Moving to the Philippines

By anyone’s measure the Philippines is an impressive country. Consisting of 7,107 different islands, covering an area of 115,000 square miles, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country in the world, with the 5th longest coastline and over 100 different recognized languages. Unsurprisingly, for the adventurous visitor the islands that make up the Philippines represent a rich patchwork of regional cultures and geographic variations that simply beg to be explored further.

Living in the Philippines as an Expat

As a nationality, Filipinos are well-known for their hospitality. Many travellers find the friendliness of locals almost overwhelming, particularly in comparison to many other South East Asian countries.

While the Philippines are now recognized as an independent sovereign state, it is interesting to note the effect that Spanish colonization has had on the country. For one, the Philippines is one of the few strongholds in South East Asia of Roman Catholicism. In many ways public holidays here are what any other Western traveller might expect, with long Christmas celebrations and an Easter break as prime examples.

Foodies will be pleased to note that eating out can be considered a national pastime here, and that as a result the Philippines benefit from a broad and delicious range of foods, further splintered by the country’s geographic island diversity.

One of the real benefits for Westerners is that so much of the Filipino population speaks fluent English. Most visitors find to their pleasure that even most children speak excellent English meaning that it is very easy to communicate. Indeed, the only area where you may find yourself having problems are in the most rural areas.

Indeed, officially speaking there are two national languages in the Philippines: English and the native Filipino. However, it is interesting to note that this doesn’t necessarily give you the full linguistic picture. Such is the diversity of people across the many islands that make up the Philippines, officials have identified 175 recognized languages being used by native Filipinos.

You can read more about the pros and cons of living in the Philippines in our guide.

Living in the Philippines as an Expat

Philippines Visa Requirements

If you’re moving to the Philippines for work, you will need a non-immigrant visa and you will need to have a job secured already. For the application, you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months, a copy of your employment contract, passport-size photos of yourself, your CV, a medical and physical examination report, and the visa fee. You will also need to prove you have the financial means to sustain yourself for the duration of your stay.

You will also need to apply for an Alien Employment Permit through the Department of Labour and Employment. You can do this at your nearest Filipino embassy or at a regional office in the Philippines. You will be more likely to be successful in your application if you do so through your employer in the Philippines.

The Job Market in the Philippines

It can be difficult to obtain a work permit in the Philippines and immigration laws around working are strict. It’s advised that expats secure work in the Philippines before they move. The employer can then help to obtain the necessary visa and work permit.  

Many expats in the Philippines work for multinational companies. Another popular role for expats is teaching English as a foreign language and working in call centres. The Philippines also has many job opportunities in mining, construction, food processing, and tourism.

The average annual salary in the Philippines is around 161,847 PHP (£2,286) per year and the median salary is 655,200 PHP (£9,256). This is often much lower than expats are used to, although corporate, high-level positions are often higher paid. For example, a senior project manager can expect around 1,129,608 PHP (£15,958) per year. The low cost of living in the Philippines can help to bring a balance so expats can maintain a quality lifestyle.

Cost of Living in the Philippines

The cost of living in the Philippines is relatively low, especially when compared to the UK. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in the Philippines is nearly 45% lower than in the UK and rent is around 77% lower.

It’s estimated that a family of four will need around £1,500 to cover costs each month, not including rent, and a single person will require around £433, in addition to rent.

Renting an apartment in the city centre will cost around £254 per month, an a flat outside the city will cost around £140. A three-bedroom home in the city will cost around £568 per month and the same size property outside the city will cost on average £302 per month.

Eating out in the Philippines is extremely cheap. Groceries can be on a similar scale to the UK, but sticking with local produce will secure cheaper prices. Basic utilities are cheap, although you can expect to spend a lot on mobile phone plans.

Healthcare and Health Insurance in the Philippines

Healthcare in the Philippines

The Filipino healthcare system is unusual in that it is primarily serviced by private hospitals and clinics; very few state-funded medical establishments exist. This is not necessarily a bad thing as these privately-run hospitals generally offer far higher standards of care than their state-run alternatives.

Indeed, the standards found in many private hospitals are good enough that the Philippines has become an important destination for medical tourism. People flock here from around the world to enjoy Western-standard medical care at South East Asian prices. The doctors here are typically highly trained and fluent in English, assuring you of a comfortable visit.

That said, the fact that almost all medical care is paid for by private citizens means that international medical insurance in the Philippines should be considered essential.

In the case of emergency care being necessary ring 117 from within the Philippines and request an ambulance.

In terms of preventative medicine, visitors to the Philippines are at risk of contracting both malaria and dengue fever. Travellers are therefore advised to seek vaccinations in plenty of time before leaving home so as to ensure immunity.

Health Insurance for expats in the Philippines

Health insurance for foreigners is a necessity by law. All residents must sign up for public health insurance through the Philippines Health Insurance Corporation. must sign up for public health insurance through the Philippines Health Insurance Corporation. You will be classed as a resident if you are living in the Philippines for longer than six months. If you are working with a Filipino employer, you will usually be signed up through them and contribute through your wages. If you are not working, you will have to sign up yourself and make your own contributions.

