Brilliant weather, a low cost of living and friendly, English speaking people makes The Philippines a popular destination for British expats.
Numbers are not on a par with Spain or Australia, but The Philippines still has a significant British contingent.
A couple on the UK State Pension of £18,000 a year have enough for a basic lifestyle, although they miss out on cost-of-living increases, especially if they opt to live on one of the more remote paradise islands of palm-fringed white sand beaches and crystal clear tropical waters.
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About The Philippines
The Philippines is a country of contrasts. Whatever you are looking for, you can probably find from bustling, crowded cities to the solitude of pristine, deserted beaches.
The country is a sprawling group of more than 7,500 islands in the Asia Pacific not far above the equator, sitting between Taiwan, a few hundred miles to the north, and Borneo, a similar distance to the south west.
Philippines Facts and Figures
With a population of 110 million, The Philippines is the 13th most populous country in the world. The population is evenly split among urban dwellers and those living in the country.
The capital is Manila, a sprawling metropolis which is home to 13 million people. Manila is the most densely populated city in the world with almost 43,000 people per square mile.
Other large Metros are Cebu, population 3 million and Davao with a population 2.5 million.
The Philippines allows the worship of many religions, with Catholicism practised by 80% of the population.
However, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists live side-by-side in most communities.
Filipinos speak nearly 200 different languages. The most popular is Tagalog, spoken by one in four with Cebuano ranking next with one in five speakers.
The Philippines enjoys a tropical climate with hot, dry weather for most of the year.
The monsoon season lasts from June to November.
The average daily temperature hovers around 80 Fahrenheit or 26 Centigrade all year.
The islands suffer from extreme weather and natural conditions, including cyclones and earthquakes.
The Philippines has a growing and sophisticated economy based on technology, clothing, and agriculture.
Many Filipinos work overseas and remit money home to their families.
The Philippines is one of the world’s leading internet users and has a booming smartphone market handling more than a billion local text messages a day.
Expats in The Philippines
Half The Philippines population lives on the island of Luzon – where the capital Manila is also sited.
10,000+ British expats living in The Philippines
Around 10,000 British expats are thought to live on the islands, according to government research in 2011.
Where Expats Live in The Philippines
Where British expats live in The Philippines depends on where they are in their lives.
Younger expats who moved to the country on assignment for an employer are more likely to live in a city, while retired expats tend to be drawn to the beaches on more remote islands.
Moving to The Philippines
Once you have made your mind up to leave the UK for good and move to The Philippines, you must complete some priority formalities to make the move official.
- Give your local council your address in The Philippines
- Stop or arrange to have state benefits paid in The Philippines
- Speak to the International Pension Centre about claiming or receiving the state pension
- Tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about your move. File a Form P85 to tidy up your tax affairs and file a P45 from your last employer, if you have one
- On applying for your Philippines visa, make sure you get an ACR i-Card. This is an ID card that allows you to pass through immigration controls.
- If you are working in The Philippines, you will also need an Alien Employment Permit (AEP)
The ACR i-Card and AEP are both issued by The Philippines consulate and embassy in the UK
Jobs and Salaries
The Philippines has a fast-accelerating economy, but low pay by Western standards.
The average Filipino family earns 313,000 pesos a year – about £5,050.
Well paid jobs attract a salary of around £16,500 a year, but the cost of living is cheap.
British tourists and expats can stay in The Philippines for up to 30 days without a visa if they have valid tickets to leave the country. A passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end date of the stay.
For longer stays, expat birth certificates, the UK Philippines Embassy must authenticate marriage certificates and school records.
The authorities in The Philippines will ask for these documents if an expat applies for a long-term resident visa.
Depending on your immigration status and length of stay, several visa options are available:
A non-immigrant visa for a pre-arranged job or going to the Philippines to study
Quota Immigrant visas
Quota immigrant visas are golden visas for wealthy expats investing to benefit the country. Only 50 quota immigrant visas are issued each year
Special Resident Retiree Visa
A special resident retiree visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows expats to leave and return to the country when they want and an indefinite stay.
The visa comes with some financial terms:
Renewing UK Passports from The Philippines
You can renew a British passport from the Philippines. Learn how to manage your British passport as an expat here.
A passport should for at least six months from the date of entering The Philippines.
Cost of Living in The Philippines
The cost of living is inexpensive in The Philippines compared to most Western countries, making the islands a favoured destination for expats.
Many stop over between contracts in the oil and gas industry.
A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant for a couple costs £13 and even a swanky, upmarket restaurant dinner for two comes with a bill of £35. A McDonald’s meal is priced at £2.45.
British expats will find that the living costs in The Philippines are low And a higher quality of life can be obtained
Renting a three-bedroom apartment in a city centre will set expats back £257 a month, plus utilities including broadband and a mobile costing around £160 a month.
