Why choose the Philippines? That’s a very good question. Why choose the Philippines instead of the Kingdom of Thailand for retirement, or just an escape from the western world rat race? I notice many, many other internet marketing folks as I travel the web who talk extensively about Thailand when the subject of living overseas but earning online comes up.
Mostly the comments are favorable, but the majority come from those who have no real experience with Thailand at all …they just “heard good things” about Thailand.
Well I have more experience than some. I lived two full years in Thailand, and although it’s been along time, I love Thailand and I’d go back there in a heartbeat … except that the Philippines just suits my lifestyle better at the moment.
My Philippine-born, dual citizen wife also lived and worked in Thailand as well, and if I said, “Thailand tayo” (Thailand, let’s go!) some morning, I am pretty sure she would start packing bags for the trip.
But this series is about the advisability/suitability of the Philippines in comparison to some other countries, so let’s start by exploring the options you would have if you decided to “escape to Thailand.
(if you’re new to this subject, perhaps you missed my kickoff article on Why Choose the Philippines — Intro a few days ago. Go ahead and read it now, take your time, I’ll wait.
Why Choose the Philippines — Ground Rules
- 1 Why Choose the Philippines — Ground Rules
- 1.1 Why Choose the Philippines — Single or Married
- 1.2 Why Choose the Philippines — Retirees/Pensioners
- 1.3 Why Choose the Philippines — Job Seekers or Entrepreneurs
In order to try to answer this question for the maximum number of readers, I’m going to break the question down to three general categories of potential “overseas escapees”:
Why Choose the Philippines — Single or Married
With No Host Country Spouse
If you’re a single man or woman, someone who can not claim Thai citizenship, or not married to a Thai citizen, you’re going to have to look at the types of visas available to foreigners. In general terms this usually revolves around entering the country on a tourist visa, or visa waiver entry stamp, and extending that form of entry privilege for as long as the rules of that country allow. One then leaves and returns, staring the whole process over.
Note that I will always be writing about the rules that apply to an American citizen in this article series. In Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and perhaps some other former British colonies, the rules for a UK passport holder are often more liberal. Thailand has no “favored foreigner” bias, however, as do many of the former British colonies and territories. (interestingly enough, Thailand is virtually the only Asian nation who was never controlled, colonized or subject to any Western nation … the present Kingdom goes back zzzz years and also survived the world war two occupation and terror of the Japanese by joining Japan as an ally, under significant duress, of course.)
Thailand is easy to enter. You fly in and get a 30 Day visitor stamp automatically. You can come by train, from Malaysia, or road from Myanmar (Burma). Arriving by land, you only get an entry stamp for 15 days.
The thirty day entry stamp may be extended for two weeks, once only, for 1900 baht (over $63 USD at today’s rate); it may be cheaper to visit a neighboring territory and return.
You must leave the country at the end of the days shown in your stamp, and return for another entry. 30 days by air, 15 days by land. However, you can only do this procedure for a maximum of 90 days actually in the Kingdom. After that, a visitor must be outside the country for at least 90 days in order to “restart the clock.”
If you apply for a tourist visa before you visit Thailand (has to be done from outside the country), you can purchase a visas that is either single entry, 60 days or double entry – valid for 120 days based over two separate stays. Again, these tourist visas can be extended at Thai Immigration for 30 days at a time. Typical cost is comparable to extending in the Philippines. It will average out to about $2 bucks day, give or take.
In contrast, the Philippines allows only 21 days upon initial entry (smart people get a tourist visa in advance, it’s the law and it’s better, faster, cheaper), but what the average guy/gal does in arrive get 21 days, extend that 21 days for an additional 38 at an immigration office, and then extend every 60 days (for a fee) as long as a total of 24 months. The visitor then has to leave the country and can return as early as the next day, and begin the whole 60 day renewal cycle over again.
The costs for visa renewals are complex and often seem mysterious … I’ve done them for as long as 16 months (the limit for approvals at local Immigration offices, months 27 through 24 require application to the BI headquarters in Intramuros, Manila)and find that it’s much easier to say it costs and average of a little over $2 USD per day in the Philippines.
I see the Philippines here as a clear cut winner between the countries . Thailand requires more trips outside the country, the Philippine lets you stay longer,and requires fewer trips to Immigration. A definite winner for the Philippines, , says Philly. Until I did the research for this article I had no idea how restrictive Thai tourist stays had become. It’s hard to believe how much “good press” I see online for long-term tourist stays in Thailand. There is significant hassle involved … although as I said in the beginning, Thailand is a lovely place to live, for up to 90 days at a time, that is..
With A Host Country Spouse
Here there is one striking difference between the two countries. The Philippine Balikbayan Privilege program. A Filipino or former Filipino (such as a Filipino who gave up Philippine citizenship for US citizenship and has decided NOT to reacquire his/her Philippine citizenship, can sponsor their spouse (and children, if accompanying the parents) for a Balikbayan Privilege (we’ll call it a BB) stamp upon arrival in the Philippines. The only requirement is that they travel together and that they be legally married … able to produce their Philippine Embassy accredited marriage certificate. More info here: Coming to the Philippines as a Balikbayan
It’s a great program. 100% free, 100% no-hassle (not even one single form to “fill up”, it exempts the holder from the annual registration/head tax requirements, exempts the holder from purchasing an ACR-I card, and can be continued indefinitely by leaving the country and returning … good for a one year stay, every time. Hard, indeed to beat.
Thailand has no such program. Nothing even remotely resembling it. A foreigner, married to a Thai citizen, may apply for a “Non-immigrant “O” a” visa, which, if approved, will be good for 90 days, and thereafter may be renewed a year at a time. The marriage visa can only be applied for from outside Thailand, so if you visit there, fall in love and get married, be prepared to add the time and expense of a trip outside Thailand just to get the process started.
This is very similar to the Philippine 13-series permanent resident visas, but the Philippine visas can be applied for before or after entry, no out of country visa runs are ever required, and the visa will become permanent either after only a one year stay (if applied for from within the Philippines), or upon issuance, if applied for while outside the Philippines.
Winner: The Philippines, hands down, especially if you use the Balikbayan Privilege Program. No other country I know of on earth is as easy to enter and stay in if you are married to a Filipina.
Why Choose the Philippines — Retirees/Pensioners
Wow! Already over 1,500 words and most of my readers prefer posts much shorter than this. To be continued RSN (Real Soon Now)
Why Choose the Philippines — Job Seekers or Entrepreneurs
To be continued RSN (Real Soon Now)
Why Choose the Philippines — Conclusions
For a tourist-type who just wants to stay with the minimal amount of paperwork, applications and with little or no investment or obligation … the Philippines is much easier and cheaper than Thailand. You can stay essentially as long as you want in the Philippines, subject to conditions and “visa run” requirements every 16 to 24 months, but Thailand actually requires you to leave and stay gone for 90 days at a time. (of course, you could come visit the Philippines for those 90 days ).
For as person married to a citizen of either country, the Philippines is better, faster, cheaper and easier, hands down.
Let us know your own thoughts on Why Choose the Philippines, particularly, if you think I’ve missed reasons that Thailand would be a better choice.