, and digital PR. The business started with an initial capital of P1,500 - that eventually grew and generated $1.5 million in revenue in 2016.

Over the past decade, his team has worked with several Fortune/Inc. 500 brands as well as some of the most highly-valued startups in the world. Helping drive millions of traffic, sales, and revenue to their websites.

Along with the team at Grit PH, his current goal is to help 1,000,000 Filipinos identify and achieve their own "true success".

Education: University of Santo Tomas (Undergraduate, Civil Engineering)
Focus: Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Investing & Personal Finance

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