Rents and utilities drop for expats living outside of a city.
Petrol costs £0.83p a litre, while a VW Golf or equivalent new car is around £21,000.
Getting around in towns and cities is easy by hailing a cheap Jeepney – a colourful highly decorated taxi.
Cost of Living in the Philippines Compared to the UK
- Consumer Prices in Philippines are 40.54% lower
- Consumer Prices Including Rent in Philippines are 47.57% lower
- Rent Prices in Philippines are 64.76% lower
- Restaurant Prices in Philippines are 70.15% lower
- Groceries Prices in Philippines are 30.38% lower
- Local Purchasing Power in Philippines is 74.75% lower
Renting and Buying a Property in The Philippines
Buying a property abroad or buying land in the Philippines is not easy for expats. Complicated and long-running disputes over titles and ownership arise regularly, especially where westerners are concerned. Anyone wanting to buy property should take legal advice from an independent professional.
Healthcare in The Philippines
Healthcare is patchy in The Philippines and sometimes falls far below the standards expected in the UK.
Better care is available in cities, but in remoter areas, adequate facilities may be some distance away with transport limited to boat or helicopter. Even then, the hospital may offer limited emergency cover.
Private healthcare is expensive, with the cost of intensive care running at more than £1,000 a day.
Its essential expats have adequate private health insurance to cover their needs and those of their families.
The policy should offer:
- Repatriation to the UK if you need to come home for treatment
- Cover for the full cost of treatment
- Repatriation if you die in The Philippines
- Payment to bring your family home if you are ill or injured
Health Insurance for Expats
Private medical cover is not mandatory for expats in The Philippines.
The health system is a mix of public and private hospitals which generally require payment up front.
PhilHealth, the state medical insurance scheme, has basic packages for expats.
Private cover will offer more features and benefits.
Health insurance costs between £40 a year for the cheapest cover to £160 a year for a policy with more benefits.
Taking Medication into The Philippines
Expats taking medicines into the Philippines must show lawful possession with their prescription from your doctor or hospital.
Schooling and Further Education
The Philippines is well served by international private schools for expat children of all ages.
Many of the schools are clustered around Manila.
Fees range from £10,000 a year for Elementary School to £13,500 a year for High School grades 11 and 12.
Other costs include uniforms, books, sports equipment, and other incidentals.
The annual schooling fee does not include boarding.
The Philippines has some excellent universities rated among the best in the Asia Pacific, but the costs are well out of the range of ordinary working families.
Fees start from £3,000 a year, rising to £3,850 a year, depending on the college and course.
Driving in The Philippines
You need to have a local driving licence to drive in the Philippines or apply for an international driving licence from the Philippines’ Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Applying for a Driving Licence
To tick the boxes needed to apply for a Philippines driving licence, expats must:
Examiners will ask expats to sit a brief written driving test and to pass a drugs test.
Driving in The Philippines can be frantic to an expat as drivers tend to ignore the rules of the road and traffic lights.
Car insurance is mandatory, and a local policy is considered better than international cover that may not offer all the features needed in The Philippines.
Money, Tax, and Pensions in Philippines
The currency of the Philippines is the Philippine peso (PHP).
The exchange rate with Sterling varies and is currently around 62 pesos to the Pound.
Expats can bring up to 50,000 pesos (£800) into The Philippines without prior permission. For higher amounts, the Philippines Central Bank must give written agreement.
Inflation is running between 1.75% and 2.5% without considering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Paying Tax in The Philippines
Pensions and other earnings are subject to personal income tax.
The highest rate is 35% on incomes of over £128,000, with the basic rate starting at 20% on income of 250,000 pesos (£4,031).
Other rates are charged for capital gains, passive investment income and benefits paid by employers.
Cash, Credit, and Debit Cards
Many ATMs do not accept international credit or debit cards.
Larger shops generally accept foreign credit cards but not debit cards or traveller’s cheques.
Outside major cities shop with cash as ATMs and exchange bureaux are scarce.
There are no Social Security payments in the Philippines for expats.
Drawing a UK Pension in The Philippines
This table outlines if your pension rises in line with UK inflation and pays a guaranteed income while you live in The Philippines.
|Pension||Type||Index-linked?||Income guarantee?||Currency||Paid to local bank?|
|UK State Pension||–||No||Yes||£||Yes|
|Workplace||Defined benefit (DB)||Yes||Yes||£||Yes|
|Workplace||Defined contribution (DC)||No||No||£||Yes|
|Personal||Defined benefit (DB)||Yes||Yes||£||Yes|
|Personal||Defined contribution (DC)||No||No||£||Yes|
|QROPS||Defined contribution (DC)||No||No||Any major currency||Yes|
Expats should check the terms and conditions of their own pensions to confirm how their provider pays in The Philippines.
