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.
Experience Counts For Something
I have more experience with this issue than some.
I lived two full years in Thailand, and although it’s been a long 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.
So remember, if I write something here you don’t agree with, fine. In fact, I hope you will leave me a comment telling me what you disagree with … but do not take anything I say as “hating on Thailand”. Thailand is a great country for expat living.
I just feel from living in both counties that the Philippines is a much better deal.
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
I also published a similar contrast article recently contrasting the Philippines with Malaysia.
Why Choose the Philippines — Ground Rules
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”. We’ll first consider those who are single or married to a spouse who is not a Filipino or former Filipino.
Why Choose the Philippines — Single or Married
With No Host Country Spouse
For either the Philippines or Thailand, if you’re a single man or woman, or a married person not married to a Thai citizen or a Philippine citizen, you’re going to have to look at the types of visas available to foreigners “on their own merit”, so to speak.
.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 or the Philippines have 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 to theyear 1238 and the Kingdom 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. If you come by train, from Malaysia, or road from Myanmar (Burma). you only get an entry stamp for 15 days.
The thirty-day entry stamp may be extended for two weeks, once and once only, for 1900 baht (about $60 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.
Again, you get 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 a total stay of 90 days, a visitor must be outside the country for at least 90 days in order to enter and “restart the clock.”
Easy To Enter, Not So Easy To Stay.
If you apply for a tourist visa before you visit Thailand (has to be done from outside the country), you can purchase a visa 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.
So if the thought of all the fol-de-rol it would take to stay more than 90 days in Thailand gives you a headache, join the club. It’s not easy.
For Single Guys and Gals The Philippines Is Way More Accommodating.
In contrast, the Philippines also allows 30 days upon initial entry. But at any time before the first 30 days expires, a visitor can visit any of the many Bureau of Immigration offices around the country and extend his or her stay for 30 or 60 days … no questions asked.
So any guy/gal does on arrival gets 30 days, extend that 30 days for an additional 30 at an immigration office, and then extend every 60 days (for a fee) as long as a total of 36 months. Three full years without leaving the country.
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 myself many times and something is always different, so rather than getting lost in the minutia, it’s much easier to say it costs an average of a little under $2 USD per day in the Philippines.
Three Years “On Demand”. It Doesn’t Get Much Easier Than That
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, Things Are Different
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 minor 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 marriage certificate.
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 as Nothing Like This
Thailand has no such program.
Nothing even remotely resembling it.
A foreigner, married to a Thai citizen, may apply for a “Non-immigrant “O” 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 Thai Marriage-based Visa Is Similar To Certain Philippine Visas, But Way, Way More Restrictive
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 a huge difference with the 13-series Philippine visa is it will be permanent … as in lifetime living here and coming and going, independently.
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
For those readers who are already retired and drawing a pension, annuity (or superannuation for Australians) there is a whole family of Special Resident Retirement Visas available.
Commonly called by their acronym, SRRV, these visas are described here: SRRV Program
SRRV visas require no Philippine citizen connections, work for single or married folks and, like the marriage-based 13 series visas are permanent. They allow you (and your spouse and children if you are so equipped) to stay as long as you wish and come and go as you please.
Best of all for those still too young for conventional US requirements, the age limits for these visas can be as low as 35 years of age … a great incentive for the FIRE advocates out there.
Depending upon the level of SRRV one chooses there are investment requirements, but these are manageable and one can invest in a home to live in or rental income property … plus the investments are fully refundable should the visa holder decide to give up on the Philippines.
Also depending upon which SRRV level is chosen, SRRV holders are allowed to work in the Philippines … the approval of work is often difficult for foreigners otherwise.
Income earned from sources outside the Philippines is normally not taxed by the Philippines and earned income earned by US citizens outside the USA for 330 days per year is covered by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) which allows a US taxpayer to legally exclude up to $104,000 USD from US taxes.
A pretty sweet deal for those smart enough to see the future and start living in a low cost country, spending in pesos and earning from a high cost of living country, in US dollars.
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 36 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 ).
If you want to re-enter the Philippines, the very next day is just fine.
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.