Many expats choose private health insurance to avoid long wait times and to access more options for their care. They will also often have access to higher-quality facilities. The best expat health insurance in the Philippines will provide comprehensive cover to allow individuals peace of mind that they can claim for the treatment they require during their stay. At Expatriate Group, our policies have been specifically designed for those living overseas.

Money in the Philippines

In a throwback from the Spanish colonization, the national currency of the Philippines is known as the peso.

ATMs are commonplace in most towns and cities though be aware that not all of them actively accept international debit cards. Alternatively, you may need to actually enter a bank and withdraw money directly with the teller using your credit or debit card, or by cashing traveller’s checks. Note that many banks remain closed over the weekend and on national holidays, so visitors are advised to plan their cash needs in advance so as to avoid any unfortunate situations.

Broadly speaking fewer businesses accept credit cards than in many other countries so should not be relied upon.

You can open a bank account in the Philippines as long as you can prove you are a resident (having lived in the Philippines for longer than six months) and have the necessary visa and proof of address. Many banks now accept online applications, but you will have to check which branches offer this service to expats.

Non-residents will be liable to pay tax on any income earned from sources in the Philippines. Residents will be liable to pay tax on all their income, no matter where it is sourced from. Income tax will depend on the amount earned, with up to 250,000 PHP being tax free.

Education in the Philippines

The Philippines has historically put a large emphasis on education. Literacy rates in the country are very high indeed, with many teenagers completing further education before moving into the work place. The downside is that many expats find that their degree is not quite as exclusive as they first anticipated in a country where so many nationals complete degree-level qualifications.

At the very least, twelve years of schooling is compulsory, with the school year running from June to March. Public schools remain largely under-funded and over-crowded, meaning that the experience can be rather different to what Western-raised school children may be familiar with. You should also be aware that schools often teach as much in Filipino as they do in English, which can lead to problems with expat children adjusting to the change and keeping up with their studies.

Generally speaking, most expats therefore opt to send their children to one of the many highly regarded international schools which may be found in larger cities like Manila.

Education in the Philippines

Weather in the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago of islands that largely enjoys a hot and humid tropical climate. Three different seasons are recognized in the Philippines. First of all is the hot, dry season which is experienced between March and May. Next, between June and November, comes the rainy season. Lastly, a cool and dry season is experienced between December and February.

The Philippines is located on the so-called “ring of fire” and as a result they regularly experience extreme climatic conditions. An average of 20 typhoons hit the country each year, while earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not uncommon. Lastly in the rainy season sudden torrential downpours are typical, which can make travelling somewhat problematic.

All this seismic activity does have a positive side though. The Philippines are estimated to have the world’s largest deposits of copper, and the second largest deposits of gold in the world. This rich mineral bounty has helped the Philippines to fund considerable growth and development over recent decades, bringing itself sharply into the 21st century.

The Philippines is also now the 2nd largest producer of geothermal energy in the world, which has helped to reduce pollution and protect the natural wonders which abound here. There are now estimated to be 100 mammals and 170 birds found nowhere else in the world.

Places to Visit in the Philippines

With over 7,000 islands to choose from it should come as no surprise that the Philippines offers visitors a wealth of experiences. Here are some of the most famous sites to be found in this incredible country.

El Nido

El Nido’s shallow, clear waters and jungle-clothed rocky outcrops give the impression of the Thai paradise enjoyed by Leonardi DiCaprio in The Beach. El Nido is considered to be one of the very best diving sites in all of the Philippines and passionate divers flock here from around the world to enjoy the spectacle. It has been said that the best description of diving here is to imagine yourself inside a tropical fish tank.


If you’ve ever looked at those pictures of tropical paradises and promised yourself that one day you’d spend time lying on a white sand beach, relaxing under a palm tree, next to a warm turquoise ocean then Boracay is all this and more. A tropical island paradise, Boracay is the perfect answer to the stresses and strains of modern life.


World Heritage Site Vigan is known around the world as one of the best-preserved original Hispanic towns in the world. From its cobbled streets to the perfectly-preserved buildings, a visit to Vigan allows you to immerse yourself in a bygone world.

Chocolate Hills

Known for their colour in the dry season, when the vegetation wilts and turns a chocolatey-brown colour, this collection of more than a 1000 unusually-shaped hills is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the Philippines. The vast array of conical hills, surrounded by lush forest, creates a thoroughly unique spectacle to visit; no wonder then that the area is currently being considered for World Heritage status.

Moving to the Philippines Checklist

  • Valid passport
  • Monthly budget to cover accommodation, groceries, utilities
  • Money for flights and initial costs
  • Booked flights to Thailand
  • Valid visa and work permit
  • Health insurance policy
  • Enrolment in school for your children
  • Accommodation
  • Local SIM card or mobile phone
  • Arrange furniture for the new home
  • Arrange Wi-Fi for the new home
  • Tie up loose ends at home, such as closing utility accounts and informing the tax office