Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 01/28/16
Personal Experiences from Manila, Philippines
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Yes, though I have traveled abroad many times, including to developing countries.
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?
DC, I'm not sure what the official route is, as I visited family on my way over. I think it's typically through Detroit or Chicago and takes about 25-30 hours. I flew Emirates for a trip to the States and it took 22 hours which was nice.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Spouse of government employee
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mostly high rise apartments or houses in villages, then there are the unlucky few who get housed at the embassy housing compound in townhouses and apartments.
Commute time can vary from 20 minutes to two hours depending on where you live. Traffic is horrible, even worse than I could have ever imagined. It can take over an hour and a half to travel 2 miles. People typically hire a driver because the driving is chaotic, dangerous, and mentally draining/stressful.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Hire a helper to go to the market for fruits and veggies, you'll age a lot. If you're picky and need American brand, you'll spend a lot of money. Otherwise I'd say it's on par with the States or maybe more expensive for day to day items. I order a lot of snacks on Amazon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Bug spray with DEET
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's lots of fast food, I don't eat fast food though so I have no idea the cost.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of mosquitos, Dengue can be a problem.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very affordable. I haven't had any issues with finding a reliable helper, but apparently it can be a problem.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes they are available, though they aren't that much cheaper than the States. The embassy gym isn't bad.
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?
Cash economy. Internet is down a lot so credit card machines don't work. I try to only take money out at the embassy or nice neighborhoods at well known banks. I have had my credit card info stolen once since being here, but I noticed immediately so it wasn't an issue.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I assume Catholic, but not sure.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps, I was told none, but I wish I had taken the FAST course, would make day to day life a bit easier.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, would not recommend. Sidewalks are almost nonexistent, and if there are in place they are not handicap accessible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I don't think we are supposed to take trains or buses. Taxis are ok, but make sure they turn the meter on. I usually stick to uber, it's cheap and there is a GPS so there is less confusion with getting to the destination.
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?
High clearance vehicle, SUV. Toyota is good since there are lots of Toyota dealerships here to get the parts needed. If you don't have high clearance the rainy season will be tough.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Only in a couple buildings, otherwise it is a daily struggle to load something and it often shuts down for days at a time.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Pay as you go sim is easy to find and affordable. 20USD for 30 days internet.
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?
Nope, great medical care for pets, inexpensive, and they come to your house.
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?
You can find jobs and I know lots of EFMs who have found work in their career field, but not making a US salary.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty, lots of opportunity and need.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual. It's hot so people wear the local dress clothes which are a bit cooler.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Depends where you live. In the more upscale neighborhoods and villages, not so much. If you're on the embassy housing compound, you don't want to walk around that neighborhood at night, especially as a woman.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air quality. I, personally, wouldn't want to get any serious medical work done here. I know two people who have had common procedures with horrible outcomes. I would probably fly to Singapore for that.
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?
Pretty bad. The jeepneys, trikes, and buses blow out black smoke at all times. I've considered getting a scooter, but the idea of breathing all that in make me reconsider.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Food illness is common.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, hot, hot and humid all year long. Dry season from November-April and wet season from May-October. Nicest time of year is December-February. When it rains, it pours and the city is not set up to handle all the wonder. There is constant and severe flooding on the roads during rainy Season making the already horrible traffic even worse.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Apparently the schools are great, but I wouldn't know. I've heard they're a draw to Manila for lots of families.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
There's a preschool on the US embassy compound, no idea how easy it is to get into, as I have no experience. Yaya's (helpers/nanny's) are affordable and common.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, I think the morale for families is high. They usually live in the nice villages and have good schools. Bit lower for singles and spouses on the compound as it can be very secluded.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Bars and restaurants in the nicer communities, dinner, drinks, go to the mall. There are concerts and little things you can find if you try.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's best for families, maybe ok for couples if they don't live on the US embassy housing compound, and horrible for singles. The traffic makes it difficult to get motivation to go out, it can take so long to get to the final destination that it's not worth it. It would normally be faster to walk, but there aren't sidewalks in many places so, it's not really an option. It's even harder from the embassy compound since it's so far from the nice neighborhoods, but it's very dull and boring there, so it'd be best to have a family or someone you don't mind spending LOTS of time with.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yah, while it is religious, people seem to be pretty open minded about this.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
This is a very religious country, but I haven't experienced these problems.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting out of Manila to enjoy the beach. Can hop on a quick flight over to Palawan, Bohol, or Boracay and be in paradise. Also starting to find some fun hikes and trips out of the city.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
get out of Manila. Drive to batangas to chill on the beach, Taal for a nice view and good food, Baguio for cooler weather, a couple hikes somewhat nearby. That being said, nearby or in the area is a loose term, it can take a long time to get anywhere, but it's doable. You can find some good food if you ask around or hire a cook
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Hand crafted wood and pearls.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Driving to beaches to go diving, hiking, travel to other countries in the region. Warm weather all year long.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, especially if you don't take trips. But you should definitely take trips, they're worth it.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much of an effect the traffic has on your accessibility to social things. On a map things appear close, but travel time is horrendous. The people are nice, but there can still be a feeling of being an outsider even if you work on the local economy. the beaches really are AMAZING
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your: