Manila Chinatown

Cost of Living Manila, Philippines

One Month’s Spend for Travelers, Retirees and Nomads

Planning an extended stay in Manila? Wondering what the cost of living in Manila might be? One of the Philippines most fascinating cities has a lot to offer in the way of outstanding cultural experiences, great food and affordable living. Also, it’s a common destination for travelers, digital nomads and retirees. .

When I decided to travel the world full-time, I set a monthly budget for myself of $2000 Canadian dollars (about $1,600 USD) per month. I know that it will vary depending on where I am in the world, but I plan to stick to it as best I can and hope it all evens out in the end.

All figures below will be in US dollars.

Let’s see how my cost of living compares to my budget:

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Cost of Living in Manila

This is the month that everything changed for myself and for Pure Detour. I am writing this well after having completed this first month in Manila but this would be the month that Angela and I went our separate ways. Angela would end up leaving after only 2.5 weeks in Manila. I finished the month there before continuing throughout several locations in the Philippines.

For the purpose of this Cost of Living breakdown I will treat it as if it is for both Angela and I. The vast majority of the expenses incurred were absorbed by both of us so I think it is only fair to show that reflected in this breakdown. For example, I would have never chosen the unit we had if I were traveling solo. And we did record 4 videos in the time frame she was still there so several expenses for those were recorded together. I think you get the point. So let’s dive in

Accommodations

We stayed in an area known as Makati during this 4 week period. The area is one of the more well known and higher end areas of Manila and is very centrally located. Makati is very easy to navigate and very walkable. Manila on the other hand is massive and sprawling so you will need to use some form of transportation to move around.

The unit we stayed at was located in an SM building. If you’re not aware, SM is one of the largest companies in the Philippines that develops, builds and operates malls and condominiums throughout the Philippines. Sounds great right? Wrong. This place was gross.

Before I rip into SM, I want to clarify that there was nothing wrong with our unit. Our AirBnb host, the building security and staff were all awesome. Our unit was a basic 1 bedroom unit overlooking the pool on the 5th floor. Excellent wi-fi, full kitchen, washing machine and work station. It was well equipped for a month long stay

And the building itself was nicely equipped with a large outdoor pool area, 24 hour security and a fantastic concierge team. Our host went out of his way with fantastic recommendations and checked up on me regularly to make sure everything was ok

Now let’s talk about the biggest issue. None of which is the AirBnb hosts fault, this is totally on SM as a major corporation. Upon checking into the AirBnb I noticed a sign in the elevator that said: “Do not leave trash on garbage room floors” and fines ranging from 10k Pesos -100k pesos depending on how many offenses there have been. That sounds great I thought. This is a nicer building and they want to make sure it stays that way.

The Gomorra of Manila

On our second evening there, I wandered around to ask the really nice security guards where the garbage room was. They kindly inform me it was one floor above on the 6th floor. Great, so I make my way up there via the stairwell. The garbage room light is motion activated so when you open the door it automatically comes on so you can see. I almost urinated on myself as soon as the light came on

Cockroaches by the hundreds, if not thousands, scattered everywhere. And if that wasn’t bad enough I caught a glimpse of no less than 5 rats diving under the bags that were scattered all over the floor. But wait you say, didn’t you say there were signs in the elevator about fines for leaving trash on the floor? I did indeed. And inside this shit hole were two kitchen sized trash cans. This building is 42 stories tall with each floor having, as best I can count, more than 30 units. There wasn’t a trash room on the 5th floor where I stayed so I know it is servicing at least 2 floors. Two tiny trash cans for at least 60 units. There was nowhere else for anybody to put their trash other than on the floor.

Thankfully there were evident signs everywhere within my unit that the host did his absolute best to limit the issue there. In the 28 days I stayed there I did see a couple of small ones in the unit. The owner had left a can of Baygon there in case his poison traps did not catch them. But for the most part no issues with my unit itself

SM on the other hand I hold solely responsible for this vile filth. Understaffed developments and I found the same issue in other SM buildings I stayed in during my year long journey throughout the country.

