An archipelago of over 7,000 islands with turquoise waters and lush greenery, the Philippines presents a truly picturesque expat destination. The major island groupings are Luzon in the north, the Visayas in central Philippines, and Mindanao in the south. Expats moving to the Philippines can enjoy everything from island life to historic treasures as well as modern urban comforts.

As idyllic as this seems, new arrivals can easily be overwhelmed when relocating to the Philippines. This is especially the case for expats moving to Manila or Quezon City, populated urban areas where traffic is chaotic and braving the roads can be nightmarish. 

Fortunately, there are many transport options. Hiring a local driver who understands the roads is often recommended. There are also train and bus routes running between cities and towns, although flying is often the most convenient way to get around the country.

Filipinos, known for their genuine hospitality and welcoming nature, can also help smooth the transition for new arrivals. The Philippines has a rich history, with many nations calling it home over the centuries, including Spain, the US, India, China, Aboriginal Australia, Japan and the Arab states. The Philippines is the largest Christian country in Asia, with Catholicism dominating, and there is a large minority population of Muslims in the southern regions. Given the multicultural and multi-ethnic environment, expats are bound to experience some elements of culture shock.

While Filipino is the official language, English is widely spoken, and expats should not have a problem communicating with the local population. Many businesses and schools communicate in English and many signs around the country include an English translation.

Most expat parents in the Philippines send their children to private or international schools. There are several across the country, many located in Metro Manila. Education at these schools is costly, and we advise expats working in the Philippines to factor this into their contract negotiations.

Generally, the cost of living is reasonably low. Expats are sure to find accommodation, be it a serviced apartment, condo or freestanding house, to suit their budget – and eating out can also be inexpensive when trying local fare. Healthcare is also fairly affordable according to most expats. Private medical facilities in major cities are well resourced, though standards vary depending on the area.

Expats should, however, be aware of safety concerns. Due to violence and insurgent groups, many foreign governments advise against travel to the southern regions. Additionally, the archipelago is no stranger to typhoons, especially during the rainy season.

Relocating to the Philippines will not be without challenges. But with an open mind, expats are sure to embrace their home away from home in this Southeast Asian country.

Fast facts

Population: Around 111 million

Major religions: Christianity, Islam

Capital city: Manila

Legal system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Main languages: Filipino and English, along with additional regional languages.

Time: GMT+8

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used, as well as type B plugs which have two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin.

Currency: Peso

International dialling code: +63

Emergency numbers: 911

Internet domain: .ph

Drives on the: Right