If you plan to enjoy life as an expat in the Philippines, it is important to realize that living costs differ between regions. However, while generalities between popular expat destinations are useful, it is sometime beneficial to look at one area in depth.
Why Expats first come to Angeles City and Subic
Angeles City (and nearby Subic Bay area) have long been popular expat areas since the days of the huge US Military bases. However, It is now two decades since the last US military jet rolled down the runway and departed from Clark US Air Force Base on the outskirts of Angeles City. Since their departure, along with the last remaining US servicemen from Subic Bay Naval base; one major legacy of both Clark USAF Base and Subic Naval Base remains - the girly bars and clubs of Angeles City’s Fields Avenue and Subic's Barrio Baretto.
Although Angeles City and Subic now have a host of other attractions to entice and encourage both tourists and expats who may wish to live in the Philippines, the fact is that most foreign vacationers still first troop to Angeles City and Subic primarily to sample and enjoy the towns rather infamous and exotic nightlife.
Be that as it may, for whatever reason they first come, after just a couple of weeks around the towns many expat vacationers begin to succumb to the areas other charms - and of course the famous Angeles City laid-back local expat lifestyle.
For a large percentage of even first time visitors, daydreams of making Angeles City a more permanent home start to jell together. The thing is, if you are one of these tourists, apart from the nightlife that brought you here (which you may fail to realize can become boring and trite after a few months in this small, albeit fun town), what is expat life really like in Angeles City, and how much does it cost for an expat to live here in the Philippine's ‘sin’ city?
Angeles City Expat Lifestyle
Despite all the razzmatazz that surrounds Angeles City supposedly being one of the hottest adult destinations in the world, every expat that decides to change from a vacationer to a resident quickly realizes that life when living in the town is not the same as when here on vacation. For one thing, if you try to keep up daily and nightly binges and bar hops, not only will you quickly become worn out, but you’ll find it quickly goes from being fun, to becoming trite and mundane. So, while Angeles City expats can (and most assuredly do) go out and enjoy the entertainment facilities, (which by the way include much more than just girly bars), they are more choosy of where they go, when and how often they go out, and who they spend their time with.
Expat Housing in Angeles City
If you are weighing up the feasibility of living as an expat in Angeles City, your available cash flow must be a big consideration, especially in regard to accommodation. Although long-stay hotel rooms and studio apartments, with their cleaning and dining facilities are readily available, the problem is that the cost of a hotel or vacation apartment is usually excessive for residential living. This is why most long stay and resident expats in Angeles City rent apartments or houses around the town.
Angeles City offers a wide variety of accommodation types and levels with rates for expats starting as low as US$50-60 per month, (note I say for expats, I’ll explain why later). But, before you jump at this bargain price, understand that for this money in Angeles City you only get a down-market, no frills room, usually within a crowded and noisy Filipino barrio, often in a high crime area.
More in demand by Angeles expats are reasonably sized and situated apartments or small houses. For these, the low end for unfurnished accommodation around Angeles City ranges from around $175-300 per month, and for fully furnished of the same standard, $300-500 per month. Happily there are a number of these clean, well appointed and reasonably priced dwellings available in Angeles City itself, as well as around the town's surrounds.
If you want to live in a gated community, that is a subdivision with a perimeter wall and security, costs are a little higher. But you should be aware that there are many differences between the levels of security provided in the different sub-divisions.
For high-end accommodation, on some of the new up-market subdivisions just outside the town proper, rents can be as high as $1,250 for an unfurnished large house.
Another factor that you should consider when looking at accommodation in Angeles City is the cost of utilities. Where you live in the town really makes a big difference in your utility bills. For example, moving from one area to another within Angeles City a few years ago, using the same appliances in both houses, our electricity bill dropped by 30% at our new rental (same electric company), while our water bills rose by an average of 50% - again, even though we were using the same water company!
Although electricity generally costs more than in western countries, and you have less choice in services such as internet and cable TV, overall the monthly cost of utility’s in Angeles City are on a par or even a little lower than in the west. This said, another unfortunate truth is that the service provided is generally of a lower standard - brown outs and low water pressure are both still common problems in Angeles as in many areas of the Philippines.
General Utility Costs
If you run an average household, so have a fridge/freezer, TV, computer and run the air conditioner now and then, expect an electricity bill of between P4000 and P6,000 each month on an average sized home. If you shower daily, have a washing machine and water the garden regularly, a monthly water bill of between P700 and P1,500 is considered normal.
When looking for accommodation around Angeles City, as well as checking out the local realtors, also keep your eyes on the local online classifieds and paper posts on the local money changer and supermarket notice boards. These small paper posts by owners can be very advantageous to you. If you rent directly from an owners ad you often get a lower price as they then have no monthly realtors commission to pay.
As with everything, it is always a good idea to shop around for accommodation in Angeles City, check related costs, and try your best for discounts before making a decision, most especially before signing any long-term rental agreement.
