Retirement is an oft looked forward to stage in life when one can finally slow down, and literally stop to smell the flowers. And while retiring in one’s own country is ideal, more and more retirees are considering moving to another to experience the finer things in life.
Southeast Asian countries, particularly the Philippines and Thailand are becoming very popular retirement destinations for Western retirees. Aside from the breathtaking scenery in these countries, the pull lies in the low cost of living and improving healthcare systems.
Special Resident Retirement Visa
Retiring to the Philippines is relatively easy for foreigners via the Special Resident Retirement Visa (SRRV). Using this permit, retirees here can enjoy gainful employment, business ownership and even university education. The SRRV also allows the retirees and dependents to travel in and out of the Philippines for an unlimited number of times without having to re-apply for a visa.
Depending on one’s age and needs, the Philippine Retirement Authority offers four SRRV options. Early retirement to the Philippines can be enjoyed through the SRRV Smile and Classic programs. Former Filipino citizens called “balikbayan” are invited to retire to their birth country under the SRRV Courtesy/Expanded Courtesy programs. The same are available for former diplomats. Retirees who have medical conditions can retire to the Philippines via the SRRV Human Touch Program. Visa deposits range from US$1,500 to US$50,000 depending on the program.
Benefits of Retiring to the Philippines
Cost of Living
First and foremost is the cost of living in the Philippines which is among the lowest in the world. A retiree with a family can live comfortably, enjoy entertainment, and travel domestically from time to time with a monthly budget of US$1000. To break this down into rough estimates: $250 goes to rent, $150 to food, $150 to utilities (basic Internet, electricity, water and cable TV) and $100 for public transportation. The remaining $350 may be spent on other essentials like a mobile phone plan, groceries, occasional restaurant meals and savings for travel.
Quality of Life
Despite the low cost of living, the quality of life in the Philippines is surprisingly high for those who can afford it. Modern amenities are available in most cities and towns. Housing options range from low-to-mid-cost rentals to luxurious condominiums in the country’s metropolitan areas. There are large shopping centers, international hotel chains and health spas in major cities and access to these are easily available even in provincial areas though short land trips. Online shopping is also widely popular.
Quality Health Care
The Philippines is slowly becoming a popular medical tourism destination. Aside from coming to the country to get aesthetic procedures, foreigners also opt to have major operations performed in some of the country’s premier hospitals. Again, despite the lower costs, quality is never sacrificed. Most doctors in the Philippines are educated and/or trained in Europe, Australia or North America. Also, Filipino nurses are considered as some of the most compassionate professionals in the world. Most Health Insurance Policies in the west are accepted in major hospitals in the Philippines.
Filipinos are famous for their hospitality and foreigners retiring to the Philippines will soon find friends among the locals they live amongst. It is not uncommon for a Filipino family to invite a new neighbor into their home for dinner as a means to welcome them. It is also acceptable to knock on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night to borrow their car in case of emergency. Foreigners are often given special treatment or in the very least offered a genuine smile and helping hand everywhere in the country.
English is an official language in the Philippines and is widely spoken everywhere. It is a basic subject in schools and is used as the language of instruction in universities and colleges. As a result, Filipinos are some of the best (if not the best) English speakers in Asia. Even the street hawker offering barbecued chicken entrails (delicious, btw) will speak to you in English, albeit rudimentary and with the famous Filipino accent.
Opportunity to Travel
Domestic travel is affordable in the Philippines so there is plenty of opportunity to explore the 7000 or so islands. Major local airlines regularly hold seat sales to popular destinations in the country. ‘Piso Fare’ Sales are especially popular where base fare costs only a peso; adding other charges, a round-trip ticket can set you back only $15 per person. Inter-island sea travel is also easily available via passenger liners, fast crafts and even simple outrigger boats. There are also buses that ply the National Nautical Highway which make travel by land from north to south possible. Accommodations in most popular destinations range from simple backpacker dorms to five-star hotels.
Retiring to the Philippines is often synonymous to being on an endless vacation. Depending on which city/province you choose to settle in, you will soon find very worthwhile pursuits that will allow you to spend your golden years in comfort, happiness and most of all, in the tropics.