If you’re interested in checking out the unit you can find it here. Modern 1BR unit in Makati w/ NETFLIX and Internet

Total cost for accommodation for the month: $731

Looking for short term accommodations? Check these great deals:

  • Luxury Accommodations: – Raffles Makati – Raffles Makati operates a 24-hour front desk that can assist with luggage storage, currency exchange and laundry/ironing services. Guests can enjoy a pampering massage at the spa or approach the tour desk for sightseeing and travel arrangements as well as car rental services. Café Macaron offers tasty pastries. Cocktails are available at the Raffles Long Bar, and room service is provided.
  • Mid-Range Accommodations: – Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila – The friendly staff at Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila is fluently-conversed in Filipino and English. Concierge services, airport shuttles and meeting/banquet facilities are available for guests’ convenience. The in-house restaurant serves a delectable selection of international cuisines.
  • Budget Accommodations: – St. Marvin Studio M605 St. Marvin Studio M605 is situated in the Makati district of Manila, 1 km from Power Plant Mall, 2.7 km from Glorietta Mall and 2.7 km from Greenbelt Mall. The property is set 4.4 km from Shangri-La Plaza, 4.5 km from Bonifacio High Street and 4.6 km from SM Megamall.

Or check here for the latest deals on Booking.com

Wondering about SE Asian cities’ Cost of Living? Check out our Bangkok Cost of Living Here

Cost of Living in Manila – Activities

With Angela and I splitting up, we didn’t do much this month. We did a food tour with a local guide who turned out to be a great friend of mine. I ended up doing several more of his tours when I would return to Manila several months later. A huge bonus that Jian also happens to be the highest rated tour guide in Manila

And one weekend Angela and I caught a Grab down to Binondo and Chinatown to check it out. While here, we visited Intramuros and did a quick tour of Fort Santiago despite wanting to murder each other.

Total Cost for Activities for the month: $134

Check out our food tour with Jian out here:

Looking for some fun things to do? I would highly recommend some of these tours from Viator:

Dining and Restaurants

Full disclosure. I was terrified of Filipino food before arriving. There is a ton written online about Filipino food and how bad it is. As someone who travels for food this could not be further from the truth. I am certain the people who write this nonsense are the same ones you find in McDonald’s in Rome, Singapore and Bangkok. All of them have the palate of 5 year olds.

As usual, this category makes up Grab deliveries, dining out and expenses incurred for content that we make. For comparison sake meals in Manila vary widely. You can get a plate of tapsilog for a s little as $2 and if you want western food it will be much more expensive. Grab deliveries can vary anywhere from $4-5 to as high as you want to to go for food. As with every country, the local cuisine will always be much more affordable than International dishes

Have a look at all the food and activity tours that Jian offers. And yes, I have been on all of them:

Total Cost for Dining out for One Month: $450

Here is Jian and I on his chinatown Tour:

Groceries

Not a lot of groceries as I was terrified to bring food into the unit because of cockroaches. And anything I did bring in went into the Refrigerator immediately. Mostly toiletries making up this category again in this Cost of Living in Manila

Total Cost for Groceries for the Month: $112

Cell Phones

Angela and I both bought different sim cards when we arrived in country. I don’t even recall what she had but I purchased the Globe sim card and it worked great in Manila. I did have to top it up a few times because I hadn’t figured out how to add anything more than 14 days at that time. The AirBnb had excellent wifi so I used that when at home. Sim cards and packages are extremely cheap in the Philippines

Total Cost for Phone and Data for one Month: $11

Transportation

Another inexpensive one here. Not much this month other than grabs to get to Makati from the airport, Chinatown and a few other odd ones here and there

Total cost for Transportation for One Month: $34

Visas

This is my first month in the Philippines and most passports get 30 days visa free in country

Total Cost for Visa for one month: $0

Miscellaneous Expenses

This category covers pretty much everything that’s not included above. We choose to include alcohol in miscellaneous, because we do enjoy a beer or a bottle of wine from time to time while hanging around the Airbnb. You might not drink and if you are planning a budget you can easily omit this cost. For us, alcohol makes up about 60% of this category. This month it also included haircuts and I bought new sandals.

One thing to note in the Philippines. Banks charge hefty fees for foreign card withdrawals regardless of amounts withdrawn. It works out to a little over $3 for every transaction so if you have to pull money out, pull out as much as possible in one transaction.

Total Miscellaneous Costs for one month: $209

One thing we can’t live without while on the road full time – Saves us lots of money too!

Cost of Living in Manila – Totals

Cost of Living for One Month in Manila, Philippines

Looking at the table above, you can see that we were well over budget. $1827 USD works out to a little over $2,490 CAD. The dining played a huge part in that and we did film quite a bit before Angela left. However, It feels great to confirm what we always expected – living abroad can be much cheaper than in your home country. These numbers were about 1/3 of what our typical expenses would have been in Canada for one month.

Have you lived in Manila for any length of time? Were your numbers similar to our cost of living in for one month in Manila? Do you have any other tips for potential travelers? Leave a comment and let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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