Foodstuff and Dining Out around Angeles City
One great aspect of life in Angeles City is that eating well is easy, and much cheaper that in a western country. There are masses of eateries, from street stalls to high-end restaurants, and many that cater to a different national food tastes. Prices obviously differ greatly between establishments, but in general a good sit down meal will cost the same or less than a Big Mac and fries would in the US, UK, or Australia.
When you stop vacationing and start living in Angeles City (or anywhere in the Philippines), dining out for every meal can become a bit of a chore, so you will find that more and more meals get cooked at home. This is where the lower costs of living in the Philippines can really make a big difference to an expat’s budget needs; shop smart, and you can also make significant additional savings in your monthly food cost.
The difference in price between the supermarkets and open markets is quite considerable – specifically for fresh foodstuffs such as meat and vegetables. In Angeles City, in the open markets such as Pangpang, vegetables work out an average 30%-40% cheaper and meat 10%-20% cheaper compared to the malls (SM, Robinson and Marquee). Unfortunately, for the best foods you have to be there at the market by 5 a.m., but that’s another advantage of having a Filipino wife, girlfriend or maid as most actually appear to like going market shopping - and for sure a Filipino will always get a better price than an expat – especially around Angeles City.
Happily, the price of new and late model cars has dropped considerably in the last few years, and you can now pick up a good, reliable car for P200k to P300k. While I know that late model second-hand cars are 20-40% cheaper elsewhere, this is quite a drop from what you would pay 10-years ago in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, the same is not true for older cars. It is rare to see anything that runs further than the end of the street for sale for below P80k (around $2,000). If you like old American muscle cars, while many have been whisked away for sale in Australia and the US, a holdover from the days of Clark USAF base is that Angeles City still retains its title as home of US Muscle Cars in the Philippines. With renovation work much less costly in Angeles than overseas, many expats enjoy having the opportunity to restore and drive these old beauties left behind by departing US servicemen from Clark Air Force Base.
Petrol (gas) prices varies depending on the world market and government pressure, but expect around P59 per liter for unleaded around 93 octane, a couple of pesos more for leaded and higher octane fuels and a few pesos less for diesel. The minimum legal insurance cover (needed for registration) will run you around P500 to P1,000 a year, but if you want real protection on a decent car, a fully comprehensive policy from a reputable company on a car worth around P1M will cost around P25k per annum.
Other Expat Expenses To Consider
In considering your budget needs for living in Angeles City, be aware that depending upon your circumstances, there will be other costs to consider. For example, if you are on medication, you may find costs in Angeles City are lower than your home country. This is because you can buy the cheaper ‘generic’ rather than brand name medicines.
If you are a retiree you may also be entitled to the senior citizens 10% discount – always something worth checking although few places honor the discounts for senior expats. If you worry that medical costs could be a problem, obtaining a local medical insurance may be a worthwhile small investment. Medical costs are lower here, and so are the insurance premiums – and if you have a local medical insurer you won’t have the hassles some expatriates face getting a hospital to accept an overseas insurance card.
If you have children, don’t forget there are school fees to pay; again, costs vary based upon the area you live and the standard of the school, but even the cheapest private school around Angeles City can be a few thousand pesos a term.
Always Have Something Put By
One cost you must always try to plan for is the unexpected; those emergencies that always seem to crop up at the wrong time. For this reason alone it is always advisable to try and have an easily accessible local savings account tucked away for a rainy day. Keep this separate from your other accounts (and very separate from any girlfriends) and only use it when needed. Remember to put in a little now and again as banks in the Philippines have an annoying habit of closing what they consider as dormant accounts, i.e. those with no transactions in 6-or 12-months.
Expat Costs for Living in the Philippines
Early I stated cost ‘for expats,’ and said I would explain why later. The simple fact is that as an expat, you will find that what a Filipino can buy something for is always less than what it will cost you as a foreign expat. This is one of the fly’s in the ointment that all expats just have to accept as the way of things in the Philippines, and even more so in the popular expat setting destinations of Angeles City and Subic Bay / Barrio Barretto.
Bottom line, you are seen as a ‘rich foreigner’ and when you haggle, your best price will often be above the first price offered to a Filipino. All you can do to console yourself about this is realize that while you may not be able to buy food and get things done as cheaply as a Filipino, 9 times out of 10, you will be able to get whatever it is cheaper in Angeles City than in your country of origin.
How much do you need to ‘Get by in the PI’ and Live in Angeles City?
Please don’t believe the websites that spout that living in the Philippines costs only around $500 a month. You may get by on that amount if you live out in the province, but living as an expat in Angeles City will cost more than a few pennies.
The general consensus is that if you are Joe average and don’t live too ostentatiously, you should look at needing a minimum of P80,000 (approx. US$1,900) a month. Obviously you should try for a little more than this, and of course always have a little something ‘put by’ for emergencies and treats. While some people can and do get by on less, what you should remember is that you are probably moving to Angeles City to enjoy a better lifestyle as an expat, not to endure a hand-to-mouth existence worrying if you will have enough to last until your next pension check.
With its up-to-date information, practical advice, expat-to-expat tips, and appendix of useful links, make enjoying Expat Life in the Philippines a reality, with The Philippines Expat Survival Guide!
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