What it really costs single ex-pats to live in the Philippines

In this report, I discuss what it really costs single ex-pats to live in the Philippines.

The word ex-pat just means someone that moved overseas. Now I will explain the 7 behaviors that greatly affect the cost of living in the Philippines for single ex-pats. I left the United States in 2007 and I have lived in 67 countries over the last 15+ years.

I travel around the Philippines, interview ex-pats about their living costs, and share their video interviews with you. I am in Malaysia today, but in 2 weeks, I head back to the Philippines for one or two years. I will tour the Philippines and take you with me.

After I describe the 7 behaviors that cost money in the Philippines, I will provide links to the video interviews, and, if you stay until the end, I will also explain how I avoid buying expensive round-trip tickets even though they are required to enter the Philippines and other countries.

7 Behaviors Affecting Singles Living Costs in the Philippines

Bar Girls or the Girl-Next-Door, Players versus Monogamous, Alcohol, Men and Boys and the Price of Their Toys, Provinces or Populated Areas, Integrating into Society versus Living in an Ex-Pat Bubble, and Staying Near Home or Exploring.

Bar Girls versus Girl-Next-Door: Bar girls is a polite way of saying a prostitute. The reason they call them bar girls is that prostitution is illegal in the Philippines. So bar girls are called “entertainers rather than sex workers, and payments for sex are packaged as fines paid to the bars by a patron on behalf of a woman leaving her shift early.” Washington Post. One source says that bar fines in the Philippines average about 3000 pesos ($60 USD) depending on where in the Philippines you are located. Asia Now.

In two of my reports, The Top 10 Mistakes Retired International Expats Make, and How to Travel the World Safely, I explain why paid sex is even worse than you thought for health, safety, and budget reasons. I do not recommend paid sex and these reports detail why.

You see, there are plenty of Girls-Next-Door types in the Philippines that will be interested in dating you just because you are a foreigner. I have an entire Youtube Playlist on dating as an ex-pat. Youtube Playlist (Finding love overseas).

So, the approximate $100 per month you might spend dating a girl next door could easily explode by an additional $720 per month if you paid 12 bar fines per month to take home bar girls.

So how much would Bar-Girls add to your budget you ask?

In one of the videos interviews I share, an American ex-pat paid $1284 USD to live in Dumaguete for a month. That ex-pat is me. In that video, I itemize each expense. But since I was not single at the time, I will deduct $200 from that to arrive at a single base rate. So, I will use $1084 per month for my ex-pat single base rate. I will now discuss how each behavior affects the singles base rate.

A single ex-pat that pays 12 bar fines per month would add $720 to my base rate to get to their estimated cost of living of $1804 USD per month. A single ex-pat that spends $100 per month dating a girl-next-door would add $100 per month. A single ex-pat that was not dating at all would add nothing to the singles base rate.

12 Bar Girl Fines

Girl Next Door

Remain Single




Players versus Monogamous:  Whether you decide on bar-girls or girl-next-door-types, you have to ask yourself–Am I monogamous? Because, eventually, you are going to meet a woman you think is amazing in the Philippines.

The right Filipina may turn you into a guy that prefers the girl-next-door. But does that mean you will be monogamous? Don’t be surprised if you turn out to be the same person in the Philippines as you were at home?

If you start trying to entertain either multiple girls-next-door-types, you are going to spend a bunch more money. I will make a guestimate of the difference for you. If you are entertaining multiple women at the same time, you could easily add another few hundred to your monogamous monthly budget.



Remain Single




Alcohol: Many of us drink adult beverages from time to time? If you like having a few drinks with your friends in bars in your home country, just like at home, you will be paying more for your alcohol in the Philippines.

It also matters what quantity and quality of alcohol you drink. Just like at home, there are many techniques you can use to reduce your alcohol costs in the Philippines, such as having a few drinks before going to the bar, drinking during happy hour, and drinking at home with friends.

The cost of alcohol in bars also varies greatly based upon which city you live Most provinces have very few bars. Larger cities and tourist areas have more bars that are much more expensive. Your budget will range from about $50 USD per month to $400 per month for a single person, depending on quality and quantity.

