Southeast Asia is appreciated among international travelers for its exotic culture, spectacular beaches and low prices for everything from tasty local delicacies to luxury spa treatments. And unlike most of its Southeast Asian counterparts, the Philippines makes an effort to attract expat retirees, offering an easy, perk-filled path to permanent residency. The standard of living in the Philippines is high and the opportunity for adventure is great, while the cost of living is one of the world's greatest bargains. Here's how to tell if the Philippines could be the place for you to retire overseas.
Visit During the Rainy Season
As when planning an international move anywhere, you need to try the Philippines on for size before committing. Ideally, you should plan your trip during the rainy season. It's one thing to be in this country during the dry season, when skies are bright and the weather is idyllic. It's another experience altogether when the rain is falling so fast and hard you quickly find yourself wading in ankle-deep runoff while walking down the street. If you're OK with life in the Philippines during monsoon season, you'll love it when the sun is shining.
Take Advantage of Convenient Residency Options
The Philippines offers several competitive retirement programs through its Philippine Retirement Authority. Most expat retirees opt for the Special Resident Retiree's Visa. You qualify if you're at least 50 years old and receive a pension worth at least $800 per month for an individual or $1,000 per month for a couple. In addition, you'll be required to deposit $10,000 into a Philippine bank. You can also qualify without a monthly pension by depositing $20,000 in a local bank. This amount can be put toward a long-term lease or the purchase of a condo or townhouse valued at more than $50,000.
In addition to granting you the ability to stay in the Philippines long term, a Special Resident Retiree's Visa also entitles you to PhilHealth, the government health care program, exemption from certain taxes and access to special Philippine Retirement Authority benefits, including its "Greet and Assist Program," where you're met on arrival at the airport.
English Is Widely Spoken
The Philippines is a linguistically diverse place. More than 100 local languages are spoken. English is an official language alongside Filipino. You could enjoy a full life here without having to learn much Filipino.
The Low Cost of Living in the Philippines
Depending on your lifestyle and where in the Philippines you choose to settle, your cost of living could be as low as $800 a month for a couple. The tax situation in the Philippines is friendly to expat retirees. The country taxes income earned in the country, but not foreign pensions, Social Security and annuity income for foreign residents.
Choose From Beach, Mountain and City Lifestyle Options
With more than 7,600 islands and some of the most spectacular ocean scenery in the world, the Philippines understandably appeals to beach lovers.
Dumaguete, a city on the island of Negros that's home to a large and established expat community, including a good number of U.S. veterans, is a top seaside lifestyle choice. Expats spend lazy afternoons enjoying al-fresco dining and people-watching on Dumaguete's main avenue, "The Boulevard." If you're looking for a more active beach lifestyle, consider Apo Island, with its world-class diving.
Northeast of Dumaguete is Olango Island, a tiny island just off Cebu that offers all the makings of a dream tropical lifestyle, including sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, sea grass beds, mangrove forests and coral reefs. While the living is small-town, simple and beachy, Olango is near Cebu City, a major urban zone where you can access shopping and other modern amenities.
Tagaytay is a great choice for non-beach living. This cool mountain retreat is about an hour from Manila. Despite its proximity to the capital, this is not an urban option. Tagaytay sits on a ridge 2,100 feet above sea level, meaning the air is cleaner, the climate milder and the scenery more pastoral than in the nearby capital. Tagaytay is a region of mountains, lakes and lagoons.
Manila is a quintessential Asian metropolis. The landscape is punctuated by skyscrapers, the horizons are hazy and the traffic is heavy. This chaotic city can be a good choice if you're interested in starting a business as part of your retire overseas adventure.
Foreign Property Ownership Is Restricted
Buying a home in the Philippines is more complicated than it can be in other parts of the world due to restrictions on property ownership. Foreigners are permitted to purchase condominiums and townhouses only. Land ownership is limited to Filipino citizens.
Rental options range from budget to luxury, but even luxury rentals are a bargain. You'll find rental services in every city with an expat community. However, the best ways to find a property to rent are word of mouth, walking around the neighborhoods where you're interested in settling and looking for "for rent" signs. You're more likely to be able to negotiate the terms of the lease by dealing directly with the owner than by working through an agency.
[Read: How to Retire in Thailand.]
Access International-Standard Health Care
Manila, home to three Joint Commission International-accredited hospitals, is where you'll find the country's best health care options. This city has developed a reputation as one of the world's best medical tourism destinations. You will also find a high standard of care in the cities the government has targeted as retirement hubs, including Dumaguete and Cebu. Health care in the Philippines is far less expensive than in the U.S., even when paying out of pocket. General consultations cost the equivalent of about $6, and consultations with specialists cost about $10.
Understand When Safety Can Be a Concern
Like everywhere in the world, the Philippines has its downsides. In some areas of the Philippines, the infrastructure isn't dependable, and power outages are a part of everyday life. Political volatility and civil unrest have made safety a concern in some spots, including the Sulu Archipelago and Marawi City. Being aware of these challenges and the fact that a big percentage of the Philippines' population lives in poverty is the first step to avoiding problems. Retirement communities are often far removed from the dangerous areas. The government is committed to the tourism industry, and keeping popular areas safe is a priority.
More From US News & World Report