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Living In The Philippines, A Guide for Expats

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
By

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.

About The Philippines

About the Philippines with skyline of Manila

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.

Religion

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.

Language

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.

Climate

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.

Economy

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

Expat family walking 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.

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.

Philippines Visas

Visa in Philippines image with a jigsaw Philippines flag

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:

Non-Immigrant Visa  

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

Cost of living in the Philippines, showing the Philippine Peso currency

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.

 The UK embassy in Manila publishes a list of English-speaking lawyers.

Get Financial Advice

We can put you in contact with a qualified specialist expat financial advisor based in your location. Click the button below to get the expert advice you need to make the best financial decisions.

Healthcare in The Philippines

Healthcare in The Philippines with stethoscope on the Philippines flag

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.

Car Insurance

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

Tax in the Philippines and bank notes

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.

Benefits

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.

PensionTypeIndex-linked?Income guarantee?CurrencyPaid to local bank?
UK State PensionNoYes£Yes
Public sectorYesYes£Yes
Civil ServiceYesYes£Yes
WorkplaceDefined benefit (DB)YesYes£Yes
WorkplaceDefined contribution (DC)NoNo£Yes
Personal Defined benefit (DB)YesYes£Yes
PersonalDefined contribution (DC)NoNo£Yes
QROPSDefined contribution (DC)NoNoAny major currencyYes

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

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

Custom and traditions in the Philippines, showing Sinulog-Santo Niño Festival

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.

What time is it in the Philippines?

The time in the Philippines is 7 hours ahead of the UK.

How many islands in the Philippines?

The Philippines comprises more than 7,500 islands, only 2,000 are inhabited and 5,000 are unnamed.

Where is the Philippines located?

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.

What language is spoken in the Philippines?

Tagalog, which is now usually referred to as just Filipino, and English are the official languages in the Philippines

Are financial advisers in the Philippines regulated

A financial adviser at a minimum should qualify as a Registered Financial Planner (RFP) of the trade body RFP Philippines, to give financial advice in the Philippines.

Get Financial Advice

We can put you in contact with a qualified specialist expat financial advisor based in your location. Click the button below to get the expert advice you need to make the best financial decisions.

Related Information

Below is a list of related articles you may find of interest.

8 thoughts on “Living In The Philippines, A Guide for Expats”

  1. I think some of your facts are incorrect e.g. The UK has agreements with some other countries to protect the social security rights of workers moving between the 2 countries.These are sometimes known as ‘bilateral agreements’ or ‘reciprocal agreements’.
    If you live in of the Philippines and receive a UK State Pension, you will usually get an increase in your pension every year:
    Also there is a duel taxation agreement between the UK and the Philippines e.g. draw your pension in the UK and elect to get taxed in the UK or the Philippines. The Philippines does not tax income from abroad.

    Reply
    • That is my understanding also. I don’t personally know anyone claiming uk state pension there who can verify it but the UK government pension website definitely lists the Philippines as a country where pension increments are paid.

      Reply
  2. this fact you stated is not correct: “The average Filipino family earns 313,000 pesos a year – about £5,050.” This figure is way to high in almost all areas except Manila. I know many families there that are only making between 8,000 and 15000 pesos per month and most on the lower end so your figures are not accurate.

    Reply
  3. Aside from an employment visa, the Philippine government requires non-resident foreign nationals to apply for an Alien Employment Permit (AEP) if they plan on working in the Philippines. The department responsible for this permit is the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

    Reply
  4. Can a British male living in Philippines currently travel to the uk without giving an address,
    that they intended to stay in the uk while here? ( covid rules)

    Reply
  5. Where to start, have you even been to the PH? One certainly wonders. Having lived here 2 years and experienced travel in all the provinces, I can say hardly anyone can speak english. Yes they can say hi and”hey joe” but thats primarily it. If they haven’t had a private school education forget it.
    Get on a bus or a ferry and talk to staff, you’re on your own.
    Lets talk about friendliness. Sure filipinos are pretty friendly, until you disagree. Then its 50/50 & they kill you.
    N. Cotabato, don’t even go there, too dangerous. Squatter areas, you go in you don’t come out. Muslim areas the same, unless you’re muslim.
    Tourists must stay to tourist areas, never go out alone at night. Is this sou ding like the article?
    80% catholic and 99% are fakers, its a joke really. People are so superstitous you would think you’re in africa.
    Enviornmentalist? Stay home, PH is #1 in the world for murdering you. Paedophile? Welcome to the PH, #1 live streaming child pornography. Great catholics right??
    How this country doesn’t have divorce is monumentally idiotic. Dead beat Dads?probably #1 in that too.
    You can fluff up the PH all you want. Is it beautiful with nice beaches? Yes, is it safe? No.
    Are girls honest and pure like good catholics should be (according to catholics) ? Hell no. Scam capital of Asia.
    If your North American stick with Mexico and the Caribean, European stick to Europe. The PH is cheap but it has a lot of issues. Think of it as living in the 1800s

    Reply
  6. I think you must be a very unlikable person. You should have taken the hint by now just as you explained nobody speaks English to you?? My guess is they just don’t want to! Why are you still there after 2 years? Your more than welcome to leave and one more thing…. you are in THEIR country, just the way they like it

    Reply
  7. I’ve been travelling to Naga city for the last 7 years, 2 or 3 times a year , and every where I go they speak English . Super friendly people, I broke down on my motor bike, soon I was joined by several locals all trying to help , and 1 gave me a lift to the city, about 10 km out of his way. My expat friends have had similar experiences. If you smile and speak slower than you would normally then you get a bigger smile back and the local does not get ( what they call) a nose bleed and will be happy to talk. I love the Philippines and the people ,treat everyone with respect and you will see how friendly they can be

    Reply

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