In The Philippines, the British state pension is frozen at the amount of the first payment for life – effectively removing the index-linking retirees receive in the UK. The maximum first payment is 10,875 pesos or £175.20 weekly (565,575 pesos/£9,110 a year).
Expats in The Philippines cannot start a non-workplace QROPS without paying the Overseas Transfer Charge. The Philippines does not have any QROPS providers and joining a scheme outside the country where you live comes with a tax penalty.
The charge is 25% of the amount transferred into the QROPS.
Find out more about QROPS.
Some workplace and international organisation QROPS are exempt from the OTS.
UK ‘trivial commutation’ rules still apply in The Philippines even if you only have one or more small funds worth less than £30,000 in total.
The rules mean you need to take advice from a suitably qualified IFA or free guidance from the UK government’s Pension Advisory Service
Can I Top up or Defer my State Pension in The Philippines?
Expats can make voluntary contributions in The Philippines to top up a State Pension entitlement. They can also defer drawing the State Pension.
Find Your Lost UK Pension
Around 1.6 million savers need to find their lost pensions worth £19.4 billion, according to the latest research. Learn how to find your lost UK pension.
Inheritance Tax, Wills, and Estate Planning
Many expats have real estate, investments and bank accounts in The UK and The Philippines, which can pose a problem on their death.
When they die, local laws in each country determine how assets are distributed, either according to a valid will or succession laws.
In The Philippines, a civil code decides how wealth is divided within a family in the absence of a will, while the UK rules are based on common law.
Expats with significant wealth should make a will detailing their final wishes in each country where they hold assets. Learn about what’s needed for a legal expat Will.
To complicate matters more, The Philippines has no wealth or inheritance taxes, but the UK does.
The conflicting legal and tax systems mean expats should take professional estate planning advice in both countries.
How Financial Firms Are Regulated in The Philippines
Taking financial advice in the Philippines needs careful thought and understanding before you decide what company to use.
A financial adviser should at least qualify as a Registered Financial Planner (RFP) of the trade body RFP Philippines, which offers a certification program and a professional code of ethics that members should follow.
Most expat advice firms in The Philippines are regulated in the UK
FATCA and CRS
FATCA, the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and CRS, the Common Reporting Standard, are aimed at making sure any tax resident of countries in the networks cannot keep money or other assets hidden offshore.
FATCA is a US program that includes banks and finance houses in The Philippines.
Any FATCA registered financial institution feeds data on accounts held by US nationals to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and in many cases, the IRS reciprocates with information about Philippine residents with accounts and investments in America.
CRS is a similar network to FATCA comprising of more than 100 countries, but The Philippines is not yet a member state and is not listed to join before 2021 at the earliest.
Voting in The Philippines
Expats can still vote in the UK once they have retired to The Philippines.
Expats can vote from overseas in UK General Elections and Bye-Elections in the constituency where they last lived.
Currently, the 15-year rule restricts voting. The law allows expats to vote in elections for 15 years after leaving the UK.
The government has announced scrapping this rule, but no date is set for repealing the law.
Social Ethics and Traditions
It is easy for British expats to get along in The Philippines as English is widely spoken.
As a Catholic country, much of the culture and customs are familiar to Westerners.
However, there a few points to bear in mind when in The Philippines:
Do not Duck a Beso
Beso is Spanish for ‘kiss’ and means touching cheeks as a greeting in The Philippines.
It is a male/female greeting and never man to man.
Turning down a beso is considered rude.
LGBT and Same-Sex Couples
The Philippines is generally tolerant towards the LGBT community. The law does not recognise same-sex couples in the same way as the UK. Public displays of affection could be interpreted as an offence by police.
Boxing and Basketball
Filipinos are mad about boxing and basketball and millions tune in to their TVs and the streets are deserted when local hero Manny Pacquiao fights.
Coconuts are Big Business
The Philippines ships 20 million tons of coconuts overseas every year and is the world’s biggest producer of the fruit.
Filipinos Cannot Say No
Politeness is considered a virtue and often avoid saying no and go for a more complicated and obtuse response that can be confusing
Living In The Philippines FAQs
We’ve collected a bunch of frequently asked questions about living in the Philippines.
The time in the Philippines is 7 hours ahead of the UK.
The Philippines comprises more than 7,500 islands, only 2,000 are inhabited and 5,000 are unnamed.
Philippines islands are located in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region or be simply Southeast Asia. Not far above the equator, sitting between Taiwan, a few hundred miles to the north, and Borneo, a similar distance to the south west.
Tagalog, which is now usually referred to as just Filipino, and English are the official languages in the Philippines
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