Information on Philippine’s Cost of Living, Infrastructure, Climate, Residency, Health Care and Real Estate
The Philippine islands are rich in natural beauty. Lying about 500 miles off the southeast coast of China and to the northeast of Borneo, the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands created from volcanic activity. Yet the total land mass is about the size of Arizona. Only about 7% of the islands are larger than one square mile, and only one third of them have names. They form three main groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Colonized by the Spanish in 1521, their influence can be seen all over the Philippines, from the Spanish churches and religious observation to Hispanic last names and foods. The Spanish language was the official language of the country for over three centuries and was the lingua franca up until the 21st century.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most affordable places to retire, and welcomes foreigners, to boot. Offering one of the best retirement programs and an easy path to permanent residency (the easiest in Southeast Asia), plus top-notch health care (and the only remaining overseas VA hospitals in the world), established retiree communities, and stunningly beautiful beaches… it’s easy to see why so many retirees have decided to make the Philippines their permanent home.
Cost Of Living In The Philippines
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets (for a couple) for our favorite destinations in The Philippines:
Infrastructure In The Philippines
The areas of infrastructural investment in the Philippines are unevenly distributed across industries. While the country boasts sophisticated communications infrastructure, modern transportation is severely lacking. The historically poor infrastructure has been the biggest drawback of the Philippines for businesspeople and investors over the past decades. Of the ASEAN-6 countries, the Philippines’ infrastructure ranks behind that of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and is about on par with that of Indonesia and Vietnam.
With a high concentration of cell phone users, the cellular industry is booming in the Philippines. In some respects, the industry is more advanced and integrated here than even in the United States, with over five million people using their cell phones as digital wallets and using cellular networks for all of their financial transactions.
On the other hand, the country underinvests in its physical infrastructure year after year, consistently spending under 3% of annual GDP on it. The geographic nature of the country (mountainous islands) makes uniform improvements difficult and, as a result, the state of roadways varies from island to island (and even within the same island).
Buses, “jeepneys,” taxis, and electric scooters or tricycles are the most common forms of public transportation in a given city in the Philippines. Because of the island nature of the country, air and sea transport are important aspects of national infrastructure and generally are better-developed than land transport in the country.
Climate In The Philippines
The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate which is dominated by the monsoon season.
The temperature in all areas of the Philippines typically ranges between 75°F and 90°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 80%. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level may experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity. The Philippines receives plenty of precipitation during monsoon season, but the rest of the year stays fairly dry. The average annual rainfall for the Philippines is about 100 inches, but this is distributed throughout the country and occurs mostly during monsoon season.
However, the Philippines is also prone to earthquakes, volcanos, typhoons, floods, landslides, and tsunamis. Of course, you wouldn’t be experiencing typhoons or earthquakes all the time. Most places in the world are at risk for some kinds of natural disasters at least during certain months, including any given destination in the United States. If you don’t want to be in residence during monsoon season in the Philippines, for example, decamp during those months to your other favorite haven.
The city of Dumaguete, located along a sheltered coast on the island of Negros, is protected against most of the typhoons that periodically batter many of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands. This makes it one of the most appealing options for foreigners looking to move to the Philippines.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally the Philippines enjoys a warm, sunny climate with little temperature fluctuation from season to season.
Philippine Rainy Season (monsoon season): October to December
Philippine Dry Season: January to September (March to May is the hottest time of year)
Residency In The Philippines
U.S. citizens may enter the Philippines without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 30 days per trip provided the visitor’s passport has at least six months validity and an ongoing ticket has been purchased. If you wish to stay longer than 30 days, you can seek permission to remain in the country once you arrive or you can apply for a 59-day visa at the Philippine embassy nearest you before leaving home.
The Philippine government offers one of the best retirement programs for foreigners that comes with more benefits than any other country in the region. The country also provides the easiest path to permanent residency in Southeast Asia. The Philippines retirement program allows foreign residents to work or start a business, unlike neighboring Thailand. Once you have been granted permanent residency, you can stay in the country for as long as you want, and your visa never expires.