Domestic beers cost about $1 USD in the stores and $2 to $3 USD in bars and restaurants. If beers are $2.50 in bars, you would get two beers for that.

I subtracted for non-drinkers below because my single base rate included about $50 a month for home drinking. That is why my home drinker single base rate is $1084. For a bar drinker, I added $200 for bar drinking and that includes buying rounds for friends from time to time and drinking at home too.

Bar Drinker

Home Drinker





Right now, you will see that I am just adding for each of the 7 behaviors one at a time. In the end, I will show what happens when you add multiple behaviors to your budget.

Province or Populated Area: If you want to live in the provinces closer to nature and further away from the city your rent will be much cheaper. In the provinces, you will find rents starting from around $75 USD to $250 USD per month. You can pay more, but this is the middle range. Western-style housing is not as common in the provinces.

In more populated areas, and areas near more populated areas, the rents are higher. Rents start around $200 per month for Filipino-style housing near populated areas. More western-style housing near populated areas ranges from about $300 USD to $600 USD per month. Some people pay more to live in ex-pat bubbles.

Since our single base rate was in a populated area, and not completely westernized, I will subtract $200 rents for my province estimated, and I will add $125 for the high-end western style populated area.

Popul. western

Popul. Semi-






Integrating into local community versus Expat Bubble:  Some ex-pats live in an ex-pat bubble. They hang out with ex-pats, they live in ex-pat gated communities, they eat only in ex-pat restaurants, shop only in ex-pat grocery stores, and buy imported ex-pat foods from home.

Bubble ex-pats are trying to create the old life they had before they moved overseas. Bubble ex-pats almost never live in the provinces because they want to be around other ex-pats. Plus, the ex-pat restaurants, grocery stores, and gated communities are almost never in the provinces.

Since ex-pat bubbles are not in the cheaper provinces, the cost of living on the low end starts at around $1500 USD per month for most ex-pats. And that does not include a large home in a gated ex-pat community. That just gets you semi-western accommodations, one or two meals per week in ex-pats restaurants, and a few nights per week in ex-pat bars.

Yet, a full ex-pat bubble in a high-end gated community starts at around $2500 USD cost of living per month.

Whereas single ex-pats integrating into a more Filipino community out in the provinces would start at around $600 per month cost of living. This varies depending on how much air conditioning, alcohol, and entertaining you do. Integrating completely means living in Filippino-style housing, buying in local markets and cooking at home, eating in local restaurants, and hanging out almost exclusively, with Filipinos.

High-end Bubble

Moderate Bubble

Full Integration




To learn more about integrating into the community, check out my report, Why Most People Do Not Retire Cheaply Overseas.

Staying Near Home or Exploring the Philippines:  I am a slow traveler. That means I like to explore the world around me. So even if I have rented an apartment in one place (for a few months), I am often taking weekend trips, or week- trips to nearby islands where I explore white sand beaches, waterfalls, gorgeous mountains, and drive my scooter all over the place.

I also fly internationally to visit my family and Qiang’s family in Malaysia every other year or so. So if you are not just staying put in one place in the Philippines, but are doing national and international trips, you will have a more expensive cost of living, obviously.

Flying home to see Qiang’s family in Malaysia is about $150 USD roundtrip per person. Flying to see my family in the USA is about $1000 USD roundtrip, per person (in normal times).

Island hopping in the Philippines is not all that expensive. Ferries are about $5 to $20 USD per person depending on how far they are taking you. Two-star hotels in the Philippines are around $25 a night So you will need to compute how much travel you will do to see how much extra you need to add to your budget if you are an explorer like me.

You will also need to compute how much you will spend on tours. You can often rent a scooter by the day or week, or bring your scooter with you on the ferry for another $7 or $12 USD. Then just explore to your heart’s content.

Just exploring the Philippines one weekend per month could easily cost you another $150 per month. Double that if you start eating in ex-pat restaurants 3 meals a day and drinking in ex-pat bars. You may also need to add more if start booking day tours everywhere you explore.

So if you, as a single ex-pat, add one $1000 roundtrip ticket per year to visit family back home for a week or two per year. I will assume you stay with family so I will only add $500 of spending money for the trip home to my singles base rate.

