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Retiring to the Philippines – What Expats Need to Know

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Siargao Island, Philippines

Imagine living in paradise in your golden years: living by the beach, sipping fresh coconut juice and fruit shakes all day and walking around in flipflops. Pretty amazing, right? That’s what it will be like retiring to the Philippines. 

There are a lot of benefits in retiring to the Philippines. The Philippines’ breathtaking beaches, abundant natural resources and friendly English-speaking people has always seduced foreigners into its shores. Some stay for a few weeks and some stay for good. It also does not hurt that the country is a cheap place to live in. The cost of living in the Philippines stretches the value of the dollar far enough to keep a person with pension living comfortably.

But moving to paradise does not come without major considerations. Here are some very important questions you need to ask about retiring to the Philippines.

Can foreigners buy property in the Philippines?

Foreign nationals can legally own a house but not a piece of land in the Philippines. So if you are planning on buying a house in the country, consider a long-term lease with a local landowner.  The Condominium Act allows foreign nationals to own a condo unit in the Philippines provided that the Filipinos own 60% of the building’s units. A corporation 60% owned by Filipinos can also purchase a property in behalf of a foreign national.

Can foreigners drive in the Philippines?

You are allowed to drive with a valid driver’s license issued in English by your home country only 90 days after your arrival in the Philippines. After that, you need to secure a permit and eventually a professional or non-professional license from the Land Transportation Authority. Alternatively, you may have your foreign license converted to a local one. 

Getting around Philippine cities is fairly easy since public transport is available everywhere. But having control of your transportation is more convenient, not to mention less time-consuming since you can find ways to avoid hellish traffic. Motorcycles are cheap to buy in the Philippines and car dealerships offer great deals for all sorts of vehicles. Some companies also offer long-term rentals.

Can foreigners open a bank account in the Philippines?

Yes, foreigners can open a bank account in the Philippines. The country’s banking system is made up of international, national and small rural banks that may or may not be subsidiaries of larger banks. Banks like HSBC, Bank of America and Citibank have operations in the Philippines but if you would like to open an account at a local bank, we recommend the large national institutions like Banco de Oro (BDO), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Metrobank. 

Most banks will require you to present at least the following when opening a new account. Some banks may require certifications from your bank in your home country.

  • ACR I-card (Alient Certificate Registration Identification Card)
  • Valid photo ID
  • Proof of address
  • Passport-size photo/s
  • Initial deposit

What is the cost of living in the Philippines?

You have probably heard that you can live comfortably with $1000 for a month in the Philippines. It is true! The low cost of living is one of the main reasons why a lot of foreign nationals and even dual Filipino citizens are retiring to the Philippines. The dollar can be stretched in this side of the world. Rent/housing will most likely eat up most of your monthly budget because public transportation and food are relatively cheap in the country. The cost of living also depends on which location you choose as your residence — it is highest in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao and declines as you move to the suburbs and provinces.

Here’s a sample computation of monthly expenses if you live in a metropolis:

  • Rent/mortgage: P15000
  • Electricity/water: P5000
  • Internet: P2000
  • Transportation: P5000
  • Food at home: P6000
  • Domestic help: P4000

That’s not even $1000 (P50,000) and it’s already above what most Filipinos are willing or capable of spending in a month. You can live on less in the Philippines.

Are there assisted living facilities in the Philippines?

There are a number of retirement homes in the Philippines that are tailored after foreign assisted living facilities but with the famous Filipino touch. Facilities like All Care Assisted Living Philippines Inc. offer a variety of services that can be customized to one’s individual’s needs. These include Alzheimer’s/dementia care, post-stroke care, physical impairment assistance and well-elderly/retirement housing. They even run a bed and breakfast for visiting family members to stay in. 

Here are a few places for your consideration:

If living in a facility does not sound appealing to you, you can always choose to live in your own residence and just hire domestic help. It is quite easy to find help for hire in the Philippines and it is fairly cheap, too. Just make sure to ask for proper identification and government clearances before hiring anybody. Also, if you need professional assistance, nurses and nurse aides are also available for hire.

Does the Philippines accept foreign medical insurance?

International insurance policies are accepted in the Philippines. In fact, it is highly recommended. There is much to be said about the health care system in the Philippines but there are plenty of world-class private and even government-run hospitals in the country. The Philippines Heart Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital are only few of the institutions that provide excellent health care. Having said that, it will also be prudent to make sure your insurance covers medical evacuation in case of situations that the local hospitals may not be equipped to handle.

You are not required to have insurance to live in the Philippines and medical costs may not be as expensive overseas but these can easily add up. You can enroll yourself with PhilHealth, the government-run health insurance system that covers hospitalization, outpatient checkups, emergencies, surgery, maternity benefits and even some laboratory testing. Private medical insurance policies and HMO (health management organizations) provide more extensive benefits but cost higher than PhilHealth. Private insurance companies also now offer short-term policies that cover medical expenses for at least a year. These may be a great away to assess a company’s reliability before buying a long-term policy. AXA, Prudential Life, Pru Life UK and SunLife Financial are some of the trusted names in the industry.

Where’s the best place to retire in the Philippines?

The beach is always a great place to retire to but there are other great places, too. Everyone will want to retire to the beach towns of Boracay, Tagbilaran and even Siargao but there’s also something about retiring to a big city. Cities give you easy access to malls, hospitals, banks, nightlife and airports. Baguio, Tagaytay and Malaybalay offer a mountain hideaway with colder temperatures even in the summer.

The place you’ll retire to in the Philippines will depend on what you’d like to do after retirement. If you’d like to spend your days walking along the beach and your nights partying with the locals, the beach towns will be more than happy to welcome you. There will most likely be an expat community in these towns, too. If you’d like to still enjoy the comforts and conveniences offered by city living, Davao, Cebu, Dumaguete and Cagayan de Oro give you easy access to city amenities and the beach, too!

You probably have more questions about retiring to the Philippines than those we have answered above. If you do, leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to provide you the information you need.