In addition to the ability to take a job or own a business, the retirement program also allows for the duty-free importation of up to US$7,000 worth of household belongings, an exemption from airport travel taxes, and other similar tax discounts and incentives. Further, you can leave the country and return any time you like without having to re-apply for residency.
Four types of special resident retiree visas are offered, starting with the SRRV Smile program that allows you to remain in the Philippines for as long as you want, provided you deposit US$20,000 in a Philippine bank and keep it there for the duration of your stay. This visa is available to anyone who is 35 or older. There is no minimum income requirement.
You qualify for the SRRV classic visa program by depositing US$50,000 in a Philippine bank or purchasing a condominium costing US$50,000 or more if you are between ages 35 and 49. If you are age 50 or older, you need invest only US$10,000, provided you have an individual pension of at least US$800 per month. A couple must be able to show pension income of at least US$1,000 per month.
Residency in the Philippines can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship in this country, but there are several requirements, including 10-year residence, ownership of property, and enrolment of children in Philippine schools.
Health Care In The Philippines
The private health care sector is booming, fueling a fast-growing medical tourism industry here.
There are all kinds of hospitals in the Philippines. Those that are considered “first rate” here might be considered average in the United States. Those that are charity hospitals here would be a foreigner’s nightmare.
Cebu has several good hospitals. Chong Hua Hospital is an “Accredited Institute of the Joint Commission International.” Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital ( http://cduh.com.ph/ ) is also an excellent facility. Perpetual Succour Hospital is run by an order of Sisters. These three hospitals have up-to-date modern facilities and technology and offer excellent medical care.
There are however a couple of important points a foreigner needs to know about the difference between hospitals in the Philippines and Western countries. The actual medical care provided by doctors and nurses is similar but the day-to-day care of the patient is left to family members. It is expected that patients will have family members stay with them throughout their whole hospital stay. It is the family’s responsibility to change the bed linens, get water, and even to help the patient bathe, get to the bathroom, and eat.
The second point is that a hospital can refuse you care if you do not have the cash to pay for it. There is a charge for your room, for your doctor, and you pay for all medications as you go. The hospital does not keep medications in a centralized pharmacy. Your doctor will write prescriptions for what you need, and a family member is expected to go to a local pharmacy to get these for you. This even includes IV tubes and needles.
Public facilities in this country likely would not be of a standard you’d find acceptable. Medical and dental care are good, with new hospitals under construction and international-standard health care is available in the major cities.
The Philippines shines when it comes to alternative health care. Medical doctors here are trained in “Western Medicine,” but they are also very open to using alternative healing methods, especially herbal medicines. Most of them grew up with mothers and grandmothers who knew which greens to steep to cure loose bowls, a cough, or to take down a fever. I have had one medical student lament to me that more and more Filipinos simply want their doctors to write a prescription for a pill. They think of it as more advanced; more modern.
The Philippines is now the only country outside of the United States to offer Veterans Affairs Hospitals. Both medical care and veteran benefits can be received from the overseas VA Hospitals in the Philippines. Click here for more details about Veterans Affairs in the Philippines.
Real Estate In The Philippines
The Philippines restrict foreign ownership to condos and in any given building foreigners can own only up to 40% of the units. Still, this country makes sense for both retirement and investment. Real estate prices in some parts of it are unbelievably cheap. Focus on the more active areas where you would have an easier time reselling on the local market. You don’t want to be limited by having to find another expat buyer when you decide to resell.
Foreigners can apply for land leases for up to 50 years, renewable for another 25 years.
Foreigners cannot own land in the Philippines. Corporations can own land, but the corporation cannot be more than 40% foreign-owned. Foreigners married to Filipinos can own land under the spouse’s name. If the Filipino spouse dies or the couple separates, the land cannot be transferred to the foreign spouse.
English In The Philippines
English is widely understood throughout the region, and it is an official language of the Philippines. Urban areas and many small towns have enough English speakers that communication rarely presents a significant barrier.