Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 03/27/23
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?
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?
Washington, DC. Trip is about 24 hours with connections in South Korea, Dubai, or Tokyo. Travel is always two flights. 12-14 hours to connection and then another 4.5-8 hours depending on connection city. To me, it's a difficult day of travel that is made more bearable by business class, which I happily pay for.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I live in a one of the newly acquired embassy apartments. It's a new 55+ high rise in Makati directly across the street from three malls. All embassy units in this building are 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms plus maids quarters. Commute time for me is about 35-40 minutes in the morning (leaving at 8 am) and 45-50 minutes in the evening (leaving at 5:30 pm). This time can probably be cut by 5-10 minutes if you leave early, but I'm not a morning person. Other popular housing option is BGC. It is near the schools. BGC is planned and beautiful (Like Rosslyn, Makati is more like NYC), but living there add about 20-30 minutes to your commute. The shortest commute is from the Seafront (compound), but to me it looks like an Army barracks. I lived there for two weeks when I first arrived and there is no sun, no character, and food choices nearby. If you have small kids, it may make sense since the pre-school and the med unit are located there. There is also a large pool, a gym, a basketball court, and lots of green space. The commute to the embassy from the Seafront is about 15-20 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are about half the price of the US, but my helper buys everything from a wet market. The grocery store is a bit more expensive (perhaps 3/4 the price of the US). Everything you need can be found here, unless you want a very specific brand (i.e. you can get ranch dressing, but maybe not Hidden Valley ranch).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a number of American restaurants here (Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive Garden, TJI Fridays, etc.) You can also find just about every other kind of food here. Take out is done through Grab or Food Panda. Just about every restaurant delivers. I personally don't like the food here. It's not what the Philippines is known for. Travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan for better food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No. It's the tropics, so there's the occasional bug, but no infestations.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use the DPO. I've never used local facilities.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very cheap and very good. My helper is heaven sent. Filipinos are wonderfully sweet and service-oriented. My helper cooks and cleans. Most families have ya-yas. Many people have drivers. Pay is about 17-20 USD per day.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are free gym in most buildings and at the Seafront. There are outside gyms, but I don't know the prices.
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?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. Most Filipinos speak English and many churches have English services.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None really. Of course a bit of Tagalog goes a long way in being polite (general greetings). There is a tutor at the Embassy. But not Tagalog is needed, almost everyone I've met speaks very good English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are stairs with no elevators everywhere. Sometimes there are no sidewalks and when there are, there are no curb cuts.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis and Grabs (Ubers) are safe, and it's about $6 USD for a 30 min Grab/Taxi ride. Embassy personnel can't take any other form of public transportation.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
A car or SUV will work here. A small SUV is probably better given that driving lanes and parking spaces are on the small side.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes it is. It took about 2 weeks to get internet installed. You can easily buy a temporary router (strong enough to power Netflix 4K) in the mall for $20 until your internet is installed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I have a dual SIM phone and I have my home-country plan (AT&T) as well as a local plan which is needed for ePayments, appointments, etc.
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?
There are pets and vets everywhere. This is a very dog-friendly country with dogs in the mall and in restaurants.
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?
I often see jobs available for EFMs in Embassy notices. I don't know the details (pay, benefits, etc.), but I would be comfortable saying if you want a job you can get one as the Embassy is quite large.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work most people are business casual. Most people are casual in public. I've only ever seen people formal at the Marine Ball.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I feel very safe here. It's a large city, so if you apply common sense, you'll be fine.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No. I don't think local health care is that great. I think most folks medevac to BKK or Singapore for treatment.
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?
I'm never bothered by it, but I hear others complain, so I will say it is moderate.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not to my knowledge. It's mostly hot (humid) and sunny here.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's very hot and humid from May-August. Bearably hot from September-November. And beautifully temperate from December-February.
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I'm a single, and I there there is so much to do. It's easy to travel in the Philippines and travel in SE Asia is cheap and plentiful. The same is true for couples. Families may do the best here because the Philippines is very family-oriented and their are child-friendly activities everywhere.
2. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes. Again Filipinos speak English and they are very friendly.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. While it is not legal, it is widely accepted.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not to me. I'm Black and I've never felt uncomfortable. It's a cosmopolitan city, so diversity (both race and gender) exists and seems appreciated.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Cheap travel to Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and the many beautiful Philippine Islands
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
El Nido, Boracay, and Coron. I haven't found any hidden gems yet, the country is very well travelled. Scuba diving is really big here, so perhaps there are some underwater hidden gems.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not that I've seen.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything you need/want you can find here. Locals are friendly. Help is cheap. SE Asia travel is easy.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I knew how hot it was going to be. I hate the heat ( but it wouldn't have stopped me from coming)
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! I love this post!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and bathing suit.