I have written about this question dozens of time. For example, you might want to visit my Philippine Cost of Living category for a quick dozen or so. Lately its come to my attention that “Cost of Living in the Philippines” is not such an important question than the overall one of “Costs of Living for Americans, Overseas, Anywhere”.
That link (not any sort of affiliate or business tie in, by the way, I’m not a business partner of Kathleen or her company) … but there’s a reason I am putting it up there today. Go follow the link for any of the countries … or all of them. Take your time, I’ll wait.
Notice anything similar? (hint, as I have documented many times) the cost of living for a couple to retire in the Philippines in 2010 will average out to about $1200 USD per month. Notice how many of those other counties are all very close to $1200 USD per month?
… “Some neighborhoods, such as those immediately north or south of the airport or in the Old City center, suffer from noise pollution. When house hunting, be sure to visit the area at night and in the early morning to identify places located within earshot of a noisy karaoke bar or over-enthusiastic roosters.
“Historically, many foreigners relocating to Thailand long-term have chosen to purchase a home. Under Thai law, foreigners are permitted to buy a house but cannot buy the land on which it stands. There are ways to get around this, but the process can be complex. You wouldn’t want to attempt this without the help of a good lawyer.
“The difficulties involved with acquiring land ownership aside, there is an even bigger issue with investing in Thai real estate. Unlike in most countries, where property tends to appreciate in value (or at least to hold its worth), Thai real estate depreciates. I don’t mean right now, as a result of the current global recession. I mean as a rule.
“When it comes to real estate, Thais want new. As a condo ages, therefore, it depreciates in value.
“For this reason primarily, we recommend generally against buying property in Thailand. And, with prices so affordable around Chiang Mai, factoring in monthly rent shouldn’t upset your budget too much….
Hmm. Could have written this virtually word for word about the Philippines. especially the advice to stop thinking of buying property here as an investment. The markets don’t work here the way you think they might, and financing is in many ways completely “backwards” to what you are used to in the US.
… “Prices start at around 6,000 baht (US$180) per month for a furnished studio apartment in a good area. The Galare Thong Towers, for example, offer fully furnished apartments with kitchen, sleeping area, television, and phone for 8,000 baht (US$240) per month. For an additional 400 baht (US$12) per month, you can arrange for wireless Internet.
“Larger, more luxurious apartments start at around 13,000 baht (US$390). At the high end, you could rent a very attractive, fully furnished (including a computer and a telephone), two-bedroom ‘luxury apartment’ with swimming pool, 24-hour security, and beautiful European-style kitchen, located in the central business district, for 22,000 baht (US$650) per month. …
Again, with the exception of changing place names and exchanging the baht designation to the equivalent amount of Philippines pesos, very little of this article is out out of line with current conditions and prices (in US dollar terms) right here in the Philippines.
… “A simple visit to an English-speaking doctor, for example, costs around 600 baht (US$18). Several hospitals in the city offer an international standard of medical care. Major surgical procedures are significantly less expensive than in the United States, and positive outcomes are high. A heart bypass, for example, that would cost over US$100,000 in the United States costs around US$10,000 in Thailand. A total hip replacement in Thailand costs around US$11,000, yet the same procedure in the United States is more than US$70,000. A simple MRI costs less than US$300, a savings of around US$700 compared with the cost of the same procedure in the States…
Do these prices sound cheap to you? Well, actually, in my own experience they would be even slightly cheaper here in the Philippines. In Thailand the fact is you are going to have to go to Bangkok or one of a very few other major cities to get “American style” hospitals and the same is true here in the Philippines.
“Here’s a sample budget for a retired expat living in Chiang Mai: (I’ll add corrections/amplifications in Red for current Philippine conditions.)
Rent: US$400 (as I’ve explained, this can vary significantly)
Transportation: US$50 (This would be a LOT in the Philippines, IMO. Much cheaper here, unless you owned you own car or commuted to work)
Electricity: US$75 (using air conditioning every night and most days) (More like $100 to $125 USD in the Philippines)
Telephone: US$15 (for a cell phone; landlines are not commonly used, and service is typically unreliable)
Internet: US$20 to US$30
Cable TV: US$50 (including English-language channels) (Way less here in the RP … I pay under $15 for all I can watch 😉 )
Household Help: US$100 to US$150 per month (for help five times a week, three hours per day
Entertainment: US$250 (including regular meals out)
That’s total monthly expenses of US$1,135, including rent, weekly help around the house, and regular nights out.”
Notice how few changes I made? This is not to imply that living in the Philippines and living in Thailand are anything like the same (although having lived in both countries the similarities might amaze you) more than the difference. I like living in the Philippines, and I also thoroughly enjoyed the years I spent in Thailand … I like both countries.
But my purpose is to illustrate yet again a point I have often made … this constant search for cost of living information is more likely the last part of the equation you should be looking for rather than the first. There are a lot of places that Americans can retire overseas in happily with a normal Social Security class income and the cost of living differences between many of them are not enough to waste time over.
I would like to also recommend my colleague Dave’s (yes, there are a lot of us Dave’s here) new site where he’s going to make a practice into going into this issue much more deeply … he talks about the cost of living for a U. S. retiree in the Philippines in 2010 here. Recommended.