Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 09/18/12

Personal Experiences from Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines 09/18/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

San Diego, California. From San Diego to LA to Tokyo to Manila takes almost 24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

(The contributor is a corporate expat who has been living in Manila for four months, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We looked at condos in the Rockwell area and Bonifacio in Global City, and we liked Rockwell better. One Rockwell West where, we are now, is brand new and very nice.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are surprisingly expensive. You can find most anything here, but since much is imported, prices can be high. Also, you can't always find things when you want them. The store is often out of speciality items when you need them: taco mix, ricotta cheese, that sort of thing.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many American fast-food restaurants are available, including McDonald's, Pizza Hut & KFC. Jollibee is the local fast-food favorite, although we are not fans.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

In our condo, we have little fruit flies that we just can't seem to get rid of. Around the rest of Manila there are giant flying cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap. We have a 2-bedroom condo and have a woman come in once a week to do cleaning, laundry, and ironing.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, most condos have decent gyms, BGC has a fitness world, and in Rockwell many people (including us) belong to the Rockwell Club, which has excellent facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are fine for vacation, but if you are living here it gets expensive to use them with the extra fees that are sometimes tacked on and the exchange rate loss. We primarily use cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Sky Cable is available for TV and has many English stations including some in HD for about $50/month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, everyone speaks at least passable English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Within Makati, BGC & Rockwell there are not many problems, but other areas of Manila are lacking in sidewalks, escalators, elevators, etc.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are fine, although I wouldn't say they are safe. They have no seatbelts, and back seats are sometimes are not quite bolted down. I wouldn't recommend buses or the MRT. We have a driver because Manila's traffic is maniacal. It is a difficult city to navigate, so a driver would be recommended and is very affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Toyota, Honda, Nissan are most popular. You don't really need four wheel drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but it is expensive. We have a 12MB/S connection for $120/month. Fairly consistent speeds.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are cheap. Buy a SIM card from Globe or Smart and just top it off as necessary. Go prepaid.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

While Manila has a reputation for crime, it is more the normal big city stuff. Watch out for pickpockets, though, and avoid certain areas.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care isavailable from St. Lukes in BGC and Makati Med.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. We live in Rockwell and work in the Fort, and the air quality doesn't seem too bad. I am not sure if it gets worse during the drier times of year when the rain can't just wash the bad stuff away.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot & rainy from June to Oct. Cool (relatively speaking) and dry Nov-Mar.Hot & dry Mar-May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No kids, so no experience, but expat friends with kids seem to like the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly big.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good to great. Most people have some culture shock when they first arrive, but once they meet some people and get adjusted, people like it here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We've met a good group of people here and often get together for dinner/cocktails, etc. There are many good restaurants around so plenty of places to socialize.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For families, couples and single men, yes for different reasons. For single women, maybe not as much, although it is not terrible or anything.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would think so. Filipinos seems very tolerant.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that we've seen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Diving, meeting people from other countries, international restaurants. While not a fan of Filipino food (too bland, heavy, fried very meat-based), there are many other great international restaurants.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Manila, shop and eat. There are not a lot of sights in the city. Chinatown tour and Intramuros are okay. Outside of town, Tagatay and Corregidor Island are good day trips. Decent beaches aren't accessible for a day trip, reallly. Maybe Batangas has some.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Diving is spectacular, and the beaches are great. This is an easy base from which to travel to the rest of SE Asia. Weather is good if you like tropical (we do), although the rainy season can be a bit much.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, depending on how much travel you do and how much eating out.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Though we've only been here a few months, we are enjoying ourselves.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter Clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Meds! Bring any medications you like from home. Cold and sinus medicines are not very good here, and some have been banned in the US/Canada, so I would recommend bringing them from home.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Culture Shock Philippines

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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