More $


Moderate Explorer

Single Base




People Pleaser or Strong Mind:  It can be hard to say no if your beautiful lover asks for a new bikini she sees window shopping. She may also ask you to lend money to her so she can help pay her mother’s rent or a doctor’s bill. If you have the money, and you care about her, you may also want to help her mom, right?

It would not be unheard of for you to spend an extra $100 or $150 per month in the Philippines to keep your lover and/or family happy. So you need to have a strong mind if you are slowly depleting a budget you planned on having for emergencies.

$150 Family

$100 Family

Single Base




Difference Between Men and Boys is the Price of Their Toys:  I received a comment on a Youtube video once from a guy that said he would be moving to Subic Bay, Philippines. He would build a very large home and put a large day-cruiser in the Subic harbor, along with wave runners, and several expensive cars. He would eat out every night in expensive ex-pat restaurants.

He said his budget would be around $10k USD per month. Now I don’t know if he was for real. But the point is, there are people that can and do live that lifestyle in the Philippines.

If you have that kind of money, I suggest you watch my video, How to Travel the World Safely. You see, playing big man on campus, outside your home country, may have some consequences you need to think about.

But if you want to have some toys in the Philippines, you will need to think about what they are, what they cost to maintain, and whether you should buy them in the Philippines or bring them with you when you come. Some toys just cost more here than they do at home.

Big Man on Campus

Single Base



Finally, I promised to discuss how these 7 behaviors can be combined to push your budget out of control. After that, I will explain how to avoid buying roundtrip tickets when you fly to the Philippines and tell you where to find the six ex-pat video interviews.

Combining Expensive Behaviors: 

So now you are probably thinking, what it really costs single ex-pats to live in the Philippines when you start combining behaviors.  

Single Base


5 Bar Girl Fines




Bar Drinkers


More $ Explorer


People Pleaser






Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally with a round trip ticket to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing any of these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle, needs, and are likely to increase after this post.

More typical living costs that ex-pats share online range from about $1500 to $2000 per month.

If you are going to try to retire cheap offshore, make sure to read my report, the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explains why you should have emergency funds available for unexpected large expenses.

6 Cost of Living Interviews in the Philippines

$500 USD Per Month Cost of Living Philippines

$511 USD Month Cost of Living Philippines

If you enjoy the above video, he did one a year later with us that you can watch at this link.

$1284 Per Month Cost of Living Philippines

He retired early on $650 month in Philippines

His rent in the Philippines is $140 Month

$725 Month Retired Policeman in Philippines (Family of 6)

If you would like to hear all of our cost of living interviews and make sure to watch our Youtube Playlist for the Philippines.

How to Fly to the Philippines without a Roundtrip Ticket

You have probably heard you need a roundtrip ticket to go to the Philippines. Well, that is still true. But many of my viewers don’t plan on flying home so they rather just buy a one-way ticket to the Philippines and just keep extending their tourist visa for up to 36 months.

Well, luckily, there are companies out there now that will rent you a return ticket or onward flight leaving the country as required by the Philippines. It costs about $12 USD t rent the ticket, and the rental period only lasts for the time it takes you to board your flight, land in the Philippines, and clear immigration. Then it expires.

Your name is actually in the system for that flight during the rental period. So if they check, you are in the system. But if you decide to use this rental technique, go to the airport 3 hours early to get your boarding pass. We have done this 20 times and it worked every time but once.

So, if you go to the airport 3 hours early and get rejected, you will have enough time to step out of line and buy a real onward flight to any nearby country, like Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia for around $100-$200 USD.

Just Google the words “Onward Flights” to get a link to many different companies doing this.  These onward flight companies change their names all the time so flight boarding personnel and immigration personnel don’t recognize and reject them.  That is why I am telling you to Google to find one rather than provide a link.  I know it sounds sketchy, but it has worked for us for over 3 years now. 

Thanks for reviewing my report, what it really costs single ex-pats to live in the Philippines.

Please subscribe to VagabondBuddha.com or our Youtube Channel to watch us move around the world, 15 years and 67 countries so far. Make sure to grab a free copy of my eBook, How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 15+ Years. It has most of my best tips and tricks.

This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube channel for VagabondBuddha.com. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?